Tuesday, August 10th, 2010 was my third anniversary with my wife Loren. In past years we've gone on a vacation of some kind on the day but this year, with the baby and being a generally lowsy time of year for money, I knew we wouldn't have the money to get each other anything fancy. I started to think of how I could inject my usual pomp and flare into something that wouldn't be a big expense...
The first thing I thought of was asking my friend Brian Buckley (BamObituaries!) if he would be willing to draw a portrait of Loren and I that I could get framed and give her. He agreed and I was on my way. I didn't want to just give her something that I asked someone else to do so I thought I would write a song as well and give her that, although I knew that I wanted this song to be different than other one's I've written her in the past. I've written and recorded her dozens of my acoustic folk affairs and I think after a while they've begun to blend together. So I contacted my good friend Eric Quimby of the band Syndicate (AreYouInTheSyndicate.com) about collaborating on something. He agreed and that was that. I'd give her a song and Brian's portrait and it would be a nice, inexpensive gift that still had a lot of heart... or so I thought.
I went to Wal-Mart to buy a plastic box to put both the CD and portrait in and some paint to decorate the box. As I was getting some bottles of acrylic paint my eyes wandered to the brushes and canvases. I hadn't painted anything since high school when I stopped pretending I was an "artist" for more "sensible" things. I was never good at it in a technical sense because I can't draw but I always felt like there was some merit to the abstract "feeling paintings" I did back then. I bought a canvas, a cheap set of acrylic paints and some brushes and decided to paint Loren something to go with it all. It was about this point that the wheels started to turn and the project began to take on a new life.
Gradually the idea came to me... what did all of this have in common? A portrait from Brian, a song with Eric, a painting from me... all of these pieces of art coming together. That's when I had the idea of getting every artist that I could to contribute something, anything, to this gift. A massive amalgam of music, graphic art, poetry, anything... it would trump anything I've ever done.
I contacted Loren's step-mom who is extremely talented at damn near everything. She can cook, crochet, paint, draw, sew, embroider, I'm sure she can probably sculpt. I asked her if she could make Loren, what I pictured as a sort of cloth poster, with the word HANSON at the top and below it a list of all of the concerts she's been to (there are a lot, she followed them around Europe once) ending with the one that we are going to next week in Royal Oak, leaving room to add more. What I got was an amazing 3 foot by 4 foot tapestry with the words "Hanson Concerts" in six inch letters surrounding the Hanson logo in the center. The name and dates of the concerts are embroidered on badges which surround the entire affair with room to add 7 more at the bottom. Each of the badges is a pocket that can hold a ticket stub or other memorabilia from the concert as well. She gave me this along with brackets to mount it onto the wall and a rod to hold it up. It is, without a doubt, a billion times more than I expected and it is incredible.
I asked Loren's friend Rachel Cary to provide a piece of graphic art because I knew her to be extremely gifted in that field and she produced and incredible piece that I framed for her. My friend Michael Walters wrote a poem. I had my friend Nick Diener from the band The Swellers (The Swellers) record a spoken word introduction that I put on the CD before the song that Eric and I wrote, introducing it and wishing her a happy anniversary. This was my way of getting a "celebrity" involved but Nick is the closest thing to a celebrity I know so he would have to do.
I ended up doing four paintings for her and writing a poem that I had printed in 11x17 and framed. One of the paintings is meant to represent the meaning of the song Eric and I did and another is meant to represent the meaning of the poem. The other two are very colorful, cutesy paintings that are meant to hang in Lyric's room.
One of the biggest things I did was put together a DVD anthology of me and every musician that I could get to collaborate with me, playing a couple of covers. This list includes: Mike DeLorme, Patrick Munley, Eric Quimby (Syndicate), Jason Kotarski, Chris Dunklee, Bryce Berry, and Nick Freakin' Hale. I met up with them, sang and played some covers, recorded them, and burnt them all to a DVD that I made fancy cover art for called "Anthology: Beauty is Imperfect". I figured since I knew so many musicians and it would be difficult and cumbersome to sit and write a song with all of them and probably more difficult to drum up interest in doing it, I could easily hook up with each of them, play a few covers, tape them, and put it all together.
The last thing that I did was put together a "Staycation" to go in place of our usual vacation. Now a "staycation" is a buzz word that the media has invented to essentially mock poor people who can't afford to spend their vacation time actually doing anything or going anywhere because of the economy but they still have to take it so they end up staying at home. They started airing all of these tongue in cheek pieces about a year ago suggesting things you can do for your "staycation". Anyway, I took the word and ran with it though and decided to actually do it. I bought some Lansing post cards and souvenirs and put them in a little wooden suitcase I bought at Michael's Craft's and painted. My mom agreed to babysit Lyric next weekend while I take Loren on a tour of the coolest sights in Lansing, cook her fancy meals, I'm going to re-arrange the furniture in the apartment so it looks like a hotel, we're going to watch movies. This is the plan.
All of this I put in a plastic tub I had painted and labeled "ART: An Experiment in Love and Friendship" and I gave it to her yesterday. I think that she liked it... I really hope I didn't forget anything.