Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The End

The sun was high and warm in the blue sky as the air was chilled by the rain of the night before, the river running fast and furious with run-off. Kind words were spoken, speeches made, draped sculptures unveiled. Children gathered round for many smiles and pictures taken; laughs, hand shakes of secret clubs and finally hugs to say good-bye. But this is not the end. The patina of time will skin the four figures, their footings will cure and forms will be removed. New grass will be sewn, trees and shrubs planted, benches placed. And still the end will not be found. Visitors will come and walk among the sculptures, as they become familiar images and friendly forms for those who pass them every day, see them out their windows. The sculptures will become rooted, ingrained; local residences like the tolling of the church bells. Maybe then will the end be near as history oxidizes memory as it rusts away.

Good-byes were tearful and those tears came early. Students who came for the unveiling shed them before it was over. I choked down the lump in my throat as I fumbled through my speech. That same lump welled again as I ate my last cheese pie in the kitchen I now can call home. Hugs were the gift of the day and many were exchanged. But there were many other very special gifts that passed hands before it was time to go. New friends and family were made and are now kept close through bonds that cannot be spoken. There was not a dry eye in the house as we left through the front gate one last time with a bag of food full of love to swell the heart and fatten the belly. But under those tears were smiles and bright rosy cheeks and I had an extra little upturned curl at the end of my lips with one last parting image of that little cock sent flying by my boot as he went for one last shot at the title.


These are sketches of the people. And for the people.
Sentinels of the past and beacons of the future.
They are organic and ephemeral. But like you, they are rooted and very strong.

These 4 figures are a gift from Brevard, North Carolina in the United States to its sister-city of Pietroasa. I hope they will give you inspiration each day, remind you of your friends in Brevard and help you to remember the tall strange American who came to live with you for 2 months.

Thank you to the people of this town and surrounding towns for making me feel so welcome and allowing me access to create this sculptures. I appreciate you very much. And to my friends at the school - the wonderful kids who lifted my spirits and reminded me to be a kid while I was working each day.

And to my host family - my Romanian mama and papa. For you I am so grateful. I am your son, half Romanian and will keep you in my heart forever.

I invite everyone to spend time with these figures and walk among them so that you may create your own relationship with each one and the group as a whole. I hope the sculptures grow on everyone and hold a special place in everyone's heart as the people and this place hold a special place in my heart.

Thank you all for this time I will never forget. Keep being the strong, wonderful people you are.

(Val wrote the speech with a few of my ideas and took the majority of the photos, too)

Friday, March 25, 2011


The river has calmed and its waters have cleared. Daffodils bloom in a garden I pass on my way home from the studio. I am done. The last big push is over, four figures stand tall and whole in the studio. Time to pack up and sweep the floor.

The final day was epic as it should be. After getting a fresh tank of acetylene I run out of oxygen. The welder, which has never over heated, begins to over heat at regular intervals and then…… I run out of steel. While waiting for the welder to cool down I ended up pre-bending steel by hand and dismantling a sculpture that didn't make the final cut for scrap steel; an organ donor if you will. Smaller lengths of steel had to be welded together and joints sanded to create lengths long enough to fill the gaps. One span of time waiting for the welder to cool was spent playing tag with one of the students; we kicked around a soccer ball, too, which led to a climb down into a storm drain to retrieve it.

While working on the final sculpture my pace quickened as euphoria would sweep over me, but then I would find myself slowing down, not wanting to finish, savoring the moment. While thoughts of home and my love were ever present so were these sculptures. When I arrived here last month all my time and energy has been put towards this work. Six days a week I'd toil, one day of rest for the body but not the mind. What will I do, what will become of this place when there is no more work to be had in the studio?

2,650ft of steel
Over 22lbs of electrodes
72 cut-off wheels
2 pairs of gloves
Countless apples, bananas and chocolate bars
And yes, one rooster was harmed in the making.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hands Twisting

My time is almost up and as it is always the case it is passing by with a blur. But as I walk home every day in a studio haze I now have memories of this place. I walk by the same row of houses that on a cold snowy night a month ago they were only vague shadows against the night white sky, each with a single colorful window a glow; red blue and orange. I am familiar enough with the friendly faces that I can recognize people by the way the walk, knowing who they are even before they smile and come into view. I've even picked up the mannerisms of one kind soul I pass daily. We exchange greetings, sometimes a simple wave, other days it is a hand shake and he stands, head down, lips moving with no sound, hands twisting. I now find myself having my own private conversations, head down, hands twisting chatting away without a sound.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Counting Down

A lazy Sunday. No work to be had, I sat outside in the warmth of the shallow arched sun, the puppy curled up at my feet, fast asleep. A familiar wind blows, purposeful with its secret agenda. The signs of winter still hold fast; snow grips the high vistas and northern most slopes, trees still hide their buds. The river flows on carrying the Winter's fall off to the West. Eleven days remain until my work is to be finished.

Days are checked off and the river runs fast and furious with snow melt; dry banks now wet, water turbulent. I know how it feels.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sketches in Steel: Part II

Sketches in Steel

Before my own story gets scooped I thought I'd share the studio progress. Most of the following pictures are of the work as it has progressed so far.... I still have a lot to do. There is another pic of some of the students who have accepted me into their midst and then one shot is very similar to a photo I saw of Brancusi in a history book here, just to be cheeky.

On another note, I think one of the ever so many mystery meats is tail. I have no idea what kind of tail but the little vertebra were unmistakable.........

Thursday, March 10, 2011


As I've walked to the studio the past few mornings things have changed. The sun has been shinning and blue skies revealed. And birds have been chirping away. I've seen few birds aside for large predatory birds and the crane, and maybe a small flock of ten or so smaller birds. But now I can hear them; chirping away each morning and being ever so diligent in their preparations for Spring.

But the word is out, another kind gentleman showed up today. I don't think he spoke a word but just held up what looked like a soap strainer, broken of course. I quickly welded it back together, trying mot to melt the thin galvanized wire rods. Two more guys showed up later but I have no idea what they were after, whatever it was I didn't have (I think they needed a cutting torch and someone to use it). So the word is out that there is some crazy American who will weld up any broken things you have laying about the house. I just hope none of my welds break, but I guess you get what you pay for… or something like that?

Lunch II

Nothing can kill your momentum like lunch. I was making good progress in the studio and decided to head home for a quick lunch to keep my energy up. I figured I could get home, eat and relax and then walk back to the studio in under an hour. Enough time to regain some strength for the afternoon push but not too much time to loose the momentum form the morning.

I get home and find my usual seat at the table and a new mystery bowl in front of me. I started to realize that maybe coming home wasn't such a good idea after all. White chunks of who knows what in a bright yellow….. sauce?
I held my breath and dug in. Not bad but I still had to stop the gag reflex. I figured out that this was what she was concocting during breakfast. Whipped egg whites with sugar with a sauce of whipped egg yolks with sugar. I'm pretty sure that there was some dairy of some kind in there and surprisingly no meat.

At any rate I figures that a bowl of that would get me through the rest of my day along with the snacks I always squirrel away. So I make my break, I grab my pack and head for the front gate. Just as my hand twisted the handle I heard the kitchen door open. I made the mistake of pausing. The Romanian language is very demonstrative. I sometimes have a hard time knowing when I'm being yelled at or that the person is very excited and enthusiastic about what they're telling me. But every kid knows when their mom is yelling at them to get back in the kitchen and finish eating their vegetables before they can go out and play.

I tuck tail and slump back in the kitchen as she lets me have it. I have no idea what she was saying but I'm sure it was on the lines of I'll die if I don't eat more and I need a good hardy lunch to make it through the day and on and on. My "real" lunch turned out to be potato and sausage soup, the same soup that had my stomach working very hard to get it out. But this batch was less dairytastic and my system handled it.

But of course I had to wait for this to be fully prepared. I watched her put a tablespoon of salt in it. That can't be healthy. Needless to say my hour lap time was way underestimated.

Monday, March 7, 2011


A bitterly cold morning but at least the sun came out to play and no new snow lay on the ground. Another day in the studio where elements of the sculpture fall into place while others fall to waste. The sun goes the snow comes, the snow comes the sun shines and then sometimes both at once.

A simple routine of walking down the familiar path to and from the studio; home to eat and sleep to the studio to work. Every now and then I catch a glimpse of myself and think how strange it is. There is a place where I can understand what is being said. The familiar faces I see every day will one day be only a memory. Where saying "hello" will not be saying "buna". That I am not a local.

But as I was working in the studio today a kind older gentleman came to the door. I assumed him to be a curious wanderer until he produced a pair of pliers with a broken handle, the fracture nicely dressed for a weld; I quickly laid a puddle of molten medal in the seam. It was one of the few times I have been able to say you're welcome, although maybe I should have said thank you....

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Round Two

Another morning of fresh snow and big fluffy flakes still coming down. After a long late morning of being lazy I was beckoned to the kitchen to eat. Nothing like a warm belly on a cold snowy day to lift the spirits and make me even more lackadaisical.

While out loading up an arm with firewood the rooster was feeling cocky. He has kept his distance, I assume because the soul of my boot doesn't feel too good across his breast. But today is a new day and I was wearing trainers. It's on!

Maybe the cold and seeing me in lightweight shoes prompted his blood to rise, whatever it was he was feisty and relentless. We went jab for jab until I decided not to hold back any more. Little cock be damned, if he wants to step up to a heavy weight bout then he can take the punishment. I've never seen a chicken fly so far, backwards. Like watching a 3-D movie in reverse. It's amazing what the toe of a shoe can do when planted squarely into the breast of a scrawny little cock.

He seemed a little dazed and for some reason didn't want to make the walk back across the yard to continue our little kickboxing session. But there is always time for another go round; I'll need more firewood soon.

Night Life

Nothing like fear and doubt to get one motivated. My time is running short and I have so much left to do. Before venturing into the studio for a late night session I was delayed by the sudden and unexpected family gathering in the kitchen. A new batch of cheese pie was piled on a plate on the table as more sweet goodies where being baked in the wood fired oven. A goat's head and various other goat parts were being passed around in a bag and I'm sure they will end up in some soup I am to eat in the future. I'll try not to think about it. But it was a cozy family gathering.

While I thought working at night would be a good idea unfortunately it looks like I might be wrong. Apparently my studio is on the path home form the bar, and the lights attract of sorts of things, one of which being a fellow whose breath was intoxicating, and not in a good way. He stumbled in, his idea of personal space was about the size of his constricted pupils, and began to talk. I deciphered some French; I think Russian, English and Romanian gibberish. He was a hugger and a check kisser, good thing I had my welding respirator on and that I swapped it out once he left, and a sneezer. The dust in the studio started a fit, which was interesting trying to dodge, as he liked to be face to face. I think he wanted me to return home with him for something to do with the Super Doom, the Internet and maybe the secrets to the hidden Nazi gold buried under the French embassy, I'm not sure and I didn't want to find out. I declined his offer and went back to work. This went on time after time after time after time. I'm not sure if he really wanted me to join him or if his short-term memory wasn't working to well. A moth to the flame.

Working at night may not be an option. Having kids come in while I'm working is a welcomed distraction; the nightlife is another matter all together.


The other morning I arrived in the kitchen with a pillow stuffed under my sweater declaring that it is time to eat! After many smiles and laughter, and to what seemed distress from the unaware morning visitor, it was time to eat. As much enjoyment as they got out of my sophomoric prank I think it just gave them a visual goal to shot for. Now they know what my belly should look like. I just thought I was being cute.

On the way to the studio, with fresh snow powdering the trees and haystacks a heron was fishing for his breakfast in the river. Once school was let out one of the students beckoned me to come play. Alas, I had to work. He later returned with a friend and played in the studio until they tried to set a chair on fire and were promptly kicked out. No hard feelings.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Spring Recycling

Yesterday evening I sat in the kitchen waiting for my second dinner to cook, because one dinner simply isn't enough. While I'm too skinny and don't eat enough I am asked to loosen the tightly lidded jar tops, though. As I sat and watched my second dinner being prepared I found the culprit to my intestinal distress, cheese. I watched as she scooped out a bowl full of cheese from the pot on the stove, spoonful after spoonful of a white mass that looked like yogurt. This was then dumped into the pot of sausage and potato soup I was to eat, much to my dismay. I ate a bowl full of the cheese-flavored water with bits of potato and sausage at the bottom, grease on top. Needless to say when I woke at 1am trying to keep dinner down and this morning when dinner kept going down the cause of my distress was well established.

But as I sat in the kitchen that evening what I found most endearing were my hosts. They sat by the stove as my dinner was boiling down and pulled apart and old garment of some sort. Thread by thread she would pull it apart as he balled up each line, a ball of thread that would then be used to knit a pair of socks or sweater or something yet to be determined. And as they worked, my host, recently turned 77, and hostess, 74 in May, played and teased and flirted with one another as if they were teenagers. I did not need to know the words to understand. The pinching and ribbing and playful slaps and smiles are universal signs of love. I dare say he would have goosed her, I saw his eyes flash and hand flinch, but he thought better of it when he remembered my presence with a grin on my face. Spring is in the air….. even though it snowed last night..... and is snowing right now.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Big City

When I got home yesterday, after skipping two meals and being late for the third I was ready for the earful that I was sure to get. But when I walked in I got more that I anticipated. Loud passionate speaking was coming form my hostess, words I've never heard. As always I was pretty lost but then I started to recognize names of people, what did they have to do with it? Then she picked up the phone to call Dana, her daughter-in-law and our translator. Dana?! She must be really pissed if she has to call Dana to translate her frustration. Maybe she's kicking me out? Maybe I should find another place?

She hands me the phone with Dana on the other end, I take the phone to find out that my Romanian hasn't gotten much better. I have a package waiting for me in Oradea that I have to sign for. Apparently international packages can only go so far in the postal system. But like a kid at camp getting a care package from home I was elated.

The next morning I rise at 5am to catch the bus to Oradea. I'm out the door half an hour later to find a very cold brisk morning and something I've missed for days and days, stars. A clear night sky rises aloft my head in all its twinkley splendor. A clear sky means sun, sun means warmth and warmth means no more snow. As I walk the same main street along the water I join the procession to the bus stop. A friendly face walks with me although we understand little of what one another is saying.

Once the mini-bus arrives I climb on board with the few who remain. I try to pay the driver but before I can hand over my fair he hits the gas and rumbles down the road. I wisely grab a sit before one grabs me. We bounce down the roads picking up more passengers than letting off as we head to the big city. The music was an interesting mix of Gypsy Polka, Lady Gaga and Romania's version of Neal Diamond. Needless to say I had my headphones in. I watched the sun rise with the morning haze to reveal more snow.

After a brief stop to let a passenger relieve her breakfast to the side of the road we arrive in a very cold Oradea, with all its morning madness of commuters. I part ways with the bus driver man in a familiar spot, hand him a ten note where we call it even; he had his window down during the cold morning drive so he could smoke. Nothing like living like the locals.

I arrive at Adi's around 8am, he kindly gives me a lift to the Post so I can pick up my hefty package of goodies. Form there I am released to Daniel. The two of us make the few stops so that I can buy more consumables for the studio and then he graciously offers to drive me home since he has business in Bieus. But only after we stop to have a home cooked breakfast at his. I met his lovely wife, have a filling, yet light, meal and take in the thoughtful beauty of their home. Then we're off. On our way home we have a very interesting theological discussion while we enjoy the blue skies and sun.

As I type this I listen to the clump clop of a horse as it strides down the road; such a change from the tramcars, four lanes roads and busy intersections of the big city. But my mind is on more important things, like all the goodies for my hosts, students and my belly… among other things.

As for the pics, one is a teaser, another just for fun and the third is working out Romania syle

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Just a Day

Freezing rain frosted the ground as I made my walk to the studio this morning. The sky is heavy and gray, blocking the sun and keeping the snow piled along the roads. The river is unfazed as are the usual suspects who sit under cover at the roadside table and bench.

Progress in the studio is slow with long hours, but progress is progress and it feels good. I somehow slipped out without breakfast this morning and did not return for lunch. If I don't post tomorrow we will all know that I am tied to the kitchen table and being spoon fed.

March is a new month as time ticks by and even with the lack of sun the days seem to stretch on into the evening just a little longer. Snow drops bloom in a garden, Spring is coming.