Tag Archives: Mr. Scatter

Lookin’ for a religious experience over here …

 Luca Signorelli - "Resurrection of the Flesh" (1499-1502). Chapel of San Brizio, Duomo, Orvieto/Wikimedia Commons

Luca Signorelli, “Resurrection of the Flesh” (1499-1502). Chapel of San Brizio, Duomo, Orvieto/Wikimedia Commons.


Labor Day’s gone. School’s on. Summer’s over. First day of fall. Just like that.

With renewed academic rigor now that classes are in session, we turn to more serious matters. We turn to Heaven above and seek the answers to the really big questions.

To do that, we’re resurrecting a conversation we had here on Art Scatter more than a year ago. And adding a little juice that’s been specially blessed.

The original post and comments were in July 2008. I wrote a comment but was too timid to post it. I stashed it away and let the great scroll of blog parchment roll up and pass me by.

But come the wee hours of Christmas eve/Christmas morn, Mr. Scatter and I were hangin’ in the living room sipping wine with family and the same topic came up. We started throwing around barbs and I fetched my laptop, called up the post, read through the comments and we laughed and laughed. And then I said, “You know, I have something I wrote that I never posted here.”

"Salome With the Head of John the Baptist," Caravaggio (157-1610), from Web Gallery of Art / Wikimedia CommonsI called it up. And read it aloud. We laughed some more. And everyone urged me to post it as a comment. I still wasn’t sure, but the wine was flowing and the tree was sparkling and the company was cheery and did I mention the wine?

So I copied it into the comment field and clicked. It was comment No. 26. I told everyone that nobody would see it anyway except a pingback e-mail would go to the original poster: Barry Johnson. Remember him?

And then I realized it was Christmas, the comment was sorta about religion, and it was perfect timing. Merry Christmas, Barry.

The big question: If we raise our kids in a secular household and they grow up in public schools with no exposure to theology, how are they to understand the very basics and historic underpinnings of culture? Sure, we’re laughing here, but it’s a serious question. Please help us answer it.
Continue reading Lookin’ for a religious experience over here …

League of Tough-Guy Arts Observers: Join the club!

1864_0227_discussion_280It’s not often that a person starts a full-fledged organization with a casual flick of a typing finger, but I appear to have done just that in an August 27 post in which I defended my fondness for a good chick flick.

I found myself typing the following throwaway sentence:

“Yes, I like the movies of Nora Ephron, and if that drums me out of the league of tough-guy arts observers, so be it.”

Mighty Toy Cannon, the Sage of Culture Shock, immediately took me to task for not capitalizing the phrase, and out of that finger-wagging the League of Tough-Guy Arts Observers was born.

advokater_avbildade_av_den_franske_konstnaren_honore_daumier_1808e280931879Some didacts will argue that it should be “Tough-guy,” on the basis that a hyphenated word is by definition a single word and a single word can have only a single capitalization. To them I say: “Tough-guy” looks dumb. Start your own club.

Since then both Mr. and Mrs. Scatter have been scattering references to the LTGAO in our maunderings, always linking them back to that original chick-flicks post. Trouble is, you have to check high and low in the chick-flick story to discover the coinage of the term.

And there are deeper problems, such as:

  1. What the heck is the League of Tough-Guy Arts Observers, anyway?
  2. Who’s in charge?
  3. Can I join?
  4. Can I join if I’m a Tough Gal?
  5. Is there a secret handshake?
  6. What is the official League drink?
  7. Is there an official League logo, and do I get a membership card?
  8. Where do I pay my annual dues?

Excellent questions. I’ll answer them as well as I can.

  1. It’s whatever its members want it to be. Members may join earnestly or ironically, with a passion for flaying or a weakness for whimsy. Or even because they think it might improve their social standing.
  2. In charge? Does that imply responsibility?
  3. Of course you can join. Please do. Just leave a comment with your name and serial number and a confession of your deepest, darkest desires.
  4. Tough Gals are especially welcome. We mean “tough-guy” in an all-embracing way. Even mules are welcome to join, although they might find it tough to type those comments.
  5. I am hereby deputizing Commissar Mighty Toy Cannon to devise and photograph one. When he has completed his task, we’ll post the pictures of the process.
  6. You’re free to drink whatever you want. May I suggest bourbon and branch water?
  7. All you designers out there, get off your duffs and design us one. Thanks.
  8. The League of Tough-Guy Arts Observers is a democratic organization — anarchistic might be a better word — and like most everything else, membership payments are not required. Still, donations to the good cause are appreciated. Anyone wishing to help us fight the good fight is encouraged to transfer truckloads of cash to Mr. and Mrs. Scatter’s secret Swiss bank account. Contact us. We’ll give you the account number.

We’re also in the market for a good motto. Please give us your suggestions. Something better than, “I heap your pitiful effort with scorn, amateur boy!”

Come join our happy throng.


Above: League of Tough-Guy Arts Observers official club illustrator Honore Daumier captures a couple of typical moments from League social gatherings.

How did I get that job? Alvin and the Chipmunks

Seriously. That’s how it all started.

I was minding my own business, blissfully enjoying the summer sunshine and occasionally writing goofy off-topic stuff for a blog that isn’t even mine.

The little choristers who stated me on my musical career.Sure, I had plans. Big plans. I had planned to apply for unemployment benefits just as soon as summer ended.

But before then I was going to be on the road, lapping up low tides, making pickles and hitting all the plays in Ashland.

I had mapped out my summer weeks ago and it didn’t involve getting a new job. No resume to fill out. No cover letter to write. No strategic plan whatsoever that didn’t involve swimming or hunting for agates.

But then the weirdest little chain of events started – events that were so perfect in their orderliness and happenstance that it was as if every tumbler in a vault lock had magically clicked into place.

How weird? Remember that post about Alvin and the Chipmunks?

Innocuous. Silly.

But someone named Jane made this comment: “First, I’d like to nominate Laura Grimes for president.”

Mr. Scatter and I briefly considered this exciting possibility. We imagined lining up push-polls and flying all over the country. We imagined using political party money to buy whole new wardrobes.

What’s not to like?

We imagined Art Scatter as the Mouthpiece of America to get the Good Word out about how art is, like, a really great thing, you know? We would stump on the Cultah Platform and hone sharp talking points using clever mottoes like:

Make art, not war.

By George: Mrs. Scatter plots to move the LSBs into the White HouseAs Mr. Scatter reached for his BlackBerry to call the League of Tough-Guy Arts Observers for a recommendation about a campaign manager, a hairy head poked around the corner and said, “What’s for dinner?” Followed closely by, “We’re outta milk.”

Mr. Scatter and I looked at each other and suddenly realized we had a slight liability. Two, actually.

And let’s just come straight out with it and say they’re really not very slight. Because they’re Large. And Smelly. And they happen to be our Boys.

When Mr. Scatter said months ago that he didn’t mind if the boys shagged out for the summer, I said, “Please tell me you’re talking about their hair.” Fortunately, he was. I wasn’t keen on the idea, but, alas, I consented. The boys now look like total mopheads. How were we to know they might have to be paraded before the adoring American public?

But then I realized that chauffeured limousines and a security detail would mean our sons wouldn’t need driver’s licenses for several years, and I immediately picked up my BlackBerry and punched in “barber” as my brain started running through which significant cultural site would make the best photo op to make the big announcement. The Portland Center for the Performing Arts? The Armory? Portlandia? That really nifty sculpture of Three Groins in a Fountain in front of the Standard Insurance building?

My index finger was poised to hit SEND when I realized we had even bigger trouble on our hands. It wasn’t just the hair. It wasn’t just because the Large Smelly Boys occasionally need reminders to brush their teeth and shampoo their hair.

Our high hopes for the White House were dashed when I realized that not one, but both of our sons have the great misfortune of not being pregnant.

But the real clincher? The one that made us put aside our BlackBerries and rethink our dreams of sticking an Eames chair in the Lincoln Bedroom? We could not imagine the Large Smelly Boys standing on stage at the inauguration wearing adorable coats from J. Crew.

Colorful ribbons in their hair? Matching socks that haven’t been shredded? Not gonna happen.

Mr. Scatter and I sighed. I got up to rummage in the cheese bin in the fridge to figure out a dinner plan while Mr. Scatter picked up his car keys to go buy milk. As he opened the front door, I called after him, “Who’s this Jane person?”

He hollered back, “I dunno. Beats me. How many gallons should I buy? Three or four?”


Next time: The weird happenstances and who is this mysterious Jane?

— Laura Grimes

Why did the Scatter family hit the road? Alvin and the Chipmunks (Car Game, Act 2)

Oregon Trail reenactment, 1961. South Bluff National Monument, Nebraska. National Park Service/Wikimedia Commons.

The Scatter family embarks on a trail fraught with singing rodents.


While Mr. and Mrs. Scatter pack the Conestoga wagon and nurse our nonexistent hangovers, the Large Smelly Boys have taken over blogging duty.

In the spirit of reading sayings from fortune cookies and adding the words “in bed” at the end, we come up with questions that can always be answered with “Alvin and the Chipmunks.” The Large Smelly Boys themselves typed many of these very words (and I’m impressed at what a careful job they did).

To wit:

What’s for lunch?
What is Victoria’s Secret?
Who’s got veto power?

What’s that smell?
Who signed the Declaration of Independence?
6abc Boscov's Thanksgiving Parade. Wikimedia CommonsWhere have all the flowers gone?

Where does all the helium go?
Who were your foster parents?
Who’s doing your heart transplant?

Who shot JFK?
Who killed Roger Rabbit?
Who was Hitler’s right-hand man?

Who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays?
Who discovered E=MC2?
What’s the soup of the day?

What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?
Who’s going to star in the next James Bond film?
Who’s going to be the bad guy in the next Indiana Jones movie?

What scent is your candle?
What’s your sign?
Who’s your anger management counselor?

What’s the meaning of life?
How do you brush your teeth?
What stuffed animal do you sleep with?

What’s really behind the economic crisis?
Who’s in charge?
What kind of cereal do you like?

Who does your hair?
Why are newspapers going to sleep?
What’s really in a Dirty Little Secret Martini?

Who are the people in your neighborhood?
How are babies made?
Do these pants make me look fat?

Who are Santa’s little helpers?
Who canceled Christmas?
What’s your middle name?

Who did Lassie save from the well?
Can you recommend a good tax consultant?
What’s in YOUR wallet?

Who took all our toaster waffles?
Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?
Who’s that monster in the closet?

Who walks on the wild side?
What’s growing in the fridge?
What kind of milk do you drink?

Cloudy with a chance of what?
Who’s your daddy?
Who were the three wise men?

Who were the three Stooges?
What makes your roses grow?
What are the real identities of the Large Smelly Boys?

Feel free to add to the list.


— Laura Grimes and the Large Smelly Boys (that’s a band name, right?)

Scenes from a writers’ marriage: How he got that story

Rick Bartow: Crow's Delusion (He Who Must Be Obeyed). Courtesy Froelick Gallery


Today my current first husband and I can legally drink. We’ve been married 21 years.

We can’t legally drink and celebrate together because I’m spending our special day with my mom. But it’s not the special days that make a marriage special. It’s the everyday little things. Like laughing and teasing. Like coffee together in the morning.

The first Christmas we spent together, my current first husband gave me a coffee maker. Sweet? I was pissed. But I gotta admit, that coffee maker was our loyal morning friend for 20 years, part of many a happy moment. Good memories are made of many a happy moment. Good marriages, too.

There’s one moment, though, that I will always hold dear.


My current first husband wrote a post recently and described a certain look in my eyes. Damn, but he beat me to it. Because little did he know that I have been working on a certain story that has just such a look, albeit a tad bit different and a shade bit farther … and on a certain somebody else. Actually, I’ve been tooling this story around in my head for many years. But a recent event swept through my brain like a tornado in Kansas and collected all the disparate thoughts, lifted them up, swirled them around and plunked them down again.


I met Rick Bartow a few weeks ago,
and now I understand.

I understand a story I first started hearing years ago.

Rick Bartow. Courtesy Froelick GalleryIt was early 2002. Mr. Scatter and I and the large smelly boys – who were not so large and not so smelly back then – were driving several hours north to visit family. To visit my mom, in fact. The not-so-large not-so-smelly boys must have been blessedly quiet in the backseat for a long stretch of road. We’ll just chalk that up to divinity and not ask why.

Mr. Scatter had recently visited Rick at his home and studio in Newport, Ore., for research to write a story. He had been typing away on it for a few days. But he was at loose ends. I could tell. Because he was talking about it incessantly, as much to figure out a throughway for the story as he was just plum excited.

He was trying to get his arms around a giant octopus and he hadn’t quite figured out how to land it.


After meeting Rick and seeing him perform, now I know why. Rick and two of his musician buddies did a show with Portland Taiko on July 2. Mr. Scatter is on the board of Portland Taiko, so even though I was looking forward to finally hearing Rick, I figured it would be an evening of smiling and shaking hands. I fretted about taking the right handbag.

It had been a blistering hot day and the event was taking place on the roof of the DeSoto Building in the Pearl, above Froelick Gallery. Frying came to mind. But by evening, the temperature had cooled to balmy, a slight breeze had kicked in and the sky was an uncanny even blue, deepening darker as the night wore on and lending a crisper backdrop for a half moon that lifted and slowly shifted through the show. It was magic.

Rick was even better. He was immediately open and generous, a magnetic guy who took a blues song and elevatored it down to deep dark basements faster than you can push a button. His songs were earthy and mystical and wrapped in rich, complex storytelling. He didn’t hold back.

What a gift. He talked of his past substance abuse, Vietnam, friends who have died, the beginnings of songs, the ends of songs. He wasn’t afraid of ugly. And he wasn’t afraid of sweet.

His stories unspooled for anyone lucky enough to have a seat. Friends. Strangers. He opened up for everyone. It was the gift he gave.

Afterward, Mr. Scatter and I chatted with him. I asked if he ever played at the Blues Festival, which was happening at the same time at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. He said no, he just can’t take the crowds. His nerves get to him.

I understand that, too. He seemingly wears all of his nerves on the outside. He takes in everything, absorbs it, feels it, and gives it back. For someone to perform like that, he must be perceptive to the slightest vibrations. And when you’re that sensitive, when all your pores are open to everything that comes in, crowds can be overwhelming. It’s too much all at once. There’s a lot of good in there, but the bad comes with it.

I want to say that Rick is a big man, but that doesn’t sound right. He’s a big spirit. At once gentle and rough.

Continue reading Scenes from a writers’ marriage: How he got that story