A Crapper of My Own / Mi Propio Caganer

La versión español está después de la versión inglés.

I FINALLY JOINED in a Catalonian tradition this year. Barcelona, a 9.5-hour drive north from here, is in Catalonia. Some of you may remember the first time I learned about The Caganer. It was our first Christmas in Fuengirola. I was admiring the window display in a wonderful shop, called Moreno, in the center of town when I noticed an animated outhouse (click here) (and here for a Caganer from 2017). When the door opened, I saw a figure “doing his business.” I learned he’s called The Caganer (which means “The Pooper”) and has appeared in nativity scenes since the late 17th century in Catalonia and Catalan areas in Andorra, Valencia, and Southern France. The tradition even spread to Murcia (Spain), Portugal, and Naples (Italy). It’s become so popular that you can find most contemporary public figures as “El Caganer.”

This year, after making another video of The Caganer in the window of Moreno, I went inside and bought myself a little figurine. The most traditional Caganer is a peasant wearing a red stocking hat, a white shirt, and black trousers. I suppose I could have stuck with tradition, but my ceramic figurine is wearing an actual fabric hat. Besides, he had a much more substantial “purge.” Ah, the magic of Christmas.

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FINALMENTE ME UNÍ a una tradición catalana este año. Barcelona, a 9,5 horas en coche hacia el norte desde aquí, se encuentra en Cataluña. Algunos de vosotros recordaráis la primera vez que aprendí sobre El Caganer. Fue nuestra primera Navidad en Fuengirola. Estaba admirando el escaparate de una maravillosa tienda, llamada Moreno, en el centro de la ciudad cuando noté una letrina animada (haz clic aquí) (y aqui para un Caganer de 2017). Cuando se abrió la puerta, vi una figura “haciendo su trabajo”. Me enteré de que se llamaba El Caganer y ha aparecido en belenes desde finales del siglo XVII en Cataluña y zonas catalanas en Andorra, Valencia, y el sur de Francia. La tradición incluso se extendió a Murcia (España), Portugal, y Nápoles (Italia). Se ha vuelto tan popular que puedes encontrar figuras públicas más contemporáneas como “El Caganer”.

Este año, después de hacer otro video del Caganer en la ventana de Moreno, entré y me compré una figurita. El Caganer más tradicional es un campesino que usa un gorro rojo, una camisa blanca, y pantalones negros. Supongo que podría haber quedado con la tradición, pero mi figura de cerámica lleva un sombrero de tela real. Además, tenía una “purga” mucho más sustancial. Ah, la magia de la Navidad.

Drawing on Memories

FEELING LOST AND LONELY IN AN ELEGANT APARTMENT.
SELF-PORTRAIT, AVENZA, CARRARA, ITALY, 1977.

I just pulled out an old sketchbook and discovered some drawings that brought back memories.  The memories that come back when I look at my old drawings are often more vivid than those that are awakened by looking at old photographs.  I think it’s the fact that I was completely engaged in the action at the time and spent more than a moment snapping a photo or awkwardly posing for posterity.

10 SEPT BECAME 11 SEPT 1980 WHILE I WAITED IN MY ’78 MAZDA GLC TO GIVE
A “FRIEND” A LIFT BACK TO BOSTON AFTER A BUSINESS RECEPTION IN CAMBRIDGE.
HIS NAME WAS STEVEN AND HE WAS MORE THAN AN HOUR LATE.

When I was 25, I landed a job in Medical Illustration at Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York.  I drew kidneys and muscle tissue.  I traced cross-sections of cadavers that had been cast in polyurethane.  I created art and typography for slides that were used by the medical school.  It was fun work and was what began my career in publications and communications.  At the time, I never went anywhere without a sketch book.  I would sketch unselfconsciously, and had been doing so for years. I doodled my way around Italy in the ’70s and gave away almost all the sketches as “thank you” gifts for the hospitality I received there.  I wish I had had a scanner!

BANANAS, MAY 1980, TOP FLOOR, 15 CHARLES STREET, BOSTON.

SEDUCTIVE BANANAS.

While working at Downstate, I drove up to Boston, just 4-1/2 hours away for a weekend visit with an old college friend, Mary.  I fell in love with Boston and immediately decided I had to move there.  I left  Downstate four months later after only 1-1/2 years for a job as a typesetter and graphic artist in a small, quirky (aka, cripplingly dysfunctional) studio in Cambridge, ironically named “Together Graphics.” The job in Cambridge paid a lot better, but was not as interesting nor did it offer the same opportunities for professional development and personal growth as the job in Brooklyn.  But it did get me to Boston, which is where I met Jerry a little over a year later.

SNACKING AS I SKETCHED, ENABLING NEW POSES.

HOURS OF SKETCHING.  I CONSUMED MY RECOMMENDED DAILY ALLOWANCE OF POTASSIUM.

For my first month in Boston, while I looked for my own place, I stayed in a basement apartment on Gray Street in the South End with Brian, a friend I met through Mary.  He was to become my best friend over the years and was my first good gay friend.  I was still living the life of a straight person, thinking I could ignore who I really was and wanted to be.  As a good friend (and someone with “gaydar”), Brian clearly knew the truth, but he never let on and he let me come to terms at my own pace. I spent a month on his couch and many afternoons hanging out at Mary’s apartment with my sketchbook, sketching the room, the house plants, and, as shown here, bananas that happened to be left on the coffee table. Jerry and I had already moved twice by the time Brian and Mary decided to move together to Maui.  I lost touch with Mary, who met someone in Maui, married, and was living in Missouri the last I heard.  After a few years, Brian (who was a serial monogamist) had also met someone.  They moved to San Diego and stayed together about a year.  Brian remained in San Diego.  So, I was elated when Jerry and I had the opportunity in late 1992 to move to San Diego, as well.  But, just before we left Connecticut for San Diego, Brian went back to his parents’ home in Massachusetts, where he died at the age of 37 of complications from AIDS.

DARTMOUTH “T” STATION, 1981.  BACK FROM ENGLAND TWO WEEKS AFTER MY SISTER DIED.
ON MY WAY TO A PARTY WITH STEVEN AFTER DISCOVERING MY CAR HAD BEEN STOLEN.

I think it’s time to start sketching again.  It’s very therapeutic and I like the depth of the memories.