Category: The Artist Life Blog

End Of The Green: College Of Crows - Oil Painting By The GYPSY

The Artist Life: Topeka Spring Eve

Daffodils and Peonies lift up their scent from the garden below

Through the window their fragrance drifts poignant and ever slow

The sun settles towards the west drawing with it the last light

Shadows creep across the floor chasing the day from our sight

 

Soft breeze rustles the blinds, music swaying the slats and cord

Wood grain trails from wall to wall changing with each board

Mindless chatter touches the dusty air around the empty time

Coffee, tea and laughter fight on the screens electric vertical line

 

Images fade to a small gray dot as the oak box is shut off

Cracking, popping its protest as I exit the door of the loft

New leaves wave as I pass under their light green ceiling

Young grass dances upon the walkway blind and unfeeling

 

Houses of white, gray board and brick fade behind a tree

Structures of granite, marble, and stone loom ahead of me

Car radio blares out Broadway, a street in a city far away

As I step upon broad Kansas a street in this city today

 

Light glows green, mocking the color of Topeka’s Capitol dome

Autos suddenly stop their engines belching protest as I roam

Lines in a sidewalk try to jump forth and break my mom’s back

I dodge and weave counting steps so I may avoid each evil crack

 

Old people stare at women where men browse and children play

Searching for the news, fiction or just a thing too important to say

The smell of tomes, newsprint, candles, candy, ink old and stale

Fills the fluorescent glow of the interior where the world is for sale

 

Casper, Superman, Batman and Wendy reach to me from the rack

Richie Rich, Mighty Mouse, Flash and Spooky beg me from the stack

I flip the pages as the four colors explode into tempting allure

Nightmare, Green Lantern, Black Hawk, or Dot I’m just not sure

 

My choices are made held secure and close to my heart within one arm

The rest returned to their slant seat awaiting for the next soul to charm

Silvery coin to clerk, butterscotch stick in mouth I leave with my treasure

Turning towards home I direct my step anticipating hours of pleasure

 

The red and white machine looms ahead wherein the green bottle lies

Dime in the slot, Twist of the handle to hear the slide and out it flies

Cap popped off as the fizz escapes and tiny bubbles fill the dusky sky

Icy cold the syrupy liquid sharp and sweet burns the throat till I cry

 

In one hand the bottle kept intact for the two pennies it has earned

In the other hand the magic paper whose pages wait to be turned

Red sky turns purple as blue lights high above hum to dull glow

The cobbled walk tries to trip my step as it leads me home too slow

 

Upon my porch the round orb above casts it’s yellow and hazy light

As moths and their cousins dance and swarm within their endless flight

The brown, rusty springs stretch on the end of the porch swing chain

Screaming their protest as my weight settles in  the seat that I claim

 

Lost with Uncle Scrooge, Huey, Dewey and Louie within a vault

I sail away until mother calls me to bed, until tomorrow I shall halt

But upon the sunny morning I shall again be whisked far and away

As Hot Stuff, Green Arrow and Lottie jump forth and ask me to play

 

And when the magic has been used up within the pages faint and torn

Again shall I visit the World News Stand where my mind can be reborn

-The GYPSY-

Gypsy Stew

The Artist Life: Gypsy Stew And The Perfect Day

GYPSY STEW AND THE PERFECT DAY

There is an old saying, “Any day I wake up is a good day.” I totally disagree with that sentiment. There has been many a day that I woke up that I just wished that I would have stayed in bed and slept until the next day. Fortunately however, yesterday was not one of those days. Yesterday was a “Perfect Day.” What constitutes a “Perfect Day”, you may ask?! A “Perfect Day” is a day filled with those things you enjoy doing the most.

For me there are three things in my top ten list of “Things I Enjoy Doing The Most” that I was able to do yesterday;

  1. Ride my motorcycle
  2. Paint
  3. Cook

For those of you that are nosey and are wondering what the other seven “Things I Enjoy Doing The Most” in my top ten list are (and not particularly in this order);

  • Spending time with family and friends
  • Volunteering To Help Worthy Causes
  • Yard work and gardening
  • Hiking through the woods
  • Exploring new places off the beaten path
  • Visiting Landmarks, Zoo’s and Museums
  • Watching a great show whether it be movie, TV, concert, live or circus

“But Gypsy”, you may say, “You didn’t mention tattooing.” That’s correct, I didn’t and I also did not mention building and updating websites. Both activities, though I greatly enjoy doing them, are my job, not my life. The top ten things I listed keep me a happy and well rounded person. Tattooing and Websites keep me fed.

I started out the day as I always do, drinking my morning cup of Java and answering emails. I then went for a cruise on my scooter and ran some errands all while enjoying the beautiful day we had been given. I then returned to the house and started a batch of “Gypsy Stew”.

Here’s the thing to remember, open air and the feel of the wind in your face and the road beneath your wheels wets your appetite making you hungry for all that life has to offer. That includes good food, why do you think there are so many fat

bikers, me included?! So I came home pulled out the crock pot and went to work;

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup Worchester Sauce

2 well rounded tablespoons chopped Garlic

1 cup white flour

1 tablespoon Seasoning Salt

1 tablespoon Pepper

1 tablespoon Garlic salt

1 table spoon Cumin

2 packages of Lipton Beefy Onion soup mix

¼ cup of cooking oil

2 pounds beef stew meat

4 Large stalks of celery

4 large russet potatoes

1 16 oz bag baby carrots

1 large onion

1 16 oz bag frozen green beans or frozen sweet peas

PREPARATION:

  • Combine Worchester Sauce and cooking oil into a large skillet.
  • In a 1 quart zip lock bag combine flour, seasoning salt, garlic salt, pepper and cumin. Shake well to mix.
  • Place ¼ of stew meat into the bag and shake well. Place coated pieces into the skillet that contains the oil and Worchester sauce. Repeat until all the meat has been coated.
  • Turn the burner under the skillet onto medium heat. Brown the meat stirring frequently.
  • Rinse and cut each Potato into 12 pieces each. First cut the potato in half then section each half by 6. Do not peel the potatoes.
  • Rinse the baby carrots. Do not cut them up, leave them whole.

Gypsy Stew and Homemade Sourdough Bread

  • Rinse and cut up the celery. Do not chop, cut into half moons.
  • Rinse, peel and chop up the yellow onion.
  • Combine the browned meat, vegetables, soup mix, chopped garlic and eight cups of water into a large crock pot. No not add the peas or green beans yet.
  • Cook on high for 4 hours. Remove the lid after 2 hours and stir once.
  • At 4 hours stir the stew again and add the green beans or peas, whichever you decide to use (I prefer it with green beans, makes it heartier). Stir in the green beans and recover.
  • Cook on high one more hour and then shut off the crock pot.
  • Leave to cool, covered for one more hour.
  • Stir and serve with cornbread (Jiffy mix is by far the best) and bring your appetite. Total prep time is 30 minutes and total cooking time is 6 hours. It is well worth the preparation and wait time. It will feed an Army at one setting or just yourself for several days.

After getting the stew started I went to my computer and worked on updating my websites and answered some more emails. Before long however I was in the “Bloody Vardo” (our art studio) starting a new painting.

Right outside the “Bloody Vardo” windows is a very large Lilac bush. Lilacs and Iris’s are my favorite flowers and the breeze was carrying the scent of lilacs through the window. I generally do not paint flowers. Oh I might add a flower here or there for effect within a painting but flowers is not my thing, I leave those to my wife Debbie who loves to paint flowers. But I was inspired so I have started a painting whose main subject is flowers. It is entitled, “The Scent of Lilacs”; Hmmmm, wonder where I got the idea for the painting‘s title. I will share the painting here as soon as I complete it.

Later I did my radio show, as I always do each Monday evening at 6:00. It was a good show and we had a lot of listeners. Afterwards I partook of some of my “Gypsy Stew” and watched my favorite television shows.

I ended the evening by working on “The Scent of Lilacs” a little bit more before calling it a day. All in all it was a “Perfect Day” and I hope you don’t mind that I shared it with you!

-The GYPSY-

The Scent Of Lilacs Oil Painting By The GYPSY

The Artist Life: The Scent Of Lilacs

Drifting on the breeze
A scent that puts my soul at ease
Lilac fragrance fills the air
Triggering memories of time without care

Delicate blossoms on the sprig
Not long they’ll last what joy they bring
One bush here another there
Signals of spring sight and smell to share

Grandpa loved the flower
In it’s color there laid such power
When I was just a child
The bush he planted grew so wild

Outside my bedroom window
The bush would bloom and ever grow
Never again to be shorn
As each spring its scent would be reborn

Now my paint brush
Tries to capture the fragrant rush
Of my own Lilac bouquet
Whose color and scent hold me sway

And when the canvas
Has taken my color within each crevasse
Then the scent of Lilac
Will be captured and kept intact

And I will have painted
Pure nature, perfect in essence and untainted

A scent that puts my soul at ease
Lilac fragrance fills the air
Triggering memories of time without care

Delicate blossoms on the sprig
Not long they’ll last what joy they bring
One bush here another there
Signals of spring sight and smell to share

Grandpa loved the flower
In it’s color there laid such power
When I was just a child
The bush he planted grew so wild

Outside my bedroom window
The bush would bloom and ever grow
Never again to be shorn
As each spring its scent would be reborn

Now my paint brush
Tries to capture the fragrant rush
Of my own Lilac bouquet
Whose color and scent hold me sway

And when the canvas
Has taken my color within each crevasse
Then the scent of Lilac
Will be captured and kept intact

And I will have painted
Pure nature, perfect in essence and untainted

Yeso Wall Watercolor Painting By The GYPSY

The Artist Life: Yeso

YESO

I rolled down the endless highway into the bright New Mexico day. Clouds hung low in the blue morning sky like poly fiber torn from an over stuffed pillow. As I rolled along I knew that the soft clouds could gather into a storm, I watched the sky with wary eye.

Mile after mile passed beneath my wheels as I headed east along Highway 60 towards Ft. Sumner. I watched the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe tracks running along side the road, rail keeping pace with asphalt.

The clouds had congealed into a soft gray mass and I prayed that if they opened it would be a quick desert rain and not a deluge of biblical proportions.

I was thinking about the last 22 miles I had to travel to our destination when I topped a rise in the highway and there it was; A Ghost Town!

I grabbed brake, instinctively, pulling onto the dusty shoulder in front of, what was once, the dead towns post office. I did not have to wonder if I should stop, I knew the answer. My artist eyes had seen this treasure and I knew Yeso, New Mexico was mine for the taking.

Yeso means “gypsum” in Spanish; the town was established in 1906, when the AT&SF RR came to the area, and it became a trading center for ranchers (and the very few farmers) in the area.

Its post office began operations in 1909, and is now the towns only business servicing the nearby ranch’s from a small metal building. The postmaster lives behind the small office in a 5th wheel trailer.

Yeso was spelled Yesso during the years 1912-1913, for unknown reasons. When it became clear that the land was not suited for farming, and only useful for sheepherding and cattle grazing, many of the original settlers moved away. Only a hand full of people still call Yeso home. On this day I was Yeso’s only tourist.

Yeso is a true ghost town in every sense of the word. It’s abandoned red adobe brick buildings are slowly returning to the earth from which they arose.

Open doorways beckon you into passages dimly lit by the ambient light of the desert sky. Sage and course grass cover areas of collapsed flooring like a rolling carpet of dusty green and dark sienna. Empty windows stare out at the world while tumble weed residents roll along long forgotten sidewalks.

Here and there you can hear the residents of this once thriving town talking to each other. The desert finch warns the curious Kangaroo rat that the red tail hawk is nearby while the crows gossip about what the diamondback did last evening. If you listen even closer you can still hear echo’s of the human voices that once filled the vacant structure’s.

I moved around the town, photo after photo capturing what one day would be no more than a dusty pile along a busy road. Foundations that served as planters for prickly pear and cholla cactus today would tomorrow be nothing more than a mound from which creosote arose.

My camera’s shutters click, click, click was answered by the whistling wind that played through missing roofs and broken rafters. I speculated on belongings left behind and what the town must have been like when it was populated with humans instead of desert willows.

I returned to the highway and continued on towards Ft. Sumner. The thick gray clouds were started to thin out as I rolled on. I looked in my rearview mirror one more time for a final look at Yeso. The desert ghost town disappeared from my view as it would one day disappear from the world. It will be forever lost to the ages but captured, at least for a brief time upon my film to one day be brought back to a tenuous life upon my canvas’s resurrected by an artists brush.

-The GYPSY-

Traditional Tattoo Flash Sheet

The Artist Life: Times They Are A Changing

THERE WAS A TIME THAT THE INTERNET DID NOT EXIST

I know it is hard to believe but it is true. When I first started tattooing in 1976 my clients picked their designs from Flash Sheets. A Flash Sheet is (usually) and 11″ x 14″ Sheet of designs used for tattooing. The term “Flash Art” came from early Tattooists in New York City where tattooing was illegal. The New York Tattooist could not advertise to tattoo without fear of being arrested. However there was no law against showing tattoo designs.

The tattooist would usually have a spot near the docks where they did their work. They would take a book of tattoo designs to the dock as ships came in and “Flash” the designs to perspective customers. Without saying a word the tattooist could display his product and escort his customer to the shop where the tattoo was done secretly. Eventually tattooing became legal in NYC but the term “Flash Art” had been indelibility entered into the English Language.

At one time I had over 35,000 Flash Art Designs. The truth is I still do. The difference is they no longer dominate my studio; covering walls and filling shelves of notebooks. I now have the most popular ones within a few notebooks. The large sheets are stored away for prosperity. What was a normal part of tattooing has gone the way of the dinosaur. Google, Pinterest, Instagram and a host of others have become the new Flash Art Wall. I cannot tell you when the last time I used a piece of my Flash art to create a tattoo for a client but it has been a long, long time.

Now a client sends us via text message, instant messenger or email a design they found online. We talk to them about size and placement and then send them a quote. If the client is satisfied with the consultation then we schedule the appointment. At that point it is up to me to compose their design based on what they sent. In face consultations are almost a thing of the past.

Yet is is not only Tattoo Art that has been affected by the Internet it is also Fine Art. At one time a person might walk into an Art Gallery; Browse the Art Available and leave with an original piece of art or an art print. Though Art Galleries still exist carrying exclusive works by their signed artists more and more artists are independent of the restrictions of a gallery and now have their own online galleries where they sell their art without having to pay hefty commissions. This has made it possible for the artist to sell their art at a less expensive rate.

Technology has taken the art world to a whole new level never before imagined. The artist can easily sell originals, art prints and print on demand merchandise like t-shirts, greeting cards, cups, bags and more right from their website. One of the most exciting innovations for online galleries is AI. You are able to access an artists works from your cellphone and using an AI app place that piece of art on your wall. This technology allows you to pick the art that is right for your environment.

If you have never tried this before give it a try. On your cell phone visit our online store at www.ArtistAlleyStudio.com  Pick a piece of art then pick any type of print from the menu you like. In the lower left corner of the print you will see an icon of a hand holding a cell phone, click that icon. You will then be able to visualize the print on any wall you choose. Also check out the 3D view of the different print on demand items while you are there. These technologies take buying art to a whole other level.

Yes tattoo art and fine art have come along way in the past 15 years and where it goes from here is anyone’s guess. I will grant you that things were simpler in the past but the future has opened doors that the artist and art buyer never dreamed of. I am excited to see where it goes from here.

-The GYPSY- 

1963 Spacewalk Revisited By: The GYPSY

The Artist Life: Am I A Figment Of Your Imagination Or Am I One Of Yours

AM I A FIGMENT OF YOUR IMAGINATION OR AM I ONE OF YOURS

As I sit here watching the words appear upon the screen of my laptop I have to ask myself; Does life imitate art or does art imitate life?

I remember drawing a man walking in space. I carefully rendered the image with my 6 year old hand upon the Manila paper with the fat crayons. I remember getting a Dixie cup full of water and dipping my paint brush into the clear liquid. I moistened the small pat of blue paint and soaked my brush with the azure liquid. I rinsed the brush in the water turning it light blue. Dip, moisten, rinse, dip, moisten, rinse until I was satisfied with the shade of blue within the cup. I then started brushing the diluted water color across the surface of the paper; back and forth, forth and back I went until the large sheet of paper was covered. Years later I would learn that this was called a “Wash” but on that day I was just was trying something new.

Did I know that I was supposed to do this or did someone tell me how to do it? The sands of time have coated my memory and fogged my vision. What I do remember is my first grade teacher, Miss Pyle, making a big deal out of it. I remember the picture being on display in the Clay Elementary School hallway for a long time. I remember my Mother and Grandmother excitedly telling me that my picture won the number one place in the State of Kansas. I did not understand what that meant but they were excited and happy so I acted excited and happy too.

I remember a newspaper reporter with a big camera taking my photo and asking me how it felt to know that I was the number one artist in my age group in the country. I remember two years later when the same reporter asked me; “How did you know two years ago that man would walk in space?” I remember my Mother and Grandmother being so proud that my simple picture was on display in the Smithsonian Institution. I remember asking, “What’s a Smithsonian?”

My Mother once looked at me and said; “I don’t trust you, when I am old you will put me into a nursing home and leave me there to die.” I argued that I would never do that and that if she ever did need to be in a nursing home I would not abandon her and just “Leave Her To Die”. She did not believe me and said, “Your sister will take care of me, unlike you.” I told her, with as much conviction as my 15 year old mouth could muster, “Pat will not take care of you but I will.” When the time came Pat did not take care of her… I did.

How did I know Man would walk in Space? How did I know my Mom would need me one day? I have known these things and so much more about my life. I once heard it said that life is a canvas upon which an unfinished painting resides. No one knows what the next brush stroke may bring. But within my life the canvas is not unfinished; I know what the next brush stroke will be and where I will put it.

I cannot tell you why or how that I know what the painting of my life will be I just know that it is. Sometimes it weighs heavy on me, this knowing. I often feel like that Astronaut, coupled to his capsule by a thin life line as the void of space beckons. He cannot be distracted by the darkness around him; he must forever keep his eye on that silver metal life raft which floats high above the planet of his birth. Some day the space man will re-enter his capsule, secure the hatch and plummet at 185 miles per hour like a shooting star back from whence he came. But today he will not fall back to earth; today he shall live in a crayon Universe and swim in a wash of blue in manila space.

-The GYPSY-

Orangutan Djakarta Jim and Gary Clarke Topeka Zoo

The Artist Life: Anyone Can Create Art You Just have To Have A Desire To Do So

Anyone Can Create Art But Not All Art Can Be Created By Everyone

The Human Species has an ingrained desire to create. Whether planting a garden, building furniture, decorating a home, customizing a vehicle or creating works of art men and women long to create. It is one of the ways we leave our mark on the world and it has been ingrained in our species since the beginning of time.

But the desire to create is not just limited to our species. That desire can be found in many other creatures that we share the world with. Take for instance Djakarta Jim, a male Orangutan from the Topeka Zoo in Topeka, Kansas. Djakarta Jim came to the zoo as an infant in the late 1960’s. In 1971 Zoo Director Gary Clarke was approached by Jim’s Keeper who told him that Jim seemed to be drawing pictures with his food. They gave Jim non toxic paint, a brush and canvas and the rest is history.

Djakarta Jim won awards for his art and opened a door for other animal artists. Research into the artistic abilities of animals was in it’s infancy. But with the public acclaim of the orangutan artist more and more people took notice and more animal art was born and inspired. There are now famous works by Elephants, Horses, Chimpanzees and even dolphins.

If animals are able to create art then so can you. However understanding that you may not have the ability to create all types of art is the first step on your artistic journey. Let’s take a closer look at what it takes to become an artist…

I have people come into my studio all the time and say, “I have a friend that can draw really well and is thinking about tattooing.” My response is always the same, “Just because you can draw a pretty picture on a piece piece of paper does not mean you can tattoo; it takes a certain touch.” This is the same for all art. A Pottery Artist may be the greatest Pottery Artist to step foot on the face of the earth but may be unable to draw a straight line on a piece of paper. Being good at one thing artistically does not guarantee you will be a master in all things artistically and that is OK.

Discovering what your artistic talent is actually easier than you may think. Here is my advise on where you should start: get a pencil and piece of paper. Write down a top ten list of things you like and I do not mean artistically I mean those things you like that make you happy. Arrange the list in your favorite thing at the top and working down to number ten. Now make a separate top ten list of the type of art you like. Examples might be; pencil drawing, pen and ink, watercolor, acrylic painting, oil painting, block printing, decorative art, stained glass, graffiti art, pottery, plaster cast, digital art, pastels, crayon art, portrait art, landscape art, cityscape art, seascape art, animal art, jewelry art, sculpting and on and on and on. The possibilities are endless. Now arrange that list in the order of the type of art you like best with #1 being your favorite and #10 being your list favorite.

You now have two lists; favorite things and favorite art. What are your two number one things? Do you like Motorcycles? Do you like Stain Glass? Now think how you might combine those two things. Maybe make stain glass images of motorcycles or motorcycle events. Do you like Birds? Do you like Decorative Art? How would you combine those two things? Stenciled wall art feature birds or bird themed decorative trim? Do you like Trains? Do you like Graffiti Art? Well I wouldn’t suggest going out and doing graffiti art on trains but what if you painted a picture of a train using a graffiti art style? Are you starting to get the idea?

You can even go a step further; You like old buildings. You also like pottery and acrylic painting. What would stop you from creating artwork in acrylic paint of say an old barn on the side of a pot you made and then glazing that pot. You see where you start on this artistic journey is only limited by your imagination. Now that you have your key elements the next step is fairly simple… experiment and I mean really experiment! Do not just try something one time and say, “Well Gee I guess I can’t do it.” There is an old saying; “Practice Makes Perfect!” If creating art in a style you like is what you really desire to do then practice, practice, practice. But there is a Catch 22.

If you are unfamiliar with what a Catch 22 is it can be defined as a dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions. Remember what I stated above, “Just because you can draw a pretty picture on a piece piece of paper does not mean you can tattoo; it takes a certain touch.” If you have practiced and practiced and practiced the type of art you have chosen and still cannot seem to get it do not let your frustration rule you or kill your desire to create. At that point it will be time to move on and try a different artistic endeavor. You may go through several different things you like and several different types of art combinations before you find the one that is right for you. But I cab assure you that you will find the magic combination that will have you creating art that you admire and that will be admired by others.

Here is a final word of advice; Do not be afraid to ask for help. Taking art classes or buying books that explain the creative process are things you should be willing to do. The greatest cure for ignorance is education. Become artistically educated and you will find that your art will improve along with your abilities as an artist.

One word of caution however for those thinking about tattoo or piercing art; though there are a lot of videos on Youtube showing how to tattoo or pierce. Those “How Too” videos are garbage. You can only truly learn how to tattoo and pierce properly under an experienced state licensed  trainer. If anyone ever tries to charge you for Body Art Training you are in the wrong place. A professional Body Art Trainer makes their money when you start tattooing or piercing in their studio. They do not make their money by taking it out of your pocket and teaching you nothing. Contact your state licensing board for a list of qualified trainers.

So with all that being said I hope that this blog has helped to point you in the right direction on your artistic journey. It is worth repeating to say to you; Anyone Can Create Art You Just Have To Have A Desire To Do So.

-The GYPSY-

 

Xunantunich Pyramid in Belize

The Artist Life: Inspiration From A Haunted Pyramid

Inspired To Paint El Castillo Pyramid at Xunantunich in Belize

The moment I saw the photograph of the El Castillo Pyramid in Belize I knew that it would be on my list of future paintings I would create, People have not inhabited this site in western Belize for a thousand years, but something else is said to roam the place.

Belize is a Caribbean country on the northeastern coast of Central America. It borders Mexico to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and Guatemala to the west and south.

The name Xunantunich (Stone Woman or Maiden of the Rock) was given to this ancient Mayan archaeological complex in the 19th century. The name is said to be derived from the sighting of a ghostly figure of a woman who disappears as one gets nearer to her.

Other aspects of these city ruins are decidedly more solid: Six plazas and more than 25 palaces and temples are preserved within roughly one square mile, situated high on a plateau above the Mopan River.

The Maya civilization spread into the area of Belize between 1500 BC and AD 300 and flourished until about 1200. They left behind monumental cities and pyramids. Few are as awe inspiring as El Castillo.

Sometime soon in the near future I shall take brush to canvas and create my version of the ghostly and majestic giant that has survived far past it’s creators.

-The GYPSY-

Pore Richards Watercolor Painting By The GYPSY

The Artist Life: Pore Richards

“Pore Richards”

Watercolor Painting By Romani American Artist J.A. George AKA: The GYPSY

As a child my Saturdays and summer breaks centered around youth activities at the YMCA located, at that time, at SW 8th and Quincy in Topeka, Kansas. The youth area was in the basement of the one time USO building and was a virtual boys club. No girls were allowed in this sacred area that included pool tables, lounge area with large color television, which most homes did not have at the time, hobby shop ran by the wise, talented and noble Mr. Anderson and an Olympic size swimming pool.
Activities included Judo lessons, handball, basketball and trampoline in the gymnasium. Field trips ranging from tours of Frito Lay and Coca Cola to Flights on small planes at Billard airport. My first flight on an airplane was captured on a front page story in the Topeka Capital Journal during one of these field trips. And let’s not forget swimming lessons from Louie the Lifeguard (I eventually obtained the Junior Life Saver level after Louie threw me into the pool after I refused to swim but that’s another story for another day) and open swimming in the afternoon when the pool became no mans land.
Yes, for a boy the YMCA was a world filled with opportunity, education, wonderment and fun. Now days there is a parking lot located on that southwest corner that was once a bastion of a boys life yet that is not what this posting is about, no it is about the business that once sat at the opposite corner from the YMCA; Pore Richards Beer ’N Stein Café.
When I would walk to or leave the YMCA I would always notice the big black sign with the neon lettering and the caricature of the funny little Hobo on top with his “Toe Peek A ing” out of one shoe. I had always assumed that the silly little Hobo with the large round spectacles was the fabled “Pore Richard”. I always found it funny that the adult who had made the sign did not know how to spell the word “Poor” and I wondered if Mr. Richard had been upset when he first saw the sign.
There was never really anything about the sign nor the exterior of the building that would appeal to your appetite to invite you in yet it was a Topeka tradition and a Topeka gathering place. My grandmother would sometimes take a business lunch in this mysterious restaurant that was off limits to one of my tender age.
Yes, almost everyday of my young life I saw Pore Richards and his image became such a familiar sight to me that even to this day when I hear the term Poor Richards Almanac a vision of the funny little Hobo comes to mind.
I had vowed that one day, when I was an adult, I would have a “Beef ’N Stein” in the famous Café. But alas, that was never to be. As with so many things and places held dear to so many peoples heart “Pore Richards” passed into history and the pages of the past.
Sometimes I think about the iconic sign and wonder what happened to it. Is it collecting dust in someone’s storeroom that swears, “I’m going to do something with that someday!” or was it recycled for the metal that was in it. I personally would like to see it in a museum where future generations can smile at the friendly little Hobo but barring that I think the recycle scenario would be the best thing that could have happened to the sign.
I smile when I imagine the stoic little Hobo being the front grill of an expensive recreational vehicle rolling down the highway, freed from the confines of the sign and doing what a Hobo does; traveling the highways and the byways of America. I lift a Stein to you my dear unknown friend and your memory; Pore Richards.

-The GYPSY-

The Blue Albino Woman Of Topeka By The GYPSY

The Artist Life: The Blue Albino Woman Of Topeka – By: The GYPSY

The Blue Albino Woman Of Topeka

Watercolor Illustration and Story By Romani American Artist J.A. George AKA; The GYPSY

This Watercolor Illustration Was Used In The Blue Albino Woman Episode of Discovery Channel’s Monster’s and Myths in America.

Allow me to relate the strange tale of the Albino Woman to you my faithful readers. The story of the Albino Woman is a ghost story that has touched me in the past and will again become part of my story in the future. The cemetery she haunts, Rochester Cemetery, is located on the northwest outskirts of Topeka, Kansas and is the final resting place of my family as it will also someday be the final resting place of my wife Raychel and I.
This ghost story has its roots in the life of a strange albino woman who wandered her north Topeka neighborhood at night and glared at children on their way to school during the day. As a child she had been mercilessly teased by her classmates. That taunting had followed her to adult hood as the neighborhood children would call her names and yell insults at her. After the friendless woman died in 1963 of mysterious circumstances residents began reporting a glowing white female figure walking in the area after dark especially along Shunganunga Creek.
Often the sightings were near Rochester Cemetery where the woman was buried and near which Shunganunga Creek flows. To this day employees of the nearby Goodyear Tire Factory claim to see her regularly, and some neighbors see the apparition as often as once a week.
It was August of 1964 and I was trying on clothes in the dressing room of the children’s department on the second floor of Pelletier’s Department store which my Grandmother was Manager of. It was time for me to get my new school clothes. School was going to start soon and I would be entering the second grade.
Suddenly the door to the dressing room flew open and there stood a tall veiled woman dressed entirely in black. her red eyes were visible through the dark veil as she reached out a gloved hand towards me. As the arm came closer I saw with horror the pale almost bluish flesh of the arm between her sleeve and glove. I let out a scream and she froze in her movement. Appearing behind the tall frightening figure was the small stature of my Grandmother. Summing up the situation quickly my Grandmother forcibly ordered, “Leave! You are not welcomed here!” The veiled woman slowly turned as I crouched back against the wall. I heard my Grandmother repeat, “You are not welcomed here.” She then ordered, “Now leave!” The tall figure with the red eyes and bluish skin silently glided past my Grandmother and towards the stair well. I ran to my Grandmothers arms and watched, along with the employees that had come running when I screamed, the frightening figure descend the stairs and quickly disappear.
I was to learn later that this was the Albino Woman who had died the next year. I was not to learn until four years later why she had sought me out.
The Rochester Cemetery’s caretaker and his wife had a close encounter with the ghost of the Albino Woman late one night in 1968. As they pulled their car into the driveway they saw a figure scurrying among the gravestones. Thinking it a child playing a prank, they aimed the car’s headlights at the figure, which was then kneeling before a grave. When the caretaker got out of the car, the ghostly figure stood up and glared angrily at him and walked deeper into the cemetery. The caretaker was so upset he called the police but the officers found nothing.
The ghost’s route was so regular that one resident began watching for it as it strolled across his lawn on clear nights. Eventually, he claimed, the figure began to pause and gaze at his house as though it wished to speak to him. It began to pass closer and closer to the house until one night it stood at his children’s bedroom window and watched them as they slept. The man was badly scared, but the apparition never harmed his children.
This was not the only house that the Albino Woman looked within the windows. One hot summer evening in 1968 as I lay asleep, my bed by the window to catch what little breeze drifted into the bedroom. We were poor and air conditioning was not a luxury we could afford so a rotary fan moved the stagnant air around the room. I was awakened by a scratching sound at my window. In my groggy, half asleep state I thought it was my cat, Blue Boy, scratching at the screen. “Stop it girl,” I mumbled. That is when my cat hissed. I opened my eyes to see Blue Boy, her back arched, her hair on end and hissing at the window. I rolled over and looked into the glowing red eyes of the Albino Woman who was standing right outside my window glaring at me with an intense stare that was without emotion. I screamed and scrambled out of my bed.
My Mother came running into the room and saw the hideous apparition standing at the window. “Leave us alone, damn you,” my mother screamed, “leave us alone!” My mother grabbed my arm and shoved me from the room. “I am sorry, OK?! I am sorry! Now leave us be!” My mother yelled as she exited the room and slammed the bedroom door close.
I found out that night that the Albino Woman had lived in a house in my mothers childhood neighborhood. My mother and her friends had taunted the poor hapless woman everyday as they walked to and from school.
I have not had an encounter with her since the night my Mother apologized almost 40 years ago now. But it is said that she still walks along Shunganunga creek and prowls the interior woodlands of Rochester Cemetery at night. Do me a favor will you? If you are ever in Rochester Cemetery and you meet a tall woman dressed in black with piercing red eyes and pale bluish white skin, don’t tell her that you know me or that you know where I live. I’ll have a word with her after I am laid to rest there.

-The GYPSY-


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