Jr Maxwell has been with me in spirit today. This morning I picked up some motorcycle wheels from the motorcycle skeleton yard, a frame with a motor, 5 old rusted flywheels from I can't imagine what, a short crankshaft covered in rust. That's my treasure. I want to do something special with it, thinking of displaying it upright like Brancusi's Bird In Space. Might play with putting chemicals on it to make different colors of rust. Everything is possible when I have no box. I've decided to jump out of whatever boxes I've been functioning in where art is concerned. The box gives structure and foundation. I can find them outside the box, as well. I can't lean on the wall of a box. All the more fun. I want to make abstractions, though I also want to make crazy things like flamingos and giant insects, whatever happens. Anything goes. I spent the day in Jr's tractor repair shop that is now Ross's. The shop was built by Jr, has his name on the sign. It will always be Maxwell Equipment. The place smells like it smelled in Jr's time there, the old grease smell covering the cement floor over about thirty years. A mechanic's hands are always black with grease, a thin coat of black remains on everything he touches. Over time the black thickens until the handles of tools are black from much use. The shop was also Jr's man cave.
I spent a few hours sitting out of the way by the wood stove not in use taking apart the gears and axles of the two back wheels. It was quite an adventure in bolt removal. I'm looking as much forward to disassembling these motorcycle skeletons as much as reassembling them in original new ways. Saving all bolts and nuts, sleeves, rings of every sort in a particular box. I want to use the bolts and screws from the bikes themselves putting them back together. Getting acquainted with my palette. Tomorrow morning I'll tear into the frame with the motor and back wheel. Disassemble the whole thing down to the pistons and the rods, valves, sparkplugs, crankshafts. Every part of the entire mechanism I want to have available for use. Break them down to their nuts and bolts and tiniest parts. This is the time of deconstructing the dead bikes to their parts. Axles with bearings could be great for something that turns in the wind. I know I'm not the first to do something like this. Far from it. It doesn't matter. I don't want to look and see what other people have done. I want my own vision to emerge from the parts themselves and my experience putting them together into something new, something worth making. I'll let Ross decide about prices. I don't want that in my head. All this will be worked out conversationally over time. I can see I'll be spending a lot of time in the shop. It's not like we're starting a business. My only agenda will be never to get serious about it.
It will be fun to make yard ornaments, even wall sculptures that hang on an outside wall or an inside wall. Things for indoors and outdoors. I see houses everywhere now with a black star hanging on an outside wall. I've heard they indicate a retired sheriff. I don't know. Whatever it is, I find it a very unfortunate image to put on one's house. A black star. That's kind of like an upside down cross. Not that it is anything at all, but the emotional symbolism is there. The black stars strike me sinister. They make me pause with a frown, like that aint right. Of course, it is right for the people who put them up and I remind myself it's their right like having a bird feeder in my yard is my right. It's just that they're creepy in my way of seeing. I don't want to make creepy things. I want them to express delight in one way or another. In this period of bike deconstruction, I'm discovering parts, shapes, designs, patterns. I like the rust. I will want to paint very little. Though some things will need painting. That can be decided per piece. No gotta-oughta-should-better-needta-benefit-from. I'll let Ross handle the money totally. I don't want to get mixed up with money. I'm doing it for the fun there is in it and that is all. If occasional gas money comes from it, hooray. Beyond that, I don't care. Even that, I don't care.
This project will be done in a spirit of in memory of Jr Maxwell. Inside the shop is a sense that he is living. Jr was important to Ross and Jr was important to me. Ross and I did a kind of male bonding struggle around Jr. Men who don't like each other and have a fight come out of the fight best friends. The fight somehow, maybe even subliminally, becomes a bonding. Hierarchy is important to men. Knowing who can kick whose ass is important among men. I attribute it to 6,000 years of armies at war. Boys grow up to be soldiers and take orders. Boys expected to grow up and be killers for awhile, then raise a family. Warrior society. It's got our working class men, the ones that shoot guns and get killed, believing blind obedience is patriotic, masculine. Yes Sir! Easily manipulated by propaganda. Ross believed I was setting Jr up to rip him off. When I went home the day Jr's spirit left the body, expecting or asking for nothing. What I was there for was done. I never attempted to convince Ross that my intent was what he would want it to be, to allow Jr to leave the body in his own bed. That was important to him, and I was the only one who could make it possible for him.
I understand Ross's suspicion, because everybody around here knows somebody or of somebody who moved in on somebody feeble and alone to get everything signed over to them in the will. It happens. People you'd never suspect. I knew my purpose, but knew I could never be convincing; words are not convincing to anybody of these mountains and I understand. When it became apparent I had not imposed myself on Jr for property or anything in any way, the day he died, then I became ok to all who had been watching: Whitehead. All of Whitehead. I had no idea until the day he left the body that all of Whitehead had been watching. That day I became a naturalized citizen of Whitehead community. One of the great honors of my life, if not IT. In some way I don't understand at all when Ross and I are around each other, Jr is with us. I see Jr in him and he sees Jr in me. In short, we've become friends in memory of Jr. I like that. It keeps Jr alive for both of us. Like Jr said, "Patience is everything." The shop has become a gang of misfits, doing whatever needs doing. Today this old boy from town was there repairing the bottom of a fiberglass canoe and he'd never worked with fiberglass before. The sound of power tools, the satellite radio playing bluegrass sometimes and hard metal other times. The smell of grease and WD-40. Laughs happening frequently.
We're ready to make hillbilly art, put up a sign misspelled like somebody who didn't pay much attention in school painted it, who got passed along year after year until he graduated illiterate. Or quit first chance it was legal, whichever came first, sixteenth birthday or finish eighth grade. That's how it was with my generation. I don't know what it is now. Probably not much different. Hillbilly. I think of it as exploiting expectation. What Ross and I are wanting to do is #1, get rid of his old motorcycle skeletons and parts that go with them, and #2, have some fun. Humor. Funny. I'm already thinking of what I can do with maybe twenty valves from motorcycle engines, gas tanks, fenders, wheels, frames, handlebars, pistons, chains. I'm excited anticipating taking the motor and wheel off the frame to see what the frame itself looks like. I'm looking forward to having several different frames to see what can be done with them. Spoke wheels, rusted chrome, some with tires, some without. I want to leave the tires. I enjoy taking the bikes apart. It's like a potter kneading the clay before creating the form with it. I am thinking that instead of putting my name on them, finding a way to sign them Maxwell Equipment. That name acknowledges the group effort it is. I may be the one with the designing eye, but maybe not the only one. And everyone involved in the shop will be helping in varieties of ways, if no more than telling me how to use a particular tool, like a welder. Everybody will be involved. I don't want the credit to be all mine. That would be taking it seriously.
I want my part light hearted.