Book Launch This SUNDAY!!!!
The Whore Next Door
Annie Campbell’s Illustrated Memoir
May 1st 2016 4:00 – 7:00
The Trumansburg Conservatory of Fine Arts
5 McLallen Street Trumansburg, NY
Nine years ago on the eve of St. Paddy’s Day, a blizzard battered our old farmhouse, and rattled the windows. Harley and I bundled up, climbed into our cold car and drove slowly – barely able to see the road. We were going to meet our family in the Mumsey’s hospital room.
Thanks to a misdiagnosis, our Mumsey was dying. The doctors had refused to listen to anyone in the family when we told them that our Mumsey had NEVER vomited in her life, she did not have the flu- and this was something serious. When the doctors finally decided to give her a sonogram, they discovered she had a gall bladder problem, and that her violent vomiting for more than a week had ruptured her large intestine. It was too late to save our Mumsey.
The Mumsey was in a coma, and sedated. I hoped she no longer felt any pain. We gathered around her bed and told our favorite funny Mumsey-stories, and we told her how much we loved her. In the wee hours after midnight, on St. Paddy’s Day, the Mumsey died at the age of 85. She had been strong and healthy, and her mind was still sharp when the doctors chose to ignore our pleas. I believe she could have lived a much longer life.
The next morning back at our farmette, after a very short sleep, I woke up to a white-world with no wind, and almost three feet of snow on the ground. The snow, on every tiny tree branch, and every bush, looked like white lace. In great contrast to the lacy whiteness, hundreds and hundreds of black birds: crows, starlings, grackles, and red-wings, sat silently in the trees. I ran to another window. The trees bordering our yard were filled with even more silent blackbirds. Finally, I ran to the window facing south, and was not surprised to see every lacey tree also filled with hundreds of blackbirds. I had never seen anything like it.
I knew that my Mumsey had something to do with it, and felt a rush of joy. I laughed with delight and thought, she is sending a message. I interpreted all the quiet black birds in their glorious lacy setting to mean – it’s OK to be sad, but celebrate today, and while you’re at it – celebrate every day. Suddenly, in unison, all the birds made an incredible cawing racket. They took off heading west, turning the pale sky black.
The Blog above is NOT an excerpt from my illustrated memoir THE WHORE NEXT DOOR. It’s a shameless attempt to get you interested in the odd things I write and paint. If you are curious, click on the link below to see the first 10 illustrated chapters of my book on Amazon. Use the “Look Inside” feature. I hope it amuses you!
This illustration was done for a job that never saw the light of day. Thought I would share it anyway.
“What do you mean? What’s fun about it?” I asked laughing.
“Oh, it’s delightful to see all the people I love, and they say
such sweet things to me. I’m comfortable in my happy home, I can eat
anything I want at any time – even ice cream! I mull over my long
life, and how lucky I have been and still am, and I am deeply grateful.”
During one of our last conversations, my father told me about a man he knew who had worked as a stockbroker, but hated it and finally quit and bought an old farm in Vermont. He fixed it up, planted an orchard, a large garden, and had many different farm animals. “He was extremely happy there.”
“Geeze, dada,” I said, “I figured that out years ago!” (Harley, and the children, and I, had been living happily for years on our “farmette” with pigs, chickens, horses, cows, cats, and dogs.)
Dada’s eyes twinkled as he patted my hand, and said, “My point exactly! I’ve admired the way you have lived your life all this time, and I am very proud of you. You were right all along.”
I realized he was referring to a slightly heated discussion we’d had at least twenty years before when he’d told me, “You know there is more to life than following your hedonistic whims.” And I had asked, “Like what?”
“Well, you have to be responsible – have a job and do it well, take care of your children and loved ones, be generous and help your friends and others. You can’t just go to parties and smoke marijuana all day.”
“I know that!” I had said, sounding somewhat irritated. “If I didn’t take care of all my responsibilities it would fuck up my hedonism, and I wouldn’t be able to have a good time.” My father looked thoughtful and dropped the subject.
It meant so much to me that my father had remembered our “hedonist discussion,” when he was dying and wanted me to know he thought I had been a good, responsible person, and especially that he was proud of me despite the unconventional choices I had made in my life. He was the most joyful, grateful, optimistic, person I ever met. I know I am incredibly lucky to have had such a sweet dada.
I Hated School
I barely made it through high school, never wrote a long paper, had bad grades, and I am probably the least likely person my friends, family, or teachers, could imagine writing a book. However in 2006 when I was sick with cancer, I sat in my sunroom and let my mind wander wherever it wanted to go without the slightest twinge of guilt, thanks to my sweet husband.
Although my eyes were open, I didn’t pay full attention to the peaceful country scenery changing with the weather. Instead, my thoughts turned inward and ran through my mind like movies. I saw people from my past and heard their voices as clearly as if the events were happening in the present. My mood remained sunny, I giggled frequently as silly, funny, memories tumbled out in an endless stream. Several happy months floated by watching my in-brain movies.
While sitting in the sunroom one day, a life-changing question hit me in the head like a meatball –
Why do I dread and resist going into my art studio?
It wasn’t that my mind was blank, I had tons of ideas for paintings, but as soon as I thought about going into my studio, I’d yawn with fatigue, and do anything to avoid going there. I’d even prefer to clean the bathroom! Strangely, I did not have that reaction when I was commissioned to do a painting or an illustration for someone else, in fact I’d get right on the job and work quickly and efficiently.
I laughed as I imagined asking someone –
Would you prefer to clean the toilet with this toilet brush, or use this paint brush and paint a picture with gorgeous colors?
I closed my eyes and asked my subconscious-self to figure out why I refused to paint the pictures that I so desperately wanted to make. The answer didn’t come to me immediately. Perhaps an hour passed, maybe I even dozed off, but suddenly the answer came to me in a flash.
If you treated anyone else the way you treat yourself in your studio, they’d run away screaming!
Yup, it’s true! If they heard me saying things like, OMG I hate that color, why did you put it there? What an idiot. You screwed up! Throw it in the garbage. That painting was coming along beautifully, but now you’ve ruined it by trying some stupid experiment!
As I sat in my favorite chair saying these awful things to an imaginary stranger painting in my studio, it occurred to me that I needed to change the way I treat myself immediately.
I made a promise –
I will be as kind to myself as I am to complete strangers.
I have always been kind to strangers. I felt light-headed with relief and happiness. Although I had been so weak that I usually avoided going upstairs all day until it was time to go to bed, I climbed the stairs and went to the computer in our study, sat down and wrote my first story ever. It came from one of my in-brain movie memories and I named it the Pissing Window. I had such fun, that I wrote several more. I could hardly make myself stop to go to the bathroom or get something to eat.
After a few days, I had about 20 short stories, and wondered what I should do with them. I decided to put them in chronological order, and then realized that they were the chapters of a memoir. It took me three months to bang out another 86 chapters. I knew from the beginning that I would do a full color painting for each chapter. Revisions of the writing, re-doing many of the 106 paintings – sometimes doing three or four different ones for a single chapter, and even doing one of the paintings over and over twenty six times – took nine years. I pecked at it when I felt like it, and now my illustrated memoir, The Whore Next Door, is finally done and available on Amazon.com
I’m shy to admit this, but I’m proud of myself!
This is the first time in my life I will be posting a Blog. My Blog will be an introduction to my art and my writing. I was told I should write a Blog to let people know about my new illustrated memoir of my wild years – covering age eighteen to thirty five. Groan, I thought, I hate the idea of having to write a Blog and deal with social media, but I reluctantly started and found that I actually enjoy looking at other peoples social media pages so much, I have to be careful not to spend hours doing that instead of the things I want or need to get done.
So here is my teeny-weeny first installment because I have already spent hours and hours looking at other people’s pages. LOL.