This is going to go in length, and I may add to it as I remember more. I'm going to start with why I am even here in Orlando, what possessed me to move here?! That's rather simple actually, it was go to Orlando, or leave the company I had been a part of for seven years. The severance package was enticing, and at the time, that economy bubble hadn't yet burst, but given where May and I were at the time, in quiet stagnation, and being the provider for both of us - being unemployed wasn't a reality I wanted to gamble with. In hindsight, I made the right choice. We found a great apartment, and it provided May some privacy and an art room that was solely her own. Our lives were about to change in ways we couldn't have imagined.
It really started with a trip to the Winter Park Spring Art Festival. The utter chaos and draining environment of that pushed us away quickly, and May remembered seeing an ad for the Outsider Art Festival in the same area. We found it and our path changed from then on. We met Ed Hdez, Ralph Verano, and Tracy Burke. They were so embracing and warm and encouraging of May showing her art. They opened that first door that led to a much different existence for us. May's first showing was the following month in Baldwin Park, and the ball rolled fluidly from then on artistically. She made fast friends with Orlando's artists, and built a foundation and developed a belonging to this city's artist community. It was a vision and effort come to fruition for her and it was beautiful! For every sour moment, there was a dozen experiences that were memorable and irreplaceable. As a witness to this, very few made me feel unwelcome, or outside the circle, but I certainly viewed myself as such. A non-artist in an artist's world.
Over the years, we didn't spend much time with Ed, but he was always supportive and encouraging, and even up to the moment May left, he was checking out her sketchbook at Full Sail during The Sketchbook Project. Ed has an amazing spirit and talent, and his soft-spoken beauty emanates purely from his core. Tracy and Ralph became close friends; confidants, and a source of exhaltation whenever we could share some time with them. I fondly remember May and I trying to piece together our conversations with Tracy after any given encounter at Redlight Redlight with her... she sometimes talks at a level only dogs can hear. More importantly; both Tracy and Ralph were so supportive and encouraging, it really made us feel like Orlando was a community with human spirit and a beating heart. They shared so much with us, beyond art and contacts... there were meals, music, friendship, sincerity and trust. Of all the relationships May and I built as friends in the Orlando community, I would struggle to think of one that was more important to us.
It was Tracy and Ralph that challenged May to paint publically, something she'd never done even for an audience of one. She embraced it, and we met even more of the artists working in and around Orlando. It was at this event that she met Travis Smith, and began a strong friendship with that continues today. He too, was another person that was unyieldingly supportive and helped open even further paths to explore artistically. I never made it easy for Travis to be in my company, but despite that, he never stopped trying to accommodate me or engratiate himself to me. I will forever be thankful to him for the support and friendship he gave May.
That brings me around to Tr3 Harris and Frankie Messina. One would think that two people connected to every nerve and vein in Orlando would have little or no time to stop and converse with an unknown artist on the scene. Beyond doing exactly that, they also found time to engage me. Share stories, pick my brain, and seek out what talents I keep buried beneath the skin. Frankie and I have connected on a personal level sort of hemmorhaging from painful places, and that is something that I was profoundly affected by, even if it was momentary. When you see the vulnerable side of someone, it changes that relationship; in this case, for the better. Tr3 is amazing. He's a man always moving; I doubt he sleeps, he might be undead, but he will always take time to talk with me, with anyone. He is sincerely interested in people and their stories, their muse, their voice, and I have to be honest, that is so rare and amazing to me, that it borders on reverence. I would have never guessed I would meet someone else like that, especially in Orlando, but more on her later.
Okay, so adventures lead us down so many paths, but none so unique as Karen Russell. I am utterly enamored with her, artistically and personally. I envy the people that are close to her, because she tugs at every synapse my brain will fire. She exudes mystery and sexuality with no effort, and life sort of chases along after her barely keeping up and probably hungry and tired and sick from the horrible food she feeds it. I hear and have probably said the phrase, "hot mess" , but Karen is one of the most real people I know. She exists in this life, but is not it's bitch, and embraces the moments that matter to her without inhibition. It's admirable, and like I said, unique. Karen is amazing, we all know it, and she always manages to make it, whatever it is, happen.
Moving on to Art In The Park! More new faces, more amazing people! I met Veronika, Dana, Hannah, and solidified friendships with Van J, Justin Barrows and Snappy. Snappy is someone who, despite where he might be personally, makes someone else feel like the most important person in the room. His heart is beautiful and sincere, and I can only imagine that he must be made to suffer for that as I have... inexplicably. I am pretty sure he's a genius, and his knowledge of culture and music is staggering. I am blessed to know him, and no matter where I am, I will always carry memories of his frivolity, creativity and smiles. Van J, I met outside of Milk Bar, and I had no idea how often our paths would cross afterwards. It's been countless years since I've known someone with such a peaceful spirit. His mere presence is calming. The people that can call him friend are truly blessed. Justin Barrows... I don't even know where to begin!?! No one has tried harder to make me unleash the inner artist than Justin, and it's only out of his sheer determination that I shared what I've had. Without him, there would be no unfinsihed art books piling up in my apartment, there would be no dead trees on a door somewhere, and a piece that went god knows where? He is the most dedicated and determined artist in Orlando, and at the same time, a great friend who I don't see enough of.
Okay - moving on. Jenn. My amazing, unspoken, undefined bond with Jenn. She got me to dance... so, like Justin, she pulled the impossible out of me. I really have no words to describe her, only feelings and emotions. If she was a painting, she would be priceless and as mysterious as a Mona Lisa smile. Going away, I would certainly feel that break in our connection, whatever it is, and despite how rarely we ever get to see one another. I feel good in sharing with she and Teege what an inspiration they are to me, and how they give me hope for a relationship with such strong and healthy roots. If I listed 10 things beautiful about Orlando, their relationship would be number 1.
Cake, Mikey, Jeffrey. I love all three of them for different reasons, and I cherish each of their friendships for different reasons. Cake, being such a figurehead of the Orlando art scene, could very easily turn his nose up and not really look beyond his magical world. His talent is only rivaled by his enormous passion and enthusiasm over the Orlando art scene. He's caring, supportive, embracing, and willing to help out the entire Orlando scene. More importantly to me, as a non-artist, Cake has been a friend. Offering advice, allowing me to intrude into his world, and allowing me to share pieces of mine. There's not a lot of people in Orlando that know my business, even if they think they do, but the 3 Bears know more about myself and May than almost anyone in Orlando says alot about their sincerity and trust and friendship. Mikey, always boosts my spirit, even if that encouragement is ill-advised. I know Jeffrey is Orlando's cheerleader, but Mikey is mine. If there's a more comforting presence in Orlando, I haven't found it. Jeffrey, whom I am probably closest with. He and I have spent a lot of time talking, because he's always working at places I tend to go. I think we share a commonplace that is rooted in some sadness. I don't know, we've never discussed it, but I feel like we are kindred spirits. If I was at bottom, I feel like I could reach out to Jeff and he'd extend a hand.
I would have not expected this time last year how close I would have become to Joe Quillsong and Anne Schummer. Joe reaching out to me and opening up to me is still a moment that is carved poignantly on my heart. It was someone who I respected making an effort to reassure me. If I trusted anyone with anything, it's Joe. His spirit, his soul are like beacons in a storm - it's safe passage through some miserable darkness. Anne and I bonded after May left, and it's a relationship that defies explanation. She may be my little sister. We love the same music, movies, fashion, etc.
Someone who has piqued my curiosity since I met him is Thomas Thorspecken. He has sketched May at least a half-dozen times, and an adventure with him is always something special. I will never forget our canoe trip, or having him over for lunch. He's a fascinating person, with an intoxicating smile, and a huge heart and sense of humor. His laugh is infectious, and I know if I am out somewhere and see him arrive, my night will somehow be improved. He was offered a unique perspective on my divorce, and was witness to it's fruition.
Two people that came into my life this year and had a prominent impact are Tonya and Stephanie. I only group them together, because both those relationships are fractured or non-existent. They did however ground me when my heart and mind went far reaching looking for understanding, and bore witness to the shattering of my relationships, ultimately our own. Stephanie is one of two mothers I met this year that I have utter respect and admiration for. I don't know how she juggles everything and still manages to raise such a well-rounded, intelligent, respectful child, but she does and I am in awe of it. We share a love of music and challenges and movies and I always welcomed our conversations over coffee. Tonya is talent, layered upon talent. I don't even know all the skills she possesses, but her thirst for adventure and learning inspires me. Her aesthetic eye, and devotion to her art ushers me to other-wordly places and each creation is a storybook land that is somehow rooted into her life. She is one of Orlando's unique souls, and the time we've shared talking offered me so much perspective and understanding and I will always appreciate those moments.
There's so many people that have just been amazing, and unexpected. I can't say this from experience, but Orlando must be unique in that atmosphere. It's truly beautiful. Steve Parker, in his accomodation and above and beyond dedication to curation, besides his amazing talent as an artist. Marcus Adkins who always remembers my name, despite my having to add him on Facebook to concrete his name into my brain. Little did I know until I added him that he was this phenomenal photographer. Jay Gordon and Beni Belak and eventually Charlotte who I met when I forced myself out on my own one night. Three inspiring, engaging, brilliant people that broke me out of the belief that I could only have friendships via May. Katie Dannelly, who has become my refuge and grounding rod at work, and has become a close friend. Leon Carter who embraces my passion for music and buying music! But more importantly, supported me through my darkest moments in Orlando and gave me the time I needed to set things right. Leah Fairchild, with an enormous spirit and heart, and a real beauty that precedes her. My newest friend, Nick Mariano who shares the same interests in music as I do and he's a DJ! But as I have known him, completely approachable, amiable, and sincere and I hope our friendship continues even if I depart. Eric Johnson who gave me a monicker, and an escape one weekend to go see art. He is the antagonist in my "pull the shades closed" world. He always finds a way to pull laughter out of me, and remind me that I know and am friends with some awesome people in Orlando. Another person I bonded with, and who's friendship and support has been invaluable is Kim Marshall. I haven't met anyone more gracious and caring. Jessica Earley reinforced my belief that being vulnerable and sharing feelings is okay, and nothing to feel ashamed about.
But my life in Orlando really took root when I met, really met, Hannah Braden. I felt a little lost here until we began to talk. She offered me a perspective that made Orlando feel like home to me for the first time. I am not going to start sharing more than you already know, because I do respect privacy. Suffice to say though, I don't know anyone more inspiring than Hannah. I've witnessed a curator, artist, manager, mom, friend and on all levels, I was left enamored and transfixed. I have never known someone like her, that manages so much and still maintains such a beautiful presence. Wherever I go, for however long, if the word Orlando is uttered, she will be the image that comes to mind, because Hannah made Orlando feel like home to me. Made me embrace it's people and it's places in my own exploratative way.
Outside these walls, I also bonded with Zara Kand, Allie Hartley, and Bethy Williams since landing here. Three artists of extraordinary skill, whom I have also had the pleasure of knowing on a personal level. I only met Zara as a result of the work I did for her mother, but as I saw her artistic and music talent outside of that realm, I realized what incredible talent she had and what a beautiful heart she possesses. Allie paints what I see in my head, quite inexplicably. I know so, very little about her, but I am so very intrigued. We are going to start sharing correspondences, so I hope by this time next year, we will have a much more profound idea of one another. But her kindness has been inviting over these past few months. Bethy, has been a foundation for me (possibly unwillingly) over the past year. Talking to me into the wee hours, and sharing our quirky interests with one another, and allowing me to make compilations for her that would make babies cry. That's how you define a unique and priceless bond. I love her in how we connect in that way, and as I said - it's been the only light a few times over the past few months.
So, that's it! I know I forgot someone(s). But the point of this LONG-ASS post is this. As I put this blog to bed to awake as something else, I wanted to do so by thanking all of you that I have encountered in Orlando and elsewhere. I did not want to be gone, without having said it, at least one more time. Since this blog was about my time in Orlando, it's befitting it should end this way. I may or may not be moving on, but whatever happens, Orlando specifically is no longer the adventure. Today, it's the point from where my adventures originate, but not the focus. One last person that deserves thanks is May. Without her, and her determination, the adventure that lead to so many amazing people would likely never have happened. I'm blessed to know you all, and above all else, thankful for knowing you.