Whenever I go through my oldest work I always stop at this little piece. It’s a goofy small painting on paper that has the title Red Laser Hits the Big City written across the bottom of the small piece of paper on which it is painted, along with the date from November of 1994.

I usually don’t give it much thought beyond the fact that it makes me smile but this morning I stopped a little longer and tried to remember more about it or, at least, try to understand it a bit better. 

It was just an experiment at the time at a time when I was still trying to figure out what I was as a painter. Or if I was even a painter since I wasn’t an exhibiting artist at that point.  This was painted several months before I even began showing my work in public the following year, at the 1995 Little Gems show at the West End Gallery

I remember painting this piece and a similar one with that red line that I called the Red Laser. I believe I actually sold the other piece but wouldn’t swear to that in court. Time has faded that memory but I have a vague recollection of being surprised at it selling  plus I can’t find it so that might well be the case. 

Looking at it now, I find it interesting because it showcased the color blocks more than much of my other work at that time. It’s a technique that I still use extensively in my work to this day, a signature part of my wet work. I think this use of the block makes it feel somewhat more current, even more evolved, than some of the other work from that time.

I remember seeing the laser with its odd offshoot of a leg as a figure walking down a street. Hence, its title. It’s not a great piece but it still has the ability to make me smile. And even though I have always discounted it in my mind, it does have its own feel, its own life. Those are the things I always look for in my work so maybe I have been too harsh on the Red Laser.

My bad. That dude’s always getting a bad rap. Sorry, Red Laser.

Here’s a little song for the Red Laser. It’s the great Jimmy Reed and his Bright Lights, Big City. I think the Red Laser was singing this to itself while it strolled down those big city streets. It has the right kind of swagger.

I Shall Sing

“The Fulfillment”- Now at the West End Gallery

To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life.

― Robert Louis Stevenson, Familiar Studies of Men and Books

Do you ever come across something, maybe a movie or book or song, that you haven’t thought of in a long, long time? So long that it has become almost new to you when you once again meet up with it. It makes you wonder how it has lost its place in your synapses, makes you marvel that while it has faded into almost nothingness it reignites itself anew with a bright blaze.

I had that feeling yesterday as we were driving in the car as the radio played. It was a little local station that plays an odd collection of oldies from many genres that I think I find appealing because it reminds me of the old AM stations I grew up that played a wide range of music, swinging from Johnny Cash to the Doors to Nat King Cole to Jesus Christ Superstar all within minutes of one another. Those stations represented a far wider swath of the population’s tastes that the niche stations of today. If you didn’t like what was on wait a minute and something more to your taste would surely be there soon.

Anyway, a song came on our little eclectic station and the intro caught my ear. I couldn’t recognize it at all. Usually, a song you know reveals itself within a second or two, those opening chords are so imprinted in your mind. But this lead in didn’t sound familiar at all even though I really liked it and wanted to hear more.

But as soon as the vocals entered I knew what it was. It was like a light went on and something in a closet that had been hidden for 40 years was suddenly rediscovered. Something you didn’t realize you were missing all this time.

It was just great to hear this song once more and it kept playing in my head until I went to sleep last night. I woke up and was humming it as I walked over here in the dark this morning. Maybe it was the song and the simple message attached to it.

And it is simple. Be what you are and celebrate that fact.

So simple that we sometimes forget and try to be people and things we are not. We sometimes desire to be something other than what we are when the fulfillment of this life comes in loving who and what you are.

That’s my lead in to this song. It’s I Shall Sing from Art Garfunkel in 1973. The song was written and recorded by Van Morrison in 1970 but it’s the Garfunkel version that resonates best with me. That happy, celebratory calypso beat just fills the song with an ebullience that adds depth to the meaning behind the song. Glad to have reencountered this song at this moment.

I needed it. Give a listen, if you’re so inclined.

“Trinity: Sky, Land and Man” — At the Principle Gallery, Alexandria, VA

One minute was enough, Tyler said, “A person had to work hard for it, but a minute of perfection was worth the effort. A moment was the most you could ever expect from perfection.

― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

Yesterday was probably the best day I have had in the studio in some time. Easily the best this year , the one we call 2021. Things just went well all the way around. A new painting I was working on came to completion and far exceeded the expectations that I had when first beginning it.

I could feel the momentum from it and knew that it would carry me forward for awhile. And just that bit of knowledge creates its own momentum which carries over into other aspects of my life. I am not going to get into them because for the most part they are mundane and small insignificant things. Personal stuff that doesn’t make a bit of difference in anyone’s world but my own.

But it’s those little things, those little pangs of happiness and satisfaction, that make up a good day. Not every good day is made up of earthshaking events. In fact, almost none are. Big events usually have so many ramifications that their weight sometimes takes away from the joy they might otherwise bring. 

Well, that’s my take. I might be a little cynical in that respect.

But it was a good day. I would say perfect but I don’t truly believe in perfect as a state of being. At least, one that lasts for more than a singular moment on the rarest of occasions. There are just too many contributing factors in our lives that would have to come into alignment for it to occur more than once in a great while.

I do believe in pretty damn good as a descriptive term though. Even that takes hard work and perseverance. And if in getting to that, a perfect moment pops up like a purple unicorn every so often, all the better. If there are perfect moments they most likely show up on pretty damn good days.

I think the words from Chuck Palahniuk and his novel Fight Club at the top sum it up pretty well. 

So, let’s call yesterday a pretty damn good day. I am not sure there was any perfection involved in the day but then again, I was never expecting it. But its absence didn’t diminish it in any way.

Maybe it will show up today. Who knows? I think I will get to work and find out.

Hope you have a pretty damn good day. Here’s a favorite song from the late great Lou Reed. It’s called Perfect Day. Most likely that Pretty Damn Good Day just didn’t carry the same weight or simply didn’t fit the meter of the song. Doesn’t matter– it’s a pretty damn good song.

“Seeking the Design”- At the West End Gallery

As the peculiar faculty of the eye is to see form and colour, and of the ear to hear sweet tones and voices, so is aspiration peculiar to the soul.

–Meister Johann Eckhart

Don’t have a lot of time this morning but wanted to just share a few lines from Meister Johann Eckhart who was a German theologian/philosopher that lived in the second half of the the 13th century, dying around 1328 while waiting to hear the verdict on charges of heresy set against him. In more modern times Meister Eckhart has undergone a revival, being hailed in some circles as a mystic.

I don’t know about that but I do find his observations are often quite insightful and sometimes align closely with my own thoughts on certain subjects, especially on artistic expression– though I believe he is describing religious expression but let’s not split hairs, okay?– and the creative process. 

For example:

To be properly expressed a thing must proceed from within, moved by its form: it must come, not in from without but out from within.

This pretty much sums up what I have been saying for some time, that our real artistic voice takes in influences from without but synthesizes and adds to them inside ourselves to create a unique expression of self.

Or there’s this:

Only the hand that erases can write the true thing. 

That sounds very much like a line from Hermann Hesse’s Demian — Hesse probably pinched the idea from the old Meister– that has hung with me for a long time: Whoever wants to be born, must first destroy a world. Real change in this world and in one’s singular life demands a willingness to leave the past behind completely. 

Then there’s this one:

When the soul wishes to experience something, she throws an image of the experience out before her and enters into her own image.

This couples well with the line at the top about the aspiration of the soul. I have always held on the belief that if we truly want something of great significance in our lives, we internally and externally create the conditions for us to reach some form of that desire. I believe this actually a popular concept among modern self-help gurus but, of course, it’s not so quick or easy as they make it sound. The real proof is often decades in coming to fruition and even then it may appear in a form that you didn’t realize was your desire at the beginning.

But the soul knows better what the soul wants and needs.

Okay, there are a lot more examples from Meister Eckhart — for example, a relevant fave: Form is a revelation of essence –but I have to get to work, to express my peculiar faculty of the eye and attempt to reveal my essence. His words, not mine.

You go do what you do and try to have a good day in the process.

This Is Hip

Finally finding a groove in the studio and need to get back into it so I just want to play a song this morning. Little comment and more work. The song is from the late blues legend John Lee Hooker, a longtime favorite who I haven’t played here in a while. The song is This Is Hip.

The painting at the top has nothing to do with this song. Obviously no banjo in John Lee’s work. It’s just a piece that caught my eye this morning. It’s one of my Icon paintings that represent ancestors I came across while doing genealogy. This is Joe Harris who was my gr-gr-great grandfather. He died in 1922 at age 88, and fought in the Civil War. He was also at one time in the late 19th century the United States Champion Banjo Player. At least, that’s what the headline for the article about his death in the local paper said.

For some reason, this painting just stuck with me this morning. Maybe Old Joe was pretty hip in his time.

Anyway, give a listen. Do something today. Make it a good day.

Doubt and Dead Fish

Every time I start a picture… I feel the same fear, the same self-doubts… and I have only one source on which I can draw, because it comes from within me.

–Federico Fellini

I know that Fellini was talking about starting a film production in the quote above but it translates pretty neatly to the beginning of almost every painting for me.

There is always some level of self-doubt involved. I find myself doubting my abilities, my imagination, my drive, my vision, and even the quality of my paint or the amount of light in my studio, among a hundred other things.

Anything that gives me some sort of reason me to not do what I know I need to do.

And like Fellini points out, the only answer to this doubt is within myself. I can look to other creators and see how they have overcome their own doubts but, like so many things in art, every artist has a truly unique set of circumstances. The only thing all have in common is the desire and need to create, to express their vision and voice.

So, you learn to trust that desire and need. Trust that you are good enough. Trust that what you will do next will move you closer to realizing that vision and voice. Trust that there is real emotion and feeling behind what you are attempting.

That last one is a big one for me.

I have found that when I put concept before feeling, my attempts most often fail miserably.  By that I mean if I start a painting with a strong visual idea in mind but one that is not formed in emotion or doesn’t have some real personal feeling attached to it, sometimes it fails to take on real life. It might carry out the concept but it just lies there like a dead fish.

I have some of those dead fish here in the studio. I look at them and remember the original idea that I had when I first embarked on them. I also remember the feeling of deflation when I realized that I had no emotional attachment to them, sometimes early in the process. Things just don;t come together in the way I thought they might. There is flatness and shallow where I saw richness and depth in my mind.

Dead fish.

However, there is a caveat. Sometimes, when starting on a concept piece, things fall into place and momentum and feeling build. Attributes that were not seen in the original thought process appear and those I hoped for emerge stronger and more vibrant than envisioned.

The excitement of creation transforms into real feeling and the fish that looked like it might be dead begins to come to life on the surface of the painting. 

The feeling of seeing your work come to life, or at least the prospect of it, might be enough to overcome that initial doubt for me.  The words and advice from other artists might offer comfort but my own need to do what I do and to experience that thrill of creation are what get me past the hesitancy and dreadful doubt I face each time I stand before my easel or painting table. 

Okay, got to go. There are dead fish waiting for me. I think I might be able to put a little life in them if I just can get started.

Have a good day.

Dreaming Paintings

The other day, I wrote about a new piece, Shadow of the Red Eye. I wrote that the feeling I was getting from the painting was very much like the tone of my recent dreams. Almost like a premonition of some sort.

This prompted a response from a friend who wrote about how his work in construction  often has him having strange and troubling dreams that take place in worksite settings, often dealing with huge problems arising in the middle of a building project. He said he would wake in a panic then go back to sleep only to reenter the same dream. He said he usually could shake them off after finally fully waking but this very morning of the post about dreaming premonitions he had such a dream, one that had him rattled, one that he couldn’t just shrug off.

He wanted to know if I had such dreams about my painting, Maybe one where everything goes awry, where nothing works. It made me think.

I certainly know the kind of dreams he was experiencing. I think anyone who has waited tables has had those recurring nightmares of waiting on an ever expanding section of a full restaurant where you don’t know where anything is located or how anything there works, all the time more and more tables being seated in your station. I hated those dreams. I actually had one several months ago and in the middle of the actual dream I found myself saying that I I wasn’t a waiter anymore, that I didn’t have to put up with this. I woke up and laughed then went on to sleep soundly.

I am sure I had them but don’t remember my dreams, good or bad, when I ran my swimming pool business. Any nightmares I would have had most likely paled to the reality I was living. I was working 100+ hours a week and was usually so exhausted and frazzled by the time I went to be that dreams of any sort didn’t register much.

There have been other freaky, scary dreams through the years, many that lingered with me for decades– most of my life, actually– and reside within me even now.

But painting dreams?

There have been painting dreams but few have been of that frantic, things-going-wildly-wrong sort that he was having. The closest thing  was a dream I had abut a year before I went fulltime as a painter. The dream even had a name– the Van Gogh Spiral. Set in a darkened museum-like space, I came in the dream to a doorway at the center of the space. I was warned not to enter it by a person who I couldn’t make out. They warned that behind the door was the Van Gogh Spiral. As I entered, there were these bursts of rich, deep colors that all came together in the form of a downward spiral, and I descended the spiral as one might go down a large spiral staircase. As I came around the bend in each new layer, imagery would flash before my eyes becoming stranger and stranger the further I descended. I saw it as a sort of symbolic descent into some sort of madness, some nether region, perhaps an place that had drawn Van Gogh in his final days.

It was a strange and troubling dream that felt like a warning of some sort. Still don’t know what to do with this but it remains pretty vibrant with me even nearly 25 years later. 

But for the most part, my painting dreams are usually somewhat good dreams, showing me paintings that I feel I need to paint, paintings that feel perfect to me. The problem is that usually the moment I awaken, that image is gone. The memory of dreaming it  and responding to it is still there but the image itself is absent. Frustrating, to say the least. But it makes me feel like it is still in there if I can somehow work it out. 

Some painting dreams have to do with showing my work. Some are positive, with the work there beyond what I have done to this point. Again, images gone when I wake up. Some are not as good, with me struggling to get people to look at my work on the wall as they walk by with total indifference. I guess that would be as close to a bad work dream as I get.

Now, the painting at the top, Not Quite an Island, from 2013, was the result of a dream. It came to me one night and I woke up a little before 4 AM with its image in my head. One of the rare times when the image lingered. Instead of going back to sleep, I headed over to the studio and was soon working on it in the early morning darkness. It actually came out very much as I dreamed it which in itself is an oddity as any pre-visions I have of a painting seldom match up with the final work.

The conscious mind usually edits the subconscious. It’s sometimes good, sometimes not. I am trying to stop this process.

In this case, the subconscious persisted.

That, along with its symbolic implications, might be why this painting holds a lot of meaning for me. Plus, the folks who gave it a home are some of the best people I know.

If all my painting dreams could be like this one, then  would be very happy.

Okay, got to work on a non-dream painting now. Wish me luck and have a good day.

Trickle-Down Madness

They (Republicans) didn’t start thinking of the old common fellow till just as they started out on the election tour. The money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes that it would trickle down to the needy. Mr. Hoover was an engineer. He knew that water trickled down. Put it uphill and let it go and it will reach the dryest little spot. But he didn’t know that money trickled up. Give it to the people at the bottom and the people at the top will have it before night anyhow. But it will at least have passed through the poor fellow’s hands.

–Will Rogers, Newspaper Article 1932

I wasn’t going to comment on this today but listening to the arguments in recent days from GOP politicians has pricked a nerve. The current federal minimum wage for non-exempt employees (like farm workers and tipped employees) is $7.25 per hour. It has been at that level since being 2007 though in fact it didn’t become a reality for workers until July of 2009. 

There is a movement to include a raise to the minimum wage in the current Covid Relief bill with the rationale that the people most affected by the pandemic have been low income workers who are, even in good times, struggling to get by. Work stoppages and interruptions therefore have a greater impact on their lives. 

I am not here to argue whether the minimum wage should be raised in this bill. That’s a whole different argument that is more about politics than the well being of the American worker or small business owner.

For my part, I think it should be raised no matter how it comes about. There are plenty of reasons.

First of all, the effective minimum wage— the dollar amount the lowest wage earners in every business everywhere in this country currently make per hour–is right around $12/hour. That is the level that employers have discovered is the minimum they must pay to attract sufficient workers for their businesses. Even in the states where they have not raised the minimum wage at the state level from $7.25, the effective wage is closer to this $12 figure.

This fight to suppress the wage is actually just performance art that plays to the biases and fears of the GOP base and props up the myth of trickle-down economics.

Yesterday, a proposal was unveiled by Republican senators Mitt Romney and Tom Cotton that would raise the fed minimum rate to $10/hr over the course of four years. Four years. To illustrate how disingenuous this proposal is, you only have to look at Senator Cotton’s home state of Arkansas. where the current minimum wage is $11 per hour.

I am not well versed on the economy of Arkansas but I don’t believe it is the economic engine driving this nation. If a worker in Little Rock deserves $11/hr at a minimum, why should a worker in the same position in city or town in another state earn less? Or maybe Sen. Cotton wants to cut some of his constituents income?

Maybe that’s Arkansas Exceptionalism.

Then, also yesterday, GOP Senator John Thune from South Dakota, speaking against raising the minimum, unveiled a personal anecdote that he felt illustrated how the raise was not necessary. He said that when he was a kid he worked at a restaurant starting at $1/hr and worked his way up to making $6/hr as a cook. He said that raising the rate now would cripple small businesses.

Well, his argument makes the opposite point.

He’s 60 years old so he was working as a kid in the mid to late 1970’s in that restaurant. In that time period the federal minimum wage was $2.30/hr so, let me tell you, $6/hr was big bucks. I worked in the late 1970’s in an A&P factory and worked my way up to a skilled position as a candy cook where I was making $6.35/hr. I was able to make a house and car payment on that income at that time. 

That $6/hr that Thune was earning then was a living wage at that time, one that would be worth approximately $25/ hour today. If his employer in that restaurant was paying a kid, as he termed himself, the equivalent of $25 in the 1970’s, then $15/hr should not be a problem now. 

Another example of how ludicrous Thune’s argument is is to simply look at the income of a US Senator in 1977. It was $44,600 per year. The salary for a US Senator is currently $174,000 per year. By my calculations, that’s roughly four times what it was in 1977.

That $6 from the 1970s doesn’t look the same in 2021, does it? I am sure Sen. Thune wouldn’t be too pleased working for that 44K today in the same job. If his income deserves to go up simply because of cyclical inflation over time, why shouldn’t a worker on the lower end of the spectrum deserve the same?

Part of the problem that we’re facing is forty plus years of having the GOP shove supply-side economics down our throats. Supply-side is a cleaned up way of saying trickle-down. which is the idea of giving most of the financial assistance and tax breaks to those folks at the top of the financial pyramid who own businesses and employ workers with the hope that all this cash will flow down to all the less affluent folks below. It was first called trickle-down — as a derogatory term– by the great humorist Will Rogers who spoke of it in newspaper article he wrote in 1932. The excerpt at the top sums it up perfectly.

Money is not water. It does not flow down. Money flows up. Low wage earners more than likely will spend any extra income and, as he says, it will end up in the hands of those at the top soon enough.

But that money passing through the hands of people who need it and will spend it will build up the economy and enrich small business owners. After all, most small business owners need customers with cash to spend and the more people with available income to spend, the better it is for them.

And for folks who make more than the minimum wage who complain that someone making $15/hr somehow diminishes their own oncome and status, perhaps they should be asking themselves why their incomes have been stagnant for so long, why they are working much harder for what seems like less money. Their income, or lack of it, is actually directly tied to keeping the minimum wage low. The low wages of others justifies their own low wages.

Higher minimum wages would ultimately result in higher wages for most wage earners. It would also raise the self esteem of those who work these jobs. Knowing that they might be able to actually live a life beyond scrimping for every small bit every day on poverty level wages is a life changer.

But we still battle the specter of trickle-down economics. It has been yelled at us by the GOP for so long that there are generations of working class citizens who have absorbed this fantastical concept that the rich will somehow benevolently pass the wealth down as fact. The GOP has used this create division. A working class voter is angrier about the occasional welfare queen, that racist concoction of the GOP, getting a few bucks here and there than they are about corporate bigwigs raiding the country’s coffers on a regular basis.

Many have bought into this charade, never knowing a life that was any different. I have lived most of my life in this system but remember a time when there was more income equality. It’s funny but most of the angry people on the right want to return to what they perceive was a better time in the past and many cite the booming 1950s. But they do this without realizing that was a time when there was much greater income equality, with a true middle class, more government spending on infrastructure, and more taxation of the wealthiest among us.

And you know what? There were still plenty of wealthy folks then. Maybe they didn’t have three or four yachts. Maybe only one or two. But they were still rich.

And you know why? Because money flows up.

Repeat that again and again. Then do it again until it is burned into your brain.

Money flows up.

Listen to Will Rogers. The wealthy still end up getting all the money in the end but we all benefit along the way with a better standard of living and more opportunities for a greater number of people to escape poverty and every negative aspect that comes with it.

Let’s get rid of this trickle-down madness, okay? 

I could say a lot more but I have went on too long this morning. Sorry for the length of this rant. Even so, I know that I missed a lot of points that I wanted to make ( such as that areas with the lowest effective minimum incomes tend to be those that struggle most economically overall which bleeds out into that area in the form of lower levels of education, higher levels of poverty, higher crime, and on and on) and didn’t address every argument or maybe even make the points I thought I made. This is all off the top of a jumbled brain so please keep that in mind.

Have a good day, okay?

Shadow of the Red Eye

“What appears to be definite and precise does not belong to any acceptable reality. It is only the experiences, the queer previsions, the fleeting premonitions, that are real. Vague and insubstantial though they may appear to be, compared with anything else in the mists and shifting lights of Time theory, they loom up like mountains of iron ore.”

― J.B. Priestley, Man and Time

This painting is titled Shadow of the Red Eye and is part of the current Little Gems show at the West End Gallery. It’s a painting that really spoke to me when I was working on it, as well as after. It just seemed to have something to say to me the whole time.

It’s been out there in the ether for weeks now and I am still wrestling with its meaning. Some pieces are like that. Some immediately let me know what part of me, what part of my psyche and internal world, they are displaying. Positive emotions usually show themselves quickly.

Others take awhile.

They are usually darker in tone. And while their meanings may not jump out, there is a sense of certainty and reality in them. I may subconsciously try to avoid putting meaning to these pieces, not wanting to face the possible darker realities they may represent.

Maybe realities is not the right word. Or maybe I should include the word possibilities as an accomplice to realities. That would align well with the Priestley quote above which I read as being about how each of our personal realities is not just a timeline of facts and tangible data. It is not black and white. No, our reality is in shades of grays and subtle tones of black and white. It is a compilation of personal emotions and feelings in the present, interpretations and reactions to our past, and premonitions of our future. That is the reality in which we reside.

And that might be where this paintings fits in. It coincides with darker dreams I have been experiencing in my sleep lately, dreams that are a bit uncomfortable and worrisome. I wake in the morning with pangs of anxiety from them, fearful that they are some sort of premonition. Perhaps, a call out to my outer self from my inner self to pay heed to the clues it has taken notice of in the patterns and movements of the outer world. 

I am still taking this piece in so I am not really sure what it means. I hope it is not a pure premonition but is maybe more of a simple reflection of my own worries for the future. But it has a real attraction for me and maybe that comes because it feels real to me, that is has something of true meaning in it for me.

Even with my own personal uncertainty, it seems to have certainty.

Like a mountain of iron ore.


Conscience, Again

Been thinking about what drives people to extremism, about how seemingly normal people can take on attitudes and perform actions that seem completely out of character for them. The kind of thing we’ve seen in recent years here where people retreat into online venues that echo back their fears and prejudices in a way that magnifies them beyond all reality. That online virtual world of fear and hatred eventually finds its way out into the real world and an extremist mob is formed. Such was the case on January 6.

This all reminds me of a post from back in 2009 that I reran in 2017. It seemed like a good time to run it again. It features Henry Fonda who, for me, is the voice of the American conscience on film. His characters in Young Mr. Lincoln, The Grapes of Wrath, 12 Angry Men, My Darling Clementine, Mr. Roberts and the film featured below, The Oxbow Incident, were men of character, principle, and great conscience.

They tried to do what was right even when it went against the mob. Even when its futile.

I urge you to watch the short clip from the film. It speaks volumes. Then and now.

The Oxbow IncidentI don’t like crowds.

Maybe it’s just some sort of neurosis like agoraphobia or maybe it’s just having developed a sense of uneasiness from seeing how individual people could react differently after becoming part of a group.

It always confounded me from an early age how the dynamics of a group could change the behavior of an individual person, bringing out characteristics that might be undetected in one-to-one interactions. It’s as though the protection of the group brings out extreme attitudes that would otherwise be stifled. The whole moral compass is pushed further from the center and whatever sense of conscience that is present becomes diluted.

I was reminded of this feeling when I saw a short film about the actor Henry Fonda that talked of the parallels between his character’s experience  in the movie The Oxbow Incident , where his character was the lone voice of reason against a mob that lynches three men without evidence of their guilt and those of a being witness to a horrific episode as youth in Nebraska.

As a 14 year-old boy in Omaha, Nebraska in 1919, he witnessed a mob storm the courthouse that was located across the street from his father’s printing business. They  were inflamed by allegations made by a white woman that she had been assaulted by a black man. A suspect had been taken into custody and was in the courthouse. The mob, whose size was estimated to be between 5000 and 15000 people, exchanged gunfire with police in which two of the mob were killed.

The mayor of Omaha tried to intervene  and was beaten and himself lynched before being saved. The suspect was not so lucky.

The accounts of this mob rule are horrific. Fonda carried this memory with him for the rest of his life and it informed many of the roles he had over his career. In The Oxbow Incident his character confronts the lynch mob afterward in a bar and reads them a letter written by one of the hanged men to his wife.  I could go on and on but I think the clip says it all…

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