"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Florida skies part 2

Watercolor inspiration....9/28/09

Sunset in Florida


In the evening the clouds build up and the setting sun paints them with translucent colors in the heavy humidity not seen in the Great Plains. These are the clouds I saw when I got off the plane at Fort Walton Beach.

Art show ends

Thanks to all of you who viewed my watercolor paintings at the Paseo Gallery this past month. They're coming down tomorrow.

Dispatch from Florida

What's important?  Grandkids....My first time to see Sarah Elizabeth Grace Clark, born in January; and also celebrated Katherine Emerson's fourth birthday, and, oh yes, saw Vance and Kerin Clark.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Art Spirit and Himself

A favorite book is "The Art Spirit" by Robert Henri....a collection of this great artist's teaching, letters, essays, critiques. My Dad had a copy when I was too young to know much about it. But I've acquired a third edition, 1939, and have much of it underlined, because what he writes is not just about painting, but about art, about drawing,a bout seeing, about writing. It's much like a book of proverbs, aphorisms and wisdom.

I don't think I've ever been all the way through it. I sometimes leave it in my car so if I'm stuck somewhere, I can read a few pages. It's one of those you can pick up and find something interesting on almost every page.

There is much to still be discovered in this book, and the thrill of discovery is one of the joys of reading.

  • "In certain books--some way in the first few paragraphs you know that you have met a brother. "
  • "The lace on a lady's sleeve is no longer lace, it is part of her, and in the picture stands as a symbol of her refinement and delicacy."
  • "The lace on a woman's wrist is an entirely different thing from lace in a shop."
  • "the world is not done. Evolution is not complete."
  • "The institutionalized  religion doubts humanity, whereas truth itself rests in faith in humanity."
  • "No matter how good the school is, his education is in his own hands. all education must be self education."
  • "When the teacher is continually author both of the question and its answer, it is not as likely the answer will sink deep and get into service, as it will if the question is asked by the child."
  • "Art is, after all, only a trace--like a footprint which shows that one has walked bravely and in great happiness."
  • "It's a wrong idea that a master is a finished person. Masters are very faulty, they haven't learned everything and they know it. Finished persons are very common--people who are closed up, quite satisfied that there is little or nothign mroe to learn."
  • "No nation as yet is the home of art. Art is an outsider, a gypsy over the face of the earth."
And so was the thrill and the shock, to find near the end of the book, this photograph of his portrait of the old Irish fisherman, "Himself." That's the one I discovered in Chicago last year, and the revelation of Bob Illidge's term for me that I wrote about in The Booth is a verb. It was sitting here under my nose all the time. The black and white photograph can't show the nuances of color Henri had mastered in portrait painting, but the light and structure and expression are there.

Thinking of O'Keefe

Watercolor, after watching the Georgia O'Keefe movie

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

The autumn wind

Watercolor--Autumn wind and leaves--Present Tense

is whipping through the tress, the branches and leaves rustling and swaying. Clouds come and go across the sky. It's cool, it's autumn, it's invigorating weather for being free, for being alive, for being creative.

Such weather makes you think, makes you breathe, makes you value life and change, and makes you want to live for the moment.

The status quo is a great sloth in a tree, wrote Ray Bradbury. Knock it down on its ass and live, said he in Zen and the Art of Writing. Take risks, run, laugh, play, look and listen and enjoy the moment. Fall is the present tense season... and it's calling us to soak up right now. No wonder Yhwh said "I am that I am." So are we all, except we miss it by dwelling on the past heat of summer, and dreading the death of winter. Instead, look at the leaves... "To every thing there is a season," and the season is now. It is literally divine.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tulsa mailbox--watercolor

Watercolor 9-20-9

Thanks to Rusty Lang for photo and inspiration...

Halloween's a comin'

Watercolor 9-20-9

Us kids' favorite holiday!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Where's your cabin?

Watercolor 9/19/9

My cabin is in my imagination, my dreams, my memories.

When I grew up in New Mexico, Mom and Dad built a 12 x 20 concrete block cabin in the Manzano mountains southeast of Albuquerque. It had no running water, and a heavy wood door on one side and a huge picture window on the north side so Dad could have "North light" for his painting. Outside was a rain barrel that gathered runoff from the roof for washing dishes. We had to haul drinking water. We also had a stack of firewood.

We'd go up there and camp when friends were building it for us. It was a sanctuary almost an hour from where we lived, most of the trip on a mountain highway winding through the foothills of the Sandias and Manzanos.

As with anything, the cabin had its good and bad points. As kids, my brother Jerry and I were free to roam on the weekends, through the woods, hiking, exploring, being free, sleeping out under the stars. Fun around a campfire. But the cabin was confining too...instead of exploring all the wonderful places in New Mexico that were so close to us, we usually went to the cabin on weekends.

There were some happy stories and some tragic ones too, but for kids, we were usually unaware.

Many years later, on a solitary camping trip to New Mexico, I decided to find the place, to see if it was still up. I drove down familiar roads, and up mountain roads, and almost didn't find it. There are lots of homes and cabins in that area now. It took a full afternoon before the tires of my car crunched down a forested dirt road, and I knew I'd discovered it.

Somebody else had built a home on the lots, and the old concrete block walls were out behind it. I drove up the driveway, met the owner, and told him briefly about it, asking if I could look. He agreed. The roof and door was gone, and only the metal frame of the picture window remained. I remembered the cabin as big...but through an adult's eyes, it was really small. Big enough for a double bed, a wood burning, potbellied stove, a table, some chairs, a place to put a Coleman stove, pots and pans, and artwork and mementoes lining the wall. The new owner was using it as a storage area.

I didn't tell him about the "time capsule" I put in the corner stone so many years ago--a mason jar with favorite things in it, screwed tightly shut, and dropped in the hollow of that block when the cabin was being built, sealed with concrete. I can't remember what's in it. Today, I wonder if the cabin is still there, and if it's not, did someone discover a little boy's mason jar and wonder about the stories in it.

After my visit, I wrote a short story about the cabin, and a traveler trying to find himself. I've probably lost the short story now. I still dream about finding that cabin from time to time.

Cabins are still with me. Several of my watercolors have them as focal points of interests in western landscapes, usually with mountains behind them. I never much thought about that until recently. Why? Where? Probably because I love the west and solitude, and also know a cabin would be a great place to hole up with lots of wood, good food and wine, lots of books, writing and painting materials, a loved one...no phones, no email, no TV, but lots of birds and wildlife, beautiful vistas, and quiet.

I know people complain about "cabin fever" when they're shut up too long in a big city and can't get outside.

I understand that. I have a different kind of cabin fever.

That's what's brewing in my old coffee pot, perking away on a potbellied stove, the smell of woodsmoke in the air, snow falling outside the window, some good stew simmering on the stove, warm kerosene lantern light, a cozy bed with lots of blankets, good books, stories, laughter.


Watercolor 9/19/9

Friday, September 18, 2009

Watercolor lessons about life

“Lookit that watercolor sky,” I said as I watched towering clouds punctuate the evening sky as the sun went down. It was fluid, transparent, alive.
I’ve learned to see differently now that I try to paint in watercolor. I’ve learned about art, but also about life. Watercolor is therapy for this harried, type triple-A, first born who likes to be in control and expects perfection.
Unlike oils, watercolor is a medium where less is more, except it is more demanding and less forgiving.
The beauty depends on light going through transparent color and reflecting back from the white paper. Someone said it’s like playing a piano—once you hit a note you can’t take it back. That’s why you paint light to dark, because once something is dark, you can’t lighten it or erase it. For white, you simply don’t paint, and a little color goes a long way. To darken areas, add gradual washes of color. For hard edges like a mountain peak, apply wet paint on dry paper. For soft edges like wind-blown clouds, put wet paint on wet paper.
It’s a medium of letting go—letting the color and water react. You don’t have the control of oils; you have to accept results you may not have intended. You settle for illusions of reality, bolstered by various textures added and composition, especially the contrasts of warm and cool colors and lights and darks.
Above all, watercolor is an exercise in seeing—seeing light, form, colors, representations, as well as seeing into the future in composition.
Overwork a piece and it gets opaque and muddy, killing the transparent beauty of color—and it’s as apparent as the difference between the light in the eye of a living bird and the dullness of a stuffed one.
You don’t need many colors. Oklahoma City artist and my teacher Cletus Smith uses only a few on his palette to mix all he needs. I’ve studied with others, including Connie Seaborn of Oklahoma City. Everybody needs more than one teacher. For the record, I primarily use only a few colors: alizeran crimson, thalo red, thalo blue, thalo green, ultamarine blue, raw sienna, burnt sienna or umber, indigo, Hooker’s green, gamboge orange, cadmium yellow. Another teacher, who I paid to spend a week with in Taos, Ron Ranson, also uses few colors. He says “These are my friends. I know them.” To learn more, I’ve started scanning art magazines at every trip to the bookstore, and studing Cezanne, Winslow Homer and the Wythes . I never miss a chance to view art shows for ideas, inspiration and instruction.
Most of all, they painted free—having mastered their craft, they gave themselves freedom—not to control watercolor—but enjoy color and express their emotions.
Which is why I try to paint southwestern landscapes with lots of sky. As a child of the Great Plains, I’m comfortable with far vistas and lots of light. My best work is transparent—like the skies. The worst is overworked, over controlled.
It’s taken me a long time to develop my writing voice, and I’m a long way from gaining that confidence and ability in watercolor.
But as I keep trying, here’s what watercolor has taught me about life.
• Observe everything closely—there’s lots of beauty
• To be creative, don’t be a control freak
• Give yourself permission to experiment and take risks
• Mastering the techniques comes only with lots of practice
• You have to make mistakes to learn
• Look ahead—plan where you want to go
• Value light—it gives life
• There is very little pure black and white
• Texture adds interest to art and life
• Express your emotions
• Contrast is everything—life without change is boring
• There are no perfect paintings or lives
• Art and life teach humility
• Restraint is often the key to success
• There is very little pure black or white in nature, and life—shadows are filled with beautiful colors
• You forget all your problems when you’re involved in watercolor or any creative project
• Less is more
• Watercolor, and life, is a series of solving problems, correcting mistakes, and learning
• The satisfaction of success helps you deal with the rest of life.
I told you watercolor was therapy—it sets me free.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Saludos a Nuevo Mexico

"God's Country."
                  That’s what my Dad called New Mexico where I grew up.  If I  don't return at least twice a year I find my spirit drying up.  Why? How do you explain  such power?
Perhaps by sharing it, which is  why I've  taken students on study tours to Northern New Mexico. They skim the surface for a few days and return with a lifetime of memories and stories. For me though, New Mexico is like a longtime love--it is always deep inside you. 
You drive only 500 miles but go back more than 500 years in time, essentially to a foreign country.
          What is it? The geology--the blue mountains, the rugged red sandstone cliffs, the distant mesas, the rainbow-colored sedimentary rocks, the black lava and the volcanoes, the wide open plains, the withering deserts, the green-fringed rivers,  and turquoise.
The all-determining sky, the towering clouds and sunlight and radiant light and piercing stars and cool air and smell of pinon and juniper and the fall colors of aspen and cottonwood.
The ancient land leaves its imprint on those who survive there, seasoning the posole--the stew of cultures--not a melting pot, because, the Indian, the Spanish, the Mexican and the gringo retain separate, but New Mexico-distinctive, tastes. And a melded language, including a state constitution in both English and Spanish.
Santa Fe,  the “city different,” celebrating its 400th year as the oldest capital in what is now the U.S.A. Taos Pueblo. The poetry of other names adds to the flavor. The red Zuni sun symbol on the yellow flag, Los Montanas de  los Sangre de Cristos, the mysterious Anasazi, , the Conqistadores and Coronado, the pueblos like Santo Domingo and Jemez, Onate, Archbishop Lamy, small Catholic churches at Las Trampas,  Truchas, Penetentes, El Camino Real, the Palace of the Governors, La Fonda Hotel, the mining ghost towns like Cerillos, arroyos, frijoles, ancient Indian cliff dwellings at Puye and Bandelier,  and adobe bricks, and crumbling adobe walls and more adobe.
Places of power and mystery draw believers--like the Jemez Caldera near Los Alamos, Chaco Canyon with its ancient sun clock, Pecos pueblo and its kivas, the sacred Turquoise mountain of the Navajo, and the Santuario de  Chimayo and its miraculous healing earth.
The White culture is the shallowest, only recently marking the land. The ruts of the Santa Fe Trail, Los Alamos and the bomb, UFOs, the 75 mile per hour Interstates, and artists like Georgia O’Keefe and D.H. Lawrence.
The Spanish heritage permeates everyday life and religion and language. But the oldest and deepest of the cultures is the Indian. You realize its power and depth at Taos or attending  pueblo feast days at Jemez or Santa Domingo or others. The feet of hundreds of  dancers in a thousand colors with many thousand bells and feathers throb on the dusty plazas to drums and chants older than memory. Sacredness and mystery that goes back far before Christianity. Where time changes-- our "civilization" is  so recent, and temporary
            The Land of Enchantment--a breathing land of miracles and magic–a posole of cultures fertilizes the imagination of those who harken. 
Bienvenidos a Nuevo Mexico.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Toast to The Booth

Socialism! (?)

found online by one of my students, Laura Hoffert

This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock, powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the US Department of Energy. I then took a shower in the clean water provided by the municipal water utility. After that, I turned on the TV to one of the FCC regulated channels to see what the National Weather Service of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration determined the weather was going to be like using satellites designed, built, and launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. I watch this while eating my breakfast of US Department of Agriculture inspected food and taking the drugs which have been determined as safe by the Food and Drug Administration.

At the appropriate time as regulated by the US Congress, and kept accurate by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the US Naval Observatory, I get into my National Highway Traffic Safety Administration approved automobile and set out to work on the roads built by the local, state, and federal Departments of Transportation, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of a quality level determined by the Environmental Protection Agency, using legal tender issued by the Federal Reserve Bank. On the way out the door, I deposit any mail I have to be sent out via the US Postal Service and drop the kids off at the public school.

After work, I drive my NHTSA bar back home on DOT roads, to a house which has not burned down in my absence because of the state and local building codes and Fire Marshal’s inspection, and which has not been plundered of all its valuables thanks to the local police department.

I then log on to the internet which was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration and post of FreeRepublic.com and Fox News forums about how SOCIALISM in medicine is BAD because the government can’t do anything right.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Momma's glasses

“Those are Momma’s glasses,” I said to myself.

I was digging through an old box in the garage over the weekend, rummaging through old letters, faded photographs, artifacts of an earlier time.

There they were--thin gold octagonal wire frames, around slightly scratched bifocals. Beside them was a Mothers Day card colored on torn, faded construction paper by a little boy named Terry. There were yellowed photos of a young woman and friends in flapper dresses, old cars, brittle brown envelopes with three-cent stamps and hand-writing scribbled on them, postmarked in Texas in the 1920s and 30s.

I was sitting on the concrete floor, trying to straighten up and sort through the boxes one more time...you know, a typical clean-out-the-garage chore. Among the boxes of junk--junk that is too valuable to be thrown away--were baby pictures, kid pictures, young adult pictures that record the passing of time in individuals, in families.

Days like that, family reunion days you sit and visit with people you’ve known for years, watching them grow older. Some with walkers, some with oxygen tubes, kids and grandkids and great grandkids scrambling around, people feasting on a smorgasbord of food and faces and family.

And then you think about them watching you grow older...like the stuff that spills out of an old box...guest book of a wedding or a funeral, scribbled family history notes with dates of births and marriages and deaths of brothers, sisters, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, children...tears of memories in small items like a tiny black leather coin purse stuffed with a black and white photo of a young woman, carried by your mother 80 years ago.

Certificates of membership, graceful handwriting you immediately recognize...and the boxes they’re crammed in. Old magazines, newspaper clippings.

A musty smell of growing older, perfumed with slices of time frozen in eternity. It brings tears, until you think about your own children growing older, and what they’ll look at and remember some day when they’re sifting through boxes, wondering when certain snapshots were taken, who all those other people are. The tears are of sadness and regrets and memories, but not of growing older. Years and memories are like children, the more you have the fuller your life becomes.

I picked up Momma’s glasses and looked through them briefly, and they gave me a new outlook on all those boxes in our lives.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Postscript on The Booth--"Himself"

Bob, and the plaque, in The Booth, copies given to all UCO journalism faculty and staff by The Sweet Pea.

Sketch of The Illidge , both photo and sketch by The Brunette

The Clark forgot to tell the story of "Himself." The Illidge would often jibe The Clark after forays in The Booth, by telling The Queen Bee something like, "Well, ask Himself how yesterday's score was. did Himself smell a skunk?"

Much laughter and tet-a-tet would follow.

The Clark just thought this was an Illidge idiom. He was wrong.

In November of 2008 he was in Chicago, and spent an afternoon at The Chicago Institute of Art.

Strolling down one hall, The Clark noticed on a far wall two medium-sized oil portraits of a man and woman, and he recognized the style. "That's got to be Robert Henri," he thought. Henri is a favorite of his, especially for his book "The Art Spirit."

So he walked across the gallery to get a closer look. Yes, he was right, and he took satisfaction in recognizing a painter's style.

And then he stopped, stunned.

Underneath the portrait of an old Irish fisherman, with a beard much like The Illidge, was the title, "Himself." Underneath the portrait of his wife, was the title of "Herself."

He read on, with wet eyes, learning that those terms were old Irish expressions of the highest devotion for friends and family.

The Clark was very quiet walking back to his hotel.


WWII aces, photos and drawing

Two of the top aces of WWII were "Don and John," who had more kills together than any other pair of pilots. Both were in their very early 20s,--younger than most of my students today-- coming in out of high school to join the RAF,  in Spitfires before joining the U.S. Army Air Corps. Don Gentile and John Godfrey met in the U.S. Eighth Air Force, 336th Fighter Squadron, 4th Fighter Group in Europe. Godfrey had 18 kills, was shot down in 1944, probably by accident by his wingman, bellylanded, and spent the rest of the war as a POW. He died of Lou Gehrig's disease in 1958.

Don was the top American ace with 21 air kills and 6 more on the ground-- two kills with the RAF in the Spitfire, 4.33 kills in the P-47 Thunderbolt, and 15.5 kills in the P-51B Mustang. He made half of his claims in March 1944, flying over the skies of Germany.

After the war Don Gentile stayed with the Air Force: as a test pilot at Wright Field, as a Training Officer in the Fighter Gunnery Program, and as a student officer at the Air Tactical School. In 1951, he made his last flight, crashing a T-33 trainer which killed both Gentile and his passenger. His decorations include the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, the Presidential Unit Citation, the World War Two Victory Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the British Distinguished Flying Cross, the British Star, the Eagle Squadron Crest, and other foreign medals. These are the kind of young men who keep us free.

My dad worked for Consolidated Aircraft(the B-24 Liberator) and North American Aircraft (the P-51) in Fort Worth during the war, and fell in love with the P-51 Mustang. During and after the war he drew sketches of the duo in combat, and then in 1946, he did this sketch of them coming back from combat. Three months later, Don sent him this inscribed photo.

It's no wonder that WWII aircraft are important to me, and to my Air Force son Vance.

Photos found in the garage

Chief Pontiac, rusting away in a Stillwater salvage yard, photo with 35 mm Nikkormat

As a photojournalist, I love film, and metal cameras, and all these photos show why.

Simon and Garfunkel are my favorites, for many reasons, including "Everything looks better in black and white"--Kodachrome

Steam locomotive in the morning, Chama, N.M.

Gettysburg, Culp's Hill, Union lines, photo with twin lens Rolleiflex

Photograph, Antique store, Mulhall....now literally gone with the wind (the tornado that went through several years ago)

Everything looks better in black and white--Photo

This is the first really good photograph I ever took...using a twin lens yashica, a long time ago in Iowa

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Soup's on! And cornbread...

Homemade soup?

My "Little" Grandmother, Cuba John Miller Clark Reasor,  used to make the best chicken and dumplings, swimming in broth and with lots of pepper. Forget the chicken, the dumplins and soup were fantastic.

And there is nothing like homemade stew with lots of chuck roast, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, carrots, peas, beans and more--as long as you have cornbread so warm the butter melts.

Real potato soup, nice and thick and creamy with chunks of potatoes a a little corn and perhaps some green onions and cheese on top. Also with cornbread.

Come to think of it, what doesn't go well with cornbread?

And though it's not a soup, it's kin--homemade chili, with The Clark's secret imported ingredient--which he has to go get some more of soon in New Mexico.

Favorite soups in local restaurants:
  • Lobster Bisque at Bravo Cucina Italiana in OKC or Bodean's in Tulsa--so good you want to bathe in it, as my friend the late Walt Radmilovich said, when he introduced me and Harry Heath to it years ago..
  • Mushroom Soup at Paseo Grill in OKC....mmmmmmmmmmm, a signature dish. Everybody's talking about it. All you need is an appetizer, the soup and some red wine.
  • Tortilla soup at Alvarado's in Edmond....you can make an entire meal out of this. Recipe--good soup with chicken it it, then as you eat it, you keep adding tortillas, drinking water or margaritas, which helps the tortillas to swell inside your stomach till you're full. Best time to eat, on a cold, rainy day, looking out the windows toward UCO, reading a book or the NY Times. Warms you all the way to the soul.
  • McAlister's has a good baked potato soup.
  • Wife says best tomato basil soup is at Saturn Grill. The Clark doesn't eat tomato basil soup.
Other nominations?

Pen and ink

A sketch by my dad at OU art school many years ago

Friday, September 11, 2009

Booth is a Verb, Epilogue

"Can you write about a dead person?" asked a student in The Clark's feature writing class in January, 2009.

"No." The Clark rolled his eyes. The assignment was a profile, and the question came from an older student, with baseball cap on backwards, tattoos stretched over his arms. "How can you interview them?" he sarcastically asked.

Then, for some reason, The Clark also asked, "Who?"

"Bob Illidge."

The Clark is rarely without words, but this was one of them.

Finally, he asked "Why?"

"He's the reason I'm back in school and an advertising major," said the student.

Then The Clark warned him it would be very hard for The Clark to grade, and that he'd be extra hard on the grading. The student didn't blink, but smiled, accepting the challenge. "It's been almost four years since he died, and I'd like to do it."

Then The Clark starting spouting off stories and people to contact and some of the story of The Booth, much to the delight of the rest of the class, thankful to have him off on a tangent.

The student, completed the story, and it was printed that spring in The Vista.

Here it is:

By Justin Neely
“There was just something there that was special,” Elizabeth Illidge recalls. “People just liked him.”
            Robert J. Illidge, former UCO advertising professor, had an impact on individuals that continues today four years after his death. For those who knew him, thoughts of this gravelly voiced, grey haired man with a beard to match, make people smile and jump at the opportunity to talk about him.
            “He would bring life to the teachings he would deliver,” said Steven Schwartz, UCO alum and advertising major. Other returning advertising majors say that Illidge was the reason they chose advertising as a major and career.
            A breach of contract as the chairperson of Journalism at Wichita State led Illidge to UCO in 1992 at age 61.  His wife, Elizabeth, believed her husband’s age would make it difficult for him to find a job and was a factor during the hiring process at UCO.
            Dr. Terry Clark, professor and chairman of the Journalism Department of UCO, saw otherwise. “Bob had the experience that we valued,” Clark said. “His advertising and teaching experience were who we needed, not just a Ph.D.”
            This new position would require Illidge to drive 300 miles every week while his home and his wife of 39 years, better known to him as his “bride” or “sweet pea,” stayed in Wichita.            
            As a teacher, Illidge had a reputation for being strict and unforgiving, based on his three decades of advertising experience. Those who only heard of him, somehow feared him. As for the students he taught, many will tell you he played a strong role in why they’re in advertising today.
            “He really wanted students to succeed and learn,” said Elizabeth Illidge.
            At the beginning of every semester, Illidge would make one rule clear. Come to class and do not come late. As a result, if a student was late then they were also absent.              Illidge had little tolerance for lazy students who didn’t work and even less tolerance for those who were late. Schwartz remembers Illidge talking about a time when he was late for a presentation and was fired. Illidge knew the real world would not accept such behaviors.
            Schwartz became well aware of his seriousness. After being late one too many times to class, he was asked to leave and received an F for the semester. Schwartz apologized and retook Illidge the following semester.
            Today, Schwartz is the Director of Operations for Visual Image Advertising in Oklahoma City. He appreciates Illidge not only for his wisdom but also for his unique mannerisms, engaging personality and “little life lessons”.           
            When people speak of Illidge, one word comes up every time. Humor.           
            Jill Kelsey, professor and department intern coordinator, remembers Illidge using his dry sense of humor, excellent storytelling, and off the wall expressions to uplift and make anybody laugh.
            “He put his unique stamp on everything,” Kelsey said. For Illidge, it wasn’t just about unexpected life changes; it was about the “vicissitudes and vagaries of life” as he put it.
            “He was exactly who he was…life was fun for him,” said Terry Clark.
            Illidge’s humor was just a small part of who he was. For some, the impact he had on others came from his endearing personality, the respect he gave others, and the fact he never took himself too seriously. For others, it was his sense of perspective, honesty, and intelligence. However, for most it was all of the above and much more.
            Some of UCO journalism professors’ favorite memories of Illidge took place at the “the booth.” The booth was just that, at Bennigans Restaurant in Edmond, now Old Chicago. It’s a place Illidge and Clark would occasionally unwind in the afternoon, share stories, and play a few hands of a card game known as cribbage. Within time, the booth became a magnet,  a place for all UCO journalism faculty to unwind and share a few laughs.
            “The booth was the release of the day,” said Jill Kelsey. “It was collegiality at its best.”
            Illidge retired from UCO and teaching in 2004 after a 15-year-long battle with leukemia including three painful years of shingles, a disease caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus.
            “He never complained or felt sorry for himself,” said Clark. According to Mrs. Illidge, had it not been for Clark’s persistence to keep Illidge at UCO and encouragement, Illidge would have retired a few years earlier.
            “Keeping busy was a godsend,” said Elizabeth. Illidge would have three farewell parties prior to retirement. 
            During Illidge’s final weeks, his impact on others would prevail more than ever. UCO faculty he barely knew offered their sick leave to him.
            “Correspondence, letters, phone calls, and flowers from students was amazing,” said Elizabeth.
            Robert J. Illidge died at the age of 74 on April 1, 2005 in his hometown of Wichita. 
            Perhaps a big part of who Illidge was came from his own passions and values. His wife and five children came first and foremost. Illidge was a man of faith and valued loyalty and professionalism. Throughout his career, he remained passionate about advertising, teaching, and cared a great deal for young people.
            Illidge, born September 15, 1930, served time as a staff sergeant in the Korean War prior to receiving his Bachelor’s in Journalism in 1958 from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He later went on to work for several adverting agencies in the Kansas City and Wichita area as well as fulfilling his passion of teaching at numerous universities. He received his master’s in 1984 from Wichita State where he later became the chairperson for seven years.
            On his free time, he enjoyed listening to jazz music while hoping to emulate his jazz idols, Dave Brubeck and George Shearing, on his own piano.
            “Music was a big part of who is was,” said Mrs. Illidge. Illidge was also known to be a devoted Notre Dame and Missouri fan and was a “respectable golfer” as his wife put it.
            Today, while the original booth doesn’t exist, when UCO mass communication faculty get together in a new booth they always toast Bob Illidge. “Many departments have legends, Bob’s exceeded that,” said Clark. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A redbud tree grows in Wichita--Chapter 14--Booth is a verb, a love story

"The Call" came.

April 1, 2005.

How do you go to a funeral for someone who is literally "larger than life"?  A few days later, the  faculty and staff of the Journalism Department somberly headed north, in several groups,  to Wichita. There they found an elegant Catholic church, only a few blocks from The Illidge manse. First driving by the manse, on the red brick streets, under the towering elms, past the porch and memories, they arrived early.

All but one of the group, The Afghan Traveler, were Protestant, and at first uneasy walking through the front doors. But there was a photograph of The Illidge, in a Missouri sweatshirt, to welcome them, and down front were two reserved pews, near the family, for the Okies.

In came the Sweet Pea and the "chillen" as The Illidge called them. Sons Bob and Andy, daughters Fran and Sarah and Little Liz, and lots of grandchildren. Behind the Oklahoma pews were many of the parishioners who knew The Illidge from long before his Oklahoma sojourn.

Then the graying priest stood up, before Mass, and made the "visitors from Oklahoma" welcome with the kindest of words. During his homily there were tears, and laughter, as it should have been. During Mass, as The Traveler stood, along with the parishioners, and the other Oklahomans were seated, but no longer strangers in a strange land, but welcomed.

Afterward, downstairs a scrumptious meal was served, again with photographs of The Illidge on the tables. The Okies were greeted as members of the family, and there was considerable conversation and introductions.

At last, the Okies left, headed back south, somber, but also telling stories, espcially about the ceiling fan.

Instead of flowers for a funeral for someone dead, they combined funds and bought a living redbud tree from a Wichita nursery, which was planted in The Illidge's front yard.

It still blooms every spring.

Only one chapter and an epilogue remain in this narrative, which has become exceedingly difficult  for The Clark to write. The PR Princess this week told him that if Bob is reading it, he would say "That's OK, Boss." The Queen Bee said The Illidge, the jazz man,  might forgive The Clark for writing the previous rap. It accompanied the only retirement reception for a professor ever organized by the students at UCO.

This coming week, Sept. 15,  would be his 79th birthday.

To be continued

End of the line

Photos from El Reno

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Interlude...The Illidge rap

Flashback, Written by The Clark for his retirement:

Rap for Illidge

Illidge is the ad man
Bob’s gonna retire man
Illidge makes us sad man
Goin’ down to the wire man
Illidge is so bad man
Cause he’s the ad man
UH huh, uh huh, uh huh!

It’s no fad man,
Illidge is the ad man
Don’t make’m mad man.
Show up on time man
So this will rhyme man
Cause he’s the ad man
Uh huh, uh huh, uh huh!

Illidge is rad man,
His school’s Notre Dame’s man
Ad Hall of fame man
Don’t be a fool man
Illidge is so cool man
Cause he’s the ad man
Uh huh, uh huh, uh huh.

It’s the Illidge decade man
Won’t ever fade man
UCO’s been the place man
Where Illidge set the pace man
We’ll miss his face man
Cause he’s the ad man
Uh huh, uh huh, uh huh!

He’s got a Kansas pad man
Illidge gonna be missed man
Don’t be pissed man
Bob’s been feared man
It ain’t the beard man
Cause Illidge is the ad man.
Uh huh, uh huh, uh huh.

When we heard that Illidge
Was going back to his village
Just want to Loot and Pillage,
Don’t want to play no cribbage
Cause the ad man is Illidge

Don’t be a sap man
Lissen to the rap man
Illidge is the ad man.
Un huh, uh huh, uh huh.

Illidge is the aaaaaad maaaaan. Uh Huh!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Booth is a verb--chapter 13--Saying goodbye

The Four's trip north to the hospital, as the sun rose, was quiet, except for a few memories of The Illidge. They remembered his love for music, especially jazz, which he would often discuss with another graduate of "The Old School," The Woody. But he knew and enjoyed much for an old geezer, including Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac. On his bulletin board, he had an autographed photo of Martina McBride.

At the hospital, they found The Illidge flat on his back but alert, Sweet Pea and daughter Fran, and the conversation was light and enjoyable, and a smile crossed The Illidge's face. The Clark mentioned that he'd smuggled some spirits into the hospital with him and proposed a toast, in the spirit of The Booth. Sweet Pea asked if he wanted it, and he readily agreed. Then it was that the spirits were poured into several glasses used previously as Fleet phosphate doses for cleaning out digestive systems, and the toasts were made.

The talk turned to many things, including air conditioning, and the anecdote, in the midst of unsaid goodbyes, that comes next is still told with great relish and laughter.

After air conditioning, someone mentioned preferring attic fans, which all agreed were wonderful inventions. And then The Illidge commented on the one in his and Sweet Pea's manse.

"Turn that baby on, and it's so powerful it'll suck the grandchildren right up into the attic."

The joviality couldn't last, and it came time to say goodbye, with hugs and wet eyes and many words to him and his wife and daughter.

The Clark waited till all had left, and sat down briefly on the bed by his friend. They looked at each other and shook hands. The Clark can't remember what The Illidge said. All The Clark could say, was to mumble, "I love you."

Nobody talked on the way home.

The next Booth, later that week, and all the rest since, begin with a toast, "To Bob." Those Boothing knew The Call would be coming, and another trip north soon.

And so it was.

To be continued

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Tio Miguel

My uncle Michael Henry Clark celebrated his 87th birthday this weekend in Santa Fe, a long way from the poverty-stricken Comanche, Ok, in 1922--13 years after statehood. He's a combat veteran of WWII and Korea in the US Navy, and a world-traveling teacher of English--in Ecuador, Iran, Libya, Tunisia and Mali--whose magic carpet landed at Sana Fe to teach at the Indian Ats institute before retirement...beloved by many members of the pueblos. He's the last surviving member of the five Clark boys, and whose name I proudly carry as my middle name.

Saludos Mi Tio, Tequoya!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Friday, September 4, 2009

Booth is a verb--Chapter 12--a saddening

After his retirement, The Clark, in late spring, called The Illidge one day, and asked him if he would teach a night section of advertising sales, expecting him to say "No," and explaining he could drive down and back in the same day that way. The Illidge's voice rose on the phone, eagerly accepting, and saying he'd just stay the night. More Booth was in the future, they both thought.

It was not to be, because his condition worsened, and a tumor developed on his upper chest. He called in the summer apologizing for having to change his mind, downplaying more affliction that had set in. On the first day of fall classes, the parking lot was empty to those of the journalism department, because his car was not parked early in the spot closest to the building, as it had been for more than a decade. Sweet Pea called to ask how things were going on that first day, and in Edmond they were smooth. They were not in Wichita. They talked with The Illidge, and still he did not complain, but explained some of the developing tumor.

No longer was The Illidge sitting in the chair in the Queen Bee's office, sipping coffee as the others showed up. The Booth became a necessity for the faculty, probably that first week, as they fled one afternoon to gather their spirits as the little 4" by 6" plaque with the Illidge's name still hung there.

From then on, Booth sessions began with a somber toast: "To Bob." But the clinking glasses couldn't obscure his absence.

As the semester wore on, so did the cancer, and numerous phone calls back and forth told the story of him upstairs in his manse, in worsening pain. Prayers for relief flowed back and forth too. His chair was vacant, his green coffee cup was empty, the cribbage board was unused.

When hospital became necessary in the spring, The Clark, The Brunette, The PR Princess and The German Complainer headed north, carrying a liquid token of The Booth with them.

to b e continued

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Booth interlude

This is the 4" x 6" plaque that hung in the original booth until 2006.
The plaque has resided in the office of The Clark since then, and is now in his home. Even when the story ends, The Booth will endure.

The story is not over, but entering its final chapters.

To be continued...

One man show

It is my privilege to announce, a one man show of my watercolor work

Starting at 5 p.m. this Friday, during Paseo's First Friday

I am guest artist at Paseo Studio and Gallery, 2927 on the Paseo, thanks to owner Jeanene Carver, who also has a studio in Tierra Amarillo, New Mexico. (I'm envious). She is a former nurse.

The studio is in a white stucco building, about halfway down the Paseo, on the west side of the street, with blue and orange tile roof.

I have 19 paintings in there, and it'll be up through September.

The gallery is not open all the time. Call 623-5320 for information.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Booth is a verb...chapter 11--The office...

"Abandon all hope, Ye who enter here."

Sign above the door of the office of The Illidge.

That sign was taken down, when The Illidge retired. But not so the letters he had attached to the window of his office behind The Vista in 107 C2, long before the uniform signage was adopted around campus. They may be little noticed, but he is oft mentioned in the department and always toasted in The Booth, as one who was bigger than life. He still inhabits this department.

Forsooth, you can tell more about a person from their office and bulletin board than their resume, The Clark believes. and The Illidge posted annual calendars of the University of Missouri, usually featuring the historic columns which are the second most photographed scene in the state.

There were notes from students, prank messages from The Clark, photos of the family, and all kind of whatnot The Clark wishes he had a photograph of.

His computer was right underneath the bulletin board, and it surely did vex him mightily. Either The Farsooth or the Queen Bee kept having to help him with email. When talk turned too technical for him, he'd hold up a pencil, finely sharpened, and exclaim, with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face:

"Here's my computer. It never crashes."

Verily, his office was also a sanctuary for faculty...you could go in there and he would listen, and most of all, most people never knew where you'd disappeared to.

After he retired The Razorback Prof inherited his domain, and has been there ever since...until this week. She will move upstairs to where The Clark had temporarily pitched his tent this summer and fall. Yeah, verily, we are all sojourners in strange lands.

So it is written. As the eldest and most wizened of the old Journalism department, in the various vagaries and vicissitudes of life, The Clark will ironically, or appropriately, as he is writing the story of The Booth, move into the former office of the Illidge.

He has no plans to take the yellow lettering off the glass, unless the ghosts are too strong.

To be continued