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Bad Ideas

Catalogue of Thought

Places for Inspiration - The Studio Ceiling Light

Acrylic and Ball Point Pen on Canvas 9x12"


I pulled the light chain and nothing. I pulled it again. Nothing. With another yank of the chain a slight twinkle of light came to both ends of the fluorescents but then vanished. I pulled it again into the presumable “off” position. Then, I pulled it again and the line proceeded to come down. I had broken the line. It wasn’t the old quick fixaroo either. The chain had broken from the inside of the light (a part I came later to know as the “pull switch”). With a frustrated guff I pulled out a ladder and sat atop unscrewing various parts that would allow me access to the inside ballast area.  This would become more difficult than I thought.

I don’t know if it’s getting old or being inexperienced with electricity or maybe its being old enough to posses that self-aware voice speaking “you have no idea what you’re doing." I didn’t always have that voice. I would once stand on the very top of the ladder, not thinking twice of the danger that I was putting myself in. It might be that I’ve grown out of tune with my body. I used to be very balanced, agile even, and now I eat really really good food. Bread - artisanal. Ice cream - I’d like a cashew base pistachio please. Fish - can you deep fry a Tilapia? How many types of cheese can possibly fit into a mac-n’-cheese? What about burritos? I like breaking mine into two meals. I simultaneously practice my Spanish while I order : "Yo Necisito un grande niño, con todos por favor!" This is slang for a super burrito, which upon reception can be cradled in the candid likeness of a small infant. "Con carne asada por favor."

 Balance for me these days has more to do with my moving around in the attic of my old church. I’ve done this so much more than any of my contemporaries. I know the far reaches of that space and have breathed deeply its asbestos (built in 1897, what do you think insulates this place?).  The attic is the middle space that separates my studio from the open air belfry. The belfry is the place that I’ve set up a table for wood working. Whenever I build something up there, I build it in small parts so that I can send it back down through the tiny hole that provides access to this space. I’m outgrowing this. I know only a few in this church would be able to do it at all. Still, I consider it a privilege.

So, I destroyed the light. I found this pull-switch on the inside and I attempted to break it open. when I eventually found the way to it’s core, instead of coming apart in a friendly manner, it exploded. A tiny spring with a coil the size of a thread held the whole thing together and now it was somewhere on my studio floor. I would have quickly entered my search if it were not for the sparks occurring around the light now. The positive and negative wires were touching intermittently, their cords intertwined and dangling in sporadic direction. The quiet thought came to me that I could really hurt myself here. I didn’t want to do that.   

My studio now looked like a scene from Duke Nukkem with flashing exploded lights inside some ubiquitous office structure.  Papers and building supplies strewn across the floor. Wind blew in from the hole leading from the belfry and scattered things further.  It was precisely at this point that I decided this was not what I wanted to do with my day. I had a a painting to get to. There was much at stake and here I was fiddling with a light.  I muttered under my breath “this building wants me gone.”

So, I proceeded to work. I got out the painting supplies and relied solely on the light provided by a yellow stained glass window. I got maybe an hour in before my wife called me up and asked if I’d like to get a burrito. I said yes.  After the fact, I spent another couple hours working before there was absolutely no more light in the studio. My day had to be finished at this point. It reminded me of being a farmer or some other type of more traditional work.

The next day I found a pull switch at the hardware store. When I got into my studio it was the first thing on my mind. The problem I faced now was to locate the circuit breaker that controlled my studio. I went to the breaker box, located in the exact opposite and furthest part of the building, only to realize after trying every switch, running frantically between the box and my studio to see if anything worked, that the switch was not on the box. It took a lot more research and an acquired understanding about how old fuse boxes from the 20th century worked, as well the help of a couple friends to realize how to shut off power to the studio. The fix was easy after that. All I’m left with is this mangled old pull-switch, which I might make a painting of. 


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