Back in Jackson I resumed my routine as a sign painter. Each morning started with breakfast at Virginia Coney Island. The business had been owned by Craig’s dad and his partner but had been handed down to Craig now that he was done sewing wild oats as a concessionaire on the carnival. I met Craig during previous summers with his T-shirt transfer booth that went to the county fairs. He was also delighted with the opportunity to purchase the wooden merry-go-round horse I brought back from Kansas.

By parking in the back and going through the back door, I could greet Craig who was usually in the kitchen making the Coney sauce that Michigan is famous for. He occasionally provided me with the name of a contact who wanted some sign work. One of his friends had a company that built the Consumer’s Power lineman and maintenance trucks. Duane had heard about my talent and wanted something special. I called on him to find out what he had in mind.

Duane Zwick asked me to create a monogram with a fancy “Z” flanked by olive branches for the back of his brand-new Blue Bird Wanderlodge. When I met with him, I drew a sketch of my idea. He was delighted.

I went to his home in Brown’s Lake to accomplish the job. While there he asked me about an airbrushed mural. He wanted a composition of several typical Michigan scenes all arranged in one work. I made a list of the features he sought, accumulated the reference pictures needed to accomplish the work and prepared an elaborate sketch.

On one side of his luxury motorhome, a large blank area became the logical place for the depiction. Since the airbrushed artwork would receive clear-coat upon completion, I masked off the surrounding area, cleaned the surface with solvent, and scuffed the surface to ensure the new paint had tooth. Then the time came to accomplish the artwork.

I use a logical sequence to produce such projects. After the layout, the sky with sunset colors was painted first. The state flower was featured in the painting along with waterfalls, shoreline, and the state bird. Then foliage, birds and trees were next. The items in the foreground were painted last.

With the artwork complete, I sprayed on the clear. In those days, lacquer was on its way out but the new urethanes were unproven. Wanting to provide the best quality paint I could, I used Ditzler clear as the protective coat. I achieved an admirable sheen with the final flow coat.

Duane was pleased with the result and told me an elaborate story about an upcoming excursion to the place where his coach was built and where he would show the work to other Wanderlodge owners who congregate at their annual rally.

While expanding opportunities to set up my T-shirt stand at festivals, I became reunited with Red Woods and Tim Bors who were among my favorite people in the world. They acquired the Elliott Amusement Company from Jim Elliott. They were also pleased with my new-found sobriety.  They quickly commissioned festive and entertaining artwork for various carnival pieces, and once again, I enjoyed being part of their extended family. I was at home painting animated imagery on their equipment and participating with my T-shirt painting booth at their festivals.

In contrast, my relationship with Gail swung from incredible closeness to regular break-ups. I was mystified at her professionalism in the joint and frigidity at home.  Apparently, this is a typical pattern of the child affected by the trauma of abandonment; to proactively reject her partner first, due to fear.  We were ideally mismatched.  My independent nature and tendency to withdraw to embrace opportunity escalated her sensitivity to abandonment and did little to provide a remedy for her challenge: comfort, security, understanding and trust.

            The good news was that Gail joined Alanon, the fellowship for those in relationship with alcoholics. In her group, she had access to people who had found a spiritual remedy for relational turbulence and a different way to live.

         For those who know very little about this disease, afflicted alcoholics share characteristics that typically keep us separate. These characteristics include an obsessive fascination with whatever the focus of our attention is on, often to the detriment and frustration of those around us. While never the intention, this tendency often promotes a perception of neglect.

The Alanon program is a fellowship of people who encourage and teach various methods of coping with perceptions (and misperceptions) of how others behavior affects them. My response to life, adopted when I perceived my surroundings as a child as not being safe due to seeing bullies pick on my older handicapped brother, was to become self-reliant. Now in relationship with a woman I love, when her behavior appeared threatening, I withdrew. Then, my withdrawal triggered her fear of abandonment, established when her father walked away. We were just learning these things in our groups. I was glad she went. We found a place to grow in many ways.

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