I met Chip at The University of Michigan where he was the support staff for Ceramics and I was a new undergraduate. I was his work study. He liked what I did for him probably because I worked. If my memory is right, he came in and told me to be ready to help him unload the truck and I said, “another one?”. I had already unloaded a truck, counted the bags and cleaned up.
Kurt Weiser was a graduate student at the time. I used to sit and watch him work. He was an innovator in the field. He was always looking for some new tool or process. I am not sure that there was a direct influence, but it would be easy to look at my work and infer one. I am certainly not sure that there was not a direct influence on me. If I had to guess, I would say that there was. Kurt took me aside one day and told me I should go visit The Kansas City Art Institute. When the end of the semester came I got ready to go. This was Spring Semester 1975. I was an art student, it was my first semester in art school, and was taking an Asian Art History Survey with the late Professor Walter Spink as well as a ceramics course with Kurt, a figure drawing course, a 3D design course with Professor Georgette Zirbes, and a 2D design Course with Professor Ted Ramsey. It could be that one of these courses was taken the next semester but 18 credits was a normal full load.
The Asian Art History course feature thousands of slides, all shot (except where noted below) by Walter Spink. These were from Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, China, Japan, Tibet, Nepal, and Korea. I do not remember images from other countries of Asia, but there could have been some. The course was special. It was personal, he shot the slides. He was an expert on the Ajanta Caves but I remember all the big sites of India. There was a lot of memorization. But he started any section with culture, and his explanations were those of someone who had a lot of experience trying to give the sense of a culture to someone with no experience in that culture. How do you explain Buddhism to someone or how people relate to a Hindu Sadhu to a young Jewish kid and make it not silly, comprehendable. He had a hard task and did a reasonably good job at it. He was also funny.
The final exam was on material that was not from his own slides. It was on a traveling exhibition, “Recent Archaeological Finds of China” . I was going to try and get to Kansas City before the end of the semester. I had only a few days to hitchhike there so I brought my backback to the final. In the backpack I had my normal gear. For food I decided to bring peanut butter, it was cheap. I also brought some homemade granola I had left over.
From Ann Arbor I went south to Indianapolis. Indianapolis was always hard to get through but still easier than Detroit or Chicago. I made it to Kansas City the next morning. I got dropped off in front of The Nelson Atkins Museum. On the front of the museum was a show banner, “Recent Archaeolical Finds of China”.
The Nelson Atkins has free admission. But the Blockbuster show was not cheap. I paid for it anyways. When I got inside I met a young woman my age. She was attractive, at least I was attracted. But she seemed to be on drugs, I stayed with her in the museum and ended up giving her a guided tour. About halfway through she said, ” I thought you were making all of this stuff up about the work, but what you say matches the labels.’ The exhibition was great to see. I remember The Flying Horse. It is spectacular.
Kurt fixed me up a place to stay. I remember that the guy I stayed with had girl friends. I liked the school.
But really walking in the studio, everyone’s work was better than mine. There were a bazillion people in the studio late at night.I did not meet the teachers.
I left Kansas City and hitched to Yosemite. I never hitchhiked out of Denver. It was illegal to hitchhike in Colorado so I would take the bus. I have a hard time detailing the trip because I hitched out west so many times but I think on this trip I took the bus south and got dropped of in Albuquerque. It was hot. People at the bus station told me the wrong direction for the freeway. I walked about five miles. It did not look right. I asked again. I was told another direction. It too was not right. This time I knew it right away. I had not crossed an east west freeway coming in from the north so I know if I walked south I would get there. I got picked up by a guy in a sports car and dropped off in 15 0r 20 miles, a much worse place to hitch from. Then a VW stopped and picked me up. The car was full so I sort of got packed into the back seat. There was a Spanish speaking man in and a woman in the front. The woman told me that she was a prostitute and that the man was an illegal alien. A we approached Flagstaff I started smelling gas and the prostitute said that the gas gauge was dropping and the car was running terribly. Some screw came out and gas was coming out of the whole. I thought we were stuck, but then I thought of how we used to fix canoes that had lost a rivet at summer camp with bubble gum, and that it got stiff in the cold. Well that would not work because gum almost certainly dissolves in gas, so I covered it up with aluminum foil and jammed and the screwed it into the hole. The first gas station was about 20 miles away. We pulled in, I showed him my repair. He said “This looks first rate, what do you need me for?” I said that they were driving into LA and gum was going to thaw. He said, “thats a real shame”. The driver and passenger spent the night in a hotel and I hitched in San Bernardino and spent a night on my Uncle Leonard’s coach. It was terrible hitching out of there. I went north. My peanut butter was really not in a very good container so I mixed it with the granola and it formed a sort of stiff peanut bar. At some point I mixed in a pound of rasins. It was really pretty good. I bought a cabbage. They keep well out of refrigeration, especially if you eat the outside leaves once a day.I do not remember if I went to San Francisco that trip or not. My brother Dave, and my good friend Dave both lived there.I htiched to Yosemite and spent the first night in Yosemite Creek Campground. In the morning I got a permit to go up the back of Half Dome.
I had crummy equipment and it was May. I think I stayed at Little Yosemite Campsite. There were some yahoos drinking beer there. I spent a night, left my camp set up, climbed the back side of half dome (its a walk up, not technical) came down and stayed the night again. In the morning there was snow on the ground and my cotton sleeping bag was insufficient. I left cold, and a little wet and hitchhiked to Berkely California. It was slow getting out of Yosemite and I remember sleeping in a field and waking up surrounded by cows. It was scary. and stayed the night I think anyways with my cousin Ellen. In the morning I walked to the REI store and spent nearly the rest of my money on a Polarguard sleeping bag. I left town and hitchhiked up the coast. I stopped in Fortuna and stayed a day with a high school friend Carmen. She was living in an old funky house in a grove of redwood stumps. There were people who had built houses on top of the stumps and were squatting on the land. I think it was all owned by Carmen’s husband. Carmen had a daughter who I was introduced to as Indigogo.
My memories from there are not very filled out. There was bees nest in the wall of the bathroom and you could hear them buzz if you banged the wall. There was a fridge full of frozen cider. I have a vague memory of picking apples, but it was May. Maybe we only went to look at them. Now I think Carmen described cleaning up the dead apples then shaking the tree. They had a little press and it was two fridges set to as cold as they would go, mostly frozen.
I think that Carmen drove me into Eureka.I left and hitchhiked up the coast. I did not get far the first day. I think that I had gotten too much sugar from cider,,, its hard to know. But I walked down to the beach at Eureka State Park and made some mussel soup and ate it for a couple meals. Noon the next day I packed up and walked out of the park. I had little money but I though that a cup of coffee would be good. I went into a restaurant that had a view of the park and ordered a cup. The man running the place brought me a coffee, and asked if I was the guy eating mussels on the beach. I said yes. He brought me a sandwich and gave me another wrapped up for the road.
Mid June each year 1973, 74 and 76-79 I worked at Camp Tamarack, a Jewish camp for children near Flint Michigan.