I have two pen pals that I need to send something to. One is in New Zealand and the other is in Massachusetts. I don’t know a lot about them. I was connected with them via a Slack group for a local art/tech festival I volunteer for, XOXO.
Not knowing much about them I figured the first thing I should do is tell them something about myself, because maybe they’re thinking the same thing on their end of the connection. I was pretty sure they had been to Portland, my home town, but they probably had never been to Sellwood, the neighborhood I live in and love.
I have three or four pieces of artwork by a local artist, sketches of different corners and streets in Sellwood, and two of those pieces are on greeting cards. I bought them a year or two ago in a boutique, called Fuchsia, just a few doors down from where I often drink and eat myself into oblivion.
I met the artist himself at a charity art show, in fact, where I purchased two of the four prints I own. I had gone there with some friends and had joked that I would only buy something if it was about my neighborhood, and that is exactly what I found.
And then earlier this year, I had seen him again, sitting with his easel on a sidewalk across the street from a breakfast diner I love far out of proportion with the quality of its food. He was sketching that corner, which in addition to the diner includes a dive bar and two different auto mechanics.
Yesterday, in the delightful gray rain, I put on my coat and fired up a podcast on my iThing and walked to that shop to pick up some more cards, to send to my pen pals. It’s an easy 20-25 minute walk.
I walked in, said hello to the lady behind the counter, and wandered around the greeting card aisles; when she asked me if I was looking for something specific I told her about the cards.
“Oh,” she said, her face falling, “we can’t get those cards anymore. The artist passed away.” She couldn’t remember the name of the artist and, sadly, neither could I.
Unsure what to say beyond that this was sad news, I ended up buying some cards of a different local artist, although these cards were not of my neighborhood. I still have to write in them and send them, which is the important part of being a pen pal with someone.
When I got home yesterday I looked at the signature at the bottom of the drawings I own. Mason Parker. I clicked around the site, a basic WordPress blog, and found that he had completed the painting of Bertie Lou’s (see above), and that he had artwork showing in Portland through December. That page was updated on 19 October 2015, in fact, just 10 days ago as I write this. There’s a list of stores that sell his cards and art–notably, it does not include the shop in my neighborhood. Did he really pass away?
Mr. Parker has a phone number listed and a P.O. Box and a PayPal link to order his art. I can’t tell if he’s not actually dead, or if his death was so recent that the site just hasn’t been updated.
Today, I’m going to call him just to check. I’m not going to wait.