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Ordinary Weird

One Saturday morning in 1992 I came across hundreds of fishing lures at a yard sale on the Southside of Fort Worth. The yard sale was up where all the turn of the 20th century mansions were at on Elizabeth Boulevard and not too far from my little shotgun shack over on 5th avenue. Back then you could lose four or five hundred thousand dollars in property value by simply turning a corner. The whole area is gentrified these days and that’s a shame. Diversity is the inspiration of any real art.

I was fascinated by the lures immediately and decided I would part with the ten dollars for the giant box. Inside it was a tangled knot of what looked to be mostly ten to twenty-year-old lures. There were buzzers, bombers, rattlers, lunkers, divers, floaters, wigglers, and sinkers. To be honest I didn’t fish much. In fact, I don’t recall ever owning a rod and reel at this time in my life, but I had a keen eye for the eccentric and although it was only nine or so in the morning, my personal eccentricities were difficult to contain. I was already significantly stoned and drunk as I grinned ear to ear down upon that box. There was just no way in that condition I could pass up a collection so odd for so cheap. Then as now, I was an amazing optimist, and I was also still certain in 1992 I was some kind of artistic genius although there was no proof of artistic genius beyond the day drinking. This youthful and arrogant optimism fueled many justifications for me, albeit day drunks being one of the more debilitating buoyancies of my beautiful “genius” mind. At any rate whatever the reasons, I was always on the hunt for art and certainly sure standing in the grass of that circa 1904 mansion that particular Saturday morning, art was there in some combination of day drinking, fishing lures and the other odd assemblages of “genius,” I would, in my more stoic midlife, realize to be nothing more than a strong case of ordinary weird.

When I got the box home, I began separating the lures. The treble hooks catching hold of one another like the barrel of monkey’s game, only I wanted them to come out one at a time rather than hooking one lure to another lure, and so on. It was a slow process to untangle the hooks and it gave me plenty of time to drink and imagine all the things I could do with the lures. I drank one Busch Light tall boy after another stopping to smoke some weed at regular intervals and began piecing a folk-art masterpiece together in my head as I made steady progress separating the lures. I placed the lures carefully on the kitchen table until it was full and then moved to the floor. There were four hundred and forty- two lures all told and many hours had passed lining them up over the kitchen table and kitchen floor.

With a spark of inebriated brilliance, I remembered I had removed one of the solid core doors from its hinges on the back room of my vintage 1940’s built home a few months earlier. I had intended to use the door as a coffee table but scuttled the idea when I came upon a perfectly good, perfectly broken, perfectly fixable coffee table curbside. As my thoughts coalesced, I figured I could make a slot for the door to stand in by leaving a space between a couple of two by fours nailed to the floor. I thought I could paint them white like the door or better yet, black so it was clear they were fixtures to hold my art. I would stand the door up by simply inserting it into the slot created between the boards nailed to the floor. I cut them to the right length and nailed them into the hardwoods. The slot was a little tight and held the door upright well enough, but I ended up toenailing both ends of the door straight into the hardwood floor as well to make sure it wouldn’t fall over. I now had a door complete with glass doorknobs standing securely upright in the middle of my living room. Sure, it was a door to nowhere for the moment but soon it would represent my genius for authentic American folk art.

The more I drank and smoked the more convinced I was an artistic genius. I toyed with the idea of a fish shape or outline but in the end, I decided on the Pollock technique, the artist not the fish. Pollock’s notorious alcoholism wasn’t lost on me either as I began randomly nailing the lures to the door. When I finished, I stepped back and took in the door nailed to the floor in the middle of my living room covered with hundreds of fishing lures. It was amazing but in a sudden and depressive flash, I thought to myself, “my God I’m drunker than shit, and have spent the whole day building a giant cactus trap in the middle of my living room.” It took me some time to bring it all down but, in the end, it was for the best. I was as dedicated to my art as the next person, but catching a fishhook in the eye one of those nights I was especially optimistic seemed a bit too dedicated. Not all art is good art. Sometimes it’s just a hazard.

Written by Eric Lee Short

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