My Road to Creativity, Fourteenth Excerpt: Basel, Switzerland:

Basel is a historical industrial town that spanned both sides of the Rhine River on the northwest corner of the country with Germany to the northeast and France to the east. 

My friend met me at the train and we took a street trolley back to her place. I marveled at the city, similar to but different from the small town of Rapperswil and the frantic banking, fashion conscious Zurich. The city carried the wonderful old European architectural styles, but its industrial roots were obvious as it appeared, as a whole, more down to earth. 

She lived in small apartment in an older working neighborhood. I found out the next day that hardly anyone one there spoke english after she went to her classes and I was in my own and went into a small shop to get some meat and cheese for lunch. 

“Sprechen Sie Englisch?” I asked and received a shake of the head from the young woman behind the counter, who held up a finger and left for a moment returning with what was likely her mother and a younger brother.

“American?” the older woman asked with a big eyed smile. I nodded and smiled back. Apparently Americans did not frequent this part of Basel. With everyone watching and using advanced charades, I made my order and paid not having a clue if I got the right change back. I smiled and said “Danke Shoen, backed towards the door with an “Auf Wiedersehen.” and left.

My friend, being occupied in studio all day, I roamed the streets of old Basel, had coffee on a patio watching people passing by, ending up at an art museum whose collection spanned medieval art up to cubism and modern art. I spent most of the afternoon there looking at and being impressed by all the art. Outside the museum was a dynamic sculpture garden with whimsical little devices that whirled and twirled and shot water into the air and at each other. Later, I met my friend for dinner and called it a day.

The next day I got  tour of the Basel Kunstgewerbeschule, a stark concrete edifice lacking very much warmth, but was vibrant with the student work I saw. She showed me of some of the projects she was working on, one of which was to create one hundred different images or symbols of a singular object. When she showed me her sketchbook, I couldn’t believe what I saw. I thought about giving that project to a group of sophomores at ISU and figured I’d be laughed at for being so audacious. But they did it here.  

That night we were invited to dinner at Wolfgang Weingart’s apartment. It was like I was going to meet the most amazing impressive designer of the time. He was innovative and was pushing the limits of Swiss graphic design.  He was both emulated and criticized in the many articles written about him and his work. But, non the less, I was getting to meet a legend.

His small apartment was nondescript unlike the several designer houses I had been in when in Rapperswil. He was gracious and low key, happy to meet a design professor from America. His girl friend was American, also studying design at the school. We shared wine and food and some talk of design. He shared his philosophy of design and his appreciation of the historic Swiss Style, but thought it needed to be challenged and given a newer more modern approach. His education was in the traditional Swiss Style that dominated the present universal standards of visual communication, but he felt that it was time to push those strict parameters and he was doing that through his personal design and in his teaching.

 The evening was over early, we thanked them for their graciousness, bid our good-byes and left. I felt like I had met a rock star.

The next day I left for Luxembourg for a night and left the following day for home. I had a lot to think about.

Onto Forever

two lane blacktop

somewhere in Nevada

eyes gritty tired

an all night run

dark Great Basin

lit only by starlight

a silver sliver moon

lights a road of silver

leading nowhere

leading somewhere

all night radio DJ

clear channel AM

Del Rio Texas

steel guitar and fiddle

whiskey drinking songs

like it was in 1959

no smokes left

ashtray overflows

nothing in front

nothing left behind

sadness long ago

sadness still to come

somewhere to nowhere

nowhere to somewhere

running from god

running from life

all I loved left behind

never arriving anywhere

she cried when I lied

sisyphus without a rock

no mountain to climb

only unending roads

both hands on the wheel

into desert darkness

onto never forever

The Awakening of Russell Henderson now in Print

“The Awakening of Russell Henderson” is now available in print on Amazon.


Description

When Chicago investment-banker Russell Henderson—newly divorced and suffering from depression—makes a spur-of-the-moment decision to go on a camping trip to explore the Western United States, he steps outside his usual safe mode of operation and opens up a wealth of new, and scary, possibilities.

Somewhere in Iowa, he picks up a woman hitchhiker, who challenges everything in which he believes. This sets off a chain of events that involve an American Indian sweat lodge, a Tibetan Buddhist Rinpoche, and a road trip through stunning countryside. His relationship with the woman becomes more complex, and deep self-reflection eventually leads him to step outside the confines of his upbringing and discover who he truly is.

Part road trip, part romance, and fully visionary, this is a delightful story that both inspires and entertains.

A reader review:

“The protagonist, Russell, enters the story as a self-centered, left brained, irritating alpha male. When his wife walks out, he is deeply shaken and embarks on a journey of self discovery, traveling westward across the US. Almost immediately he picks up hitchhiker who rocks his world. He is rapidly introduced to new cultures, new ways of thinking, and new ways of behaving. He discovers within himself a new generosity and depth of honesty. His love of music reemerges and blossoms. A thoroughly fun read with philosophical nuances.” Rini Twait

My Road to Creativity, Twelfth Excerpt: Assistant Professor:

I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a little un-nerving to step into a design studio with twenty dubious students. I was given a syllabus for each of the three studios I was teching and dove in. My major professor had become a friend and mentor and, thankfully, was there to guide me in that first while.

As a teacher, I was expected to do research or some sort of design work of my own choosing. There was little chance for any free lance work in Ames  so I began to design and silk screen posters for different events in the Design College. It gave me a chance to initiate and do my own design. I had learned to silk screen in grad school and liked the process. However, I still stumbled with creating anything grteat and some were better than others. Whatever, it kept me actively exploring and designing. I was not what I considered to be a great image maker so my posters tended to be more typographic with bold abstract shapes moreso than any actual recognizable images.

After a year of teaching basic design, typography, and symbology studios, I finished out the year although my student evaluations left something to be desired. The students challenged me as a newbie. I had dealt with much tougher clients and sub-contractors in my construction days and wasn’t cowed, but I was scared to death, hoping it didn’t show. It did and the students smelled blood. I struggled on and I believe, in spite of everything, I imparted good design information and skills whether they knew it or not.

Having only a one year contract, I had put together a teaching vitae and was ready to send it out for teaching positions at other schoolslate that winter but I was offered another year at Iowa State and accepted. 

Earlier that spring, my mentor suggested that I consider doing a three week design workshop in Switzerland that was offered through Kent State University to further my education and add to my resume. I got the information on the workshop and with the money I had saved that year of teaching and living in my austerely, I could manage to afford the trip and workshop tuition. I decided to go. The University travel agent set me up with all my flights and other travel arrangements. I got my passport. I had only flown four times before when I was in the Navy and never international. But my excitement overcame any nervousness.

I contacted my friend who was in Basil and would meet her after the three week workshop in Rapperswil, just west of Zurich on the shores of Lake Zurich. I left for four weeks in Switzerland in mid-June.