Sunday, January 26, 2014

The TrIP

Patrick Greene who is the curator at The Gallery at Avalon Island, 39 S Magnolia Ave, Orlando, FL, asked me to be a part of the TrIP Project. The TrIP Project has artists and writers ride the Lynx bus system to report on the mass transit system in Orlando. The first plan was for me to sketch Benoit Glaser and several other musicians who were going to play their instruments on the bus. Unfortunately Patrick gave me the wrong date and I knocked on Benoit's door a day early. A second option was to sketch Genevieve Bernard's Voci Dance who did an interpretive dance performance on a bus. However, a close friend and artistic spirit, Mary Hill, took her own life and I needed to go to her memorial service that day. The bus tickets sat in my pocket unused for the longest time.

Finally, I saw that there was going to be a reading at The Gallery at Avalon Island called, "There Will Be TrIP" on January 14th. I decided I would take the bus downtown for this reading. When I graduated high school, I decided to go to the School of Visual Arts in NYC. I stayed with my parents the first two years and took a bus to the city everyday. The bus ride and consequent subway rides took well over three hours out of the day. Since I also had to get back, that was six hours in transit. Sketchbooks at the time became filled with sketches of fellow passengers. I didn't own or drive a car for the entire decade I commuted to and stayed in NYC. When I came to Orlando to work for Disney Feature Animation, I got off the plane, took one driving education course and then got my drivers license at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Within the first week I had purchased my very first car, a sweet Honda del Sole convertible. Not once did I ever take a bus in Orlando.

On the morning of January 14th, I got ready for my TrIP adventure. It was raining, so I put my sketchbooks in a zip top plastic bag and put on a full set of rain gear that included plastic pants. I looked like I was ready for an Arctic Expedition. Google Maps on my iPhone said the closest bus stop would be near Universal Studios. It was a four mile hike. The reading downtown was going to be at 7pm. I left at 2pm since I had no clue what I was doing. I hiked through isolated suburban side streets and marveled at all the McMansions surrounding a lake I walked around. The rain was persistent but light. I felt a little uncomfortable walking with my hoodie up since Trevor Martin had been gunned down for walking in a neighborhood much like this I imagined. Someone was just recently shot for texting during the previews at a movie theater. People with guns are crazy in Florida.

Besides raining it was also hot and humid which meant I was getting wet from the inside out rather than from the outside in. When the rain became the faintest mist, I took off the rain jacket to vent some body heat. One of the side streets leading to the bus stop turned out to be the entrance to a gated community. I would have to walk around the gated community adding more miles to my hike. I realized when I was maybe one mile from the bus stop that, had I driven, I would already be downtown and parking,

I walked past a bustling middle school with long lines of cars waiting to pick up children. I realized this was a prime sketch opportunity although I imagined some parent might question my motives. When I arrived at the bus stop it was 3:30pm. I had been hiking for an hour and a half. Five construction workers in bright green vests were at the stop. Conversation was about car envy. A female worker lamented a friend who had a job and makes money on the side. Her friend could afford a Honda Civic. The construction workers make about $150 a day helping build a huge new motel right next to Universal. A large SUV driven by a fellow construction worker pulled up and they all piled in. The 21 bus that I was waiting for didn't arrive for another hour at least.

On board, the large female driver had to help me figure out how to insert the ticket into the column shaped payment device. Digital lights and numbers gave me too much information to look at. The ticket got sucked in and then spit back out. On the back of the ticked, I found out I could board any bus until 3am in the evening, after that the ticket was void. On the bus, people sat in tight constrained poses clutching bags with arms crossed.  A mom boarded with her excited little girl. They likely had just been at Universal. The child's eyes were filled with delight.  This bus trip was a fresh adventure for her. They sat next to me and I saw the girl motioning to her mom to look at what I was up to. She sat on her moms lap and watched every line and wash as it splashed on the page. At the Valencia College bus stop a gorgeous woman got on and stood right beside the driver checking her phone periodically. I sketched her quickly, so happy she had brightened the scene. Sketching on the bus got me motion sick. The bus lurched and pitched every time it stopped and it stopped 65 times on the route downtown. The driver also had a lead foot. Perhaps she had learned to drive at the Daytona racetrack.

At 5pm I arrived at Central and Garland Avenue downtown near Church Street Station. The walk to Avalon was less than a mile, so I figure the TrIP probably took three and a half hours whereas a drive downtown usually takes me half an hour but I park in the suburbs to avoid meters and being towed, so the walk can be an extra half an hour or so. So my assessment is, Bus = 3 1/2 hours and Car = 1 hour. The good news is that if I ever got drunk downtown, I know what bus would get me to within 4 miles of my home. But why would I get drunk downtown? Since I was early, I decided to go to Jimmy John's to get a sandwich. I checked into Avalon where artwork and poetry was being hung on the walls. A poem by Naomi Butterfield was hung by a painting by Parker Sketch. The show is titled "I Believe."

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at


Unknown said...

Good story!

Anonymous said...

Stumbled across your site and love it! Really enjoy your sketches, and the blogs are an unexpected plus. I hope you haven't stopped as 2014 is wanting and 2015 has just begun!

You're very talented. Lisa