About 25 years ago I was fairly new to the US and had just been kicked out by the person who had invited me to Newport. I lived on a mattress in a friend’s attic for a few months, and then I managed to sublet a small studio apartment from a new friend who was going to Mexico for the winter. The rent was $200.
I painted and made fiber art pieces but to pay my bills I worked as a waitress at a bar called Checkers, were the wait staff had to get up and dance in front of the crowd once an hour to 50's and 60's music. We women had to wear blue and white polyester cheerleader outfits and name tags with 50's names. When I came on board there was only two name tags left. Tina or Muffy. I was definitely not going to be called Muffy, so I went with Tina. At Checkers I met a guy from South Africa. His name was Darrell and he worked on a yacht docked nearby.. He was cute and liked me so we started hanging out. When he left for St Thomas we decided to stay in touch and after a month or so he wrote and asked if I did not want to come and visit him there. All I had to do was to pay for my ticket. I could stay on the boat and eat there. It sounded exotic and exciting.
Immediately I started saving for the ticket and went to all the happy hours available in town, because in those days they offered free appetizers if you bought anything to drink So cheese sticks, chicken fingers and cut up veggies became my dinners. I also frequented art openings with free chips and dips. It is truly amazing that my digestive system held up, but it did. If you are a starving artist you cannot afford to be too picky.
A few days before my departure, I was invited to my friend Leroy's house. He had a TV, something I did not. That night there was a program called "Comic Relief," a fundraiser for homeless women and children organized by comedians who told their jokes in between the stark images of people who had fallen on hard times. I thought that was a great idea! I wanted to contribute, so I took down the address to where to send my check and decided I could afford $20.
The next day I was in the post office, paying my bills before I was going on my big vacation. I had one check left to write and started making it out to "Comic Relief" when someone I knew casually walked up to me and started talking. I was pressed for time so I tried to do two things at once. Bad idea. I have never been a good at multitasking. As I tried to listen to this person lamenting about something, I happened to write $200 instead of $20. (I had just written out my rent check a minute before and that confused me) Oh, no!
Oh, well I had to write a new check then. Not Possible. That was the last check in my checkbook! It was Saturday and on Monday I would be off to St Thomas. I was faced with two options: To skip sending a check to Comic Relief OR to send the check for $200. I had maybe 5 dollars more than that in my account.
An interior battle began." Should I, shouldn't I?" How insane would it be to give that much for a person with my income level? I had been called naive, overly romantic and idealistic. Now, should I trust my impulse to do this - or not? I could feel a ping pong match developing inside of me and in order to stop it I found myself quickly moving towards the mailbox and licking shut the envelop, putting a stamp on it and dropping in it through the slot before I had a chance to change my mind. Done!
I stood there shaking, feeling lightheaded and at the same time very alive.
Monday came and I was on a plane to St Thomas. I had brought my paints and a few, small canvasses hoping to find some time to do some artwork while there. Three days later Darrell told me he had to study for his captain’s license all day, but if I wanted to he could drop me off at a beautiful spot with a fantastic beach. Excellent! I brought my paints.
I set up my little camp and got lost in the land of turquoise, cerulean blue, yellow ochre, emerald green, magenta and creamy white. A few hours later I had made two little paintings.
A man walked up to my blanket. "Nice!" "Are you selling those?"
I had not thought that far but I said. "Possibly.”
"Well how much do you want for one of those?”
"$100", I said.
"Excellent"." I’ll take both of them".
The man walked off with them and left me sitting there, rather stunned, with two hundred dollar bills in my hand.
He looked like a big bellied Texan but I felt like I had been visited by an angel of grace. Who knows, maybe he was a big bellied angel from Texas.