Saturday, September 27, 2014

Coming out as The Knife Lady..

Surviving financially as an artist is like walking a tightrope. It’s stressful and takes a lot of faith that the work will keep coming. Most of the work I do is seasonal, so I’ve managed to make things work by layering by peaks - caricatures in the summer, pottery in the winter, tattoos in the fall and spring. Still, things are far from consistent, especially from a bank’s perspective. 

It all started when I needed a newer car for a commute to tattoo. I loved that car, but it was a thirsty beast. Very thirsty with a Northstar V8. I still miss that car, it just wasn’t realistic. So I traded the beast in and bought a new car that’s smaller, zippy, and all sorts of fuel efficient. I refer to it as ’the little car’. To make sure I stayed on top of my new car payments with consistent income, I picked up a part time job working for a knife sharpening company. Initially, it was a day and a half a week. I bring a box of sharp knives into kitchens and exchange them for the dull. Easy enough. And, as it turns out, so much fun. Everyone is happy to see, "The Knife Lady!".

After about six months in, another route opened up. The route is in central Massachusetts, and made my job even more interesting. My fear of driving in the winter weather has disappeared. Mostly. (Fortunately, I have been able to work around the bigger storms - I’m not an ambulance driver!) Recently, the route that covers the area where I live became available, and I snapped it up. 

I have lived in the Berkshires, specifically in and around South County, for nearly twenty years. I have had many jobs, the majority in restaurants, while trying to get a career as an artist up and going. With this new route, nearly every stop is a reconnection. Admittedly, I’ve gotten reclusive, and some people I haven’t seen in over ten years. So far, only one person has given me the stink eye. Not bad, right? (And, in my experience, the person with the unhappy face will grow old with that face. That’s okay because pissy old ladies are funny.)

But as far as a regular job goes, this has been the best. I have a backstage pass into kitchens all over the place. From nursing homes to resorts. Schools, bodegas, and food trucks parked under an overpass. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting people I would probably never otherwise. I love it. It has opened up a whole new world of experience for me. While I grew up surrounded by immigrant Portuguese culture, I’m not way familiar with South American or Caribbean culture. My siblings and I spent a summer in the Virgin Islands, but I was still on the young side to remember more than the things that fascinated me at the time - lizards and their tails, iguanas and chameleons and their colors, tarantulas and their holes EVERYWHERE! Oh, and don’t touch the trees - MILLIPEDES! My stuffed brown elephant in the blue Tshirt, Peanuts. That, sand, swimming, and learning games with my cousins. That’s what I remember. The food? Not at all, other than fruit bigger than my head. Apples with cinnamon and sugar. And, apparently, genips. Or Quenepas. I saw them in a little store in Springfield a few weeks ago. It struck a chord. Wait. What are those. It turns out, I had them when I was a kid. Another reconnection. So fun.

In a way, this is my official ‘coming out’ as the Knife Lady, now that I’m working where I live again. I keep to myself here these days, and have for quite awhile. Again, mostly. It’s weird, stirring things up. Like the genips…oh yeah…I forgot about that...

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