I make a not insignificant chunk of my living painting pet portraits. I can’t recall how I got into that racket but it’s been good to me. There are many more people out there who want their dog immortalized than people who want to look at pictures of somebody else’s cluttered bookshelves. I’m not happy about that but I’ve made my peace with it; I have no other choice if I want to survive. I can knock out most of these commissions in a few days. The pet owners are happy; I get paid; everybody wins. I’ve rarely had any trouble completing or delivering these pictures. They’re usually gouache, watercolor, or ink on paper, and rarely larger than 15×20 inches. Most customers live in town so I hand deliver and thus don’t have to deal with the perils of the post office.
I know Heather from back when I was on Twitter. She came to my reading in Massachusetts a few years back. She wrote to me a month or two ago about ordering a painting of Cabiria, her cat. But unlike the many who came before her, Heather wanted an oil painting, and a good-sized one at that. We settled on a price and I got to work. A couple weeks later it was done. I packed the 22×30 inch painting carefully into the box my flatscreen TV had come in and walked it to the UPS Store.
Because Heather had had trouble with USPS deliveries just like I had, she gave me a p.o. box as her address. But, in a bit of cruel irony, this meant that I had to use USPS to ship her painting because UPS doesn’t deliver to p.o. boxes. To add insult to injury, it wound up costing more than double what I’d quoted her. I offered to knock a bit off the grand total and sent her the tracking number. Then we settled in to wait and hope.
Three days after I’d dropped the painting off the USPS site still indicated that only the shipping label had been printed and it was waiting to be picked up. I went back to the store and was assured that it had been taken the same evening I’d come in. This meant that the postal worker hadn’t bothered scanning it and the painting could be anywhere or nowhere by now. I’d mailed it on a Monday and the ETA was Friday, but Friday passed with no change in status. Heather and I emailed back and forth about it a few times but there was nothing either of us could do but wait.
Monday came with no changes, so I filled out a missing mail form on the USPS site. I have yet to get confirmation that they’ve received that either, but I guess I should know that’s par for the course. I kept checking the tracking status several times a day. I know the adage about insanity being to do the same thing over and over expecting a different result but I have a one-track mind, so until whatever’s obsessing me is resolved or crashes and burns I will keep banging my head against that wall. This is a good attribute for art, less so for life, as I’m continually taught.
I started forming contingency plans. Heather had sent me a downpayment which didn’t quite cover what I’d payed to ship the lost painting. Would she accept a smaller painting on paper as a replacement? Should I just send her back the deposit and call the whole thing off so I could battle USPS full-time? But these and another half dozen options dissipated from my mind when, late Tuesday night, I looked up the tracking (for about the sixth time that day) and saw it changed to IN TRANSIT. After wandering for eight days, my painting had arrived at a regional facility in Springfield, MA before being dispatched north to Heather’s town in New Hampshire.
A couple days later it was marked delivered, so I could stop obsessively checking the USPS site and move on to wondering whether the painting arrived in one piece and whether Heather likes it.
For the entire eleven days of this ordeal the thought of Cabiria’s painting lost somewhere out there ate at the edges of everything else that was going on in my life. But now it’s time to switch gears, get a buck up my ass about something else. It shouldn’t be long.
It was great to hear Chris Brokaw play in Janet Bean’s living room last Friday. You should go buy all his records if you have any sense of decency at all.