Paint, Sculpt, and Ride: Passengers Talk Creating, Part 1

In the spirit of the new year, here are some stories from passengers who self-identified as artists or creators of some sort. On the line-up for today: an injured soccer player who discovered a love of painting, a woman documentary filmmaker on her process, and an aspiring musician who has trouble finishing projects and compares artistic sparks to butterflies.

May 2022 spark creative and generative energy in all other artists and creators out there who may be reading!

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A Spanish-Speaking Soccer Ball Artist / Un Artista Hispanohablante de Pelotas de Fútbol 

 I come from a soccer-loving family. My dad played on the streets of his small village in Cyprus growing up before coaching both my sister’s and my teams when we were kids.

That said, I perk up when passenger *Frederico gets in carrying a bag full of colorful soccer balls.

The balls knock against each other in their orange netted bag in the backseat as we drive. Frederico, who is from El Salvador originally, tells me that he’d been the person to paint the designs onto them. 

“Después de haberme lastimado la pierna, ya no pude jugar fútbol. Pero todavía quería participar en el mundillo de fútbol. Aun buscaba una conexión con el deporte y con el juego. Quería estar allí con mi equipo, apoyándoles.

After hurting my leg I couldn’t play soccer anymore. But I still wanted to be in a soccer environment. I still sought a connection to the sport and the game. I wanted to be there with my team, supporting them.

Tapping into an as of then unrealized  proclivity for art, Frederico began painting (using an acrylic paint set gifted to him by his sister) designs on soccer balls from the sidelines of his teammates’ games. Slowly, a menagerie of rolling artwork accumulated.

Frederico found a niche this way. He paints almost every day now. His kids play with the finished products, and his friends and coworkers have bought some for their family members. Considering it artwork, his wife keeps one on their kitchen shelf because it goes with the surrounding decor.

“Cuando Dios te quita algo, a veces te da otra casa en intercambio.” / “When God takes away something from you, sometimes he gives you something else in exchange.”

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A Woman Documentary Maker

“I like to capture the journey that respondents’ faces take. The way it lights up or changes when they suddenly realize something, or their thinking reaches a new dimension. Or when they started off in one direction then suddenly segue into another. Their face and their tone and their words take you with them on that inner journey.”

After Monty* came in with bags full of camera equipment, soon into the ride I learn she’s been filming a documentary on the topic of emotional labor. As we drive around Lake Merritt, she shares with me her process. In general, she likes to grant her subjects space to roam. She likes to give them the freedom to come to their own epiphanies and understanding through their answers.

Sometimes she edits segments out but other times she prefers to leave their whole meandering thought process in its entirety. Monty says those unexpected turns help the movie feel like “less of a sales pitch” to her.

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#Lyft Overheard

 “The guy I just started seeing, he’s an artist. And he recently did this piece on a gardener. The guy who bought it, his dad had passed not long before that– and he’d been a gardener. He said he connected with it so deeply.”

–Girl in late 20s to her friend

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The Forever Chasing Butterflies Musician

“A good musician will make you forget about yourself. They’ll get people to stow away their egos for just a bit. Good music is the greatest equalizer.” 

I’ve just told James* about The Saloon in North Beach, describing to him the interconnectedness that lights up the cozy space inside of it, with people in wheelchairs, young QPOCs, and old white men with beards all dancing under low ceilings in SF’s oldest bar to date.

“I just love it when you walk into a room and that energy of everyone setting aside their roles for a few minutes–coming together and letting loose and not caring how they look–just rushes over you and surrounds you. It’s beautiful,” he continues.

Minutes earlier I’d picked him up in downtown San Jose. He’s now headed to a bar in Mountain View that he says makes “really stellar drinks.” He appreciates bartenders who care about the drinks they make, rather than just sloshing a bunch of ingredients into a cup and expecting a tip afterwards.

I’m struck by how much James reminds me of a friend from college, whom with his toned build and effortless charm, nearly all my gay guy friends had a crush on.

Memories briefly resurface– of barbecuing with this friend while talking about girls we thought were cute; downing Irish car bombs with our group of friends before moving on to a boisterous game of tipsy musical chairs on a Tuesday night; of him nicknaming me “Tiny Dancer” on a night out to a dance party at a local queer cafe.

Just as quickly as the memories resurface, I lay them to rest–and it’s back to the present.

Not long into our ride I notice James moving his leg around a lot. He opens and closes his phone in a restless fashion while tapping it against his thigh, both movements and his initial buoyant landing in my passenger seat hinting at his musician energy.

Sure enough, he shares that he is a street dancer who does gigs across the Bay Area. Talk turns to Melbourne, the city he’s from–which James describes as a place with “heaps of wicked street art and ethnic restaurants.”

“There’s a soul to the city,” he venerates. “I always feel most alive in a city with a soul.” 

As my car trundles across the 101, James plays me a clip from what he calls one of his “unfinished corny indie pop ballads.” The partial song brings to mind The Smiths. 

 “I have around 200 songs and none of them are finished,” he tells me. “I say to myself often, How fucking hard is it Man, just choose ten songs and put out an album. Do it while you’re still young. Just do it.” He pauses. “It’s my goal to make that album before I die.” 

The predicament of starting a bunch of projects only to stall in finishing them is one that I relate to. 

I once struggled to complete blog entries. There was so much I wanted to say that I’d end up saying little of anything–which led me to simply abandon the effort before it came to completion. What started off as endless possibilities became a surplus of failures. I ended up with– instead of lucid entries with coherent beginnings, middles, and ends– lots of scraps. A cyber junkyard, if you will.

Perfectionism was in part to blame for this. Since I am not a perfectionist in any other aspect of my life, I’ve wondered why I am one with writing–and have realized it’s because writing is one of the few endeavors I’ve received consistent encouragement on since before the age of five. That said, I’ve set the bar higher for myself. I feel the pressing need to excel at it.

It’s easier to make peace with being mediocre at a task, I think, when we know it’s not our life’s calling. When we’re aware that perfect execution of it is not what we’ll be remembered for. For instance I could never imagine the following words ever being spoken about me: “Damn. That girl really knew how to fold her socks like no one else I ever knew could.” Though I’m sure such people (that is, impeccable sock folders) exist, I am not one of them and likely never will be.

As Judith Newman wrote in To Siri with Love, “Why exactly is it that he can’t tie his shoes or use buttons, yet can play the piano with fluidity and grace? There are some things I will never understand. But it may be as simple as this: music matters, and the other things don’t.”

Maybe the same applies for passenger James with his craft.

“It’s a little that,” he acknowledges, when I propose this to him. “But a lot of it’s also ADD. I’ll start something, then I’ll think of something else–drop the original train of thought, follow the new one. The excitement towards the idea I was initially so excited about fades, then it’s on to a new song I’m chasing. Got a lot of stalled butterflies in my music documents folder.”

This resonates; saying no to ideas, distractions, and critics requires boundary setting and adoption of a certain tunnel vision. We creatives aren’t always adept at doing this.

Once we’ve reached our destination, James bounces from the car towards the bar, off to drink a cocktail that a bartender has put his heart and soul into.

I hope he’s sent some of his butterfly songs out into the universe by now.

*Check back later this week for Part 2 of this series! You can also follow us on IG @lyft_tales

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Photo credits

Butterflies –https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/09/20/rise-butterfly-weddings-threatening-native-british-species-butterfly/

Latinx field worker– https://publichealth.uic.edu/news-stories/pesticide-exposure-raises-risk-for-cardiovascular-disease-among-latino-workers/

Published by esteph42190

A 30-year-old queer bilingual writer born and raised in the Bay Area, I’ve been writing since before I knew how to spell. Balancing my generative energy with a desire to inform, as a child I printed and distributed to classmates publications that included The News Newsletter and Health Digest (ironic considering I also ran an illicit candy business that landed me in the principal’s office several times). As a student at UC Davis I wrote for The California Aggie, with pieces ranging from an exploration of gender roles in the movie Tangled to my own weekly psychology column. After graduating I kept a bilingual blog of my 14 months living in Montevideo, Uruguay, and upon returning continued to blog about social issues and human psychology.

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