The Magic of Trains.

At the Rail Yard

“At the Rail Yard”, color pencil drawing, 2017

Santa Fe Trainstation

“Santa Fe Train Station”, color pencil drawing, 2017

I live in America, the land of the car, a country where in most places you need a car to get around; public transportation leaves a lot to wish for.

I didn’t always live here, though.

I grew up in Sweden and from a very early age, I’ve had an intimate relation with trains. My parents separated when I was four years old and my brother and I stayed with our dad, but every other weekend or so, we would go visit our mother.

At first we would go on a bus to where she lived, but when she moved to another city in another part of the country, train was the main transportation.

My memories of trains and travelling are vivid, although somewhat fogged now by the filter of time, but I still get a strange nostalgic, warm feeling of adventure, nervousness and anticipation every time I see a train. That feeling is still with me from all those years ago…

It’s been years now since last I rode on a train, but now that I live in Santa Fe, I see the    Rail Runner all the time, and since I’m just a few blocks away from the rail yard , I pass by those old train carts parked down by the train station all the time.

I will always remember those journeys my older brother and I went on when we were boys. Both of us nervous about getting on that train all by ourselves, both of us anxious to see our mother. We’d stock up on candy and comic magazines and watch the scenery outside the window. That cart they pushed down the isles, selling candy and soda’s, people getting on and off at the stops in all those small towns along the way…

I was always nervous when it  was time to change trains which we had to most trips, but my older brother guided me and made sure we got to the right platform and on to the connecting train. We’d arrive to a hundred hugs and kisses, our mother was a very emotional woman, and we’d walk through the city with her and life would be good.

48 hours later, as the weekend was over, she would walk us down to the train station again and wave us off as the train started rolling away…she always ran until the end of the platform, waving and crying and we would wave and cry and press our faces against the window, until we couldn’t see her anymore. Her disappearing silhouette forever ingrained in my memory.

Every time, an emotional journey and though it wasn’t far to go – a couple of hours-  it was a big deal for us…Now I live on the other side of the planet and it’s a little longer to go. My mother passed away in 1998, but my father and brother are still in Sweden and I think about them a lot. If only I could get on a train and go see them.

I miss the cradling movement of the rocking train cars, the pounding of the wheels against the rails, the conductor walking down the isle calling out the name of the next station, checking the passenger’s tickets…seen now in the rear view mirror of time, it seems magical somehow…

 

 

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In the Darkest Hour.

They say there is light to find even in the darkest hour; when all things are collapsing around you and you are alone on a road that seems to be leading you nowhere, there is hope.

I want so badly to believe that right now as I am exactly in that place.

I don’t see the road leading anywhere but into a dead end.
And yet I keep walking.
I feel no hope, yet I keep hoping.
I have no dreams and yet I cannot give up the dream.
I feel numb and yet my heart is full of feelings
I cannot create and yet, creating is the only thing that keeps me upright.

“Take us apart and put us back together right, so we can leave on our feet in the night…”

Headlights, “Kill Them With Kindness”, 2006

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Since moving to Santa Fe at the end of September 2016, life has been a bit of a struggle. My wife, battling late stage Lyme and a long list of co-infections, lost her health insurance due to a clerical error and was without her medications for a month. That set her back big time.
Recently, she went to have some lab work done, but the technician failed to run several of the test her doctor called for and because of that he was unable to prescribe new medications for her. Again, a big setback for her.
We have been two people living on one salary for years and it’s tough.
Always poor, always struggling to make ends meet.
If it hadn’t been for the help of my father, I don’t know how we would have made it.

When you’re poor, you try to find things to do that doesn’t cost money.
Like going to lake Abiquiu.
Like going hiking.
Like driving up the mountain to one of the many trails we have up there.
Our dogs love it and we do too. Being out in nature rejuvenates and recharges your batteries, there’s something healing in being among the trees.
The silence, the bird calls, the wind in the leaves, the distance to all things constantly hovering over you; bills, rent,how to afford groceries, how to afford all the supplements and medications that you need…nature takes the worries away for a few moments and here in Santa Fe, nature is everywhere; you don’t have to go far to feel like you’re far away.

So we try to go every day I’m not working. We get the dogs in the car and start driving and as soon as we make the turn onto Artist Road, the dogs know and Abby gets super exited and starts whining and talking to us.
“Are we going to the mountain?”, we ask. She replies with a long line of “words” and some serious salsa dancing.
The simple pleasures in life…

 

“Driving Up the Mountain”
Color pencil drawing on paper.
2017.

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This, Ben, This is Real!

To say I am disappointed with the way things have turned out in my life would be an understatement. I am. I am disappointed with a lot of things; the place I am in life right now is not what I had hoped/dreamed/expected and yes, I am disappointed, better just admit that to myself and have that out of the way.
I don’t know what I expected though, and maybe that’s part of the problem. Most people I know had some sort of a plan. They were going to get this or that education and go for this or that job and career.
I didn’t have a plan.
I still don’t.
I’ve lived a life that was kind of a day to day deal. Sure, I dreamed a lot; I dreamed about recording an album and tour and play festivals and maybe those were more than dreams; after all, I accomplished all those things. I dreamed it, worked hard for years, and all of it came true.
Now, I am in my 40’s and I find myself lost in a way I haven’t been before. I still dream, but my dreams are obscured by the everyday struggle to stay alive, put food on the table, pay the bills and so on.
I dream on, but I feel emotionally lost, drained by the seemingly never ending notifications of unpaid bills and suspension warnings on the phone account.

I have one thing that carries me through all this though; my creativity.

When Ben Carson said in an interview recently that poverty is a state of mind, it shows exactly what is wrong with the world. All our lives we’ve been sold the idea that it is the immigrants fault that we struggle, or it’s the Mexicans fault, the Muslims fault, the Jews, the leftist, the right wingers fault…the people in charge want us to believe those things. It makes it easier for them to get away with what they’re doing. So, really Ben, being poor is a state of mind?

I am poor and I can tell you that it is not, nor has it ever been a damn state of mind.

I see my brothers and sisters working their asses off to try to pay their bills and rent. We work hard for wages that doesn’t cover our expenses. You guys make in a day what most of us make in a year.

We are the ones to make the world go around; making your hamburgers, cleaning your floors, washing your laundry, fixing your cars. We are the ones driving around with duct taped windows, because we can’t afford to put in a new one.

We are the ones putting five bucks of gas in the tank, because we don’t have more money and can’t fill it up.

We are the ones waiting on the bus that never comes, no matter what the weather is like.

We are the ones to go to work even if our bodies ache and we really should stay in bed, but we can’t afford to miss a day of work.

We are the ones to not go to the doctor, not because we don’t care, but because we can’t afford the cost.

We are the ones fundraising for our sick spouse or kid, because the costs of medications and insurance is so high that we would have to work hundreds of hours to afford it.

We are the ones who get a stomach ache every time we check our account balance, knowing there won’t be enough there to pay for even the basics.

We. Are. The.Ones.

Not you. Not your people. Not you with all the money and twisted views on reality.

I remember many years ago, I read an interview with a Swedish musician, it might have been Peter Svensson from the Cardigans, but it could have been someone else. I don’t remember exactly what the question was, but the content of his answer was that the one major contributing factor to his band’s success was being able to receive unemployment.
I would have to agree.
If I hadn’t had access to unemployment when I was in my twenties, there’s no way I would have been able to write all those songs I wrote, record those albums, go on tour etc.
It was crucial. It allowed me to do what I do best; being creative and imaginative and I can tell you, I wasn’t just sitting around rolling my thumbs in lalaland. I worked fucking hard. I wrote songs like you wouldn’t believe it. All in all I wrote songs for 5 albums, 3 with my band and 2 for my solo albums. Now, I know that people like Ben Carson and all the others “up there” probably think that art and music is less important and something that can be defunded and put at the bottom of the pile of priorities.

Once again, you and your people are wrong.

A society is only as strong, only as good as its culture. If you don’t have art, music, theater, movies etc, you are dead. All these things reflect a society; it’s strengths and its weaknesses. It’s part of our nature to be creative. Not for all of us, but for many of us, and for those of us that feel that creativity is the one thing that keeps us going, that keeps us grounded and sane, it is more important to be able to be creative than it is to fix that broken car window.

Those of us who feel that way, keep on struggling. We keep on fighting the odds. We get up every day to face our demons, our stress and our hopelessness. We go to work, we do a damn good job and we dream, we create in our minds as we flip those burgers, clean those floors, watch your pets or stock those yogurts in the dairy isle. We get by because we have a weapon you guys can never take from us no matter how you try.

Our creativity. Our imagination. Our drive. Our focus.

That, Ben, is real.

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Time Is a Curious Thing.

Time is a curious thing. It moves ever forward, shape shifting continuously.

When I wake up in the morning and I have five hours before I have to go to work, time feels rich and available in e good way; “I’ve got time to do some drawing this morning…” So I get up, make some breakfast and get stuck scrolling on facebook, reading all the latest imbecile tweets from the man in the White House that is supposed to be a president. Suddenly an hour has passed and the initial feeling I had that I couldn’t wait to get down in the basement to my studio to work on whatever it is I am working on, has faded.

I look out at the mess in the kitchen and I realize I need to do the dishes before I go to work. I hate coming home to a mess. So I fill up the kitchen sink and put all the dishes in there. I finish breakfast and forget about the dishes as I realize I have to run to the store. Another hour has passed and I don’t know how, but it is now 10 am already and only two hours until I start my shift and who came up with the idea anyway, that we have to be at work for eight hours a day, five days a week? I’d like to have a word with that guy, because I have a lot of other things I would like to fill my day with.

I make some breakfast for my wife and go wake her up. As I do that I am once again reminded that I need to write an update for the fundraiser I started for her several years ago. She has late stage Lyme Disease and a long line of other tick borne illnesses. She has been treating for years with some small success but a lot of setbacks and no end in sight. We have gotten a lot of donations over the years, but these things are so hard to treat and there is little to no support to get from authorities. We have paid a lot more than what we have gotten in donations.

When you are sick with Lyme, you fight your own battle, pay for your own medicines, because almost nothing is covered by insurance, even when you are on Medicaid.

Another 20 minutes go by and I wake up my wife again. She has a hard time waking up. After a third attempt, she stumbles out of the bedroom and into the living room and crashes on the couch.

If you didn’t know it already, living with Lyme is a nightmare.

I’ll have to write a fundraiser update tomorrow instead. I have to because she is running low on several of her medications and I can’t not buy them. We HAVE to come up with the money somehow. Maybe if I get a second job? But how would I have time for a second job, I am already working 40 hours/week?

Eleven AM comes around and now it’s almost time to start thinking about getting ready for work. Damn, I forgot I was going to rake the backyard after the weedwacking I did last week. I borrowed a rake from our landlord three days ago…oh, well, I’ll have to do it tomorrow when I am not working .

After checking my email, which are all either spam, or reminders of bills that need to get paid, it is time to go to work, so I put on my worn out Carhartts that I got at Goodwill for $5.99, four years ago. They have served me well, but they won’t last much longer. I got my Whole Foods cap hat covering my wild bushy hair that really also needs some weedwacking, but there never seem to be any time or money to go to a hairdresser so a baseball cap will due for now.

I spend eight hours at work, stacking dairy products on the shelves and at the end of my shift, I get on the bike, go home to get the car, drive to the yoga studio (where we practice for free in exchange for cleaning the studio) to pick up my wife. If it is a hot class, she will sweat out some of the toxins in her system and it makes her feel a little better for a couple of hours. If the class was cold, she will be in pain for the rest of the night and all next day.

We pick up some dinner and go home to cook.  Oh, that’s right, I never did the dishes, so the kitchen is a mess. I just push everything aside for now and get on with cooking. We feed the animals, our only companions and loyal friends, before we sit down to eat.

The evening passes and suddenly it’s 2 AM and time to go to bed.

When I wake up in the morning, I will drain the sink of the cold dish water and fill it up again.

Maybe tomorrow I will do all those things I didn’t do today.

 

Image may contain: sky, cloud and outdoor

Somehow I still found time to make this. Color pencil on paper. Sun sets in Santa Fe. Car lot on the corner of Cerillos and Monterey.

 

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It’s All Too Much

 

“For Lease”, Color pencil on paper, 2017

There’s too much stupidity going on in this country right now.
Too many loud voices screaming for war.
Too many shady characters coming up to the surface in the wake of the election.
Too much greed. Too much of “take from the poor, give to the rich” mentality. Too many politicians think they are above the people. They point their finger, quote the bible and come up with ideas like drug testing people that are applying for financial aid or food stamps. They say the minimum wage is too high and they are not ashamed to say it. They say $15 / hour is unrealistic but at the same time they themselves make millions.

A Republican lawmaker in Oklahoma recently said that “rape and incest is the will of God…” in defense of his stand on anti abortion rights.

Too much hate. Not enough love.We have a president who pretends to be Christian, who pretends to care for the children of Syria while at the same time he has done everything in his powers to make sure they don’t get into our country. We kill them, we run them out of their homes, we slaughter their families and destroy everything they have, then we refuse to help them when they come to us asking for our support.

Where is the Christianity in that?

Who are these people who think they have the right to decide who gets to live and who will die? What on earth made them think that they have some sort of divine powers to make those decisions?

It’s all surreal. These people cannot be living in the real world. They must not have the same every day problems that regular, hard working people face all the time. They must be living in a bubble. They certainly are not representing anyone I know.

The people I know work hard for very little money.

The people I know treat others well and with respect.

The people I know are more patriotic and a hell of a lot more Christian than those that constantly have to claim how Christian they are.

The people I know would help a stranger.

The people I know have empathy for those in need.

The people I know have love and curiosity for the unknown.

This person sitting in the white house now, playing war is not a man. This person is a fraud and those that are backing him are on the wrong side of history and they are bringing us all to a very dangerous place with their games.

It’s all too much. (this also happens to be the title of one of the best Beatles songs ever…)

Think about it.

 

 

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All My Friends I Have Never Met.

IMG_3499

“Coming Home From Work”, color pencil on paper, 11″x 14″, 2017.

I am a team member at Whole Foods. I currently work in the prepared foods department and I am one of the people serving customers the food we make. In that roll I am one of the faces representing the company and as such I have to always try to be in a good mood and be nice to customers even when they act like ignorant, needy, spoiled kids. Thankfully most people are great, but every once in a while one comes around who just seem to be there to insult you and tell you how much they hate Whole Foods and what a shitty job you’re doing. I can see past that, knowing that it’s not me, but something lacking in this person’s life is causing him or her to act this way.

When I hand over the product the customer is purchasing, I usually tell them something like “Here you go my friend”and in my head I have played up a scene where a customer will reply “How do you know I’m your friend” or “I’m not your friend” or something like that.

My answer in that imaginary scenario is always: “Well, I’ve never met you before, so you can’t be my enemy.”

And that is how I believe we have to view the world. How can we think of someone we have never met, someone we know nothing about, as an enemy? How can we talk about an entire people or an entire religion as our enemy when we have never crossed paths with  them, or lived among them?

In my life so far, I have met a lot of people in a lot of different places. I met a lot of friends in my days as a travelling musician and I have met a lot of people who I feel are friends of mine since I moved to the US. I often think about places I have never been and I wonder who my friends are there that I haven’t met, that I may never meet. Maybe there’s a guy fixing cars in Tallahassee, Florida, who is a really good friend of mine? Maybe there’s a Muslim man from Iraq driving a cab in New York who I would become friends with if only we met? Surely there’s an older lady in Minnesota who could tell me some fascinating stories about her Swedish ancestors while making some amazing cookies and coffee that we could share sitting on her porch, overlooking the plains outside her family home?

There are friends all over the world that we will never meet. Why do so many of us think about the unknown as scary? Why do so many of us believe that those that are different from us automatically become our enemies? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t we consider all the strangers in the world our friends until, for some reason, they convince us that they are not?

You know – innocent until proven guilty…?

We live in some very dangerous times. Enemies are produced and presented to us on a daily basis. Today we should hate Mexicans, tomorrow our Muslim brothers and sisters. I believe it’s time to break that cycle and start thinking about everyone as our friend. Get to know a stranger and THEN decide whether or not he or she is an enemy, or maybe just somebody you really don’t like. And that’s OK. We can’t like everybody.

What we can do is treat everybody with respect. We CAN show everybody love.

We can.

Si se puede!

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