I have recently moved to Venice Beach, California. As a writer and artist it is a place that inspires creativity. I began selling my sketches and paintings on the Venice boardwalk and I have now expanded to an online store called Wendy B’s Studio. Most of my artwork reflects the many different aspects of my […]
My skates had marks and creases all over them and were well-worn. I would have to wait until I outgrew my current pair before my parents would agree to new ones.
A young woman with long blond hair approached us as Shelley’s father entered the building. We got in the back of the station wagon in the very back where there was a seat that faced backwards. Darci and I were invited to spend the night at Shelley’s house. We had to return to the arena the following morning anyway. The three of us went down to the basement to watch television. On the shag carpeting on the floor record albums were scattered about. Shelley had an older brother and two older sisters who were in high school. Darci picked up an album cover and took the vinyl record and placed it on the turntable. The needle automatically set down on the outer edge of the disc as Simon and Garfunkle began to sing about bridges and troubled waters. We sat on the floor, mesmerised by the music. That was the turning point for our taste in music. It was not the Partridge Family or Bobby Sherman, it was something much deeper.That night we placed sleeping bags in front of the television and watched the tube until we fell asleep.
The next morning just as Saturday morning cartoons were beginning, we piled back into the car after having a large breakfast of pancakes, and made our way back to the ice arena. This was our routine between the ages of 5-9. Our group lessons were much more difficult now. As we stood on the ice waiting for our instructor, she showed up with a clipboard and a pile of papers in her hand. She took the stack of sheets and handed us each one. It was explained to us that the ice arena was going to put on a large ice show and our group was toing to be performing in it. I glanced at the paper and saw that it listed two weeks worth of performance dates and times. The young girls were all a buzz with excitement. We were told we would be in costumes and people would lbe applying makeup each night we performed. We all placed our papers on the bench behind the wall and returned to the ice. We began learning new spins, jumps and twirls that we would be doing during the show.
My mother picked us up and we piled into the giant yellow and white 1956 Ford. We were exhausted from practice and sat in silence. The news cam on the radio; Patty Hearst had been kidnapped and someone named Ted had murdered another woman. The hippies had done another sit-in and Nixon was sending more troops to Viet Nam.
I stepped onto the ice and the blades of my skates glided across the smooth surface. I turned my body and began crossing one foot over the other as I rounded a corner. I was five years old and warming up before my group lesson. My neighborhood friends Darci and Shelley followed behind me. As I approached the other end of the arena hockey players pounded onto the ice and hit a puck back and forth at that end of the arena. That area was reserved for their practice,
At the group lesson that day we were learning how to perform the camel. I lifted my right leg until lit was parallel with the ground while keeping my torso straight, all the while balancing on my left leg. My first attempts were wobbly, but eventually I got it. After the lesson the three of us stepped off the ice and made our way to the cafeteria. We sat on a wooden bench and watched the hockey players practice while sipping our hot chocolate. My legs hurt and I wanted to take my skates off. I got up and clomped to the locker room where I took my skating leotard and leggings off and changed into my street clothes.
As we left the building the Zamboni was making its way around the arena, smoothing out the ice. The noise from the machine was loud and I did not hear Shelley say that we needed to wait for her sister. Her arm reached out and tapped me on the shoulder, “We need to wait for Heidi.”
“Ok,”I said and stood against the window of the pro shop. I glanced at the display in the window, A pair of brand new shiny white skates were placed upon a stand underneath the latest style of skating leotard in purple. Oh how I wanted that pair of new skates.
This year I am living outside of my comfort zone. After losing my job I needed a way to earn an income quickly. I had several watercolor paintings I had done and decided to try and sell them. I set up a stand on Venice Beach and to my surprise I have sold all of the paintings I arrived with.
I have since expanded to acrylic paints and I am exploring abstract ideas and concepts. Venice Beach is a great place to begin as an artist. It does not cost anything to have a stand and the weather is usually pretty nice. The locals and tourists act as a test market for what an artist might experience off the beach.
The downside of supporting oneself as an artist is the money is not great. One has to learn to live on very little. Life as an artist is not for the faint at heart. One has to be willing to go for long periods without money, but it eventually comes. The waiting is the hardest part, to quote Tom Petty.
Life at the beach has been an amazing experience. I have grown as an artist and I have met some good friends. I am always inspired by the other artists I meet here. There is definitely a creative spirit in this town, and I think there always has been. It also inspires me to write. I have never experienced writer’s block, much to the dismay of some. Hopefully life as a starving artist will be short lived and I will become well fed.
I stared at the bull and he stared back at me. I was afraid he would charge at me if I moved. I stood still for a while and he continued to look at me. I decided I couldn’t be late for my class and quickly walked past him. He was actually tied to the ground with a post and a rope.
My host family in Ugale took me on some outings that I will never forget. One of the trips they took me on was cranberry picking. I love fresh cranberry sauce and was excited to be able to go picking. However I did not know that cranberries grow in bogs. Bogs are swampy water-filled flatlands with mosquitoes and flies everywhere. The berries grow in the marsh close to the ground. We each had a wicker basket that we filled with the berries we picked. Each time I bent down to get a handful of berries the mosquitoes and flies swarmed around my face. The picking of the cranberries was not fun but it was worth it. We were able to pick quite a few cranberries that we ate ate several meals.
Another outing I was taken on was a sailing trip. We went to a lake with an island in the middle and the only structure on this large lake was the dock. I boarded the boat with the other members of my host family and we set off sailing a course around the island. The island was a dangerous place I was told by one of the men in charge of our trip. It was said to have wild boar inhabiting the island, such as the one the grandfather had shot and killed.
I learned to drink one shot to be polite and then leave any other shots full so they would not refill. There is no way I could have taught classes with many shots of vodka. At the time I thought of how strange that would seem to Amveerican teachers, and maybe some would like it.
My students were well behaved, respectful and for the most part I did not have any trouble with students misbehaving. The only trouble I had was with a student in the 9th grade. Every day he would interrupt class and get his friends to do so as well. I decided I had to do something about their behavior. I went home and thought about some solutions and decided I would give them a try. I was the mean teacher who implemented a boy/girl seating chart, much to the dismay of the class. It broke up the group of boys from disrupting the class but one student continued to be a problem. I called on him to answer a question and he did not understand. I went on to another student and at the end of the class I asked the student to stay after. I asked him if he was having a hard time understanding the lessons. He told me yes. I told him I would be happy to work with him outside of class if he needed some tutoring. I did not have trouble with any students after that.
Once I started teaching I had to set up a bank account. The town had one bank and one afternoon I went in to start an account. The woman asked me my name and I told her Wendy. I saw she wrote down Vendija, the Latvian version of my name. I told her the Peace Corps would send my checks to Wendy B… She told me I could not have two names on my account. I agreed. She handed me my bank book with the name Vendija printed on it. I decided it was’t worth the fight and let it be. Most Latvians did call me Vendija, but on legal documents I was hoping to have my actual name.
One afternoon I was walking down the dirt street to the school after eating lunch at home. As I walked maybe a quarter of a mile I saw a bull standing in a field close to the side of the road. He had horns and stared at me as I approached. My heart stopped when I realized there was no fence around the field.