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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Such a Charles


In another lifetime, when I exhibited at art shows, there was a show at Lincoln Center. I applied for it on the proviso that Ann would accompany me, and Beth, if she could. I navigated some big cities in my time, and I mastered Long Island, but NYC was out of my league, alone. Without them, and Charles, I would know nothing about NYC except the GW and Throg’s Neck.

Booths ringed the perimeter of Lincoln Center, and were on the mall. These had to tear down every night, to accommodate patrons, so I chose a booth on the east side. To load in and out, I had to park the van on a road I think was called just Lincoln Center. We had a window of time to unload, then the van had to be moved. At that time I carried all the garments on wheeled garment racks, reducing the dolly loads to two or three.

But, at Lincoln Center, everything went down a long sidewalk, up several sets of shallow steps, and more long sidewalks to the booth. We took the booth structure first, and as I set it up, Ann and Beth began transporting the balance. I saw both garment racks coming down the walk, one propelled by Ann and Beth, and one by a tall man, expertly guiding his from the middle. It was Charles. He helped us load out, too. He would take no money for his work. He told us the best route back to the Hudson River parking lot, and to give panhandlers cigarettes, but no money.

Charles appeared at the show, with customers in tow. They shopped, but Charles was disappointed none of my shirts fit him. He was at least 6’6”, and his shoulders approached fifty inches. I knew I could custom make a shirt, with a flat fell seam up the back, using two lengths my forty inch wide fabric for the front and for the back, instead of two widths. It should have cost twice as much, but instead I gave him my “good friend” discount from the regular price.


At Lincoln Center

Thus repeated my time at the Lincoln Center show. I realized Charles was attracted to weavers as if weaving had been a profession in a previous life. He couldn’t collect enough of it, and that on a living as a bookseller, abiding in a NYC apartment. Between the shows, I often received little parcels from him. There were books, bits of fiber art, all sorts of weaving. Once a beautiful pine needle basket, from an indigenous weaver in Georgia came out of the box, and I had to chide Charles on his extravagance. How valuable did he consider a “good friend” shirt every year, with some towels for ballast.

When I retired the Lincoln show, Charles ordered fifteen towels, which he divvied out to friends, according to his erratic letters. Then came 9/11, and I lost track of him for a bit. Finally, my “don’t make me come find you” letter had a response, and in his very Charles way, he was completely consumed with volunteerism.

As happens, we did lose track over the next ten or so years. Last fall, though, Charles was out of towels. He sent a chatty letter to me, at the old house. It languished on the Hoosier; K forgot to give me the accumulating mail. When she did, I read six pages of Charles’ interesting handwriting, on sheets of handmade paper. I wonder what he doesn’t collect.

I answered him in January, with the crushing news. My towels are over, gone. If he had saved any for himself, he’d still be using them. (I might send him a twenty year old specimen from the towel drawer!) I recommended a good weaver to him, who makes towels for sale, using my favorite ring spun 8/2 cottons. I wonder where that weaver buys it. Stop it, Joanne. Too late now.

Yesterday, a package came from Charles. He is “downsizing.” Yea, and I have a bridge in Brooklyn. He has retired the bookstore, is writing his books and plays, and travelling all over the world. The same eclectic collection, tied up by two bits of ribbon, also saved from years ago, I’m sure, packed in the box. Such a Charles.


Charles does not want the other weaver’s towels, he says. So, I contacted the other weaver, and selected six towels to go to Charles, NYC via Peninsula. I do want to see them first, to be sure they are what I think they are.  I think I need to get the Shaker Towel pattern back from Praxis, and commission a few. Think of it! Paying for towels.


A book, Wisdom Weaver. Postcards from his Russo/Asian travels. A continuous strap, from an indigenous weaver in Brazil. Probably to hold a baby or a jug. Some blue scraps pieced neatly to a damask napkin. I recognize the initials as an old friend of his. She died one of the last times we corresponded. Charles was very distraught.


The big towel fish that got away! Love it.

22 comments:

  1. What a wonderful story! And how fabulous to have met - and stayed in touch with this interesting fellow.

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  2. I'll agree with Marty. Charles seems like a fascinating man. You're lucky to have him as a friend.

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  3. Such an interesting person. Great story!

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  4. I love your story and I definitely needed that reminder of how wonderful people can be (given today's opposite kind of person in his press conference). I'll sleep better.

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  5. What a sweet friendship.I so enjoyed this story. Thank you.

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  6. What an interesting sounding person, you do know some interesting people.

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  7. Hari om
    ...and all this makes YOU one of the most interesting folk I know :-) Love expresses in so many wonderweft ways!!! YAM xx

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  8. Yes, you do know some interesting people. It is so good to hear a story about human beings behaving as they should. Being nice, thoughtful, helpful. I used to think most of us were like that. Nowadays, I think "Charlies " are few and far between. Thanks for affirming that some still exist.

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  9. I don't have a Charles in my life. I wish I did. Glad you have one in your life :)

    betty

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  10. Charles sounds like a wonderful person, there should be more like him in the world.
    I hope you can find the towel pattern and have some made for him. I'm still loving mine.

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  11. These sort of relationships make life worth living, every single day. We are the richer if we are wise enough to have them.

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  12. Charles sounds fascinating. A handwritten letter! Such a beautiful artifact.

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  13. This Charles sounds almost like an angel. A very interesting very human angel. How wonderful to have him in your life.

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  14. What a treasure of a friendship. Thanks for sharing.

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  15. Amazing that you have kept in touch all these years. We did a job for a guy, two full size door lites for his front entry. He asked us if we had ever kept up with any of our customers as we had hit it off pretty well and he had talked about having us over for dinner or some such. He was amazed that we had not developed any relationships. So I was surprised, or not so surprised, that the dinner invite never came. He came to our open house that year which was months later, but not since.

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  16. I think that Charles recognized a good thing when he came across it. A friendship with a kindred spirit. Rare and to be treasured!

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  17. Wonderful, Joanne! I think relationships like these are very exciting (if one manages to keep a little distance).

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  18. Someone recently said to me that someone we both knew was a little crazy... and I changed the word to eccentric and said that I have found that eccentric people are much more interesting than the norm. We should all be a little crazy.
    And I loved seeing that *letter*! I used to love writing letters. People don't write letters anymore. They email or text (which is good, but not the same - not like old letters tied up with ribbon and saved in shoeboxes).

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  19. Interesting story. Great to find help in big cities.

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  20. I met just such a friend here seven years ago. After he left this area and moved on, we kept in touch and it was always easy to pick up where we left off. He was a young msn, same age as my oldest son and he was a big comfort to me when my son died. I was in Minnesota going over wedding details with my daughter when I learned that he had died from a "hospital" infection. I was as devastated as when my own child died. I still think of him often.

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