Diane Cable


1979 Sketch Book, brown soft cover, spiral bound, 5.5" x 8.5" small painting of a flower on the cover.

This sketch book represents, almost entirely, my trip to Boulder, Colorado; I had another sketch book that accompanies this one but it carries over into things that were in and about Athens, Georgia. This small book is about Boulder and my "adventures" there.

I had made a bus trip to Boulder in late August of 1979. There I met up with friends who had decided to spend some time in that town themselves; they, too, were from Athens. I would consider this my part of my "bohemian" person—one willing to get up and go for the sake of getting up and going. I had read Tolkein's "Hobbit," and "Trilogy of the Ring" more than ten times by this date. Tolkein always inspired me to "travel the path that leads ever onward to the unknown; and, from whence it comes, no one knows."

The first few pages of this sketch book were probably done on the bus from St. Louis to Denver. I know this must be the case because the drawing on page 4 was done of a homeless man I saw when I first arrived in Boulder. He lay sleeping, inside the "office" of the anti-nuclear movement of Boulder. I think he was sort of "watching the store," one might say. But for him, it provided temporary repose. I saw him several times during my stay in that town; always homeless, always looking for a place to sleep. My first hour in Boulder; what an auspicious beginning.

I waited at this office until my friend, Wayne, (this is well into the "Wayne Error" period of sketch books), arrived. He had been there for a month, looking for a place for us to live. Although the apartment he found was not ready for occupation, we found lodgings for the night at a friend's house then made ready to move into our one-bedroom apartment situated above a small weight-lifting gym and across from the infamous "Liquor Mart" of Boulder. The place was located in downtown Boulder and altogether rather "cheesy" and cheap. It fit us perfectly.

In 1976, I had made my first trip abroad to Europe and returned to a severe case of culture shock. Boulder, in itself, was a kind of culture shock. The first day I was there, I saw a convertible drive by on Pearl Street that had a live, full grown bear in the back seat. Another car passed a bit later that was literally stuffed with palm trees. Yes, the University of Colorado is there but that did not completely explain the "strangeness" of this place. People here were rude, unfriendly, and unwilling to be friendly. Wealth was here as was dire poverty. Families were homeless yet found Boulder to be an easy place to pass the summer and early Autumn. They were bums and alcoholics and drug attics that lived here and there amongst the Boulder back allies. This could be juxtaposed to the sturdy upper middle class that occupied vintage housing of the "Mork and Mindy" type. Further out in the mountains were the palaces and ranches of the very wealthy. But there seemed to be a degree of toleration for any type who happened to be there. In the brief time I was there, I never met anyone who was "from" Boulder; born and raised there. It seemed that everyone I knew was transient, including Wayne and myself; there for just a time and then with no immediate plans to move on.

The Hari Krishnas were practically an institution in this town. Every Wednesday they provided a generous meal for the homeless: pinto beans, corn bread, salad, and some sort of fruit for dessert; it was good food, too. In airports, the Hari Krishnas are avoided like the plague, but I wanted to talk with them, especially the girls and women. I found these people to be truly generous and loving—or at least this was their public image. The young women were nuns; chaste; as were the young men. I don't know that I can proclaim what they were truly like because I saw them just once a week, if I happened to be walking by the town's central park. They offered me food, once when I came by. I cannot remember if they expected a donation but I thought them very generous, considerate, and kind. Not like anyone else I was meeting in the town.

Wayne, who was a cook, worked for the "Good Earth Restaurant." It was a high end restaurant with prices that prohibited us from ever eating there. Prices there in the town were generally high, overall. Wayne and I rarely ate out but he would occasionally sneak home leftovers from the restaurant. So, I had to find a job as soon as I arrived.

Drawings of note:

Page 6: There were a lot of people looking for work in Boulder. There was a day labor office about a two mile walk from our apartment. My first days in Boulder were spent making that trek and signing a list of waiting people who might be called up for temporary employment. This small drawing represents the number of poor people there, each waiting and hoping to have their name called—for a day's work, for perhaps a week's work, and longer stretches of time for the more fortunate. I was part of this group who were comprised mostly of men—young and old.

And, within a few days, I was employed—insulating the lower level of a newly constructed warehouse. The area I covered (I worked alone) was not less than three square acres. The insulation was in rolls, 30 feet long, 8 inches thick; I had to climb 12 foot scaffolding to impale and secure the rolls of insulation on 10 inch nails glued to the ceiling. The nails were glued in place by me, as well. All of this was done above my head. Although I wore protective clothes, duct taped my wrists and taped my collar closed daily, I did not stop itching for the entire length of time I took to finish this job—which was about a month; my skin continued to be irritated for two weeks afterward. The tiny particles of fiber glass found their way into the skin of my face, back, front, and arms. Regardless of numerous showers, the itching would not cease until the particles grew out of my skin. It was a tortuous job for which I was paid $400.

When it was finished, I applied to the Liquor Mart; I was hired the next day as a cashier.

In 1979, the digital cash register had yet to either be invented or make a commercial appearance. At the Liquor Mart of Boulder there were ten checkout lanes, each with an enormous cash register, half the size of a human being; they were the old fashioned cash registers that had buttons, clickers, and a roll out cash drawer. The business was open from eight in the morning until ten at night. The Liquor Mart of Boulder never lacked for business. The shelves went on forever and carried every kind of booze that could be had from all over the world. They stocked very expensive champagnes as well as cheap ones; rare and expensive bottles of wine were on display behind a large locked glass door casing.

The many homeless people of the town I came to know on a first name basis because they were there every day. From their panhandling or from whatever source they got money, they were there to buy cheap wine. A wine called "Night Train" came in gallon bottles for about seven dollars. That was the favorite of the homeless and the street people. I remember a young couple in their early to mid-twenties; they had four children. They spent their summers on the streets of Boulder. For the winter, they caught rides to Key West to live on the streets there. The couple visited the Liquor Mart of Boulder daily and the gallon bottle of "Night Train" was their drink of choice, or, perhaps best said, the drink they could afford.

It was at the Liquor Mart of Boulder that I observed that "The Wild West" was still very much alive. Young men were hired to stock the shelves; there were five to ten of them at work there all the time. But, they were hired not only to stock the shelves but to also keep an eye out for shop lifters. Now, in a large liquor store like this one, it weekly attracted at least one stupid kid from the University or some poor alcoholic who would try to ease a small bottle of Jack Daniels or some other kind of smaller bottle of booze into their inside coat pockets or trouser pockets and try to walk out of the store without paying for it. This was what the guys who were hired as stockers lived for—to keep an eye out for shoplifters and to stop them before they got out the door. Once the shop lifter had passed the cash register, not paying for the stolen booze, all of the stock guys descended upon him and beat the hell out of him, right there at the front doors of the Boulder Liquor Mart; afterward one of them would hold up the stolen bottle of whiskey as if proof that they were right, as if it were some sort of trophy. The police would arrive, handcuff the poor bastard, and further his embarrassment by placing him under arrest and physically hauling him out to the police car.

I worked at the Liquor Mart for three months; I witnessed these thefts and the following beatings five times. I could not stand to watch it so I would just simply turn away and close my eyes and ears; it seemed to me that barbaric. Once, one of the stock boys, while they were in the act of inflicting punishment fully approved by the store owners, asked me if I wanted to "get in on some of the action."! said nothing, only turning away so that I couldn't see the fists pounding against any and all parts of the thief's body. Seeing this kind of action, I knew that the Old West manner of doing business had not died away altogether.

Page 7: Boulder had a downtown open mall where no cars were allowed; only foot traffic. Alongside this was a large and lovely public park. Here one could see many different types of musicians performing for their friends or for the public's generosity. It was good drawing subject matter, too.

Page 8: Our closest and dearest friends that we made in Boulder were Mr. and Mrs. Pooh, Pooh I, and Pooh II. They were a family of grey squirrels that we kept well fed with nuts and peanut butter. As soon as we opened out back door, they were always there to greet us, not fearing us, taking nuts offered from the palm of a hand.

Page 14: This is the interior of our small furnished apartment. We were often hospitable to desperate people in need of a place to sleep. The couch and the floor were occupied sometimes for a night or two for those who were "passing through Boulder."

Pages 15 - 20: These are drawings done with a ball point pen—from my imagination. Perhaps it was because of the Boulder environs of homeless, directionless people that these drawings take on the theme of human precariousness and helplessness.

Page 21: Our small apartment overlooked the Liquor Mart of Boulder; I had this daily view. I had to put it down in my sketch book so that I would never forget it.

Page 22: Wayne loved to sunbathe in the nude on the roof of the apartment. I captured this view of him once.

Page 23: By myself, I would take walks around the western area of Boulder; the landscape was overwhelming.

Page 25: This man spent more than one night on our couch.

Page 28: I was able to do in depth studies of Wayne for a portrait. If he was not at work, or running, he was lying down, reading, or trying to take a nap. He proved to be an excellent model.

Page 29: I made reference to this drawing in a speech I gave at my father's funeral. I was trying to make the point that my father was a complex man—one who had done much public good throughout his life. But when he came home, he would hang up his "mask du jour" and seek out the peace and quiet of solitude or the company of my mother; he would want nothing to do with the rest of the world once he was at home.

Pages 35 - 37: These are rough sketches of the landscape west of Boulder. How did W. M. Turner create such magnificent water color studies in his tiny watercolor sketch book?

Page 38: This image shows up often at various times and in various sketch books.

Page 41 and 42: I have mentioned in another passage of another sketch book that a Laundromat is a good place to draw people that are sitting and waiting. The man depicted here was of special interest. He was sitting/lying in the floor. I have made a descriptive entry: His feet were swollen. He wore no socks. He wore tennis shoes, blue, untied. Also he had on a navy coat of navy blue color. For the rest though, he was dressed in dark blue garbage bags with duct tape all around and up the crouch. He talked in his sleep, if he was sleeping. He carried a green plastic bag taped up with grey duct tape full of garbage or what I would call garbage. His eyes were blue; his hair a sandy grey. He was heavy and slow.

Every time I look at this drawing, that moment I saw him comes back to me quite vividly as does the feeling of pity.

Pages 50 and 51: After six months in Boulder, it was time to return home. I could feel the long distance between me and my mother. If I were needed at home, how would I get there? I wondered what I was to do next. This drawing shows that I felt as if I were gazing into a deep, dark tunnel.

Pages 55-59: Here is Wayne taking a nap on the couch and presenting me with the opportunity to do several drawings.

Page 63: In late December we left Boulder to make our way back to Athens. Rob and Marty were good friends who attended the University of Colorado. Although from New York, they offered to veer south and deliver us home. Over the next several days of car travel, Marty asked me to create a drawing. I provided him with this image.

Pages 67-68: Wayne and I were both hired back by the Eldorado Cafe when we arrived in Athens, Georgia. He was taken on as a cook; I as a prep-cook and waitress. These sketches represent some labels I designed for their new bakery business.

Dianne Cable, July 20, 2011