When I was a kid, it was a family tradition to pick up the national newspaper on Saturday, find the Dave Barry column, sit down with a giant cup of acidic coffee and listen to my dad read the words that made him laugh so hard his eyes would fill with tears.
My entire family (all three of us) loved Dave from the time we discovered a little piece he wrote entitled "How to Build a Board", or something like that. It was in the back of Popular Woodworking or Popular Mechanics or Popular Science or some other popular magazine. The column talked about how best to construct a plank of wood so it would be useful for killing spiders.
The color of the wood stain was key.
What occurred to me, is the awesomeness of what I'm about to share with you.
Last year, as part of my ongoing commitment to take on projects that help everyone in the world except me, I organized a fundraiser for our local arts centre. I called it "Guess Who". It was the second annual and it involved collecting over 100 works of art from everyone I could find - including celebrities.
The idea of the event is that all the work is the same price and it is all signed on the back. So - people don't know who they are buying, until after they've paid their money. Clever, right?
Year one (2010), I managed to wrangle 86 people including artist Robert Bateman, television personality Seamus O'Regan, Brenley and Lisa from Madison Violet, Bruce Springsteen photographer Peter Cunningham, comedian Lorne Elliot and some guy who once saw Madonna in the airport, into sending me their 6" x 8" creations. Burton Cummings didn't return my phone calls and I was this close to having a Jian Ghomeshi original until... well, that's a sordid tale, best left for another day.
Last year (2011), I was aiming for even more celebrity participants so I started canvassing early. Robert Bateman agreed for a second (but final) time, comedian Brent Butt said yes as did author Robert Munsch, Canada AM's Jeff Hutcheson, and Neil Osborne (54-40 people, 54-40!).
Then, on a whim, I decided to ask Dave Barry if he would whip up a little something for us. I found some contact information, crafted an email, sent if off and waited. Then a response arrived. I was busting... until I opened it...
In a nutshell, it read: "Blah, blah, blah. Due to the fact that Dave is affiliated with his own charities, he does not book any fundraiser events. Blah, blah, blah."
Damn. Dave's people misread my request. I thought about sending a box of rubber chickens to the address listed on the email, but instead, I went with a different approach.
I searched for (and found), a different email address for Mr. Barry. Another message went out -- and, like a boomerang, this one came in...
I responded with something to the effect of -- "Yes! Yes! Of course I'll send a canvas. I'll send paint. I'll send pie. Apple pie. With whipped cream. And a rubber chicken. Or a real chicken. Whatever it takes. Whatever Dave wants. I. Will. Send. It."
Naturally, I was thrilled. No. I was exquisitely elated. Giddy thoughts filled my brain. And secretly, I hatched a plan to squirrel away the Dave Barry original as soon as it arrived. I would create a counterfeit in its place.** Yeah, that's what I would do. I'm an artist dammit. No one would be the wiser.
I ran up the stairs (tripping along the way) to tell Geoff and Jan my news. I told my 3 year old daughter too. Her reply? "Why is your lip bleeding mommy?" The importance of the moment was really lost on her. I also shouted to my deceased father (because sometimes, I hope that he might hear me), "Dad! Dad! I got Dave Barry!"
On the day the canvas was returned, I walked around the house, grinning like a bushel basketful of possum heads, as memories of sitting with my mom, waiting to hear my father speak Dave Barry's words, flooded over me. The bluebird of happiness had truly flown up my nose and laid one hell of an egg.
So what if my buddy Dave (that's what I call him now) had signed on the front instead of the back. I didn't care. It was nothing that couldn't be covered up with a little paper and tape. Which is how it was presented at the fundraiser where a wonderful local lady bought it, just because it made her smile. And as it turns out, she is a huge fan.
Meanwhile, with the help of Dave's blue and yellow artistic gesture (and the efforts of more than 100 other canvas decorators), we raised nearly $14,000 for arts education. And that does not suck.
**No, I didn't make a copy and keep the original. Honestly.