City of Destiny, Featuring Eric Lipschitz (excerpt)

MONDAY

This City’s gonna kill me. Not quite tourist season yet so things are slow at the studio and gallery. I swear, if it doesn’t stop raining. Sold four of Holly’s stars though. The blown-and-pressed ones made from obsidian she picked up on one of her Mount Rainier hikes. She figured out the melting point was up around 2900 F, 2600 with some kind of flux added (lead oxide I’m guessing, but who knows?), but still somehow managed to get our large furnace up that high. I dunno how she does it, but they look badass. Fuckin volcano. She should jump in next time. Would skin fry on contact?

Teaching a class tomorrow. Letting Holly assist again. Don’t know why she bothers — she’s already good enough to work on her own. Better than me? We’ll see. I keep telling her I can give her studio time. She keeps pretending like it’s no big deal, like she’s just passing the time. “Whatever, it’s a hobby I can’t afford,” she’d say. I could kill her for that. To think we share the same genes. She’s just jealous: she believes her fate is to live poor and die in Tacoma. No ambition. I keep thinking I’m going to visit her on her property one of these days and she’ll just be sitting out front in that rocking chair, swallowed up by the moss; the only visible part of her an outstretched hand, puffy from the rain, holding a cigarette. It’s this city, I swear. It likes her. I don’t believe in fate, but if I did I’d say I was destined to be huge.

I’m ready to start forming the octopus. In addition to the sketches, I’ve even done some research. Enteroctopus dofleini. The North Pacific Giant Octopus, largest of its kind in the world. Reaches sizes of up to 165 lbs. Makes its home right here, under the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Amazing animal. Able to drown divers, it only lives a few years, but can lay up to a hundred thousand eggs at one time. It can eat its prey by pulling it apart with the powerful suction of its tentacles, it can bite it open with a razor-sharp beak inside its mouth, or it can literally drill a hole — in a shell, say — by licking its chops and drooling on it. Its saliva dissolves and softens the shell, and then its tiny beak goes to town on the motherfucker, opening a hole just wide enough for the octopus to slurp out the clam chowder. Smart, too: in captivity, these guys have been known to climb up an aquarium wall and remove the lid. Suicidal, but smart.

On the outside, the giant octopus is all coarse wrinkles and folds from head to tentacle, spiky even, with loose paddle-like papillae near what I guess would be its face. Underneath, however, is a beautiful bone-white animal with smooth flesh and soft undulations. I won’t be able to capture that unless I drop color on the inner flesh with frosted opaque white glass. Maybe I’ll pucker some appliqué on the surface a bit to make the spiked skin and papillae. The trick will be to attach the tentacles so it looks organic. It’s got to feel alive.

I’ve got all the soda-lime batch I need and the color rods I ordered from Olympic, Chris has loaned me a compressor and sandblaster, and I’ve got the zanfirico cane rods I’ll need for the outer color — caneworking’s the one thing I haven’t done a lot of that I’m not sure of. I’ve got my sketches all worked out, and I know how I’m going to pull this off if the damn cane will obey me and not end up sagging in a muddy mess. The tentacles are still giving me trouble, but I can work on that while the head is annealing. I’m feeling good about the whole thing: this is by far the biggest project I’ve undertaken, and I think it’s good. Really good. My ticket out of here, if I don’t fuck up.

If I’m right, then someday I’ll be famous, and you’ll read my diaries and you will nod and understand that this was the moment. The same week his girlfriend took a job in D.C. and left him, Eric Lipschitz created the first of his breakthrough series, the Giant Octopuses.

And if I’m wrong, well, Tacoma will swallow me up, too. Even as she sleeps she’s always got one eye open and watching. I feel it all the time.

 

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