People sometimes pop into your life and, in no time, leave an indelible impression. That’s what’s so with Ed Newman, who stayed at my house for a couple of days in March.
On the surface Ed and I are as different as chalk and cheese, as the British say.
He’s a white guy from Minnesota. He sports a baseball cap. I’m a black woman, a Caribbean immigrant, dreadlocked. He lives in a region I’ve never considered even visiting, having my origins in the tropics and a strong aversion to ice and snow. I have chosen a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C., as far into the American South as I can culturally bear to live, and where the winters aren’t all that bad.
Yet the commonalities are striking.
Ed is a writer, like me. He has been blogging for more than 2 decades—“Have been known online as Ennyman since the mid 1990s…” his blog bio says—and posts to his multiple blogs almost every day.
“Every day???” I ask, incredulous. “Where on earth do the ideas come from?”
“It’s more like, ‘How do I find time to write down all the ideas that come to me!’ That’s the question!” he says.
Ed, who still holds down a day job, begins every single day sitting at his computer. As he moves through life he gathers sights and sounds and impressions – and takes lots and lots of pictures. I imagine that by now, with such long practice, the blog is almost writing itself as he frames his shots, the words and pictures weaving themselves into stories that then, in one hour every morning, get formalized and posted.
This has led to a fantastic body of work.
Ed chronicles the art scene in the environs around the city of Duluth which, I now know, is a community bursting with artists and musicians. He is himself a painter, and one of his blogs is a showcase for his own work. Duluth is also the birthplace of legendary folk singer Bob Dylan, and home to a good-sized Dylan cult. Ed also writes frequently about music.
He has mastered the art of visual storytelling in this digital world where images dominate, where the pictures so often are the story. In the blog “Ennyman’s Territory” every mid-week the post is titled “Wordless Wednesdays,” and is comprised exclusively of photos. When he came to us he had just returned from St. Petersburg–Florida, not Russia–and his posts that week were of the previous trip: art exhibitions, museums, murals, people, and statuary. Stunning.
He is also the author of six books, including a new primer on learning to write.
Ed walked into my modest little home and claimed to be inspired! One is, of course, flattered by this. I’ve done what I can to feather this nest, and my friends and visitors seem comfortable here, but it is by no means posh. My furniture is from Ikea.
I have often wondered at my contentment with this tiny 1940s-era bungalow; everyone else I know has square footage that would encompass my home’s entire footprint in their living rooms. All I have of any value, other than great relationships with the people in my life, is art.
So, naturally, we clicked.
Some of the small touches featured in the post I have long since ceased to consider remarkable: the candle-less “zebra” candlestick holders; the ashtray fashioned like an exuberant woman drumming at a masquerade, picked up years ago at a thrift shop in Takoma Park, origin unknown. I barely notice these things anymore, although when I do they still give me joy. But, seeing them for the first time, Ed really saw them.
He also loved the artwork of my friends Tunde Odunlade, Caryl Henry Alexander, and Carlos Uribe (most of the framed art in my house is the work of friends). He focused on the small prints from the up-and-comer and Odunlade protege, Nigerian printmaker Gbenga Adibi.
Thanks, Ed, for your wonderful visit. And for modeling how this blogging thing is done: the creation, the commitment, the rigor – and the sheer joy – of writing. I’m the one who’s inspired!
Maybe this year, when the tundra thaws, I’ll go check out Minnesota.
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