Whenever I’m in a city/town/hamlet by an ocean – I look for a street called “Embarcadero”. Because I have had many a great experience on streets named that. There seems to be a huge selection of great food, great music, and interesting people to be found.
Yesterday the street was in Moro Bay, CA. My wife booked a rental house for our family vacation in a town I didn’t even know existed. Come to find out it has a working fishing community and a terrific street called Embarcadero. People just seem to be friendlier on streets of that name, willing to talk and share their lives–and it might just be me, but you see unique things. I’m going to share one photo as a case in point…
You’ve got to admit, there’s something you don’t see everyday.
So the whole street has this great vibe going, and there’s lots of interesting places to stop and talk to people. There’s a cool sound to it too, as you walk along the large wooden planks that make up the boardwalk, hearing that hollow wooden sound with every step. A wide variety of fascinating smells come to you too. One minute it smells like a pretty woman that just walked by, and the next you catch a whiff of the garbage that must be sitting behind one of the many restaurants, and after that the distinct aroma of a steaming pot of clam chowder. But mostly it’s that clean, salty, ocean smell that I find myself longing for when I’ve been in the Salt Lake valley for too long.
As I wandered down one particular part of the boardwalk, I saw a gallery of various paintings. I stepped inside and was immediately greeted by an artist who was painting in the corner. He told me that if I had any questions to feel free to ask. I’m pretty sure he didn’t realize who he was asking – I tend to have a lot of questions! An hour and a half later I left the gallery with a story of a man who has taken a very interesting journey through life.
Larry told me that when he graduated from high school he got a job repping surf and snowboard gear. His area covered all of California, Nevada, and parts of Utah. Within six months he was making more than his mom and dad combined – and living high on life. He told me he loved his life for the first two years. He would spend two or three weeks a month on the road, and said he was on the phone pretty much twenty-four hours a day. He was living fast and making lots of money. According to him the first two years were a riot, the second two years were a lot like work, and the final two years felt a lot like hell.
He found himself wondering if this was “it”. Was this really what the rest of his life would be? Working harder and harder to make bigger and bigger numbers? He wondered where the reward was in that. Where was the fun in life?
He said when he was a kid his grandmother would give him an art kit for his birthday every year. One of those big trays full of crayons, colored pencils, markers, various kinds of paper, and water color paints and brushes. Every year he would use all of the materials except the water color paints.
One weekend he had just returned home from a week on the road selling surf gear, and he decided to pull out that pile of leftover watercolor paints and try painting. He painted what was in his heart, ocean scenes. He sold gear for people who played in the ocean, but he never had the chance to go himself. He was missing the ocean so that’s what he painted. Two small 5×7 paintings appeared at the end of his brush, and he liked them enough to hang them in the entry way to his home.
A friend came over and liked them – asked how much Larry would sell them for. When Larry told his friend that he had painted them, the friend wanted them even more. He paid Larry $20 each for those first two paintings. Larry laughed and told me he took that $40 and went and bought the beer for the party that night. But that initial success with painting stuck with him as he continued working brutal hours and making the big money…
Then one day six years into it, he just snapped. He’d had it. He quit his job, sold all of his stuff, and moved to Kauai. There he lived in a dumpy apartment, selling his paintings occasionally and surfing every day. He intended his time there to be a break to regroup and rethink his life. But soon he realized he wanted this to be his life.
He moved back to Moro Bay and decided to treat painting like a business. He set strict hours for himself to paint, and strict hours to sell. He started by approaching restaurants and coffee houses to display his work, and later combined forces with another artist to start the gallery that he and I were talking in.
Now he has a wife and kids. He works/paints at the gallery three days a week, still keeps his sales hours going, but he can spend a lot of time with his kids. LIfe is fun for him now. Oh sure, there are ups and downs. He said he might have a $10,000 month, but it might be two more months before he makes another sale. But overall it’s growing, he’s making a name for himself, developing a following.
He’s never taken an art class. He simply followed his heart. Now he supports his family, not only financially, but by spending time with them too, and he’s been doing it full time for eight years. He and his partner plan to double their gallery space at the end of their current lease.
Following his heart paid off. Larry is happy. I’m glad for the time I got to spend with him.