By John R. Greenwood
Art savoring his gift, brings a wide smile to the artist
In my last post, I wrote about a painting I received as a gift from artist Chris Leske. It was a painting of my past life delivering dairy products in the city of Saratoga Springs. It was a ten-year span that made me rich. Not monetarily rich, but rich in the friends, stories, and experiences I amassed in the decade of the 80s. I now enjoy looking at that painting every day and seeing those years through a beautiful 8x10 window.
That gift was doubled today when I witnessed another friend receive his own painting from Chris. Along with my milk deliveries, Chris had equally fond memories of a coffee truck that pulled up in front of the Manle Auto Parts store every weekday morning. Manle's (now Scallions) was located on the corner next to The Parting Glass, where Chris worked. Art Bullet and his red truck with the stainless cap would circle the city, stopping wherever a group of workers could be found. Manle Auto Parts was locally owned and predated all the auto part chains of today. It was a daily ritual to see a large group gathered around Art's truck, getting their morning coffee and donuts. Chris recently captured that image in a beautiful watercolor painting. From the minute he rediscovered Art via Facebook, he had a vision of that truck parked on the corner.
You got more than something to eat and drink when Art showed up. He was a stand-up act that came right to your door Monday through Friday. In a pre-politically correct era, you were sure to be entertained by the coffee-truck comedian with a devilish grin and a dirty joke or three. It was his signature and his success. You didn't have to be hungry to look forward to hearing that unmistakable horn coming up Lake Avenue. You'd show up for the raucous laughter surrounding the truck for the next ten minutes. With money to make, a schedule to keep, and another twenty stops to get to, Art would pull down the hinged sides and take off down the road.
Art bought dairy products from me throughout those ten years, so I was speechless when Chris showed me the painting he'd done of the coffee truck. When he said he wanted to surprise Art with it, I knew I had to be there.
We all texted back and forth about getting together for some laughs and a cup of coffee. It took a week to coordinate a time and place to meet. We decided on a nearby Stewart's. Chris and I rode together while Art showed up on time as expected. Within minutes laughs were flying out of the corner booth like fireworks. There were almost forty years between those laughs, but they hadn't changed one iota. What followed was a three-way ping-pong of stories, jokes, and do-you-remembers. We roared when someone mentioned we'd become those same old men we used to kid about sitting in the Stewart's booth for hours.
Eventually, we ran out of steam, and Chris pulled out the painting. He'd posted a photo of the artwork on Facebook previously, so Art had seen it, but he had no idea he was about to be its owner. When Chris handed it to him, he froze like I did the week before. You could see those 80s running through his head like a runaway train. The three of us sat there in silence, soaking up the moment. The picture of the three of us wouldn't have made a great cover for a Hallmark Card, but the emotions associated with it could have sold millions.
This piece attempted to put into words the impact an act of kindness can have on someone. It was a gesture that couldn't be measured with any machine or gauge. It was an act straight from a generous heart brought to life with a paintbrush and fond memories. A perfect example of life being better through the gift of "Art."
Art's Coffee Truck