Saturday, May 15, 2010

Local Artist Lewis Greenberg has New Troubles/Old Friends

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I visited Lewis at his house today. He must be getting smaller because I had to duck a tad when I got inside. There was a cool Mobil hanging (more like a series of mobiles) from the ceiling and it might have pulled the cartilage clean out of my ear had I not done the Lewis dance when entering his foyer. I didn't mind. I was a guest in his house and I always look forward to visiting, just to see how things might have evolved. I like to do this to get a mental picture of things in the Lewis world. Most of the art has been displayed for many years yet he occasionally highlights a thing or two, usually if it relates to a current conflict or something that has energy and needs his attention. His art changes in some ways, remains the same in others, the way he cleans it and the way he cares for it. It is always being moved around, always being primped and tidied. Lewis's house is not in the least bit untidy. "Tidy" is subjective, just like "art".

Lewis lives and plays out the part of an artist, wears cool jewelry made out of meaningful stones and beads. He struts around in a cycling team kit all day, drinks coffee, espresso, in an assortment of cool coffee houses between Ballwin and University City. He talks it up with the locals at every shop. He has gotten kicked out of a few too. He can be quite charming, and socializes almost everywhere he goes. Lewis loves to socialize. Did I mention he is an artist. It is his function, his way of life. He was first an art teacher, now he is "just" an artist. Artist, then art teacher, now artist again. He makes art and displays it at his home, on his property as authentically as the way his day unfolds, each day, an inspired unfolding event of art. The minute his eyes open, the canvass appears.

Lewis has a challenge in front of him Monday. According to recent documents he was supposed to clean up his yard in response to a complaint that the city filed several months ago. The prosecuting attorney did a site visit back in early May, against Lewis's better judgment, and the long list of "art changing" requirements showed up in the mail a few weeks later--a long list of things that he must do in order to comply with or (as threatened by the judge and prosecuting attorney) be jailed for failure to comply, or for contempt, or for whatever card the legal system wants to play. It doesn't seem realistic that a county judge can threaten, much less order jail time for non-compliance in a case like this. It doesn't seem prudent that a prosecuting attorney has the power to seek access, visit and point to things on a private residence: that which he decides what should stay--or what should go. There were numerous photos taken, numerous items to be addressed. Words like "removal", "clear", "move", littered the letter written from the County.

The best I can, I help Lewis figure this stuff out, sort it out, for his own decision making process. I help put stuff in perspective, try and give him the grounded message in the clutter of things. His mind works in a constant state of clutter, due to his condition. His expression, while seemingly un-organized is quite brilliant, if you take the time and patience to hear him out. I am one of those people, those who take the time. I am an honest person in seek of the truth, like any citizen. I prefer not to engage others in my opinion of what is fair, or how I would feel living next to him. I would be lucky to have somebody as loyal and as warm a spirit as Lewis living next to me.

Yep, I felt sorry for the old guy one day when he had a flat on his bike and didn't have a spare tube. We got his bike going. It was the first time I met him and the last time I would wonder "who Lewis Greenberg was". Most people around here have heard of him. I know Lewis Greenberg now and I made him a promise 6 years ago. I told him that I would never try and change him, and that I would never exploit him. I did try and get him to be a celebrity starter for the Dirt Crits one year. Bad idea.

Lewis is like a son who turns out to be...well...not exactly what you thought he should be. It is parenting in reverse. I felt the same way about my father, and likely so do others. Those who thought they bargained for something different. I am lucky to have had the father I had, because of the shape I took as a result. It is the same way in our community. If we are tolerant, a magic unveiled over time reveals a spirit so strong, so enormously significant that, if you go with it, you will learn a thing or two about yourself.

Free Lewis will be the task on Monday. Stay tuned for reports. Monday is the big day.


Joe Griffard said...


I respect you tremendously and agree with you in most situations. But not this one. I think of you were Lewis' neighbor you might have a different outlook on this issue.

Ralph Pfremmer said...

Were are all his neighbor.

Trail Monster said...

Good Luck Lewis!

Old Guy Bob said...

As I cycle around the St Louis area I see many yards that are decorated to the hilt with what the home owners feel are attractive yard art. I don't hear about those home owners getting harassed by the county police. Why is that? Is it because Lewis is in West County? Is it because he is a little different in his thinking and actions?

I have known Lewis for many years and he is a good person who should be just left alone, like the other home owners who decide to decorate their homes differently than their neighbors.

T.F. Maher said...

Lewis was an occasional visitor to my store, many years ago, before all of his current notoriety.
Most visits were prefaced with "I don't suppose you have this, but..." Invariably these questions involved something simple, like a tube or cable. At first it was merely annoying; then it became really annoying. Then my customary greeting when he entered the store became "No, Lewis, we don't have whatever you are looking for."
Condescension was his norm, which of course was like waving a red flag in front of me.

Another endearing trait (again, this was long before his yard clutter episodes) was his asking for an answer vis-à-vis a bike part/service, being given the CORRECT and ACCURATE answer - and then being told by him that a magazine or the U.City backyard "mechanic" gave a 180-degree different answer and that I was wrong.
Oh, yes - and his being dumbfounded when a shifting problem on his Kestrel was solved by using the proper SIS casing instead of the brake casing that the U.City person had installed. "How can you be right, when ___ built this bike?"
Gawrsh - I was right...

My sympathies rest with his neighbors. Excusing his yard clutter is easy when one does not live near him.
I do wonder if the local Holocaust Museum has ventured an opinion.

Ralph Pfremmer said...

Thanks for the comment. I choose to subscribe to the fact that there will be an education, a lesson. The dude ain't stupid, just confused at times. He seems to be hinting at this. And I don't mean a negative outcome, one of intelectual meaning. His personality is that which you must subscribe, btw. Not like the junk mail status quo of meaningless drivvle.