Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Memories to Last a Lifetime

I work with a guy named Peter Ambush. He's an extremely talented artist, specializing in portraits. Anyway, he's leaving the paper we work at, to pursue a career as both a full-time artist and musician.

It's bittersweet, because of course, I'm happy for Petey, as I'm always happy for people who chase their dreams. But I'm sad, too, because Petey is a friend, and I'll miss him.

But no matter what happens in Petey's life, and in my life, for that matter, Peter Ambush will always have a place in my heart, because of some work he did for me (and at a discount, no less!).

My parents' 35th anniversary was a couple of years ago, and I wanted to do something special. My parents don't really need anything, and I'm anything but a party planner, but I was too young to do anything for their 25th, so I wanted to do something special for this anniversary.

So here's what I did: I hired Petey.

I stole my parents' wedding album under false pretenses (I gave it back; what kind of dipshit you think I am? don't answer that.) and I gave it to him. Then I gave him some photos I'd taken of them just the previous holidays, a few months before.

And Peter painted a masterpiece.

In the foreground is a picture of my parents, today, together, smiling, in bright color. In the background, in sepia tone, is my parents, together on their wedding day. Petey combined two pictures from the wedding album, and made them into one beautiful portrait. So in sum, the portrait is my parents on their wedding day in 1967, and 35 years later, showing how they may look a little different, but their love stayed the same.

Of all the things I might inherit someday from my parents, that may be the most important to me. I couldn't believe how it turned out, and I'll never forget what Peter did for my parents, for me, for my family. (He went on to paint portraits of both my sets of grandparents, and they're beautiful, too.)

The other painting I'll remember, though, has nothing to do with my immediate family.

My best friend, David Steinruck, and his wife, Jennifer, had their first child in 2002, after something of a struggle (which I can relate to, as my parents didn't have any children of their own, finally adopting me). Their son, Benjamin, who I lovingly think of as my nephew (Dave and I are ketchup brothers, but that's a story for another day), was eventually joined by twin sisters, Charlotte and Gabrielle, but back at Christmas 2002, it was just Ben.

That fall, Dave, a die-hard Flyers fan, got the monthly picture of Ben in a Flyers jersey, and unbeknownst to him or Jenni, I took that photo to Petey.

And Petey painted a lovely portrait of Ben, adding an "02" to his jersey and putting him in full hockey gear.

So I wrapped it up and gave it to them for Christmas.

What I'll never forget is that, when Jenni opened the package, she did it so the back was facing her. She knew it was a picture of some kind, but when the wrapper came off, I wish I had a camera to capture Dave's face.

She didn't know how to take it, he was so shocked, and I think she was afraid to turn it around, lest I (just about his only friend who didn't marry one of her friends) have given them the gift of porn or something.

But of course, when she saw the front, she was just as stunned and delighted.

The point isn't that I give good gifts. Lord knows, I try, but I certainly don't always succeed.

The point is, one of the wonders of art is that it can have meaning far beyond a lovely portrait. I'll never forget Peter Ambush, and I'll recommend him to anyone, because not only does he do fabulous work, he does work that transcends art and becomes part of your life, part of your memories, part of the things you cherish.

When I think of the good things in my life, those are two of the moments that stand out, and I couldn't have done it without Petey. My God, the wonder of art. It chokes me up just thinking about those pictures, those moments, those memories.

I highly recommend you give it a try for your family. Photos are nice, but a beautiful portrait truly defines "work of art." And if you do give it a try, get in touch with Petey. He'll do ya right. Take my word for it.

Petey doesn't have a Web site. E-mail him at pambush@mac.com if you want him to do some work for ya! (Yes, he gave me permission to put his e-mail here. No, I don't have a clue how to make an e-mail link. It's worth typing it yourself.)
I found a picture by Petey online, so here's a sample of his work
The Philadelphia Flyers, Dave's favorite team

My "Contender" addiction came to a head this weekend, when I hauled ass to get home from Maryland in time to see the show, only to see my favorite fighter, Anthony "The Bullet" Bonsante, get decked by Jesse Brinkley in a fight he had won until he walked into a knockout shot. I can only hope Bonsante snares a spot on the undercard of the "Contender" title fight later this month. He deserves it. You gotta admire a 30-something single dad who wears his "#1 Daddy" hat in a house full of macho young guys and talks about his "real" job, and openly cries when he talks about raising his kids. And you gotta love a fighter who's just an animal in the ring. This guy cries when his little kids come to see him, and then in the ring he has the look of a complete and utter sociopath. He just comes out swinging and doesn't stop, and that's good TV - even if it cost him in the end. The show won't be the same without him, even if the final four really are probably the best fighters in the bunch. Joey Gilbert and Bonsante made for some top-notch reality TV. So, hey, if you want to do something for me, go to the Contender site and vote for Bonsante in the fan-favorite poll. It'll be good TV.

(How'd you like that attempt to put links into text, huh?)