Charles Daly

Storyteller

Category: Blog (page 1 of 14)

Make Peace or Die Featured in the Cape Cod Chronicle

By: Debra Lawless

“One rainy Sunday a couple of years ago, Christine Daly of Chatham was sorting through a century-old box of photos of her husband’s family in Ireland when she made an astonishing discovery.

Beneath the “piles and piles” of photos, she found a “big old tattered Manilla folder” marked “WH.” In it were 200 or 300 typed four-by-six index cards. She immediately knew what they were — a kind of journal her husband, Charles U. “Chuck” Daly, had typed each evening during the dark months he worked in Lyndon Johnson’s White House after John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

Chuck well remembered typing the cards over the course of a year or so, but he had assumed he had thrown them out or that they had been lost during a half century of moves. When Christine found the cards, the couple’s son, Charlie, a freelance writer, was already back living at home and interviewing Chuck for his riveting memoir, “Make Peace Or Die: A Life of Service, Leadership, and Nightmares” (Houndstooth Press, 2020). The cards proved to be a “an absolute treasure trove,” Charlie says.”

Continue reading 


Make Peace or Die: A life of Service, Leadership, and Nightmares is available through Amazon and Indiebound, or you can ask your local bookstore to order it. This week, the Kindle eBook is on sale for $0.99. 

An early draft was featured on Jocko Podcast episode 196

The Tijuana Brothel and the Geisha Brawl- “Make Peace or Die” Excerpt

An excerpt from my father’s memoir —Make Peace or Die: A Life of Service, Leadership, and Nightmares — in which he and his Marines stop at brothels on both sides of the Pacific on their way to Korea.

At muster on Monday, I was given responsibility for thirty or so enlisted Marines in the Fifth Replacement Draft. The draft’s mission was to bring the depleted Marine forces on the Korean peninsula back up to strength for a counteroffensive.

As I inspected their weapons and gear, the platoon sergeant advised me that many of these boys were virgins and suggested we rectify that before heading out. That night, a dozen of us crossed the US/Mexico border and, with the help of the sergeant, found a Tijuana brothel, El Serape, where I negotiated a group rate, using my best college Spanish and some gestures to explain to the ladies it wouldn’t take these lads long. Not only was I the officer in charge of these guys but at twenty-three, I was older than almost all of them. This was not lost on our hosts, who called these Marines niños (boys).

On our way out, the ladies gathered to bid us farewell, offering streamers and feigned tears.

Years later, I was at a hotel bar in Veracruz, Mexico. I kept getting looks from one of the barmen. Finally, he shouted out “El Serape!” where he had been working when I came in on my way to war.

***

Dockside Wednesday morning, I bought $10,000 worth of short-term life insurance from an enterprising Aetna Life salesman, supplementing the government’s policy of the same amount. I would be taking over a platoon where most, if not all, of my predecessors had been killed or wounded. If I thought about it, I was fucked. But I didn’t think about it.

For the next two weeks, the seventy-one junior officers and 1,717 enlisted Marines sailed west aboard the USS General JC Breckinridge. We lieutenants played a lot of poker and led calisthenic workouts on deck. At the international dateline, first-time crossers had to run the gauntlet of enlisted men slapping us silly, per tradition. We made a stop in Yokosuka, Japan, for two days, picking up supplies and ammunition. We had a chance to call home. There was a long line to use the phones, it was crowded, and I couldn’t hear well.

In a room full of Marines, I shouted a crude farewell into the receiver to Mary, “You bet your sweet ass I love you.”

The first Marines off the ship had managed to get drunk and in trouble before the rest of us could even get down the gangplank. We were ordered to remain on the base, officers included. Eager to experience the finer points of Japanese culture, I assembled a squad of likeminded Marines, lined them up in formation, and marched them to the main gate, sternly bringing the ranks to a halt. I told the sentry that we were under orders to move into town and round up our misbehaving comrades. Outside the gate, I told the men to scatter, have fun, fuck their brains out, drink themselves stupid, but don’t get arrested, and do not miss the ship. I was showered with words of gratitude and promises to return on time. A fellow Basic School graduate, Pete McCloskey, whom I had met on the troop ship, made it ashore earlier. I found him in a geisha house infested with officers based in Japan. At one point, a Navy officer came from another room and pompously ordered us to quiet down. When he returned to his party, I threw an empty bottle through the paper screen wall, apparently striking someone. We heard a yell and then sirens. Pete and I clambered through a skylight and spent the night bivouacked on the roof. In the morning, everyone made it back to the ship. However just before departure, six officers were ordered to stay in Japan. One was the future evangelist and presidential candidate, Pat Robertson. Pat got his daddy — then United States Senator A. Willis Robertson — to have him pulled off the ship, because Pat was probably having second thoughts about dying for his country. The other five lieutenants were pulled, possibly to cover for Pat’s preferential treatment.

We landed at Pohang, a port on the east coast of Korea. An announcement from the captain came over the ship’s PA: “The United States Navy wishes all departing Marines good luck.”

“Ten dollars to the man who shoots that silly bastard,” came a shout from Sergeant “Muzzle Blast” Baker, known for a voice so loud it could drown out gunfire.

We were taken ashore by LST landing craft operated under contract by the Japanese, now our allies. I remember one Marine sizing up our diminutive skipper, “Who won the fucking war?”

From Pohang we were driven up into the hills in the back of trucks. The road was rough, the benches hard and cold. Nobody spoke. I thought about Mary and felt alone. It could be that this was one of my most frightening memories of the war. The men to my left and to my right were still strangers, and we had not yet encountered the action that would bond us and give us the courage to get through much darker nights.

At one piss stop we heard that we had already lost some guys from another convoy, not slain in some glorious fight, but squashed by their vehicle when it skidded off the rutted road and rolled down the steep hillside.

One lieutenant of our group, O’Shea, was a bachelor who counted on his pay accumulating during his deployment, but he had gambled accordingly in poker games on the ship to Korea by trying to fill inside straights and other optimistic bets. It has been said, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans for tomorrow.” Others have said, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” In O’Shea’s first contact with the enemy, he got his nose shot off. He was shipped home with no money and no nose.

We reached 1st Division’s 5th Marine Regiment at the front, not a line of trenches, just some high hills, narrow valleys, and a small river with enemy lurking in the long night. Pete McCloskey and I were assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Battalion. The motto of 1st Battalion, 5th Marines is “Make peace or die.” For those of us who had just arrived in Korea, the latter seemed much more likely.


Make Peace or Die: A life of Service, Leadership, and Nightmares is available through Amazon and Indiebound, or you can ask your local bookstore to order it. This week, the Kindle eBook is on sale for $0.99. 

An early draft was featured on Jocko Podcast episode 196

Dad on Jocko – Ep. 196 “Make Peace or Die”

Last year, Jocko Willink featured a conversation with my father and an early draft of Make Peace or Die on episode 196 of his podcast.

Dad describes the experience in the epilogue :

In the summer of 2019, I sat down with retired Navy SEAL and bestselling author Jocko Willink, as a guest on his podcast. He read from my manuscript and we talked about my life and about war. A chilling moment was when he read the line about the time I asked my father when the memories of war will fade.

I said that they don’t fade.

Jocko replied, “No, they don’t.”

I spent a long time preparing for the podcast to avoid rambling or choking up, which I did anyway. Nothing could have prepared me for the response from his listeners. The podcast was accessed over fifty thousand times on YouTube. Hundreds of comments came in from all over the world. Listeners emailed, they Tweeted. The deputy chief of our local police department, where Jocko’s Extreme Ownership is required reading, came to my door one day to shake my hand and give me a mug with the department crest on it. I was astonished by how many young people are interested in the history of the Korean War. They haven’t forgotten. One listener, a Korean Marine, thanked me for saving his country.

Another listener wrote: “My father was in the Korean War and he never talked about it. Now I know why.”

Thank you, Jocko, for sharing my father’s story with the world and for your dedication to our veterans, active-duty military, first responders, and their families.

Jocko Podcast 196 w/ Charles Daly: Make Peace or Die. Service, Leadership, and Nightmares.

Join the conversation on Twitter/Instagram: @jockowillink @echocharles 0:00:00 – Opening 0:06:15 – Charles U. Daly 3:37:29 – Final thoughts and take-aways. 4…


Make Peace or Die: A life of Service, Leadership, and Nightmares is available through Amazon and Indiebound, or you can ask your local bookstore to order it. This week, the Kindle eBook is on sale for $0.99. 

An early draft was featured on Jocko Podcast episode 196

The Book Site is Up!

The website for my father’s memoir is now live! Make Peace or Die, a Life of Service Leadership and Nightmares is coming out this November. In the meantime, check out MakePeaceOrDie.com for updates and links to his appearance on Jocko Podcast, ep. 196, which features large excerpts from the manuscript. You can also sign up to get an email as soon as the book launches.

As we get closer to book day, I’ll post more about the book, my dad’s epic life, and the collaboration between us that led to him become a first-time author at 93 and was the source of many conversations I thought he and I would never have.

 

An Irishman in the U.S Marine Corps Charles U. Daly thinks fighting in Korea will be an adventure and a way to live up to a family tradition of service and soldiering. He comes home decorated, wounded, traumatized, and wondering what’s next. His quest for a new mission will take him to JFK’s White House, the troubles in Northern Ireland, and a South African township devastated by the AIDS epidemic. Chuck’s life is a true story of living up to Kennedy’s challenge to “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

At every juncture, he’s had two options: make peace or die. Daly chose to make peace with his fate every time, and that decision has led to him a remarkable life of service.

charles u daly author photo by shay hunston

Be the Verb (Writing) not the Noun (a Writer)

On episode 320 of Scripnotes, screenwriters Jon August and Craig Mazin fielded a question about calling oneself a writer. They urged those who write to identify with the verb (writing) and not the noun (being a writer.)

 

Here’s a my take on that distinction:

 

At its best, “writer” is the title you get to claim when you write consistently. It’s a statement of one’s habitual action–the noun describing one who does the verb. There’s a difference between calling yourself a writer because you write and claiming the title because you think of yourself as the kind of person who writes. It’s like the difference between being sober and that one Tuesday when you weren’t drunk. 

 

Writing is something we all do all the time. And maybe that’s why we feel like we need to label ourselves in the first place. Everyone writes emails and text messages and to-do lists. Many jobs involve writing, from teaching to law enforcement. Fewer jobs and day-to-day tasks call for singing or painting.  

 

Writing can take you to remarkable places and see you paid hansomely for your talent and hard work. In his infamous memo, David Mamet writes of the financial rewards awaiting anyone who can tell a good story on screen: (Capitalization his)

 

“WRITE A RIPPING THREE, FOUR, SEVEN MINUTE SCENE WHICH MOVES THE STORY ALONG, AND YOU CAN, VERY SOON, BUY A HOUSE IN BEL AIR AND HIRE SOMEONE TO LIVE THERE FOR YOU.”

 

Neil Strauss recently tweeted that writing is his own form of cryptocurrency. As the volume of words he produces grows so does his wealth and financial security.

 

Neil Strauss on Twitter

I’ve got my own cryptocurrency. It’s called writing. I just write words, and each one is magically worth money. It started out at .05 cents on the exchange, then $1, now it’s past $3 a word. The total volume of words is now in the millions.

That said, writers get paid for writing not for being writers. The only exception to this rule I can think of is the guy in Breakfast at Tiffany’s who secures a pity patronage from a sugar mama who doesn’t much care if he writes or not.

 

The urge to be a writer can lead to all sorts of intellectual dishonesty and corner cutting, says William Gaddis. The “Fantasy of wanting to be a writer,” he says, can blind you to the actual work of writing which can be “sheer drudgery.”

 

Being a writer is a dream peddled by gurus, overnight success mongers, seminars, workshops, and MFAs. Writing doesn’t require a degree, a scene, or anybody’s permission. Jean Genet wrote on toilet paper in a French prison.

 

Writing, as Ryan Holiday points out, is a means to an end. It’s a way to communicate. His advice to anyone who wants to be a writer: find something to say.

 

The joy of writing comes from the intrinsic pleasures of worldbuilding, making something, communicating your deepest truth, finding an outlet for your feelings, expressing yourself, playing with words, telling tales.

 

The joy of being a writer, comes from telling people you’re a writer, getting your ego stroked, getting other parts of you stroked by people who think writers are impressive.

 

Writers feel threatened and discouraged by a world in which everybody writes. If you’re serious about writing, you’ll welcome company, competition, and mentorship, in what can be a very lonely activity.

 

Writers focus on acting like writers. They drink and tell you that all the great writers died drunk. They dress like characters in Wes Anderson movies and sometimes even wear berets.

 

Writing, on the other hand, invites you to approach the blank page with a sense of possibility and a willingness to discover your self and your world.

 

Friday Roundup

“Evenings: See friends. Read in cafes.”  –Henry Miller

 

Here’s what I’ve been up to this week, besides trying to make a dent in my “unread” bookshelf to make room for Christmas presents.

What I’m Reading

Swimming on the Hot Side” an article by David Goodwillie about divers who work in radioactive water.

 

Snow in fiction and poetry over at The Millions.

 

Walter Mosley’s This Year you Write your Novel.

 

A friendly reminder from WritingRoutines.com. Required reading if you tell yourself you don’t have the time to write.

What I’m Listening to

Leonard Cohen while I reread The Book of Longing

 

What I’m Doing

Working smarter. Writing requires deep work, not long hours.

 

Working with The Contribune, which was founded by my neighbor from middle school.

 

Watching Bogart in In a Lonely Placea classic of film noir and, if you look closely, a big influence on Californication.

 

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12 Christmas Gifts for Writers

A version of this post first appeared on Broke Ass Stuart

Writers are hard to shop for. Our tools are simple but we can be hopelessly picky about them–I don’t know how many white legal pads I’ve re-gifted–we already have all the books, and the things we really want you might not be comfortable buying (cigarettes, absinth, laudnum.)

Money is best, but let’s face it, we probably owe you money.

If by some Christmas miracle a writer managed to make it on to your good list, here are a dozen gift ideas–some of which might actually make them more productive.

 

Writing Software for Grownups

Microsoft Word is the Huffy bike from Wal-Mart of word processors; it’s a fine place to start, but you need to upgrade when you’re ready for long distance.



Scrivener is the real deal for real novelists, and an affordable alternative ($45) to Final Draft 9 for screenwriters.

 

Scrivener is for big projects and all the notes, outlines, character sketches and miscellany they entail. It uses ‘cork boards’ for outlining. There are daily word count targets based on your deadline It has space for illustrations and maps of your story world. There’s a template for multi-part novels. Anna Karenina could’ve fit neatly into Scrivener’s Russian doll of folders.

 


When you’re project is complete, Scrivener lets you compile your work into a variety of manuscript and ebook formats.

 

Single Serving Coffee Makers

Coffee is pretty much a performance enhancing drug for writers.For a writer on the road, or a digital nomad, the pour-over is the most practical and delicious way to brew up.

pour over hand drip coffee

The AeroPress is another highly portable, if slightly ugly, option that lets you go full nerd and control every aspect of the brewing process for a custom cup. There’s actually an international AeroPress competition, and you can find the winning recipes online. Asser The Coffee Chronicler has an in depth guide on how to use your AeroPress. 

 

Both of these methods brew a superior cup to traditional coffee makers. They also cut down on that bitter acid taste, which makes way for all those notes and flavors claimed by the coffee bean package.

 

Leuchtturm Notebooks

Leuchtturm notebook

For the luddite on your list, Leuchtturm is the last word in overpriced European notebooks. Smooth paper, solid construction, Leuchtturms come in three sizes and many colors. Ruled, dotted or plain. Get this,  they have numbered pages and table of contents, perfect for organizing journals and projects.

 

An Audible Membership

audible logo

Audiobooks are the actual best. Unfortunately, they’re also expensive AF. With an Audible membership, you get one free audiobook every month (or more depending on your plan) and a discount on any additional books you buy.

 

A Door that Locks

 

You can’t buy inspiration, the muse doesn’t honor gift certificates, but you can give the gift of a writing space that invites inspiration. Like leaving out cookies and carrots for Santa and his reindeer, there are things you can do to welcome the muse.

dylan thomas writing shed boathouse

On no budget, that could just mean surprising your writer by cleaning her/his desk. Buy a plant or a new lamp.

 

Working with a little more cash? Have your local locksmith put a lock on the study door; maybe upgrade the desk or chair. You could even remodel the study, rent your writer an office, or build a writer’s shed like Roald Dahl or JK Rowling. For the obstinate procrastinator put a lock on the outside of that shed’s door like Dylan Thomas’ wife put on his.

 

Special thanks to my friend Cheyne Kohl– Producer behind Underground Tracks, in Busan, South Korea–for this suggestion.

 

 

The MStand

 

The mStand by Rain Design inc  is a robust metal stand that turns your laptop into a desktop.

m stand

It will literally save your neck by putting the screen at eye-level. Pair it with a wireless keyboard and mouse for an uncluttered minimalist work space.

 

Fountain Pens

I’ve reviewed a bunch, at prices ranging from $1.50 to $150. Whether someone actually writes with this or it’s just a symbol of the craft, you can’t go wrong giving a writer a nice pen.

 

Ordinary Pens

Charles daly Irish lifeboat pen cup

My bouquet of G2s

Good old fashioned ballpoints and roller-balls are great stocking-stuffers. We especially like to get these from people who have a habit of stealing our pens.

 

 

 

FREEDOM (app.)

The Christmas classic Love Actually closes on the Beach Boys tune ‘God only knows what I’d be without you…’ That’s the song I would dedicate to the Freedom app.

Freedom: Internet, App and Website Blocker

Easily block websites and apps on your computer, phone, and tablet with Freedom. The original and best website and internet blocker – Freedom blocks distractions so you can be more focused and productive. Freedom works on Mac, Windows, iPhone and iPad devices – Android coming soon. Try it for free today!

Freedom blocks your computer’s access to the internet. You set a timer, how many minutes or hours of ‘freedom’ you want, and you’re off the grid. Freedom can’t be switched off or overridden in any way before the timer runs out. In the words of Neil Gaiman, it ‘makes your computer something that’s never heard of the internet.’

 

LEGO Death Star

There’s nothing like legos to get you creating and problem solving on a different wavelength. If you’re going to slack off, this is one of the most productive ways to to do it. In the documentary 6 Days to Air the South Park guys show off their legos, which they use as an outlet when they’re creatively stuck.

lego death star

There are obviously less expensive sets, but the death star is just badass.

 

Red Ryder BB Gun

red ryder bb gun

Made famous by A Christmas Story, this iconic plinker makes an epic desk toy. It’s not so powerful or loud that you can’t use it indoors. Set up a paper target, on the other side of the room, with a shoebox to catch the BBs and practice your marksmanship when the words aren’t coming. Just don’t shoot your eye out.

 

A Writer’s Retreat

vermont long trail

My Osprey pack for company, somewhere in Vermont, 2016.

Design a getaway for/ with the writer in your life, whether it’s for a week in the country, a year in Thailand, or just a day at home with your phones switched off.

 

 

Bonus: Hunter S. Thompson Burning a Christmas Tree

Hunter S. Thompson – The Burning of The Christmas Tree (A gonzo binge)

www.HunterThompsonFilms.com

 

 


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I Wrote 52 Posts in 2017, here are my Favorites

I was all over the place this year, literally and figuratively, usually in a good way. I lived in Spain for a while, spent my first fall in New England since before college, and took a few extended trips to Montréal. I started two longer projects (one fiction, one non) and got my first byline in a major newspaper.

 

In total, I wrote 52 blog posts and articles this year, an average of one a week. Here are the highlights:

 

I wrote about Las Fallas, the fiesta that sounds like a war zone and Monomoy, Cape Cod’s desert island for the Boston Globe Travel section.

 

My most read, most emailed, and most popular post on Facebook was one I wrote about visiting the Marine Corps museum with my dad.

 

The one that got the most reTweets was a blurb about a meteorology lecture on the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. I remember writing this on a morning I didn’t feel like writing. It was my idea of a compromise, and I never expected much of a reaction. You never know.

 

Another hit on Twitter, and one of my all-time favorite interviews, was my conversation with noir novelist Sarah M. Chen. We talked hardboiled fiction, irredeemable sleazebags, and Redondo Beach’s pulp legacy.

 

Montréal was good to me. It’s where I started blogging regularly after a bit of a dry spell. I covered an art exhibit inspired by Leonard Cohen, and I wrote about the city’s “potluck culture” for Roam Magazine.

 

I reviewed some fountain pens.

 

I also posted some flash fiction. My favorites are “Midnight Cereal,” “‘Rubbers’ are ‘Erasers,'” and “Enter Contempt.”

 

See you in 2018


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Friday Roundup, “From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads…”

“All Rhodes Scholars had a great future in their past.”

–Peter Thiel

Part of the reason I title these “Friday roundups” is that I’m accountable to post throughout the week. If I don’t, my recent articles will just be a string of Friday Roundups.

 

What I’m Reading:

Zero to One Peter Theil. The startup manifesto in which he takes a big dump on traditional education and tracking. This one hits home. He could be talking about my experience of formal education when he writes, “Students who don’t learn best by sitting still at a desk are made to feel somehow inferior, while children who excel on conventional measures like tests and assignments end up defining their identities in terms of this weirdly contrived academic parallel reality.” It was painful and discouraging to be the former. But today, I’m so glad I wasn’t the latter.

 

Some titles from Image Comics. It was my first time actually buying comics at Newbury Comics. (Boston people will get it.)

 

What I’m listening to:

My Song on repeat while I work this week is “Temptation” by New Order.  It’s the one the girl in Trainspotting is singing while Renton is going through withdrawal.

 

You’re right, David, “Life on Mars” is Bowie’s best song. If you’re in NYC and want to learn more about Bowie’s relationship with the city, check out the David Bowie walking tour.

 

Mark Manson’s audio articles are great for “reading” while you’re on the move.

 

What I’m doing:

Typing all weekend after a brilliantly distracting trip to New York.


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Maida Gayle, Hanoi’s abstract (expat) expressionist

On June 10th, 2017, Maida Gayle had her first solo exhibition in Hanoi, Vietnam. It was a significant date for her. One year early, on June 10th, 2016, she had been hospitalized, on the other side of the Pacific, following a stroke.

 

Motivated, in part, by her scare and the painful recovery that followed, Maida put it all on canvas and took painting from a hobby to a side-hustle to much more than that.

 

I met Maida back in 2013, in Busan, South Korea, where we were both teaching english and using freetime to moonlight as creatives. She has since moved to Hanoi and established herself in Vietnam’s art scene. As her work develops, she is synthesizing her abstract painting with her performing arts background and her work with a women’s NGO. The result is incandescent and contagiously positive.

 

Plenty of people, especially expats and nomads, like to talk about “life embracing.” Maida is one who actually reaches out and grabs life with both hands.

maida gayle artist studio hanoi

 

You got into painting while you were teaching in Korea… Because you didn’t have room for your keyboard, is that right?   

My journey into painting started when I decided to move out of Busan city life in Korea to the countryside of Gimechon.

 

With a quieter environment and less people to mingle with I had a lot more extra time than I ever had in Busan.

 

Playing music and singing had always been the only form of art I used to express myself. It kept me company when I didn’t have the people to do so. Unfortunately living in a small apartment, I had no space or money to invest in a keyboard and didn’t have the confidence to try any other instruments out. There was also no music scene like Busan… so I felt kind of stuck.  

 

There was an art supply store that had stationary supplies I got for teaching and always noticed the paint and canvas in the back corner. I thought, “what the heck, let’s just try and splash some paint on canvas.” It was a weird urge that I never had before… and I went with it.

 

When did it become more than a hobby?

The unofficial start into getting more serious was when I was selling my things before leaving Korea and a friend asked to buy one of the paintings.

 

At that point I didn’t think the paintings were good enough or worthy of showing to anyone. They were just diary entries on canvas,  a place for my emotions to rest.

 

The transition started officially in Hanoi when a friend of mine, Paul Salnek, asked me to live paint for Signal Flair. This is an arts event that started in Bangkok. Funnily enough, the guy who put that together just contacted me, and I’m happy to say they will be flying me out to Bangkok to live paint an event they are throwing!

 

But with the encouragement of that sale and Hunter’s push to show my art, I started posting them on facebook.

 

What’s going on in Hanoi?

 

Hanoi is special.

 

Never have I been in a community that fosters creativity so much as this. Literally everything about the expat community revolves around pursuing your art, encouraging you to find your niche in art.

 

There are ample of opportunities for art here because

a) supplies are cheap

b) the community is small but not too small.

maida gayle artist painting hanoi

Literally, anything you want to do… you can most likely do it here and the scene will nurture and support you.

 

The friends you make are super encouraging. Travis Risenurr, a close friend of mine is a great example of this and a huge reason why I have pursued my art here in the first place. I met him at a festival back in Korea but didn’t really get to know him until I moved here in 2015. He has been such an inspiration and a personal motivator for me when it came to delving deeper into my art and pushing the boundaries. He’s helped me and so many others believe that they are really capable of anything if you just try. Never again will I say things like, “I can’t draw” for fear of the weird look I’ll get back from him.

 

He holds ‘Art Night for Grownups’ every two weeks at a café called Clickspace. Here, he provides people with the space and materials to express themselves through coloring and painting. He’s also successfully established his own brand, ‘Phlerp Designs’ and it’s been amazing to see how his art has grown from fun little stickers spread across Korea and Hanoi to extremely beautiful (huge) art installations at Quest and his most recent endeavour, psychedelic wear/awesome clothes! I owe this guy more than he realizes. Thanks Trav!

 

 

Where did the scene get started, is it connected with the local arts, or just a bunch of expats doing their own thing?

I’m not exactly sure where it started but I do know that because Hanoi keeps to more tradition than Saigon, this has somehow influenced the artistic culture here.

 

Old French architecture is kept untouched and remains beautiful. You can tell they care about aesthetics and keeping the original beauty of the city just from the lakes and trees and green everywhere.

 

It’s not just the foreign scene that is creative, it’s not just a few artists, it’s the whole city itself.

Hanoi is known for it’s amazing fabrics and streets dedicated to making clothing, costumes and all of the sort. There is plenty for us to use in the city to help us in our artistic endeavours and that’s why I think people come … and stay.

maida gayle artist studio hanoi

To give you a picture of what I mean… in America, the supplies to paint one painting might cost well over $100. Over here, maybe $10 at most.

 

You can do anything! There’s a street dedicated to glitter and gems for goodness sake!

 

A huge name that I think gave it a kick start for the foreign community is a team who is now known as Gingerwork. Started by a dear friend, Mark Harris, who came to Hanoi about 7 years ago dreamed about creating a space and/or spaces for expats to cultivate and harness their creative passions. And it’s happened.

 

Quest Festival (the biggest project of Gingerwork) has gone from about 100 people to becoming a 4000+ festival in these years. Gingerwork has also established a creative hub called The Creative Artillery (this is where I had my first exhibition!)  

 

Hanoi is a place where it’s completely normal to see a group of people dressed up as unicorns on the weekend or holding costume making workshops for the next underground rave or party that’s happening. Costumes are not only reserved for Halloween here. It’s a lifestyle.

 

We all have our own talents and we come together to make an extremely beautiful and unique experience for every person who comes through Hanoi whether it be for 6 weeks, months, or years.

 

You mentioned Nerd Night. That sounds awesome, what’s it about?

 

A bunch of “nerds” coming together to talk nerdy things! I love this group because it’s different from your usual “open mic night” (not that those aren’t awesome here!).

 

Every fortnight we get together and anyone can present their interpretation of a topic that was pulled from a hat at the last meeting. Some examples of topics “original sin, all the small things, dystopia, music and emotion.

 

We’ve had several types of presentations as well.. from PowerPoints to song or dance performances, poems .. and the list goes on.

 

It’s held at my sweet friend, Ed’s home (which is an amazing studio like home designed by an artist I’m not quite sure of who he is). Ed is a writer/editor and has been for Word Magazine from the past. He brought hundreds of books and zines from New York and set up his home to be the official Zine Library of Hanoi.

 

Every Sunday it’s open for anyone to drop by, have some tea and sift through all the zines he’s collected. He’s curated the space really well – it’s one of my favorite spots to be in Hanoi.

maida gayle artist hanoi

 

Tell me about your first show, first sale, first solo show. What was it like growing in your own self-image–going from “this is fun” to “people want to see/ buy my stuff…damn”?

My first show–at the Creative Artillery– was a huge milestone.

 

I didn’t realize at this point that I had really painted enough paintings to fill out a whole gallery space.

 

I chose the theme –“In Motion.” I couldn’t believe the response. I sold more paintings than I thought I would and was able to curate an event and had my friends perform on opening day. Despite the rain, it was amazing. I unexpectedly was interviewed by a local Vietnamese Channel regarding the exhibition as well as the first workshop I held that same day.

 

First sale – first one was in Korea, when I was getting rid of my stuff, but the first REAL sale was at a charity event held by Blue Dragon.

 

To celebrate women’s day they wanted to display a female artists work and have the paintings up for sale as well as have live painting to later auction them off at the end of the night.

 

I displayed my work and painted that night.

 

“They were just diary entries on canvas. A place for my emotions to rest.”

 

My now close friend Sara Butryn (an out of this world comedian in Hanoi) bought the painting I painted at Signal Flair. I can’t even begin to describe that rush of a feeling that my paintings were… good enough and touched someone deep enough to have them purchase it.

 

Displaying and pricing my art has been tricky, but I’ve learned to look passed that and see it as a means for me to share my trials and joys of life on canvas. The money isn’t the goal, it’s the connection someone feels to the work… (as corny as that may sound)

 

My good friend and extremely talented artist, Holland played such a vital role in this transition from “this is fun” to something more serious. He was an experienced go-getter in the art scene in the States (and now here). We had countless one-on-one talks about art, the art world and how to put a price on paintings without feeling like they were being violated (harsh word, can’t come up with another!)

 

I was realizing that people could relate to the emotions I was putting on my canvas and that it helped them to work through their own. That alone is priceless.

 

Talk a little bit about your style and direction as an artist… What are you interested in? What do you want us, the audience, to pay closer attention to?

My style is a reflection of how I try to live out my life.

 

A couple of years ago, I was introduced to the Vipassana Buddhist philosophies and have been sitting with those ever since.

 

I strive to live present in each moment, working through every bump and smooth transitions.

 

I want my viewers to see that in my paintings. I may have a set picture of what I want a piece to look like but I need to surrender all control to my brush. Where the painting goes I follow, without resistance, without regret and without the belief that anything was a mistake. I work with what might seem to be a bad choice in color and turn it into something that can resonate with the rest…

I want people to discover for themselves what the answer is and that’s why I paint abstract pieces. I don’t want to give people a set image to decipher but rather to decipher one on their own.

maida gayle artist hanoi

As for something more mundane, you’re killing it on social media. That’s how this interview started…

Facebook and Instagram are not the devil! They’ve given me a portal to show my art across the world and the world’s responded!

Through my posts (that I never really took that seriously in the fist place) has now resulted in me sending paintings to San Diego, Toronto and Philadelphia. Who knows where next?

 

Friends from different lives I’ve lived have messaged asking for paintings. I love this because it reconnects me to these people I thought I would never get in touch with or see again. It’s really amazing to see who your paintings speak to. They are all so different from each other and this shows me that my work is relatable not just to one kind of sub-cultured group of people but is diverse enough to reach almost anyone. Who knew!

 

My social media presence is part of what led to my being featured in Word Magazine.

 

One of their talented photographers, Julie Vola got a message from Mark and found me through social media.. so did her head editor (Nick Ross) and they contacted me for an interview and photoshoot.

 

Their September edition was featuring 10 people throughout Vietnam who were living a “bohemian artist lifestyle” and they thought I fit the description just right.

 

My head was in the clouds here… I still couldn’t believe this was happening. Still don’t believe it did!

 

A family from Saigon read about me in my article and have messaged me about a painting -who knew I would get to the point where strangers are now asking for paintings!

 

What’s next for you? What’s now?

 

Oh boy. Right now my job is hectic but with this studio space I hope to just simply produce and learn through the process… I want to let my art evolve naturally into what it’s to become next.

 

I can’t focus my time on selling but that’s completely ok. In fact, I’m a bit relieved. My love for it hasn’t been stripped because I’m over producing and I think that’s a good thing.

 

Hunter and I have been talking and I think our next actual move will be to Hong Kong. Being an international city, I feel it will give me more of a platform for my art. Hanoi has helped me and will continue to help me find my place in all of this artsy stuff and I hope that in this last year here I will hone in on my style and my vision and will be clear of what I want by the time we move to HK.

maida gayle artist painting hanoi

 

HK is also a good bridge city to transition back to the West, possibly back to Cali, Portland or Vancouver.

 

I’d love to have my paintings up in nice venues, in families’ homes and offices… I just want people, real, ordinary people to enjoy my art.

 

Progressing with my duo band called Uklear Bomb and a music project I’m working on with Hunter (not going to reveal the secret just yet!).

 

More importantly, I want to continue to take my art into Women’s Shelters. Working with women and children who are victims of sex trafficking and domestic violence has sat close to my heart for a very long time. It’s something I’ve written about.

 

I have the privilege to be working with Hagar International in Vietnam now. I meet the women and children once a month and we create abstract pieces together. It’s the most rewarding thing in world. I want to build this into an established workshop that I can take anywhere in the world. So far I’ve given it a name, “Extraction through Abstraction”.

 

These victims have learned to work through their pain and so to be able to help them reclaim and re-identify certain emotions through activities like art and connection to other humans who hold their worth high, is simply amazing and it’s what I want to live my life doing.  

 

… In general life’s too short to be taken so seriously, why spend it caring about money and all that.

 

Do what you love and love what you do. I’m sure you know the saying… I’m just trying to put it into practice!

Maida Gayle artist hanoi painting

Who should we read/ follow/ listen to/ check out in Hanoi?

Ah. Everyone. I will try to list as many as I can.

 

Weekly/Monthly Events and Venues

Zine Library

Free Thoughts Art

Sourgasms

Mouth

Down the Lane

 

Artists w/ Links and Art Pages:

Phlerp Designs  

Holland Holland

Will Dameron

Cat O’brien

Handxam Tattoo

Mars Black

May Cortazzi – Creative Director for Eva de Eva and founder of Happiness Beauty and Skincare Beautiful and inspiring woman!

Ukelear Bomb – EP coming soon

Claire Allurd

Hanoian Jazz Band

Numbfoot

Hunter Lind

 

All things Rave:

Liquid Hive  

Gingerwork  

More

More People Worth Mentioning :

Lilianna Pedroni – SHE DOES EVERYTHING.SHE IS AWESOME. My partner in Ukelear Bomb, circus freak/ flowarts artist, musician, music teacher, comedian and the list goes on. A multitalented extravaganza of a person and friend.

Katie-May Taylor – Super Woman. Literally. Co-creative producer for Quest Festival and a producer in her own right for all things way important outside of Vietnam. Trust me. She’s wow.

Maartje Matheeuwsen WICKEDLY TALENTED facepainter.

Mitch Brookman –a well known mosaic artist in the States who has been a great influence and mentor to me. Hailing from Cali and Texas has decided to save one blonde at a time here in Hanoi!

Tracy Johnson– flowarts, hoop dancer. beautiful woman

Aisling Feral model, flowarts hoop magician.

Julie Vola – photographer for Word Magazine and the wonderful lady who interviewed me as well.

(There so many more in Hanoi but this just gives you a taste of the freakin’ talent that’s out here, for real! I’m going to offend a lot of people because there are just too many to mention)

 

*This interview has been edited for length and content.

**Photos courtesy of Maida Gayle.

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