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Did you ever wonder . . .

c1995 ~ Matthew


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The Green Haired People

“No, that’s PURPLE! Paint it AGAIN!”

I sighed, looking at the acrylic painting I was working on. The lake was already a dozen layers thick – it literally rose up out of the painting, dominating the cloud puffed sky, and almost swallowing the white crane in the background. Dabbing my brush in the paint, I watched my art teacher blow out her cheeks in a huff and stalk away. Behind her walked her assistant – a wonderfully gentle woman with beautiful green hair, crossed with blond highlights and filled with brown depths.

I’d been working on this painting – this one painting – now for almost a week. I was recognized as one of the best and brightest art students in my high school class for three years running – but even still, I couldn’t seem to get this one just right. I was sick of painting and repainting this lake – its mirrored reflections of emerald pines and thick undergrowth, the tantalizing hints of sky. And that crane. It looked as though it had sunk into the lake; some kind of 3-D image, disappearing beyond recognition. Another painting to be trashed when I got home I thought, applying my brush again.

Colors and I didn’t get along. Just a few weeks earlier I had gotten into an argument with a saleslady over a pair of khaki pants. I had gone to the store with a friend, and spying the style I wanted, couldn’t find my size.

“No problem!” the saleslady had reassured me with a smile. “We’ve got your size right in the back!” After disappearing for a few minutes, she came out holding a pair of pants – the right size, the right style – but the wrong color. They were pink.

“They’re pink,” I said in confusion. The pants I had been looking at were tan.

“No,” she said slowly, casting a doubtful eye at me. “They’re exactly the same color as these.” She held them up against the pair I’d been looking at to compare.

I compared. The ones on the counter were tan. The ones in her hand were pink. Bright pink.

“No,” I said with equal caution, indicating the pants in her hand. “That’s pink.” I gestured at the ones on the counter. “Those are tan. I want tan. I’m not going to wear pink.”

“They’re the same color,” the saleslady insisted, eyeing me as though I was insane.

“No, they’re not. Those are PINK.” I said with an equal amount of insistence, comparing the two again.

“No, they’re tan . . .” she said, her face growing . . . pink.

“Psst.” My buddy finally spoke up with a loud stage whisper in my ear. “Hey man, they’re tan. Both of them are tan.”

“No, those are pink,” I said in confusion, looking at the ones in the saleslady’s hand. “And those are tan.” I gestured again at the pants on the counter.

“No, they are both the same color!” both the saleslady and my friend said. I looked doubtful. I’m a guy. I wasn’t going to wear pink. I’d rather run around naked than be caught dead in those bright . . . pink . . . pants.

“I don’t care. They’re pink to me. And I’m not going to wear pink,” I finally said, heading for the door, leaving them both standing there in confusion. A few moments later my buddy caught up with me in the parking lot.

“Dude. They were tan. The same color as the ones you were looking at.” He was insistent as he opened the door and got in on the passenger’s side.

“I don’t care. I’m NOT wearing pink pants. Even if they only look pink to me,” I said stubbornly, getting in myself. I refuse to wear pink – I don’t know why, maybe it’s a ‘guy’ thing. But pink just looks wrong to me.

For years I had gotten into trouble over colors. My mother would say, “Now Michael, I want you to wear your brown trousers and yellow shirt” – and I’d come out with green ones. “Why are you wearing brown socks with green trousers?” I learned not to argue; I’d go back in my room and randomly select another one – hopefully another color – but so often I’d come up wrong. And I got my butt pounded a many times for “being so stubborn”. And butt poundings from my parents weren’t any laughing matter. Not by a long shot.

And in art class. “Now Michael, I want you to color this purple” – and I’d end up coloring it blue. “Now Michael, why are the leaves and branches on this tree all brown?”

“Why is your sunset only yellow?”

“Why are you using purple for that?”

“Sand isn’t pink, it’s tan.”

“Your people are too red – are they all Indians? Do it again.”

“What is WRONG with you? Are you STUPID?”

It was an endless nightmare to me, and I didn’t have a clue. But I loved art, so I kept on trying.

They say I’m a good artist, that I use colors in unusual ways. I suppose that’s true for normal folks – and a lot of my paintings look normal to me. But that’s because of the people with green hair.

It turned out I’m one of those ten-to-fifteen percent of men with a ‘red cone’ deficiency. That’s why you don’t use green and red bars on charts during presentations. That’s why you don’t use red and green lines on scatter charts. And that’s why the orange and red lights are identical when I come to a stoplight somewhere. It’s cost me a ticket before; no use arguing with the policeman. He could see it clearly. I couldn’t.

It took seventeen years for me to find out I was colorblind. Seventeen years and a whole lot of trouble. It wasn’t until I went to enlist in the Marines that I found out for sure – when they handed me those cards covered with dots and asked me what number I saw. In too many of those cards I saw only dots – no numbers. A skill that was to come in handy in the military – but, alas, nowhere else.

I drove a truck for years. I always thought it was green. Guess what. It wasn’t. It was gray. It wasn’t until I told a friend to go out and wait for me by the green truck that his eyes grew round and wide, and he said: “Dude! You don’t OWN a green truck.” Talk about an epiphany! Here I’d been cruising around for years, thinking it was green. And nobody ever bothered to tell me. Go figure.

My wife and kids have learned: don’t ask me if you’re getting sunburned. Everyone looks sunburned – or pale – to me. By the time I can detect a sunburn – it’s too late. You’re fried. Cooked like a lobster. It took years for them to gain this painful knowledge. It took me years to figure out how useless I was at it.

To understand this condition you have to understand color. There are only three colors in this world: red, blue, and yellow. Everything else is a mixture of these colors, yielding the thousands of hues you see. Green? Mix blue and yellow. Purple? Red and blue. Orange? Yellow and red. See where this is leading? For example: Imagine a stoplight: a yellow bulb set behind a red lens. Take away the red and what do you see? Yellow of course. Both the same: orange light, red light – makes no difference to me.

But it’s the fact that I see green haired people that fascinates folks the most. Think about it. What is brown? Why, it’s red, yellow and blue. Take out the red and what do you have? Blue and yellow. And what do blue and yellow make? Green. Hence people with green hair.

Back to that tan pair of pants. (Or pink ones if you prefer.)

It turns out the Army – and only the Army – uses (or used to use) people like me to spot camouflage. If the enemy gets the dye just a tad bit wrong, their uniforms and camouflage netting looks . . . pink. Bright pink. That pink pair of pants? From a different dye lot. As a Marine I didn’t get to use my ‘special x-ray vision’ to spot camouflage netting among the hills – but I could. I’d look across over the desert . . . tan hill, tan hill, tan hill – pink hill. Guess which one the enemy is hiding under? And those little pink dots running towards me? They aren’t bushes. They’re the ‘bad guys’. They’re just wearing the wrong color. Even if to ‘normal color’ folks it looks all the same. Go figure.

And these people with green hair? Well, I don’t think twice about it; don’t even notice a thing. I instinctively know it’s brown (though with the trends in hair coloring sometimes I find myself wondering: is it ME – or is it THEM? Is that hair color purple? Or is it blue?). After all, I’ve grown up with this thing, this condition known as being colorblind. And while it may sound neat and interesting (people who learn of my condition tend to ask me, “what color is THIS? What color is THAT?”) – it’s actually kind of sad. Many of your ‘pinks’ are only gray to me; your bright ‘reds’ are no brighter than blue. And those green haired people? The color shifts in the light – going from green to brown to blond – and back again. Cool, but after forty some odd years — boring . And I don’t even notice. Never did. Not until I learned I was colorblind — and IF I decide to notice.

But I finally figured it out. For you, the color normal person, the world IS a brighter and more colorful place. Reds are reds – bright red, screaming scarlets – whereas to me they are just a dull tone. Sunsets that are lavender and purple are just gray, blue . . . and bluer. Even the flickering fire is just bright yellow at best – very little red, and where’s that orange you all keep talking about?

I don’t know. But I do know this:

Despite being colorblind, I got paid twenty some odd bucks an hour for years doing computer graphics and design for a major company – and they never suspected until I told them.

I told them that – and about their green hair.

They kept me on anyway as their top artist and engineering designer – because as my wife (and other artists) say: I use color in unusual ways. And it comes out beautiful (though never to my own personal satisfaction). Go figure. I can’t. But hey: I’m okay with it.

After all, it’s YOU green haired folks who are the strange ones to me, LOL!

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Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell: Random Art

We’ve been working the last few days on some art.  Or rather some art has been working with us.  What started as a simple “Shapes and Colors” exercise turned into something else . . . a therapy session I reckon – I don’t know.

Don’t ask – we don’t know exactly what or where this all comes from.  And we aren’t quite sure we could tell you, anyway.  The following art was done while ‘processing’ – letting the images flow and feeling the feelings that come.  I just know that even now – doing this artwork was somewhat unsettling – stirring anxiety, ‘hidden’ feelings – and the feeling that I should keep this ‘stuff’ well hidden – never showing anyone these things.

We know what some of this ‘stuff’ is – and we suspect other things as well.  But you be the judge.  This isn’t some art contest (otherwise we would have used better materials and techniques).  It’s about discovering something about our collective pasts.

We know what we think: we think ‘this’ is the product of “13” (one of our alter personalities) – or Mikie’s interpretation of what “13” saw and/or did – or perhaps even another one, “Jeremy” – the boy who was stationed in Germany for so long.  (Each of these names, by the way, is another aspect of my personality that ‘broke off’ from the main one . . . a long, long time ago.)

With that said, here’s the “art”:

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This was the piece we did about four or five days ago: 

Since it is important to know what we were feeling and thinking while doing this (and believe me – just looking at it on this screen gives me the heebie-jeebies) . . . it started with the Bunker (which wasn’t a bunker at all; it was just going to be shapes and colors) – and then it grew into this thing.  Phrases started to develop towards the mid to end of the work.  Second was the “small packages” and the strong feeling that we were going there to ‘pick them up’ – but that it had to be done in secret and nobody in the Bunker could know (they are supposed to be ‘hidden’ in some bushes there, but we had to show them – which feels like a ‘wrong thing to do’ – showing someone else where the packages lay) . . . and finally there is the APC (armored personnel carrier) which (strangely enough) we labeled “The Welcome Wagon” – that is our ‘destination’ after we’ve gotten done. . . .

Weird stuff, I know, I’m sure – but the second pic has so much more going in it.


Again there just slightly left of center – our beginnings of “Shapes and Colors” . . . and then it ‘evolved’, us just letting it flow . . . and this is something weird.

We know what most of this stuff is and where.  It is in Germany – and those are the German mountains in the background (See the cross?? It functions as an antenna.)  There are planes (spy planes – the word that comes is “Warthog” but in fact that is a cross-link in my head between the appearance of a Warthog and the real thing: A Mohawk, a type of military spy plane used during the cold war over the border (East German border right here) – and that “Untergrund?” – a variation on the word “Underground” – for this is an underground installation (you see the arrows ‘going down’?).  There are military trucks (we count two of them, deuce and a halfs, two, just two – and some men are meeting them) . . . a ‘facility’ (underground?) – more Mohawks taking off into the air – that’s one there in the bottom left hand corner, we’re sure.  And the cell phone – is it a cell phone?  We are not sure.  The vast rings surrounding everything are communications going out and going in.  The color was added last – we tried to color some bushes over the underground ‘cubicles’ (the “Untergrund”) – just a lot going ‘on’ in this picture . . .

and ‘we’ are the one with the phone.

Thirteen years old; maybe younger.  Not certain if this was real – this could be a misinterpretation of events by the 13 year old, or little Mikie (his friend) – seeing things through ‘his’ (13’s) eyes – we’re not sure.

And so (final tally): being as we have NO clear memory of doing this (spying, counting, sending in logistical info; intel on their troops and things) – we are going to “discard” this thing as a “not real” – a figment of our imagination . . .

and hope that it is true . . .

while at the same time feeling upset, antsy and anxious whenever we view these again

without ever really knowing why.


et all

jeff and crew

(sorely confused by now, LOL!  But good.)

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The Endless Child

I wander the road, The Boy and I,
towards the distant horizon.
Sunset, sunrise – we don’t know,
we only know we are rising.

My Inner Child and Me

From the depths of despair and the darkness of gloom
trapped no longer in his little room
The Boy walks with me.

Sad little boy.
Such a lost small child.
Fragile of heart.
Sweet, tender and mild . . .
where were you when I needed you the most?

Simply shoved aside
rocked by our sadness and your grief
you were taught to be silent;

Dark corners of my mind
where wild winds used to blow.
Frozen landscapes where you could hide
somewhere down below
our anger and our wrath
at you
our endless child
our child inside . . .

We tried to kill you once. Remember?

Sure you do.

The Trial

Turning our faces from you
hiding you deep inside
while you cried
and we did not hear…

We plugged our mind’s ear
our mind’s eye
our mind’s sound
until you were no more . . .

but you were there
gently hiding
watching the blue sky mist
snow swirl around those naked legs.
Bruised legs
going with your bloody heart . . .

Our Hearts . . . with Universes Inside

Our Hearts . . . With Universes Inside


       we were empty.

(the images and text are all mine.  Or rather, “ours”, since Matthew and Mikie contributed a LOT towards . . . ALL of this – this blog, our life . . . and continuing . . .)


Filed under art, child abuse survivor, Matthew, Mikie, Poetry