"You can’t go through life quitting everything. If you’re going to achieve anything, you’ve got to stick with something." From the television show "Family Matters"
After Tom died my zest for chasing Hubert died along with him. I couldn’t get beyond the whole fragility of life concept. You wake up one morning to a day like every other and then - Boom! - that’s it, it’s over with no warning. I couldn’t seem to shake the despair that seized me each time I passed Tom’s office. My despondency must have been apparent to those around me because one morning, a co-worker, a woman who never lost an opportunity to attempt to undermine my ability or deliver a well-timed snide remark behind my back, presented me with a black and white cookie. I’d like to believe this was an expression of her sympathy but more likely it was fear guiding her - fear that perhaps I was depressed enough to fling myself through the glass wall separating our offices (because the windows were sealed shut) thereby interrupting a crucial scene on one of the many soap operas that blared daily on her TV.
And so, I simply gave up. It’s a principal flaw in my personality. When things don’t turn out well I throw in the towel. My defeatist attitude can be traced back to the 5th grade when my school held a writing contest and I cajoled my best friend Judy to enter with me. She didn’t want to because let’s face it, what 5th grader in their right mind would want to add required work to their agenda. But I was convincing - I think it was the bribe of chocolate egg creams every day for a week after school that did it. I spent hours, days, on my story writing and re-writing. Judy started and finished hers on our lunch hour. The winner was announced at a school assembly and - you guessed it - Judy won. They chose her story about a 5th grade girl recovering from a hit and run accident over my tale of Martians and Sandy Koufax, ace pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. I vowed never again to set myself up to disappointment.
So that was the end of my Hubert tracking. On the 1st anniversary of Tom’s death, a co-worker and good friend (coincidentally named Judy) and I went to a nearby church on our lunch hour to light a candle in Tom’s memory. I’m not an overly religious person but I did say a prayer for Tom and oddly enough, found myself asking for a sign from him. Before you click right off this site thinking I’m going down the John Edward crossing over speak to the dead path, let me say in my defense that this is not an unusual request for anyone who has experienced a loss.
A week later, feeling nostalgic, I decided to attempt chasing Hubert solo. When a sight popped up immediately I couldn’t believe my eyes - 15 Huberts for sale, all in pristine condition at a ridiculously inexpensive price. It was my biggest Hubert score yet. Did I think it was Tom reaching out from the dead? Probably not but I believed it was a sign for me to hang in there…
Life is an Adventure
Just so you don’t think I’m going to all this trouble merely to unearth details of the artist formerly known as Hubert based on one lonely etching - I’ve actually amassed a collection of Huberts. While working a dead end job in the photo department of a network I met a comrade, a fellow rebel with disdain for corporate politics. Tom, who was in the IT department in an office down the hall, also worked among the living dead - those crazed individuals with no lives outside the office. Helen Keller once said “Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all”. These are probably the people she had in mind when she said “nothing at all”.
When part of your job entails retouching the wrinkles off a well-known TV journalist or photoshopping out the love handles of an actor, you find yourself frequently questioning the meaning of life. This often necessitated a walk with Tom to the vending machines to commiserate over Vienna Fingers and Cool Ranch Doritos. Tom was an incurable optimist, a glass half-full kind of guy. After a particularly meaningless morning I related my Hubert discovery to Tom who was totally intrigued, convinced I was sitting on a windfall, and in disbelief that I hadn’t pursued it. Because he desperately needed a distraction from his mundane job he immediately set forth on a quest to help me find Hubert. Lucky for me, his computer skills were far superior to mine and within a week he found a Hubert etching for sale on ebay from Canada. He emailed the antique dealer and although she had no info regarding the artist I was jubilant at finding a mate for my lonely print. He made a bid for me and I became the proud parent of a new Hubert etching, this one a night scene. Thus began my addiction and Tom became my supplier ferreting out Huberts on the internet. A new high was attained with each acquisition. Our curiousity grew and although we found many more Huberts, each as lovely as the next, no one ever had any details on the artist. But chasing Hubert surely saved us from a slow painful death from ennui.
Until that horrible day exactly two years ago today when I received the call telling me that Tom had been killed in a motorcycle accident on his way home from work. Tom taught me many things - among them friendship, optimism and perseverance. In keeping with his character I’m trying to remain hopeful that somehow, someway, sometime, I will discover the identity of Hubert. Meantime, I like to picture Tom and Hubert sharing a carafe of wine in some little French cafe in the sky…
Does Anyone Know My Hubert?
No, Hubert is not an ex-boyfriend, old lover or current crush although I suppose you could say I am fixated on him. I first became acquainted with Hubert in the 1980s. It all began in the old drive-in movie theater in Orangeburg, New York at a flea market. I was on a quest to find picture frames to frame old family photos to hang above the staircase in my new old house. I bought a half-dozen vintage frames including one I particularly liked for a dollar that framed a tacky mirrored beer sign. The frames sat propped up on the floor of my garage for a few years because, as usual, I changed my mind and decided that the family photos would be more aesthetically pleasing in uniform modern frames. So there they sat until that fateful spring day, when, backing my car out in a rush, I knocked over the beer sign and the mirror shattered into tiny little pieces. Cursing, I swept the glass into the trash and noticed that behind the mirror was a beautiful, detailed, signed, 8X10 colored etching of a scene in Paris in front of Notre Dame. Not to sound corny but it was love at first sight.
It’s really an amazing picture. I’ve been to plenty of museums (thanks to a husband who actually finds museum hopping a fun pastime), I’ve viewed tons of paintings, photos, prints, etchings, etc. etc. but honestly, none of them quite affected me the way this one did. No matter how often I look at it I find myself swept away by the image, imagining myself a part of the enchanting scene, wishing to zap myself into the carefree lady in the yellow dress strolling the Seine untroubled by corporate politics, dysfunctional coworkers, unemployment, health care issues…but I digress. I’m not an artist (obviously), have no art training (obviously) and couldn’t tell you the difference between a print and an etching. Although I can distinguish a Monet from a Manet that’s pretty much the extent of my expertise. I do know after examining my lovely picture that all of those miniscule details had to have been executed by a pretty damn good artist. An artist whose signature I could barely decipher - was it Huberly? Huberty? Hubey? or Hubert with a flourish?
Thinking I had stumbled upon a real treasure (something akin to the copy of the Declaration of Independence bought at a fleamarket too and sold for a fortune) I set out to uncover the identity of - I’ll call him Hubert - who I believed to be my ticket to financial security. But these were the days before Google so my attempts to track down Hubert were limited. I called Sothebys but my phone call was never returned. I tried the library with no luck. An inquiry at the Museum of Modern Art where my neighbor’s daughter worked yielded no results. So, I framed Hubert and hung it in my bedroom where I would gaze admiringly at it for the next 20 years until my curiousity was re-awakened again in 2005. But more about that next time….