Last year I wrote an article for the NYCHEA newsletter in which I talked about ‘one size fits all’, ‘need to know’ schooling and curricula, and how silly it is to expect everyone to fit into the same mold. At one point I mentioned a guy who makes his living setting up those elaborate domino mazes and gets paid very, very well to do it, just so everyone can have the pleasure of watching all the dominoes fall. Can you imagine what the teachers might have said to him in school? Things like, ‘if all you want to do is play with dominoes, you’ll never amount to anything’. It’s always been my belief that if you love to do something, no matter what it is, and you are dedicated to it, you can probably make a living at it.
Today we were at the Union Square Christmas Market and met Marty Allen. (you can check out his website at martystuff.com) Marty has a small booth where he sells sock puppet portraits. What, you may ask, are sock puppet portraits? They are photos (and oil paintings) of an entire universe of sock puppet characters Marty has created. Marty has a great funny pitch, which makes him and his creations fairly difficult to ignore, and so we wound up completely enamored of the whole idea, and walked away with three small photos in victorian style frames. My personal favorite is Plim Zambini, a fuchsia sock puppet with a dramatic shock of orange hair and one snaggle tooth. Plim’s profile begins, “Plim Zambini (of the Fabulous Flying Zambini’s). The Fabulous Flying Zambini’s – world renowned expert acrobats and circus orphans whose parents were crushed by an elephant when they were very small….” You gotta love that, right?
Turns out that Marty has a band called Uncle Monsterface comprised of three people and various sockpuppets, and is developing a soap opera starring 9 other puppets. As I said, it is an entire universe, and he is clearly passionate about it. Which is what makes it so much fun, and why we wanted to take a little part of it home with us today. How much money does he make with it? Who knows? Does he enjoy it? No doubt.
It doesn’t really matter if you or I think that making sock puppets is a worthy and exciting thing to do for a living. You may think sock puppets are idiotic. I’d certainly never given them much thought before today. They are not particularly sophisticated and you don’t need a higher degree to make them (although Marty did spend some time in art school, which you can read about in his bio on his site). What I like is the fun of it. The fact that this guy took an idea he had and created a business. A business with which he clearly has a lot of fun. I think, more than anything, what is missing from todays’ kids and subsequent adults is the belief that they can succeed and have fun at the same time.
Guys like Marty are living proof that’s not the case.
(p.s. My favorite set of sock puppets – found in Series 2.5 on martystuff.com – is the “Three Guys Named Charles” series; Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens and Charles in Charge. Ha ha! All you Scott Baio fans will get that joke)