Don Rogers: A canvas to be crunched | TheUnion.com

Don Rogers: A canvas to be crunched

You don't think of bankers as artists or creative types.

At least I never did until Tuesday evening, at the retirement party for Mike Vasquez, banker through and through, so much so he's retired twice before and no one quite believes this will stick, either. He's only 72, after all, sharp and spry.

My tribe, the writers, has mocked bankers as soulless number crunchers at least since "The Merchant of Venice." This Shakespearean smear, though, this defamation, this libel, such calumny. The very existence of the Golden Era, where the party was held, answers such fake news directly.

Bankers made this dream happen, to hear co-owner Cindy Giardina tell it. She and husband Steve, son Eric and daughter Jessica had the vision, sure. But turning it into the fact of the vintage saloon took an artist's touch with the financing, as well.

As long as the numbers pencil out, of course. Any sharpening is where the artistry begins.

Vasquez himself downplayed his bank's role, though Giardina said they'd gone to other bankers and they could not make those cold numbers work. Neither could Vasquez and team at River Valley Community Bank. At least not at first.

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But they kept at it. They all "sharpened their pencils," they remembered, until they found a solution. Voila!

What they did was get creative within the strict bounds of financing, much like Haiku elicits concentration and creativity many a writer never knew they had.

This was what struck me as I listened to the speeches and laughter celebrating a virtuoso's fine career.

I write in pursuit of art as well as a living. I try to take you places and perhaps lead to insights with only words. How does the line go? Evoke "not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained on." That's E.L. Doctorow. Yes, I understand I'm no E.L. Doctorow. But hey, a hack can dream, too.

Mike and bankers like him make numbers and dreams manifest. At my post at the bar built in the 1880s, sipping my IPA, I sniffed artistry in the very existence of the Golden Era. I don't think I'm stretching things too far, either.

Coincidentally, I struck up conversation soon afterward with a loan officer at the bank, Kimberly Martinez. Turns out her previous work was freelance writing and editing a magazine.

Funny how this can go. You're musing along a particular line and the next person you meet takes it right up. As if reading your mind.

We traded life stories. I learned a loan officer listens. Really listens. Something I've noticed in Mike.

Hmmm, this is what we writers think we do, too. Only, then we conjure up words, a story, something to entertain, or provoke, maybe even move. All thin air.

The banker, well, he or she makes things actually happen. Their canvas is concrete. A business, a house, a future. That their work is practical should not be held against them.

Kimberly went straight to our writer's conceit, saying she never imagined she'd ever work at a bank. A bank! Rules! Numbers! Forms! Protocols! Everything writers rail against, imagining a rich tang of conformity in this mix.

She discovered she liked it, even was good at it. The craft side of the work employs some familiar talents: listening, curiosity, analysis. Then understanding the underlying story well enough not only to write about it, but to make the next chapter real as my knuckle rapping on the bar.

As long as the numbers pencil out, of course. Any sharpening is where the artistry begins.

Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at drogers@theunion.com or 477-4299.

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