“Oh my God, you are so cute, you’re just the cutest little most adorable thing!!!!!”  she exclaimed.  Everything she said was an exclamation.  He smiled a broad, perfect toothy grin, and replied “Well, that is how I feel.  I’m not interested in finding a girlfriend.  I’m interested in finding a wife.  I am just tired of being a successful, wealthy guy, bar hopping in the Village.  I just want one of those cute little things that I can call ‘mine’, and wait for her to ruin my life”  he sighed and looked up at the sky.  “Oh my God, you are so, oh my God, so totally domestic and cute!!!  I just want to take you home and eat you!!!!  Yum Yum Yum!!!!!!!!”  she said with scrunched nose.  Laughing ensued.

I shifted uncomfortably.  The metal ledge on which I was seated was cold.  A couple of women came out and stood on the sidewalk.  They began to converse.

The woman with blonde hair began “Oh my God, what a genius, he is such a genius, he’s like totally the deepest guy, and I never even knew it.  I mean, he was like doing these totally incredible paintings while he lived in my building in Pittsburgh, and like, I said to him, dude, you totally have to show these paintings in New York City.  And he was like ‘dude, I totally would love to show these paintings, but I can’t until I find the right woman to paint.’  And that must be YOU!”  The woman with brown hair half whispered “Yeah, we had a real connection.  He is totally the most profound guy, he is actually really into Zen Buddhism and stuff.  He’s like spiritual, but not religious.  What a genius.”  Muses are, by contract, required to be wistful and talk in half whispers, so I couldn’t hear much else of her conversation.

I’ve done a nearly perfect job recounting these conversations, but I will confess that they have been touched up for editorial reasons.  In the first conversation, I would have to say that the woman was born without a space bar in her conversational keyboard.  In fact, instead of a space bar, she was given two exclamation point keys.  I’ve inserted spaces, for sake of clarity.

I shifted uncomfortably again.  The metal ledge seemed to be getting colder as the minutes limped by.  It was “gallery night” for me in New York City, and I had made my tour of the paintings, gotten my complimentary glass of inebriatory fluid, and was now regrouping and collecting my thoughts outside of the gallery.  The show was sold out.  The paintings were of pretty women.  Perfect, pretty women.  Perfect, pretty women, and gold leaf.  All of them.  I swished my wine in my glass.  I sifted through the innumerable business cards that people had placed in my hands before I even got a chance to ask for their names.  I looked at pictures of Liam on my cell phone.  I waited for some of my friends to exit the building.  Eventually they did, and I enjoyed walking across town, talking with them.  These friends were nice to be with, a breath of fresh air.

I had somehow been invited to the after party at a local bar.  The artist, his fan base (predominantly beautiful women), and his collectors all grabbed a large table in the corner of the bar, and formed a semicircular wall with their backs.  Those without money and/or the figure of a goddess had to wait on a line which formed at the left rear corner of the semicircle.  I will call this group the “petitioners,” an allusion to the days of yore when, one day a year, peasants would wait at the gates of the king’s palace in the hopes of entering his presence.  Gucci pocketbooks dangled from the crooks of elbows, manicured hands caressed martini glasses.  As they patiently waited to enter into the holy of holies, the petitioners laughed somewhat too loudly at the jokes that wafted over the wall.  I nursed a Guinness on the sidewalk.

Far from the madding crowd, I stared out at the urine yellow light trickling out of streetlamps onto the pavement below.  I wondered about the whole idea of producing art that is so completely obsessed with beauty, that it divorces itself from the existence of pain.  As if on cue, a figure of a man came hobbling along under the street light.  He held out his cup to passing people, and I watched them recoil in revulsion.  He approached me, and asked for some money in a strange accent.  I told him I couldn’t give him any money, but could buy him food.  His eyes widened, and he readily accepted.  We stepped into some local Cuban place, and waited on line together.  As we talked, I found that he was from South Africa, and he was living on the streets of NYC.  He had fled a bad political situation years back, and had found himself tangled up in a bad social scene here.  His eyes were pained.  He couldn’t stop saying thank you to me, he must have said it three dozen times.  I wanted to invite him back to the bar with me, but I knew it was a bad idea to bring him around alcohol.  As well, if he returned to the bar with me, he would be to those people something like Edgar Allen Poe’s “Red Masque of Death.”  We shook hands and said goodnight.

I’m telling you, I’m not cut out for this New York City gallery thing.  The galleries are the holy grail for any painter.  I wondered, all last night, how I could so engineer my career as to never step foot in one of these cultural black holes again.  I just want to paint, to talk with people, to paint, to talk with people.

Homeless, pencil on paper, 3″ x 4″


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