Gimme Champagne and Some Filthy Rich Lovers of Paint

Last Spring, I told anyone who would listen that I wanted to open an art gallery. I don’t know anything about the logistics of this process, but I do know that I love thick paint, tortured and methodical artists alike, and the prospect of entering a market that involves aesthetics, occasional political engagement, and investors with grossly expendable income. When my boss, who knew nothing of this dream of mine, offered my coworker and I a VIP pass to ARCO Madrid, I said YES baby, a million times yes.

I imagined it this way: I’d be welcomed with a glass of champagne, on a red carpet; under golden light, I’d rub elbows with Madrid’s elite. Maybe, I thought, if I managed to perfect an attitude of both intrigue and boredom, I might get my foot in the door of some cool Nordic gallery. In reality, the VIP pass meant we had access to a free coat-check service, a complementary rum cocktail, and an overpriced lunch. No complaints there, of course, but the nature of  my personality meant that I approached no one and networked primarily with the walls. Also, the lights were fluorescent.

By the end of the afternoon, I was no longer sure what counted as art. Was the cleaning woman part of a performance piece? weren’t the fire extinguishers arranged rather evocatively? what could that man’s bald spot possibly represent? (Defiance in the face of destiny, perhaps.) And how about that contrast between the service-woman and the suit-clad executive? Might we take a moment to reflect upon the many uses there are for hands?

I am told, anyway, that this is a rather common side effect of attending contemporary art fairs.

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Easing Into The Asscrack of Dawn: A Lesson in Absurdity

As recourse to life crises and generalized discontent, I  like to pull journals at random. Nine times out of ten I find a younger version of myself who, much to my surprise, has something insightful to share. More often than not her lesson is this one: you have been better and you have also been worse.  Additionally: Nudity, in its many diverse forms, may save you.


Philadelphia
August 2013

In my temporary job as a nanny, I care for two boys aged 4 and 7. This means that come 9:00 am I have usually acted in upwards of fifteen death scenes. Given the work hours and my suburban exile, it also means that I have to wake up at 5 a.m. to prepare for and make the commute downtown. Most people would call this “hell on earth.” Sometimes when I am sipping cold coffee at noon and running on 3 hours of sleep, I use that phrase, too. Commutes, on the other hand, have always calmed me.

To get to my dual-screened corporate hell of a cubicle job in Green Tree last summer, I ran through summer mornings on a 1 hour, 2-bus commute. I would catch the bus in Oakland, walk a few blocks in dahntahn Pittsburgh, then hit the highway on the 38 and pop off at my office building:  a big brown concrete monster next to a K-Mart where I’d often eat lunch alone in a windowless Little Caesars. After spending eight hours with a phone glued to my head, I’d make the trek back, usually stopping to sit in Station Square or by the Allegheny River before going home.

AlleghenyRiverWalkway
Walkway to David Lawrence Convention Center. Pittsburgh, PA 2012

One evening, however, I didn’t stop. I got right back on the bus to Oakland. Somewhere along Fifth Avenue, we got stuck in traffic. Horns blared, passengers sighed, heat waves danced along the highway. I heard chuckles and craned my head to see what was going on at the front of the bus. There she was: a woman, teetering on the edge of sanity, feet planted firmly on the asphalt in front of the bus, in the midst of rush hour traffic. Then, to the surprise, horror, and confused delight of the daily grind office workers, she removed her dress and triumphantly spun it above her head—no panties, no bra, 200 pounds of pure, unadulterated absurdity. She proceeded to flip the bus driver off and make her way back to the sidewalk, dress covering her most intimate lady bits and giant breasts still swinging along.

Nothing has rivaled that sighting since, but I still enjoy my commutes.  When I arrive in Center City Philadelphia, it’s still too early for the Market East morning Saxophonist and all of us–temporary and permanent members of the Dawn Club–file up the first escalator and onto the street. I walk among the blue-scrubbed, the corporate climbers, and the construction workers. By the time I get to Lombard Street, I’m mostly alone. It’s a quiet hour and I get why you might want to do yoga in it, if yoga was something you did.

By the time I head back home at 5 o’clock, surrounded by drooping lids and skewed ties, I understand why there are so few revolutions and I think about tearing off my clothes.