One night muggy September night, I was out doing the First Fridays Artwalk with a couple of friends. I had decided to pass on the opportunity to be visually accosted by pastels of men’s penises
in favor of resting on a bench outside the crowded and all too warm
gallery. It’s not that I have anything at all against penises. They are quite
nice, pleasant parts of the male anatomy as far as I am concerned but
this night, I wasn’t in the mood to be surrounded by 12 photo-realistic
likenesses, committed to large sheets of paper, right in my face. I would have felt the same had it been 12 large format vulvas. Honest.
Anyway there I sat on the bench, waiting for the pain in my back to
decrease before deciding on another pain pill when a tall, man with dark
hair approached the bench, lit a cigarette and nodded a good evening. Of course, as is the Southern way, I
returned the greeting and silently remarked to myself that it was a
humid as Poseidon’s testicles. The man struck up a conversation.
“This is wild, huh?”, he said to me. Having been on Santa Monica
Blvd in West Hollywood, California on Halloween night more times than I
can remember, “wild” wasn’t what an artwalk in Richmond, Virginia on a
humid evening conjured up for me but you meet people where they are. So
I replied innocuously, “I guess it can seem that way”.
“It sure can. I mean look at all these kooks and weirdoes. Just look at
what they call art. Art is what is in museums not in some run down
storefront, you know? You’d have to have rocks in your head to be an artist
“I’m guessing you’ve never been to an artwalk before and that one of
your kooky friends talked you into coming down here”, I guessed.
“That’s it! I would have never come down here on my own. I have to
get up early in the morning. I’m a contractor. What do you do for a
I debated on choosing any number of “kooky” and “weird” occupations:
firebreather, bordello manager, sword swallower,contortionist, for instance. But
instead I simply looked him squarely in the eye and said dryly, “I have
rocks in my head”.
He looked at me a moment, confused and said, “What? OH! You’re an artist? I didn’t really mean anything by that, you know”.
“Of course you didn’t,” I reassured him.
He stood there awkwardly a few seconds more, ground his cigarette butt into the cement, and studied his empty plastic cup.
“Well, it’s probably time I go find my friend and another glass of wine”.
“Have a nice evening”, I said pleasantly, which made him visibly
more uncomfortable. He paused as though he were going to say something
more as I prayed silently and vociferously that he would not, and then
bid me a good evening and went on his way.