Sunday, December 05, 2004

Astro-Navigating Among Feather Merchants

Feeling self-satisfied with the way that I brought to a conclusion my short, unhappy employment with the brilliant, but tyrannical architectural renderer, Dennis deCarlo; I set out the following Tuesday nattily attired in freshly laundered and pressed linen trousers, an authentic ‘50s Hawaiian shirt and Italian sandals (all recent purchases from the GoodWill) to resume what seemed to be turning into a full-time career as a budget-flanêur—the last four weeks of gainful employment making it possible to extend this privileged status for, at least, another three months.

In a nonchalant mood, and inspired by an invitation that arrived in the previous day’s mail announcing an art exhibition opening the following week; I decided to make it an art gallery day and take a mid-afternoon coffee in Beverly Hills to check-up on what the conspicuously well-heeled were currently consuming.

I boarded the Los Angeles/320-Limited bus at Normandie, heading west on Wilshire. I got off at LaBrea and began a slow cultural immersion as I ambled north. At Melrose Avenue, I turned west and began acquiring an attitude-patina from the trendy atmosphere—I no longer felt like a boulevardier, but, with the warm breeze billowing the retro-rayon of my aloha shirt, I imagined I was on shore-leave in Honolulu just before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. I felt open to about anything that might happen From Here to (what was left of my) Eternity.

Wading ever deeper into this morass of collected, recycled and displayed kitsch, I crossed Fairfax into the realms of interior decoration and walked into the very gallery that had, by sending me their upcoming vernissage announcement, triggered this day’s odyssey. The current exhibition featured a group of deeply hued, giant-sized, monotone paintings illuminated by mega-wattage spotlights.

I felt calmed by the cool minimalism of the stark white gallery interior and soothed by the feeling of being enveloped in the lush colors of the canvases. However, as the lone viewer of the many canvases on exhibition, it slowly occurred to me that the amount of electricity needed to effect this high-style, theatrical ambience of zen-like traquility was being generated by atomic fission producing radio active, toxic, soon to be transported, waste. This lethal residue would endure thousands of years after the deconstruction of even the most meticulously gessoed and pigmented canvases on display here.

How many lives will eventually be affected by this exhibit? Do the advantages of heightening the aesthetic appreciation of pure color by strong, focused luminescence outweigh the degeneration of the quality of life through half-life radiation leakage—or, possible genetic mutation?

Was I suffering an instant attack of impending Kunst/Kulture Sarcoma with Weltschmerz side-affects?

My imagined ecological doomsday scenario was broken by a friendly, "Hello."

I turned and recognized the person who greeted me as someone with whom I had worked, a year ago, at the Apex Gallery down the street. "Do you work here now," I asked?

"I’m the director of this gallery," Richard said, ”... started about three months ago ... already talked two of the biggest New York artists away from that ass-hole at Apex.

"How did you do that?"

"Offered—actually, guaranteed—to pay them within thirty days after any sale ... also treat them; that is, their work better. Actually, I’m going to make this place into the Los Angeles showcase of blue-chip artists."

"Really!" was my lame response, distracted at that instant by the emergence of a middle aged man through a cleverly concealed door in the wall at the near end of the room. I recognized him as the owner of the gallery.

"Have you met Martin?" Richard asked.

"No," I said, extending my hand as he approached. "Hello, I’m Frank Royce."

"Interesting," he commented under his breath to himself, continuing aloud, "Nice to meet you," offering his hand. "Do you have a few minutes, now?" he added rather cryptically.

"Sure, why not?" I played along.

"Come into my office, then. I wasn’t expecting you today and I’m sorry, but, I have to leave shortly," he said by way of an obscure explanation.

I looked at Richard. He shrugged his shoulders pressing his lips into a smile and raising his eyebrows. I turned and followed Martin through the camouflaged hole in the wall.

Martin sat down behind his lacquer and chrome Bauhaus desk and pointed to a leather chair in front. “Sit down, please,” he offered. “Nice you could come so quickly. I just wrote your name down a day or two ago on my calendar.”

"Why," I asked?

Martin looked a bit confused, but replied, "Richard mentioned you last week as a person with whom he had worked at Apex—and, who he thought might fit-in, that is, be available to work here. Didn’t he call you about it?" continuing by automatically offering a possible excuse, "Maybe he didn’t get a chance with all that’s been going on."

"No," I answered, "I haven’t seen nor talked to Richard in months, at least not since he left Apex."

"Then, how come you're here today?" he asked with a sort of urgency.

"I just walked in to see the exhibit," I said, matter-of-factly.

"You mean this is just a coïncidence, then?" he gasped.

"I guess so," I reassured him.

"Oh, I love cosmological stuff like this. What sign are you?"

"Taurus," I divulged.

"Wonderful," he said, "that would make an Aries, a Capricorn and, if you join us, a Taurus. Ingrid is an Aquarius; but, that’s no problem; she’s leaving in a couple of weeks. The new bookkeeper is a Leo. It’ll be good combination. Well, what do you think—are you available?"

"Yes, since last week; but I’ve been taken a bit off guard," I admitted. "What is it that you would expect me to do?"

"Oversee the printing of monographs, invitations and collateral materials; keep the mailing list organized; write some letters; help Richard with managing the hanging of shows; talk to clients if Richard and I are both out of the gallery—stuff like that. Do you speak any foreign languages?"

"Well, I’m, conversant in German," I bragged, "but hardly fluent," I backed-off.

"Great, you can talk to the people that come in from Germany. There seems to be a lot more of them these day since the Euro has trumped the Almighty Dollar."

'Incredible', I thought to that part of myself that was viewing this entire situation with amused objectivity—but I held-off making a commitment.

His telephone rang. He answered and held the receiver to his chest and said, "Sorry, I have to take this ... so, anyway, think about it and call me later—in the next couple of days." We shook hands and I exited back into the gallery and spent some more time viewing the paintings, thinking about coincidence and mulling fissionable half-life. I was rounding a corner that led to the reception area when I caught Martin’s eye as he was about to exit the front door, overhearing him say to Richard and Ingrid that he would return in an hour.

I left within a minute or so after he did, lit a cigarette and, as I headed back down Melrose, I was surprised to see Martin turn and walk back towards me—I thought he had forgotten something at the gallery.

"Oh, there was one thing that I forgot to ask you," he said, as we approached each other.

"You forgot to ask me if I smoked," I volunteered a guess at what seemed his obvious disapproval.

"Yes, how did you know that?" he inquired incredulously.

'New-Age, California Logic', I thought to myself; but, answered ambiguously, "I do, and I don’t—it depends on the situation."

"Great," he said smiling, knowing he had made his point; then turned and headed, at a fast clip, in the direction in which had originally taken.



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