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Thanks Having | 2009 | Twenty-Nine

12.04.09 12:00 p.m.

The cultured man is an artist, an artist in humanity.  

-Ashley Montagu



No, darling, that's not how we use the cheese knife to be artistic

Visiting with Tom and Ilana has a way of making me feel infinite, as though the Universe might be conspiring to my happiness through them. As The Vines reach a crescendo, I see the first firework explode above the trees on the edge of the Hudson. I feel as though the Universe is winking, because I am catching on.

That I soon will be seeing Melanie for the first time in weeks (and her bringing me further to a boil by implying we will misappropriate the bathroom out of desperation) may be partially credited with my delight.

As soon as I enter, the door propped wide, I rush into one of the bedrooms along with several of the guests to watch the grand finale. Renee says, "They did this just for us," though we know it is actually in honor of the Christmas tree lighting at the riverfront (earlier in the day, I had heard a student stumble as he asked a classmate on a date to this; she declined).

Ilana - along with Evan and two men I do not yet know, one of whom only gives his last name as Sn - opened her apartment as a temporary art gallery to display their works. Ilana primarily paints nude women. Melanie, with her charm and bisexuality, inquires whether any of the paintings are self-portraits. Ilana insists they are not, either people she knows or porn from the internet, but grants that, like children, the paintings might have her eyes. The Mona Lisa is apparently little more than Leonardo in drag, so we can more than forgive Ilana this indulgence.

Evan's art consists of three computers playing the same forty-five minute video of what seems to be clouds and an eclipse, accompanied by low tones. It seems to be art for art's sake (read as: art I can neither readily understand nor purchase) and I whisper to Melanie that, owing to the mattress on the floor, this might be the designated make-out room. Surreptitious snogging is art I can well understand.

Only one of the other two artists is present for mingling tonight. His monochrome portraits are skillful (and for sale!), but I regretted that I couldn't see who created the other painting, chaotic and dripping like Ralph Steadman's work.

The apartment fills up beyond comfortable capacity with older art lovers and, I gather, strangers who were attracted by the flyers pasted in the elevators. Melanie and I nibble at the cheese and cracker spread (Melanie is half-French and is genetically attracted to cheese) and plan our targets for conversation, though we mostly tag team talk with Renee (about work, whether that guest had always been that gender, and life in general) or Rob (about the economy, rather exclusively). Melanie has previously mentioned the flakiness of some of my friends, so I joy at being surrounded by people who can show her up by being unassumingly wonderful without crashing. Yes, there is some pretension among the guests - it wouldn't be an art show without it - but there is also a glory that there is something worth knowing about most of them, that there is a sea of stories flowing together and forming new tributaries.

I think most people struggle all their lives to find a place where they are understood. This isn't where they are comfortable or wholly at ease, because where is progress and growth without struggling? It is simply a place where the basal issues, the primordial neuroses, can be forgotten for a while. Finding this level, one can stop simply treading water and learn to swim.

I am not suggesting that Tom and Ilana are the Keybearers to this level, but they surround themselves with such a diverse and fascinating group of people - from musicians to painters to professional drag queens to computer programmers to scientists to teachers - that it is hard not to find someone with whom one shares a congruence and admiration. Melanie indulges some nervousness around such a profusion of strangers, as I might have in her shoes, but talks so well when provoked that she, too, tends to forget any impediments to the conversation at hand.

Soon in Xenology: Maybe a job, a birthday.

last watched: Thank You For Smoking
reading: The Subtle Knife
listening: The Vines

Thanks Having | 2009 | Twenty-Nine

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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