The Art Group

I went to an art group the other night. Pauline, a retired Whitworth professor, had started it in her home. The only rule was that you had to bring something to critique.

Pauline said over the phone that people worked in all different mediums. I envisioned sculptures made out of wire and pantyhose, one person revealing her newest self-administered tattoo, and another showing a short films on guppies. The folks, in my mind, were edgy and eccentric. An art group!

I arrived toting my three oil paintings--Pauline was excited, on the phone, that I painted in oils. Apparently there is some rivalry in the group between them and acrylics. There were about 15 people in Pauline's sitting room, and I was the only one who could menstruate. 13 of the members professed to having grandchildren and the 14th was a man a little older than myself. I sat down on an open chair next to him and his mother.

After the preliminaries, including the I-kid-you-not comment: "Is it your house where the mailboxes get us lost, Pearl?" We took turns showing our creations. One woman had paintings of cows including one of a long-haired steer.

"He's the only one with horns. He'd tear open the feed bag and boss everybody around. He's in the freezer now, but not before I got some pictures of him."

Another woman had incredible pictures of swirled, dripped, and splattered paint. She said she listened to music while she painted and sometimes stood back with her brushes and flicked color onto the canvas. I said she reminded me of Maude Lebowski, a comment which was lost on everybody.

Afterwards we had decaf coffee and pineapple upside down cake with whipped cream on top. I was flushed and overheated like I always am in rooms with lots of people.

Julie, Casey (the mother-son combo), and I looked at Pauline's book of Chuck Close's work. He takes photos of people's faces and grids them. He fills the small squares with abstract images. A portrait is often times the size of an entire wall.

He's still living, Pauline explained, but his health is so bad that he rides a lift to do his paintings anymore.

Basement Light


Pale Man

I missed my bus home from work. I watched it pull out of Mirabeau Park and Ride as I futilely jogged towards it, carrying my purse and my duffel of work-out clothes. The next one, I knew, came in 45 minutes. I took a seat on a rock at the stop. It was a little over freezing and a wind was blowing. I read my magazine, an article about Guillermo Del Toro, the director who creates monsters for his movies. Pan's Labyrinth is one of them.

In that movie, Del Toro had designed an ogre who sits at a table laden with delicious foods. Reminiscent of the myth of the Harpies, the food could not be eaten for the creature guarding it. The ogre had no eyes or eye sockets in its head, only a nose and mouth punctuated its pale taught skin. Its ribs protruded and its belly hung in loose folds -- a starving gluttony. The ogre's hands rest palms down on the table in front of it, and two eye balls sit on a plate before it.

After awhile I moved into the bus stop proper, a cube of glass with benches and a tin roof. It kept the wind out and helped to slow the chill that was seeping through my coat. When I had been there for about half an hour, a man approached walking a bicycle. He leaned his bike against the outside glass and walked in to take a seat on the bench across from mine. I could feel him looking at me while I hunched over my reading.

I hoped he wasn't some monster out there with me and the empty cars in the parking lot. I imagined the glass walls spattered with my blood, fire-engine red and sloshed like projectile house paint. The train conductors would look in horror as they chugged by on the tracks behind us.

"Hi." He said to me. I looked up and his nose was running down into his beard, his eyes were watery and red, the irises a blue/green.

He asked me if I was going to work, how old I was (20?), if I was married, and how long. He asked where I was from, how long I had been in Spokane, and if I watched politics.

He told me I was a very pretty young lady. He said he was on his way to alcohol school because he had gotten a DUI. He told me about Fox News.

We agreed that both teams in the Super Bowl weren't very likable. The commercials were only okay. He told me about his favorite one and when I explained mine he exploded with laughter. The cube walls rang with it.

When the child, Ofelia, eats a succulent grape from the table and then two. The ogre stirs. He turns over his hands revealing dark slits in his palms. He takes the eyes off of the plate and fits one into each slit. He presses the backs of his hands against his temples and the visage is complete: pale skin, red mouth, nostrils, eyes in his palms and his darkened fingers making an array of grotesque eyelashes.

I got on the 74, Valley Limited, and hustled towards a seat fenced in with quiet people reading their library books.


Stop, Drop, and Roll

It's too bad Jeremy isn't writing this story right now. He would do a fine job.

I had dinner with my good friend Jeremy the other night. It was a typical weeknight for a Seattle bar. Trivia. Seattle loves them some trivia.

The trivia-guy (not quite sure of his official title, but the company he works for is Geeks who Drink) kept cussing and complaining that he was tired because he had severe jet lag. When he approached our table I asked him where he had been that gave him such tremendous angst.

As it turns out, he flew from Denver. That poor thing.

Jer and I drank a gin and tonic, he told me the most amazing story (which I will not try to repeat because he did such a great job), ate dinner, drank another gin and tonic. and maybe a few more.

We played trivia. We lost. We were in 19th place.

As I leaned over to take the last sip from my drink a lock of my hair fell forward.

Into a candle.

Naturally, my hair catches on fire.

I quietly and frantically tried to blow out the flame that was rapidly approaching my face.

Jeremy looks up from his iphone and immediately starts waving and blowing and moving about.

A chunk of hair and ash falls on the table.

The entire bar smells terrible.

Someone approaches our table and asks, "Hey my friends and I were downstairs and we smelled burnt hair, are you okay?"

I look at Jeremy and say, "We need to go."

I now have bangs and a slight buzz cut on the top left corner of my scalp.

I will never go back there again.

Mile-High Malt

Bear with me while I quote too lengthily from Kurt Vonnegut's book, Timequake. I will put in some original stuff at the end, but if you are satisfied by the Vonnegut and wish to read no further after its completion, I understand.

"I myself paint pictures on sheets of acetate with black India ink. An artist half my age, Joe Petro III, who lives and works in Lexington, Kentucky, prints them by means of the silk-screen process. I paint a separate acetate sheet, again in opaque black, for each color I want Joe to use. I do not see my pictures, which I have painted in black alone, in color until Joe has printed them, one color at a time.
"I make negatives for his positives.
"There may be easier, quicker, and cheaper ways to create pictures. They might leave us more time for golf, and for making model airplanes and whacking off. We should look into that. Joe's studio looks like something out of the Middle Ages.

"I can't thank Joe enough for having me make negatives for his postives after the little radio in my head stopped receiving messages from wherever it is the bright ideas come from. Art is so absorbing.
"It is a sopper-upper.

""Listen: Only three weeks ago at this writing, on September 6th, 1996, Joe and I opened a show of twenty-six of our prints in the 1/1 Gallery in Denver, Colorado. A local microbrewery, Wynkoop, bottled a special beer for the occasion. The label was one of my self-portraits. The name of the beer was Kurt's Mile-High Malt."

And listen to this: My family and I were down town Denver on Christmas Eve of this year waiting to ride the Amtrak to Chicago, Illinois. We got to Union Station and checked our bags and took to the city on foot. The sixteenth-street mall was nearly empty. Its trees were lit up by twinkle lights, and rows of large bulbs hung between the buildings.

One side street was converted to an ice-skating rink.

Dad and I ducked into the Wynkoop brewery, kitty-corner from the station, to have a beer. I didn't know that their Kurt's Mile-High Malt was Kurt Vonnegut Jr's Mile-High Malt so I got a black ale. Dad got up to go to the bathroom, and while I was sitting at the bar by myself, a man sat at the stool next to me. I got nervous that he would start talking to me or hitting on me, thinking that I was there by myself. And then Dad would come back and it'd be all awkward. And how disastrous!

The man ordered Wynkoop's sour beer while I sat irrationally petrified. Dad has a penchant for taking dog years in the restroom.

I ended up having to chug my beer, non-inspired by a great American author of prose, in order to catch our train. It wasn't until sometime later that I realized I had full-on ignored someone, another human being, sitting alone at a bar on Christmas Eve.

Cheers to missed opportunities!


Welcome to Riverside West

There's a gentleman who lives alone above John and Christa; his name is Steve. He's a bit heavy, from what I've heard, and has an oxygen tank. This summer when Mitch and I would sit outside on the patio with our late neighbors, Eric and Emmy, (little oil lamps on stands and Emmy smoking and drinking wine) we'd hear Steve's alarm clock yammering away at eight p.m. and again at ten. Wake up, Steve!

Christa and John say they can hear when Steve is peeing. The sound comes down through the pipes in the walls.

Carrie and Julie picked Christa and me up one night for yoga class. Our apartments' living-room walls that face Riverside Ave are a set of windows and sliding glass doors. With the lights on, the rooms blaze apparent to viewers on the street.

Julie, bless her heart, was driving, and as we pulled away she said she had seen the upstairs neighbor hanging out in his panties.