Nashville, TN, May, 2012

artwork by Ariel Elias

How does one one make things more interesting? This is a question I had been, have been, asking lately, largely because I was keeping this record, and the monotony is more apparent when there’s a record of it. That’s why I don’t do it anymore, and you’ll never find out what’s going on now, think of me as an old text and nothing else. I was in the bathroom when a version of these thoughts first came to me, looking at myself in the mirror and running my hand through my hair, to get it just right of course; it occurred to me that so much time is wasted in this dawdling, which becomes a form of white noise, a distortion buzzing between the songs. But when do the songs begin?

For the first time in a while, perhaps ever, I opened the shop with my manager Phil. We smoked a cigarette out back before we unlocked the front doors. “I like to smoke back here so early customers don’t pester me to let them in,” he explained. “Vultures,” he added. Though a boss, in no way did Phil exhibit the objectionable and often petty characteristics of an authority figure. In the food services setting—this being a notable exception—authority breeds a range of undesirable characteristics, and I believe, a priori, one should be skeptical of all management and all business owners.

We worked well together. Phil mentioned some details about his biography; he had tried marriage, it didn’t work out. “Do you have any paternal instincts?” I asked. Definitely not. In short, Phil explained, he wanted to hold onto his “do whatever I want” card as long as possible, or until cupid’s arrow struck. These were sage words, it seemed to me.

Later in the evening Abe came by to pick me up so we could go to a warehouse gallery opening organized in part by one of the guys at the coffee shop, the wry one, I forget his made-up name. Here was an opportunity for a great evening—a cultural outing, assuredly involving attractive girls and booze. Perhaps love will strike, I thought, recalling Phil’s remark.

The warehouse was in the middle of nowhere, at least from my perspective, which is all you can get here. As we ascended the stairs, I realized we were really in for something else. It was as if we were in a haunted house—and installations are a little bit like haunted houses, in a sense. Strange, dissonant percussive music filled the air, like we were in a Japanese art movie from the ’60s. There were several large, Tee Pee structures in the room; a small area set up with photo lights in one corner; a tent in another with a projector inside; a small stack of strange lamps that was made by the guy from Bongo; and other assorted found-art sculptures. Phantasmagoria, in short.

As we drank the experience only seemed stranger and more fun. Later on in the night a girl who looked like one of the fairies in Fern Gulley did a trapeze act on a swing that was hung from the ceiling. Everyone stood in a circle around her and watched, transfixed.

At around 10 or 11 we decided to leave. Love wasn’t going to strike. I couldn’t find the friend who had invited me but I said goodbye to his friend Mary, another one of the artists on display, hoping she would mention some after-party plans, preferably involving nice drugs; she only said she’d probably be up all night, even though she had had only four hours of sleep the night before. That could have been an allusion to something fun, but she wasn’t extending an invitation. We conversed for a while about the idea behind the installation and she explained that she wanted it to be a transient thing: for one night people come and hang out in this weird place, then it goes down, no time for snooty art people to deconstruct it and ruin it. I did my best to say intelligent things about art, and then she said that actually, she didn’t as a rule like talking about her work at her own openings, as if she were reluctantly making an exception for me. That seemed to be my cue to end the conversation.

With nothing left to do Abe and I went to the Villager for more drinks. The night devolved into us commiserating about ex-girlfriends and breakups, we became a couple of pathetic, lonely guys. Nights often end that way. At around 1am I walked home.

 Illustration by Ariel Elias