Sunday, March 29, 2009

Meme of Fame (first installment)

A Typical Day in My Glamorous Past

Several months ago Bruno tagged me with the 7 Random (or Unremarkable) Things About Me meme. Yes, several months ago. I'm a master of procrastination. Having done that meme a few times already, my cache of about-me things was spent. You already know, for God's sake, the distance from the top of my wrist to the base of my forefinger. You know about my lackluster childhood in the circus. You know my shoe size. What else could you possibly want to know? So I thought, hey, I’ll do what Moody did a while back. I’ll turn it into the 7 Famous People Who Almost Knew Me meme. After all, I've been within spitting distance of Robin Williams. (No, I didn't spit on him.) I've urinated in a public restroom in Berkeley in the stall next door to a National Book Award-winning poet. (Her urine did have a bouncy anapestic rhythm as it hit the water.) A highly respected actress known for her eclectic supporting roles has sat beside me, and we've chatted amiably--in a punk club in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. No less than Gene Hackman, I kid you not, has parked in my loading zone, right here in Santa Fe. Twice.

But did I follow through with my intention to post the Meme of Fame? Hell no. Too busy hanging with luminaries. Oh, and did I mention I procrastinate? Then too, there's the narrowing factor. Too many lucky famous have crossed my path. Whom will I omit? Whose feelings will I hurt? But now Paschal has had the same idea. And he's tagged anyone reading his Seven. How can I not follow through now?

I will do my damndest to pick and choose seven of the most fortunate individuals of fame who came that close to knowing me.

1. Summer, 1986. I'm minding our gallery on Union Street in San Francisco, six months pregnant with my firstborn. An attractive middle-aged woman, elegantly dressed in a tailored suit adorned with a sparkly brooch, comes in. We strike up a conversation. She asks me about my due date and tells me about her own "babies," who are big kids now. She then takes interest in an oil painting of a pink bathrobe on a clothes hanger. "I really love it," she says. "I'll admit I have something of an aversion to the associations I have with the color pink."

"You must mean...the wimp factor?"

"Exactly. But something about this painting appeals to me. A lot. I'll be back with my husband. He's a television actor and is in a meeting right now."

"Oh, have I seen the show?" At the time I really did not watch TV. I didn't know what else to say.

"Probably," she said. I was so out of the popular culture loop, I didn't even recognize the words spelled by the configuration of stones in her brooch. HILL STREET BLUES. (If you're old enough to remember that show, you know it was a hugely popular police drama and was produced and written by Steven Bochco, who has subsequently produced a string of quality hits such as L.A. Law and NYPD Blue.)

Hill Street Blues cast, circa 1985

That afternoon the woman did return with her husband, James B. Sikking. (When I began watching Hill Street Blues shortly thereafter, I realized Jim played the commander of the SWAT team.) After several minutes of his interrogating me about the artist, he agreed that, yes, the painting was worthy of being purchased. As I was writing up the sale, Bennie showed up, did a double-take at the tall gentleman standing beside the desk, and said, "Oh, I know you, don't I? You're on Hill Street Blues, aren't you?"

The Sikkings became wonderful clients of the gallery. That same day they purchased a small surrealist etching by a German printmaker. The etching was called "Schwanz Pot" and depicted, yes, an intriguing penis-plant growing in a flowerpot. This was a gift for Mr. Bochco. "That is SO him," Florine said. (Another time Florine and Jim honored us by coming to our gallery on their anniversary and purchasing a realist painting as their gift to each other. How is that for sweet?)

Several months later I was home with my new baby Flannery. My parents were visiting. Bennie called from the gallery to say "a few Hollywood people" were, as of that moment, riding in a cab to the studio of an artist we represented. Since we lived near Bill, the artist in question, he suggested I meet them there--after all, my mom and dad could babysit. Correction. He had already informed the Hollywood people I would meet them there.

I began to panic. Not a thing to wear. I was getting my body back into shape and nothing fit. My maternity clothes now swallowed me whole, but I was way too fat for my pre-preggers skinny jeans. When I did pull together an outfit that was vaguely passable--cotton knit pants with a coral top and a sage-colored cotton sweater to wrap around my various lumps, the only pair of shoes that would go with it were these jobs I'd grabbed from the sales rack at Mervyns. Brown sandals with, God forbid, synthetic wedge soles. And talk about a horrific hair day!

Clipping my frumpy, growing-out-perm into a sad clump on the back of my head, I climbed into our VW Golf and raced to Bill's studio. Jim and Florine had arrived and they'd brought Bruce Weitz and his girlfriend Valerie. (At least I think that was her name.) By now I was a fan of the show and so I recognized Bruce right off. He looked much more elegant in person, without that most unflattering knit cap. Everyone looked casually elegant. Even Bill had gotten cleaned up. I was the odd one out, me and my marked-down footwear.

Bill began trotting out his paintings. Everyone oohed. Everyone aahed. Milk began leaking from my nursing breasts. I pulled my sweater as completely around my post-partum body as was feasible. Bill trotted out more paintings. At one point a huge dog ran into the studio, pursued by the tenant from downstairs, Kathy. "Bad dog, Bubbles! BAD dog!" Jesus Christ, was Bubbles sporting a kerchief around his affected neck? I'd never seen Bubbles in such a get-up. I'd never seen Bubbles come bounding into Bill's studio for that matter. What a transparent ploy on Kathy's part to get a glimpse of the Hollywood people. How embarrassing.

Suddenly Jim focused on a charcoal study of a piano that rested on the floor near my feet. "Tell me about this," he said. For one godawful moment, I thought he was asking about my brown sandals.

"Well," Bill said, "That's a study for an oil I'm getting ready to paint."

"I like it," Jim said. "Do you like it, Florine?"

Florine liked it.

So it was agreed that when Bill completed the oil painting, the Sikkings would buy it. We talked about palette. Jim is partially colorblind, so we wanted colors he could perceive. Lots of Matisse, Nice-period blue. We talked about dimensions. We talked about price. We came to terms. Jim and Florine would now return to the gallery and put down their deposit. Bruce and his woman would tag along.

Done deal.

"San, could we get a ride back to the gallery with you?" By now the milk was ready to splash onto my brown sandals.

"Sure," I said, then added casually, "Of course I'm in a Volkswagen Golf. It'll be a little crowded."

"Great! We can sit in one another's laps."

F'in' great. When would this sad ordeal end? I pictured my desperate folks at home, wearing a groove in the parquet floor of our bungalow on 30th Avenue as they walked in circles, passing a starved, red-faced, screaming Flannery back and forth. The milk spurted.

As we walked to the VW, Florine was chatting with Valerie. "When I came into that gallery last summer, she was pregnant and she was just radiant!"

Wow, I thought, what she means is, "What in the hell has happened to her now?" (Now that I'm older than Florine was then, I realize she was empathetic to my situation and was wanting to make me feel better. She'd been there. She knew. She is a genuinely kind woman.)

Everyone packed themselves into my little car and I headed down 19th Avenue, through Golden Gate Park, through the Presidio, and towards the Marina. Coming off the Marina Boulevard ramp, I had a little trouble merging in the mid-day traffic and got honked at by an irate motorist. Well, several irate motorists. I couldn't help myself. I uttered the s-word. I was chagrined to have done so. My passengers remained unperturbed. Then again, they were used to L.A. motorists. They were used to Hollywood directors.

When we arrived at the gallery, I'll admit, despite myself, I felt a measure of pride walking in with the Hollywood people. A little crowd gathered on the sidewalk in front, murmuring "That's him, isn't it?"

And, "Look. That's him too!"

And, "But who in the hell is that one in the bad sandals?"

Just kidding.

(OK, I've written this much already and I'm still on my first Famous Person Who Almost Knew Me. Whatta ya say I make this a series? More to come...six least...I'll get around to it...)


Friday, March 27, 2009

Feel-Good Friday--Bob's 500th Post!

I just got back from the 5ooth Post bash for Bob T. Bear, (esq). He's asked me to spread the word: you're invited! Go ahead. Run over to Bob T. Bear, (esq.)'s Diary. Delectable cakes are waiting to be eaten. (I believe Mummy is pulling the second batch out of the oven right about now.) Ginger beer to go around! Chocolate of course. And biscuits. (What they ever-so-oddly call cookies in the UK.)

And how could I forget the joke competition and the pole dancer? Warning: You have to be 21 in bear years to watch the dancer. But, hey, who's counting?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Shake the World

OK, so I got this email from one R. Bryce Milburn. Did any of you? I was expecting one of those messages with a subject line along the lines of "My Beloved Child of God," one that begins something like this:

I am Mrs. Rose Mkama from Benin. I was married to Manfred The CEO Veekrol Benin Sarl, a seasoned Contractor In West African Region...

You know the rest. Wire ten thousand (10,000) dollars within ten (10 days) and you will have a fortune at your disposal. Spend it on the world's less privileged, yourself included.

This, however, is what R. Bryce Milburn had to say:

My name is Bryce Milburn and I work for Shake the World, an independent film production company, and we are working on a new interactive not-for-profit documentary that will showcase simultaneous events taking place all around the world at the exact same time. We are having everyone from all around the world record themselves or whatever they want on april 11th, 4pm pacific time for one minute.

Cool, huh? If you're interested, go to Shake the World Pictures for further instructions. If they ask you to send money, tell them you already gave. To the grieving widow Mrs. Rose Mkama from Benin. If they just want you to send a video of yourself doing whatever at 4 p.m. Pacific Time on April 11th, by all means, be my guest.

Get your teeth whitened and do your Pilates, folks. Hollywood talent scouts will be watching.

Just kidding. But I kind of like the idea. It's world-shaking.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Where the Woolgatherer Lives

Where the Woolgatherer Lives
acrylic on canvas, 48" x 36"

Don't you love the sound of the word woolgathering? And don't you love to do what it means? Daydream. Stargaze. Muse. Waste time. Build castles in the air. Contemplate the light falling in a corner. Imagine if. If I had a billion sheep. Weave wishes. Spin fantasies. Count sheep. Gather wool.

Where'd they get that--woolgathering? I looked it up on The Hindu:

This is an expression that has been around for several centuries. As for its origin, it comes from the world of sheep farming. In the old days, when farmers allowed their sheep to graze, they always sent a couple of women or children along with the animals. When sheep grazed, sometimes tufts of wool got caught in the bushes and on the branches of trees. It was the job of the women/children to gather the wool and hand it over to the farmer. The original `wool gatherers' were actually gathering wool! Since the job of wool gathering didn't require much concentration, it was possible for the individual to let his mind wander — in other words, he could afford to daydream! Hence, the activity of `wool-gathering' became associated with daydreaming!

Woolgathering has a bum rap in western culture. Spend an afternoon contemplating the light falling in a corner and what do you have to show for it? After the sun goes down, a dark corner. And yet...I read somewhere that the theory of relativity was revealed to Albert Einstein in an intuitive moment as he regarded birds migrating across the winter sky. Is that a myth? I dunno. But almost everyone who's taken a junior-high science course knows the story of James Watson going to bed wondering about the architecture of DNA, only to dream of two intertwined snakes. He got his answer (Elementary, Watson. It's a double, my dear, helix!) after counting sheep.

The approach to the place where I gather wool.
(A double helix. Kind of.)

I propose a World Woolgathering Commission whose function will be to encourage the gentle art of woolgathering in every corner of society. Artists will be commissioned to stalk mayors and governors and senators, catch them in dreamy moments of staring idly into space, then capture their likeness in bronze or marble or paint. These likenesses will be erected in public plazas from Grand Rapids to Mumbai to Hobart, Tasmania to inspire all citizenry. Every nation's Gross Domestic Product will include hours logged woolgathering. Particularly dedicated workers will receive daydreaming plaques. These plaques will decorate the new heart center of every home--the WC, or, Woolgathering Center. Televisions will be banished from the WC. As will computers and vacuum cleaners and file cabinets. Small businesses will be granted tax credits for bringing the dreaming infrastructure of their facilities up to code--workstations will be positioned so as to allow employees ample time to regard the hummingbird feeder just outside the window. Every county fair's main event will be the Pie-in-the-Sky Bake-off. Schoolchildren caught woolgathering during lackluster blackboard presentations will be singled out and recognized for their efforts--in the form of a huge glitter-encrusted gold star bearing the daydreamer's name. The star will hang from the classroom ceiling, maximizing serious stargazing opportunities for all students.

No child will be left behind. No wool will be left ungathered.