Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Debbie Does Art (Meme of Fame 2nd Installment)

A bubbly 60-something blond woman, quite pretty, a little on the plump side, stood by the gallery door fingering the merchandise with her graceful hands. "Oh, how CUTE!!!"

The little bottle vases hanging on the door were cute indeed, but take it from me: the gushers do not buy. They expend their energy gushing, lead you around the gallery, toying with you, fingering the merchandise, gushing. They gush over your outfit, gush over the art, gush over your perfume. Oh, they might ask if the chairs in the back room are for sale, or the sales desk. (No, I'm not kidding.) They want to know the source of your accent, how long you've lived in Santa Fe, and "Where's a good place to eat around here, one with no tourists?" Then they walk out the door, headed to the next shop. And there you are--penniless, defeated, drained of life, drowned in bullshit.

This particular gusher was accompanied by four teenagers. One extremely good-looking fellow who looked like a very young Robert Downey Jr. One totally likable overweight guy who proclaimed the art in the gallery "awesome" (without gushing). With earnestness he confided he wanted to be an artist. Two gorgeous blondes, one friendly, one dripping with cynicism. The older woman--let's call her Debbie-- announced she wanted to buy a bottle vase for each of the girls. They just had to pick a color. The friendly girl happily chose a magenta. The cynical one frowned and said she didn't want one.

Debbie was becoming less bubbly. She INSISTED the young, cynical blonde choose a color.

"But I don't know what color I want to paint my wall," whined the blonde.

"For cryin' out loud, pick a color and let me buy you a bottle vase. It's not a big deal!" I was beginning to like this Debbie. She was evolving from gusher to customer. She was putting her dainty little foot down with Ms. Cynic. I was totally in her corner now. She was going to make a purchase! Ms Cynic relented and picked a yellow.

While I was totaling up the bottle vases, Debbie began walking around the gallery. She started gushing again, this time over a painting of chickens in a chorus line. " THAT IS SO CUTE. THAT IS SO FUNNY. I JUST LOVE IT."

I hung the painting in the viewing room for Debbie. I talked up the marvelous qualities of the festive headgear of the party girl chickens. Debbie was beside herself. I asked her if she wanted me to wrap the painting for her to take, or would I be shipping it.

"NO. I would hang it in my kitchen and I would never pay that for something to hang in my kitchen." She had gone from gushing to cantankerous in the blink of her big blue eyes.

"Okay," I said. " What would you pay?"

She low-balled me.

I tried to meet her offer at a respectable distance.

She wouldn't budge.

I tried again.

She was unflinching.

I coaxed.

She refused.

I cajoled.

She began walking away.

"Well, I'll think about it," she said, in a huff, swinging her hips, headed towards the door.

I'LL THINK ABOUT IT is the death knell for an art sale. Art purchases come from the heart, not the frontal cortex.

I ran after her.

(This is a trick I learned through the years, a skill I've lovingly honed, a skill to which I attribute my longevity in the business. That trick is: When they're walking away from the deal, run after them, pleading. It is such a tremendous ego boost to certain people. I mean who doesn't enjoy someone running after them, begging? Especially when family members are watching?)

"OKAY. OKAY. You are tough! You are tougher than me! You win! Have your price!" I said.

"She's tough," I reiterated to her youthful entourage. They looked at the floor.

She beamed and handed me her credit card. I have a habit of reading the name of the person on the card. It said Connie Stevens. Yes, the Connie Stevens. That tough kitten had been around the block. Connie signed her Visa receipt with a flourish, said she wanted to return to the hotel but that someone would pick up the painting later. I wrapped it in bubble wrap and printed a bio of the artist. I placed the bio in an envelope with the name CONNIE in large letters, and I embellished it with a big red heart. I wonder if she appreciated my little gesture.

Later that day I entrusted the painting to the Robert Downey Jr. lookalike. He told me he was Connie's nephew and acknowledged it was "pretty cool" to be Connie Stevens' nephew. I acknowledge: It was pretty cool to sell a painting to Connie. I only wish she'd ponied up a bit more.

Connie, circa 1963.

Connie, one tough kitten.

Connie, the businesswoman. She now owns a beauty products company and a spa, and recently directed her first film. She also heads an organization which awards scholarships to young Native Americans. And she will gush whenever and wherever she pleases, thank you.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Happy Springtime from the High Desert

Yes, we got more snow yesterday and last night. Flannery, who's home this weekend (Oakley too!), stood in the back door and took this picture earlier this morning. You may be able to tell that the sun is just starting to creep across the field. The shaggy contours of the junipers are starting to reveal themselves once more as the spring snow melts. Such is the speed of transformation in the high desert. Just last week I had the gallery door wide open and the happy tourists were walking by in their shirt sleeves. Today I imagine they're bundled up in down jackets and snow boots. The lucky ones anyway, those who looked at a forecast before they packed their bags.

I'm enjoying a quiet day at home with the kids. A fire crackles in the woodstove and I lift my French roast in a toast to (what I hope is) the last snow of springtime.