Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Things I Haven't Told You.

Oh, you know how I am. I make promises with the best of intentions, swear I'll spin tales of this or that. And you wait patiently (but with baited breath), sure that I'll come through and be true to my word. But then days pass, and then weeks, and understandably you begin to lose faith. Well, ho ho! I have come to restore you, to restore us both! Are you ready? It's time for me to write a post about all that stuff that I said I'd write a post about but never did. We'll go in chronological order. Ready? Set? Go.

Civics, 101.
I'm in a room with ten televisions, two hundred strangers, and countless continual high pitched whining noises. Naturally, I'm wondering if I've actually died and been sent to hell.

But no, it isn't hell.

It's just jury duty.

There's a sick irony in being summoned to jury duty immediately after quitting the job at the law firm. Like some sort of karmic punishment. It's as if the universe said: "So, you want to be done with the law, huh? Well. We'll see." It's something like detention for adults. You could try to get something done there technically, except that it's so extremely distracting. There's the televisions, for one, and then there's the people yelling at you about various things that may or may not apply to you. And if they call you and you miss it, well, you just screwed yourself bigtime. Your duty does not count, and you'll have to do it all over again.

Of course I was sent to Kew Gardens, an hour away on the E train, instead of to Court Square (also a potential venue listed on my summons) which is next to my studio. Why make this any easier than it has to be?

The organizer of today's judicial affair has just rattled off her spiel with the air of a long-worn government employee. No doubt she could tell you the exact day that she will be retiring. She may have an hour count. She does not like us. She does not want to be here. And she does not understand why we do not understand that we simply need to sit the hell down, shut the hell up, and pass the damn summons to the left.

What I've found most interesting so far is the statement that anyone who has trouble with the English language need not serve. Which is, of course, perfectly logical. Except that it was said in English, and only in English, so that the people most unfit to serve in the language department are still just sitting there, maybe humming to themselves, without a clue as to what the hell is going on. (You're trying to tell me that not one employee in this courthouse in Kew Gardens, Queens speaks Spanish?) The fact is that those of us with perfect English have only the loosest grasp of what is currently expected of us. From my seat in the front row, I got to witness the interrogation of those poor souls who lined up to state their claim of a problem with the English language. Of course, they were questioned... in English.

I spent three days serving jury duty; I was questioned by a set of wildly incompetent lawyers for a burglary trial. If those boys are innocent, I just hope the prosecutor is as ineffective as those two defense attorneys. For whatever reason, they didn't like me. Possibly because I kept moaning in exasperation at each juror who said they'd take a policeman's word over anyone else's (what???), probably in an attempt to get out of duty. (Did they somehow not understand that they'd just be going back to the holding pen?) At any rate, I got rejected, and back to the Big Brother room I went. Fortunately that afternoon we were released on our own recognizance, and my duty is done for the next six years. And boy do I feel like a good citizen!

Six weeks later I received a check: $120, cash money. Well hell, that's almost minimum wage. But unemployed beggars can't be choosers; I'll take it.

* * *

"Artist" to Artist... according to some.
The weekend of May 16th was a big one. It was my second anniversary with Jonathan, and subsequently when we got engaged. It was also the weekend of my first ever open studios event in my first ever studio.

You remember the studio, that little chunk of concrete that I can't afford? Well, I'm blowing my savings on it precisely because it's part of a real artist collective, in the midst of several other like spaces. So on the 17th and 18th of May, we all flung open our doors to the general public. As you may imagine, this caused me more than a little anxiety. I set my sights fairly high as to what I wanted to have finished by that Saturday morning... so of course I wasn't finished. One painting I completed exactly fifteen minutes before I opened my door, one I altered the design of to get it done (but I actually like it better the new way!), and one isn't even finished now. But even so, I had what I think was a respectable amount of work to display.

I had two very different series going, so I set them up in distinct areas. There was the wall of technicolor Birdland, with all of my silly little guys acting out their dramas on a blindingly vivid landscape. An example for you:

That's one of the smaller ones, but you get the idea. The other side of the room was full of the work that has spiraled out of my experience with Katrina over the past 2.5 years, including collage, letterpress, somewhat abstract paintings that only show the shape of the river, and some brand new paintings based on photographs that I took the first time I visited after the storm. Here's a painting I did of how my house looked, post flood:

Just a little bit different than the birds. So people would walk in, and first they'd see the birds, and be all, oh they're so cute and colorful! And then they'd turn around and get all confused. It was kinda funny. No one spent much time looking at the New Orleans stuff, which was a little disappointing, but not very surprising. But the whole experience was made, MADE, by two individuals. Or three, really, when you count the three-and-a-half month old infant, which of course you should, because he's a person too and a cute one at that and his name isSoren.

Since you asked, I'll explain myself. The first three people to walk through my door after I got it open that Saturday were a perfectly lovely couple and their adorable baby son. They were looking for art to go in little Soren's room, and fell quickly to examining the bird paintings. And then they surprised the hell out of me. They pointed at "Can you see it yet?", a painting that has been my and many of my friends' favorite for quite some time now, and said "we'll take it. Is cash alright?" I was slightly dumbfounded, but luckily didn't say anything particularly dumb. As the painting was a three foot tall slice smack in the middle of my set, they even agreed to come back the next day to pick it up. I'm telling you, most awesome couple ever.

But they weren't done yet. They did indeed come back the next day to pick up the painting, an hour or so earlier than we'd said, but whatever! When you're my new favorite people, that's just fine. As I was wrapping the painting up for them, they looked around some more. And they looked long and hard at a diptych that I had created during my brief moment in art school, a collage and then a pencil drawing of the collage. And they said, we think we'll take these two too. What? Huh? Good lord, they're practically my patrons at this point! Did I mention they're my favorite people ever?

Just today, I received a lovely email from them telling me that my work looks great in their home, and that I should keep them updated on my inventory. I'm telling you, I want to take these people out to dinner or something.

And so, in the span of two days, the sum total of Melissa Bastian artworks ever sold was bumped from zero to three. Of course I've sold shirts and letterpress prints before, but I consider that my craft; it's in a different category of creation (not to mention a very different price range).

So have I moved from "artist" to artist, from "art" to art? We'll see. No promises.

* * *

The Fancy and the Schmancy.
I've now promised about four times to tell you about the getting of my fancy ring. The funny part is, though, that it's debatable how much there is to tell. If you've been keeping up, you probably know there were some issues placing the order in the first place... and because of those complications, thebling was stuck in the post that anniversary night that we did the deed. So it goes.

We decided to go to Blossom, our favorite fancy vegan restaurant, for the fancy proposal with the fancy ring once it arrived the following weekend. We thought it would be a pretty low stress event, since we were already engaged and all. This was more like a charade, like playing dress up. For fun. (Which begs the question, have I met me?)

Our reservations were for 7:30, so at 6:30 we headed for the train station. (After going to The Foundry that morning to give them all of our money, and then eating an enormous brunch, we were having a lazy Saturday afternoon at the house, see.) As soon as we arrived on the train platform I knew something was wrong. This wasn't Saturday evening crowd. This was "train hasn't stopped here in 45 minutes or so" crowd. Crap. Tonight of all nights? Crap. There were trains stacked up as far as the eye could see on the "express" track. We could also see one train stopped between 30th Avenue and Astoria Blvd., one across the tracks from us at 30th Ave, and one stuck behind it at Broadway. Nothing, but nothing, was budging.

Well, we waited for about 20 minutes, and realized that unless a train pulled up right now (a highly unlikely scenario) we were not going to make it to Chelsea on time. So we headed back downstairs to try to catch a cab, or a car, something. On the way, we heard the guy in the booth telling people that the trains in Astoria simply weren't running. And we thought, are you gonna tell the 300 people up on the platform? We would have gone and told them ourselves if we hadn't been stressed and in a hurry to figure out how the hell to get into town, short of walking the Queensboro bridge in our fancyclothes.

And I say again, dear MTA, would you PLEASE stop f*cking with the N train?!?

So we got to the street, and all the service cars that are normally illegally hovering under the station had already been snatched. We were just getting ready to call our regular car service, the one we use to go to the airport or send our drunk friends home with, when I spotted a yellow cab on its way back to the city. Yes! We jumped in, and a surly old bearded white dude eyed us suspiciously until we gave him our destination. (This turned out to be because people had been asking him what the fare might be to get toQueensboro Plaza.) Well, not 30 seconds after we got in the car, some batty lady maybe in her 40's opened the front door and looked at us, wiley eyed. She asked if we were going into the city, and if she could split the ride. It was oh so reminiscent of the strike, when they wouldn't let cars over the bridge with less than four occupants and strangers were just piling in together. Good times.

We asked Batty Lady where in the city she needed to go. Oh, anywhere, she said. Uh... ok. Sure. Why not. Well we got into the city, and a few blocks in she had Mr. Surly drop her off on a corner. She tried to hand him a twenty. And he looked at her like the batty lady that she was. "Give it to them!" he said, motioning to us. So she handed the twenty to Jonathan. The fare, though, was only up to ten. So he handed her back a ten and a five. Batty Lady then tried to hand Mr. Surly the ten. It took all three of us to explain it to her. We had a good laugh when she finally got out of the car.

So we made it to the restaurant, in time even. Now, I love Blossom; the food is great, and when we go for brunch we often get this awesome waiter who's funny and nice and plays the Magnetic Fields. But, as do most Manhattan restaurants, it's got about ten more tables in it than actually fit, making it a bit claustrophobic. The first table they wanted to put us at was the one right next to the entrance, the one that didn't used to be there. Um, no. The second was behind a big round sixtop; the two were practically touching. Luckily, just before we sat down my favorite table opened up. It's stuck at the end of a long banquette, so that there's almost a wall between you and the people next to you, and it's tucked into what used to be the front doors, which are French doors. So you kind of have your own private windowed alcove.

Now keep in mind two things here: 1) All of this table pickyness is me, not Jonathan, and my anxiety was greatly heightened by our reasons for being out at dinner and our adventure in getting there. 2) By the time we were seated, our maitre d' hated us.

So by the time we had menus in our hands, I was about half way to panic attack. And that stressed Jonathan out, badly. Which made me feel worse. Weeeee! Fun. I ordered wine. I went to the ladies room and took a deep breath. I went back and drank the wine, fast. And by the time we'd eaten our dinner, I was almost a person again.

Jonathan took advantage of the downtime after our plates had been cleared. He took a box from his pocket. He opened it. And inside, I saw the most beautiful ring ever. And he said, "I don't know how to do this, so I'm just going to do it. Will you marry me?" And I said yes, for the second time. And he put the ring on my finger. And I stared at it, mouth agape.

It was at that moment that the waiter returned to see if we'd like dessert. After the question escaped his mouth, he looked at us. I looked up from my ring with a big ridiculous grin and said, "sure!" And he grinned back and said, "ooohhh, congratulations!" It was cute. I think he felt bad for interrupting, but how could the man who then brought me three scoops of ice cream feel bad about anything?

After dinner, we were in a funny state of euphoria. We walked east to the flatiron building, and then up through that little park where the most beautiful flowers were blooming and illuminated building tops were reflected in still pools, like magic. We kept walking north, all the way to Central Park, and everything was beautiful - bodegas, subway grates, street signs, bus stops. The whole world had a perfect, picturesque shimmer to it. I held Jonathan's hand all night, and our progress was slow because I stopped to kiss him every two blocks or so.

Yikes! There I go again! Nothing like getting engaged to make a girl sink into gushy reverie.

* * *

So there you have it! Promised and delivered! I still haven't told you about t-shirt stenciling with 10th graders in Brooklyn, but we may not be done with that one yet, so I'll wait until I know that the story is complete.

April and May were interesting months to be sure. So far, June is just slipping right past me. It's alright though, I could use a down month. And besides, things never stay quiet for too long. If they did, I might actually get some rest, and then were would we be?


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