Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Artist

Notes from today’s WALK (San Francisco edition)…

“…and this guy’s  getting rich on his fuckin’ demented art showing little kids with tubes up their fuckin’ asses.”

He speaks these words as he and his companion pass me on Bryant Street. He is a large man who walks with purpose in a bobbing hunch. His face is scrunched from brow to neck, as if compressed in a slowly constricting vice. His weak chin is impossibly close to his nearly-lipless mouth. His eyes squint under a black baseball cap with a defiantly flat brim. An oversized black baseball jersey covers his barrel chest. The jersey and cap combine to lend a post-Cholo-ish air to his appearance, but he is clearly Caucasian. His baggie black denim shorts and barely-laced combat boots are a dead giveaway. He is intimidating.

His companion is older. They walk at a steady pace; the companion pushing an oversized green shopping cart. It is filled with a mix of empty bottles, personal eclectica, and something not alive but nevertheless covered in fur. The companion has a long, gray, Manson like beard. His shriveled lips mask and all-gum mouth. His weathered skin is the color of the urine-infused concrete that was his bed last night. He is 60-going-on-dead. He mumbles attentively; a sympathetic response to his agitated friend.

“…and this guy’s  getting rich on his fuckin’ demented art showing little kids with tubes up their fuckin’ asses.”

The words are spoken seriously, lucidly. Fairly shouted, they are enriched with anger and genuine concern. They hang in the air in front of me as the two men reach the corner and cross 20th Street, headed south. 

Who is this artist? I wonder. Why would he depict such a thing? What statement is he making? My mind returns to the speaker. The disgust in his tone reverberates in my ear. Is it the children he is worried about? There was something protective in his tone. Is he disgusted with the subject matter or with the fact that it is making someone rich? Come to think of it, it sounded almost as if he knew the artist personally. Is it bitterness I hear? Is he jealous of the artist’s success? I can sympathize. It’s hard enough to see someone in your field succeed while you struggle, but to come in second to someone who puts tubes up the asses of kids! That would be particularly galling. And how does this man, who, if we’re being honest, looks like he’s been inside more dumpsters than art galleries, even know about this artist?
It’s nice to get into the City from time to time.

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