“Everything he had ever done that had been better left undone. Every lie he had told — told to himself, or told to others. Every little hurt, and all the great hurts. Each one was pulled out of him, detail by detail, inch by inch. The demon stripped away the cover of forgetfulness, stripped everything down to truth, and it hurt more than anything.”
― Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders
“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
― Pablo Picasso
Kettle Art is a gallery in Deep Ellum and is known for its unflagging support of local artists. Every February those artists get a shot at returning the favor. The gallery distributes about two hundred identical nine by twelve inch boards to be converted into works of art. They go on sale at seven PM for fifty dollars apiece, and all of the proceeds go toward the gallery (they return the favor a week later with their For the Love of Artists event). The thing is that there are two hundred or so pieces, but three hundred or so folks show up and many buy several works – some up to ten. That’s why they call it a “competitive shopping event.” They open the doors at seven PM sharp and everyone rushes in.
The paintings are numbered and you take the numbers up front and reserve your painting – if nobody else has gotten to it first. Then you pay, then you pick up.
I don’t have a lot of money, but I can come up with fifty dollars. I used to go an hour early so I could get a spot near the front of the line… and get the painting I wanted. I don’t do that any more – now I go an hour and a half early.
The event is at seven and I wanted to get there at five thirty. It takes an hour or so to get downtown on the train, especially since I have to change from the Red line to the Green to get from downtown to Deep Ellum… plus fifteen minutes to get to the train station – I left home right at four fifteen.
Everything went as planned until I got off the train at the Arts District station downtown. On the weekends the trains don’t run very often and the next Green train wouldn’t be there for a half hour. That would not do. My eyes fell on the electric scooters lined up on the sidewalk. I’ve ridden the scooters before (read about an adventure here) so out came my phone and I unlocked one and five minutes and a buck ninety later I was in Deep Ellum. The only problem was that the road I took was rough and the little wheels on the scooter didn’t help that – but I made it in one piece.
Arriving right on time, ninety minutes early, I was fourth in line. The fun thing is that the same people go early every year, so we had a lot to talk about. Mostly, though, we talked about strategy. You see, the line starts immediately at the reserve table, so the question is whether to rush to the table or walk around and look for the painting you really want – at the risk of someone else getting it.
I always stress out about this, stress too much. One year I went on a bike ride and arrived dehydrated and the stress got to me and I wrote down the wrong number – getting a random painting. It was OK – but not the style I wanted… and the artist saw me with it and said, “I can’t believe it sold so fast.” I lied and said, “Oh I wanted it right from the start!”
This year I looked in the window and could clearly see the first paintings with their numbers. I realized that I really liked four of the first five and would be happy with any of those. Talking to the people in line (we all traded our favorites and agreed not to buy each others) they suggested a great strategy. It involved buying two paintings. I would rush to the table and buy a painting I like right away (Painting #1, as a matter of fact) and then I had one that I liked locked up. After that, I could leisurely walk around, writing down any others that looked good and buy one of those later. Many would be bought, but some should still be left.
That was the ticket. I’d spend an extra fifty dollars, but get two paintings… and have fun, with no pressure, because I was guaranteed of at least one that I liked and would probably get two.
The line behind me stretched most of the way around the block… and then the door flew open and I rushed in, went right to the table (I was third, the people in line before me were there first) and bought painting #1.
In this photo you can see a painting by Richard Ross – I bought one of his in 2016.
Happy with my choice, I wandered around looking at all the art, writing down the numbers of about two dozen works that I particularly liked. Then I joined the long line waiting for a painting. When I reached the front, I was surprised at how man numbers I had written down were still available. I chose a colorful Day of the Dead skull that I knew Candy would like.
It was painted by David Pech. Candy really liked it.
Once I had both my paintings picked up it was getting late, though there were still people arriving and buying art. Looking at the board where they crossed numbers off when the paintings were taken I noticed that there were still a couple that I had written down as particularly liking that were not purchased yet. So I guess I don’t really need to go ninety minutes early next year. But I think I will. I’ll definitely save up a hundred and buy two paintings. That strategy is the ticket.
I should have brought a backpack because I couldn’t ride a scooter with two paintings in my hands. So I had to wait thirty minutes for the next train.
“Imagine a city where graffiti wasn’t illegal, a city where everybody could draw whatever they liked. Where every street was awash with a million colours and little phrases. Where standing at a bus stop was never boring. A city that felt like a party where everyone was invited, not just the estate agents and barons of big business. Imagine a city like that and stop leaning against the wall – it’s wet.”
― Banksy, Wall and Piece
“Once upon a time, there was a king who ruled a great and glorious nation. Favourite amongst his subjects was the court painter of whom he was very proud. Everybody agreed this wizzened old man pianted the greatest pictures in the whole kingdom and the king would spend hours each day gazing at them in wonder. However, one day a dirty and dishevelled stranger presented himself at the court claiming that in fact he was the greatest painter in the land. The indignant king decreed a competition would be held between the two artists, confident it would teach the vagabond an embarrassing lesson. Within a month they were both to produce a masterpiece that would out do the other. After thirty days of working feverishly day and night, both artists were ready. They placed their paintings, each hidden by a cloth, on easels in the great hall of the castle. As a large crowd gathered, the king ordered the cloth be pulled first from the court artist’s easel. Everyone gasped as before them was revealed a wonderful oil painting of a table set with a feast. At its centre was an ornate bowl full of exotic fruits glistening moistly in the dawn light. As the crowd gazed admiringly, a sparrow perched high up on the rafters of the hall swooped down and hungrily tried to snatch one of the grapes from the painted bowl only to hit the canvas and fall down dead with shock at the feet of the king. ’Aha!’ exclaimed the king. ’My artist has produced a painting so wonderful it has fooled nature herself, surely you must agree that he is the greatest painter who ever lived!’ But the vagabond said nothing and stared solemnly at his feet. ’Now, pull the blanket from your painting and let us see what you have for us,’ cried the king. But the tramp remained motionless and said nothing. Growing impatient, the king stepped forward and reached out to grab the blanket only to freeze in horror at the last moment. ’You see,’ said the tramp quietly, ’there is no blanket covering the painting. This is actually just a painting of a cloth covering a painting. And whereas your famous artist is content to fool nature, I’ve made the king of the whole country look like a clueless little twat.”
― Banksy, Wall and Piece
“It’s been a prevalent notion. Fallen sparks. Fragments of vessels broken at the Creation. And someday, somehow, before the end, a gathering back to home. A messenger from the Kingdom, arriving at the last moment. But I tell you there is no such message, no such home — only the millions of last moments . . . nothing more. Our history is an aggregate of last moments.”
― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
For the first time in over a month I was able to lay down for fifteen minutes a-and still breathe through my nose. So, well… there’s that.
In their brief time together Slothrop forms the impression that this
octopus is not in good mental health, though where’s his basis for
comparing? But there is a mad exuberance, as with inanimate objects
which fall off of tables when we are sensitive to noise and our own
clumsiness and don’t want them to fall, a sort of wham! ha-ha you hear
that? here it is again, WHAM!
—-Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
“You know what cheers me up? Other people’s misfortune.”
—-Bender on Futurama
Yet for all his agonizing all Pointsman will score, presently, is an octopus – yes a gigantic, horror-movie devilfish name of Grigori: gray, slimy, never still, shivering slow-motion in his makeshift pen down by the Ick Regis jetty … a terrible wind that day off the Channel, Pointsman in his Balaclava helmet, eyes freezing, Dr. Porkyevitch with greatcoat collar up and fur hat down around his ears, their breaths foul with hours-old fish, and what the hell can Pointsman do with this animal?
Already, by itself, the answer is growing, one moment a featureless blastulablob, the next folding, beginning to differentiate….
—-Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow