Forty Nine was the street address and the name of the Gallery. Jen’s jeep was on the street a block away and we had to circle twice to find a spot. The lot was full at 8:30 and we new Jenny would be upset that we were late. I called Roberta’s number instead to see if they would come and meet us at a bar across the street before we went into the gallery.
“Are you guys kidding, you’re already a half hour late.” Roberta stated.
“Well, we’re not ready yet – if you know what I mean.”
“You mean you don’t have enough liquor in you to be social,” said Roberta.
“OK. Just one more and we’ll be over.” I tried to sound like we were on the verge of finishing our drinks but Johnny had just ordered. We sat on stools at the bar and watched the brightly lit windows across the street at Forty Nine. We could see people standing around on the inside and it was quite packed. That was good, less chance of gaining attention.
“Yo bro, here,” Johnny put a shot of Jack Daniels in front of me and I shook my head.
“Let’s not get too out of control before we’ve started,” I told him but it fell on deaf ears. Johnny was all right I guess. He had taken a job in real estate after college and had jumped around from broker to broker, focusing more on his party lifestyle than the fluctuation in the housing market; spoiled rich kid.
“Lay off bro – we’re gonna go right down to electric avenue.” He made some kind of stepping move to accompany his bad memory for the words of the song – but it was kinda silly and I just rolled my eyes at him.
“Fuck Off, we’re going to the gallery soon and nothing is going to happen there tonight – no fights with country music fans, no picking on bikers just for the hell of it. There won’t be any of them there.”
“For shizzle bro.” sometimes I just couldn’t figure out why he didn’t use the language he was born with and instead made up his own patois. He sounded like an older version of the youth offenders I worked with, making up their own coded talk.
A beer later and I decided it was time to get to the gallery and meet the girls. With Johnny in tow, I left the bar and crossed the street. Roberta was waiting outside with a cigarette. She didn’t smoke often – only on nights out, but I could see by the look in her face she wasn’t happy.
“I’ve been watching out for you and you’ve been having one on, haven’t you,”
“For shizzle sis,” Johnny piped up. “We’ve been rocking in the free world.” Johnny wasn’t helping. Maybe it was an autism spectrum disorder or some other brain abnormality I wondered. Roberta finished her smoke and we went inside. It took us a while but at last we saw Jenny near the back talking to a rather tall gentleman who must have been at least sixty.
“Everyone, this is Professor Miller. He was one of my fourth year advisors and I haven’t seen him since school.”
“Glad to meet you all,” Professor Miller’s voice retained some youth it seemed, and his features weren’t as saggy as you might expect. He was rather nicely tanned. We all said hello and introduced ourselves in order.
“We’ll talk later Frank,” said Jenny, putting her hand on his chest in a rather odd fashion – and being on a first name basis with a professor. “Come on guys, I want you to meet a couple of people, and with that we toured the gallery being introduced to an older artist couple Mary and Sydney from Toronto, a writer and author James Bradley and his wife Lois, and two perhaps gay artists Jeffrey and Len, both who were in Jenny’s year at school but lived in Toronto now. Then we happened to bump into Michael Callahan the lawyer Roberta had spoken to that afternoon. I could see he was nervous to meet us but that seemed to settle when we were all introduced and we all had drinks in our hands. Callahan was a contract lawyer. I think most lawyers are shifty. It’s not what they say, it’s what they don’t say that worries me but I guess a doctor would be the same with everyone wanted free advice at the most inopportune times.
I finished my drink and went to the bar in the corner of the room. The bartender smiled and said her name was Carrie. She was good looking but I didn’t feel like flirting at the moment so I got my drink and decided to wander, leaving the others to their conversation about the horses. This was going to be a long night. It was only nine o’clock and the gallery was open until eleven.
Jenny was right. No two pieces were of the same subject but they were eerily similar. Something about the blurriness of the edges or the sharpness in some in the right places creates a kind of false realism. Maybe that was what she had been talking about. I came close to a group standing around a short man in his early fifties I’d say, who was talking about a particular piece, a skull with a candle on top. The work seemed simple enough. Still life with candle it was called. The man who I found out later was Anthony Richards talked about how he was intentionally distorting the image in order to move away from convention. It was interesting enough and I thought I was starting to get this stuff. After all, weren’t we all looking for something more out of life in a way? Here was an artist that was using technique to surprise the viewer every time by distorting the truth.