Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Life of an Artist


The Life of an Artist

“Gotta make a move to a
Town that's right for me
Town to keep me movin'
Keep me groovin' with some energy”
Lipps, Funkytown

“Yeah, riding high on love's true bluish light”
Blondie, Heart of Glass

The doctor at the clinic back home was an accredited dermatologist, the funding then did not pay for those services, but he would, on the side, help me out tremendously.

Soon enough I was back on my face, or my face was back on me, and was out and about. Got a job, working for a cousin in an housewares, coffee, spice and candy tourist store. He became a very valuable mentor, had faith in me, treated me with respect, was willing to let me take creative control at the store, mostly he was full of assurances about my wanting to move. He would eventually have two kids, a girl, a boy, the son is now a happily married gay man studying art, and his daughter is a lawyer with a lovely family all of her own.
 Emile and I were writing to each other every other day, our correspondence over the top, decorated with wild eclectic themes, collaged sheets of paper mailed with our words tucked inside. The letters accumulated, each dotted with hints of eternal love and then the absolute resolution to move to New York City. I wrote with honesty and in return received his letters which seemed fake and stiff.

I found then that I could not connect with him emotionally, it was like he needed to pretend to be something other than himself, his words led me to regret my choice in him as a potential lover. If we did have or were ever to have any kind of relationship I would need to call him out on the matter of his sincerity. So I did, and it was mean, but it was done and we broke up in a heated exchange carried by the United States Postal Service.

Well it was all a very much 80s Gay teenage boy drama, but if we were to take the leap and move it needed to be an honest and valiant effort. We all knew of kids that moved to the City, only to flounder and flop, return home in some agitated mental state and be the ones who couldn’t make it there, I did not want to fail. I knew that if he was sincere then he would accept my terms, friends, honest, open, and on our way to a new life.
Years later we were living together again, Emile and I. This after our lives had changed drastically over time. We never ended our friendship, were always there for each other, our tenure in NYC had gone through many crazy experiences, he knew everything about me, and I he, we stuck together for those 30 years. It was on one of those milestoned birthdays, mine, must have turned 45 I guess, anyway as a gift he returned the letters.

Back to the story.

I was living in the mobile home, the aluminum structure, poorly set jutting upwards in the middle. When the heat was on during winter, the septic system would cook. The plot of land a narrow dry corner of desert, the neighbors ranging from fundamentalists to cute boys who sold pot.

My younger brother, a reformed altar boy, one of the most sought after Quinceanera dates, was also working for our cousins in one of the shops. My sister, the singer, moving from job to job, her gold colored Camaro parked in the yard, occasionally the vehicle of my escapades. Mom, ever diligent, finally stopped screwing her first husband; he was still married to his second wife. One of my sisters showing up frequently, bruised and beaten by the love of her life, her little boy to be raised in a gruesome fear.

One day my sister, the singer, found the bloody sheets that were somehow saved from my father’s deathbed, they were stuffed into Mom’s linen closet, Ma wasn’t home, we threw them out.
In Vegas I had acquired a fake I.D. so I was spending time at the New Wave club, the Gay bar and the hot disco that even New Yorkers knew about. Developed a circle of friends, some of whom I had known in high school, mostly not though. There was that German Punker whose blouse I ripped off at a party; she kicked my ass all night long. The New Wave boy who expressed his desire by giving me a copy of Yoko Ono’s 45rpm Walking on Thin Ice. I would prep at home before going out, my maquillage taking into account every inch of my body. I was such a fey young thing.

I dated a Low-rider, he drove one of the most beautiful cars that I have ever been in, fell for a hustler, met some guys at the shop, one of whom I went home with, hung on the wall over his bed was an enormous oversized rosary with the crucifix dangling above the pillows. It was not a turn on, he was rather excited though, after he jerked off on top of me, he asked me to pray with him. Then I started dating Frankie, nice guy, he had an L.T.D, we’d park on the mesa overlooking the city and make out for hours. He showed up one day with an S.T.D. caught the clap from an ex, I went with him to the clinic and waited out in the car while he received his penicillin shot, not so hot.

I managed to have plenty of fun, partying with family, friends, and coworkers. Was as always a scandalous sight, wearing leather outfits, or the bright turquoise jumpsuit that I sewed shoulder pads into, accentuated with a thick black sash at the waist, carrying my handbag, wearing high heeled cowboy boots. The guys that stopped that day to stare as I waited for the bus asked if I was an alien from outer space, hell yeah I replied.
I was drawing, reading, writing and taking pictures daily. Dancing was a passion, entered dance contests with my sister, we’d drive off stoned on acid to the after-hours bar and shake our groove things all night long. Emile and I were patched up, still planning. One day I felt the urge, a need, an inspired drive to buy paint and canvas. Walked into the art store by the university, bought a starter set of acrylic and a couple of canvases. I loved the liquid plastic color.

The day drew near, almost time to get the hell out of there. I sold off my valuable stuff, saved as much as a teenager can while working part-time and still going to the bars. There were other kids who wanted to move to the city, the local Punk band was, I had even convinced my sister that she should come with Emile and I.

About a month before departure, one of my cousins was having a party, I was running late, driving Ma’s red Nova, running from party to party. Was on one of the back roads just a couple of blocks away from home, a very tight turn, a car swerved opposite me, less then an inch away, I decided to move forward. A small bump of the metal, the other car, rude kids from the neighborhood, we sat there, still for a few moments, long enough for them to get my license number. I decided just to drive off and join the party.

The next day the police were at the trailer, pounding on the metal door, storming into my room, me in my sexy K-Mart underwear, “We’re here to arrest you for hit and run.” Ma crying, my niece who was staying with us, the one who I made listen to radio static, telling her that that was true Punk, she was balling, “Let him put some clothes on.” Ma pleaded. She made me wear a very respectable outfit with a tie. The fundamentalist neighbors watched as I was led away in handcuffs, they were on the way to church.

I was in a holding cell for a few hours, the still drunk reeling junkie, my cellmate, asking once awake from his stupor, if I were his lawyer. No. Bond was posted, I was a free man! That was the only time that I was in jail. The trial came quickly, Mom whispering to me, loudly, from the gallery, tell the judge this, tell the judge that. The judge found it all so ridiculous, that he threw the case out, I paid a court fee and was done.
Emile would fly to meet me, spend the night, all the family knew him from Sister’s wedding in Vegas, I was such a bitch to him during that event. But he wanted so badly to go out to my Gay bar and check out the scene that night. I had already said goodbye to all of my friends, everyone wishing me the best, said goodbye to my cousins, aunts, uncles, grandma, grandpa. One of my great-aunts, another influential person, a painter late in life, told me with a definitive authority that she was known for said, “You’ll be back.” That was all I needed to hear.

I made Emile, everyone in the house, go to bed at eight that night, wanted the morning to come that much quicker. I don’t think anyone slept, Emile and I talked, Mother must have been nervous, she who inspired me to pursue my dreams, she who wished that I get out and see the world, but she was losing her big baby, one of her best friends.

At the airport the next day, the family assembled, all checked in, everyone at the departure gate, hugs, tears, anxieties. I turned back one more time as we were boarding, wearing a cowboy hat, $600 stuffed into one of my cowboy boots, Ma was certain that I’d be mugged as soon as I got off the plane. I looked back to see her sobbing into one of the Kleenexes that she had pulled out from the bottom of her purse.