"Frank! I'm so glad you called. I've been running late all
morning: first the gym, then errands. What time is it? Where are
"I'm at the diner a couple blocks from your place."
Frank read the name of the diner off the menu cover.
"Great. I'll be there shortly. Have you ordered yet?"
"No, I was about to," grumbled Frank.
"Don't. Wait for me to get there. My treat since you've
come all this way. You must have been wondering if I was going
to stand you up," chuckled Brian.
"Well, not really." Frank tried not to sound embarrassed.
"You don't have to buy me lunch," he said apologetically.
"Look. In this town, if someone offers you a free meal,"
"Okay. No problem," accepted Frank graciously.
"I'm on my way."
Frank was seated in a small booth facing the entrance. His arms
rested on the table. Sooner than later, Brian walked into the
diner. Frank nodded to Brian, who did the same. Frank pointed
his left index-finger at the ceiling, lifting his arm slightly
off the table and flicking his wrist upwards. Brian acknowledged
with a thumbs up across his midriff. Frank lowered his eyes as
Brian scooted into the booth flush-faced. As he spoke, he offered
"You may remember when we talked on the phone, I thought
my schedule was open for the weekend...."
Frank started to become disillusioned after shaking Brian's hand.
Not only was the palm clammy, but his attire was less than expected.
Brian's appearance, even if he had been working out, was tatty;
he wore a faded old softball team t-shirt that had seen better
days. The faded shirt had a cracked iron-on logo; the lettering
could barely be made out. The words designed into logo read, 'The
"Like the shirt," asked Brian. "Too bad you can't
relive your thirties." He gave Frank the once over and sneered.
Brian suddenly realized that Frank's ensemble was taken strait
from the catalog he recently threw into the recycle bin.
Frank winced and continued to take stock of Brian's fashion statement.
His grey cotton sweatpants looked fairly new; however, his canvas
sneakers were in need of replacement. Somehow, Brian's distressed
leather slim-fit motorcycle jacket no longer smelled like cowhide--nor
like motor oil. Frank wished the table between them was a bit
"Seems like there's a good breeze today," said Frank,
moving off the conversation topic, away from talking about old
"Yeah, the buildings around here can cast a long shadow,
making the slightest breeze feel like an arctic gust," responded
Brian. Not breaking from his original train of thought, he continued.
"Like I was saying, about my schedule. My godchild, she told
me that she had a couple of tickets to a show at Carnegie Hall.
Her girlfriend flaked-out, and she asked me if I could go."
"Yeah, my widowed sister-in-law's daughter. My older brother
married young. He died of natural causes."
Brian muffled his voice when he mentioned his brother's death,
but he did not appear saddened. His voice became more natural
when he spoke about his godchild, but his tone quickly turned
"Her name is Celia. She's my niece. I hate the word 'uncle'.
My brother liked to bully me--to make me tougher. He would twist
my arm and make me say, 'Uncle!'"
Brian's attitude became more light.
"As a result, I like thinking of Celia as my child--even
though she's a twenty-something." Parenting now, at this
age, is better than when she was in her tweens; she understands
the ethical consequences of her actions, which is, I don't have
to bail her out."
Brian's countenance was that of parental concern.
"Celia hates her step-father. Because of that, she's lost
confidence in her mother. So, I'm her surrogate parent. As a result,
I promised I would be her 'Go-to Guy'."
Frank's shoulders hunched and his face drooped. Frank wondered
why Brian was talking so personally and not as inquisitive as
when they first met at the gallery. What did Brian really want--obviously
not an assistant. Frank thought this meeting in the diner would
be the extent of his relationship with his New York Art Scene
mentor. Why else would Brian offer to pay for the meal? Frank
prepared himself to be let go or take the hint and leave by his
"I would have called to reschedule the weekend, but I didn't
have your phone number. What is it by the way?
Encouraged, Frank started telling his area code. Brian cut him
"Look, here's the long and short."
Brian took a several seconds to study Frank's physiognomic expression
and body language before explaining. He wanted to dominate the
conversation--and this neophyte.
"I got you a ticket. That way you can join us. The seat
is in the balcony, so we won't be sitting together. By the time
I got to the box office, the show was practically sold out. I
was going to tell Celia to..., She should count herself lucky."
Brian paused. He noticed Frank studying him.
"Anyhow," said Brian cautiously, "let's order
something. I need to shut up."
Embarrassed, Frank wondered if he should offer to pay for the
ticket, but then he remembered Brian's warning about turning down
a free lunch. Was he being tested? Frank was beginning to realize
how crafty Brian could be.
"Okay. Great! Thanks."
Frank had no idea where this day was headed. He was determined
to go with the flow. He asked the waiter for a turkey club with
American cheese, a side of mayo, an order of fries, and "to
drink, I'll have an iced tea."
Brian wanted a cheeseburger and fries (cheddar, lettuce and tomato
[yes], onions [no])--a cola with plenty of ice. When the food
arrived, he asked for a jar of dijon.
Once they both got some instant gratification from their meal,
Frank began to offer his opinion on the 'Young Artist-Curators
with Potential' show, to remind his mentor of the assignment he
was given when last they met.
Instinctively, Brian placed his clenched right-hand in front
of his mouth, gagged, coughed--gasped for air.
"Don't mention that show," admonished Brian
through gnashed teeth as he reached for a napkin from the dispenser.
He finished chewing what was in his mouth, then took a long sip
of cola to wash down the mashed debris, then inadvertently slammed
the red plastic tumbler onto the table. The crushed ice jumped
in reaction as did Brian's guest tremble slightly. To gather himself,
Brian snatched up the bottle of ketchup sitting on the table,
gently placed the bottle back, then rotated the container in quarter
turns. After the brief calm-down to compose himself, he continued
with a hushed voice.
"Do you know what happened?! The gallery closed the Monday after
the opening. Unbelievable! The artists were told to pick up their
work before Saturday. I found out by an artist-friend, who unfriended
me. I have never been so embarrassed. I promoted the show to my
client list, highlighting the artists of interest in a crib sheet.
Fortunately, I told them not to show up at the opening, but wait
until the following weekend. I scheduled walkthroughs. My hope
was to have my clients discretely snarf up a couple of 'winners'."
"When I finally caught up with the gallerist, he told me
that the lease was revoked because of a broken agreement with
the property manager. After some kind of BS zoning investigation,
they came up with a bogus allegation that the gallerist was living
there in the space."
Brian gulped the last of the soda in the tumbler to wash down
the frothy saliva that was collecting in his mouth. He wiped his
lips sloppily with a napkin. "I 'found out' that wasn't the
real reason at all. The conspiracy theory is that the building
owner wanted to covert the space into a coffee shop."
Empathized Frank, "That's messed up!"
Again, Brian reached for the ketchup. This time he removed the
cap, anticipated the pour, then dipped some fries. As he chewed
them [munch, munch], he began to settle down. He took a sip, not
realizing that there was nothing left to drink.
"When you called me last month, those were the residual
fires I was putting out. However, after the abrupt closing, I
was in full crisis mode. I had to contact my clients and deal
with their disappointment. Some saw the wisdom in not having them
attend the opening. As a matter of fact, only one client showed
up the day we met; the couple already knew one of the artists.
If I hadn't included the words 'With Potential' to the show's
name, I would not of been able to put a positive spin on the failed
outcome. You can convince people either way (positively or negatively)
with a sight-unseen description."
"That's why I wanted to get your opinion a month later:
to find out if you could describe a work of art relying solely
on the piece's resonance, after a period of time. I wanted to
go back to the gallery and walk through--after you had shared
your thoughts, of course. However, since the show has closed prematurely,
there's no point in the exercise. "
Frank huffed. He grabbed a knife off the table, scooped some
mayonnaise out of the paper soufflé cup and spread the
condiment on an edge of the quartered turkey club. He took a bite,
then while holding the sandwich, he repositioned the toothpick
to keep the layers aligned. Frank placed the remaining section
onto the plate, drank some iced tea.
"Never mind," said Brian sarcastically. Embittered,
he rant-rambled some more.
"You know, the gallery's closing was no reflection on the
show itself. You were there opening night. The place was packed!
Actually, the problem with the gallery closing had nothing to
do with the success of the show. The problem had to do with one
Brian shook some crushed ice into his mouth. Chewing the ice,
cooled his temper. Noticing his cheeseburger, he took a chomp.
A waiter stopped by the table. Brian pointed and looked up puppy-eyed.
The waiter snatched the tumbler off the table without looking
at Frank. Seconds later, he returned with a new cola. Brian smiled
with gratitude, dismissing the server who said, "Oh, you're
quite welcome" with a casual flippancy while sashaying away,
back to his station. Brian snickered, acknowledging the inside
"And that thing is real estate," asked Frank.
"Ah, you're familiar with the saying, 'the key to a successful
business is location, location, location'. Well, seems now, at
least in Manhattan, they key for a successful arts business is
sponsors, sponsors, sponsors. If either the gallerist or I had
a sponsor, I mean a really good one, backing the show, we would
of had enough clout to hold an 'Everything Must Go' close-out
sale--and we could have made some commissions, and the artists
would have made some money as well as earned some visibility."
Upon hearing that, Frank took a huge and final bite out of the
last quarter of his sandwich to prevent himself from expressing
verbally his lividness. He twiddled the toothpick before clumsily
placing the shard of wood onto his plate. Frank stared at his
plate while his chin waged. He steadied himself by sitting back
into the cushioned booth, feigning satisfaction with his meal.
He could not believe that he wasted his time trying to come up
with insightful comments for what he thought was mediocre artworks.
A good thing Brian did not ask him for his opinion; he thought
he would have come off as a pompous ass. Frank could not fathom,
nor muster any vicarious desire from this conversation. He found
himself thinking, "was Brian a smooth talker?"
Lost in his own train of thought, Brian, neglected to ask Frank
about his interests in subtextual comprehension in relation to
the arts. Instead, he droned on, adding the aphorism that "order
from volatility, not chaos, is the primary driver for the creative
class. From a known disruption, from a shift in society, from
a pivot in perspective comes, no, forces change. This precipitates
the need, the opportunity to quell querulousness--and in our case,
we quell through Art, through artworks. These are the most creative
Suddenly, looking off into space, Brian stopped, what seemed
to Frank to be, blathering. He closed his eyes and took a deep
breath through his nostrils, then opened his lids. Looking very
disagreeable, Brian snarled, "I can't wait to go to the show
Frank, figuring best not to ask, sighed to himself, "Oh
brother, where's the check."