I think it must have been Rick who introduced me to the daughter of the guy who
owned the largest collection of contemporary sculpture in the world…which was a
mistake. It was just the first of many.
Before she arrived, I put in a stock of White Horse scotch because I’d been told
she drank scotch. I had 3 bottles proudly displayed, neatly lined up on my buffet
when she arrived.
“Scotch. For you (my love). I heard that you drink scotch.”
“This? I wouldn’t drink this stuff.”
“Chivas or better,” she said flatly.
“Well, gee, I spent every penny I had on this stuff.”
“I’ll buy the scotch, just don’t expect me to drink this.” She eyed the label with
disdain. That was my mistake.
Her mistake was telling me that she could make me the next Larry Poons. “It is
literally within my grasp to make you famous,” she assured me. “I could do that. I
could make you the next Larry Poons.”
She meant it too. She rattled off the names of all the people she knew who would
have a hand in making me the next Larry Poons: gallery owners and patrons and
art critics. They were all her friends and all positioned nicely in the Fine Art world.
Oh, and, of course she also knew the writers who contrived the intellectual
justification for almost any act that any artist of their choosing might commit. She
was the right chick in the right place to make all my little painterly dreams come
true. And it made me sick; sicker than she would have been had she stooped to
sip a little White Horse.
Of course, her response to being offered cheap scotch was nothing compared to
my most high umbrage at being offered a lift up into a high position in the world
of Art. I was disgusted to think that, through her connections, she could make
any artist, in this case, me, the next big New York success story.
“I want to make it because my work speaks to the viewer,” I whined.
“What?” she laughed crassly, almost collapsing under the monumental humor of
that statement. I can still feel her hand on my arm as she reached out to steady
herself and keep herself from falling down with laughter. “What are you talking
about? Painting doesn’t have ANYthing to do with that!” She looked at me to see
if I was serious, and, when she discovered that I was, she laughed again.
“If that’s the way it’s done, I want nothing to do with it,” I declared, chin up, eyes
cast toward heaven, from which I receive my motivation, my inspiration, every
kick in my teeth, my failure, my disgrace.
“Fine. I’ll make some other guy the next Larry Poons.”
OK, so that was settled.
One day we, Rick and Ginger and I, found ourselves in New York City, at this
same young woman’s apartment on Central Park West. I’d gotten up late and
everyone else had departed for the day, leaving me alone with a guy who
claimed to be a Persian Prince. He told me how his lineage went all the way back
to Nebuchadnezzar or someone like that and how the great Assyrian lions that
we see in our history books, carved deeply into the stone walls of ancient
buildings in and around the Tigris-Euphrates valley, are part of his family logo
and how when he pisses it drifts, in lyrical script, slowly upward into the
atmosphere until it forms an umbrella of pure crystalline droplets under which all
god’s creatures are protected from harm, and did I want to play a little
backgammon? I told him I didn’t know anything about backgammon. That was
OK, he could teach me. I told him I didn’t really want to learn and I didn’t care to
play, and so the game began.
What the hell, I was stuck there with this Persian prince until something better, or
less arrogant, came along, and so I rolled the dice and moved some pieces
about the board. The only thing of note that I can recall is that periodically he
would chortle and declare, “I DOUBLE!” then he would take a cube, which sat,
unused, in the middle of the board, and served no purpose that I could see, and
The game went like this. I rolled the dice and moved, he rolled the dice, declared
loudly, “I DOUBLE!” laughed snidely and moved. After a bit of this he declared
himself the winner and I congratulated him and got up to find myself a beer.
At this point he became cantankerous and stood up and put a hand on me and
demanded, “Where are you going, my friend?”
“I don’t feel like playing any more. I think I’ll go try to find something to drink.”
“You are not going anywhere, my good friend,” he said, “you owe me $34,000.”
I laughed heartily. “What? What the heck are you talking about?”
“You have lost this game and you now owe me $34000, American.”
“Yeah?” I told him. “That’s funny for two reasons. The first is that I don’t HAVE
$34,000, and the second is, if I DID have $34,000 I wouldn’t give it to you.”
Even if there was more royal blood in his piss than in my entire extended family,
the guy was wildly misinformed about the nature of reality, and, on top of that, he
was a jerk. He glared at me for a while, which I admit was pretty frightening--he
had the moist dark eyes of an arrogant, young, irate Persian prince--and told me
that it was a matter of honor and that he would pursue me to the ends of the
earth until I paid off this sacred debt. “This is a matter of honor!” he said
repeatedly. And he meant it. To him the $34,000 was real; the debt was real; the
game was real, the threat was real; I was real. I had my doubts about all of it.
“I’ll tell you what,” I said, “if what’s-her-name makes me the next Larry Poons, I’ll
give you one of my paintings.”
I don’t recall much more about this event except that when Rick and Ginger
finally showed up I grabbed Rick quickly, took him aside and whispered, “We
gotta get out of this place right now, right this minute, immediately. That Persian
prince moron thinks I owe him $34,000 and it’s a matter of honor.” Rick
understood perfectly, and we left New York that very evening. Of course, I’d like
to say that since that time I’ve gone on to become very very rich and
occasionally, in honor of that Persian prince, I take $34,000 in cash and flush it,
with great ceremony, down the toilet.
That’s what I’d like to say.
Excerpted from "When I Was a Low-Life: An American Education" by Henry Edward Fool. Copyright © 0 by Henry Edward Fool. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.