A Short Story

Walter Gabrielson Painter

Where Did You Go?

I was offered a show in a state far away in a small resort town. It appeared there could be sales and the prospects looked interesting so I decided to go for it. After shipping my paintings I arrived at the venue (three plane changes and a month later) I met the folks running the gallery, an artist and his wife who are truly nice, good people. They put me up in his studio adjacent to the gallery which they had converted from a house. Their dream was to bring fine art to the area, and much hard work on their parts had gone into the project. At this point the gallery was one year old.

The paintings were already hung tastefully when I arrived so there wasn't much to do on that front. The next day we had an opening, solidly attended by the art community and I, as the exotic interloper from mars was treated with respect, deference and a certain amount of awe. I felt terrific, I thought that perhaps something dramatic would happen, or a forgotten collector would rush up and demand to purchase all my work. All possibilities were in play. It is fascinating that for a brief moment at your opening of a show you are a mini-god. The normal rules of human intercourse are temporarily suspended. People come up and tell you the most egrigeous lies about your accomplishments how you have changed their lives, their perception, blah blah. You are soaked in flattery, put out to sea with adulation, cajoled, slobbered over, praised, raised to the heights, complimented, buttered up and it laid on with a trowel. No wonder people want to become celebrities. It is the ultimate irresponsible power trip. Your head expands like a hot-air balloon and you float off the ground, ascend to the heavens, never to return!

After the opening we went out to a local restaurant, which was a bit like Southern California pasta etc. and very good. There were something like twelve people at the table, all local friends of the gallery. We ate and drank copiously. The key in events like this is the seating, if you have interesting people on both sides of you and perhaps across the table you will enjoy yourself. In this case I was at the end of the table with a couple whose experience and conversational offerings were, well, somewht uninteresting. Fortunately, they latched on to their pals so I was saved. We all paid for our own dinners,and they went on talking, you know, good friends getting together. Now I felt somewhat alienated and forgotten, I guess my bon mots and hot insights had their shelf life limits and I was beginning to be cold potatoes. So, I excused myself and went out on to the street and waited a while, looked around. Looked back into the restaurant and they were still jawing away a half hour later.

So, I walked down the street in search of a telephone to phone home. Of course all the street phones were busted so I went in and out of four or five empty bars before I found one and called in to my wife, then I walked back to the restaurant. They were all gone.

So now I was in a strange town, in the middle of nowhere, no longer the star of the night or the black hole of anything but a forgotten bit of homeless protoplasm walking the streets. What a contrast to my royal status of three hours ago, how unfair, how mean, how awful. Also, my heel hurt.

I kept on walking, trying to figure out a way back to the gallery. It seemed the town was totally dead. I was thinking back to LA, where some lmiscreant would leap out of the shadows and wipe me out (already been there done that). I was feeling very sad. How could they do this to me? I was a star! What does doing all this art stuff get you? You try to bring your cherished little baubles out into the world and then what? Boo hoo.

I felt I was the only person alive in this place. During the day large logging trucks had burped up and down the street, RV's, SUV's, people on vacation, whiny kids, all of that. Now, nothing. I was in the town of the dead. I kept walking, went by a bar that had a band setting up but no patrons. Bad night for music. Kept on going. Recognized a church, was a drum circle there earlier, nobody now, aliens probably got them. Took a wrong turn, went back. Was in a residential area now. "Anybody know of an art gallery around here?" Sure. Probably had somebody behind the curtains ready to blow me away if I came up and rang the doorbell.

Then, I took a good turn and there was the gallery! It was all lit up. What beautiful paintings shown out! Incredible work. I regained a tincture of confidence. strutted up and down looking in the windows. Too bad there wasn't hoards of cogniscenti to see this. Too bad for them. I walked around back, came in through the kitchen door. Artist and his wife turned around, "Well, where did you go?"


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