I went to Vons this evening for buying, not brainstorming. As I was leaving a man addressed me.
(I was wearing my Elmo T-shirt and jeans, with my hair down. Funny how people view the uniform and not the person.)
I looked up.
"Would you like to contribute a dollar to support the arts?"
He was here when I went in, but farther from the door. I've seen him here before, and at Target, and Starbucks...
He looked like an artist---- well, like one stereotype of the artist---white pants, white T-shirt, black leather jacket, long skinny ponytail and huge portfolio.
"I do support the arts," I said. " I've seen you before. So, what is it that you're doing?"
"I'm raising money to support my art." He indicated his portfolio. Taped to the front were about a dozen 5 x 7 copies of pencil drawings. They weren't bad, really.
"So, you're begging."
"I'm supporting my art."
"Soooo...." (He rubbed me the wrong way, for some reason, and I found myself suddenly in the mood to pick a fight.) "Why don't you get a day job?"
Like the rest of us. I thought. There's a vague flood of endless hours working hard, doing things I didn't really want to, to support myself those YEARS until my art started to sell. Maybe I was feeling a little self righteous, knowing the long hours I work even now, to make a living as an artist.
I don't know this guy from Adam's off-housecat. I don't know his story, how he may have arrived at this spot, whether there was some reason he couldn't do something other than beg. ---He looked pretty fit to me. Mid 30's maybe, or late 20's with drugs or alcohol...
I saw his chin lift. I knew what was coming...
"Because, I am an artist."
Bingo. Told ya.
Suddenly I didn't feel like talking to this guy anymore. He was making the rest of us look bad...
"Well, good luck there, bud," I said. I turned and walked to my old, beat up car. I had a nice warm dollar in my pocket.
I thought briefly about going back. His work looked to be fantasy in nature. I could tell him about conventions and grant opportunities and...
Fuck it. I surprised myself. I'm tired of trying to rescue people. He has every right to do things his way. It's none of my business. I felt suddenly selfish and miserable. I left a different way to avoid having to drive right past him. I looked in the rearview before turning out, just in time to see a woman handing him money.
Good luck, buddy. I meant it this time.
I'll see him again, no doubt. Maybe I'll look at those drawings again. But I won't give the fucker a dime.
I'm going to get Orion to sleep and tidy up, then get back into the studio to finish a strange little table I'm sending to Boskone on Wednesday.