How to Get an Artist Out of Your Life

Posted: October 23, 2010 in Fiction

If you’re wondering how to get an artist out of your life, just do what I did: First, when he brings up the subject of his MFA, tell him you really don’t see the point… that as far as you can tell he paid at least 30 grand for a degree… that he says got him a job (of which he’s always bitching and moaning about) that only pays about 11 bucks an hour… only a little bit more than you made working at Safeway… a total rip off… and don’t forget to mention that having a MFA doesn’t really make a person an artist and it sure as hell doesn’t make the art any good… if anything it becomes more bloodless and witty… you know… more conceptual….

Then he’ll say that you don’t know what you’re talking about… that it was a valuable experience which allowed him to work with his instructors not merely as a student but as a colleague, and that they don’t have any motivation to rip him off… that they want him to have success, because his success is their success… and then he goes on to repeat that it really was a positive experience and that he hopes that you get to have that positive grad school experience some day…

Now you can take it 2 ways from here. You could go the Socratic route… because your ass has been reading Plato… and question the dubious, not to mention ambiguous, concept known as ‘success’ and then convincingly conclude that there is no such thing—you know, the old ‘only thing that can fail me now is success’ argument—or you can play it dirty like me and point out that the reason he might’ve had such a positive experience may’ve been due to the fact that his parents paid a good chunk of his tuition… which of course he denies vehemently… going as far as searching out bank statements as proof… but he doesn’t remember like you do, does he? He has selectively forgotten the time that you, him, his girlfriend, and his mom drove to Seattle to put his sculptures in some warehouse turned gallery… the four of you were squished together in the front seat of a truck… there wasn’t a bit of room to spare… you didn’t even want to be there… but you were sitting right there—when the artist’s mom said that they (meaning herself the artist’s father)… they were selling the house that they bought in Eugene… the one they rented to him and his 2 sisters while they were getting their degrees at the U of O… and she said his share should cover grad school… you said—you, yourself aspiring to get a PhD in English—you said, wow… grad school all paid for… I’d totally go for that… I’m totally jealous…” and even his girlfriend agreed which is a big thing because the 2 of you hardly ever agree on anything….

You sensed, though, even back then that he had a problem with that… Mr. Independent-Bohemia-Punk-Rock Do-It-Yourself-Artist-Guy getting a break from mommy and daddy… he was reticent alright… not quite so independent… not quite so punk rock as he liked to think of himself as… but mommy put her darling at ease… “Don’t be silly. You guys paid for it. You guys paid the rent. It was an investment, and now it’s paying off. Don’t you worry. Me and your dad are getting our share too.”

You don’t bother to bring it up because he’d just deny it anyways, so you say “What’s the problem with that? You’re lucky… I’d kill to have what you have…” then he says, real angry like, “Because it’s none of your goddamn business, that’s why!” And you think of explaining that once a person starts using their experience as a premise in an argument—we are, after all, having an argument—that that person’s opponent has the right to question that very premise… it’s like in court… both the defense and the prosecution get to question the same witness… you know this because you seen shit like this on Law and Order and because you got yourself a real degree—A DEGREE IN ENGLISH… albeit an unmarketable degree… but at least a degree that fostered some critical thinking… after all, you’ve read Paradise Lost like 6 times! You got a ‘C+’ in symbolic logic! You took a class on Nietzsche! You took a class on Henry James and even almost liked one of his novels! If A is B and B is C then A is C! That means you don’t got to take any shit from anybody!

But like I say, you don’t bring it up because you know that he always gets this way when he’s under pressure… he’s living in one of his parents’ houses again—a real nice one too… a spacious 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house… and it has a big ass garage to construct his mechanical sculptures and shit—anyhow he’s under pressure because his parents really want to sell that fucker and make some money, but they can’t because he’s broke and can’t afford to pay much rent… and did I mention that it’s in fuckin’ Portland, OR? To rent a place like that would cost 15 hundred, 2 grand, easy. He doesn’t pay nowhere near that. Plus he’s stressed because his girlfriend all of a sudden wants to get married—another fuckin’ poser—don’t let her dreadlocks, the black clothes, and the nerdy hipster glasses fool you! The bitch is Martha Stewart through and through! You can only imagine what the wedding would be like! Get out the silverware and the paper plates! Bust out the lace and the shit kicking boots! They’re going to have themselves a punk rock wedding… and it’s going to be good and cheap too… maybe if she can keep her head they’ll keep it under 20 grand… everybody so damn happy—too damn happy if anyone asks you… but they don’t… the fuckers… ah I don’t know about you, but for me—there’s isn’t anything more repugnant than a room full of people who are self-satisfied, wear costumes, and snuggle in vapid platitudes… but what am I saying? Of course you know. What do you need me for? You know all of this, don’t you? You knew all along? But you’re just sitting there, listening politely… so what do you think? How’d I do? No no no… don’t answer… I don’t care… the thing isn’t to merely elicit a bunch of vacuous compliments… but to create something that illustrates the unity the chaos the absurdity the interconnectedness of everything… to communicate… maybe instruct… only then does poetry mean anything… and for that it has to come from experience… but the thing is that experience hurts… it eventually maims you… it runs you over with its car… did you know that Experience drives an H-2? It leaves you twitching on the pavement and Experience, and his girlfriend, Pride, who by the way has a great body and is wearing a very low-cut blouse… they go through your pockets looking for some cash or a credit card—gas is expensive after all—and he takes a rope and ties one end around your ankle and the other end to the tail bumper and drags your ass going 70 mph on some pothole ridden highway… no, you need not answer… the only thing is that since you’ve known all along… before I wrote this… before this even happened… the only thing is that I just wish you would’ve enlightened me in the first place… I wish you would’ve just tapped me on the side of the head and told me to keep my mouth shut because well, you know, friends—even if they are artists—are hard to come by…

* Originally posted on Haggard and Halloo on October, 21 2010


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