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Art Lovers

I’m in the elevator this morning, about to unknowingly gather empirical support for my previously suggested hypothesis on the dangers of non weather chat. A short while in to my descent, the guy from the apartment below me gets in – an affable chap from Italy whom I met last week. He had knocked on my door to let me know that water was leaking from his ceiling, and a cursory investigation revealed a cracked pipe under my kitchen sink. I correctly identified his accent upon meeting him, a feat with which I was apparently more impressed than he. Considering this later, I figured there are a lot of Italians where he comes from, and my observation was probably on par with identifying someone from Queens in the Bronx. I ask him about his ceiling and he tells me that the leaking has stopped and that he’s conferred with my landlord about getting the super to do the necessary plaster work.

He’s a good guy,” I remark about the super, already wary of where this conversation is going. “Yes,” he replies in warm Mediterranean tone, “he is artist.” I nod my head in knowing appreciation, telling him that I’m aware. “He fixed my ceiling last year,” I say. “It was like new.” There’s a slight pause as my neighbor smiles and seems to consider what I’ve said before adding “He is sensitive man. Is sculptor and has website.” The elevator doors open and a few synapses fire off adequately enough in my pre-noon state to put together what’s just happened. “Oh,” I say knowingly, “you meant that he’s *literally* an artist ..” He walks away, still smiling but regarding me curiously.

I have a tough time knowing where to put a word like artist in my jumbled mind and somewhat limited western vocabulary. I’m comfortable with it in the strictest sense, and in phrases like “an English artist of the Tudor court.” But it isn’t a word that I use easily to describe someone currently living and pursuing fine and accepted aesthetic forms. Admittedly, this is my hang up, and I should just learn to deal with it. I have a similar problem with the word lover when used in the context of one person’s relationship to another, and outside of Harlequin romance novels or Casanova references. And yet I can watch a film like Vicky Cristina Barcelona and not blink when Javier Bardem says “she was my lover and a great artist.”

Once, during a pause between sandwiches at Viking Giant Submarines in San Francisco, my buddy John C Spears took time to offer props to the Chinese fellow behind the counter. “You sir,” Spears stated emphatically, “are an artist.” Spears himself liked to paint and draw, was a huge fan of the sandwich, and yet I wouldn’t go so far as to call him a lover. As Meatloaf once remarked, two out of three ain’t bad. Had he time to work it in to the rhyme scheme he might have also noted it preferable.

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