Art students and teachers gathered on the grass around Jack Zajac’s big bronze Ram Head With Broken Horn, VI (1963) to drink machine-coffee and eat vendo-vittles and home-stuffed bags of lunch. Topics: art, art stars and starfuckers. One of us, a professor of nonpainting, said, “Contrary to what you might be hoping, there isn‘t anything romantic about being an artist. After you’re making a living as an artist, it‘s just your job. It’s a good job, but it‘s just what you get up and do every day.” Concluding: “Being an artist doesn’t get you laid.” The rest of us laughed, as if this was stuff we already knew. But, really, I was disappointed. Over the years I‘d met lots of artists who disagreed with my professor, some passionately, including my friend Daniel, who once opined to me and a bottle of cognac, “Getting laid is the only reason people make art in the first place.” I really hoped my professor was wrong.
Since first I succumbed to the dueling imperious erections of art and adolescence, one of my favorite slow-twitch fantasies — the kind that either end in divorce or never end at all — was about how the quote-unquote woman of my dreams would fall in love with my drawings or videos or standup prior to falling in love with me. It’s a fairly popular unreality, I‘ve heard. Around the same time, however, I also crafted numerous fast-twitch fantasies — essentially the same daydreams of ignoble fuckery that I entertain to this day — none of which featured discussions or implications of art. Art, it seemed, had more in common with an enduring relationship than with a simple fuck. But it was never clear whether the fantasies about romance came from fantasies about art or the other way around.
Carrie said nothing while I rambled on for 45 minutes straight. I told her everything I could think of — my feelings toward the ex–CIA assassin who was then in the heat of his failed re-election campaign; assorted one-word jokes; my adventures in a Long Beach mental hospital at the end of 1991 — but still Carrie made no discernible sound.
I’d had the misfortune of following the funny, the attractive, the accomplished Tom Shadyac. Oh, how the ladies did swoon for Tom, often serving their husbands with divorce papers before he‘d left the stage. I was the de-swooner. That was my job. I was supposed to plug the dam, keep the peace, save the stage from bursting under the pressure of mass hormonal fallout. I was Howie Mandel closing for Robert Plant; that’s how I figured it.
There was a ladder onstage, off to the side, and I felt obliged to climb it. Went up about halfway, perched there and continued my monologue. From this slightly elevated vantage I could see, now, an intriguing woman sitting alone in the fourth row. She seemed to be enjoying herself.
After the show, as Shadyac was flown on a Learjet to Paris and, simultaneously, Tokyo, I stood at the bar and was surprised that fourth-row Carrie struck up a thinly veiled I‘m-considering-whether-or-not-I-want-to-fuck-you-so-don’t-say-anything-stupid conversation with me. Mostly I was surprised that anyone — least of all an enlightened, beautiful doctoral student — would be attracted to someone who‘d just stood onstage in a tattered herringbone overcoat, reminiscing about his two weeks in a mental hospital. We went outside for some fresh air, and ended up walking around, aimlessly, for close to three hours. A few days later, Carrie took me home and seduced me with the tender fruits of her French press — a top-of-the-line 32-ouncer with a chrome dome and a borosilicate carafe. (I’m a sucker for an adequate cup of coffee.)
A protorelationship ensued. Good sex, less-good nonsex. I hoped Carrie would be just slightly different than she was, and she probably hoped the same about me. And just as we were beginning to figure this out, late one summer night when all the windows were open and all was almost quiet, our tolerance for the unromantic was tested. Carrie had a sort of disturbing habit. It wouldn‘t have been disturbing if it hadn’t sounded so . . . rote, and . . . well, it was this: Having little to do with my sexual prowess, I assure you, Carrie would shout Fuck me! Fuck me! Fuck me!, often during even the most mundane bouts of intercourse. And never, not once, just Fuck me!, or Fuck me! Fuck me! Always Fuck me! Fuck me! Fuck me! — always in groups of three. She must have read it somewhere, or seen it in a movie.
It happened that there was a neighbor in the building next door whom I knew only as a voice; each weekday morning at 9:30, this voice would switch on his radio to Howard Stern, turn on his shower, and shout “Lime Barty!” for all the world to hear. (In recounting the story of Lime Barty three years ago or so [www.laweekly.comink9949sitegeist-shulman.php], I said I‘d otherwise never heard Lime Barty say a thing; but I’d forgotten about this one night.) This one night at 2 a.m., between sets of Carrie‘s bisyllabic arpeggios, Lime Barty shouted perhaps for all the world but at least for me to hear, “Fuck her in the butt!”
Rather than thanking Lime Barty for his suggestion and switching to anal sex, Carrie and I instead turned bright red in the moonlight, closed the window as quietly as possible and tiptoed our humdrum, hetero-style pelvis-flailings into the living room. There we continued without thinking to close the living room window, which faced an echoey courtyard. So less than a dozen fuck mes into it, another neighbor — an elderly woman from our own building — shouted, “Stop it! Would you just . . . stop it?! Just stop it and go to sleep!!”
No. We will not. We cannot, for we’re just coming to realize that without this we no longer care to spend time together. But we‘ll close the fucking window, and one of us will put a hand over her own mouth and we’ll giggle and continue, for tomorrow romance might again be on our side.
At 9:30 a.m., the Lime Barty alarm went off, and an hour later Carrie and I parted for what was to be the last time. Art had gotten us nothing but laid again.
What is ART?