… still, having spent so much time in the galleries this year I have on numerous occasions wished rare art could be a little less accessible. Amid the great storm of flip-flops, flashing bulbs, echoing cell chatter, watches signaling quarter hours, squeaking soda straws in fat plastic cups and kids touching things with fecal little fingers am I wrong to desire a morsel more exclusivity? How happy I would be to design an etiquette exam to be administered before the bumpkins pass through the gates. Perhaps it is human nature to behave badly before the sacred. Do the Muslims on Hajj have their ipods blaring Lil’ Wayne as they journey around the Ka’ba seven times? And what about the Wailing Wall? If a Blackberry goes off are you likely to hear, “Hang tight God, I gotta take this one”?

This reminds me of an unpleasant experience I recently had when Alex and I happened upon a small exhibit of impressionist photographs at the National Gallery. Surprised to learn there was a photography movement following Pissarro, Monet and the others I strolled in. There was one photograph in particular, a Cuvelier, which was sublime. But as I began to transcend self-awareness and enter Cuvelier’s world my concentration was shattered by a volley of ditzy tones. I immediately turned to identify the disturbance and found it was not in the present room but the preceding one . Soon enough the annoyance came into full view- it was the bleating and squirting of college girl banter. I turned to finish the room and tried my best to ignore their incessant yacking, but as I moved from one photograph to another they moved with me.

“Oh my god, can you believe Melissa was such a bitch? She thinks like I purposely didn’t want to room with her.”

“Really? I think she’s bitter cuz she ended up with that skank. Do you know her?”

“I don’t know, she’s kind of a freak.”

“True that, she refuses to do anything with us.”

“Like she’s better or something. Who are you with?”

“Janice.”

“What’s up with her? Oh my god, can you imagine if we were rooming together—”

“DANGER SIGN!”  (they announced in unison with flashing hands)

“We’d get into soooo much trouble. Have you been out to the beach house? Oh my God! You gotta go. Marc and Kevin go there.”

“Who’s Marc?”

“Uh, you don’t know? Hello! HAICH-OH-TEE-TEE-I-EEEE!”

On and on it went. The fucking torture! I turned and glanced at Alex, hoping to find in an understanding look the medicine I needed to calm my rage, but he didn’t react or scrunch up his face or give me any sign that he was aware of my distress. I knew that if I let it get to me it would ruin the rest of my day. I was boiling over. If I opened my mouth I would scream something horrible.

Oh, how I wanted to grab them by their puny little arms, drag them into a corner like petulant children, and in the ugliest whisper I could manage say, “Listen you fucking nits, I know this may come as a shock but you are in a house of fine art. You are standing before the essence of a man’s life. These are not Polaroids from a family picnic, these are reflections of a soul, images obsessed with the feeling of one fleeting moment, and all you can do is walk by them with the twats in your heads incessantly queefing? Have you heard the word “conviction?” Well, the first syllable represents the world calling Cuvelier a fool, the second signifies the food he gave up so he could do it anyway, and the third is for the validation he never received while he was alive. But I imagine for people like you two, whose sole achievements in this life will be successfully titty-fucking some poached hakes into marriage, and whose shining moments of creativity will come when you spawn a couple porpoise shaped nits who, just like mommy, will perpetuate the lobotomizing of America, it’s a wee bit challenging to think all this stuff is nothing more than a bunch of ho-hum wall covering. And I know having to walk through this great big building full of things little pony-tailed Pebbles can’t figure out is a frustrating interruption between last night’s Jell-O shots with Bam Bam and PBR’s tonight at Delta Delta whatever, but please, shut your fucking holes and spare the air for the rest of us.”

But I didn’t. I said nothing. Instead I used every effort to focus on the Zen conception of “impermanence” moved across the room and waited for them to dissipate. I was so proud of myself! Once they were out of earshot I slipped back into the photograph with none of that residual anger lingering in my veins. I even managed to keep all this to myself when I passed Alex. But later when we exited the gallery the first thing out of his mouth was, “Jesus, I wanted to kick those girls in the teeth. I’m surprised you didn’t say something to them.”  Surprised I didn’t say something? And with that I was furious all over again, most especially for censoring myself.

A few weeks later I returned to the National Gallery and settled in to a good view of Monet’s “The Japanese Footbridge”. My eyes floated upon its watery reflection of pond grass spires and cat tails. Then, just as my lids began to sting with rapture, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned and discovered an Asian girl shooing me out of the way. Before I understood what was happening she moved directly in front of the painting, but she was not facing the art, she continued to face me. Her head craned from side to side as if a work of greater importance hung on another wall and I was blocking her view. All the while her hand flicked the air to drive me away. I turned around to see what was so interesting and found her friend waiting to snap a picture. I was livid. Shooing me? I cursed. Like a bug? Rage coursed through me like poison. My hands clenched until the flames in my eyes caught her full attention and then I lashed out, “How dare you interrupt me. Clearly I was in deep contemplation. This is not some sort of log ride you throw yourself on. Did you bother to look at it? Experience it? Do you even know what it’s called? No?  Well then, Monet would vomit!” Yep, I really did say that. Alex looked at me with a disbelieving smile and shook his head as if to say, “That’s my man.” Poor girl, stood as white and forsaken as Rinrin’s ghost; couldn’t even look at the camera when her friend finally snapped the picture. At least she can honestly tell them back home that the art brought tears to her eyes!

Ghost Scroll- Rinrin

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