A Soft Spot for Street People

I wanted to watch some women’s Gymnastics and pretend like I know something about the Olympics, so I went to sit at my favorite bar to have a beer and bounce commentary off some friends. The night at the bar was short and unspecial until I left to walk to my car with a particular friend.

We were adhering to a strict self-imposed curfew and attempting to get home by the midnight hour. Our “best laid plans” were thwarted not by other mice and men (ooh…literary) but by an outdated street person. He stopped us politely on the sidewalk and explained that he was an artist and that he’d love to draw our portrait for a small donation. I knew I only had tens in my purse but he was wearing a beret and his fingernails were long in that “artsy” kind of way. I figured it was a good opportunity to get a piece of narcissistic original art for my apartment. He assured us that he was speedy and that he would only take up a few moments of our time.

We were ushered to a well-lit stairwell on the street and sat awkwardly while he laid out his supplies. I suppose it was only a second or two of waiting since his supplies consisted of a ball-point pen and a few loose sheets of paper. While he started sketching he engaged us in conversation that was tailored to lead to his life story. I don’t recall asking, but soon we were treated to the tale of two fated lovers. It seems his girlfriend was somewhere (at an unknown location) down the street having a bad acid trip and needing some nutrition. Fast. Thank goodness for all those tens in my purse and my never-failing hopefulness that I’ll meet the next great artist on the street. He enthralled us with a history of living in the woods in Washington state and used that as a reason for spending so many years on acid and other drugs. He told us it was fate that brought him and his bad-trip girlfriend back to Michigan and that at the age of 32 he thought he was too old for acid. I concurred, letting him know that I thought any age was too old for acid, considering the havoc it wreaks on your natural chemicals. He shrugged it off, retelling of his girlfriend’s current state, as if expecting some sort of awed reaction.

Throughout the back story (sob story) he weaved I stole glances at the “portrait”. He seemed to be ignoring most details that would distinguish one human woman from another and was just crudely outlining our faces and hair. I was duped by the beret and the slightness of this man. He wasn’t an artist! He was just some poor weirdo who did too much acid and made money by seizing onto a piece of paper with a pen and calling it art. When he had finished eking out what I assume is the portrait he promised, he asked us what sort of background we’d like. Toying with the idea of a giant hotdog, we settled on a “Vegas” backdrop. He agreed and said it’d be no problem. What we ended up with was a misspelled sign and what looks like both a fat and skinny hamster fetus-balloon. I’m confused, to say the least. I did give him ten dollars, however. He never promised a masterpiece and I suppose the word “artist” is subjective. At the very least, I got to read his book of poems that he intends to turn into a memoir. It was terrible and most words were either misspelled or misused. I told him I thought it was great. This is why those terrible American Idol auditions happen. I apologize. I didn’t know what else to say. He was still drawing my face and I didn’t want to end up with a unibrow.

The beautiful work of art.


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