October 2008, COAGULA ART JOURNAL, Issue 94



There was no fancy dancing; I was just running pell mell as the bullets slapped and splintered the wood deck below my feet. At this point, it’s all about chance. Run and run like hell.
The chase had been going on for more than eighteen minutes and slowly, corner by street corner, I made plenty of bad choices in a city that I did not know. I was boxed in, and now I was running on a pier off the Place De Jules Verne in Marseilles. A pier is always a dead end.
Ignoring me, the horn of a freighter bellowed low and seagulls screamed like high-pitched dive-bombers.
I had to cover my eyes; the wood splinters and chips were flying like a thousand daggers. Vorvolakos and his men were well armed to a forty-five-caliber tee.
My options were dwindling. But you always look for more.
Run. Just run.
But I was running out of wharf.
There was a snap. Ahead of me. A line, a rope, something was swinging before me and I took it. I yanked and it held.
And I swung with it’s momentum, flying around the bow of a docked tramp steamer and out over the harbor, over the starbursts that were dancing off the water. My lifeline was a loose halyard from a motorsailer undergoing repairs; I didn’t have time to ascertain this; I just knew by the way it cut my hands. I flew like Doug Fairbanks, careening free, soaring. Flying from the *whoop* *whoop* of the bullets that tried to track me. Tried. No. Sorry.
And I landed squarely on my feet. Squarely on the deck of a passing fifty-five foot Cigarette speedboat. I landed into the middle of a jaunt, a booze cruise, another man’s Sunday in the Park if you got a million and a half. I flexed my sea legs to keep a balance. A Brett Ratner-type in a yachting cap was raising a glass in a toast but now he just looked surprised. A waiter was passing hors d'oeuvres and a half dozen Pussy Galores were arching their backs like kittens with a whip.
All of it was stunning. As I turned to my land-based assailants with a middle finger held high, a stunner wrapped her long ebony legs around my waist and shoved her tongue into my ear.
Wet. Warm. In my ear. What is better than that?
About this time, I realized I was still in a dream state. I didn’t want to admit it, because then I’d have to leave it.
The foxy dappled her tongue around my ear lobe and I pretended to hate it. “Stop it with some more!” I said. And she did, with some more.

I was still dreaming. I knew this but I did not want to change my state of mind; the eyes remained firmly closed. Marseilles began to vanish; I sure didn’t want it to. I didn’t want it to. If I opened my eyes I would have to confront a world of pain and responsibility. Like the pain throbbing in my head. Like the harsh realities that confront the first of the month. Like an art show that opens in two weeks and screams of work left undone. Jitters. Stab wounds. Insecurities. No, my eyes stayed wide shut. Just a little more slumber and a little more peace. Besides, I needed to repair the damage done the night before. Sleep helps.

It started out innocently enough, as it always does: a literary event. What mayhem can be wrought at an arts salon? Words, beauty, bonhomie. The gang at La Petite Joie, a den of loving iniquity, had blossomed into a family of sorts. Like any American epi-organism, it was full of love, honor, vice, compassion, corruption, jealousy, support and intrigue. Any time you get a gaggle of writers, musicians and artists together, the cumulative pressure overcooks and something always explodes. That, or maybe it was just the full moon. I think everyone walked in with their fuse already lit.
Petite Joie is a bar built, with a French theme, right after the First World War. That was the last time anyone had maintained the place. Today it’s a like a skid row bar without the bums; it’s grimy enough to keep the newbies out. In Echo Park, this Bukowski boite is a nucleus of sorts, a contemporary haven of an old school thought. The graphitti that covers very square inch of the interior is amazing and beautiful. On Sunday nights the open mike goes off and loud.

The full moon called and the gang shouted back. Kit Stiles challenged the Gods with a fist raised high. Muffy sang of reform, romance and re-virginity while mournfully stabbing the keys of a battery-operated Mormon organ. Young Mack, our baby Bukowski, had a small pharmacy in his back pocket and a sweet generous soul. Darby played his guitar and sang his own song with a silver lilt that would make an Irishman weep. Tanya and Dimita danced their hands over the timba and the conga; they hid their cartel snears behind huge black sunglasses. Our resident actor, Barry Moore, once again, as we had hoped, gave a brilliant and spontaneous intro far longer than his written words. Dylan played Motown, cut his finger badly on steel strings but still kept on playing his bloody guitar. Josie has a thang for ‘professor types’ and she chased our white haired senator Marty around the pool table. The sexual roundelay of the group would spin any French film auteur into a mise en scene frenzy. Needless to say, it was a long night. The camaraderie, the joy, the tension of performing, the synergy of ideas and the full moon above, tom-tom’d the animal in all of us. Skins were peeled and spirits festooned.

The fast dance beat, of the night before, had idled in my head; it now kept time to an aorta-friendly foxtrot. If I woke up, I knew it would pound like a mother-fucking polka. I chose to keep my eyes shut. Sleep heals. And avoids. Unconsciousness is generally best.
There was a slogan that has always perplexed me. It belonged to a gym chain or maybe it was an off-road sportswear line. Damn if it wasn’t a high-energy drink. The billboards would yell “Sleep When You’re Dead.” I always entertained the notion “Why wait?” Sleep is good. Sleep is natural. Sleep keeps the landlord at bay. Sleep leaves you alone.

My economies in the last quarter had taken a downturn. Expenditures in the ‘Entertainment and Leisure’ sector had overwhelmed projections.
The act of creation is difficult. Creating on a hot sizzling skillet is an experience like no other. An upcoming show had me dancing like a devil on a George Foreman grill. Grand ideas had overcome the realization of their own colossal concepts and this had raised the Alert Level to ‘Code Red.’
My sister, always an easy touch for emergencies and line items such as ‘Rent, Food And Bar Bills’, had some issues with a late payment on an unfortunate medical bill. Not so long ago, my boy Duke took a soft bite, more like a kiss, out of my nephew Archie’s ass. I’ve got two pups, a matching set of Wire Hair Fox Terriers. Duke is a little crazy. At times, he gets lost in the details. My sister was not looking at the big picture. This was not a tragedy but a Life Lesson. My nephew’s new and irrational fear of dogs is another contretemps he will have to conquer later in life, a victory, an achievement waiting to happen. Frankly, I thought my sister owed me for the favor. I considered sending her an invoice.
Life is a matter of perception. My barrister Nicolette Lake is another one who is riding my ass. Sure, there are a few billable hours that have fallen in arrears but if it hadn’t been for me, this trademark attorney would have never become an expert in criminal matters. I have opened an entirely new market for the tall stately blonde in a severe pinstripe suit. She now has a jail full of clients and impeccable underworld credentials. Let’s not forget that I was the one who first took off her thick bifocals to reveal emerald green eyes. Nicolette was upset that Dora, my other dog, had stolen and redesigned an expensive evening dress. Nicolette was waiting for reimbursement and an apology. I wasn’t so sure about either. I think Dora acted in good taste.
Gas, water and electricity are functions of our local government; therefore the establishment must be against me. George Bush, raising our gas prices, has almost rendered the Black Hornet, my 1963 Lincoln Continental, undriveable.
Ingelsia, the commandant of the neighborhood dry cleaners, was no longer trading art for services. It seems she tried to unsuccessfully divest part of her (my) collection on ArtNet auctions and, boy, was she pissed. She is holding my tuxedo ransom until the market improves.
One thing is for certain. Tupac and Pepito have remained my loyal studio assistants. Of course, I needed them now, more than ever, in the studio. Instead they were out foraging for money, working to keep the studio afloat. The twin cousins had gone back to Mexico, with its improved economy, to pick up day labor work in front of a Depot De Casa in Cabo San Lucas. They have been sending small but steady money orders back to the fold.

These were just several of the compelling reasons why I should keep my eyes shut and stay in bed. Unfortunately, harsh reality has an undeniable way of ruining a good time. Clearly, the speedboat in Marseille was part of the dream but the tongue in my ear was becoming more than a figment of my imagination.
This was the realization that sent a cold shudder down my spine and flared the back of my head hot. Where was I? Maybe I wasn’t at home. Who was I with and what did I do last night? Like chewing gum and walking, I was freaking out and plotting my escape at the same time. The eyes stayed shut.
Fact: Judging by the softness beneath me, I must be on a bed. My olfactory membranes sensed that I was in a familiar environment; it smelled of stale beer, tacos and incense. Then again, that could be anywhere. A quick Systems Check did not register any pain, which is always a good thing. Unfortunately I had to play possum and not move a muscle; I was unable to test for motor skills. Dire information was missing from this crime scene.
Unknown: Someone was nuzzling my ear. The someone part is always a cause for alarm. Who was I in bed with? What commitments did I make and what living hell will I have to get out of? Sticky entanglements, bad scenes, relationship counseling, pro and con lists, long laborious discussions of love and unnecessary screaming in restaurants were just a few of the potential possibilities that now had me sweating like a tri-athlete.
The bed shook. Someone was crawling a finger up my back and nuzzling my ear. Someone was trying to wake me up. Memories of a redhead last night began to take form. I hope I wouldn’t have to buy breakfast.
Without rolling over, I said merrily, “Hey! (It’s always best to keep it friendly.) “Hey! Are you awake?”
A gentle rub on my back and a sigh in my ear was the reply. I relaxed enough to think I might be able to get a little morning action out of this…!

I rolled over. And I was horrified.
Duke was poking a paw in my back and Dora was aiming another wet tongue toward my ear. The dogs aren’t allowed on the bed. They are never on the bed. I couldn’t have been more surprised if I’d rolled over to find Misses La Barge my third grade teacher.
Dora got in my face and started barking like she had a lot on her mind. Loud, short, rapid fire staccato bursts of headache inducing audio concussions. One after another.
I leapt up like Lazarus, sheets flying like Batman’s cape. I bellowed and growled like a grizzly. (I have found that extreme emotional demonstration is very effective in dog training.) They both looked at each other with saucer-wide eyes and zipped off the bed.
Duke and Dora are brother and sister, a breed like Asta or Tin Tin’s Snowy. They are quite the characters, performers literally. I rescued them from a dog act in a stripper joint just outside of Kansas City, but that’s another story. Let’s just say that these dogs tend to dominate and confound my life.
We have only three rules. 1) Don’t shit in the house, 2) Don’t eat my food and 3) Never, never get on the bed. These dogs are the models of good behavior, except when they’re getting in trouble.

Duke and Dora had backed themselves against the wall, sitting at attention, touching butts, military straight. Dora had something pressing to tell me. She could barely sit still, muttering to herself. Finally she was worked up enough to start barking. She leapt on all fours while Duke sat passively, regally, proud that he was cause of no commotion.
Dora was yowling and complaining. Overklempt, she lit up on the bed and sauntered toward me like an angry housewife with a big metal skillet and a lot to say. She marched right over until she was standing on my chest and yelling in my face. My Panavision was hairy, wet, caramel and pissed off.
It was then I noticed the thick flash of silver and green around her neck.

Dora was wearing a sterling silver or maybe a platinum necklace, like a choker. It could have been a woman’s bracelet. Dancing around her neck, the silver setting held big, phat, one square inch emeralds set a quarter inch apart. Each was framed by the sparkle of tiny diamonds. I know my stones.
I lifted Dora off my chest and sat up. She popped off the bed to join Duke. Perfect bookends.

My dog Dora was wearing a sparkly-sparkly around her neck in the retail neighborhood of $275,000. On the street it would fetch an easy ten grand. Where in the hell did she get it? No one with that kind of dough was lounging at La Petite Joie last night. Or so I thought.
“Dora, dammit! Where did you get the bracelet?!”
Dora lowered her head and looked up at me with sorrowful eyes. Duke sat a little taller, snooty with his long muzzle raised high. We all know Dora has a shoplifting problem. After this had been recognized and communicated between us, she began to yowl, rather urgently, explaining what had happened. She was loud. I wasn’t getting any of it.
Who belonged to the emeralds? How did she get the necklace? How can I keep it? I was hoping there might be a grey area. Cash is King and I’m a Prince.
Dora just stood there barking at me. Duke jumped on the bed and began rolling on his back like a laughing court jester.

All of this thinking had loosened the skids on the hangover. My head began to throb, clush and clank as I slid into the abysmal.

A knock at the studio door stopped the dog-fest. Duke leapt to the bedroom door and crouched on his haunches, ready for action.
The knock at the door became more pointed, like someone was using the base of a flashlight or the butt of a gun.
The dogs growled low and in unison.
I leapt up, grabbed a sarong and jumped into a pair of flip-flops. Unfortunately, as I leapt up, my hungover head exploded into a million colorful pieces of blinding bright confetti. I got the sarong but missed the flip-flops and fell into the nightstand. A lamp and a dozen books flew into the air and I flew onto the floor.

GORDY GRUNDY is a Los Angeles based artist. His new show, FORTUNA RISING begins September 17 and runs through February 28 at Western Project. 21 events will blossom over 21 weeks at