Wednesday, August 09, 2006

August in New York

is not the time for artists. Artists do not exist in New York in August. Perhaps this is why my hard drive decided to go belly up, just in time for August.

However, I am please to report that, 1) I have a new hard drive (if not any of the information off the old hard drive, including and 2) I've found a subletter! I will be LEAVING this horrible city for ONE WHOLE MONTH! I will be in Maine from August 17 through September 18, and perhaps this will re-charge my art batteries.

Because I just can't get interested in art, at the moment. Email art newsletters keep arriving in my mailbox, and I keep deleting them unread. I have not yet re-bookmarked any art blogs on my new browser. My studio is in 'clean-out' mode. I look at my own paintings, and it's like I'm looking at a foreign country.

There is a lovely old black woman who goes through the garbage on our block. I don't know what country she's from, because I can't understand what she says, but she's not from here. She has an incandescent smile, and works very hard at her occupation of going through people's trash. So I smile at her, and say hello, and am careful to give her my bottles and my old clothes.

And now she has set up camp in our front yard, and is bringing all the garbage here, and going through it so that the bottles are always clinking, and leaving it in huge stinking piles bagged up everywhere. I more than suspect she's doing this because I was nice to her, and she felt that my yard was a safe place to sort her garbage. Now I have to go down and tell her to take it all away.

It's also like--I started getting hang-up phone calls from a 'restricted' number. I usually don't pick up the phone when the caller ID shows 'restricted,' because 98% of the time it is a telemarketer. But one day I whimsically decided to answer. It turned out to be some freak from the East Village who calls himself Tommy D. He said he'd gotten my number from someone who'd seen my open studio in October (I suspect I know who this was...Jim, you and I are going to have a little talk) and wanted me to be in an art exhibit. A one-day art exhibit in a community center in the East Village, on a Monday, in August. He wanted as many artists as possible; skits, body-painting, music, the works. He wanted to eventually do this once a month. But the guy at the community center was concerned about nail holes in the walls.

Oh, God.

I actually made an appointment to meet with him and see the space. Then I took note of the rock-like feeling in the pit of my stomach, and failed to show up for the appointment. He called both my phones and left hang-ups until I picked up. I explained to him that this wasn't the sort of project I was interested in, at the moment, and wished him luck.

There was a time, there were many times, when I did show up for the appointments. I would show up on the grounds of 'meeting new people,' 'getting involved,' 'getting exposure,' 'having fun.' And it was fun, many times.

But I have discovered over the years that when I put any energy at all into a project done by someone who demonstrates their flakiness, lack of professionalism and impracticality from the first second I meet them, I get drained. I end up doing far more than my fair share of the work, because I'm the only person who sees what really needs to be done. I don't meet the kinds of people who can either become real friends, or who can genuinely help my career, because those kinds of people give flakes a very wide berth. I can't afford another throw-away project, not even for one weekend in August when I have absolutely nothing else going on. I am far better off going to the beach.

And then, to top it off, I got a call from a regular client. One of the clients who claimed to experience a 'miracle' relief from knee pain after I worked on him. He's been complaining about the fact that his massage therapist of fifteen years has started cancelling on him a lot. She's getting older, she's having health problems, she has no insurance. So he's been coming to me quite often, and this has been keeping me in groceries.

Anyway, this client wanted to know if I could do a 'combination' massage. "Combination?" I asked. "Combination of what? I do what I do. I don't do anything else."

"Combination of therapeutic and....sensual," he said. "My other massage therapist does it."

I mean to say, hello? This guy knows me. Last week we chatted about the client who not only sort of creeped me out because he wanted his stomach rubbed for twenty minutes, but bounced a check on me and hasn't yet made good. He got all indignant and protective on my behalf. He's shown an interest in my art, claims to think I'm gifted, and obviously thinks I'm a miracle worker. He also repeatedly claims to think I look twenty-five, which makes my week.

And he just freakin' asked me to prostitute myself.

I told him, politely, that he needed to check the 'escort' ads at the back of the Village Voice, that I don't do that sort of thing, and that there will be no discussing it again. He said, "Okay, I'll get that taken care of," and came in for a regular session yesterday. I thought about refusing to see him again, but he hasn't actually misbehaved. I did tell him that he needs to get a girlfriend; I told him that was his prescription.

Because when you think about it, if this guy has been going to the same massage therapist twice a week for fifteen years, and getting jacked off every time, that's a relationship. A severely screwed-up relationship, but a relationship nevertheless. Except that now that she's getting old and sick and can't reliable jack him off every week, he's shopping around for a new one with no sense of responsibility to her. No wonder he has got intractable knots that move around like snakes and never go away, even when he comes in for two-hour sessions twice a week. He's trying to pay someone to make his issues go away, and not genuinely connecting with anyone, especially not himself.

This, to me, is empirical evidence for why Biblical law prohibits prostitution. It's not a 'victimless' crime; it damages the souls of both persons involved in the transaction. It turns one of our most potent motivations for seeking intimacy and connection into a disengaged economic exchange. It flushes precious life energy down the sink. And now, at the end, we have two old, lonely, sick people wandering around looking for some other source of help, instead of caring for and supporting one another.

The whole thing gave me some serious pause as to what I'm doing with all this, and where the line is, and if I'm really helping people by doing healing work on them, or just perpetuating something negative. As in, where is the line between 'attachment' as a hindrance, and 'connection' as a positive thing? Is it a good thing that I maintain a certain detachment from my clients, that most of them don't become personal friends, or am I contributing to the general soullessness and alienation of our culture? And what is the difference, really, between rubbing someone's feet and jerking them off? Is it just an arbitrary cultural taboo, or is there some greater significance to it?

Actually, I know the answers to these questions, or at least I thought I did. But every now and then you have to reconsider them.


painterdog said...

serena, you need a vacation.
enjoy Maine, eat some lobster, get some good blueberry pie, drink a few cold ones while dangleing your feet in a nice cool lake.

serena said...

That is SO the plan, Painterdog. Thank you for your good wishes!

Tracy said...

I am with painterdog-honey, you need a vacation! Have a nice time, but I'll miss your reading your blog while you are gone.

serena said...

Thanks, Tracy! I'll probably continue to post from Maine, that is if fresh air and family causes my brain to switch back on again, which is what I am devoutly hoping it will do.

Tracy said...

Oh, good, glad to hear it-nice that you are spending a month with family.

Anonymous said...

Isn't soliciting against the law in New York?