The Baker, The Butcher and The Brewer, Part One: The Baker 10
On one of his very first public appearances at a gallery when his popularity was gathering speed he met an old classmate. A girl, he remembered her as a girl even though she was a woman at the time. It was his first days of so called fame but she somehow new about it and visited the show so she can meet him. They talked briefly, both quite reserved. He didn’t remember anything about that conversation out of the ordinary. He talked with hundreds of people that day and they all idolized him. It felt good but for a short time, then he just wanted to lock himself in his studio and paint. He gave her his card out of common courtesy and never thought about her twice. She called him that same night at around midnight. He wasn’t sleeping. He was a nighthawk. When he asked why was she calling so late she said she was waiting for her husband to go to sleep.
Occurrences of the sort had not been uncommon. He became proficient at dealing with them. The first sign of indecency that he detected would trigger an irreversible chain of elaborate and polite polemics that will make the ladies run to his bed. These were the first signs of his social skills reaching perfection. No matter what people asked, implied or cornered him with he had ready responses that would put them back in their corner gasping for air. It is the most powerful weapon he had mastered after splashing paint on canvas.
He considered that a great achievement. Before he walked on a different path, his nerves got little exercise and he panicked on every unplanned social interaction. His mind was like a barrel full with gunpowder. A small spark would send it flying in a million directions at a time. Collecting it would take days if he was lucky or hours of whiskey if he were not.
As Rolland often said, the more uncomfortable your chair is the better. You butt gets harder. Rolland was like the Pipe, he had a million constipation jokes and metaphors. It was a generational thing.
‘Being unhappy on everyday bases is like being continually constipated. Making food choices that do not agree with you.’ He preached.
The image of constipation stack and haunted. That is why it worked.
His mind grew constipated at times.
He had to dip into his old religion and wonder to the blackest corners of town in search of a spark. A spark to ignite his imagination. Even Rolland agreed that he needed soul-food at times. Life without vice and by vice he meant the vices outside of the regular four (fat, alcohol, smoke and sex), was quite dull. Inspiration often hid in the far parts of town for weeks on end so he had to go search for it. The pleasurable dangers of the dark were calling. Because a sterile life of luxury could only be so interesting. There were no surprises. He went out to eat, theatre, music, back home, movies, cook, the regular four and that was it. He needed the fun of the late night train with the drunks. The mug attempts, the street artists, the fights and everything else degenerate that made him feel. Feel anything but comfort. Comfort grew tasteless.
Too much luck could kill him. Overdose. He had to be prepared for it.
He was not prepared.
He could successfully juggle two major things at a time. Work and family, work and friends, family and drinking and so on the list is long. Two.
He met the love of his life. He was aware of the gravity. Gravity was what he needed. Gravity was a substitution for whiskey. He entered the back roads of life. Less traffic, better view, home cooking and Pipe chats. He couldn’t see the world from the highway. The moment he met her he was ready to give a hundred bottles of whiskey for her (before you reread that a hundred bottles of whiskey is a metaphor for everything). She felt like that last piece of the puzzle, when he clicked it in and he saw the majestic cathedral and he wanted to stare at it forever. Then he glued the puzzle and put it on his wall.
He met his mentor, what appeared to be a long sought after friend. Rolland withdrew from active advise-men-ship not before buying half of his best works. He introduced a family member with more ‘specific to the case’ skills. He explained vaguely.
At this stage of his professional artist career he needed someone to channel the energy in the tight time corridors that open and close like portals. Someone like a surgeon of time. Not only he needed to be looking for him but he needed to be looking for a pupil as well. It was like any other relationship, based on exchangeable merits. This particular elderly gentleman was safe to say the most interesting men in the world. He was a doorman, he knew the world of doors, knew when they opened and when they closed. He was the only link to a world that everyone wanted but no one understood.
He had become more successful than God opening doors for his people and closing them for the opposition. From Picasso, Bismarck and the Bulgarian government to the King of Andorra to mention a few. He lived in a castle on the French Mediterranean that used to serve as a summer residence for the king.
Archibald had agreed to take up Anton to the mountain peak because he loved art and respected artist more than anyone for their courage to rediscover the mind’s eye. So was Anton told. The truth was that Archibald took up the artist because pass middle age he preferred to be around young people. He hardly regarded anything any more but his egocentric self. A strongly self centered mood was expected of a successful man so his affliction for self-interest fitted in.
He saw Anton as an investment opportunity. He would have all his powerful liaisons buy his works early. Then use the very same network of aging wealthy and vain men to drive the prices high. Eventually a few years down the road they all could cash in by selling his painting to, by then, excited artist enthusiasts.
Only recently Anton has found out that this was his specialty.
But back then he took everything the way he saw it. Archibald appeared to him as a poet playing a harp nested in a dreamy cloud.
Rolland was cold to him. He never gave it a second thought. Rolland new how it worked all too well. He bought ten of his pieces before anyone else. He believed there was no other way. The only way for an artist to reach the vicinity of immortality is through that network of coin flipping old men.
Was he right? Historically, yes.
next chapter: THE BAKER 11
previous chapter: THE BAKER 9
all chapters: The Baker, The Butcher and The Brewer
more by PETER ODEON
photograph by Ryan McGuire