In lieu of providing a detailed account of the art opening, I have chosen, instead, to show polaroids taken earlier the same summer, in the same gallery, at a different art opening in which we four artists – Mike Whybark, Matt Uhlmann, Bill Foster, and Nathaniel Rust (grandly assuming the collective moniker of Ohm International) – introduced an art-making concept called “Art Booty”, in which a marathon three-day seven-card-Lanny poker game is held. The stakes are art commissioned by the winner of a hand from the low hand or loser in a showdown and executed on the spot from materials provided in the gallery.
Seven card Lanny was named after Lanny S., who taught us how to play. It’s also known as seven-card no peek. Deal seven around, face down, no peeking. Cut the remainder, show a card. Bets go around, each player turning one card face up on the table as the play progresses. If a card of the same denomination as the cut card surfaces, the next turned card, and all cards of that denomination in play, are wild. If the cut card shows up again (that’s the Lanny, see?), the wilds change as indicated above.
It’s a slippery, slippery game.
Our Humours show was considerably more conventional in terms of presentation of the artworks. However the opening reception was raucous and wild and filled with defiant, fearful energy.
The attendees had responded en masse to my printed suggestion, “please bring an object of personal significance”. The table in the corner beneath the portrait of my sister filled rapidly with mementoes, many of which I can identify by donor in the photos below. Much of my evening consisted of repeating the information contained in the two entries recounting the events leading up to the opening, over and over again.
As the opening cleared out, I drunkenly took these pictures.
The black and white photos of Suzy were taken by Matt.
The large Jesus was placed by Frankie Camaro. The vintage 1968 Young Americans for Freedom membership card (R. Emmet Tryell, chapter president) had belonged to at the time and was placed by Steve Millen. I can identify more objects, but will save it.
After taking these shots, I and Matt closed up for the night. Tottering down the dark street in the humid night, I encountered some stragglers who were quite disappointed to not have made it to the opening; unfortunately, I’d left my gallery key with someone else. I immediately climbed the outside of the building to the second story window which let into the gallery while my friends gaped in concern. As I reached for the window I realized that I could NOT get into the gallery, and, owing partially to my intoxication, I was both in serious danger and unable to climb down.
So I waited.
Eventually, my concerned friends managed to make it into the building and procure a tenant with a key to the gallery – if I’m not mistaken, that key holder was another person I’d known since sixth grade, Peter. At any rate, they opened the window and hauled me into the gallery, where Matt proceeded to read me the riot act, emphasizing what an idiot I had been to scale the building’s wall and concluding by calling me “some sort of caped asshole”, which I have ever since cherished as an ideal superhero moniker.
With that, the evening of our art opening and the opening of the expressions of public concern for the well-being of my sister following her accident drew to an unsteady close.
(In order to meet my publication schedule and provide you, dear reader, with an appropriately divided reading experience, I am forced to post two chapters of this piece as one. My apologies, and thanks for taking the time.)
The weekend passed with people dropping by the gallery all day on Saturday and Sunday, often friends, usually with some small item to leave at the table. Strangers who wandered in began asking what the table was for, and I had the distinctly uncomfortable experience, soon to grow all too familiar, of explaining my sister’s straits to persons I’d never seen before in my life. The effect of the story, and the table of mementoes, was inevitably the same.
A gasp of sympathetic horror and shock; followed by a moue of sympathy and a reflexive turning to another in their party if any. If lovers, they would hold one another for a moment. Then, clearly feeling obligated (a reaction unanticipated by me, in my ignorance), they would dig in purse or pocket for some small item they’d carried into the gallery with them.
Another class of concerned visitor were younger acquaintances of my sister and myself. We knew many punk rock kids who were still in high school. For the great majority of these people, my sister’s crisis was the first time the cold breath of those dark wings had stirred the hairs on their fantastically beautiful, innocent heads. In point of fact, it should be noted that during the whole span of my adolescence and early adulthood, not one peer that I can recall had suffered debilitating injury or death.
In the social circles of my youth, as well, violence itself was utterly eschewed, and there was no faster route to social ostracism than to pick a fight. Curiously, given the absolute predominance of recreational drug use and alcohol intake among my peers – the bad and the bright of my hometown, geeks and bikers, punk rockers and aged poets and gifted or poor musicians – there had been no accidental overdoses, no wars between dealers, or any evidence (to my youthful eys) of the spectacular misfortunes assiduously chronicled in the nation’s press with regard to the scourge of our streets.
In short, we were all as innocent of the potential for loss each member of humanity carries from birth as my teenage friends were. They were profoundly direct in their expressions of concern and the particular meanings it carried for each of them; while my older peers were somewhat more circumspect but clearly as hypnotized by the fearful possibility inherent in my sister’s mechanically regulated breathing.
The few young people who first went to sit with my parents in Indianapolis multiplied; my sister’s closest friends were there. Shifts of drivers ferried carloads up and down, bringing food, and changes of clothing, and the like. I deferred repeated offers to travel to Indianapolis courtesy of this virtual bus line because of my duties at the gallery through the weekend.
I spoke with my parents daily, monitoring what they knew of my sister’s condition and the ever increasing settlement of our friends who were in Indianapolis. My sister’s professors, some of whom were my professors, began considering a visit to the hospital. My parents’ peer group – other members of our church congregation, my father’s colleagues at the business school – ventured up to show their concern, to be, I must imagine, at least surprised to see the fluctuating cluster of black-clad youth attending to my beloved parents.
Finally, on what I believe to have been the following Wednesday, I was given some concerning news from my folks. Over the period from my sister’s accident, the pressure in her cranium had not appreciably lessened, and several things were occurring as a result.
First, powerful drugs were being continually introduced into her system to help her body adapt to (I think) being under mechanically maintained life support. These drugs begin to have an adverse affect after about one week, and after that period of time, as I understand it, begin to break down the tissues themselves. Please note that my understanding of these matters is not definitive; it reflects the impressions and opinions I formed at the time and not further research or factual knowledge.
Second, in order to effectively measure the pressure within Suzy’s skull, something had to be inserted into the skull; there may have been an associated proactive surgical treatment as well. At any rate each time her pressure was taken, there was a danger of the catastrophic pressure increase I mentioned earlier in this narrative.
Prior to my parents’ telephone conversation with me, just such an increase had been observed, and as a result, they were waiting for twenty-four hours before attempting the procedure again; however, the possibility that the spike represented the actual moment when my sister’s brain truly ceased to function was quite high, and it was necessary to prepare my parents
It was necessary to be prepared for
I had to consider that
One was forced to recognize
The hospital staff warned my parents to expect that when the care-team took an EEG about twenty-four hours after the measured, and threatening, pressure spike, it was very much most probable that the amount of measurable brain activity
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