Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Arts & Crafts Story

For the better part of three months now, I've been telling the dedicated three or four-dozen of you that read this blog stories from my childhood, teenage years, and adulthood. Thanks to feedback I receive on a weekly basis (keep it coming, by the way), I know what sort of stories will be successes before I even post them. I don't want to say this has made me want to go out and seek things that are post-worthy, but I've definitely had an ear to the ground as far as my more-recent shenanigans go. That being said, I'd like to mention before I weave this tale that this is something that has happened very recently (I'm going to be intentionally vague and say in the last two months), and is probably the closest post to near-live-blogging that I'll ever do.

I am, by nature, an observer. I can't help it. I don't want to say I'm quick to judge, because that would be misleading, but unfortunately, that is a sort of residual side-effect of my personality type. Since I've obsessively been doing this for most of my life, I've become quite good at reading people, something that has (overall) likely hindered me more than helped.

But sometimes, my judgments are wrong. Such was the case a few weeks ago when my friend Lydia and I attended a sort of mini-arts & crafts party thrown by her artist fauxncle, Wayne.

Aside #1: "Fauxncle" is a word I just made up to describe Lydia and Wayne's relationship. Though not related, Lydia referred to Wayne as her uncle. So he is her "faux uncle," or "fauxncle" (pronounced "funkle"). I know that isn't linguistically sound (HA!), but it sure is fun to say.

Held in a seedy-looking building in an even seedier-looking area of downtown Dallas, it was hard to know exactly what I was getting myself into. Despite being derelict, and feeling the type of place you would go if you wanted to purchase some of the more serious drugs, there were at least five freshly-printed and posted signs in the vicinity of the front door warning visitors to not feed the wild cats that roamed the area, because the owners of the buildings did so already. This amount of effort and care put forth more than mixed my expectations of what we may find inside.

But my opinion on the building and its inhabitants changed as soon as the door opened, and we were greeted by a welcoming, hairy-legged girl that looked like the physical manifestation of the term "modern hippie." Stepping inside, she directed Lydia and I to a large room filled with a dozen other people, surrounded by various crafts projects in different stages of completion.

After walking around the building for a few minutes, admiring the decades-old architecture, Lydia and I each took a beer from a cooler at the end of a wall lined with communal snack food, and sat down at one of the tables in the crafts room.

Since the entire following exchange felt like it belonged in a movie, I am going to present it to you, the reader, entirely in screenplay format (slightly abridged).


TY: Our protagonist. Neurotic. Doesn't do well in social situations, usually seeming reserved and quiet in interactions with strangers. Is not working on an art project during exchange, because he is uncomfortable with doing so in front of other people.

LYDIA: Friend of protagonist and guest to party. Faux-related to WAYNE. Smiles a lot. Can be seen pushing art supplies in TY's general direction when not speaking to group. Is working on a colored pencil drawing during exchange. Fun fact: Shares exact birth date with protagonist.

Host of party. Fauxncle of LYDIA. Has known LYDIA's mother for many years. Is a professional artist, but obviously humble. Can be seen bustling about in the background of scene, worrying about whether or not the inoffensive Indian music playing in the background is offending anyone.

LINDA: Guest to party. Old friend of LYDIA's mother and WAYNE. Larger woman with glasses and a ponytail. Talks in odd voices a lot. Very, very good-natured. Is working on a cut-and-paste construction paper scene during exchange.

OLIVIA: Guest to party. Friend of WAYNE. Young woman with hippie qualities and a beaded bracelet that makes a lot of noise when she shakes her wrist "like this." Is also working on a colored pencil drawing during exchange.

Guest to party. Friend of WAYNE. Despite being in her mid to late-forties, has the lined face of a woman that has been through a lot in her life. Is also working on a cut-and-paste construction paper scene during exchange.

CLAIRE: Guest to party. Young daughter of SAMANTHA (aged around 9). Seems intelligent for her age. Is working on coloring a page torn from a coloring book during exchange.


A table at an arts & crafts party. Everyone is sitting around, listening to music and working on various art projects (save for TY). We join a conversation already in progress.

(to LYDIA)
Yeah, I've known your mom for years, but I don't think I've ever met you besides when you were a little kid! How old are you now?

(to LINDA, while taking a sip of beer)
I'm twenty. I'll be twenty-one in a few months.

(to TY)
What about you?

(to LINDA, motioning to LYDIA)
It's funny, she and I actually have the same birthday. Same year, everything.

(to LYDIA and TY, then to entire table)
Well isn't that neat! They have the same birthday!

(in unison)

(to TY)
Can I say something sort of weird? (TY nods) You look just like a guy that was in my art class in high school.

(to SAMANTHA, awkwardly) Thanks, I guess?

(to TY/table)
Damn, I can't find my phone.

(to LYDIA)
I never lose mine. I have my little squirrel pocket.

LINDA reaches into her shirt through the neck and fishes out a small cell phone.

(to LINDA)
I wish I had something like that. You should invent a bra that has a squirrel pocket built in, if there isn't such a thing already.

(to TY, then to entire table)
That would be so neat! Guys, I should invent a bra that has a squirrel pocket built in!

(to LINDA)
That would be so neat!

Shot cuts over to SAMANTHA, who is telling CLAIRE that yes, she may go over to a different part of the room. CLAIRE runs off, enjoying herself.

How old is she?

(to LYDIA, gazing at CLAIRE lovingly)
She's nine. She's the light of my life. (voice becomes watery) I love her so much.

Aside #2: Based on her sentiments towards her daughter and the way she acted and looked, I formulated an entire fictional storyline in my head for this woman minutes after I met her. Either I am the least imaginative and most observant person in the world, or am the most imaginative and least observant person in the world.

What was her name again? I'm terrible with names.

(to TY, smiling)
Her name is Claire.

(to TY)
I never have trouble remembering names. I learned a trick a while back, where I would make up a song to remember names. Like mine when I met you was (in singsong voice) "Nice to meet you, Ty! Nice to meet you, Ty! Nice to meet you, Ty!"

(to LINDA, laughing)
I'll have to try that sometime.

(walking up to table, to TY and LYDIA, then to OLIVIA)
Do you guys want to come upstairs to my studio with me for a bit? You can come too.

(to WAYNE, nodding)

TY, LYDIA and OLIVIA stand up from their seats, bidding the rest of the table goodbye (for the time being).


After this session of banter, the four of us walked over to an old freight elevator located behind the room we'd been in, where Wayne asked the three of us if we'd like to take it, rather than the stairs, to the second floor. Never wanting to pass up a chance to ride a rickety elevator that is older than the oldest living member of my family, I gladly accepted, as did Lydia and Olivia, and we stepped onto it as Wayne ran upstairs to turn it on.

After thirty seconds that were filled with me pontificating to the two women about how old I thought a dolley we'd found on the elevator was, we stepped off of the elevator and followed Wayne down a hallway to his studio.

Aside #3: Yes, I talked about the markings and "tells" of old dolleys for a full thirty seconds, and I could have gone on for much longer. I watch a lot of antiques shows.

There are cliches about artists being messy for a reason, as it turns out. Scraps of wood, finished and half-finished artwork and a rogue glow-in-the-dark dinosaur toy were just some of the things that littered the shelves, floor and every other available surface around the room. It was very endearing.

Then Wayne did something that will make the little stoner in anybody squeal with joy: he pulled out an old aluminum lunchbox.

Aside #4: Totally just implied that all pot smokers store their stash in aluminum lunchboxes. Funny thing is, I'm okay with it, because the world would probably be a slightly better place if that were the truth. Also, if there is ever a drinking/smoking game meant to be played while reading my work someday, all I ask is that right now be a time you take a shot/hit.

While talking to we three guests about various things (cats, sandwiches, beer, etc.) Wayne began putting his pungently-odored weed into a small pipe, packing it down perfectly like a seasoned pro. Soon it was being passed around from person-to-person, as the four of us joked about how one in four people has herpes.

Twenty minutes later, we returned (via freight elevator) downstairs, all occupying our previous seats and positions within the room, as if nothing had happened. As I sat there, stoned and observing the interactions between the motley crew of complete strangers that surrounded me, I had an epiphany and thought to myself:

"Arts & Crafts are pretty cool."

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