Act One – Chapter 9: Max Gets Sick

Halfway through lunch today, I felt suddenly deeply ill. My server, appearing the requisite 6 minutes into my meal, dropped her sweating water jug and rushed toward me stammering are-you-all-right-sirs and looking into my face like it was a misted window. Behind her the busboy collected the water jug and zoomed off to fetch a mop.

I was pouring sweat, pushed past the anxious girl murmuring excuse me.

—Sir?

In the bathroom, after I glorked prodigiously, an idea came to me. Telling PUNCH not to speak to the press was a mistake. He would do it. He had. He’d done it. Of course he did.

Looking in the mirror, I started to compose a list of all the people I’d have to call to assuage worries, recover untruths, pre-empt gossip. How much did PUNCH know anyway? What would he have told them? I threw water on my face, the list of possible complications growing in my heat sick brain.

“Tell me you didn’t, “I type to him on my way out the door.

—Sir?

I walk swiftly past her. “Tell me you spoke to no one about my business”

Out on the sidewalk I stare at the phone:

“Your business” he types back. “No I spoke about my business”

I call him. I’m standing on the street and I’m going to yell at the phone. I hate it but I know this is what’s going to happen.

Punch sounds nervous about our impending confrontation. He sounds almost sorry. But he also sounds angry. Hurt angry. He says that he told the Art Machine about his own failing market. Says he told them he’s an artist and not a fucking business partner. He confesses that he yapped some corny shit about remaining true to a career arc. Feeling betrayed by me—

My shouted interruptions slide by. He won’t stop now he’s on a roll. He even told them that my obsession with putting business over art looks like some sort of mid-life crisis.

I ask if they asked him about me. Did they ask if he was referring to my expanded exhibition programs and Peter Monday? And PUNCH tells me they did and he said that’s part of it. Because it is. Because Monday is shit and I know it; don’t I?

I know no such thing, I tell him. If you’d only sit down and let me talk to you, just set all the anger aside and discuss our differences, I tell him. If you’d do this, then we can all get back to work.

He agrees. I tell him not to meet Kate Weber for a follow up interview. He says okay. For now. The Art Machine, I shout at the phone: The Art Machine is a crap amateur rag.

Here’s the biggest take away for me: The Art Machine story is going to wind up being about PUNCH jabbering like a resentful artist. Okay. I can take that. Fuck The Art Machine. And whatever Kate Weber thinks she’s onto. Fuck her too. Hell, the gossip might even make me look good. If I can get PUNCH to stop fighting me, then by the time anyone does any follow up? Growing pains. Yes. That’s it. Mere growing pains.

Monday is not shit. I understand PUNCH’s POV regarding Monday’s particular brand of “prank art.” Monday likes to say that he “invents situations.” I used to laugh at stuff like that. PUNCH and I, we used to laugh at “relational aesthetics” — getting other folks to do all the work. But live long enough —bear the heft of your prejudices year upon year, and you learn to change your mind. You learn to grow into a habit of growing out of habits.

My friends, I’m an old dude. I’ve outgrown myself a few times now. I used to laugh at so many things that I respect now: appropriation has grown beyond empty displacement games; collage has never been the same since Mike Kelly, and Monday? Monday does indeed create situations. I know. I’m one of them. So. No. Monday is not shit.

I also loved many things that I have no respect for now: word art is one of them. Autobiography as a medium is another.

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