Max texts me later in the evening, hoping I’ve cooled off. I’m not sure anymore what cooling off would mean. I am, I suspect, too “cooled off” to the point of being downright indifferent. I don’t trust Max, but our discussion — and the call I made to Kate Weber which seems like the only honesty I’ve participated in lately — and Boo whispering in my ear, and Lola who seems to know more than she lets on— it’s all got me feeling too tired to care.
So, I guess it’s safe to say that by the time Max texts I’m, at least ostensibly, cooled off.
He types: Going to call you in just a bit. I know you’re feeling played. I get that. I get it that you think I’m selling you out. It isn’t so. If we sit —sit and talk — slow talk, no pressure talk, old days talk… I can make this clear.
I type: 6, Half King, outside
I’m looking at the cover of an old Interview magazine with me on the cover. It’s a beautiful pic. I loved myself back then: loved being me: loved my work. I admired PUNCH. He deserved it all. But this guy that I am right now? I suspect he’s hijacked that guy that I was. I feel like he gutted him and exposed him to the wind and destroyed his grace and his —
Fuck me. Looking in the mirror. Nothing left, really. No trace. No wonder I’m doing auto-bio: I died a while ago, went ahead and got old without a plan, without growing up even. And now I’ve died and I’ve been trying to put it all back together into something. Solid. Something that says This is Me. But it isn’t. None of it is because none of it was.
SuperGenius is sticking out from under the couch. Boo’s crosses are on the cover. Boo Dolly: a Max Poe production. Boo’s a sweet kid. She has potential. I like her. But, dammit: no. I hate her work. Max, is this what we’ve come to? Sensationalism? Found emotions framed up on gallery walls and pasted into social media! All spit and gloss. If Max means well, he’s gone beyond my comprehension.
On my silent television, POTUS is talking about nuking an entire nation. No one blinks. But Boo Dolly snaps pix of children’s mouths and the whole fucking art world lights up with enthusiastic debate.
And Monday? Worse. How am I supposed to work with this guy? How low am I supposed to go?
Oh well, like I said: I’m dead anyway. Cooled right off all right. So. Fuggit.
During my shower I zone out. I get dressed in a numb daze. I gather my wallet and keys. My ears burn as I pass the hall mirror.
At eight Max is sitting outside. He’s looking a little too comfortable for my taste — which is bitter — and he’s doing that secret smoking thing that pisses everyone off.
— I’m putting it out. I didn’t order yet.
— It’s a dirty habit.
— So’s taking phone calls from… sorry. I’m not going to do that tonight.
— Well. It’s not a habit either.
— Okay. Let’s just get this guy’s atten—
The waiter zooms past. Bends over the table adjacent. Max tries to signal the man’s ass. Is he losing his mojo? Nope: the man’s ass seems to register Max’s waving hand and he turns. We order beers and burgers.
Max gives me a new peep inside that giant square head of his. Monday’s doing something he and I both thought could not be done. He’s convinced of it because he watched himself become part of the act two years ago when he met Monday in a bar and fell into his narrative. It’s an odd tale he tells me. I’m not sure what to make of it. But when he’s through, I’m convinced.
I should say, the new humble PUNCH, the rudderless, self-abnegating PUNCH is convinced. If Monday is such magic then why shouldn’t I just get on board and ride him into Max’s new sunset?
So I promise to call.
— Look, this is going to be a bit of a ride. In the press, I mean. This Kate Weber: she’s trying to get a story together and we do NOT want to be part of it. I’ve been making some phone calls. I’m pretty sure her slant is about there being two different art markets: one for the wealthy who see it as a commodity and one for the poor saps who think it’s all about expression or whatever. She’s looking for some disaffected artists to bolster the idea that art is being destroyed by capitalism — or whatever the holy hell idea she’s got. It’s crap and that’s why she’s doing this shite piece for The Art Machine: to see what the saps think.
I sip my beer. Nod. This feels good. Me and Max. Me and Max v the naïve public. I’m feeling like PUNCH right now. He’s got a handle on it: art as process, not inspiration, not beauty. Art is in the making, thesis, antithesis, synthesis on view. Max and I: we understand that: we teach collectors that. But you can’t teach the public that. They want tales of inspiration and expression and all that idiotic gabber.
— Let her do her best then. It’s already been good for my Twitter account.
— Up by 3,000 just because Weber tweeted about talking to me.
Max puts his head in his hands.
— Oh, PUNCH. For godsakes.
We clank our mugs together. Me and Max.
I call Monday in the morning