Act 2: Chapter 13 – Escalations

I drink. I find it makes me sociable. Until it doesn’t. It’s been known to fail, as you will soon see.

Still, I’m a lot more functional when I drink than when I used opiates. Or when I see-sawed between coke and valium. Or when I cracked out. Or when I just plain shut my door and wouldn’t come out of bed.

I don’t try to milk the sensitive artist stuff. I just admit I’m fucked. I am open about it. I think it should be part of my work because art is in part about the voyeurism of the audience. That is, unless they go in for heavy-handed minimalism. Even then. Well: Donald Judd. You know. Marfa. So.

Anyway. Monday and I go for drinks and I guess I don’t hold back. He’s on my nerves. Max is on my nerves. Talking about me to this charlatan. The Brass Monkey is huge and the upstairs, this early, is kinda empty. Voices have room to rise, one might say.

I take a Manhattan. He, a beer. Spends some time choosing it. Excited about the large menu. Country boy.

I guess I’m fuming. That kid, working the turnstyle, recognized ME. I’m the one Max name drops. I’m the one he lugs off to all the fucking fairs. Now I’m supposed to kiss this newbie philosophy clown’s ass?

He’s going on about Max’s place in the Hamptons. How impressed he was. He’s been to a bbq; stayed over with a girl he met at his opening. (I roll my eyes, shake my head).

Max thinks he’s fucking Gatsby. I know, I tell him. It’s tiresome, frankly. He uses that stuff — the house, the collection, the vineyard, to add flavor to his galleries. It’s all grandeur; art is a luxury business.

Monday, nods. The irony skids over his curly blond head. He tells me that Max says I never leave Manhattan. I do NOT, I agree. I remain unimpressed by lawns.

I order another while Monday is still sipping his magnificent fucking artisanal foam bucket. He’s on now about Max’s pedantic foray into time-based art: how Max says it’s a new way to draw; how Max says Sol LeWitt was a time-based artist; how Max says gestures have moved from being evidenced on the canvas to being evidenced, instead, in the eyes of witnesses.

This load of shit takes a while so I order a straight up rye, knock that back and signal for another.

Then I tell Monday that I’m not eager to work with him. That I told Max I’d meet up and chat but this notion he has, about pranking Max, is not something I do.

And he thinks that’s funny. Not something I do. Because the way Max tells it, my lastest works are one big sorry prank: Review is a great big laugh blocking his front gallery.

Monday also thinks it’s funny that I don’t find this amusing. Max, I tell him, is playing YOU. Don’t doubt it. He’s playing YOU. And me. And Lola. Oh you betcha he is.

Monday gets quiet. Says he thought we were starting to get along.

We’re never going to get along, I tell him. That’s just that. We’re going to do a project. It’s going to suck. Max will be sorry. And that will be the end of it.

I get up and go to the loo and when I get back Monday is gone.


PUNCH is, of course, correct. Max Poe is playing me. Or he thinks he is. Because I’m an upstate ivory tower rube, essentially — a troglodyte who knows nothing about the real world, and a philistine playing at being an artist. Max thinks I’m wearing training wheels for him. Max Poe thinks I’m his to guide and to shape and to bludgeon PUNCH with.
What they both don’t get? I don’t give two shits about this idiotic farce they call the art world. Ever since I left that freezing campus up there in Binghamton, I’ve been living minute to minute just to see what I can make happen next— a mild mannered nihilist set loose inside the art machine with all it’s squeaking old-fashioned gears and levers just waiting for a monkey wrench.

And my guess is that PUNCH is missing a few cogs already anyway. Dude’s way moody. Way dark. And, more annoyingly, he’s awfully proud. They both are. Hell, they all are: Max, PUNCH, Lola, Boo, the collectors: all in on something they can’t explain to anyone outside of the machine.

I’m thinking PUNCH will not follow up on Lola’s invite to a loft party being held in Williamsburg. Since he doesn’t leave Manhattan and is probably in a dark place right now. So I will go. Feel out Lola. See what this thing looks like from the POV of a longtime friend of Max Poe.


CMACThe loft is huge but Edna Jaccobs has managed to fill it. Her guests include artists whose work she collects, artists whose work they wish she’d collect, dealers who hope she has room for one more, other dealers who hope she’ll let go of her Warhols, Museum directors who hope she’ll let go of her early ‘30’s Marie-Therese, curators she leverages to make sure her collection gets seen, and finally, me: an artist with a connection to a dealer who refuses to sell her my later works.

I make my way to the kitchen and find a picnic cooler full of wine. A few of the bottles are from Max’s vineyard, Poetics. I’ve been told to scout out the Call Me a Cab, apparently a very fine example of  his 2010 vintage. My phone rings just as I’m pulling the wet bottle from the ice. It’s PUNCH.

Lola I’m outside

— Take this, Boo. Pour one for Edna, kay?

— Tch. Kay (sliding from her seat on top of the sink where she’s been courting two breathless hipsters for the past fifteen minutes).

Outside, PUNCH is pacing the sidewalk.

— Why don’t you come on in? I don’t wanna sit out here. I didn’t bring my drink.

— I don’t want to go in there. Max is probably there, right?

— Yeah. So?

— And fucking Monday?

— Yyyyeah… so?

— Tch. Yeah. Fuck that. Look: I don’t know if Max has been talking to you? About wanting me to work with Monday?

— Oh. Yeah. Not happy?

— Nope. Not happy.

I sit on the steps. He keeps pacing.

— So why am I out here in the chill eveinging air, PUNCH?

— I need you to sound them out for me, okay? Why are they such pals all of a sudden? What in hell is he saying about me-my work? Telling that, that, that f-fucking phoney all kinds a shit?

— PUNCH, you’re a bit drunk, you know? Maybe come on up: get some coffee.

— Coffee!

— Please? Talk to Max yourself. Why am I always the middleman?

— Why indeed. Talk to Max myself you say. Oh well, I’m HERE aren’t I? May as well, right? Talk to Max my. SELF!

Upstairs music is throbbing. Edna has her glass and is waving it at Max: you, sir, have been lying to me about Claudine Dumas: she —

Max sees me coming toward them with PUNCH and cuts Edna off with a look.







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