I'm not a writer but I got lucky once

The Horizontal Elevator

I take the bus downtown every day. I don't mind. It's like joining a silent freak show for fifteen minutes. It’s a brief engagement. When the bus stops and the curtain doors open, I climb onto center stage as both observer and the observed. I'm the new main attraction.

The audience is composed of former stars that have graduated to seasoned veterans and freak experts. Everyone is a critic. Their focus varies from rapid eye movement to long, armor piercing stares. Today I'm "Pony-Boy," half man, half jackass. I quickly scan the room and select my stall. "What's this asshole selling?" I can hear them think.

My act is finished now and I become a spectator. With each subsequent stop, the rolling big top exchanges audience members for new performers. Fresh meat. I can sum up the next contestant’s entire life in three seconds or less. I observe my peers doing the same. Double takes are always a signal that someone special has just entered the spotlight. The judging begins.

"That guy is drunk. It's 8:30 in the morning!" "Is that a man or a woman?" It's the local transvestite, right on schedule. “What's her destination?” Next. "Bastard." "Prude." "Loser." "Bitch!" “Village Idiot." “Clueless!” “Goddess.” “Sinner.” “Saint.”

Here's another winner. "Poor dumb bastard." It’s a nervous businessman whose car probably wouldn't start. He is definitely a rookie. He didn't have time to rehearse or prepare his act. It's reflected in his performance. “Relax buddy. It's only a bus ride. We're all freaks here. I'm just not as fucked up as the rest of you.”

I don't mind waiting for the bus at the stop. It beats the hell out of waiting under it.

Beijing exhibition trip summary

I'm back!!!!!! WOW! I could not have planned a more perfect experience, except maybe to have achieved enlightenment, but why be greedy? I wasn't able to speak in complete sentences for 2 1/2 weeks so I'm re-learning. Would go for two or 3 days at a time with no interpreter! Lots of hand gestures and drawings. I did learn about 40 words and can count to 999 (very slowly.)

Yun Gallery poster promoting my show. Awesome!

Yun Gallery poster promoting my show. Awesome!

Bottom line: I sold 8 of 11 paintings!!! 6 in one hour. Owner is keeping the other 3 because he thinks he can sell them. The gallery owner (now my brother Chen) paid for EVERYTHING except airfare and hookers. (Luckily I brought cash.) Chen is a famous and very successful painter in Beijing and he's had this gallery now for 9 months. He is WELL connected and introduced us to some of the biggest players in the Beijing art world.

Chen had his "driver" take me and my friend Robert, from Macedonia, to all of the major sites around Beijing. The food kicked ass and we never ate in a restaurant that had any tourists. Tourists suck!

Yun Gallery, Beijing, China - April, 2007

Yun Gallery, Beijing, China - April, 2007

My dear friend and Yun Gallery owner Chen Jian.

The gallery is in the heart of the famed 798 Art District. About 60-80 galleries in old factory buildings and warehouses. Out of the 30ish galleries I visited, I was the only American and there were only about 10 European artists represented. The rest were all Chinese or Asian.

We made the front page of the ArtNews China website and were interviewed for the China Cultural Daily and Arts Weekly newspaper ( I don't know if that one has been published yet). My luggage and a crate with two paintings arrived two days after I did, which was one night before the opening. Stress.

Saw the Great Wall (long, tall and thick), Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, Yong He Gong Temple, Imperial Lake and gardens, etc....all were incredibly beautiful! We missed Tiananmen Square but I'm not losing any sleep over it.

Interesting observations:

- Buick is the only American car on the road and is considered a luxury.

- There is an ass-load of people living in Beijing! 15 million?

- The Chinese don't drink cold water, only hot. Cold beer is sometimes available as an option.

- The Chinese DO know how to give killer massages!

- Bank tellers still use an abacas to count money before they use the computer. Which explains the incredibly long lines outside of every bank.

- Many places still only have Turkish toilets (stand or squat over a porcelain hole in the floor.) I tried my best not to poop in public, successfully. I thought I had to at one restaurant though but I walked in and saw only urinals. Curios. Decided to wait. Some places have the women and men's stalls next to each other in the same room. It can make for an awkward chance meeting.

- They are constructing high-rises EVERYWHERE!

- Men hack and spit in the middle of the sidewalks. They even bend over and blow out their noses, sans tissue, onto the pavement. If you hear the bugle, don't step on the notes. Supposedly the government is trying to crack-down on this tasty habit before the Olympics. Good luck. It's quite popular and widely practiced.

- Witnessed several toddlers with ass-less pants. Beats changing diapers! Seriously? Seriously! They were long pants with the perfect size hole for both cheeks to peek out of, and they did.  I would have taken a photo but I thought it might make me look a little too much like a child predator. Use your imagination.

- There was a pub with a sign advertising that they have been "open since now." I was riding in the car and I couldn't snap a photo in time.

Driving 101 - Beijing style

- Driving or riding in Beijing is NOT for the faint at heart or for anyone with a fear of dying for that matter. Seriously. Six inches is the difference between saying "holy shit!" and actually taking one, holy or otherwise.

- There are tons of bicycles, pedestrians, trucks, cars and buses everywhere, even on the roads! Whichever of those five has the largest set of balls has the right of way. Luckily our driver had a gargantuan  pair, otherwise we would have gotten nowhere.

- The horn has replaced the blinker. I’m not even sure I saw one being used.

- Lines on the road are merely suggestions or maybe just boring line art.

- Driving on the wrong side of the roads downtown is not acceptable UNLESS it allows you to pass the car(s) in front of you, illegally, or at least try really, really hard to do so. And yes, I really did mean to say downtown.

Thank you Chen and Tian Li for the time of my life!