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November 10, 2008

Creepy preamble... and asked about art

November 10. Day 133.

I'm officially creeped out. On the walk back from the car, I noticed a lone guy on an empty stretch of sidewalk in front of the apartment, and for some reason felt I should hurry inside before he could pass. Paranoia.

Once inside, I googled "street safety," "women's safety -travel," "home intruder what to do," etc, and that creeped me out even more. Elevators, making sure the cell is charged, the reflex of some people to gasp instead of scream, and dark hunches, such as:
"As I crossed over the bridge from the public area of the park to the more densely wooded part of the trail, I passed a man walking alone. He greeted me, and we walked on in our separate directions. I didn’t think much of him, but out of habit I glanced back. He had turned around about thirty feet away and was walking back towards me." (Whole anecdote here.)
Quickly! Change the subject!

Blog entry and happy thoughts start..... 3...2...1... NOW:

I've always wanted to live in the kind of city where people chill out in cafes until dawn talking about art, and where that art makes a statement. I've never been to Berlin, but I've heard it is such a city.

Tonight, I discovered, so is San Diego!

I went to Lestat's, my late night standby. I'd been inside all day, and by sunset I desperately wanted out.

The table I happened to sit at was next a wall of paintings by a local artist. "Black vomit," if I recall, was either the artist's pseudonym or the name of the series. The predominant motif: cackling or frowing clowns and skulls, and familiar images with a sinister twist, printed or painted on plastic boards and skate board bellies.

All night, people walked past this wall and leaned forward, and over my table, to get a closer look. Groups of friends stopped and traded remarks. People who were otherwise in a rush halted to glance. I've never seen this much interest in a work of art in a cafe before -- or in certain museums, for that matter. Those clowns commanded.

I was also strangely hooked. As I tried to write I kept glancing right, despite myself, to see some dame's skull leering at me. (Hmm, now I see why I was feeling nervous and on edge after I left the cafe!)

When one couple stopped and stayed for a few seconds longer than the rest, I thought I might try talking to them about their reactions. I've never done this -- striking up a conversation with strangers about art, just like that. I tried this at the Billy Collins reading and was promptly dismissed. This man was very tall, with long lashes, and she had blonde dreads down to her hips and the bluest eyes. Both were quietly contemplative.

"Do you like it?" I asked.

"Excuse me?" he replied.

"Do you like this art? Is it edgy or attractive for you?"

"Are you the artist?" the woman asked.


"I love the colors," the man said. "And I really love the skateboards. I've never seen anything like that before. What do you think?"

"I've been watching people's reactions as they walk by, and they're getting a lot of attenion. They're edgy. I've been sitting here trying to write, but it's hard to concentrate with all these clowns."

"Are you afraid of clowns?" the man said.


They asked me what I was working on. I told them. They asked me if I've been to Paris, and if I liked the balconies there. I told them. Then, I asked back.

We were chatting. About art and architecture. About Paris. In a cafe.

Gained: A pleasant, casual, quick chat about art. Especially after a similar attempt a few weeks ago bombed.

UPDATE: Noo! I just did a google image search for the word "creepy," to find something to post here. Baaad idea. I don't recommend it, especially at 1:34 a.m. in an empty house. Here's a picture to counteract those. Paris, pastry, park. The opposite of sinister.

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