Art for Sale

photo, patricia laplante collins, grace teshima Patricia and Grace, the Dinner Junkies.

Nearly Free Pistachios

by Ric Erickson

Paris:–  August:–  Tuesday:– With all the people leaving town and the bakeries closing, I was wondering when I was going to get a summertime feeling. It finally hit on Tuesday when it looked like there was going to be gorgeous sunset. I caught the evening weather futures on France–2 TV–news and then jumped on the métro and rode down to Cité just in time to the see the sky over the westward Seine extrude from blue into orange peel, looking a bit like a diffracted Mars.

Cruise boats armed with bright lights plunged downstream through rippling inky blue waters, disappearing under bridge arches. A late pink glowed on the right bank's Paris–Plage and the drummers tapped their beats while the imported palms hung still, probably tired after a hectic day. The same pink but fainter was painted over the seawall on the tip of the Ile Saint–Louis, above a crowd of sundown fanciers, listening to free music wafting across the river from the yellow–lit beach hidden in the trees.

Another, smaller crowd, had camped on a stone riverside ramp on the south side of the island, without music and without the sky's pinkness. Behind Notre–Dame, a black silhouette with spires and arching supports of filigree, there was one open café, lit with yellow light, a lone beacon in the falling darkness. The cathedral settled in the night.

photo, linda mccluskey, paintings Linda McCluskey accepts low angle.

On the Quai de Montebello under the restless trees beside the closed bouquinistes the lights began to come up. The sky went deeper and deeper and the orange in the west faded to a thin line and then there was a couple of empty beats when you thought it's all over, and then the lights started to glow, and then the cathedral began glowing too. It happens all over the city, in different ways, all year.

Chez Grace – "Dinner Junkies!"

Wednesday:– The phone rang and it was Uncle Den–Den, calling to propose that we go to Grace Teshima's art exhibition together. Grace sent me an email too, but the invitation was for Saturday. The uncle said he couldn't go then and preferred Wednesday. Later I saw Matthew Rose and he told me about it too, and asked if I wanted to go there on his scooter. Uncle Den–Den and Matt were feuding and I could see no good coming from this.

Later, at the café Rendez–Vous uncle told me he was going to challenge Matt to a duel and he wanted me to be his second. He said that he's forgotten to bring a card, to give to Matt's second, or a glove to slap in Matt's kisser. This wasn't very Daguerréotypistalike. I started hoping that Matt's scooter would conk out.

The métro ride up to Abbesses was unremarkable and the speed of the elevator lift out of the métro hole was as boringly slow as ever. On the surface the sun was a couple of hours short of sunset and most of the sidewalks were lined with café terraces, filled with the usual casual souls – who were not actually posing for typical 60s postcards.

photo, chiaki matsumoto, canal & company Chaiki wields grape knowledge.

Den–Den knew the place. But he had the door codes backwards, as opposed to mine. The three flights of stairs weren't as polished as his. There seemed to be only one apartment per floor and we could hear Grace's from the bottom. The door was wide open and we walked in.

The story as I had it then was that there were to be four artists and one photographer on show, and the exhibition would be travelling to Washington, DC later, maybe in September. There were three rooms, two with paintings and a hanging, one with photos, and Matt's stuff was in the hall, which we saw first. The kitchen contained drinks and snacks, and there were some info sheets scattered around.

It was also early. Uncle Den–Den and I weren't alone, and we met many people – over drinks in the kitchen, in front of the artworks – but many more folks showed up as the night wore on. The artists were – nearly all there – I couldn't keep track, defective who's who – Matt came last.

Uncle Den–Den told Matt about the duel. Matt was very surprised. He acted like he'd forgotten they were feuding. That was too bad because it spoiled the joke. I quit my second's job.

I overheard a lady being called Patricia. She was talking to the hostess, Grace Teshima, so I asked her if she was Patricia Laplante–Collins. Patricia used to send me emails about her get–together dinners, too late to put them in Metropole. That went on for years but we never met. She said her PC blew up and she lost her mailing list. That's why the emails stopped.

Grace and Patricia are old friends. They had a chorus, "Dinner junkies!" And then they laughed a lot, and I didn't get it. While I've been living around here for decades, taking photos of Paris and walking around, hosting club meetings and writing reports, other folks have been having dinner parties and I have never been to any of them. I started to wonder if that hadn't changed.

photo, the living room at grace's The living room on Saturday, and some of us.

Later on Grace tried to clue me in. But it was like a big party by that time, folks introducing themselves to each other – giving brief bios and vying for longest residency – bragging – but it was all very relaxed and quite strange too, and they drank the drinks and ate the snacks and the yak–level increased as if it were a fête.

Which it was. A few people would say, "I've been here 22 years and I'm going to Béziers in the morning." Sort of beginning of August. We were late getting out of town. Good to have a last drink and a chat before getting on the train. "See you in September!"

And I thought it was an art exhibition. It was, and no doubt about it. If anybody introduced all the artists at once and pointed at their respective walls or rooms, I must have been in the kitchen. Guests, if that is what they were, gathered there to fish ice cubes out of a bucket and top up plastic cups with wine, and I even found some orange juice. Some got hung up in the kitchen eating pistachios for hours.

Chez Grace – More, Again

Saturday:– The sky was Riviera–grade and the thermometre was flirting with 30 degrees and I was wondering how many would be complaining about the heat at Grace's. Maybe they were people who never leave town because it is never supposed to get hot.

Whatever the reason I returned to Abbesses in Montmartre. On Wednesday I mishandled the camera somehow, so its focus was off. I was going to try and make it better. That's my excuse. Plus, Grace phoned and said there would be more orange juice. There were a lot of new pistachios too.

Some folks brought wine, including some younger French dudes who came in with a big bottle that evaporated fast. One of them told one of the artists more than anybody wanted to know about Carcassonne. "It's got ramparts!" But it was cool. One fellow with a tiny camera experimented with taking pictures left–handed, from above or from below, on the side and backwards. He said some might show something.

A cute Italian lady named Elena Rossini pointed a serious video camera at us and the paintings, and many others had little digital cameras in hand, and there were flashes. The windows were open above the café terraces on Abbesses below and the few smokers shared the lone ashtray with the pistachio fiends.

There were some kids too, maybe some small dogs. Before sundown there must have been about 30 there, and Grace attempted to call our attention to the purpose of the meeting, this gathering – and pointed out that there was a receptacle for cash donations – too right! If you aren't buying a painting, you should put in a couple of Euros for the wine and nuts. Is that not right?

photo, matt's bottles, my orange juice My orange juice, Matt's bottles.

In an attempt to get a different angle, more arty, I got on the floor to shoot a photo. While there a least four others blasted their cameras at me. Which of us were the most silly? Matt wanted a photo of himself in the hall, for Utube or FaceBook. We shot the hell out of the mirrors in a corner. One picture showed four Matts, all underexposed. You would have thought we were drinking.

Saying goodbye to Grace felt like it was getting to be a habit. Matt and I went down the stairs with some other guests and in the dark displayed familiarity with Paris by finding the out button without tearing the place apart. On the street a last chat, and then Matt tried to sell me the idea of riding back to Montparnasse: on his Vespa.

Some of the Cast

No introduction needed, just throw - Grace Teshima at Google,
Linda McCluskey, artist,
Trish Nickell, artist,
Barbara Navarro, artist,
Matthew Rose, artist,
Robert Ogle, photographer,
Patricia Laplante–Collins, hostess of Paris Soirées two times a week,
Elena Rossini, with the video camera,
Chiaki Matsumoto, peniche vacation consultant,
plus Lionel of the Swan Bar, featuring jazz in Montparnasse,
and about a hundred other new best friends, art lovers, and by no means least, Café Metropole Club member Mark Kritz, Montmartre resident.

A bientôt à Paris
signature, regards, ric

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contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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