We drove from our rural town to the big city 90 miles away to stay the weekend with a friend. On Friday night, we went to an Easter pageant with drama, ballet, solo artists, choir, band and a huge crowd hanging on every word sung and said. We left feeling very emotional.
We perked up at Red Robin, and stuffed ourselves silly with rice bowls and mozzarella sticks. Later at my friend's townhouse in the suburbs, we stayed up till the wee hours talking, reminiscing and crying. It turns out that each of us had a troubled relationship develop over the last year with a "loved" one. In both instances the person suddenly cut us off cold after refusing to discuss their problem with us, or even name it. We can only guess at what is wrong. Neither of these estranged individuals has had the courage or ethics to be truthful with us.
Food and entertainment so often bring a temporary solace that's hard to resist and we hit the downtown streets with a vengeance on Saturday. Our destination was the Portland Art Museum and not taking the time to check out maps, we drove in hexagons to get there. My friend's driving is typical of the appalling traffic habits developed by all native metropolitans. She wove her Honda through thick traffic like it was a tank taking out the Iraqi insurgents and other drivers responded likewise.
At the art museum, I got a little loud-voiced and red-faced when I saw one too many paintings where the male artist just had to drape the women's clothing to expose their breasts, like doo-dads, ornaments. This distracting ornamentalism was repeated in nearly every pre-Raphaelite painting—apparently with no other purpose than to decorate the battlefields and coronations with nippled flesh. My friend got a voice lesson from me on the cultural significance of exploiting the nude female figure e.g. post-Raphaelite Orientalism and odalisques. Maybe I overreacted, but at least I gave an honest opinion.
I hustled us straight into the People of the Water exhibit where we could study some real artwork. It was worth noting that American Indians in the Northwest before 1830 utilized an intrinsically primitive, cunning and useful—basically altruistic--application in their art; many graceful and simple carved bowls, poles, hairpins, masks and ritualistic items such as soul-pipes gleamed with the truth of ancient tradition. Then, in the mid-to-late 1800s, the wagon-trailer trash people came. Whites. And the art shifted abruptly to heavily beaded cloth items...thread, felt, glass beads, metal, and trinkets on leather replaced the bone, wood and stone of earlier works.
We went to war with the traffic again yet arrived safely at Taco Bell. It's the only Taco Bell, or fast food joint for that matter, where I have heard classical music played. When we slipped our trays of garbage into the bin, it talked to us! We stood there gawking at a big box with a tin lid, out of which issued a deep voice "THANK YOU, PLEASE STAND BACK A MOMENT." Even the savvy homeless guy at the nearby table stared at us staring at the talking garbage can and then when I looked behind me—we were holding people up--another guy was grinning ear to ear, "so you like that, pretty amazing, huh?"
We went into a mall and got ice cream and cookies and came out into pouring rain. While we were stopped at a busy intersection licking our cones, I noticed a transient man standing on the narrow meridian holding a sign. Rain was dripping off his beard onto an 8x10 cardboard sign. In green magic marker, I thought I saw the word "beer," how weird! I was craning my head to verify that, but he was flashing it the other direction. Finally, he turned our way, his eyes met mine and across two cars he could see my incredulous lips mouthing the words on the sign, "Why Lie? I Need a Beer."
I almost jumped out of the car and ran to shake his hand. How refreshing to find that someone down on their luck and dirty with addiction had the guts to admit: I Need a Beer. We compared that to our "loved" ones' subversive actions. We compared it to the "civilized" art of the American Indian. The light changed and we drove off. I wonder how much money he took in with that sign. I mentioned that cynical people might respond favorably to his honesty. Then, I wondered if he was lying, too. We went to Starbucks for espresso and tried to forget our lack of trust in other people.