Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Goodbye, Sascha

Wesley from Cape Cod with his first piece of art
(Joey Kulkin photo; read more on Stella (here)

BENNINGTON -- I just sold my dream girl to a homeless man.

Wesley bought "Sascha" today, a great sale on a weird day. It's the first piece of art Wesley's ever bought and it's going to be the prettiest thing in the construction worker's dwelling.

"The colors -- the blue and white" is one of the reasons Wesley bought the oil painting by Stella Ehrich of North Bennington. But let's be honest about the real reason: Wesley bought Stella's piece because of the girl in the wedding dress. "She's gorgeous," he said. "Striking."

She's gorgeous. Striking. It's same reason I fell in love with the painting 400 days ago, why so many Fiddlehead at Four Corners customers love the painting, why I tell customers who stand in front of it "Can I borrow twelve hundred and fifty bucks so I can buy it?" They laugh. I laugh. It's my Sascha shtick.

Sascha radiates so much innocence in this painting; the innocence of a young woman about to give herself away to the man of her dreams; these last few hours of individuality; I used to be a little girl, she's thinking, and now I'll spend my life with him, forever; the innocence in the way she looks down; and the way she rests her toes on the floor, knees pointed inward. Structurally, her collarbones are perfect. And 34-B, just right for me. Without ever having told Stella, she painted my dream girl.

She painted Wesley's dream girl, too.

This morning I woke up and thought about which menorah we'll use for the second night of Hanukah tomorrow. Joel, Nina and I have tried to think of a Thanksgiving menorah hybrid because Hanukah and Thanksgiving overlap tomorrow night. First time ever. We've brainstormed a few funky ideas but haven't put any of them into real motion.

This morning I thought about Steph Davidson's menorah made of marble ...

Joey Kulkin photograph

... it sits on a table in Joel and Nina's dining room, in front of a female torso carved from marble, another one of Steph's masterpieces. The modern-day Michelangelo and his wife, Graham, a Picasso for our generation, died 3,738 days ago in a car crash. They were expecting their first child. So for all of the ideas about a turkey-menorah -- drilling holes in the legs and putting a candle in each one, which works out great for the second night of Hanukah -- I think we knew we'd be using Steph's marble menorah.

That's why Steph was on my mind this morning.

For the next several hours, Air Lift was on my mind.

I'm working on a story about Air Lift, the 2-year-old chestnut colt -- son of Bold Venture, full brother of Assault -- 64 years after his one and only race at Jamaica. He didn't finish the 6th race on July 27, 1949, because he broke his leg at the 3/8th pole and was destroyed minutes later. W.C. Heinz witnessed Air Lift's death and wrote, on deadline, what some consider the greatest newspaper sports story (here).

Sixty-four years later -- August 12, 2013 -- I was the first person to produce results from that race. But there's one more thing I want to do to update the story, and so for a week I have worked like a dog, phone calls and emails galore, trying to track down something that would make the story unique. But finding that something has become a struggle of struggles and by 2 this afternoon I was a frustrated motherfucker.

Then a guy walked into the gallery. Not the kind of fella you typically see in an art gallery. Short at about 5-7 and muscular, like Steph. Looked like he'd just come from the stables, what with knee-high rubber boots and a 5 o'clock shadow that was much closer to midnight. Sweaty. Grimy. If you squinted just right, as I did, he looked like Steph, the only difference being Steph always wore an anvil-goatee. Wesley is from Cape Cod. Steph grew up on the cape. So this was a weird -- and great and much-needed -- kind of thing taking place.

He plotzed about the gallery for 10-15 minutes then walked to the counter. He asked me a question that got my attention fast. He asked about one of Stella Ehrich's paintings -- "the one with the girl" -- and here we go. After a big-ticket sale slipped through my fingers last year I vowed never to let anything get in the way of a big sale again. And that's why Wesley walked out of Fiddlehead with Sascha.

For a few moments I'd forgotten about Air Lift. Selling this kind of piece gave me a lift.

Wesley works for an environmental firm and is in the middle of a big construction job in Bennington. He came to the gallery 3 months ago and fell in love with Sascha at first sight. He came back last month to see if she was still here. What's funny is that I don't remember him and I pay attention to everyone who walks through the doors.

Wesley returned today. Big payday. Time to buy his dream girl. My dream girl.

"Have you ever bought art before?" I asked while wrapping the painting.

"No," he said, "it's my first piece."

"Where's it going to go in your home?"

"I don't know -- I'm homeless," he said. "Right now I live in a trailer."

And I'm back on Air Lift's trail.

There's a hole on the wall now like there's a hole in my heart.
Goodbye, Sascha.