Sunday, October 7, 2007

Cold Steel

We were driving through June fog to fulfill my firstborn’s destiny. He had waited until he was in high school before we’d let him get his ear pierced, which we felt was reasonable and it bought us some time. Just a quick call to dad to officially sign off and he was golden. My husband was on a conference call and not in the mindset to deal with this life altering teen moment.

Forget it. You will regret it for the rest of your life.

We were nearing the last Marin exit before the bridge. I pulled off to mediate and call for backup: my younger sister and my husband’s younger stepbrother. Both weighed in heavily on my son’s side. This being that not only was ear piercing OK, but also that getting both ears pierced was the norm. I got back on 101 and headed for the city in the hopes that my husband would see that this was going to happen eventually anyway, even if it wasn’t today.

I scored a George Costanza parking spot off Haight and my husband called back.

Okay, one, but make sure he gets the right one, or the correct one, you know?

Gender identity issues weren’t the problem; now my son was insisting that a single earring was for dorks and that we were dorks.

Alright, get back in the car. Let’s go back home.

Fine! As I turned onto Masonic the phone rang again.

I took a poll in the office and the younger people say that getting just one ear done is a little dorky. So, I guess two is fine.

Now I had to find another parking spot.

At Anubis Warpus their piercer didn’t come in until 2. They recommended Mom’s down the street. At Mom’s the Amazonian pink haired Betty Page wouldn’t do it because my 14 year old didn’t have a picture ID. Soul Patch doesn’t pierce minors, period. Who thought a suburban housewife would be the most permissive person on Haight Street?

Since I was with him and it was only lobes, the two men at Cold Steel were lenient. Both were ambitiously modified, each embellished with ink, facial piercings, and earplugs. Our piercer could have been plucked right off the Black Pearl, complete with limp. He was only lacking a monkey. Maybe this was for my benefit, but the pirate made a big point of how he always checks with his mom before he gets anything new done. Except the time he forgot when he got his tribal chin tattoo.

After ribbing my boy about becoming a man today – the other guy insisted ‘that costs extra’- the pirate was all business. Noting that his left lobe was thicker and slightly higher, he dotted his lobes with ink to check placement. The aesthetics were key. All the while, the pirate was quick to dispense worldly sage advice: Girls have cooties.

Then it was done. With his red curls pulled back in a low ponytail, showcasing the new steel hoops of (young) manhood, my boy needed ‘za. We celebrated with two slices. Then he called his dad.

Home Ec

I didn’t know when I applied, that to be accepted into the art department at UCLA as a transfer student was not an easy thing to achieve. I remember pulling the letter out of our mailbox at our crumbling stucco apartment in Westwood and how the spring morning light was slanting through the banana tree when I read the first word, “Congratulations!” I was so relieved. I had been in limbo, had moved to Los Angeles without a concrete plan, and now I had a direction.

That fall morning when I attended my first day at my second college, it was like any first day of school. I had new binders and pencils and I was very excited to be starting a photography class. I could not wait to get into the darkroom and learn the secrets of alchemy and light.

The visiting professor was an actual living, breathing, exhibiting New York artist. The real deal and when he finally entered the classroom looking like a miniature Lou Reed, I held my breath. He was uniformed in black jeans, black t-shirt, cigarette and comical bed head. He looked us over, took a last drag on his cigarette and crushed it on the floor and then said, “I see Art has become the new Home ec.”

What a dick. More than half the class was female, and a few did look like they had stumbled in off sorority row. As is often the case, the grad student TA did the lion’s share of the teaching and I learned a lot.

A few years later I was working in a gallery in New York that was heading down hill no breaks. I had begun interviewing at other galleries, and during one test drive the owner, who was female, had me work on the computer to see if I really did know this new computer program ArtStacks for gallery inventory, I answered phones, and uncrated a painting.

While I was in the back gallery I noticed that the photographs for the upcoming show were by none other than the visiting professor. His ‘Home Ec’ comment still irked me and I realized I had the access and the power to really fuck with him. I could delete his inventory file, alter prices, or cancel the print order on his invitations. It was very tempting.

I opted to sidestep that karmic dead end. I told the gallery owner I was familiar with his work. This piqued her interest in me for a moment. Then I told her the visiting professor story. She was horrified. I’ll never know what this information did for his relationship with her gallery, but I felt like I had flicked over the first domino.