I was sitting in my studio writing in my journal one morning when somebody slid a card under the door. It was an invitation to a funeral for the Jax Art Building:
I never had a studio in the Jax Building, but it became part of my daily life when I moved into Lowertown. The north windows of my loft faced the front doors of the Jax. At night the erratically-lit building looked like a dollhouse of art studios....my kind of dollhouse. During the day I smiled at the sight of teeny ballerinas going in and out of the ballet school located on the first floor. I visited some of the artists in their studios over the years. I could go on and on, but there are too many memories to list in the sound-bite mode of an Internet blog.
The funeral procession was bizarre, macabre and achingly lovely. It reminded me of Paris in the 1930's, not that I was actually alive then. The procession was a ragtag group of people, some elegantly attired in Edward-Gorey costumes and some looking like they decided to join the parade at the last minute. There was a coffin and pallbearers and a small marching band playing some sort of music (trombone and tuba?). Several artists who spend most of their time hiding in their studios (such as myself) ventured out into the fading twilight to honor the dearly departed.
It was the only funeral I ever voluntarily attended.
Afterwards there was a party at Golden's Deli. I ran into a friend of mine, another Italian-American artist no longer in the first bloom of youth. Like me, she's fighting her imminent decline every step of the goddamned way. She admired my getup, an all-black faux leather ensemble with thigh-high boots and glitter-encrusted evening gloves.
"I would have worn a black picture hat but didn't have time to run to Target to buy one," I said. "Also, I'm not really a hat person."
"The music is so loud I can't hear you talk," she said. "Let's go sit outside ."
We went outside and sat on a bus bench outside the deli. It was a glorious warm night and the streets were almost deserted. I talked about all the deaths I've experienced lately: buildings and love affairs and people and dreams.
"It's sad when things die, but it's the Circle of Life," my friend said.
Her words were oddly comforting to me.
Suddenly we noticed a man in a car. He kept driving around the block and returning to the bus bench, each time getting closer to the curb. The last time he appeared he was so close we could see his face in the darkness of the car. He was staring at us and seemed to want to speak, but the car behind him beeped for him to get moving and he drove off.
"He got so close he almost ran over us that last time," my friend said.
"I think he saw the way we're dressed and realized we're artists from the funeral procession," I said. "I think he wanted to offer condolences but couldn't think of the right words to say."
"I think he thought we were hookers," my friend said.