Sunday, May 06, 2007

Jen, Jane, whatever

THURSDAY NIGHT/FRIDAY: I have this dream about a beautiful artist/writer named Jenny or Jen, who is a white girl, with red hair. I pick her up on the street and take her for a spin in my car. Sadly, just as I get her back to my dream home, something wakes me up. (Damn!)

Friday morning, I feel moved to scour out the interior of my car, including the edges around the door frame, dirtied up by countless muddy shoes. I have a strong feeling that some new lady will be gracing my passenger seat tonight. (Not old friend Annabelle – as she will tell you, I don’t clean for her.) Who could it be? I had emailed Laura the schoolteacher, inviting her to tonight's Pilsen gallery walk; maybe her? In any case, I'm sick of the filthy car, so I clean it up and take it for an oil change.

So that evening, I leave work in the South Loop. I'm all set to head for Pilsen to the gallery district. But first, I figure, I may as well stop by the Fine Arts Building -- which itself has a formidable list of galleries and studios of all kinds, and is only two blocks away from my office.

At the FAB, I first visit Anita Miller, and then Barton Faist, whom I engage in some convo because I really like his art. He’s really into the Great Masters, which is obvious in his work. He goes on and on and on and on and on about light and color theory and how he obsessively layers colors to create translucent, vivid verisimilitude. Also he lectures me about the color wheel, color opposites, how he sees shades in what the normal person would label a plain white wall, how colors change according to the light level, how even the glow cast from a light bulb lights the air around it; how to make blacks look blacker and whites whiter.

Feeling like I’ve just earned an art degree, I go downstairs and pass by the studio of Barlow, a brotha I visited last time I was here. I remember that his pop-art collage style was not exactly my cup of tea, but still I peep in hesitantly to see what’s new. He sees me and waves me on in. And who’s sitting there but two ladies I know. The first one’s name I can’t even recall – I know her from Columbia College. But the second – who’d’ve thunk! –


Jane is a striking, high-cheekboned, chocolate-skinned beauty. She's been a model, dancer, and entertainment editor for a Hollywood publication, but also taught at some of Chicago's toughest schools. She was named one of Ebony’s “25 Most Alluring Bachelorettes” back in the early ‘90s. A Chicago political blogger posting her pic described her as a “stone cold fox” -- one of few such individuals who ran for public office in Illinois last year. Of course, she didn’t stand a chance, being a Republican in Chicago.

I met her nearly ten years ago now, at the youthful age of 23, while working as a public relations assistant. I was helping produce an awards dinner where she was one of the awardees. Afterward, a bunch of us went out to a Hyde Park lounge. A lot of cute flirting ensued: she told me I was "young and adorable" and "cute as a button" but I just needed "a little more experience."

I was intrigued. What ever could she mean?

"I'll train you very well," she promised, a mischievous twinkle in her eye. 

But she waited for me to make the move. When I could afford it, I finally invited her out. Our wide-ranging conversation included her claim to have psychic powers inherited from Hopi shamans on her mother's side. I imagined a pineapple, and I challenged her to guess what I was picturing.

"Well," she said, "it's more like I can read feelings, intentions. Not that you could think about, for example, a banana and I could guess it exactly."

"Close," I said. "It was a tropical fruit."

I drove her home, and she invited me in for a drink. By and by, I announced it was time to go, said good night, exited the house and went to my car. But my keys were missing.

I turned back and went up the steps to find Jane standing in the door, wearing a Cheshire cat grin --with my keys in her palm.

"Hey, how --"

“I told you,” she purred. “I'm a magician.”

You don't need to know what happened next. Let's just say I ended up staying a bit later than I'd planned.

Tonight, however, Jane does not recognize me. I am wearing glasses and I don’t have the goatee I sported ten years ago. Maybe she wouldn’t have remembered me anyway. After at least three drinks for Jane and one for me, the two of us end up walking down Michigan Avenue. Taking advantage of her memory lapse, I manage to fool her into thinking I’m psychic by pulling out little facts about her that she had told me years ago: the fact her father had been a jazz bandleader and producer, or that she had lived in Hollywood and danced on "Soul Train" and "American Bandstand." She seems mystified and even a little spooked.

She is thirteen years my senior, but she’s not boring in the least. Between cracking on me about my supposedly boyish appearance ("How did you get here, on a tricycle?") and me crackin’ back about what a great job they did on her dentures, we crack each other up quite a few times.

Well. Jane ends up in my car – the car I took such great pains to clean just for her. Or for "Jen," if you will.

I take her to Lobster King in Chinatown. She has another drink and by this time, her already goofy, dramatic personality plus the alcohol has her acting silly like a thirteen-year-old girl, cracking more jokes at my expense.

I end up dropping her off at her home. Unlike our first date 10 years ago, she does not invite me in, nor would I have accepted. It’s 1 a.m., and I have to be up at 8:30 for work.

p.s.: One reason why we had only one date way back 10 years ago was that I strongly suspected, based on her family background -- and family research I was doing in advance of a family reunion that year -- that she and I were, apparently, distant cousins. She got a little bit freaked out about that. I thought it was cool, but she thought it was somehow perverted.

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