Columns » Penny Post by Andrei Codrescu

The Greatest Art Form

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My cell phone vibrated in my pocket at Molly's, so I made my way through angels and demons and bumped into an Arthur Andersen paper shredder on my way out the door. Finally out on the street where the only noise came from a blimp overhead and two dragonflies beating on tambourines, I answered. It was a business call. Somebody was calling from a town in mid-America to ask me to do a gig. We were barely in the part where we say, "That's terrific, I'd love to come to your lovely urban area, how's the weather?" when a pleasant ectomorph with stars painted on her cheek came up to me, pointed to the string of beads around my neck and said, "I'll show you my breasts for those." I said to my business contact, "Excuse me," and I put the cell phone behind my back. "I'd love to trade," I said to the starry ectomorph, "but I'm on a business call right now." I put the cell back to my ear and I said, "It's Mardi Gras, things go on." The undaunted trader came even closer and batted her eyelashes, "They are really nice. D-cup!" My business contact couldn't help but hear this, so I walked a little faster, rudely leaving the completely innocent ectomorph behind. "You have to understand," I told the person in the lovely urban area, "that there is no way to explain what goes on here." "I'm sure," she said. "What do you see out your window?" I asked her. "Well, a parking lot. Empty. And it's raining." "Exactly," I said. "Now, when I look into the middle distance I see a huge Greek ship over my head. At the corner, I see that the human paper shredder has left the bar and is now engaging in conversation someone silver with a towering headdress of black feathers." "What a place for an artist," said my contact. Well, we left it at that, but when I got back to Molly's I got to thinking, even as I surfed those wavy strings of light that loop between people putting off love vibes. How could an artist even begin to approach this situation and condition? A painter might paint a slice of it, but it would move too much. A photoman might snap a sliver, a camerawoman might pan a narrow band. A writer might make a few words around it and a music maker might nail a note or two. There is no art form capable of compressing these worlds, most of which I missed even as I considered them. A dazzlingly green being with two topaz stones embedded in her forehead stopped to drink from my thoughtfulness and I asked like an idiot, "Where are you from?" and she said, "Your mind," but I knew that she was from California, had been raised a Baha'i and was gentle like the fairy dust everywhere and the scents of whiskey, sage and lilac sweat. I knew instantly what the greatest art form was, and I don't mind sharing. The greatest art form is a plane ticket. With it, you go there and have as much as your senses can carry. All you have to do is train those senses to carry as much as they can.

Andrei Codrescu's latest book, Casanova in Bohemia, is a novel about the last years of the fabled illuminist adventurer.

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