Lunch and Loops
by Philip Sultz
I meet Mel at the New School on the lower east side. He’s a philosophy major in his last year. We’ll have lunch together. We go upstairs to the room with the so-called commie mural. The school is feeling the pressure, so they cover it up. Mel turns the lights on, and pulls the curtain to the side. We sit down to talk for a while. Mel says, what do you think, Sultz? Do you know Diego Rivera’s work? I say, Yeah, he’s for real. He’s good. Just then, a security guard comes in and says, hey, this room is off limits. We get up and Mel says, okay, we’re leaving. We walk out of the building. Mel says, this is supposed to be a free country. I say, yeah, sure. So Mel, what’s for lunch? Mel says, a school buddy of mine gave me these two lunch tickets to the Roma Bar in the Village. It’s a new place. If you order a steak sandwich, they give you a free drink from the bar. It’s a come-on. Mel wears thick glasses. He’s trying to read the small print. I say, what kind of drink, Mel? He says, a corkscrew. Wait a minute, I got it wrong, he says. I say, you mean, screwdriver? Yeah, Mel says, a screwdriver. If you buy a steak sandwich, they give you a free screwdriver. I say, Mel, what the hell is a screwdriver? Sounds like a screw job to me. Mel says, let’s go to the Automat. Good choice, I say. We go to the Automat and buy tuna sandwiches. There’s not a lot of money floating between us. We get some water and find a table. Mel brings a bowl of hot water to the table. I say, Mel, what’s with the hot water? He says, the catsup is free here. You want tomato soup with your sandwich? I say, yeah, good idea.
Our friend Arnie has a meeting with the ladies garment people. I’ll drive back to Buffalo with him, for my cousin’s wedding. He calls and says, hey, Sultz, I got two tickets at the meeting for a Yankee-Tiger game this afternoon. You want to go? We’ll hit the road after the game. I say, sounds good, I’ve never been to Yankee Stadium. Arnie says, I can better that. I’ve never been to a professional ball game. I say, you’re kidding. The seats are close to the field between third and home. Arnie buys hotdogs and soda drinks, and we find our seats. By the middle of the third inning, Arnie says, you seen enough? I can’t sit here anymore. I say, yeah, sure. We head out to the parking lot. Arnie says, how long does that go on? I say, nine innings. Arnie says, you can sprout roots sitting there. On the road to the thruway, we pass carnival posters nailed to trees. Arnie heads for the carnival, in the town up ahead. He says, lets check it out, Sultz. He says, you like carnivals? I say, yeah, I like carnivals, sure. We walk around and look at the various rides, and colorful booths. Arnie stops at one of the booths. For a quarter, they give you eight loops to toss. If you get four of the eight loops on any of the six poles, they give you a big teddy bear. After spending a dollar, and getting no where, Arnie’s smiling, but he’s had enough. We walk around some more. Arnie says, I think they have a fan behind the curtain, on the side there, that blows the loops away from the poles. I wouldn’t put it past them.
As for words, my father, a Russian immigrant, had a marvelous reputation as a Yiddish story teller, amusing, ironic, more than just jokes, when meeting acquaintances here and there. I'd like to imagine that a little bit rubbed off.
As for art, today I’m thinking back to the paintings of Albert Pinkham Ryder, 1847-1905, and how fortunate for us that his work is secure and available for us to see. In this big bright image era, his small dark earth colored paintings could easily slip through the cracks.
Philip Sultz is a visual artist and writer, represented by the Allan Stone Gallery in New York since 1977, and the Saatchi Gallery website in London. His writing and poetry has recently been on literary websites Per Contra and Blazevox, and is soon to appear on Everyday Genius, Three Quarter Review, and again on Per Contra. He taught studio art at the Kansas City Art Institute, Rhode Island School of Design, and Webster University, St. Louis, where he is professor emeritus.