I bought a painting. A real honest-to-God oil painting. I feel like such a big girl.
I stopped by the grocery store yesterday to pick up a few things. As I was walking up from the parking lot, I saw several signs: "Help Rid Cancer!"
Rid cancer of what?
"Help Prostrate Cancer!"
Crittergal with a gun: "Get down on the ground, you murdering filth!"
and finally, "Help Prostate!"
Whoa, buddy. You're on your own with that one.
Someone had hung dozens of paintings around the entrance to the store. I was about to enter the store when I saw two paintings that matched the colors in our living room exactly. I've really been wanting a painting to hang in our living room for a long time so I thought, Why not? It doesn't hurt to look.
I wandered down the long aisle formed by tables piled high with paintings. At the very end of the aisle, a man in an apron covered in planetary bodies was talking with a man in a business suit. I saw them exchange money, Business Suit walked away with several paintings and Planet Apron approached.
"Excuse me, ma'am, do you have a peeking pass?"
"Do you have a peeking pass?"
I decided to play along. "Umm, no, no I don't have a peeking pass."
"'Cause I saw you peeking." He nodded at the piles of paintings. "You were thinking about peeking."
Normally I'm the kind of person who wants to be left alone when I shop. Don't cajole me. Spare me the banter. If I have a question, I'll let you know. When I feel a salesperson watch me, I cringe internally, trying not to look interested in an item lest I hear, "Can I help you with that?"
But tonight I decided just to go along for the ride. After all, I wasn't buying anything, was I?
He handed me a piece of paper:
CHARITY ART SALE
Beautiful Hand-Painted Oils on Canvas
Up to 48'x72'
Helping Rid the World of Cancer
To HELP Prostrate Cancer
Sponsored by SAFEWAY
"Here's your peeking pass," Planet Apron told me. "Are you ready for your sentence?"
"How many paintings do you think are on this table?" He waved a hand across his collection.
"Hmmm, I don't know. Four hundred?"
"There's four hundred just in this pile," he said, smacking the canvas. "Your sentence is 182. You have to look at 182 paintings before you can go." Now normally I would have so been out of there but I just shrugged and said, "Okay." He started flipping through the paintings so fast that I hardly had time to process them, much less imagine them in my home and form that emotional bond that makes people buy art.
"How about I look through them myself?" I offered and started pulling the paintings off the pile, more slowly this time.
The whole time I was looking through the paintings, we were flirting wildly. He was an old crusty coot who looked like he's made his way to the bottom of many a wine bottle but old people are always the most fun to flirt with. He proposed, I declined because I was married, he assured me that was okay, his wife didn't mind having another man around the house; that sort of thing.
I saw a bunch of paintings I liked but finally I found one with lots of bright colors, the sort of painting I have been searching for for a long time. It's a Tuscan villa scene, with a deep blue sky and bright red poppies in the foreground. I like my painting because, while it has the muted olives and golds of the Tuscan landscape, it's not muddy that way a lot of paintings of Tuscany are. It is by no means great art but it makes me happy to look at it.
"This one!" I told him. "How much is this one?"
He rubbed his chin. "Oh, I can give that to you for $125."
I shook my head slowly. "Well, that is a very lovely painting," I said. "But $125 is more than I can afford."
He eyed me speculatively. "I'll tell you what," he proposed. "I'll give it to you for $40 and then you can give something on top of that for the charity. I don't care if it's ten dollars, I don't care if it's ten cents. Just as long as it's something."
"Okay!" I agreed. He stapled the canvas to a wooden frame. While he was working, he asked me what I do.
"I'm a massage therapist," I told him.
"Oh, I used to be licensed in California!" He told me he had invented a self-massaging tool made out of PVC pipe. "Hey, I have one in my truck. Let me show you!" We had to go to his truck anyway because that's where his credit card machine was so I said sure.
He reached into the back of his old clunker and after digging around for a minute, he pulled out an old dirty contraption made of several plastic pipes twisted together. He swiped my credit card and squinted at the machine. "Hmm, sometimes the phone signal doesn't go through." He held the machine up and waved it over his head with one arm, then with the other he took the pipe. "Here, this is how you use it."
He gave me the longest demo in the world, which involved him crawling into the back of his trailer and pulling out some dusty rubber non-skid mats, pulling them out into the parking lot and inviting me to lie down so that I could test out the pipe. "You really need to be lying down to get the full effect." I glanced at my silk blouse, peered into the murky entrails of his trailer and politely demurred. Whereupon he quickly lay down himself and demonstrated the proper use of his tool.
"I had about ten of these made up that I used to sell," he told me.
He continued to talk about his gizmo until finally I had to say, "I'm really sorry. I don't mean to interrupt you but I have to go."
"Oh! Okay." We strolled back over to his other truck, where my credit card had finally gone through. I signed and handed him the receipt, wished him a good night and picked up my new painting. As I was headed to my car, he called out, "Thanks, Crittergal! You're a real nice person!" So I got a new painting and a compliment!