Thursday, 8:10 a.m. Getting ready to leave the house and start the frigid, two-and-a-half-mile walk to my office, I suddenly realize I don’t have the bag I use to tote my pens, paints, and my journal. I feel my heart actually move in my chest and my eyes tear up.
A shot of adrenaline sizzles up my neck. It’s not by my desk or next to the couch or hanging on the coat rack. I don’t even look ’cause I know where it is.
Wednesday 7:30 p.m. The annual MorningNews.Org holiday party is being held at Thady Con’s Bar in Midtown. I strip off my coat, throw it on a pile on a bar stool and accept my first Dewars’ and water. I sling my bag on to the floor, next to the bar rail, and then retrieve it to pull out gifts: copies of my new book, The Creative License, for my editors, Rosecrans and Andrew. As the crowd converges around the pristine copies of my book and the Highland’s finest blended scotch courses down my gullet, my bag sinks back down into the dark on the floor.
Wednesday 9:30p.m. I yank my coat off the pile, wish everyone a good year, and, warmed by the conviviality of my colleagues and a reasonable amount of good cheer, sail out into the night and plunk myself in a cab. Obliviously bagless.
Thursday 9:30 a.m. A call to Rosecrans confirms my fears. The rest of the gang also left the bar last night without my bag.
9:32 a.m. I call Thady Con’s. The bar opens at 11 but a man with a thick accent picks up the phone. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to understand my question and asks me to call back at 10.
9:34 a.m I reminisce to myself about my bag and its contents. It’s made of olive canvas, with many pockets and a shoulder strap. Inside, there are about a dozen pens. Most of them are brown Faber-Castells, some Fs, some Ms, some Ss. There’s even a B. A few, though I’m not sure which, I bought last summer at a pen store near Mussolini’s former headquarters in Rome. There’s a small bottle of brown ink with a wax stopper that my pal, Kane, brought me from Venice. It’s in a snack sized Ziploc bag along with a pen holder and my favorite nib and a waterbrush filled with sepia Dr.Martin’s transparent watercolor.
In the inner pocket, there’s a mitten I found on the street a few weeks ago. It has a special flap that folds back to expose my fingers and then Velcros back into position, ideal for drawing outside in cold weather. The mitten was dirty and lying on the sidewalk but after a good wash it proved to be white and very comfy. There’s also a copy of the 51st issue of Dan Price’s Moonlight Chronicles, dog-eared from its third consecutive reading.
The most valuable object in the bag, at least to me, is my journal, Volume 46. I lost one earlier volume, I think it was #7, when it slid between the cushion and the arm rest of a window seat of an United flight to Chicago and for some reason didn’t deplane with me. I’d neglected to write my name and number in it and we never saw each other again.
Volume 46 has been a good friend to me. I decided to do the whole thing only in shades of brown and black. It begins with a record of Chelsea art shows I’ve enjoyed, followed by several pages of drawings of dogs and tools. Then I began preparing pages before I drew on them, soaking and spattering them in Dr.Martin’s colors, generally yellows, oranges and browns. There are drawings of my office, of a trip to a radio performance of King Kong, of a breakfast with my friend Steve, an egg sandwich, last weekend’s Sketchcrawl, my visit to the Beerhorsts’, some flowers I got from Julie and Bill, and various other things. I had not scanned any of the pages except for the few I posted here last week.
I have thought, and said, and written that what matters is not the product of art, but the process of making it. I’ve said that one might as well toss away every drawing you make, wipe your arse with it, give it to a stranger, as hang on to it like some sort of cherished totem. That what matters is the slow careful study of reality, the meditative calm that comes with drawing, the counting of one’s blessings as one learns to appreciate the world around. And yet, here I am with thundering heart and sour stomach worrying about a little Canson watercolor book as if it were my second (or 46th) born. I love my journals, the rows of them on their shelves, flipping back through past ones, soothing their pages, brushing their hair.
What hypocrisy! Oh, shut up, I’m grieving.
10:01 am. I call the bar again and speak to Graham, He puts me on hold, roots around a bit, finally returning to tell me, in a lilting brogue, that he indeed has my bag. I tell him I’ll drop by at lunch time to get it.
10:02 a.m. I ask myself,” Should I bother to post this? Or should I get back to work?”
Addendum: Exciting conclusion
11:30 a.m. I duck out of the office and take the E train to Lexington Avenue. I walk down the street with my iPod blasting and up to the door of the bar. Suddenly, over the screech of MC5 I hear people yelling at me, “Don’t go in!”. I look around and saw that there were firemen and fire engines swarming up and down the block. One was stretching out a yellow line of tape. Someone else yells “The building could fall down at any minute.!” I back up and huddle with the Irish barmen and waitstaff, explaining that my bag is inside. They tell me that they were getting ready to open when someone noticed a huge crack running across the kitchen floor. Some construction workers around the corner, excavating a hole for a new building, had accidentally damaged the foundations of the old bar. Firemen run around turning off the gas and electricity, worried that the building could blow up.
Then a fireman comes out of the bar carrying two axes and my drawing bag and hands it to me.
I’m not sure if the bar will survive. But at least Volume 46 is safe