The Art Scene

In the Posh Gallery, New York City, a man in his mid-thirties studied a piece on the wall. One of the Wall Street nouveau-riche, he looked to diversify his portfolio into art. The gallery owner approached and stood beside him.

“A very good piece, don’t you think?” the owner commented. “A. Non-Y-Mous is one of our most popular artists.”

“Just what is it?” Nouveau-riche shared a confused look with Mr. Gallery.

“Oh, it is his latest.”

“But what is that thing. I mean, do you call it a thingamajig.”

“Actually it’s called ‘A Whatchamacallit’.” Gallery was proud to represent one of the up-and-comers of the current art scene. “It’s only one million dollars.”

“You mean you actually expect someone to pay a million bucks for that?”

“Oh, it was one hundred grand three days ago. The artist’s name is rising that fast. Much faster than Andy Warhol in his prime.”

The tailored suit was impressed but not impressed enough to bite the offer handed him. “Well, it looks like a piece of shit to me.”

“No, sir. ‘Piece of Shit’ was A.Non-Y-Mous’ previous work. It sold for two million at auction.”

Nouveau shook his head. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “And I thought Wall Street was one big scam.”

Gallery ignored the scam comment.”I can almost guarantee it will be up to four million by the end of the year.”

The Wall Streeter frowned. “This-this whatchamacallit looks like something I saw down the street.”

“That is why it is such an important work. It captures the essence of contemporary society. It has such panache. Yet it doesn’t force itself upon you with its dash of élan. Don’t you think?”

“I’m not so sure. When I think of art, I think Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Picasso.”

The owner waved away the thought. “Oh, sir, they are so passé. So démodé. So vieux jeu. No, this artist is so, how shall we say it. So current. One of the advanced cohort of a coming revolution in art.”

“You say one million?” The man was beginning to bite the bait.

“Yes, sir. And I can assure you the piece will impress your colleagues. They will see that you are an up-and-coming collector. You are participating in something unique.”

“I am not so sure my wife will like it. Her snooty Ivy League friends are hard to impress.”

Gallery patiently instructed, “Oh, they will be very impressed. They will see you for the man of taste you are. And the benefit of this piece? It will fit in with any décor. Just look at the colors.”

“You think so?” Mr. Potential Customer took a deep breath. “I would like to get in with that Fifth Avenue crowd she travels with.”

“Then this is just the thing. It is small enough to fit into the elevator of your apartment building but large enough to impress.”

The Wall Streeter decided. “Well, I suppose if one must, one must. I will take it. Can you have it delivered?”

“Yes, sir. Would tomorrow afternoon be good?”

“It will.” The buyer paid for the piece. “It’s for my wife’s birthday, you know.”

“She is indeed a fortunate woman to have such a discriminating husband.”

“Well, I don’t know about that.”

“Believe me, she will love the piece. The wives always do.”

“I hope you are right.”

The Wall Streeter walked out of the gallery, shaking his head and muttering, “Still looks like a piece of shit to me.”

The owner uncrossed his fingers and said under his breath, “P. T. was right. There is one born every minute.” Then he started to hum, “Another one bites the dust.”

Politics in America 33: Mississippi or Bust

“Mr. Prime Minister,” the President of the United States, known to one and all as The Great Man, said. “I have a proposition for you.”

The P M of Canada had been propositioned by the best. So this was easy peasy for him. At least, it wasn’t one of his three wives, wanting more money. His alimony had put the Canadian Federal Budget in the red for three years in a row. Unfortunately his last alimony cheques had done the old bounceroo and Parliament was not going to allow him to float the bonds to cover those cheques. He was in debt up to his hockey puck. So what else could he say but “Proposition away.”

“We’ve both got a cash flow problem,” the new President, The Great Man, P F Sneaze, said. Now I know you are wondering since when did the pig farmer get so smart about finance. Smart enough to say something like cash flow. As you will remember, he had taken over his dad’s pig farm and made it prosper. If there was anything The Great Man understood, it was cash flow.

“You betcha,” P M said.

“I have something I would like to sell,” The Great Man said.

“How is this going to help, eh?” You knew this was a P M of Canada. He said “eh” a lot, just like Southerners say “y’all” a lot.

“You get a nice juicy kickback from the sell.”

“But that’s against Canadian law.”

“And American law too. But don’t forget. We’re politicians. We know how to get away with this stuff and make it look like we’re frugal.” As you can see, P F Sneaze had already picked up some of the tricks of the trade and he had only been in office for fifteen minutes. Just think what he would know after sixty minutes. Oh, better say one hour. The White House don’t like that show. They’re pretty good at finding the do-do when a politician is knee deep in it.

“Well, let’s politic away. What do you have for sell?”

That’s when The Great Man gave the P M the old whamaroo. “Little Ol’ Mississippi.”

“Mississippi?”

“Mississippi.”

“Why would Canada buy Mississippi? If it was Florida, we might be interested.”

“I do agree that Florida would be nice. But they have a governor down there who would not be amenable. He has his own scam on the side.” Just how did The Great Man know about the Florida Scam? Same way the government knew about Bernie Madoff. Oh, that’s right. The government didn’t know until he was arrested. Well, just take my word for it. P F Sneaze knew things and those things knew things.

“I see what you mean,” the P M said. “Don’t you have anything else to offer?”

“It’s Mississippi, or it’s not. Just think. You’re getting riverfront property. It never snows down there. Well, hardly ever. It’s got a great football team.”

“We don’t play football up here. We play ice hockey. Men up here are born with ice skates on their feet. You find a Canadian and you’ll have a potential Gordie Howe or Bobbie Orr.” The P M was insulted by the American. Didn’t Americans know anything? Hockey was the sport for Canadians. Ice hockey and beer, eh.

“Now just calm down, P M. Didn’t mean to get your dander up. Don’t you know this would be a great way to evangelize what a great game hockey is.”

“Come to think of it we do have a lot of snowbirds and we don’t know where to send them. Florida hasn’t been amenable lately.”

“That’s what I mean,” the President was getting excited. He might just have a sucker—I mean a customer.

“Can we renovate?”

“The whole darn state.”

“Won’t the Mississippians be upset.”

“Course not. From time to time they put on their onery mask but it’s only playacting. Not like those Texans. They still think they’re a whole separate country.”

“I think I am beginning to like what I’m hearing,” the P M said, pleased as punch that finally a President of the United States was going to help out a Prime Minister of Canada. He was going to get a snow pipeline running down to New Orleans and some riverfront property for a new theme park he had always wanted.

“You can even change the name and call it Snowbird Park.”

“It’s a done deal. I’ll push it through Parliament tomorrow. Now just how much of a kickback am I getting?”

It was a good thing that The Great Man was not Richard Nixon. All this conversation would be on tape. We know how that turned out.

By the time The Great Man hung up, he was counting his chickens. They hadn’t even hatched but he was counting them anyway. He was going to sell Mississippi right under Congress’ nose and they couldn’t do anything about. He’d get the money from the sell. He’d get a kickback from all the renovations the Canadians wanted to do. And he’d get the money under the table the P M would give him for thinking up the darn thing in the first place. Before you knew it, he was going to be swimming in gravy.

After he hung up the phone, he picked up the Lust Red Phone and buzzed his wife. “Houston, we have a go,” he said. “You can start your decoratin’.”

Alone in the Oval Office, The Great Man felt he had done a year’s work in one hour. This Presidenting thing was hard.

Next Week Snoozing Along