We are Talented, Anonymous, and Poor. Or Talented, Artistic, and Privileged. Or Trenchant, Articulate, and Passionate. Clay is a friend of mine, someone I met at a wedding a few years ago. We are talented, anonymous and poor, the two of us. We instantly vibed when we met, seated together at the same table, watching and listening as the 17-year-old best man and brother of the groom went down in remarkable flames during his speech. “Remember the time me and you were driving in your dad’s car?,” he says to the newly minted bride. “And you had let me drive, which was, like, totally illegal because I wasn’t 16 yet.” He can’t be older than 16 now, I think, but am told later that he’s 20. Christ. “And then I hit that parked car, we sped away. Remember you told your dad someone had hit your car while it was parked?” He’s awkwardly weaving, like he knows this isn’t going off as well as he had it pictured in his head. People were probably rolling in the isles then, laughing heartily. At least Clay and I are laughing, and hard, sides splitting at the seams, ribs bursting. We stopped trying to stifle, they come out loud. “And remember when,” he continues, turning in his brother. From the back of the room the father of the bride raises his glass, “HEY!” he shouts, “How about to the bride and groom!” It’s the worst toast I’ve ever seen.
When he’s done relaying a story about how he walked into the bathroom while his brother was on the toilet Clay and I lean over to a table of teenagers behind us. “You’re his friends?” I ask. They hesitate, then nod, as embarrassed by proximity as the rest of us are this horridly terrible toast. “Look,” Clay says. “You have one job for the rest of your lives, and only one job.” They kids stare back. I jump in. “He can never live this moment down. You guys haven’t been to many weddings yet, but take my word for it, that’s the worst fucking best man’s toast I’ve ever heard.” “Ever,” Clay continues, “no joke. You’re mission, should you choose to accept it, is to remind him of this moment at every chance you get. If you consider yourselves his friends, you’ll tease him mercilessly.” We’re still laughing as we turn back to our table, and we still haven’t figured out that each of us writes, or at least wants to write. He does poetry, I do what I do.
Sometimes you share a sentiment with another person, you view or approach the world from a similar angle and place. This is how it was between me and Bob when we met. It’s like a shared set of eyes, you understand the perspective under which this person views the world. It’s rare, even amongst the closest of friends, and in my life I’ve met about 3 people I can honestly relate to without much explanation. Some friends you've know for so long, on such a personal level, that you grow to understand what the view is like for them. With Mike, Tony, Matt, Stu, the Magnificent Geebs and many, many others, that’s how my relationships are. I know them because I know them so fucking well, because we’ve talked things out, argued different points, and I’ve seen them react to the world around them in different fashions and circumstances that I understand and believe in their point of views. In turn, they know me as well as anyone else. These are friendships, right, that’s how they work? At least that’s how mine do.
I can think of 2 people who I knew without ever saying much, and reciprocally felt known: Bob and Mel. It was just instantaneous, but in different ways. I know Bob’s frustrations, I know Mel’s pain. I know Bob’s heightened awareness and confidence in himself, I know Mel’s sense of displacement. I know Bob’s fierce loyalty, I know Mel’s deep well of largely unreturned love. There's so much more to both of these complex people, but I know these things because they are parts of me, parts that instantly meshed with theirs. It’s like the access code to a trendy bar. You walk up to the door, pound, the eye slit peels back, a set of lids peers through. “Squiggly,” you say, and access is granted to every secret compartment. Seamless and easy, in a way, and different.
I asked Bob once what he treasured the most about his relationship with Geebs, what is the one thing he would hate to ever lose. “This is going to sound really stupid,” he said, “but our secret language. We speak to each other in a form that no one could possibly ever understand; it’s wholly ours, completely organic, and if I lost that it would shatter me.” Although he was talking about his wife, he could have been speaking for me in these friendships, though not as blatantly. We don’t have our own language, it’s just that it takes very few words for me to tell these two the most complicated and muggled detritus-laden thoughts.
I have to be careful not to infer some different quality in my friendships, because that is certainly not the point here. I wouldn’t be here without my friends, and I don’t differentiate. I just understand that I know all these people in very different ways.
But Clay fit somewhat into the second style. I just knew the kid, although, in truth, he’s a bit more out there than even I am. Where I hold back from following certain instincts (maybe just because I’m scared of the chance of failing at it) he barrels full bore, knocking china and glass all over the place. I admire it. He very much follows his own heart.
So on Saturday he breezed into town. That’s normally how he does things. I’ll get e-mails or voicemails from him along the lines up, “What’s up, one brutha? I’m in Ohio right now, but should be heading your way in a few days. You around?” Or he’ll have been in Boston, or Connecticut, or Los Angeles, you get the picture. We sat on some benches on the Promenade, the city laid out behind the East River. He was talking about his idea.
Talented, Anonymous, and Poor. It broke down like this: not a collective, just a group of like-minded people, artistically bent, just doing their thing. It reminded me of something I’ve always wanted to do, and mine would decidedly be a collective. You rent a space, a big open space. It has to be a group of varied talents, but a group that respects each others gifts and ideas. You have painters and musicians and actors and writers and dancers and stitchers and whatever. I’ve always hated the idea that a group has to, to attain some modicum of success, be about or for something. Define itself in pursuit of some goal or ideal. It’s as ridiculous to me as the concept that all Americans can accurately be represented under two distinct political identities, one Republican and one Democrat. Utter fucking crap. So here is my idea, you get these people together in a room, and every 2 or 3 months you produce something different. One month it’s a gallery exhibition of paintings and photographs. Everyone around contributes their part (the dancing, the writing, the extracurriculars), but it’s centered visually. The next one is a play or musical. The next is a digital film. But the point is that there’s no affectation or overriding purpose to this group aside from creating something in unison and with passion. That has to be compelling, right? There is no reason why an idea like that isn’t acceptable. And it obviously is. It's part of why I was attracted to Maisonneuve in the first place. I mean, could "eclectic curiousity" be a more open-ended and volumous pursuit? It's vast, expansive, almost all-encompassing. It leaves itself practically open to anything, and that is a wonderful thing.
That’s my idea of Talented, Anonymous, and Poor. Or Talented, Artistic, and Privileged. Or Trenchant, Articulate, and Passionate; T.A.P.s as Clay called it. I’m not crazy about the acronym (let people figure that stuff out for themselves), but the idea fired me up. It got me thinking of my friends, and the nature of my friendships, because, in the end, with any of these groups, you’d have to vibe with them on a personal, almost subconscious level. It couldn’t be frivolous or surfice. It’d have to strike you right in your heart, the way my friendships do.
Talented, Anonymous, and Poor. Or how about Talented, Anonymous, and Passionate? Yeah, I like that one…