Composed by Ira Newborn.
[Soundtrack unavailable] [still]
Music There are two Starbucks in Liverpool City Centre. The first one to open serves the business quarter. The newest is on the border between a main shopping precinct and the pub and club land. It took up shop in the empty shell of one of the newer wave of bars in Liverpool City Centre - the kind which was too good to stay open too long. It was barely open a year. But the staff were friendly, they let people wear jeans and they had big couches - the only downside being the price (so not that far from being a Starbucks anyway then). There was also a lovely balcony window from which you could watch the shenanigans at the even trendier bar across the street. What really did mark it out from most other venues was that rather than offering the musical entertainment of the pub band, it allowed artists to display work on its walls. And so this was the place - my hook or crook - but more likely stealth I went to my last private view.
I remember the first art private view I ever attended. It was during a month's work experience at an art gallery and I'd been asked along to see what they were like as part of my education. I didn't really know what to expect. Actually - I expected lots of people standing around talking about the art and wondering about the universe. What I actually found was lots of people standing around drinking wine and talking about the last private view they went to. Looking around the exhibition, I didn't exactly fall to my knees and have an epiphany. Polished stone has never been one of my favourite art materials - so being dragged around room after room of the stuff I began to have flashbacks to boring visits to MFI as a child (or was it B&Q).
Eventually the moment arrived when I would be introduced to the artist. Now I had met artists before - the inspiring type of artists who work for their soul - this guy (who will remain nameless) seemed a touch - affected (something I've since realised most artists are). We shake hands and he looks down on me and asks me what I think of his exhibition. For some reason something twigged inside me. At the time, I didn't know really know what sycophancy was, but I could tell that this was the kind of reaction which had been visited on him most of his life. And somewhere in the back of my mind I decided that I wasn't going to go with the flow (believe me I never have). So I look up at him, this self-made God-like figure and say:
'To be honest I don't really like it.'
Suddenly there is silence in the group. Some embarrassed grins. A snigger. He looks a back at me - surprise obvious. And the bastard got me. He had a response.
'Well have you looked properly?'
'I think so.' I answer, squirming slightly at my lack of an actual plan.
'Well I think you should come and have proper look - perhaps in your lunch hour.' Trigger cocked. Bang. In other words - I don't have a lunch hour - we artists work as the mood takes us.
My private view experiences since then have been mixed. But I think they all are except for all but a select few. Which brings us back to that opening at that trendy bar.
I was given an invite by a friend, and since there was a bar, decided that at least I'd have a choice of drink. It turned out, this time the work amounted to three paintings and a screensaver projected on a wall. And I walk in and look around it dawns on me that these aren't my people. I don't know completely what it was, as I can usually work in any given situation, but I'd entered a room full of people just looking at each other. Glancing at their beer. Looking back at each other. Sip of beer.
I like talk. I like chatter. Admittedly, a few arty types are talking and the token goths are looking bored because (quite rightly) they refuse to pay these prices. I buy a beer and begin the long dark stand to oblivion. I buy another beer. I look around and decide to take the bull by the horns. Two girls are sitting rictus-like on a three seater couch.
I approach with a 'I don't know anyone here who are you . . .'
They look up nervously.
'Erm . . . I'm Sally.' Pipes up the brunette.
'Julie.' Mumbles the blonde.
By now I'm sitting down - and I realise that I've lost the power of speech. Creeking moments go by.
'Do you know the artist?' I ask.
'No.' says Sally.
'No.' says Julie. They got the tickets from a friend.
'I know what that's like.' I say just that little bit to loud.
I think it was Julie who glared at me first. Oh well, I think, all is not lost yet. And the exchange continues (me first):
'What do you do?'
'What do you do?'
'Hispanic Studies.' (mental rictus - what the hell was I going to do with that - 'Isn't that Jennifer Lopez doing well for herself?' - I think not.)
'How can you tell?' (Oh don't you know I know all and see all. My mystical Hex powers are infinite)
'You have that world weary look.' (Yes, that's what I actually said, but come on - I was desperate. So desperate, the whole mystic powers schtick has my back up).
So then we sit there. Julie nervously comments on the how she likes the décor. I ask her if she could live with it at home. She carries on talking but suddenly I'm in the Seinfeld mumbling episode, nodding along without a clue what she's saying. Sally leaves. Julie says she'll stick around and keep me company. We sit some more. I start to blabber about a friend whose got minimalist décor in his flat. She seems vaguely interested. I continue. There is no friend of course. I stole him from an interior design programme from about six months ago. Another friend arrives wondering who the hell I am. She starts getting interested about this none conversation I'm having about this fictional friend. My hands get clammy. Finally they ask me what I do. There is a brief exchange about an exhibition I thought was dull but they thought was 'Top'. Then I use my sucker punch secret weapon:
'I'm a writer. I write.'
They both perk up, and ask 'Had anything produced?'
I don't think I've seen a droop in interest as quick before. Within moments they're at the bar desperately trying cocktails.
I get up and leave.
The moral being if you've got to one of these things, take a friend, that way, if you're going to be boring, you can be boring together [Originally written over a decade ago.]
[Commentary: Much of the above did indeed happen at the trendy bar which was once stationed in the position Starbucks on Bold Street is now standing. It was the late nineties, when I also wrote this piece which first appeared on the website that existed before this one (full story here). The earlier private view anecdote is true too. No I still won't reveal the artist. Given that I was an employee of the place where and when this happened, however unversed I was about the whole thing, it was unprofessional, something I agonised about later. No, neither am I proud about reducing people to their sub-cultures or hair colour. In all ways, I don't come across at all well in the text above, do I? But do I ever?
When I put this famous track from Ferris Bueller into the original track listing, I didn't have any idea that it was a cover of a Smiths song, which is why it's simply listed as "Museum". Having listened to the 500 Days of Summer soundtrack somewhat I've been put right on the source. When I say "I don't do guitar bands", I've never done guitar bands. When Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want was out I was ten and listening to Five Star and between S/A/W and Debbie Gibson tunes (and shit) never really did catch up. Even as I write this I'm listening to the Lorde album. Sorry.]