MY YEAR IN PURGATORY
I don't have the energy to lift the chalk in my hand and mark another day on the cell wall. My Year in Purgatory is about to end but I can summon no joy. The Man has turned this sunny optimist into a militant Nihilist with a terrorist's sensibility. My refusal to take a Chemical Test at the suggestion of the Los Angeles Police Department had automatically revoked my driver's license for an entire year. Hell is having no money in New York City, no escape from the Midwest or losing your driving privileges in Los Angeles. I am a native Southern Californian; if given the choice between having sex, breathing or driving a car, I'd take the highway. For me, every concept of freedom, happiness and well being rides upon black rubber. Splash a little motor oil behind your ear and this wolf will howl. Without a car, my spirit cannot fly.
Obediently, I went through the many tortures of my punishment with the dignity of a Gentleman. I bore my burden with responsibility and great remorse. If the revocation of my driver's license had been for six months, my lesson would have been learned and a man rehabilitated. But the grinding hell continued and my remorse turned to indignant rage. Now the angry red palette is bleeding muddy gray. Like the captain of a schooner frozen in an Arctic flow, I can't tell if the snapping-crackling sound is the ice breaking apart to set me free or if it's the sound of my hull crushing under the pressure. Beau Beau, my bartender thinks it's the latter. This ordeal has taken the oxygen from my bright light and the flame fights for survival. When the next person brightly replies, "Your year'll be over in no time!" I will gleefully kick their teeth in. I can summon the energy for that.
FERRIS BUELLER IS DEAD.
When life throws lemons, I make a Tequila Sour. It has been one of my greatest talents, not only to make the best of a bad situation, but like all artists, to do it with effortless style. This time, I have failed. Miserably.
JEEVES IS DEAD.
Faced with the destruction of my car, my driver's license and a place of employment located thirty-nine miles to the South, I was forced to quit my day job. Public transportation was not a possibility for logistical and aesthetic reasons. The train and bus ride would add five to six hours of living hell to the commute and my sensibilities most surely would be assaulted. Worst of all, it would devour my time to paint. My employer, not wanting to lose his brightest star, said that he would buy me a driver. I was shocked by this generosity from a man who makes us inventory our paperclips at the end of the day and save our pencil shavings for kindling. Obviously, I had been taken off Double Secret Probation and was favored once again.
Most people read the "Jeeves" stories with laughter; I read them with envy. The series of hilarious tales by P.G. Wodehouse involve the antics of a trust fund ne'er-do-well and his Christ-like butler Jeeves. Since I don't have a trust fund nor even the promise of one, I read of Jeeves with my jaw locked and my fists clenched. Long have I wanted a butler by my side, someone to haul this ass around, rescue me from unfortunate scrapes and untie the knots of my many romantic entanglements. Now Jeeves would be mine. For free.
I immediately called a Beverly Hills domestic service called A Lovely Shade of Green Card and placed my order. Chalmers, my new hire, was perfect. Well educated in all aspects of criminal law, he was an expert French chef, carried a gun permit and mixed a Martini as if he had invented them. Above all, he ironed my shirts beautifully. Unfortunately Chalmers did not last. My employer pointed out rather loudly that Chalmers's hourly wage was eight times more than mine was. Without opening the closed door, he removed me from his office. Through the gaping hole, my boss screamed that we would now be splitting the cost of a driver. Chalmers pulled me to my feet. With his little whiskbroom that always magically appeared, he brushed the wood chips and splinters from my jacket. I brushed the tears from my eyes. Chalmers was gone.
I rarely have economic issues because this painter rarely has money. To afford the cost of a domestic meant that my search had to segue from Beverly Hills to the impoverished part of town where the domestics live. Conveniently, this also happens to be the same neighborhood that I call home. With due haste, colorful fliers with little tear off phone numbers sprang up in Laundromats, coffeehouses, taco stands and power poles. I placed the phone next to my bed and waited for the cavalcade of calls. They did not come. A surprise to me, it's almost impossible to find one who is well educated in all aspects of criminal law, an expert French chef, carries a gun permit and mixes a Martini as if he had invented them for $5.50 per hour. I rewrote the job description: "Must have license. Hygiene a plus".
Now that the hiring was under way, I had to contend with the issue of what the driver would be driving. A car salesman, who happened to look a lot like Chalmers, assured me that I had found a good deal on a new stretch limousine. I loved the luxury of having a king sized trunk in which I could transport my canvases vertically. The next day my employer informed me that he had agreed to split the cost of the driver, not the car. He broke a crown when he snapped "NOT the car."
With the limo budget shot down, I lowered my standards to a Lincoln Town Car. It was black and quite formal, appropriate to the lofty self-delusion that is my station in life. Unfortunately, status would soon give way to practicality. It always pays to have friends in low places. An art dealer with a proficiency in criminal behavior took me aside and advised that inexpensive low key is better than flashy high profile when one is on probation. Suddenly faced with a deluge of legal fees and no umbrella, I concurred. Salvation came from a little old lady in Pasadena. An ancient, camouflage creme Buick Park Avenue was pristine, cheap and mine. I accessorized the bumper with a "What Would Jesus Do?" decal and for balance added a D.A.R.E. sticker. Sacrificing style, I became invisible with leather interior.
HELL ON WHEELS
I hired Minus on the spot. He spoke English and he wanted the job. In my rush to find someone after interviewing a parade of misfits, I forgot to ask if he could drive. There was a problem with peripheral vision which did not allow him to see details such as a semi-truck or a speeding moving van. The constant near misses gave me such a cardio-vascular workout that I no longer needed the gym. My right leg grew more muscular than the left from constantly pumping an imaginary break pedal. I was sweating so much that my dry cleaning bill tripled. I learned to accept my mortality. At the Home of the Rolled Taco he smashed into a concrete wall. At the Magic Gas Station he backed into the side of a neighbor's car. The dents and craters on the Buick began to multiply. If there was a pothole, Minus would find it. With mindless chatter devoted to Christina Aguilara and the frightening near misses, I found it best to close my eyes and feign sleep. After four months, proud Minus quit with indignation when he overheard a friend ask, "How's your houseboy?"
It has become an ebb and flow of new faces. PeeWee, Driver Number Two, was shell-shocked from an earlier accident and preferred the slow lane. I thought I was trading up when I hired slacker Napoleon, who horrified my co-workers by stealing candy from the honor bar. Blunted behind the wheel, dreadlocked Haile Selassie preferred two lanes to one. Sweet Sue Lynn, a fresh arrival from the Midwest and a favorite of my friends, had to quit in order to follow her much discussed dream of becoming a pop star, music video director and Academy Award winning producer. Stinky delivered every detail of his recovery from alcohol in a very dull and repetitive monotone. When I stopped paying attention, he would flip the radio to the all Metallica station. We fought for control of the dial. Giggling PeeWee was rehired and kept on out of desperation. Blithely preferring his schedule to mine, PeeWee didn't have much to say which pleased me greatly but the heavily scented hand lotion turned my stomach. Now, any whiff of CK1 triggers a queasy flashback. Frustration peaked with his talent for wandering off; I'd find the car in the parking lot but it took a half an hour to find PeeWee. Not only an influence, these people dominate and control my life. I am as dependent upon them as a blind man is to the eyes of his dog.
HELL HAS CONVENIENT, UNDERGROUND PARKING.
They've beaten me. I can't take it anymore. I can't get out of bed. My rage against the machine has now decayed into utter and complete resignation and resentment. I don't think I can make it with two long and dreary months to go. Almost a drooling catatonic, I've had to hire Sportos Khan, Driver Number Thirteen, to write this column for me. Salvation may come from an unlikely place but I no longer have hope. What would Jeeves do?
GORDY GRUNDY is a Los Angeles based painter. Back issues of his column "Genuflect" can be found at http://www.gordygrundy.com. His gallery website offers credit card payments, a toll free number, a 30 Day "Just Live With It" Guarantee and an E-Z Credit Fine Art Payment Plan. Free gift with purchase!