The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Sep 30, 2007

A Noo Yoak Scene

Cheel Ghosh, his intellectual Chinese pal Elliot and I find ourselves in Soho one sunny summery day in 1995. The day is young and the world is full of possibilities. We amble around in search of one plausible possibility.

On sunny summery days in Manhattan, one often tends to require liquid replenishment. There are any number of likely bars and watering holes, but we feel we are above such obviously alcoholic places. We prefer the more urbane and sophisticated street café, and our feet pull us in the direction of one that appears to have a luminous beauty for a waitress.

She favours us with a smile that stops our hearts. While we gasp out our orders, she stands waiting patiently. Our necks twist and crane as we follow her lissome, zaftig figure winding its way round the bar. Conversation dwindles until we can see her no more, after which, with wrenching noises, we turn our heads back to a more normal configuration.

The street outside is abuzz with activity. Purposeful New Yorkers dart about truculently. Tourists mill around aiming their cameras at various road signs. A scruffy fellow is distributing leaflets. Some punk rock outfit is to perform that night at a nearby dive. He drops a sheaf on our table and moves on. The waitress returns with our drinks.

"What's that you guys got there?" she says.

"Punk rock concert", mutters Ghosh.

She sits down with us. It is a slow day for her.

"Punk?" she says, brightly. "A friend of mine is into the whole punk thing. Mohawk hair and ear piercings."

Elliot, the intellectual Chinese dude, is outraged.

"Punks and punk rock have nothing to do with each other", he splutters. He rants about the differences while we stare at him, aghast. The goddess gets up, bestows another heart-stopping grin on Ghosh and me, and walks away.

We give Elliot dirty looks.

"What?" he says. "She doesn't know."

Ghosh shakes his head. Elliot ain't got a clue, neither.

A while later, we find ourselves in front of an art exhibition. Dillon Gallery, it says on the frontage.

There are large canvases of obviously ultra-modern paintings on every wall. Ghosh and I stagger from frame to frame, slightly dizzied by the profusion of brush-strokes and vivid colours. Biomorphic motifs, indeed. Elliot studies each piece carefully, moving from to another with shrugs or sniffs.

We find ourselves before a large canvas of a woman getting up from a sofa. Or, equally likely, she is sitting down. There are three juxtaposed images of the woman, one in blue, another in green, the third in an indeterminate hue. There is a vase on a side chest to her right. Something that looks like a refrigerator looms to her left. Sinister, eh? It might even be a wardrobe. Or a slab of granite.

A man slithers towards us in a serpentine fashion. He is the proprietor of the gallery. He greets us sibilantly.

"Ssso gentlemen. Sssee anything you like?"

Elliot wordlessly gestures at the painting we had been admiring.

"Ah. A sssuperb work. It'ss by Nikko Sedgwick. Have you heard of him?"


"One of our brightesst young artisstss", says the worthy. He switches to a pedantic mode.

"He sstudied in England and Italy before returning to New York. One of the artisstic Ssedgwicks, you know. He has explored all the isms of the twentieth century and developed an individual style of his own. There is a naturalism and vividness in his use of colour which is refreshing."

"Isms?" whispers Ghosh to me, loudly.

"Communism?" I hazard, from ear to ear grinningly.

"Surrealism", Elliot whispers back angrily.

"That's 19th century", I riposte, snippily. (I am wrong, of course.)

"Observe how Nikko has deconstructed the woman's motion", the man continues, aggrievedly. "He empathises with the woman and her desire to be free, constrained as she is by the mundane surrounding her."

"Very Dali-esque", agrees Elliot.

Ghosh snorts and I burst out laughing. The man smiles grimly.

"Enjoy", he says and walks off, his back rigid, disapproving.

"Dali-esque?" says Ghosh. "Dali-esque?"

We will not let Elliot hear the end of it.

If you must:

A review.


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