Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Curious George

My first full day in Philly was spent unpacking boxes, preparing for the coming week’s project and figuring out what to do with the rest of our night. Our options were a showing of ‘The Dark Knight’ and the IMAX theater down the street (sold out), hitting one of the many pubs in the area (colleague is not much of a drinker), or just relaxing at a dinner at one of our favorite restaurants.

This particular place is called Maggiano’s and is across the street from the Marriot in downtown Philadelphia. I’ve been to the Maggiano’s in McLean, Virginia a few times and have never had a bad meal. Their chicken parm plate is out of this world and they have the best friggin’ cheesecake I have ever had. Yeah, that includes you, Cheesecake Factory. It’s light and fluffy and is a little slice of paradise on earth. With a strawberry on top.

At the mention of Maggiano’s my mouth started watering and the rest of the day was a build up to our dinner.

As is often the case, reality is a far cry from fantasy. The meal was as delicious as ever, but we had to wait an hour for a table. They told us a 45 minute wait when we got there, so we cozied up to a table next to the bar and settled in. The Stellas were flowing while my colleague kept refusing drinks until she ate (her loss).

In the meantime, a lovely woman from Sweden via Seattle sat across from us and chatted for a bit about the wait (misery loves company) and why she was visiting the city (trade fair involving arts and crafts). After having her fill of us (less than 5 minutes), she pulled out her paperback and started reading. If I could think of another sentence that included parentheses, I would be using it right now. I was on a roll.

Another few minutes pass and an older, bearded gent (guessing early 50s. Hey, I did it again!) comes up and asks if the seat directly across from me is taken. After gaining permission, he sits and casually mentions the wait (a common bond for us all) and sits quietly for a bit.

My friend and I are discussing the coming week and what the plan of action is for a few minutes. During a lull, the man across from me asks ‘Can we order food here?’. Ah, the question of the day. There was enormous confusion about the table we were using as it was separate from the bar, but had no wait staff. He asks one of the waitresses walking by and she says ‘No, sir. There is no service at this table. You need to order from the bar’ and she points to the bar. The only bar in the place that he is facing and is barely 3 feet from.

This quickly became the running joke of the night. Later on a girl sat down and asked if a waiter came to the table. I answered ‘No, you have to order from the bar’. I stop and point, ‘That bar. That’s the bar you have to order from. Right there. See it?’ While everyone else thought it was funny, the girl just glared at me.

But I get ahead of myself. The elderly gent politely introduces himself as George. When I ask what he’s doing in town, he explains that he is attending a sculpture class at the art museum down the street. ‘I worked with nudes today’.

I turn to my work friend, ‘Now see. THAT’S a cool job!’

Back to George, ‘Did you finish or do you have to go back tomorrow and finish up the details? And if so can I come along as an observer?’

This cracks George up and we are instantly getting along famously. He possesses one of those devilish glints in his eye that I relate to very well and he is a heavy, social drinker having already sucked down two Black Russians in the first 15 minutes of sitting down. We discuss nude models in great detail. In 10 minutes I learned the following:

- Nude models are not paid very well. Most earn $10-$15 an hour.

- The models are usually paid by the professor of the class and not by the school itself.

- Not all nude models are what you’d call ‘pretty’. I learn this when he tells me that the nude model that day was a 65 year old grandmother. Yeesh….

- The reason nude sculptures are so common is that artists always try to find universal themes. ‘Right’, I chime in, ‘What’s more universal then naked women?’

Why do artists try to find universal themes? Why money, of course. As George told me, if you find a universal attraction you can sell your art all over the world and not limit it to one part of the world or certain countries. That’s why a lot of sculptors will make the faces of their subjects generic. So people from all races can relate to it.

‘Wait a second. I thought artists were about principles and not selling out and about creating art for art’s sake?’ I asked.

George says ‘That’s bullshit! We have bills to pay, too. In fact, I’ll sell you my sculpture from today?’

‘How much?’

‘Thirty five hundred!’


‘Yeah, but since I like you and it’s wet I’ll drop it to three hundred.’

‘Christ, George. It’s a good thing you’re an artist cause you’re a shitty salesman.’

George laughs and studies me for a minute. ‘You can’t afford $3500?’

I’m dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, wearing my ‘Where’s the Love?’ baseball hat. I ask him ‘Do I look like I have that kind of money?’

‘I had you pegged for some corporate executive,’ George replies which sets off much laughter by me and my coworker. This then kicked off a game of him trying to guess what we do for work. He lost miserably.

When he finds out, he rolls his eyes and groans. ‘Computers! Man, I never deal with those unless absolutely necessary.’

‘Why would you,’ I say, ‘You have naked women around you all the time.’

‘Nudes! I deal with nudes.’

Me and my friend look at each other. ‘Um, naked? Nude? What’s the difference?’

‘According the Oxford dictionary,’ George informs us, ‘Naked means you could be wearing a g-string.’

At the mention of the word ‘g-string’ our Swedish/Seattle woman’s head snaps up. She looks around at the three of us with a vaguely confused look; trying to catch up on the conversation as quickly as possible.

As we fill her in, her friend arrives and proceeds to question the difference between naked and nude. ‘But both mean having no clothes on!!’ She seemed a bit more passionate about the debate than it really called for.

For the record, here are the definitions:

Naked (Adj):
being without clothing or covering; nude: naked children swimming in the lake.

without adequate clothing: a naked little beggar.

As you see it can mean nude or semi nude. Without adequate clothing implies you have some clothing on, just not much.

Nude (Adj):

naked or unclothed, as a person or the body.

Again, one word uses the other in it’s definition. It seems both arguments are correct. Naked doesn’t necessarily mean nude. Maybe this is where the term ‘buck naked’ (also George Constanza’s porn name) came from.

Swedish/Seattle woman recounts a funny story of when she was in an art class and painting a nude model in the class. The model's time finishes up and she walks off to get dressed. At the same time the girl directly next to our Swedish friend puts down her paint brush, disrobes and walks up to the stand to be the next nude model. The woman immediately thinks 'Oh, shit. Are we taking turns posing in the nude? I didn't sign up for this!' As it turns out, that wasn't the case, but if it were that art teacher would have to be inducted into the male hall of fame for ingenius use of an art class.

After we couldn’t settle the naked/nude argument in rational fashion, I bought a round of drinks. George, on his fourth of fifth Black Russian (while he was with us, at least) began telling me I had a great face that he could ‘sculpt in 30 minutes’. Now, I take this to mean he is either really accomplished or I have a face that resembles a lump of clay. Forgive my assuming the first option.

Finally our table is ready. We ask George how long he has to wait and he says ‘Oh, I never put my name in for a table’.

That George! He crazy!!

If you must know the meal was fantastic. I had the lobster raviolis and, of course, cheesecake for desert. The only down side was them running out of Stella. ‘Of course they’re out,’ my friend says, ‘You drank it all.’

Funny girl.

On the way back to the hotel, we encounter a homeless guy who asks for change and oddly enough tells me I have a ‘beautiful face’. So twice in one night another man has complimented my looks. The tone is set for the week. I continuously tell my friend that she’s just jealous and really doesn’t deserve to bathe in my handsomeness and glowing beauty.

‘Maybe I should have my face sculpted. I really need to share my good looks with future generations. I should be immortalized.’

I think she’s still laughing.

One final note: When my friend recounts the story of George wanting to sculpt me, she adds in that he wanted to sculpt me nude. Oddly, this is readily accepted without much question. What the hell?

Today’s distraction: The basics of sculpting. Check out the tools used and note how they become powered the lower you go. Sculpting with power tools. Now we’re talking!!!

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