Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Soup Kitchen Vibe at the Art Gallery

I'm pictured above with Holly Chmil, who designed the beautiful postcard announcing my photo exhibit. It was taken at the opening reception.

The first to arrive Friday night was a pair of men well known in the city for showing up at every event that promises free refreshments. I encountered them last year when I emceed a poetry evening in the park. It was a covered-dish event, with everyone bringing food or drink to share. Everyone except these two locusts, who filled their plates immediately upon arrival and then sat down at a table, bending over the plates and shoveling in the food. I lost count of how many times they refilled those plates.

I was more amused than annoyed that night because a) we had plenty of food and b) the outdoor venue reduced our exposure to the men's smell. However, we had a limited amount of food at the reception on Friday, and the enclosed space, which had seemed large before the men's arrival, shrunk rapidly in direct proportion to how long they stayed.

This time they filled up their (small) plates and sat down to dig in. I stood a distance from them, mentally tapping my foot. They came back for seconds, sat down again, and resumed eating. I moved over to the food table and assumed a guarding stance. Several other people arrived, including a man named Prescott who told me the omnivorous pair drove an Audi.

"You're kidding." I said.

"Nope. It's parked right across the street. The dark green."

I turned and looked out the window, expecting to see an old clunker, if there is such a thing as an Audi clunker. But the dark green car across the street was a late-model vision. Son of a bitch!

One of the gourmands got up and shuffled over to the food table. I was ready for him. Snatching the paper plate out of his hand, I dropped it in the trash and said, "Thank you for coming."

"I'm getting some cookies," he said, and picked up a new plate.

Prescott found this hilarious. He called a friend on his cell and told her all about it. The gluttons didn't appear to notice. Prescott's friend must have given him an idea, because he hung up and approached the pair.

"Time for donations!" he announced. When they just stared at him, he explained, "This event is a fundraiser for homeless children . . . "

"And poor widows," I interrupted.

" . . . and poor widows," he added. "All attendees are expected to contribute something."

"No they're not," the cookie monster said, and popped something chocolatey into his mouth.

His partner came back for dessert, too.

Beginning to feel a little desperate, and more than a little irritated, I looked out the window again. "Oh, no!" I exclaimed. "Do we know who owns that Audi across the street? Smoke is coming out of it."

Prescott picked right up on this cue and flew into action, flinging open the door and running out to the sidewalk. "FIRE!!" he yelled.

One of the pair started to turn around, but the other stopped him. "He's kidding, he's kidding," he said.

It occurred to me that they must hear this sort of thing a lot. I'll have to think up something more convincing for the next time. We're planning another poetry reading in the park in August. Maybe we should advertise it as "Poetry, Music, and Really Bad-Tasting, Potentially Hazardous Food." Or, better yet, "An Evening of Culture for Fasters: Poetry, Music, and No Food or Drink Whatsoever."


Helen said...

Too funny. If they're always the first to show up maybe you can put out something that looks really yummy but tastes horrible, due to the addition of pureed bull testicles or something like that. Just be sure to remove the dish before the other guests arrive.

Susan said...

Helen, thanks for the suggestion, but in some parts of the US pureed bull testicles are considered a delicacy. Maybe something less dramatic. Like alum.

crystal said...

Ha :) Ihope the rest of the evening was fun.

Nell Jean said...

You didn't get photos?

Susan said...

That was remiss of me, wasn't it! I'll tell you what.....if they show up at the next poetry reading, I'll be ready with my camera.

Eulalia Benejam Cobb said...

I bet this sort of thing happens often in cities. Kind of sad and horrible at the same time.

Sabine said...

You should have tackled them to the ground. Now THAT would be memorable!

Indigo Bunting said...

OMG, this is all rather horrifying...and beautifully written.

Mali said...

I think you were all far too subtle. I'm sure by that stage I would have said to them to get the %$@^ out of there! Why be so polite to people who are so rude?

Susan said...

Well, technically I don't think they were doing anything wrong (except for the wretched hygiene). Before digging into the food, they did walk around and look at the photos. One of them even made a comment. ("Oh, a peony. That would be a good present for a woman named Peony.") And the publicity did say we would have free refreshments. So they arrived, looked at the exhibit, and refreshed.