“So how much,” I asked.
“Three hundred,” The old man answered as he turned to help his other customers.
I went back outside. There, III and Harri were waiting, clearly amused that I’d fallen in love with such a tacky object.
“Three hundred,” I repeated. I’m an artist. I worship at the altar of all things aesthetic. I couldn’t believe I was giving so much time and effort to the purchase of a cigar store Indian. Had I lost my mind?
We were walking along in the Bowery, so slack we were even talking about the movie Slackers. It was a beautiful Memorial Day, and I was always way too relaxed on visits to NYC.
It wasn’t just a regular cigar store Indian. It was really tacky. First of all, it was a she. A female Indian, holding a rifle and—for all purposes—topless.
If you’re reading this, chances are that you’ve seen my art. You know then that I couldn’t have passed her by. It was a trap. A targeted, titillating, tasteless trap. Don’t judge me.
Anyway, I knew I didn’t want to spend three hundred dollars on this thing. Besides, how would I get it back to Washington? For that matter, did I want to be seen dragging this thing thru the streets?
“Maybe you can bring him down on the price,” said III hopefully.
“I’m not sure I really want it,” I said.
“so why are you having such a hard time walking away?” asked III.
I had to agree that I was. I wanted the ugly thing, but I didn’t want it to belong to me. I still don’t know if that made any sense.
III suggested we flip a coin. Heads, I buy it; tails, I walk away.
The coin came up tails. I turned to leave, but couldn’t move. For some reason, I had to have that busty Indian.
“You could always go negotiate the price,” Harri offered.
I went back and the old man was eager to negotiate. He lowered his price to two fifty.
So there. One problem solved, two to go.
“Well, how am I gonna get it back?” I asked.
“Harri and I can drop it off next time we’re in DC,” said III.
“It’s not that,” I said. “I’m more concerned that I’m gonna be seen carrying this thing in broad daylight.” I had an image to uphold.
III offered to carry it. Problem solved. I went back inside to finish the purchase. the busty Indian would be mine, and Manhattan would be none the wiser.
Turns out the blasted thing was too heavy, I found out after paying. I would have to carry it. Like an art messiah on the road to Calvary, this most vulgar of crosses was mine to bear.
Don’t judge me.
“Hey, man,” called a soul-patched abercrombie hipster, “Is the big elephant still there?”
“I didn’t see it,” I huffed under my burden. “And if I did,” I said to III, “I would’ve bought that, too, ’cause I don’t have an ounce of sense.”
A pair of drunken guys approached, hooting and falling over each other with glee. “Thass real sexy, mann,” one hollered. “Reaal nise,” added the other. I wondered why they were drunk; it was 3pm on a Sunday. I guess there were folks slacker than us.
It was strange. As I trodded along with this hideous burden, I realized that I was the envy of every gaudy little hipster in Nolita. I found myself wondering why I wanted this thing anyway. It was garish, kitschy to an extreme, culturally offensive, and just plain tacky. On the other hand, it certainly was unique and memorable.
As we trudged past the outdoor restaurants, it felt as if the hipsters looked up from their plates to pay silent homage and derision to their passing messiah. They had all seen this thing sitting on the sidewalk as they wandered the streets. They had all thought about having it in their living rooms. Thought about telling the story of dragging this artistic atrocity to their homes, past astonished neighbors.
I had done what they could not; I had turned off my brain long enough to buy the Busty Indian. I alone would tell the story they all wanted to tell! ..And you well know by now, dear reader, that the story matters the most. Above all else, the story!
But now we get to the tragedy, my friends. As I crossed the ‘Finnish Line’, the threshold of III and Harri’s apartment building, my Busty Indian struck the top of the door frame and a finger-sized chunk of her war bonnet broke off. It was to be the first of many breaks.
I carried her up the stairwell and set her down in the Finns’ living room. Without her throngs of twenty- and thirty-something admirers, the Busty Indian was sad and silent, polluting the Finns’ otherwise tasteful, MoMA-decorated living space.
The second problem: How was I going to transport this thing from New York City to Washington DC? My ride home was with my sis and brother-in-law who were in Brooklyn. No way was I dragging a cigar-store Indian on the subway. Besides, there wasn’t enough room in the car next to three adults and our luggage.
III and Harri graciously offered to haul it back to DC on their next trip down, though I suspected they would have preferred this new addition gone with all precipitous haste.
The Busty Indian proved as brittle as she was distasteful. She fell apart before the Finns could return her to me. When III told me, I didn’t bother to conceal my relief. I didn’t want it in my personal space any more than they did.
In the end, it turned out I only wanted her for her story. So here it is, and again, dear reader, I ask you to withhold judgment. And since any love story must end with a proper goodbye, I say to my Busty Indian ‘farewell. You had me at “how”‘.