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Selling ourselves

Whores like us have a price tag on our souls

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Daniel and I are whores. Oh, and so is Grant. We can't forget him. Lary is not so much a whore, but still he encourages us to be. "So what if you're selling your soul?" Lary says. "There's plenty to go around." And besides, he always adds, it'll grow back. That pep talk really does make us feel better ... Daniel and me anyway. Grant is never not feeling good about being a whore.

Like when he created Sister Louisa. It was years ago at a folk art festival in Tuscaloosa. We attended with Daniel, who had been invited to exhibit his art. Across the path from us was a man wearing a top hat and 28 ribbons in his beard, hawking candleholders made from bent forks. About five minutes into the festival, sitting under a striped awning behind a ... well, I suppose you would call it a "booth," Daniel silently died inside. Again and again. I guess it wasn't until he was actually there with his artistic vision displayed like an Amway exhibit for thousands of funnel-cake greased fingers to fondle that he realized he had posted too huge a dollar sign on his artistic soul.

"This isn't me," he said, then he wouldn't let anyone buy his art. When someone complained that his prices were too high, he tripled them. Then Grant and I went around and accidentally on purpose knocked all the price tags off, hoping Daniel would leave to buy a cinnamon bun or something so we could sell all his art behind his back. But Daniel must have known what we were up to, because he never stayed gone more than a minute. "Try not to look," we implored him. "Give us 10 minutes, we'll sell everything."

But Daniel is not just any whore, he is a really bad one. In other words, he wants to sell himself but can't. Grant tried to talk some sense into him. "Look," he said, turning Daniel by the shoulders. "Look at the bent-fork man! He must be making a fortune!"

But Daniel didn't budge. Or couldn't. He tried, but broke out in a rash. I swear this is true. So we stopped pressuring him. Grant, though, couldn't bear to let a great money-making caper go to waste, so after that he started collecting kindling, slapping it together and crudely painting kind of porno-evangelical messages on them (my favorite: "Nothing's Harder Than a Preacher's Dick"). He signed them "Sister Louisa." Sister Louisa, the biography read, is a disgraced nun from Baton Rouge who ran off with a janitor and now lives in an Airstream trailer making folk art from trash. She just had an opening at the Radial Cafe in Candler Park, where she served fish sticks and wine that came in cans. Everything sold. Grant is good at that. Selling. Especially if the product is himself. We are so jealous.

But back to the festival. It was a juried event, and on the last day a judge bestowed a ribbon upon Daniel's booth. The judge was shaped like a tall, bald breadfruit, and was almost completely deaf, so he spoke in a booming voice that could carry for blocks. "I THINK YOU'RE THE BEST ARTIST AT THE WHOLE FESTIVAL," he shouted at Daniel. He could be heard all the way across the pond.

And he stayed awhile, hollering at us about how he'd become an ordained minister through the classified ad of a tabloid newspaper. He specialized in performing weddings that expired after one weekend, and once declined a request to perform a ceremony for a marriage that would expire after only one hour. "I'M NOT GONNA MARRY ANY PREMATURE EJACULATORS!" he roared, turning heads. We all agreed that it would be best to avoid marrying premature ejaculators, and later the phrase became kind of a joy mantra for us, so that all we had to do was say it to make the others collapse in laughter.

"PREMATURE EJACULATORS!" we shouted from our open windows on the way home. We were happy because at the end of the weekend it turned out Daniel had sold three pieces at his high-end gallery prices. He didn't make nearly as much as he would have if he truly whored himself, like if he sold his whole truckload like the bent-fork man or the artist in the booth next to us, who sold polka-dotted geckos carved out of particle board. But, like Grant and me, Daniel has his standards. I mean, hey, we may be whores, but it's not like we wanna fuck anybody.

[Postscript: Daniel Troppy's paintings are currently on exhibit at Marcia Wood Gallery in Buckhead and Oh ... Maria! is a really good place to eat. Jesus God! OK, Oh...Maria! gave me a free dinner because they mistook me for a journalist and invited me to their media party last month, but I only accepted because it really is my favorite restaurant and their food would still be good even if you had to pay for it.]

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