Vlad and I were sitting in our favorite Greenwich Village bar. (I happened to know that Vlad's real name was Herbie—Herbie Grimm. Not a good name for a multi-media artist.) Tonight Vlad was excited. "I have a new medium!" he brayed. "It's shit!" "A lot of artists work is shit," I told him.
"Not like my shit," he continued. "I found a plastic medium that looks and feels just like shit. But the beauty part is it doesn't stink. The possibilities are endless." "Hey, Vlad—they have been making fake doggy-doo for years. Didn't you have a Johnson Smith catalog when you were a kid?" "Sure, like the can of peanut brittle? That turns into big green snakes? They had Doggy Doo, but they didn't do anything really big with it. Come on over—I'll show you what I've done so far. And this is just the beginning." We walked over to his loft.
There on a series of plinths was a graduated series of turds—cat size, dog size, horse size, elephant size. There was no smell, so I gingerly poked one. It didn't give.
"Mix in the solidifying agent and you get a nice solid piece after an hour or so," Vlad explained.
"So what happens now?" I asked.
He handed me a flyer. "Next Friday. The Screech Owl Gallery. I talked Fred into giving me a show. We'll see who likes my shit."
There was the usual Screech Owl crowd. Plus some new people. "From the Village Void," Fred told me. "Art reviewers. Keep your fingers crossed." Sure enough. The Village Void raved about Vlad's work. The next time I dropped in to see Vlad, he was hard at work at an enormous dog turd. Must have been ten feet high. "What's the deal?" I asked him.
"You know that expression that architects have? The turd in the plaza?" he replied.
I knew. When an architect designs a modern office building, it is almost obligatory to include an abstract, usually ugly, piece of statuary in front of it, or in the courtyard.
"So now it will be a real turd?" I asked.
"You bet. I'm working with this architect from Skiddles and Owning. We are going to stick it to the architecture critics in town." And stick it they did. The critics raved about the contrast between the clean lines of the building and the enormous turd. Orders started pouring in, for ever more massive piles of shit. But Vlad ignored them.
"I'm working on something really new," he told me one evening at our local, the Beer Place. "Can't tell you yet. But it will be massive." "Can you tell me where?" I asked.
"Not yet," he said. "But it will be collocated with the third longest escalator in the world," he smirked.
Hmmm. Well, I would just have to wait.
Months went by. Vlad had seemingly disappeared. And then I got an invite to Vlad's next opening. But it was in D.C.! He had scribbled a personal message on the invite—"You gotta come to the opening—it's really deep shit, this time." Apparently the National Endowment for the Arts was providing the funding.
I looked on the card for the gallery name and address—there wasn't any. The card simply instructed me to be at the Rosslyn Metro station at 8 PM on the date of the opening. Curioser and curioser, I thought. But I made arrangements. I could stay with friends who lived in Georgetown and simply walk across Key Bridge to Rosslyn.
So on the day before I hopped the NYC-DC train. My friends picked me up and we had a nice dinner at Billy Martin's. I moped around Georgetown the next day—it wasn't the same. The Biograph and the Key movie houses were gone. And where was the Cellar Door? Ou sont les neiges d'antan, and all that ... By 8 PM I was at the Rosslyn Metro Station. There was a sign, "Take the opening for the Opening". So I set foot on the escalator. We were warned that it would take more than two and a half minutes to get to the bottom. The world's third longest escalator!
As I slowly descended, I noticed that the walls were covered with a shiny pink plastic material. My doctor had shown a video of my colonoscope once. Intestinal walls? I was beginning to catch on to Vlad's scheme. We would be descending through an enormous simulated intestine.
I now noticed a sound that was growing louder and louder. It seemed to be coming from speaker systems mounted every 10 feet or so. The frequency was gradually lowering, too. I could see the subway platform ahead as the frequency dropped into the subsonic. It was a good thing that I had taken a dump before leaving my friends' house, because I could feel the vibrations in my abdomen. This was not helped by the fact that the overhead lights on the subway platform were starting to flicker in time with the subsonic vibrations.
When I emerged onto the subway platform, I could see Vlad and his assistants standing on some elevated scaffolding. He spotted me. "Hey! Come on up!" They were each holding large parabolic dishes made of some transparent plastic Transducers had been installed at the vertex of the dishes. "Take a look at this," cried Vlad as he aimed his dish at a plump businessman just emerging from the escalator. He squeezed the trigger and the dish began vibrating, sending pulses of air at the unfortunate businessman, who promptly doubled up, clutching his abdomen.
"You're killing him!" I told Vlad.
"Nah, he just feels a mighty urge!" Vlad chuckled. "Watch this." I could see the businessman anxiously scanning the platform. Finally he spotted one of a number of home-made potties, which consisted of toilet seats mounted on top of galvanized buckets. Rolls of toilet paper were attached to the sides. In desperation, the businessman lowered his trousers and sank down on one of the potties. There ensued a huge defecation.