Fort Lauderdale, then and now

13 Dec

Looking back on my stay in Fort Lauderdale, let’s compare my visit in 2004 during my meth-fueled road trip with the 2011 version.

I know that ocean.

In 2004, I got lost constantly, swore up and down there weren’t any canals here because I couldn’t find them, nearly ran over a couple of girls while I was driving like a maniac, didn’t see the ocean or any art, hardly ate anything, and got myself kicked out of two fellow bloggers’ houses — one a Broward County sheriff’s deputy — who had been nice enough to let me stay with them. I also wrote a totally incoherent blog post that consisted of nothing but random keystrokes and another one defaming literally the last two people in the world I would, in my right mind, have a bad word to say about, in the process endangering the safety of a third. (I have since been in touch with, and been forgiven by, one of the three. Two to go.)

On the 2011 visit, I didn’t get lost once, saw the canals for myself both day and night, interrupted a man at a gas station who was about to beat up his wife or girlfriend in broad daylight by honking the car horn at him and driving toward him until he ran off, saw the ocean many times and visited the Museum of Art | Fort Lauderdale, ate cheaply but very well, hung out with theater people and was offered a good discount by the proprietors of the motel to extend my stay a few extra days because they said they liked having me around. I didn’t defame anybody, although I had a few harsh words for my laptop on a couple of occasions when it thought it was being cute. Instead I had a long — and long overdue — Facebook chat with someone I’ve now loved most of my life.

Did I mention that I saw the ocean?

Nocturne (I know that ocean).

On the 2004 visit, I didn’t make any art. I did give away a couple of preexisting paintings — one to one of the bloggers who gave me some cash for the road before kicking me out, the other to my friend Christian Chiari, who calmed me down by showing me the canals and years later served as the minister at my wedding. (When his girlfriend at the time told him he should get rid of me, he instead got rid of her.) Leaving those paintings in Fort Lauderdale, it turned out, saved them from a Massachusetts landfill. More on that in a future post.

On the 2011 visit, I made two new paintings, in both cases experimenting with processes that were new for me. I gave one to a dancer at a bar in Miami, which I popped down to visit a few more times during my Fort Lauderdale stay. Although he liked some of the people he met there, on the whole he felt the prevailing tone set by fellow dancers and patrons — and the accompanying financial incentives encouraged too many guys to make bad choices.

Reliable Narratives, Absolutely No Flash Photography Allowed, 2011. Enamel, inkjet iron-on video still transfer, stickers, acrylic gloss medium and pastel on canvas. Stickers printed by Union Printing, Hollywood, Fla.

In exchange for the painting, he gave me some fantastic news — that since our previous conversation, he had landed a new job, which he was thrilled to get and started Monday.

The second painting was intended for an incredible dancer at a Fort Lauderdale bar, who astonished me by saying he had no professional training, never worked out and had achieved both his beautiful body and the things he could do with it since starting to work there two years ago. (He also has another job and is studying to enter a health-care profession.) Phone problems prevented him from connecting with me in time to collect it, so I sent him a snapshot and offered to ship him the painting. However, I said, if he didn’t like it he should say so and let me keep trying on the road to make one he wanted and ship that to him instead.

Reliable Narratives, Hurry Up and Relax (After Mark Bradford), 2011. Enamel, iron-on inkjet video-still transfer, acrylic gel medium and condom wrapper on pillowcase. Stickers printed by Union Printing, Hollywood, Fla.

He said he’d rather have one in which the figure is surrounded by blue, his favorite color, and is on canvas rather than the pillowcase I stiffened with acrylic gel medium — an idea I got during my recent visit to the traveling Mark Bradford retrospective, which continues through Jan. 15 at the Dallas Museum of Art. So I’ll work on getting a blue version on canvas to the dancer. The one I made is on the road with me and is for sale. Get in touch with me if you’re interested in buying it. So far the only money I’ve made, which barely covered the cost of staying at my motel a few extra nights, is on a video shoot I did in Hollywood, Fla. during my Fort Lauderdale stay.

Video still of Devon Britt-Darby shot by Paul Bryson for Reliable Narratives on Britt-Darby's pocket camera between scenes for Bryson's video, which was shot on real equipment for a future release.

More on that soon. In the meantime, which trip would you say went better? Or do you not detect any meaningful difference between the two, since both were undertaken by a crazy hooker?

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