How married life’s treating me — one month in

18 Dec

Dear Reese,

I tweeted you earlier. Seemed appropriate, given how we met and all.

Happy one-month-versary! Do all newlyweds celebrate such little milestones, or am I just more prone to do it because of the ephemeral nature of our bond? Anyway, I’m writing you from Norfolk, Va., where I was reunited with an early painting:

Douglas Britt (now Devon Britt-Darby), Untitled, 1997-1998. Vinyl on canvas. Collection of Christian Chiari, who purchased it after the third-floor residents of the San Francisco Zen Center found it "too disturbing."

I wonder what disturbed the monks and other students on the third floor of the San Francisco Zen Center, where I lived for a year and a half. I gave the Zen Center several paintings when I moved in; this one strikes me as laboring under the twin influence of Mark Rothko and Philip Guston in the late 1950s — Rothko for the color and Guston for the composition and the abstract-impressionist-style brushstrokes. I had been living at the center a few months before the monk who acted as the temple’s curator knocked on my door, telling me he had to give the painting back.

Maybe it was the instability that the unpainted areas introduce into the composition that disturbed them. Or the painting’s overall unfinished quality, something I valued at the time as a way to express the idea that the artwork was in a constant state of becoming. Or maybe they just thought it was a bad painting. Maybe they were right.

At any rate, our minister, Christian Chiari, who by then had already made a small fortune from a company that packaged and sold pig semen — a warm and sticky venture that proved lucrative — told me to put the painting on a Greyhound bus and send it to Los Angeles, where he was living at the time. He gave me $1,000 for it, which was overpaying for an artist with no exhibition history to speak of, largely because he loved the idea that the abstract painting was too darn hot for Zen Center.

Anyway, this trip has been like that — reconnecting, at times deeply and intensely, with various parts of my past through a mixture of freshly jogged memories; renewed connections and intense conversations with old friends; new connections and intense-in-a-different-way conversations with new friends; one strange serendipity after another; and a renewed appreciation for the universe’s mysterious, ruthless efficiency. The way you don’t hear from people until the moment you need it most. Encountering people who remind you of the ones you knew in the loony bin or on the wildest parts of the 2004 ride that led you there — and finding it both poignant and comforting — mostly the latter, it turns out — to be around them.

Encountering great art in many guises — in such institutional settings as the Mint Museum of Art in Charlotte, N.C.; Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, N.C.; the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh; and the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, Va. – as well as unlikelier spots such as the gay strip bars of Miami and Fort Lauderdale, my motel room in the latter town or our minister’s warehouse.

Linder Lue "Hollywood" Lawrence, Red House, 2011. Collection of Christian Chiari.

Moments like the one I had the other day at the Nasher, where I didn’t need anything more from art than this Bruce Crane not-much-more-than-an oil sketch, whose quiet power the photos unfortunately can’t begin to convey.

Bruce Crane, In New England, no date. Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, N.C. Detail shots below.

As long as you saved this one painting from the burning Truckload of Art, I thought, you’d have everything you needed for art to start over again.

There are lonely moments of self-doubt and missed or thwarted connections followed by grace notes dropping in from nowhere in the nick of time. A dancer in Miami who was bigger and stronger than you and made you feel it by crushing you in his arms. Your ex’s email somehow getting through at the haunted hotel in Gainesville, Fla. to tell you that he reached a hard-earned milestone — the process of which took longer than our four-year relationship — and is starting “to see the method to your madness.” The museum spokesperson who can’t be photographed with you but comes down to meet you, give you an appropriately tight t-shirt and accept a few I-know-that-ho stickers on the down-low before talking shop about the art world and the newspaper industry, just as that person would if you were still at the Houston Chronicle. The fucked-up-on-something parking attendent who, as you’re leaving the strip club after waiting in vain to give a painting to a dancer you’d connected with last time you were there, waves your sticker at you like a lighter in the crowd at a concert, giving you the energy you need to make it back to your home away from home. All uncannily timed in a way you can’t plan for.

As for my relationship with you, as the trip progresses, I feel you and me monitoring each other less closely. The fact that we really didn’t know each other well seems to be reasserting its significance in this new social sculpture, the one I’m working on now that, as you pointed out, doesn’t really involve you much beyond the fact that the wedding, by bringing all my worlds together, unexpectedly launched it. In the conversations I’ve sparked about the wedding, the travesty side of our marriage seems to be front and center once again, perhaps because that’s other people’s main window into it.

But it’s the spiritual side of it — moments that replicate or put their own twist on the magic I felt that night when I truly felt whole, like in the original Devon days, but with the benefit of new life experiences — that means the most. I reiterate here a point I made on this blog’s new About Devon Britt-Darby page:

That marriage, itself a performance artwork and social sculpture, brought so many elements of my past and present together in one time and place that I felt a wholeness I’d missed since the early Devon days. Some people thought Reese and I were mocking the institution of marriage, when in fact we were pointing out the myriad ways in which it mocks itself while harming people it excludes. Far from mocking the institution, it turned out marrying as social sculpture gave a loner and a freak like me a way to experience its transformative power for myself.

Thanks for helping make this possible.

Now comes the part where I learn whether there’s a place for me in today’s escorting world. I’m 42 — my real age; advertised age TBD — still slim and muscle-y after all these years and as eccentric and niche-y as it gets. But I’ve broken the ice — one video shoot and one overnight appointment have both been successfully completed, putting me on the boards — and I’m heading to Washington, D.C. tonight for a week.

That’s a city that was always good to me, as were most of the cities that will follow. I spent much of last night and today preparing new pages at the top of the blog to familiarize potential clients with me, my philosophy of casual sex and how I approach escorting.

It’s also an area in which my sister and her newish husband live, so I might get to see them and gauge their reaction to Devon’s re-emergence. When I passed through D.C. on my 2004 road trip I left frothing-at-the-mouth messages on my sister’s voicemail and a few other people’s. Hopefully this trip she’ll notice an improvement.

How’s tricks? And what’s this old allergy accident you speak of on your Twitter feed?

xoxo,

Your husband, Devon

One Response to “How married life’s treating me — one month in”

  1. hjbott December 19, 2011 at 1:48 am #

    DEVON:
    You are the new Jack Kerouac with a an insatiable appetite for linguistic gaminess and in depth pursuit of the arts. Hats off for your trip but not from the Ho image. Expecting next, another “Howl,”
    being from the Beat-Gen.
    HJ Bott

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