Will took me to NYC to see the Calder exhibit at the Whitney for my birthday. There's a good looking older guy sitting on a sofa near the piece I'm looking at. He says to me "Would you like to take my picture?" I said "I don't know. Would you like to take my picture?" He says "Do you know who I am?" I said "No. Do you know who I am?"
And that is how I got my picture made with Roberto Monticello, the Mayor of the Meatpacking District (and how he got his picture made with Robin Howard, artist from Charleston.) In the end, we didn't know who was more famous (Him - I was totally bluffing), so we decided on a selfie together.
Later that night I Googled The Mayor and found out why I liked his face so much: His soul shines out of his eyes. This is what I found:
Surviving the streets of Meatpacking is just a small feat in the course of this man's life. Some of his milestones, both artistic and humanitarian, include:
Swimming for his freedom in Guantanamo Bay at 17; -Directing 56 plays (writing 19 of them), writing and directing over 28 films in 9 countries; -Journeying to Ethiopia three times during the famine, once as a refugee camp director; -Surviving beatings in South America while traveling in pursuit of Nazi war criminals; -Living with Peruvian Indians in the Andes; -Recording human rights abuses in Afghanistan during the Russian presence; -Accompanying the U.N. at Hotel Rwanda; -Suffering 3 gun shot wounds, one in Guatemala, where he was investigating the killings of Native Indians; another, taking medicine to his home country of Cuba (see below), and the third in Darfur (on his 4th trip there), where he was on a mission for the Red Cross; -Bringing boatloads of medication twice a year back to his home country, Cuba, and working to end the U.S. Embargo and Travel Ban there; -Winning the Film Humanitarian Award from the Queens Film Festival...
I hope I meet the Mayor again. This time I'll invite him to dinner so I can hear his tales. And I'll be a little less cheeky, though he seemed to get a kick out of it.
The Universe was clearly shining on me that day. We stopped for a drink on the gorgeous outdoor patio of the museum and the staff treated us to cookies and Prosecco on account of my birthday. I was already starting to fall in love with New York City, and that sealed the deal. I shared the cookies with a young family sitting next to us so it was a proper party.
So the next morning we're off to the Hell's Kitchen and Chelsea flea markets. Will doesn't love flea markets but he'll go as long as he gets a beer for every hour he endures. I score a sweet plumb bob and have a nice chat with a few people who are archaeologically minded like me. (A plumb bob is a pointy weight on a string used to create a vertical reference.) After the flea markets, and Will's morning reward beers at an Irish Pub, we visit some sites with security. The plumb bob confused them. It reminded me that not everyone grew up building their own barns. But, the Universe kept shining and my plumb bob made it through all checkpoints and back to Charleston. It didn't take long before it became The Effortless Art of Escape:
That story turned out to be a lot less exciting than meeting The Mayor, didn't it? BUT this piece is important. Sometimes I let my subconscious do the composing. As soon as this was finished, I knew what this was; it was me. I had an unusual upbringing, and with this piece, I knew it was time to tell the story. It's a good story - a story full of hope and artistic rebellion and bushwhacking. This piece turned out to be the cornerstone of a solo show coming up in June of 2018 called She Promised to Bring Her Books.