Whatnot by Janice J. Heiss
  Music by Paul A. Toth
  Art by Brian Hutzell

Art  2006 Brian Hutzell

Impossible Party to Judge


Awkward at the artsy party in affluent Marin, I risked approaching one of my idols, Brenda Bergman, a famous language poet married to a famous intellectual poet. Based on my reading of her work, I thought my observation would impress: “Look, I walked out of my loafers, just walked right out of them. It's interesting and fun to walk out of one's loafers," said I, peering up at her like a slavish dog though I was an inch taller than Brenda. She replied, "I don't think it's interesting." "You don't?" I asked. "Because it is an issue that cannot be judged. It cannot be judged," she repeated, looking at me in the full-length vestibule mirror so that she could simultaneously size herself up. Her expression, a ball of yarn, was mock-sincere, mild-mannered but with a streak of subtle haughtiness. I could see she thought that I was without substance, inane, and it upset me.

After Brenda snubbed me, I stumbled into the sunken living room and sat down on the love seat opposite the psychic and psychologist team, Madame Violetta and Dr. Marsha Weissbaum. As they both observed me, I could read their minds. Money, you're all about money is what they thought. No, no, no, you've got me all wrong, I wanted to shout, at the same time wondering if they got my number.

Fortunately, I noticed my heiress-painter friend Cokie, curls of cigarette smoke forming a coffin-shaped cloud around her. A Fran Liebowitz of a girl, she chain-smoked unfiltered Camels in front of the fireplace. We had met several years earlier when I, a
rookie stockbroker, cold-called her before the Do Not Call law prohibited such telephone solicitations. Though I lost her big money, her gazillionaire father — who had cautioned his daughter against doing business with me — thankfully didn't sue me or prejudice her against me. She was rebellious toward him, too rich to worry about a "paper loss" and too hard up for "sane" friends. Poor-little-matchstick-rich-girl Cokie described, in her sepulchral voice, an art installation in an overgrown city lot near the run-down privatized zoo where all the animals were on Prozac. “There were piles and piles of doll's heads in the weeds as I rummaged through them." A doll zoo, I wondered...? Since Cokie's analysis never went beyond the visual, that ended the discussion. She dyed her natural jet-black hair, half-purple, half-blonde. "You would look wonderful with bees in your hair," I told her, proud to think this up on the spot. She mulled it over, trying to picture it. When she did her eyes went cross-eyed.

Meanwhile my boyfriend Ellis had been paying a lot of attention to one of his friends, Joanna, who was sort of dumpy but – like him — an intellectual. She wore vintage aviator glasses and faded unfashionable pea-green stretch pants with an L-shaped tear in the left knee. She, Ellis, and other partygoers had packed themselves into the bathroom where they were engaged in a heated political discussion about the viability of third parties. I discovered them when I opened the door. Joanna asked me, "What are you here for?" or something as rude. Cast out, I tinkled in the hostess's cat's litter as I could not find one of the three bathrooms in the A-frame. Later, Joanna came up to me, to apologize I assumed, but instead said, "Excuse my lack of tact, but all your social interactions are opportunistic, superficial, and phony." My mouth fell open but nothing came out. I wanted to hide from Ellis what Joanna had said about me, but I spilled the beans later that night, and we had a fight over it and broke off our engagement.