This Friday after work I went to Park Slope for an art opening featuring our friend Sarah Nicole Phillips‘s work. The gallery was near the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Fifth Street, which led to a predictable mistake: I walked up and down the wrong block, lost and completely flummoxed. I finally walked into some sort of ethnic restaurant (Esperanto, I believe), where I asked two pretty employees for help. After conferring in their Cryptophasia, they apologized for not knowing where the gallery was, but a kind, mysterious stranger appeared out of nowhere and told me that he had made the same mistake and told me to go around the corner.
I immediately saw that he was right when I spotted the crowd on the street. Art openings always mean groups of people standing outside, even when the gallery is large enough to accommodate them (though this one wasn’t). I saw my wife talking to the artist and some people, and when I walked up she happily informed me that they were discussing toe-sucking. I excused myself to go inside to get a drink, hoping fervently that the conversation would have moved on by the time I went back out.
I maneuvered through the throng and picked up the obligatory plastic cup with wine, realizing for the first time that this was probably a ritual left over from the days of the French Academy, Americanized and degraded over the last 100 years. I drank the wine in one swallow and pretended to look at the art while really only searching for my friend’s work.
When I came out I was introduced to a writer I had already met at one of Sabine’s recent readings and to a bald man with glasses who said he was a mathematician. Sabine complained that she could hardly do any math, a diatribe that must be painfully familiar to all mathematicians. As he started to respond, an egg hit him on the back. It bounced off and cracked on the car behind him.
Sabine, all of a sudden an expert on ballistics, claimed that the egg came from a window behind her. But since the egg hit the mathematician on the back and he was facing Sabine, only a reunited Warren Commission could have figured out how many ricochets it would have taken to crack on the car behind him.
It was at that moment that I realized that the people living near the gallery must find the crowd on the street annoying. I certainly hate the people in the garden at the bar near our house, and have often fantasized about throwing a variety of things at them. In fact, I could easily see myself throwing an egg at a crowd outside a gallery. A question suddenly occurred to me: Did I throw the egg? Furthermore: Did I mean to throw the egg at myself and hit another bald man with glasses by mistake? Anything could happen at the intersection of Fifth and Fifth.
Sabine noticed that I got very quiet, and assuming I was hungry–an assumption that is usually correct–she said goodbye to everyone and led me to the nearest Mexican restaurant. I didn’t bother to tell her that I had eaten a bag of barbecue-flavored almonds on my way to the gallery because I had a lot of thinking to do. When the food arrived, Sabine said “the good thing about Mexican food is that even when it’s bad it always tastes alright.” When we finished eating we both agreed it tasted pretty bad.
As we headed back towards the gallery to get to our car I saw that the mathematician was still standing in the same spot. How many eggs would it take to get him to move?