He was walking up the stairs above me, so he didn’t see my face.
“I’ll think about it,” I said, meaning that I’d spend the evening fantasizing that I had $6,000 (or, as he put it, just under $6,000). Not to mention a wall to hang the painting.
I’d dragged my friend J out there, taking advantage of her sprightly idea that we go on a road trip.
“Yeah!” I’d agreed enthusiastically, and wrote down the directions to a small town nearby. She wore a confused frown when she met my eyes, but she agreed. It wasn’t the hike through the mountains she’d been thinking about, but she knew Dao Hai Phong was my favorite living artist, and if the nearest gallery showing his art was a mini-road trip away–so be it. She’s good peeps, J. 🙂
We pulled up at a large private home. Phong’s painting was in it. I couldn’t wait to see it.
We rung the bell, and the hospitable owner emerged. He showed us rooms upon rooms of art, taking the time to tell us all about the many artists. He knew I was there for Phong, but he was willing to teach anyone interested in learning. I can say he made me a fan of others, too. But still, my heart was in my mouth waiting to see the Phong painting. Finally, he brought us before it.
And then they took it off the wall and brought it out onto a patio to see it in full light. I swear, color filled the world…. It was sheer beauty. It was….
just under $6,000.
We thanked him, for it was wondrous. And then we stepped out again. The sun didn’t dazzle our senses, which were still awash with Phong’s painting. I wandered to the car in a daze.
Just under $6,000.
I’d just come back to the States from Georgia. I was still acclimating to credit cards and insulation and air conditioning, not to mention automatically opening and closing doors. The latter I’d completely forgotten and had literally put down shopping bags to personally battle a door, trying to shut it while it kept opening wider and wider.
In other words, the words “six thousand” just didn’t fit under my tongue or over it, or anywhere near my teeth. I’d spent almost every last penny of mine doing refugee youth work. I had, shall we say, under six thousand in the pocket. Well under six thousand.
I opened the car door and–inspiration!–my heart leapt. I shot a gleeful glance at J.
“I have the most brilliant idea,” I announced, in my usual understated and modest way.
J froze, her hand on the clutch. “You’re not going to…buy it? For six thousand dollars?” Her voice was a horrified whisper now.
She shook her head mutely, and didn’t pull out of the driveway.
“Six thousand,” I said. “That’s a lot of money.”
“A lot,” J agreed.
“For six thou, one could fly to Vietnam itself, see it, stay a week or two.” I paused for a beat. “J, I bet we could do all that for HALF the amount.” She was breathing again, so I spoke genius idea two. “And with the other $3K, I’m telling you, I bet I could find the artist and buy another painting.”
Now, I’m sure you’re thinking that’s mad. I wouldn’t blame you, really, considering I was discussing $6,000 which I didn’t have. (And incidentally, still don’t.)
But what’s great about J (among other things), is that in response she said (and I quote), “That’s a brilliant idea!”
There’s just something in the blood of a true traveler, that such an idea can be found not just worthy, but truly worthy. As in put-it-in-our-calendars worthy.
And thus was the great trip to Vietnam agreed upon in blood. Well, imaginary blood. Somewhat like my $6,000. Still, when I DO get $6,000, provided Juliet Stevenson and Brad Dourif are not acting on a stage I can drive or fly to, Vietnam’s on the horizon, baby. Vietnam. Because they have a painter I musts meet and a painting I would love to see hang in my own home.
Ought I not be above material possessions? But his art is about mood and beauty, and is a breath of that most incredible of things: art.
And now, some art by my man, Dao Hai Phong:
Uh… So if you have a spare $6,000…and have already paid off your school loans and put aside money for your children’s college tuition and your parents retirement as well as yours, and have given away loads to help inner-city youth, children of the incarcerated, abused creatures of all sorts, the homeless and the hungry, etc, etc… You know what I wouldn’t mind for my birthday 🙂