Some Shitty Wine at the Thing

A friend and I use to joke that Thursday nights in New York might as well be dubbed some shitty wine at the thing because of the numerous opportunities to partake in free alcohol and visual culture. Also known as exhibition openings, these alternative happy hours draw a wide range of people: underemployed students and trust-fund babies, the genuinely disheveled, the stylized disheveled, creative entrepreneurs, and the corporate type with their creative accessory girlfriend, boyfriend, partner…all of whom come together via two great social equalizers: provoking art and shitty booze.

One seldom learns anything about the exhibition on the opening night, but last Thursday I walked out of the gallery with new-found insight regarding the philosophical similarities between architecture and make up.

It began like this: a friend and I were standing at a little cafe table next to the bar when a man in black skinny jeans, black button down, and black glasses asked if he could join our table. Of course. He put down his almost empty glass of wine, plastic plate, and sighed.

“Now how the hell do I eat this thing?”

He was referring to his mini dosa and samosa, two food items that complimented the aesthetic behind the new exhibition featuring innovative design solutions in India.

“Best with your hands,” I replied.

“Oh!” he exclaimed. “Like finger food for real, love it.”

As mentioned, openings draw all kinds of people. The advantage to arriving early is that it’s not crowded so there’s room to appreciate the curated space. However, people are less incline to drink and more prone to talking. The pre-booze rhetoric, which includes causal nods to movements, ideas, and people can be tiresome. The advantage of arriving later is that by 8pm all pretentious conversation has disappeared.

It was 8:15.

“No but what is this for real,” he asked, grabbing a plastic fork and knife from the table next to the bar. “I mean is there meat in it?”

“No meat,” my friend explained, “it’s all vegetarian.”

“Vegan,” I added.

“Oh,” he seemed disappointed. “You know, I don’t get those vegans. When I have a party–and I love to have them–they get soooooo fucked up. Drink like fish but refuse to eat anything I cook…such lushes! My speciality is meat. They usually don’t come back”

“What kind?”

“What kind?!” He put down his plastic fork and knife with deliberate manner. “Any kind. Shit, you get me a dog and I’ll make it delicious. You know Beef Bourguignon?”


“I’ll make you a dog bourguignon that is to die for!”

“Morgan doesn’t eat meat.”

“You mean she eats this stuff?” He turned to me, “You eat this stuff?”

“Yes,” my friend said. “She was in India last year and this was all she ate.”

“Get out of here!”


“Just like this?”

“Just like that. Only, well, a dosa is usually huge.”

“Get out of here!…Are they this…greasy?” he asked, pressing his knife against the dosa skin so that the oil seeped out. “I mean, I tend to avoid Indian food, it all seems to be fried, which is strange.¬† I thought they only like eat traditional food. I mean, isn’t it expensive to fry food?…How old is frying anyway?”

None of us knew the answer to the question.

“So did you love India so much? Was it fabulous?”

I didn’t know how to respond. “Well,” I said and then paused, “I was there looking at a lot of the issues that are discussed in this exhibition…I don’t know, it was pretty mind-blowing.”

“I can imagine. I love this exhibition! It’s like, well, you know really colorful and well executed, an interesting presentation of materials, but I just love that like thread of ghettoness to it, you know, like making us go outside and getting food from a truck…and only serving Indian wine,” he paused and looked at our Kingfishers, “and beer! Serving Indian beer too!”

I remembered my brief encounter with a 40 oz Madras Special last spring and shuddered.

“So do you miss it? Was it fabulous?” he repeated.


“I think that’s a hard question to answer,” my friend chimed in. “I mean look at this exhibition, there are some creative projects that are pretty inspiring, but ultimately they’re projects that are addressing some pretty dire situations.”

He seemed disappointed. “So are you girls architects?”



“She writes about it.”

“She studies it.”

“What do you do?” we asked simultaneously.

“Oh, I’m a make up artist.”

Our eyes lit up. How exciting! A non-architect! Oblivious to our expressions of joy, he wiped his mouth, then folded his paper napkin with care and precision.

“Do you come to exhibitions often?” my friend asked

“Oh, well, Katherine invited me,” he said, positioning his fork and knife to three o’clock, “because I did her make up.”

He was referring to the assistant director.

“But I like it! I mean, I like architecture, you know, it can make us feel really good about ourselves. If you’re walking in a city of grey buildings and all of a sudden you see this building with a lot of color, you feel so much better! Architects make sure our cities aren’t just grey buildings. That’s the power of transformation.”

“So,” I began, “do you look at people and think about what they could do to improve themselves, like, are most people clueless as to how to present their best features?”

“Oh no! That’s terrible! No, they pass by, I don’t see people any different then you do, but now, if they come to me asking for suggestions, then that’s a different story….though, I’ll tell you something I’ve never understood…”

“What’s that?”

“People come to me and ask me to give them a natural look, it’s absurd! If you want to look natural, don’t wear make up! It’s about transformation! We have one body but many faces, my job is to help show off that other face, to bring it to the surface, so that…”

“We don’t live in a sea of grey faces?” I ventured.

“Exactly,” he said. “And faces are easier to alter than facades.”

“Oooohhhhhh,” my friend and I sighed, such inspirational wisdom.

“Do you have a favorite brand?” my friend asked.

“Well, I work at the Channel counter at Barney’s…”

“I buy Yves Saint Laurent mascara,” my friend said, lowering her voice to a whisper, “it’s the best.”

“You’ve got fabulous eyelashes,” I said, and she did. “I remember noticing them the first day you started working.” It was true.

“Thanks, you know, right now I’m actually wearing Clinqiue…”

“Well then they’re naturally long,” I concluded, “natural beauty.”

“Everyone knows Clinque’s mascara is nothing to rave about,” our friend added.

It didn’t take a make up artist to recognize the truth in that statement.

“Yes, the Laurent stuff lasts literally two weeks and costs a fortune, but those two weeks…” she trailed off in reverie.

“My grandma sometimes sends me Lancolme mascara in the mail,” I said, realizing that using the same tube for over three months was probably bad form. I was suddenly aware of my lack of professionalism when it came to make up. “She sent me some for valentine’s day.” I didn’t know what else to say.

“So what’s your favorite product?” my friend asked with the assertiveness of a professional journalist. She was there, after all, to conduct interviews.

“Yeah, what do you recommend?” I echoed, picking up on the opportunity. It felt like we had just won a style opportunity from a fashion magazine, where the day is divided into hair, face, body, style and then readers get an hour by hour play back…the exhbition might have been about energy, water, and sanitation but this was my night to finally learn how to wear blush.

“Girls, make up is make up, it’s about transformation! I go to the beauty stores and get one of those eyeshadow palettes with more colors than a box of Crayolas…you can’t get that range at any make up counter at Barney’s…I live in the Bronx, it’s great for the imagination.”

“Oh.” We were both visibly disappointed. Perhaps we were too much the natural beauty type, searching for that perfect renovation that would reveal an architectural masterpiece.

There was silence.

“Let me get you both something to drink,” he said in a way that made it sound as if he was about to buy a round of drinks. “Do you want the shiraz or the cab?” The presentation of options corrected the lull in the conversation.

“I’ll take a Kingfisher.”

“Me too.”

“Aren’t you two charming!”

We smiled.

He returned to the cafe table and we clinked glasses.

“What about architecture,” my friend asked, “Do you have a favorite style?”

“Hmm, well, the stuff I see here, you know, it’s very contemporary. I like Frank Lloyd Wright, I mean, it’s probably stereotypical to reference him, and I’ve never seen his stuff, but I like it…the way he uses these flat low lines, it’s pretty interesting, and then, you know, you almost bend over to walk into the space because it’s low and flat but then you get into the room and it’s like whoosh! Big, high ceilings, that’s pretty interesting, I mean, I’ve never seen it, but that’s how it seems in pictures.”

In the back of my mind I heard Paul Simon, “Soooo long…” I kept this to myself.

“But I don’t know if I like the flatness of it. I love high ceilings and French art deco,” he continued. “But not American art deco, it’s soooo… sooo big! At least the French could do it delicately.”

“What do you mean?” my friend asked, “Why is American art deco big?”

“Well, it’s just wide, I suppose it’s the whole SPACE thing, you know, a lot of space in America. Paris, it’s compact, such history! It’s delicate.”

“What about art nouveau?” I asked. “Maybe you like Paris art nouveau? You know, like Mucha…the ornateness of it?” I said, thinking suddenly of Shaker furniture.

“Yes, I like that too. I get modernism but if I could design my own house, upstate mind you, it would be high ceilings, very classical, you know?”

“As in vaulted ceilings?” I asked. “Like gothic?”

“Yes! Totally, beautiful, breathtaking, like a church.”

“One would probably have austere furnishing if one lived in a house with vaulted ceilings,” my friend challenged, “it would be dark.”

“Perhaps,” our friend mused, “but it wouldn’t be oppressive like the Frank Lloyd Wright stuff, those roofs are so flat…”

All of the nights we harmonized…till dawn…

“I mean, I’ve never been inside of one, but from the pictures, I feel like this,” he put his arm down, flat at his side and a gesture of walking very stiffly. “Who wants to live in that when you can have high ceilings,” on that last word he lifted his chin up and his posture improved.

“Well, we live in New York,” my friend said, bringing us down to the ground.

One Response to “Some Shitty Wine at the Thing”
  1. Awesome drawing information, really inspiring!

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