July 25th, 2000
San Mateo, San Francisco
Conrado is my new friend. Found him on North Beach. He is a photographer. His friend is from Brazil or maybe he is. He offers me his name, it’s free, I take it and give back mine. It’s a fair trade. We trade stories. My life, his life, their lives, only little bits. Highlights, City Lights, Insights. A photographer, eh, what do you like taking pictures of, I ask as he snaps and steals my image. I’ll never see that again. I can’t help but react. How to be yourself? They laugh. Brazil is obviously used to the attention, Conrado’s got an exhibition on in Vesuvio’s/ It’s a nice pub, just across from that famous book store, Laurence Ferlenghetti’s. Beatnik, Beat Poet, Beat Generation filling station. One by one I meet the North Beach Mafia, Jerry an Irish man, his friend wears a baret which comes from Basque. He shows me it’s many uses. It’s a versatile black hat worn by a Sicilian elder. He lights my cigarette with matches that he owns but he himself doesn’t smoke. Nobody smokes around here. What is with California? It’s freezing, the wind’s picked up and outside Puccini’s Cafe my cappuccino has gone cold, the froth has sunken. The Sicilian begins to rant – what is art? What is Talent? Because I tell him about this exhibition I saw at MOMO earlier on that day. Bill Viola – 25 years Retrospective, video artiste. That’s not art, I could have done that. That’s what they all say. Concepts, it’s all to do with concepts, I insist slightly playing Devil’s Advocate. He begins to tell a story about a guy who made copies of famous works of art. He copied Van Gaugh’s with some success, like Midnight Cafe and the Japanese owned Sunflowers. Now that’s talent, he exclaims. I couldn’t do that!