I met David almost 30 years ago. He was a defiant son-of-a-bitch, and I say that as a friend. A good photographer… he had a good eye for composition… but bored. Restless. I met him at his first gallery showing in a piss hole called Gliding Lights or some such horse shit. You know, track lighting, cheap burgundies you had to pour yourself, modern jazz piped in from a prison cafeteria. Avant garde stuff, if cliché was your deal. But it was a big deal for David. He was proud of his work, and rightfully so. But there was a coolness in his work, a detachment. Not a lack of passion, but a tightly reined-in version of it. He was a hard man to figure out. Aloof. Not because of any pretension, but because… I guess that’s the way he was built. An arm’s-length sort of man. He did like the wine, though. Well, he drank it. He drank more of it than anyone else in the room. Always a plastic cup in his hand, always swallowing deeply and coming back for more. His face looked like a polished apple, it was so red and waxy.
I introduced myself to him near the exit door. I don’t know if he was planning a quick get-away or if he thought there might be a case of decent Chablis under the stairwell. The stuff he was drinking was a strong burgundy, something to loosen the tongues and wallets of prospective buyers. It’s an old trick. But it had an aftertaste a little like Monday morning blood clots. It dug into your esophagus and stayed there for days. David was enjoying it. Maybe enjoying isn’t the right word. Using it. Using it to his advantage. He was clearly bored with the whole thing: himself, the off-center lighting, the out of focus saxophones pouring through the walls. He had the hungry, haunted look of a man desperate for something –anything – else.
When I told him who I was (and I flatter myself…the name Saul Coltrain carried some weight even back then), he looked amused rather than impressed.
“Let’s get out of this place,” he said, as if I were a leggy blonde about to lift her skirt to him. “I’m bored and this wine is going to give me the shits if I drink much more of it. You drive, I’ll buy. You are sober, aren’t you? And does it matter?”
And just like that, we became friends.
Shame about what happened. No, really. Now get that fucking camera out of my face.