to Rover

Lou Rowan

Nowhere was it more apparent than his shirt-front: T was a sloppy eater. The most graceful leading man in the Seattle Ballet Company, the finest lyric poet of the Northwest, could not keep food off his face and his clothing. I have never in my 5 decades of work in the arts seen the mundane so threaten the sublime. I would rather be caught in an opium den or beneath the ministrations of a lap-dancer than appear an embarrassing slob at banquets. T has been my most trying, exasperating problem as the PR and fund-raising manager for the merged Seattle Ballet and Seattle Center for the Arts.

The rich demand visitations from the stars in return for their donations. In the arts fundraising rules the politics, and public relations governs stardom. It is customary for leading men and divas to grasp the bejeweled bodies or suffer the clutches of major donors on polished dance floors. It is customary for them to make pretty little inarticulate speeches of thanks in heavy Slavic accents, standing above the banquet for all to adore.

Contemplating T’s white ruffles in these situations was a nightmare, for T was blessed with a metabolism whose velocity allowed him to eat copiously of whatever he wanted; his favorites were sauces, gravies, soups, red meats, red wines, anything “decadent and gorgeous.”

Worst of all for me was the annual banquet at the lumber heiress’s mansion. The lumber heiress funded anything worth funding in Seattle arts, fuelling not only her husband’s fame as a developer but also his reputation as a donor to aesthetic causes whose marmoreal locations were adorned with his name. She sat sphinx-like in the background as he basked in his notoriety, and only the blessed siftings of us mendicants of the spirit were privileged to meet her. Her reserve, her dignity, the abrupt simplicities of her conversation allowed or forced her husband and increasingly her precocious son whose mini-projects she backed to speak for her. It was as if she was a female Jove: we all sought her cataclysmic nod.

And the pure palor of her skin, emerging at the chiseled upper portion of her bust from a gown so tastefully-wrought for the occasion as to be the subject of articles in the dailies and a spread in the good-living monthly, was an alabaster reminding one of classical statuary from which time and weather have removed the paint. The glorious gown was in a cream tone that was richness itself.

She left speechmaking at the annual Banquet of the Arts to her son and to select guests, her central position at the head table on a slightly elevated chair defining her peerless station, from which she made bland but trenchant conversation with her two guests of honor, of whom T was the most prominent on her right.

I ate at what my competitors and I called the table of prostitution, and as I exchanged the expected lies with them about the growth of my endowments tripling the growth of my fixed costs, I hoped they could not notice the fear my practiced mannerisms disguised, but which my occasionally-husky voice and my subsiding into monotones could betray.

I was so right to be afraid.

There was my most prominent client, my star, my fundraising magnet rising above the goddess of Seattle wearing a white tie and white shirt polluted by drippings from each of the five courses preceding the pre-Chateau d’Yquiem palate cleansers. There he was taking bows with fragments of Kobe beef dropping from his front. There he was forgetting the glass of red wine in his hand, and emptying it onto the heiress’ right shoulder, from which it ran onto her gown like an opened artery. The collective intake of breath, the little shrieks of dismay, the rush of obsequious guests to minister were suddenly quelled by the hostess’s slapping away the hands hovering nearest her and in a voice that slight graceful frame somehow managed to amplify into brazen, raucous tones of unadulterated anger: “TAKE YOURS HANDS OFF! Get AWAY from me! Take your seats! Please resume, Maestro T.”

The rest is a blurred nightmare. I remember the utter silence into which T deployed his gracefully-rueful apologies and continued his whimsical remarks about how our hostess had with singular magic converted Seattle’s life of the spirit from a swampy fly-blown estuary to a humming electrified metropolis, concluding with mock-heroic couplets on her and her family. And I remember the smirks of my table-mates.

After what I kept saying to myself was the mercy-killing that finally released us from the party, I removed my jacket and tie, dropped my braces, and slumped into my corner of the wide back seat of the limo, refusing to speak as T poured me champagne from the ice bucket.

At home, I burst into tears.

“How can you do this do me? How can you ruin all my work with these revolting displays. Everything was ruined, ruined, because you insist, you the most graceful man on earth, you insist on soiling yourself like an infant in a high chair. This is tragic, tragic.”

But he picked me up and carried me from the foyer to the bedroom.

“Hush, hush, my little boy. My little I, you know it’s not a tragedy, you know the event was perfect, wonderful, and all those beautiful people are in love with everything you do, as am I.”

And as he lowered me gently to our bed I remembered how much strength it takes to be a dancer.


I watched two archeologists of the mysterious Maya on the tube last night. The visionary sporting a headband mounted the hill covering a palace to send and receive signals to his cellphone and computer, gaze spanning the rainforest he was “fighting” to preserve. The scholar wearing wire rims puzzled over hieroglyphs adorning a fresco newly-exposed below. Should the second decipher the signs before looters pry them away he might confirm the first’s bold hypothesis that mythical kings from the pre-Classic were real, buried in the mound on which he pondered in profile.

I love the little brown Maya people; my heart touched by their victimization and their soulful eyes. Were I not leery of the dangers I might encounter, the bright colors they weave would lure me to Guatemala.

I sound like a gringo asshole; I am a gringo asshole.

The National Geographic documentary re-enacted the installation of a great pre-Classic ruler. He sat atop a throne atop a ladder, and supporting the ladder spiritually—supporting his installation and the prosperity of his rule—were the bleeding bodies of crucified children.

I am six feet tall, but the Maya could be my spiritual ancestors, smiling in my imagination from the dead landscape I inherit.

The Maya ravaged the hardwoods of their rainforests to cook the limestone that coated their palaces.

My character exists because many people can identify me.

If the archeologist with wire-rims reads these words, how will he decode them?

I know what the visionary would do with them.

I am 63 years old. I shall never know what Mayan calendrics could reveal for me.

Television is universally-desired by developing societies, but I rarely watch it, although when I am alone it mitigates my emptiness better than food or the radio or the newspaper.