Book people are a peculiar lot. They distance themselves from the rest of us in a way that says, "I’ve got
something very special going on in here, and you’re not entitled to get even a glimpse of it." And though I
admire someone who can cleverly find a way to insert a quote from either Sophocles or Joyce Carol Oates
into any conversation, I don’t admire them any more than I do someone who can cast a dry fly to the edge of
a shady pool in such a way that it might tempt an already wary trout, or someone who can perform an
unnecessarily elaborate card trick using an unbroken deck. So, I’m kind of coldly indifferent to the cold
indifference of book people. I just want to buy this book, I don’t want to challenge you to a quick round of
literary pomp.

If there were ever a king of book people, it would have to be Dick Tony. Dick could not only distance himself
from non-book people, he had a well established distance between himself and the book people he worked
with. And they all seemed to like it that way. If he wasn’t king of all book people everywhere, Dick was certainly
King of The Green Apple bookstore.

For that store, I’d carved a pointing hand out of wood in such a way that people didn’t notice that the thing
had five fingers and a thumb, and that entertained Dick for some reason. And rather than draw the obvious
conclusion, that I was stupid or had made a mistake, he got it into his head that I was clever and used wood
carving as a way to exercise my wit. So, Dick Tony took a liking to me, despite the fact that I hadn’t read JR,
and that liking remained in place even when I admitted finding no inspiration in it after I did. At any rate, one
afternoon, while I was in the bookstore buying something by E. B. White, Dick said, “I’m going over to La
Bergerie for a drink, Kate’s going to meet me there later for dinner. Why don’t you come and sit at the bar
with me and have a beer?” And I said, “Well, you know, Dick, it’s really not my kind of place…” But he
encouraged me and, because I was flattered by his attention, we ended up there.

Long before the first beer was finished I started getting nervous because the barkeep hovered so very high
above us, and I said quietly, “Thanks for the beer, but I think I gotta be going.”
Dick said, “Why don’t you stay, have another beer, and join us for dinner?”
I said, “You know, I don’t really feel comfortable in any place where my inferiority to the guy who is pouring my
beer is so undeniable that it becomes a major part of the ambiance.” So, we parted, but that was the
beginning of a friendship.

One day Dick Tony and his girlfriend, Kate, said to me, “If we buy you a nice dinner in a good restaurant,
would you come with us to the show at the MOMA and tell us your thoughts?”
“What?” I said. I could hardly believe my ears. They repeated themselves, using the very same words and I
still couldn’t understand it, so I asked them why they thought my opinion of anything was worth a nice dinner
in a good restaurant. Nonetheless, we had a nice meal in a very nice French restaurant, and then we went to
the show at the museum. We walked around in there and, once in a while, I’d make a comment. During our
stroll through the galleries, we came upon a Manet of some people sitting around languidly under a striped
awning, eating lunch. I believe it was called ‘the boating party’. And though I’d seen it in print before, that
painting was much larger than I’d ever imagined it.
“Wow,’ I said, as we stood in front of it. “It’s much larger than I ever imagined it to be”, and since I didn’t think I’
d given them their full nice-dinner’s-worth yet I started to flip quickly through the files of my mind seeking
some way to embellish the observation. At that precise moment a mid-western American woman of some
plump sort—who had been studying the thing up close for a long time—returned to her undeniably mid-
western American friends, who stood beside us, and said this: “You have to go up there and look at it closely.
That little dog is made up entirely of brush strokes!” This remarkable
news inspired her friends to follow her back to the painting where they all leaned forward in order to verify this
astounding discovery for themselves. When my friends turned to me, I had to admit, “I really believe she just
said it all.”

I knew exactly what this good woman meant. One time, in the Art Institute of Chicago, I came out of a gallery
and rounded a corner and there, facing me was a huge portrait of an aristocratic lady, by John Singer
Sargent. She was standing there in a full-length silk gown, looking over her shoulder at me, as though I’d just
walked into her boudoir, as indeed I guess I had. I was so stunned to see her there, that I lowered my eyes
and mumbled an apology. Rarely am I moved so much by a painting that I feel anything as maudlin as
emotions welling up within me. So at that moment I have to admit: “Man, that son-of-a-bitch can paint!”

So, a couple years later, these same good people—Dick and Kate, who fed me a good meal in a nice
restaurant in order to hear what I might say about paintings—told me that some guy named De Staebler had
a show at the museum and, if I happened to see it, maybe I could tell them if it was worth their time. With that
as inspiration, though I almost never go to museums, I thought I’d go on down there, and if the price wasn’t
too much, to see what kind of a fraud this guy De Staebler was perpetrating upon the innocent and gullible
museum-going public.

Having read nothing about that show, either before or since, I had no idea what the shills had said about the
man’s work—and still don’t—but, maybe an hour and a half later I was at Dick and Kate’s, pacing around in
front of them, gushing about what I’d seen.

I don’t know how many rooms were involved in that show; I went directly to the central and largest room, and I
remained there until I left forty minutes later, completely overwhelmed with emotions I did not know I
possessed.

I’ll tell you what I saw. I don’t know if you have seen the man’s work. And I don’t know if I can describe it. My
guess is that there were maybe 8, no more than 10 pieces in that room. They were slightly more than life-
sized figures. Some were cast bronze as I recall, but most were formed from clay. Upon entering that gallery I
immediately recognized a lovely young woman, captured in mid stride. Perhaps she was an angel, though her
wings were tattered, one broken off completely. And in her stride there was everything of youth, and joy in life,
and expectation, and a vigorous, freshly-emerging confidence in her own femininity. All this, captured in her
bearing. I recognized it immediately. I’d seen it before. At once I also recognized that this young woman had
been dead for many thousands of years. She was like those poor people of Pompeii, captured forever in their
moment of death. But, Mr. De Staebler had captured this lovely creature forever in a moment of life. That's
the hard part.

There was another, somewhat like her, in the opposite corner, proudly going about the clever business of just
being herself, now a thousand years dead.

And in the middle of the room there were two figures side by side. I seem to recall them on thrones. I can find
no photographic evidence of these pieces on thrones anywhere, but their dignity was such that they belonged
on thrones. They sat side by side, each elegant, regal in bearing. Though I knew nothing about great love at
the time, I perceived a great love between them. And I found myself riveted there, standing at a distance,
facing this royal couple, in awe, awash in tears.

I was surprised to be moved so powerfully by what I saw. And I just stood there, in that gallery with tears
running down my face, while people came and went and chatted and quipped and laughed and occasionally
stopped to observe one of these pieces briefly, without effect, before moving on. I couldn’t understand how
anyone—especially anyone with a declared desire for Art—could look at those figures and not be moved. For
a couple of these viewers I became the exhibit, standing there like an idiot, weeping, and suddenly, I felt
deeply embarrassed. I was not embarrassed about my tears, I was not embarrassed about the remarkable
indifference of the viewers, I was embarrassed by my intimate knowledge of these people before me, each
once so noble, each one now a thousand years dead.

I remember getting on the elevator with tears still upon my face. And, I remember the people on that elevator
giving me a wide birth. I felt their cautious eyes upon me. And, I remember running (RUNNING) the few short
blocks to my friends’ house to tell them, “Yes, by god, you gotta go see that show. You gotta. But be
forewarned, if it can do this to an idiot like me, I have no idea what it might do to anyone with true sensitivity.”

At any rate, one day I showed up at Dick and Kate’s place and Dick was there alone. He answered the door
saying, “Oh, I’m glad you’re here, I have something I’d like to show you.” Then he lead me down a short
hallway and pushed open the door to a small room with windows along one wall and nothing whatsoever
hanging on the other walls. The only things in that room were neatly stacked piles of newspapers and
magazines. The room was full of these stacks, each from one to three feet high. They were laid out in such a
way as to create a maze of sorts, which meandered throughout the room. Dick entered and wended his way
around between these various stacks of print-matter, and—let me say something important here… he didn’t
say ‘be careful’ or anything of the sort, he simply assumed I would. So, I followed him until he stood before a
couple stacks of old papers standing side by side. And he pondered a bit, and he bent over and he reached
down to a certain level in one of those stacks of newspaper and he urged a newspaper out.

He stood up saying, “Let me see…” and started going through the paper. Then he realized something and
said, “No…I thought it was…” and he bend over again and carefully replaced the newspaper precisely where
he’d gotten it from, and extracted the one just above it. Then he stood up and started pawing through that
one until he found what he wanted and he said, “Here it is,” He handed me the paper and said, “I thought you’
d be interested in this article.”

It was an article about some painter I’d never heard of before. For reasons I cannot explain Dick and Kate had
always thought of me as a painter. I believe they may have even owned a couple of my paintings. After
handing me the paper we made our way through the maze and out of the room and into the kitchen. There
Dick made me a nice espresso on the stove, and while I sat drinking my espresso and reading this article, he
sat in silence. When I was done, I waved the paper at him and he shrugged, “Don’t worry about that, I’ll put it
back later.”
Then he got up and showed me to the door, saying, “There’s something on the radio in a few minutes which I
want to listen to…”

As I was walking down the hallway on my way out of that place I felt a kind of pride in the fact that Dick Tony
considered me a friend, and thought of me in the way he did.