The former owner of the house that my art studio is located in – Ed Black died over 10 years ago – has twice in recent weeks “returned” to jog my fond memories of him.
The first incident involved a 2010 Census taker, who during our front-porch conversation told me he had worked for Ed for a number of years, learning much about art, artifact preservation and the “poetically” correct procedure for making a perfect dry gin martini.
(Ed owned one of the largest collections of African art in Michigan, housed in an adjacent building. My census taker had no idea what happened to the collection, but intimated that frequent worry-wart Ed, if he knew what “really” happened, would roll over in his grave, look heavenward and lament, Oy, vey!)
My second contact was last Tuesday. In my mail came a letter addressed to Ed, concerning a class action litigation that he was being clued in on. Alas, way, way too late. I marked the envelope deceased (VERY!) and dropped it in the corner mail box with a hello and goodbye.
Back in the mid ’80s when I first met Ed, I visited with a mutual friend, Tom Lafferty, now retired in Santa Rosa, Fla. We three sat in what is now my living room and joked gay “aesthetic” issues (namely men). Ed showed us a sculpture he had finished, the head of a beautiful, red copper-colored young woman. Quite stunning.
“I call her Jenny,” Ed beamed. “Whenever I’ve a problem or the need to sort out thoughts I talk to her. While she doesn’t say much back, she has a lovely ‘voice’ of sorts. I get insights within days (sometimes after two martinis). She never fails (with or without an olive or twist).”
When I first moved into my studio space three years ago I, too, had an encounter with Jenny, although her sculpture was not on the premises. It was late at night. I was tired, upset about having to move after 24 years from my previous Cultural Center location.
I was overly tense, half awake, half asleep, but I heard Ed’s voice calling out, quickly in a crazy mitzvah of sorts, “Jenny! Jenny!” Skeptic that I am, I couldn’t bring myself to believe I heard what I heard. But, who am I to doubt remembered art that speaks to a needy heart?
There are other curious occurrences I’ve been privy to lately. One, at the recently opened Shangri-la Chinese Restaurant, formerly Twingo’s. Joey Chen, who manages it for his gracious mom (offering authentic Chinese food, dim sum, sushi, Japanese-imported coconut ice cream) believes its premises are spooked.
Joey, who’s gaily gifted with second sight, senses the presence of something that confessionally whispers an unknown man’s name, and occasionally turns the sink facet on full blast. (I was sitting at the bar when this happened. No one was nearby.)
When the restaurant was Twingo’s, owner Jeffrey Kalish, sister, mom and jazz musician stepdad all reported fleeting glimpses of an after-hours, gray-blue shift-shape.
One wonders if the so-called night phantom might not be Charlie Samarjian, secondhand bookstore owner who was purportedly “off’d” on the spot 20 years before. Charlie was a character.
He had a desk set midway center of the book stacks, facing the door. There he placed a six pack of beer, that he meditatively sipped between infrequent sales. If a new customer came in Charlie would ask a literary question or riddle.
If no intelligent answer was forthcoming, he’d wave the customer OUT! He couldn’t be bothered with lowbrow readers! (It seems Charlie’s now gone from living prose to impromptu plumbing!)