Mancho’s affection for Contemporary Art
22 September, 2011
Mancho’s affection for Contemporary Art

 

My Georgian friend Mancho whom I met while I was living in Los Angeles came to visit me in Atlanta. The gracious host that I am, I decided to take her out on the town and drag to all the touristy places right away. There’s not much to see in Atlanta.

There’s Coca-Cola museum, Underground Atlanta a place full of shops, the CNN center, Margaret Mitchell house on Peachtree and the Aquarium. It took me whole of five hours to get

around all the places Mancho wanted to see. We didn’t go to the Aquarium, as Mancho doesn’t like fish, and we stayed away from CNN because Mancho doesn’t like news reporters. When I pointed out to her that I myself write for a newspaper, she answered that the only news I report are old news. This was meant to bite me, but I let it go, as I have known Mancho for a long time and I know she gets mean when she is hungry. We had one more stop before we got food and that was at the Museum of Modern Art and Design. Mancho is not a lover of Modern art. Sure, she can recognize classics, starting with Titian all the way up to Pirosmani, but anything Modern or Contemporary after Pirosmani goes right over her head. Dragging her into that Museum proved to be a challenge, but keeping her in there was even harder. She took one look around and declared Contemporary art to be propaganda for rich people who have way too much time on their hands. The only thing that stopped her from decimating everything around her was a free glass of wine in her hand, which was, in Mancho’s words, the only good thing about the place. She even went as far as to say she might enjoy going to these museums if free wine was available. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the free wine was a special occasion to mark the opening of the new exhibition. Instead I suggested we head out to eat dinner.

 

We walked to a row of restaurants I had driven past before we got to the museum. I remember thinking one of those restaurants had an outside patio and was lit with pretty colors. And like a moth to the flame I gravitated towards it. Mancho had no idea where we were going but she was promised food, so she came along willingly. The place was busy and as I remembered very colorful. In fact all the colors of the rainbow were present, out and proud. I was busy trying to figure out what to eat, but Mancho she knew right away. She looked left and she looked right and she turned to me and asked in a very solemn voice if there was anything I was trying to tell her. I was confused. If hunger makes Mancho mean, it makes me slower than usual. So I looked to my left and I looked to my right, and all I saw was men and women having drinks and chatting amongst themselves. One very short man even winked at me. Mancho told me to put my glasses on, but before I could do so, our waiter popped around to take our order. It was his that voice gave him away. That’s when I figured out that we were in a very gay friendly pub. But wait, I told Mancho, that guy just winked at me. Mancho gritted through her teeth that I really needed to put on my glasses, which I did, and the short winking man turned into a short (and very unattractive) woman.

Mancho would have preferred to stay by the pool or in a hammock or play backgammon with my grandfather. Instead I dragged her into a gay restaurant. She wasn’t upset, per se, she does live in Los Angeles and knows enough gay people to be somewhat comfortable around them, but she would have preferred not to have to fend off lesbians while eating dinner. And true enough, a couple of women next to our table tried to get Mancho to talk to them. Mancho was polite, even friendly in English, but in Georgian she was pissed. Why me, she lamented, why do they always pick on me? She sounded just like me when I got hit on by very unattractive men. Why me indeed? But she kept talking back to them and smiling and I sat there quiet thinking quite a different thought this time – Why not me? What am I, chopped liver? While talking to her new friends Mancho discovered kindred spirits. They didn’t like Contemporary art either. I was really outnumbered. I was tempted to ask Mancho if there was anything she would have liked to tell me, but I didn’t. Instead I got her attention by asking what she thought about the conflict that arose in Georgia when two German tourists got drunk and proceeded to make out with each other at a dinner party. Mancho’s view was that if the Germans were drunk, than the Georgians must have been three sheets to the wind themselves. Besides, she said even if they were of opposite sex, there’s still a high chance that they would have ended up in the river. Georgians are not big on public displays of affection. I asked her if that’s how she would have behaved towards a gay couple if they happened to be her guests, and Mancho answered that she was a Christian and she believed in doing to others what you would have them do to you, but that she didn’t expect her grandparents for example to feel the same way. It’s kind of like this contemporary art thing, she said, it takes time and willingness to understand. Mancho soon found another reason to look around. More and more people were crowding into the bar and they weren’t all gay. Turns out that the pub was famous for two things, and the second thing was their famous Jeopardy night, which happened to be the night we came to visit. In a matter of minutes the pub was full of families, straight and gay couples, friends and singles on dates pairing up into teams to play Jeopardy. Mancho was first in line to sign up for the games. Her choice name for our team was to my chagrin “Pirosmani rules and Jeff Koons drools”. Hey, I was impressed that she even knew who Koons was. And I agree, it does take time.

 

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