Saturday, December 3, 2011
Those who follow my fledgling exploits know that I more than dabble in painting in between cases. Playing with paint on a canvas is more than a creative outlet for me; it’s downright therapeutic. The small studio I’ve fashioned out of a room in my Greenwich Village brownstone is where I go to mend after a hard day’s night in the field; my version of a padded cell where I can smother myself in titanium white paint as if it were gauze bandage. I spend a lot of my spare time in front of a canvas, trying to capture the images bouncing around in my head. Just getting those images to sit still long enough to depict them is one thing, and having the skill to actually paint what I see is another. Like a lot of my cases, my paintings don’t turn out as originally planned.
Kyoko would prefer I spend all my time in that studio, painting, rather than chasing insurance claims down dead end dark alleys. I’m not sure she understands how much I need the frenzied action as well as the restorative calm. Strike that. Who am I trying to kid? Kyoko understands this relationship all too well and is deathly afraid of where it’s taking me. Can’t say as I blame her. She’s afraid that each swing of the pendulum I’m riding takes me ever-further out on a limb. In ways it doesn’t matter much whether I’m swinging out with a paint brush or a revolver; either can be a deadly weapon in the right hands.
Kyoko’s afraid that one of these times I’ll fly off, out of control, and plunge head-long into an abyss from which there’s no coming back. That’s always a possibility in my line of work. I’m a danger junkie. Not just action, but danger. I like it most when my ass is on the line, when the odds are stacked against me and there’s absolutely positively no way out of the jam I’ve gotten myself into. But I’ve always been a bit thick-skulled and never have known when I’m beaten. I don’t quit, I just keep on coming; like the dumb bunny with the never-dying batteries or Arnold in Terminator mode. Sudden death is Hazard Time, when it’s your very best against mine. Two men enter, one man leaves; my personal Thunderdome.
I have no illusions about being the best at what I do. I’m a fair hand at a good many things, but being the best at anything is such a mouthful. There’s always someone smarter, faster, better or crazier than you out there, somewhere, and in gunslinger terms it’s only a matter of time before you meet them. Let’s face it: having to continually prove you’re the best is a burdensome bore.
My approach to longevity is different. It’s been said that I have a penchant for making people around me uncomfortable because I live so far out on the ledge and rarely play true to form. I’m the surprise in the box of cereal you’re eating, the wolf in sheep’s clothing you’ve invited to dinner, the bogeyman lurking under your bed. I’m never what you expect, and I can tie you up in knots trying to figure me out when I want to; its part of the game of knowing, sometimes guessing the limitations of others while never loosing sight of my own.
I’m better than good at moving people out of their comfort zone and into mine. I may have been Torquemada in a past life for all the pleasure I get out of mind-fucking my prey while gently turning the screws. I watch the needle of their tolerance creep into the red then amp up the volume and accelerate the action even further until it reaches a fever pitch that’s mad dog rabid over-the-top insane.
I know I can function under those conditions, but can they?
An eerie calm comes over me in those situations. All the chips are in the middle of the table and I should be sweating the outcome, but I never do. I’ve been ‘all-in’ all my life, piecing my patchwork quilt of a self together, so betting everything on a single hand has become old hat to me. Some think I hold some sort of death wish, but quite the opposite is true. Death and I are old drinking buddies, and as long as he and I are swapping shots at the bar I know it’s not me he’s come for. I’ve been to the edge so many times gazing into the abyss no longer fazes me. Can I help it if others shit their shorts and break out in nose bleeds when I lead them out onto the narrow cliff ledge I call home?
It’s fate accompli at that point. I know I have them when they begin to squirm and start second-guessing their judgment and their footing. They begin to hyperventilate and want to slow the action, but I ratchet-up the pressure yet again until they begin to sweat through their clothes. They start to stutter and repeat themselves; desperate to break the confusion and panic now gripping them long enough to find a safe way back down the mountain. They realize that one mistake at that fever-pitch pace and high altitude is one mistake too many, so I flat-out force the issue to its moment of truth; confident that I won’t make that fatal mistake and that the other guy will.
I’m not sure why Kyoko finds such a successful approach so objectionable. It’s almost as if she was determined to deprive me of my fun.