Fight or Flight?
Gallery Night always leaves me flummoxed. With the best of intentions, I make a big list of all of the neat things I want to do, and then have a hard time finding anyone to go with me. On the big day, I get home from work, take a nap or a run, fix a light meal, have a massive fashion crisis, throw clothes all over my room, squeeze into something acceptable, fret over footwear, slap on some eyeliner and run out the door with sixty minutes or less on the clock before galleries shut their doors and everyone shuffles into the night for a late dinner at an overpriced restaurant. Last Gallery Night, in July, I had all sorts of promises out to all of my scenester friends to hang out with them at the sceniest hotbeds, but made it no farther than my first stop, Doug Holst’s going away party and painting liquidation sale, where I drank most of the beer in his fridge, hung out with his 15-year-old greyhound Lucy, and started an unfortunate conversation with Flavor Dav about buying and selling vinyl that resulted in a very late night.
This time around I vowed to do better. I made my list and recruited my companion, booked home from work for squash soup and fifteen minutes of bedrest, then pulled on some boots and a tough red jacket and plowed onto the scene.
We drove down to the south side — foregoing a stop at MIAD due to time and parking constraints — for 3 for 2 at the Walker’s Point Center for the Arts,, where I spend my whole visit consumed by one magnificent self-portrait/comic-book-diary/illustrated essay by Milwaukee cartoonist Max Estes. It hit me right in the gut.
And then it was over. At barely 9:00, Gallery Night officially gives way to dining, moping or after-partying — which is exactly what’s on our plate next door at The Borg Ward, with an inaugural show of reflections on art, war and America by Paul Kjelland, John Kowalcyzk and Minga & Mongoofy. The party is hosted by Borg Warders (plus their president-cat Pierogie) and Broad Vocabulary, mixed and mastered by meticulous DJ Aaron Soma and attended by a whole host of popular people like Kristopher Pollard, Quinn Scharber, Andy Noble, several members of The Candliers, Andrew Rosas, VITAL’s own Matt Wild (a dear coworker and friend), plus a ton of other people I don’t know, but should.
Innocently, I had pinned the “Boogie at the Borg” for the party of the century (or at least the month) — soul and funk music, expertly paced, in a hip venue, with hip people, plus a built-in reason to let it all out. But it was one of those parties that didn’t quite launch — an exceedingly pleasant, atmospheric, good-natured get-together that was not in any way a night to remember. For me at least, it was more than anything a sheepish affair — I spent the whole time trying to get people dancing, dodging bullets of sexual tension, conducting misinformed flirtations, avoiding barbs from embittered friends and convincing myself that my ride had left without me. Evenings like these are so often a case of fight or flight: do you stay, fighting, waiting for the moment that the whole night will turn a glorious cartwheel and exceed your expectations? Or do you run when you can, knowing that holding out is only going to make things more tedious in the end?
I fought. My ride had not left without me. When we finally took off, we rode through eerie empty streets looking for a place to drink off the weird feeling the night had left with us both.
We found it in Tangerine, a thumpy Milwaukee Street club where our friend and coworker Tony Bobrov was tending a desolate bar. A few waters and a tour of the Muppets-in-Space basement (fuzzy orange furniture and toilets in pods?) later, we felt better. We faced Gallery Night fiercely — and won. But just barely.