hi fi cafe

today's silly nostalgic anecdote (art show edition)

In the mid-late ‘00s, when I lived in Milwaukee, I did a lot of drawing/painting/collage/visual art of various kinds. I was part of two art shows during that time, both at the Hi-Fi Cafe in Bayview. The second one was during the summer of 2008. It was me, two of my best friends, and my then-boyfriend (who, ugh, but that’s a whole other story). A few weeks before the show went up, me and my two friends who were part of it were at the Hi-Fi, looking at the wall space and sort of mapping out what might go where. As we sat there, this guy showed up, who from now on shall be referred to as the Not-So-Goatguy, or NGG. I’d casually dated NGG for less than a month during the spring.

I need to give you a little backstory on him: when I met him, he charmed me right away, and I let myself be swept off my feet because I was rebounding from a different dude who had fucked me up real bad. (Like, when things didn’t work out with that dude, I very seriously went through one of those “I’m never dating again” freak outs.) Soon after I decided, okay, maybe I’m ready to start casually dating again, I met NGG, and I ignored all the warning signs because he seemed charming and he was the polar opposite of the dude who’d fucked me up real bad. (Eventually, I learned that “polar opposite of last shitty dude” does not mean the new dude will be any less shitty.) Anyway, things with NGG went downhill fast. It took less than a week for me to realize that he was weird (in a bad way), childish, and clingy. (In retrospect, he was sort of a proto-Nice Guy/fedora dude.) And then I spent another couple weeks trying to figure out how to get out of the “relationship” in a nice way, but he didn’t get any of my hints and finally I just had to be like: “Dude, back off, you’re getting way too serious and clingy and I do not want this.” After I broke things off with him, he started showing up at random places where he knew I’d be like my place of work and The Hi-Fi. It was borderline stalker behavior, and even though he never made any threats I still found it creepy.

So, there we were at the Hi-Fi, and NGG showed up. He sat in the empty seat at our table, without even asking if it was okay. Keep in mind that I was both annoyed and creeped out by him at that point, and both the friends I was with found him equally annoying. If he had asked, we would have said no. He probably knew that, which is why he didn’t ask. He just sat down and interrupted our conversation and started blabbing excitedly about something or other, while we all chain-smoked and drank our iced coffee and tried not to strangle him. Then, someone else we knew walked over. They did not know NGG, had no idea what he was like, and so had no idea that we would’ve rather kept the news of the art show secret from him. This person said: “Hey guys, how’s the art show planning going?” NGG’s eyes grew to the size of saucers and he was all: “You guys are doing an art show??? Why didn’t you tell me??? Can I be part of it???!!!!” “No,” we said. “There are already four of us and we’ll be filling up all the wall space.” Which was true, but of course the real reasons we didn’t want him to be part of it were that: a. we didn’t want to spend any more time around him than we already did, and b. his art was bad. Look, I am not saying I am a Great Artist, by any means. I also do not think that one has to be trained to make cool/good/interesting art. I also think that deeming art “good” or “bad” is pretty subjective, what someone else likes might not be what I like, and vice versa. That said–his art truly just sucked, it was like he didn’t even try to make it good, it also wasn’t unique in any way, and my friends had seen it and they, too, agreed that it sucked. So. We told him he couldn’t be part of it, and thought that was the end of that.

And then. Three weeks later, our show went up. After everything was on the walls, we sat there for a while, admiring our work, surreptitiously watching people come in and look at our stuff. And then NGG walked in. “Looks great, guys!” he said. Then, he pulled some things out of his bag: some framed drawings, a hammer, and nails. Before we even got the wherewithal to ask what the fuck he was doing, he started putting his pictures up in any spare bit of wall space he could find. Like we hadn’t explicitly told him no. And when he was done, he said: “Thanks for leaving some space for me! I gotta get going now, see you later!” We were dumbfounded. Apparently the guy not only did not understand hints, he also didn’t understand the word no.

We never took his drawings down, even though we were mad he’d put them up. We figured they made all our art look better in comparison.