A Sober Attempt
[Ed. note: reader response to Ivan Bellman’s Collapsible Giraffe piece was so overwhelming we’ve decided to invite him to contribute on an ongoing basis. Heaven help us. Currently he is traveling around the country as a member of the NEA/TCG CDP. What follows is the first of what we hope will be many missives from the elusive and seemingly dissolute Mr. Bellman. It is represented here, unexpurgated, in its entirety.]
A Sober Attempt(A Brief Explanation of the NEA/TCG CDP & Grassroots Political Advocacy) by Ivan Bellman
Thanks to all the Botox and ephedrine, I had no trouble running around DC with a bunch of college kids in the summer of 2004, fleecing any rube who didnt slam the door on my fine tuned pitch. I ranked as the nations 7th highest canvasser for the Human Rights Campaign (HOMOS). To you civilians, canvassing is the process of going door-to-door or accosting people in the street for money. The only thing that separates you from a homeless person is a t-shirt and a clipboard. I beat out some seventeen-year old girl in Little Rock. Serves her right for messing with Ivan the Terrible. Silly little bitch.
I was looking to get some buttslave gig on the Hill. I thought I was done preaching to the converted by way of directing plays but no such dumb luck. I had applied for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)/ Theater Communications Group (TCG) Career Development Program (CDP) for Directors & Designers (DORKS) so many times that I forgotten that I threw my hat into that ring of inequity. Well, someone must have gotten happy early because I am now one of the Directors for the 2004-2006 slot. Its not a bad gig seventeen grand over the course of two years distributed in six installments all for the development of my career.
I saddle up to bar at Off The Record. I am spent from a rough day in Tacoma Park. Tacoma Park is the Berkley of DC making it a veritable cakewalk. My fellow canvassers thought it would be funny if they gave me the part of the Park that was on the other side of tracks, so to speak. Luckily, I made quota because some refrigerator dyke signed up to be a sustainer (canvasser jargon for a door who signs up to give monthly.)
Ralph the bartender pours me a Jack with a Coke back but I am off the sauce and the coke as well. I tell him that I am cleaning up my act now that I was on a NEA Grant. He says he didnt know the NEA was still in existence and tries to tempt me with a spot of Black Bush. I tell him she isnt calling me back either. He then informs me that the mysterious inebriated lady around the way will be most displeased as she is the one buying the drinks
I glance down to the other end of the bar and I see a most curious thing. Hey Ralph. Isnt that Nina Totenberg, the NPR (National Public Radio) lady? Yes it is, he replies in hushed tone, and she is one foul mood. I inquire unto the nature of her displeasure and he informs me under no circumstances was I to mention the NEA as MoveOn just redistributed the infamous petition that bore her name.
Nina catches wind of our conversation and calls me a liar. She knew the NEA doesnt give grants to individual artists. I apologize, telling her she was 100% correct. It was not a Grant per se but a Program for which the much-embattled NEA had partnered with the illustrious TCG to administer. She then calls me a pussy for not accepting her drink.
Wheres the pubic hair, I quip. I knew an Anita Hill reference would go over like fundamentalism to the starved seeing how she won a Peabody for her coverage thereof. Canvassing is a hard habit to break. Before I know it, I am giving her my HRC Gay Marriage Amendment spiel, laying it on thick. Nina then says that it was a red herring and I had just wasted my summer. Karl Rove had orchestrated the whole thing to push the queer envelope thereby rallying the Christian Right.
She was fighting dirty, so I start in on the NEA. We hash through artists from the 90s and what they stuck where that got them in so much trouble. She is quick to rebuke me when I make the claim that Robert Mapplethorpe was one of the NEA Four. We make the following wager: if I am right she plugs the HRC and myself as King Theater Fag on NPR; if I am wrong I have to go out drinking with her.
Ralph, being a Black Man, a Log Cabin Republican and a Mapplethorpe Fan, became the arbiter. Google was on his celly to confirm that I was dead wrong. While Mapplethorpe was an NEA Grant recipient, and did shove a bullwhip up his ass in black n white to much consternation, he was not a member of the Fantastic Four.
The rest was a polluted montage of booze and schmooze. I remember getting into a fight with some Libertarians at The Monocle, Nina holding my hair while I puked in The Caucus Room and then debating Marxist theory with some of the waiters at Bistro Bis. We finished it off with some VSGs at the Capital Grill and then I think we had a nightcap across the street at the Watergate. (Woman! I am no damn bowflex exercise machine. Gotta get my hands on some Vitamin E.)
Couple of lessons here: 1) If you receive any petition online please do a little research before forwarding it on. B) Dont quit your day job. And Im sorry to Betty for the broken taillight. Ill make it up to you, Baby, I swear.
(All the writing above is pure fiction. None of it is true. Any similarities to the actual Nina Totenberg, Ivan Bellman and Ralph the Bartender are pure bad dumb luck which is the only kind I deal in. xoh~ib)