May 27, 2014
Many people bring Champagne when they visit (well, a few). Suzy brought a Champagne stopper, a tight-sealed, spring-loaded, double-hinged jobbie, so when I got home from my job at the newspaper she could pour me a bit of bubbly. I never heard of such a thing, drinking Champagne before dark, in the middle of the workweek, for no particular occasion at all. She was in Savannah on a hunt, to visit me, yes – the South, she said, was so exotic – but also as a stop-over on her way to visit some family in Kansas or Nebraska or some other place in the middle of the country, and she needed to find Bakelite. I had never heard of Bakelite, either. Who would want plastic? What was so special about something from the ‘50’s? She tried to tell me, but I still didn’t get it. She was in a buy-sell, capitalist mood, way before eBay (was Pierre Omidyar even born?), and Bakelite, she insisted, was all the rage. It could bring in a few bucks. She needed to bring in a few bucks. She had a suitcase of clothes and schmatas, colorful doodads she’d wrap around her hair when she was having a bad hair day.
I knew as much about Bakelite and shopping, as Suzy knew about tennis and sports. But she wanted to learn to play tennis (“I do. I really do!”). Artist turns athlete. Well, OK, then. Let’s give it a try. We met in the morning – I think the early hour was challenging for her – at the Waveland courts, me with a bunch of tennis balls, and Suzy, with some cute tennis shorts, me on my bike, Suzy in some station wagon (?). She was tall. She had a good wingspan at the net and a mighty stride. This could work. She was motivated. At least in her mind. Did we play three times? Four? Keep trying, I said. Eye on the ball. Racket back. Hit off the front foot.
After our lessons I think we ended up at Nicole Hollander’s apartment where she lived on Aldine in a red brick building where I shared an apartment across the hall with Janice, where Nicole and Bruce and Suzy and Frank and Janice and I and a few assorted others would gather for group dinners with themes (for one occasion we could only cook food that was white), where Bruce and Frank would talk their esoteric, arcane, obscure talk and Nicole and Suzy and Janice and I would talk ours. We watched television. We laughed. We chortled. We sniggered. Suzy was droll. She was ironic. She was a storyteller, a raconteur, a good friend.
I last saw Suzy at Nicole’s “Will You Step Into My Parlour?” show at the Lillstreet Gallery. She was hard to miss. She was still tall, still droll, still wearing a schemata. I recognized many of the items from Nicole’s living room. The best, for me? One of Suzy’s paintings, the back of a woman on the beach. I had one from that series once – lots of warm blues – but I can’t find it. That makes me very sad. I loved that painting. I loved Suzy.