“Get your feet off the coffee table,” my mother often hollered at my brothers and me back in our home in the suburbs of Philadelphia. “You don’t live in a barn, do you?”
Well no, but now I do, at least temporarily. This month I’m an artist in residence at the William Flanagan Memorial Creative Person’s Center in Montauk, N.Y. It’s a long name for a large white barn set in the middle of the forest at the eastern tip of Long Island. The center is funded by the Edward Albee Foundation, and Flanagan was a friend of Albee’s who passed away.
Thirty-five years ago the famous playwright bought and converted this former stable and kennel to five bedrooms, two studios, kitchen, bathrooms, dining and common rooms, providing working space for 20 artists and writers each summer. I’m here with a sculptor who makes immense, whimsical statues out of large sheets of sponge and acrylic paint, a painter whose canvases are gray and knobby, an amusing Irish playwright and a short story writer. We share meals and ideas. We go to the beach together.
Montauk is a busy place in the summer, full of tourists and celebrities. Yesterday Edward Albee came by the barn and I shook his hand. He asked me if I was having a good time and I said yes. After that I could think of nothing else to say. We stared at each other for a moment and then Edward went about his business. I wished for a new life in which I was urbane, well read and articulate. Maybe by the time he comes for another visit I’ll have something more interesting to mumble than just hello.
Last week I stood in line at White’s Drugstore on the main street of Montauk and peered over the head of the very short man in front of me. When he turned around I tried not to stare. It was Paul Simon. I wanted to shout: “Do you remember me? I chased you down a long, dark alley in Philadelphia in 1968. I was the chubby girl in the purple mini mini mini skirt who cornered you at the end of the alley and demanded your autograph.”
But I demurred. After all, I’m accustomed to hanging out with rock stars. Thirty-three years ago I shared a space in a Santa Cruz commune with a member of Captain Beefheart’s band. At least he said he was a band member. I never actually saw him perform in concert, and I never found his photograph on an album cover.
Instead of re-introducing myself to Mr. Simon, I paid for my purchases, went outside to the boiling hot parking lot and proceeded to put anti-fungal cream on my lips instead of sunblock. Celebrities don’t affect me at all. I don’t usually even notice them. And the anti-fungal cream lip application probably helps keep them away.
Oakland resident Susan Parker is ignoring important and non-important people equally while spending the month in Montauk, N.Y., as the guest of the Edward F. Albee Foundation. For information on this program visit www.pipeline.com/~jtnyc/albeefdtn.html.