Thursday, August 4, 2011

Ellen Freeze Has Naked Pictures of Me

Ellen Freeze has naked pictures of me. There's no getting around this fact. It happened a long time ago when I possessed the forward-thinking ability of a mayfly and it was somewhat acceptable to pose naked. There was a time in the 1960's and 1970's when nakedness was celebrated. People were making formal as well as casual naked appearances at a variety of events. There were streakers at sporting events, and Hair, the smash hit Broadway play with all its nakedness was breaking attendance records. In fact, Hair played in almost every major city in America, and people flocked to the show. Apparently, they couldn't get enough of the naked stuff.

It was against this cultural backdrop that I agreed to pose naked for Ellen's photography project, entitled "Naked Guy." Ellen Freeze, in addition to being a trendy artist who wore a flirtatious wisp of feathers in her long blonde hair, was the prettiest girl, ever, to make the gratuitous leap of speaking to me. And she had already captured first place in a city-wide photo exhibition with her poignant black and white photo, "Abandoned Pumpkin After Halloween." Really, all artistic appreciation aside, my secret hope was that if I posed naked, perhaps she, too, would somehow become naked in the process, a strategy that proved fruitless.

The photo session took place in Ellen's loft. It was the first loft I'd ever seen and the open space with exposed beams and industrial looking plumbing, electrical pipes, and heating ducts made me feel considerably more trendy than the luckless person who'd never set foot in a loft. Automatically, a loft exposure dubbed a person a hipster and it was understood that a long line of new avant-garde friends would soon follow.

The photography equipment in Ellen's loft was set up prior to my arrival. A roll of backdrop paper along with several of those umbrella-looking flash reflectors awaited my performance. While Ellen swayed around the room plugging in cords, she offered me a glass of wine, a courteous effort to loosen me up and squash any inhibitions I brought to the session. It was painfully obvious I'd never posed naked, but I did my best to feign like it was an everyday occurrence. Her gentle reminder that I remove my chocolate-brown monkey-socks was a giveaway to my amateur status in the endeavor.

She asked about my favorite music, and no sooner had I mentioned Gordon Lightfoot, than the song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, a big hit at the time, filled the room. This, too, apparently was supposed to make me feel comfortable. After removing my monkey-socks, Ellen began clicking away, the flashes, like lightning, exploded all over the place. There were spots in my eyes as I tried to keep track of her while she crouched and pranced with her camera. I'm not sure how many strippers have performed their routines to the melodious requiem of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, but it is an unsettling experience; the big ship, sinking with twenty six thousand tons of iron ore, made standing naked, sans socks, in a cavernous room seem less than provocative. And to make matters worse, every time the lyrics referenced "the big lake they call Gitche Gumee," Ellen shouted, "Show me the Gitche Gumee!"

When the session was finished I vowed never to pose naked again: I'm just not comfortable without the reassuring confidence a sturdy pair of socks can provide. And, now, every time I hear The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, I'm transported back in time to my naked moment, my toe-in-the-water into the hipster art world. Through the years, I've often wondered what happened to the photos and have looked cautiously over my shoulder, halfway expecting the pictures to surface whenever I've made a bid to hold a position of notoriety. Surely, I told myself, Ellen, being one of those cutting-edge artists, has moved many times in the past thirty years and my photos, likely discarded along her artistic route, were but a forgotten footnote in her career. That is until one day while filling my bag with lemons at The Vegetable Patch. A familiar voice called out from behind a mound of peaches, "How's the big Gitche Gumee!" It was Ellen, smiling and winking, no feathers in her hair but still attractive with an unmistakable flair. With barely a polite wave hello, I scurried away with my sack of lemons and stopped for a moment to catch my breath against the side of the building. She's back, she remembers, and she holds the key to a photographic legacy, the revelation of which would be decidedly embarrassing.

In order to avoid any kind of public scandal, I made immediate plans to resign from all my public positions. The Pia Zadora Fan Club (president), The Kildare Bird Club (president), along with The Midwest Gourd Society (seed acquisition manager) and The Bring Back Bonnie Hunt Club (charts and graphs director) would soon be receiving formal letters, informing them of my resignation from office in order to spend more time with my family. This was a close call and a foreboding reminder, as Gordon Lightfoot warned, "The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound and a wave broke over the railing." It just goes to show, one minute the waters are calm and the next thing, the gales of November come early. There's just no telling what lays waiting in the big lake they call Gitche Gumee.