Art Security

January 24, 1994|By ANDREI CODRESCU

NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans. -- Now I know how President Clinton and Yasser Arafat feel.

I gave a talk at the Chicago Art Institute and they gave me security. Heavy security. They treated me, in fact, exactly as if I were a Modigliani on loan.

First, a solid guy made out of bulging muscles in a suit two sizes too large walked ahead of me checking the hallways while his boss, an equally beefy killing machine, walked right by me, close enough to scorch my neck with his vigilant breath.

After I gained the stage, the guy in the big suit sat at the bottom of the stairs, patting his hidden arsenal now and then, leading me to believe that what I had mistaken for muscles were actually armaments of varying size. His boss stood with arms crossed behind me while I delivered my talk on the dangerous topic of writing poetry. Now and then someone coughed and No. 1 guard shifted ominously, but in general it was the most well behaved audience I ever had. If anybody'd as much as tried to blow their nose they would've been blown away before they reached their nostrils.

I thought with some wistfulness about the many hecklers who'd given me grief in the past. If I'd had security then it would've been their last heckle. But I had no security then. In fact, I had to hire a friend of mine once to pretend he was a heavy so I'd get paid by some fly-by-night poetry dive.

But no more. As I steadily delivered my brilliant poetic analysis to the extremely well-behaved masses I had the fleeting urge to start pounding the podium for emphasis, but then I thought better of it. A sound like that could cause a volley from my guards.

Later, I signed books in the lobby. A frail art kid with a pencil in his hand came up with a book and a huge hammy hand grasped the kid's delicate fingers and twisted them so that his pencil wouldn't face me. Great move. Not only did the kid's pencil not come anywhere near me, my own pencil hasn't come anywhere near paper since. Every time I try to write something, security seizes my pen. Man. Next time, I think I'll just let myself be kidnapped, shot or whatever.

Andrei Codrescu is editor of ''Exquisite Corpse.''

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