Not exactly living the hip Brooklyn life depicted on the HBO series "Girls," Rachael Shearer tried hanging out with a cool artist last week...with mixed results.
Every so often my mother will call from home and ask, “So, is your life like an episode of 'Girls' yet?” with a particular combination of dry, sarcastic wit and an almost teenage tone of excitement for some interesting news.
Time and again I disappoint with tales of work and hanging out with friends she knows from home or new friends that she has no interest in, names without faces or addresses she can recognize.
An avid fan of the HBO show, I have to admit that when I moved here I anticipated a life surrounded by brownstones, frolicking the hippest parts of Greenpoint with a band of artists and musicians in tow, hanging out in abandoned warehouses and wasting days wandering galleries and getting to know the curators, as you do.
The reality was a lot less interesting until quite recently – more specifically, until Thursday of last week.
As I decided that Tinder is the worst thing to happen to humankind, I moved to OkCupid – granted, not a huge leap of faith but at least a slight improvement.
The set up is a lot more along the lines of traditional online dating where you build a personal resume selling yourself to the masses, attempting to appear laid back but invigorating, confident but not arrogant, humorous, well traveled and a generally normal person.
After chatting to a few people, the majority of whom were total freaks (main issue with this site is people can just message you without you having to actively choose to match with them first – unlike Tinder) I managed to come across a seemingly perfect human.
From his profile, self-description, photos and few messages back and forth, I built an image of him to be a tall, beautiful, intelligent artist with a dark sense of humor and a refreshingly open mind.
Intrigued by his lifestyle, 90 percent of which was spent in his studio in Gowanus, I could conjure no reason as to why I shouldn’t meet him. As it transpired, his studio was near the design studio where I work, so I picked up a bottle of rouge and made my way over.
Obviously I had that moment of thinking, “What if this is a total set up and this guy is actually going to go Dexter on me and I never again see the light of day?” But I’m a pretty trusting (idiotic) person, so I carried on.
The Gowanus section of Brooklyn at 8 p.m. can be pretty terrifying – a vast expanse of brick “studio spaces,” aka converted old factories and storehouses, that loom over the street, casting shadows in the shape of the place that you are about to be murdered in.
As I rang the buzzer I began to feel the old nerves creeping in: dry throat, weak knees, sweaty palms. The humidity and 500 degree heat did not help. Before I had the chance to turn and flee, he appeared at the door and suddenly my mind was at ease.
Covered from head to toe in paint and sawdust over a tattered flannel shirt, huge brown eyes that just swallowed me up and great big hands that were calloused and scarred from his work, he scooped me inside in a friendly warm hug.
“I think that’s the best way to break the ice,” he mumbled before taking my hand to lead me up the five story walk-up to his space.
“Have you ever been to a studio in Brooklyn?” (I shook my head, unable to actually speak at this point.) “Bet you feel like you’re in an episode of 'Girls,' huh?”
The studio was just as I had imagined: lined with frames, canvas and linens, crowded with semi-assembled furniture that shakily supported towering stacks of paint, brushes, tools and half-discarded ideas on scraps of well-loved paper. A huge desk took up the back corner, littered with paint-spattered pages.
As I took it all in he was dragging furniture around to create somewhere to sit, like an indoor picnic. He spread out a linen sheet that he was to paint the following day and poured wine into two paper cups.
Gesturing to the space opposite him on the floor, he invited me to join him. He was, perhaps, one of the most pretentious people I have ever met, but he somehow managed to pull it off in a disarmingly endearing fashion, and of course it was justified by his evident talent surrounding us.
We talked about art (I had no idea what he was talking about 99 percent of the time) and sexuality. We reminisced over our similar childhoods spent in Catholic schools and the drastic change of moving from a small town to New York City.
Born and raised in Ohio, he had even attended a Christian university where every art class opened with a prayer, they refused to teach anything but creationism and encouraged students to thank God for their talent, for without His love, they would have none.
Six years after moving to New York, he admitted to residual feelings of guilt and repression for having abandoned his beliefs in pursuit of self-discovery. Seems that sentiment is not just restricted to us Irish.
A few hours later he was pinning up a sheet of linen on the wall and had decided that he would teach me to paint. Perhaps there had been too much wine at this point, but I was happy enough to go along with this little romantic idea.
Listening to dreamy folk music with the streetlight spilling in through the window, we absolutely destroyed that sheet of canvas in a fit of giggles and the kind of hysteria that comes over you when you start to connect with a total stranger. It was completely ridiculous.
Boarding the G train home covered from head to toe in paint and sawdust – just the state in which I had found him a few hours prior – I found myself grinning like a fool. We had walked hand in hand to the train like silly lovers in a terrible chick flick where entirely unrealistic things happen to perfectly ordinary people.
Maybe, readers, you were right. Maybe the men from New York City are not what I should be looking for. Maybe this small-town artiste with his rough hands and wry smile is just the country man that I’ve been looking for all along.