Most days start out the same way, the inevitable wrestle to get out of bed, the waking baptism of the shower, the morning tea ritual, feeding the mewling cat, the reach for something on the web to distract you from the task's ahead. A tragedy in the news, a celebrity off the wagon, someone's dinner on facebook, something, anything to elevate the chaos and the mundane, and give it meaning, a perspective so you can go on repeating it all again tomorrow.
Then something happens and all the props fall away, and even the morning sun can't bleach the sudden shadow in the room. That's the way it was when I learned my friend Dennis Paul Batt died.
Before I came to write this, I tried to recall if I've ever mentioned him on here before, and a quick glance through postings made me realize that I have been totally remiss. You will forgive me then (even if I cannot), as I try make amends now, as late the hour.
I probably first met him at Mosaic or Thumbprint two years ago, though I know I had seen him before that-how could you miss that face after all?
A remarkable artist himself and fierce advocate for up and coming Artists here in San Diego through his involvement with Synergy, OMA ,the creation of the San Diego Visual Artists Guild, and God knows what other pie, there was no better a champion in my corner than Dennis. In a city of no's he was one of a handful of yes's.
Whenever I was feeling crestfallen, he used to say in that very Bostonian, Jewish way of his- "look at where you're from, to some of these assholes you're sovereignty?" or "don'tchya know, your already fockin' there!?!" or "Oh, why dontcha just go paint some fockin' racehorses?" hands always grasping at air for emphasis.
At other times, when he wasn't pulling me to one side and throwing priceless bon mots, or relentlessly taking the piss out of my accent (something he never got right) he would just call me up and chat and bend my ear for an hour about the sorry state of it all, although I think he was still an idealist, but would never admit it.
He was also Jen Trute's partner, and it doesn't seem five minute's ago since I was at his home as he helped me load boxes of art materials into the car. He was always carrying boxes was Dennis-the first in and last out at events, perhaps someone should have told him to take it easy. He wouldn't have listened anyway, though perhaps it was her passing that truly, literally broke his heart. In all of this, doesn't there seem a beautiful apt romance in that?
Last year, if there was a respite from the ghastly part time job I took to make ends meet, it was morning coffee at his house, him sitting perched like a hippie Fagin amongst his collection of San Diego Art alumni that covered the walls or his crate upon crate of rocks, that he proudly displayed. I never saw a grown man so lit up over a peanut sized piece of jade, but Dennis saw potential in its rawest form.
The last time I corresponded I sent him a Christmas card in which I closed by saying, see you on the other side. I meant midnight 2011 of course, but I like to think he'd have laughed at that irony.
Thank you so much Dennis sir, it was a real honor, and no matter how we cover the walls, they shall lack color without you to see them from now on.