Monday, January 26, 2015

Chapter 67 – Morgan’s Turn - Aileen

 Now with the painting sold we had enough money to splurge on the last of the Haymer Bar Mitzvahs – Morgan’s.  It was slated for May 12, 2012, the day after his thirteenth birthday. His Torah portion was Emor, or the story of an eye for an eye, which, I thought, was diametrically opposed to his demeanor and to my own beliefs. It sound too much like revenge and what does that kind of behavior ever get you? I believe more in the laws of Karma; what you reap you will sow, and all that.
Donna and I were getting to be old hands at this Bar Mitzvah stuff and the nerves were under check. Even Morgan was his usual cool, laconic self and came off life a real pro. I was saddened that my parents, and even my Uncle Ellis (who had come to Jonathan’s  Bar Mitzvah) was not there. But I could very well imagine they were looking from wherever they were at the time, with pride and love. Of course, my sister, Susan, my brother, Robbie and his wife, Carol, and their two grown-up progeny, Max and Emily had made if over from California. Once again Donna’s parent’s, David and Olive Smollett and their youngest daughter, Heather, flew in from Scotland. They had made it to all three – a long way to go. Even my cousin Bobby Graff drove down from Detroit. He, I was happy to say, had brought his golf clubs and we played nine holes at Forrest Crossing the day he arrived.
After the service, the party was to be held at a small restaurant in Franklin called The Mercantile not far from the square. The owner told us it was their first Bar Mitzvah, and I could believe it since, when we arrived at the place, the marquee announcing the event read: Morgan Haymer’s Bar Mitsfa. We didn’t bother to correct them and when my brother saw it, he almost fell down laughing. Welcome to Tennessee, brother.
The party, even though it was pissing down rain outside, couldn’t have been warmer and toastier inside. We did the usual routine with lifting the chair high with the bar Mitzvah boy (now a man) supported by four strong shtarkers. After he got down, other brave souls took their turn in the hot seat. Since I had a recent bout with vertigo the month before, I declined the event. I never really liked all that bouncing around anyway. It was a grand event and was declared a huge success by all, but I was glad it was over and didn’t have to go through another one. The next big celebration, I knew, was going to be a wedding (but not too soon, I hoped).
Several months later in the Spring of 2013, I had been hired by the a fore mentioned golf course, Forrest Crossing, to work one day a week on a volunteer basis as an ambassador. The main perk being that I got virtually free golf. I knew that was going to save me three to four hundred dollars a month, so it was well worth the six hours a week I had to meet and greet golfers at the first tee and smile (I am not exactly the most politically correct individual in the world, as many people will attest to). I must say that although one out of ten of the golfers were extraordinary, most of them sucked. It was painful to watch.
On my third week working as an ambassador on the first hole, I noticed the morning shift starter wasn’t there. I walked into the clubhouse and asked the young kid where the guy was, and he told me he was helping Todd, (the head honcho manager of the course) trying to guide an old, crippled dog off the course on hole number five. I didn’t need to hear anymore. I was off like a lightning bolt in my golf cart with my walkie-talkie buckled to my belt. I turned up the volume as I drove to hole five , but I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary except golfers finishing up their putts—definitely no dog. I pushed the button on the walkie-talkie and asked where Todd and the dog were. A scratchy voice came back to me sounding like the speaker from an old drive-in movie screeching that Todd and the dog were over at hole number two, the eastern-most part of the course.
 I had seen a dog a few months back on the same hole when I was playing golf that looked to be in pretty bad shape. She was limping excessively and her hair was matted. I went back after my round, but she was gone; now five months later, I wondered if this could be the same dog. Was it possible?
When I arrived at the second hole, I didn’t see anything at first, so I drove the cart all the way to the raised green, then pulled the cart behind it. There they were. Todd was trying to coax what appeared to be a badly injured dog into his cart with a few hot dogs. It wasn’t working. When I looked closely, I saw that she had the same limp (only worse) as the dog I saw in February, and her markings were pretty much as I’d remembered.
I pulled my cart behind Todd’s and tried not to make any sudden moves that might scare the poor creature. As I got closer, I could see she was in pretty bad shape. Maybe she was hit by a car on the interstate since it bordered the hole on the east. There were workers repairing the road a few months ago, but they had finished in April. Since she didn’t look emaciated,  I figured it was possible that not only the neighbors, but one or more of those workers had been feeding or taking care of her—maybe not. I knew that dog couldn’t hunt.
I tried to help Todd guide the dog back to the clubhouse but she kept moving away from us in large circles and staying close to the two bunkers on the north side of the second green. She obviously was afraid of the human animal (who could blame her?). There was a tournament starting in less that half an hour and Todd was getting antsy because he knew the dog had to be moved as soon as possible off the field of play. Then I had an idea. I needed a rope or a leash, but since none were immediately available, I took the black strap used to secure the golf bags to the cart and removed it from its riggings. It was held in place by two plastic fasteners—the kind you might see on a Toyota or Honda used to fasten the carpets to the floor and when stretched out measured about six feet long. At first, I tied a slip knot at the end of the strap and then eased it over her head and pulled the makeshift rope gently. Not liking that one bit, she wrestled her way out of the knot in no time. I knew the only way I was going to get her into the cart was to tie a slip knot in the middle of the strap and have both hands free to pull the knot tight around her neck.
I told Todd to get his cart ready and to flank her from the left while I tried to guide her towards him. I crept up behind the dog (who was now in the bunker), and stroked her head with the loop of the strap trying to ease her worries.  When the right opportunity arose, I slipped the strap around the area between her neck and chest and then pulled. On the count of three I was going to lift her in. All Todd had to do was stay close to her to prevent the poor dog from missing her mark. One…two…three…I pulled her up in less time than it takes to say Constantinople, and she was on the floor of the passenger side of the cart. Todd drove her back to the clubhouse with me running alongside so she wouldn’t be tempted to jump out.
Todd was having trouble getting the dog,(which looked like a mix of German shepherd and Blue Heeler, or Australian Shepherd) out of the cart, but luckily someone had brought out a couple of hamburgers and had broken them up into bite sized pieces. Todd put them onto a paper plate and tried to inch it back towards him while she nibbled, but every time she got close to the edge she would freeze. I knew what I had to do. Sneaking up behind her, I gave her a gentle tap with my right foot and she took the plunge and was now on the ground. Todd said, “Jeez, Haymer, you have no second gear.” I said, “Sometimes you have to act and not dilly-dally around.”
In less than five minutes I was guiding the dog through the double doors of the clubhouse, through the pro-shop and into Todd’s office which was located in the back of the pro-shop just past the Nike and Callaway golf club displays. Todd followed us into his office and asked me if I knew anyone that had a cage. I thought for a moment and then a light bulb went on in my head. Mark and Ashley, my neighbors across the street who had a small farm with goats, donkeys and chickens (not to mention dogs), would have one. When I reached Ashley on the phone, she said she would be glad to bring the cage and a decent sized leash by the golf course. What a sweetheart!
While Todd was in his office with the dog, I went down to the first tee and assumed my post as the Starter for the tournament. While on duty, I had a good view of the parking lot and was keeping a watchful eye for Ashley to pull up in her black Ford truck. About half an hour later she arrived and I helped her unload the cage and carried it into Todd’s office.
After the golfers teed off, I had about six or seven minutes until the next group arrived at the tee giving me a few minutes to come upstairs and check in on her. She seemed to have calmed down and was drinking water and eating the remnant burgers from the clubhouse restaurant. I had never heard her growl or bark, but I could still see that she was a bit skittish. She did give me a lick on the hand after I heedfully stroked her behind her one floppy ear, Todd remarked, “She really seems to like you, James. They’re calling you ‘the Dog Whisperer’ around here now.” I smiled, thinking, if he only knew.
 Of course it was Sunday, and after calling all the animal shelters and rescue hot lines we knew she would be spending the night inside the cage in the middle of Todd’s already cluttered office. She could do a lot worse, especially after what she has been through. Don’t forget, this dog has been out there a long time; at least five months that I know of, and had survived. She needed someone to get her to a vet or the animal shelter as soon as possible. That would have to wait until Monday, though.

Monday morning arrived without incident and she was holding her own, and by noon Aileen (I had named her that because of her pronounced lean) was being transported in Mark and Ashley’s cage to the Williamson County Animal Shelter in Franklin. They said they would have to keep her there for nine days before she could be ready for adoption. At least the tested her for any diseases and de-wormed her, but they said that her injuries, although not initially fatal, were serious. I would visit her every day and take her out on a leash for walks. I knew nobody in their right mind was going to adopt Aileen, but I couldn’t let her be put to sleep. I knew one person who could save her. Who in the world do you think that was going to be?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Chapter 66 – Red Toreador – Part III – Empty Frame

I was in a bookstore in Greenwich Village. I had heard the Bob Dylan song, I Feel a Change Comin’ On, and in the song Bob talks about how he is listening to Billy Joe Shaver and reading James Joyce. Since I had already heard Billy Joe Shaver plenty of times but hadn’t ever read anything by Joyce, I decided to buy a copy of Ulysses, his powerful and banned book about one day in the life of two main characters, Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom. That day was June 16, 1904.
After reading the book I was fascinated by it, but really only understood ten, maybe twenty percent of the novel. I did a Google search on ‛Ulysses’ and found Frank Delaney’s podcast/blog called Re:Joyce at Mr. Delaney is the utmost authority on everything Joyce. Every week he dissects one or two paragraphs in ten-minute narrative, claiming it will take twenty-two years to complete this herculean endeavor. I was immediately hooked. I still listen religiously every Wednesday. Oh, how much I have learned. Thank you so much, Mr. Delaney!
Then I got an idea: If Mr. Delaney can do it, so can I. That’s when I started my blog, In that blog, I wrote a chapter a week about my band, Silverspoon. Now it is called Life After Silverspoon, (this will be the 126th chapter to date).  I found that I was enjoying the written word almost as much as I had ever enjoyed songwriting. Then I remembered I had written a screenplay called Mulligan’s Tour, which sat in a drawer, screaming to get out. I decided to adapt that screenplay into a novel, and my first book was born.

I know it may seem like a backassward way to do things, but when I gave the narrator in the book my father’s voice, it took on a whole new dimension. I liked the idea of Johnny Mulligan (my Dad) being a pro golfer who did a little acting, and the main character (Mark Mulligan) was a golfer, too,  who played a little music.  Now, I figured, if somebody wanted to adapt the book into a screenplay, they could. Maybe it will even be me someday. If you have a screenplay and it never gets made into a movie, what have you got? Bupkiss! But, on the other hand, if you have a book, even if nobody reads it, its still a viable commodity.
While all this was going on, I was doing research on the LeRoy Neiman painting that was still in my possession. When I was in New York, I had met with Phebe Carter, one of the assistants to Alex Gleason, the buyer at the Franklin Bowles gallery. She seemed very interested in the painting and wanted to know how much I wanted for it. I threw out a number off the top of my head. It was $27,500. I knew that was much more than I would ever get, but I needed to have her know that I wasn’t just some Tennessee hillbilly that just fell off the turnip truck. “I’ll pass that figure on to Mr. Gleason and get back to you,” she said, without blinking an eye. I knew then I would be going home with the painting, but I needed to be sure I really wanted to sell it.
When I got back to Tennessee with the painting still intact.
A few days later, I got a call from Alex Gleason who was in the Bowles gallery in San Francisco. He said, “I am not going to give you the 25,000 dollars which you are asking.” (I had told Phebe Carter 27,500, but I let that one slide). “I am though prepared to give you 18,000 for it.”  Hmm, that was more than I expected as a first offer. I said something like—okay or that's interesting, something not too emotional as not to give myself away. So he continued, “As you know with Neiman's the older ones have a tendency to pucker and crack and if it were a larger painting and say it was in a corner or something like that, it wouldn't be so bad. Bit in your little painting,” (I noticed how he kept saying ‘little painting’ like it was less important than a big one, a bit condescending, I thought.)  I told him I would think about it and get back to him within a few days.
 Donna and I decided it would be best to get some more appraisals. I wrote and email to Sotheby’s and a few days later I got a return email which read:
Dear Mr. Haymer,
Thank you for contacting Sotheby’s.   Your request has been forwarded to me.   Our auction estimate would be $5,000-7,000.   We would be very pleased to have your painting in one of our auctions and appreciate the time you took to send us a request.   Our auction on 5 April needs property to be at Sotheby’s by the end of this week.   You can easily ship the work through a pack and ship company such as UPS for overnight delivery.   The auction after the 5 April auction is in late September.   If you are interested in consigning to either sale please let me know.
Thomas Denzler
Sotheby’s New York
Vice President, Fine Arts
1334 York Avenue
New York, New York 10021

Are you kidding me? I was pacing now and I had to call Donna. No answer on both the work and personal cell phone. I called Thomas Denzler and he answered the phone directly. I was trying to have him clarify what he meant by five thousand - seven thousand. “Oh that's the low and high end of what we predict the painting would sell for. Are you sure you know that this is a painting and not a serigraph?”
Trying to hold back the anxiety in my voice, I responded. “Yes, I’m sure.” Then I told him I already had a legitimate offer much higher than his. I lied and told him it was ten thousand. “Anything north of ten grand and I would jump on it,” he said.
My next call was to my CPA. I wanted to have an idea how much tax I would have to pay if I accepted Mr. Gleason’s offer of 18 grand. She surprised me with her answer. She told me her husband was a collector of sorts and might be interested in buying the painting for more. I was dumbfounded. I said he would have to make up his mind quickly. She said she would know something by the next day. Well, the next day came, and the day after that without a word. I was becoming restless and called her back the day after that. She then told me they were going to pass. I had wasted three days with this woman. I was pissed and knew I was going to get an new CPA after that.
Then I began to panic with the idea that the painting, the one that had been in my family for over fifty years was going bye bye. I sent a return email to Alex Gleason stating the following:
Dear Mr. Gleason,
After careful consideration of your offer I have decided to pass on it. When I came to the gallery I told Phebe that my price was $27,500 not $25,000. Although your offer of $18,000 is tempting is it the first legitimate offer we have had, but I don't think it is enough for me to part with such a fabulous work of art that has been under the radar for over 50 years, not to mention a part of my family for the entire time.

Thank you for your interest,
James Haymer
What Had I done? Did I really just pass up all that money? Two more estimates after that and it made me reconsider the offer I had just rejected. One came in at seven grand and the other a little more than that. 18,000 was starting to look pretty good. Was it too late?
I decided that my mom, even though we would probably get more for the painting  down the line if we waited until after LeRoy passed, would have wanted me to take care of my wife and family most of all. With Morgan’s Bar Mitzvah looming and not having been on a vacation with Donna in years, I decided to give Alex a call to see if he was still interested. I asked for $19,500. He offered $18,250. We  finally agreed to the tidy sum  of $18,500.
On March 20th , I packed up the painting again and shipped it of Fed Ex. With mixed emotions. I tried to justify the sale thinking I had never really noticed it hanging on the wall until we started painting the house’s interior a few months earlier, plus we needed the money.
I was saddened by the news of LeRoy's passing in a New York hospital on June 20th, exactly three months after I sold the Red Toreador. The world had lost such an incredible icon, but more than that, it had lost a wonderful spirit. I will never forget the hour I spent in that room with him, and. Even though I don’t have the painting,  at least I have that memory to take with me for as long as I can remember.  God bless LeRoy Neiman!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Chapter 65 – Red Toreador- Part II

The day had come at last. Just after 12 o’clock noon, I dressed warmly while rolling my carry-on valise with the painting securely locked away, I headed west on 75th and turned left on Columbus and walked the nine short blocks to number 1 67th Street and there it was. The Hotel des Artistes was a glorious old building built in 1917, with a Gothic-style facade featuring charming gargoyles of painters, sculptors and writers. Designed by the architect George Mort Pollard, the building has been home to many of the famed and illustrious, including Noel Coward, Isadora Duncan, writer Fannie Hurst, New York City Mayor John V. Lindsay, Alexander Woollcott, and Norman Rockwell not to mention LeRoy Neiman.
As I stood in the balustrade, thoughts that maybe I should run as fast as I could ran through my head. I noticed, as a peered through the pebbled glass door that the concierge had spotted me so I opened the heavy door and walked into the lobby.
“Can I help you, sir?” The portly man in the red uniform with gold buttons as big as eggs said.
“Yes, I have an appointment with LeRoy Neiman.”
He smiled at me, but his eyes were not matching his painted on grin. “Name sir?”
“James Haymer.”
“I’ll be with you directly sir.”
He waddled over to the phone behind an ancient desk. I heard him say, “yes ma’am” and saw him nodding his head. It looked like I was going to be admitted.
“Mr. Haymer, Mr. Neiman’s personal assistant will be down momentarily. She will take you up to the third floor.”
Not more than a minute after he had uttered those words, I saw the elevator open and a tall, slender woman in her mid to late forties approached. She extended her hand and I shook it lightly.
“Mr. Haymer, if you would follow me.”
I got into the old fashioned elevator and watched her shut the iron gates. It seemed like the elevator was standing still but a minute later it had stopped, so I guessed that it had to be moving. After she reopened the iron gates, I followed her out. Walking down the exquisite hallway with hardwood oak or walnut floors, we came to room #307. She opened the door with a key and I followed her in. It seemed to be an office of some kind. There were art supplies, copy machines, paper cutters, and a large table in the center of the room with piles and piles of neatly stacked papers and pallets of some unknown material.
“Do you have it with you?”
“Excuse me?”
“The painting. Is it in there?” She said, pointing to my carry-on.
“Yes, yes,” I said nervously.
I propped the case on the corner of the table, opened it and brought out the white gift box. After carefully unwrapping the box I showed her the Red Toreador.
“Ah yes, this is something, I’m not sure what, however. Mrs. Neiman will be down in a minute to evaluate the artwork. Please have a seat.”
“Uh, thanks.”
I didn’t sit since I was too nervous. Instead, I perused the artifacts in the room. I wondered how many people had had the pleasure of being in the position I was in. How many other artists, actors, musicians, sports figures had graced this room and the room next door which, after peeking my head through the cracked doorway, I could see was the studio; the place where all the magic happened.
About ten minutes later, an attractive elderly woman, thin but not frail, walked briskly up to me with the Red Toreador in her hands.
“I’m Janet Neiman, and you must be Mr. Haymer.”
“Yes.” I took her hand and once again shook it. I was surprised at her handshake. It was firm and self-assured.
“I am sorry to put you through all this trouble, Mr. Haymer, but we have had many people come to us claiming to have original paintings by my husband and only a rare few were authenticated. But, I must say, I think this is one of his. There was a series of painting LeRoy did in the late fifties and they were featured in Playboy magazine. This seems to be one of them. How did you acquire it?”
I explained to Mrs. Neiman the story of how my mom and dad met LeRoy at a party in Manhattan back when I was a toddler and I could see she was amused.
“I see. Come let’s have a better look, shall we?”
She walked over to the table and turned the painted over. “Yes, I can see by the cut of the board, it’s definitely one of LeRoy’s. He used to be so impatient when he cut them, there was always a splinter or a rough edge to it. See?”
She showed me the right edge of the painting, how it looked a bit jagged.
“I see. So you’re saying it’s real?”
“Yes. And the signature is most definitely his. Lynn will be bringing my husband down in a minute. Now I have to warn you, Leroy has been very ill and very rarely if at all receives visitors. But, after I told him you had come all the way from Nashville, Tennessee to meet him he became excited. He loves Nashville and had always planned on painting the skyline and some country stars, but never got around to it. You will have to speak very loudly, though. He has one of those amplifier things, but hates to use it. But I always insist that he does around people. If you like you can wait in the studio.”
“Thanks, that would be great.”
I opened my carry-on and bought out one of my CD’s and some pictures of my mom and dad from the fifties. I thought maybe, if he wasn’t too far gone, he might remember them. The room was beyond belief. The floors were splattered with paint with every color imaginable. I was thinking that the floor could be sold a s a work of art for millions of dollars. There were some original paintings on the wall. One with Mohammed Ali, one with a gangster I thought could be Al Capone. On the other wall was a painting of various jazz musicians, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane to name a few. Under that painting were his art supplies and brushes. God, I felt honored and lucky to be there.
While I was staring at the jazz painting, I heard the sound of wheels rolling and then I saw him. LeRoy was in a wheelchair and I could see his right leg had been amputated at the knee. I tried not to focus on it, though.
“Mr. Haymer, this is my husband, Le Roy. LeRoy, this is Mr. James Haymer. He has come all the way from Nashville to meet you and he brought the Red Toreador.”
LeRoy had a perpetual grin on his face and I wasn’t sure if he was getting any of it. I figured he had some kind of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Even though I tried not to look at the leg, Janet Neiman picked upon it immediately. She was a sharp as a tack, that woman. I realized how difficult that was for her, being 87 and having all of her faculties, while her husband, once so vital, was wasting away.
“LeRoy had a nasty infection in his leg and the doctors felt it was going to kill him if, you know, so he had it removed. I’m sorry if it comes to a shock to you.”
“No, no. I understand.”
“Hello, Mr. Neiman.” I pointed to the Al Capone painting. “I really love that painting. Is it Al Capone?”
“I love gangsters,” he said in a creaky voice.
“Me too,” I said with a smile I couldn’t or wouldn’t even try to hide.
I opened my folder with some pictures of my mom and dad and showed them to him thinking maybe it might spark some kind of memory. He stared at the one of my father for a bit and then said, “I see him around sometimes. I see my brother, too.”
Janet Neiman whispered in my ear, “His brother has been dead for twenty years.”
 I nodded my head knowingly. Then I brought out one of my CDs and gave it to him. He looked genuinely pleased.
“Would you like an autograph, Mr. Haymer?”
“Yes, that would be lovely.”
She walked over to the shelf and brought down a six by nine inch cardboard flyer announcing an art showing at the Franklin Bowles Galleries, one in San Francisco on May 12th and the other here in New York on May 19th. I was hoping he would still be alive to attend. On the front of the flyer was a photo of LeRoy from the sixties or seventies wearing a navy blue Pea coat and a gray scarf with his trademark cigar in his right hand. I was sure he didn’t smoke anymore. His wife gave him a pen and he signed the card, but he left off the “an” in Neiman.
“LeRoy, you didn’t finish the signature.”
“The signature, LeRoy.” She then held his hand and guided the final two letters of his last name which almost matched but was slightly tilting downwards. It would have to do.
“I’m afraid my husband has had enough excitement for one day. Now if you will excuse us.I must get him back to his room. It was a pleasure meeting you. By the way, are you planning on selling the painting?”
“I’m not sure . . . maybe.”
“Well if you are, there is a gallery in the Village that handles all of LeRoy’s art. The name is on the back of that card. If you like I could put a callin and they might be able to see you while you are in town.”
“That would be great, thanks, Mrs. Neiman.”
“Oh, please call me Janet,”
“Thank you, Janet.”
A minute later Lynn was wheeling LeRoy out of the room and I knew it would be the last time I would ever see him again. What a rare and glorious honor it was. Truly blessed.