Opera House

I met Sarah at a party last year. She sings with the Small Opera of San Diego. The voice that comes out of her petite frame sounds as if it should come from a 400-pound Italian woman. She called to invite me to a party the Museum Artists Foundation was putting on with Small Opera. It was on a Saturday afternoon.

I drove to the estate in La Jolla and met Sarah's husband out front (he was giving me directions via cell phone). I gave him a hard time because he was dressed comfortably, while Sarah was dressed in the Venetian Carnivale theme. It was hot out, and you could see a few of the women sweating. I felt as though I was in a Merchant Ivory film.

The huge house is owned by Maher Morcos, who has an art gallery in La Jolla. I was talking to a lady at the party who told me Morcos was born in Egypt and that his parents discouraged his art. He became an architect and built this place. The crowd watched as the sun melted into the ocean. When I went to the upper deck for a better view, I overheard a couple talking about his art. One said Morcos created the 16-foot bronze monument of Don Diego at the Fairgrounds. The other liked his nudes. I thought his western stuff was interesting, but the rest of his art didn't blow me away.

The work of an artist there named Gerrit Greve did blow me away. He has a gallery in Cardiff. When I found out he had done some CD covers, I asked what musicians he liked doing covers for. He said, "Mozart, Beethoven...they don't complain about how you make them look."

When a Filipina who was in the Opera came over, Greve said, "Your eyes look so familiar." She smiled, and I asked him, "How many times have you used that line?"

I met an artist named Ronda. We went from a conversation about Roxy Music to talking about migraines. She suggested I could get rid of them if I went to a chiropractor. I was excited when Ronda handed me a phone number, then I realized it was her chiropractor's number.

Her artwork was alcohol-related. Colorful prints of fruity drinks or wine bottles. They would look great in a bar -- or in Jimmy Buffett's house. I joked with her that one of her margarita glasses had too much salt around the rim. She agreed. She said, "I'm a bit dyslexic. I thought you were going to say I spelled a word wrong."

There were guys walking around with appetizers. I admitted to Sarah that I didn't know what half of the food was. A guy came by with small slices of pizza, so I grabbed him. I said, "You look like Tiger Woods." "Yeah, I hear that a lot. Once in awhile I get Chris Rock."

"Do you see that guy over there?" I asked him. "Unfortunately for him, he looks like Fabio." He laughed and said, "I told him that earlier."

I saw Ronda again and asked her about abstract art. I told her there was something about it I didn't understand. She said that a lot of it is crap. She gave me a tour of the house. I got to check out her legs as we walked up the stairs. (If her husband is reading this, I'm just joshing; it was her lovely dress I was admiring.) Morcos's bedroom was huge. The way he had it decorated was interesting. The bed was in the middle of the room.

I went to grab some wine. The bartender was explaining the different wines to someone. He must have been a jack of all trades, because I later heard him talking about fixing a toilet the night before, and doing something else to the garden.

I went back to talk with Gerrit. He was discussing wine. I asked about a painting he had on the wall with an angel. I thought I would lose credibility if I told him it reminded me of a Black Sabbath album. He said the painting was done after a death, and he told me that he often paints when he grieves. Strange that his last name is Greve.

I like paintings with more color than his paintings had, but I did only see a sampling of his work. Greve gave me his business card. It had an abstract drawing of a person. I asked if it was Van Gogh. He said, "No. You'll never guess." Well, now it was a challenge. I guessed Groucho Marx. Wrong. My third guess, Marlon Brando, was correct. He told me a story about the only other person who ever guessed it. It was a woman he met at a party who turned out to be the woman dressed like an Indian whom Brando sent to pick up his Oscar. (She was rumored to have been Brando's girlfriend, and not even a real Indian.)

An artist named Jennifer had done a painting of Sarah with a few other women. I felt stupid because I first pointed out the wrong person who I thought was Sarah. I asked her if it was hard to stand there for such a long time posing. Jennifer overheard this and told me, "I take a picture, and then I just use that to look at as I paint." I asked a guy standing nearby if that is what all artists do when they paint portraits. "Well, it's probably the way it's been done since the invention of the camera."

Jennifer's son was there doing some video work. I said to him, "You can't paint, so you decided to learn how to video instead." I don't think he thought that was funny.

I met a woman named Beverly who had provided all the Victorian costumes. She told me about the costumes she's made for various events. Her kids must have enjoyed coming up with Halloween costumes for her to make. My mom had us buy the plastic masks with the rubber bands around them that pulled your hair out. You got so hot by the fourth house, you ended up taking the thing off. But that'll be a story for my psychiatrist someday.

I told Beverly I had once looked for a pirate-style shirt that had a leather strap over the chest instead of buttons. She told me she had those. She told me she was going to her car to get something she wanted to show me. I never saw her again.

I looked for Ronda but couldn't find her. I saw Greve holding court with a new group. I couldn't find Sarah. I grabbed one last piece of pizza and split.

Crash your party? Call 619-235-3000 x421 and leave an invitation for Josh Board.

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