"They always say it," he tells me, "They say, I don't know art, but I know what I like. And I know I don't like Norman Rockwell. Man, you know what I'm saying? Cheery fat Santas checking naughty to nice indexes. Runaway kids hanging with kindly cops, like that will ever happen. I want my art louder. Harsher colors. Slashes of paint, angry like graffiti. I don't want art telling me some happy every after stories.
"So I'm wondering why I'm looking at him all the time now. Rockwell, I mean. Because I'm staying with my Grams down on Hamilton and she has a bunch of shitty books and one of them is a Norman Rockwell Coffee table job. It's like with your AARP card, you get a kitted shawl, reading glasses and a book of Rockwell as standard operating equipment. Store it in your kit bag. So I'm flipping through it all the time now. What else can I do, watch TV? That gets old.
"You know the ones I keep staring at? The Post covers from '45. When World War Two was done. All those pictures of apple cheeked boys returning. Just looking at those veterans you can tell that that is some major bullshit. Color in the face, life in the eyes. Tell me, what fucking war were they in?
"And all the people on the stoop or the general store, happy to see them. Big hello hugs, ready to hear stories. Valliant stories no doubt. You know that one where the kid has the whole neighborhood out to greet him? In the corner of the picture is this shy pretty blonde girl getting all googly over him. Like she snubbed him in high school and now she's all hot and bothered for him. Like he's a steak dinner and she's not worthy of ordering.
"Or that one when the guy is looking at himself in the mirror; his uniform is on a hanger all neat and pressed and he's trying on civvies that don't fit him. The pants are riding high on his long ass legs. I hate that picture. I hate all the pictures. But I can guarantee you tonight when I get home I will be staying up till dawn looking at that damn book. I should be e-mailing my buds in the zone, but I'll be looking at fucking Norman Rockwell until I pass out.
"Hey, your turn for rounds bub. I'll have the same. BRB dude," he says to me as he shifts the wheels on his chair and rolls to the men's room to do whatever he needs to do as I try to get the bartender's attention.