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  • A while back, I was close with a very flamboyant couple, John and John. This story isn’t about them, although of them, more than one book could be written. I have thought of telling bits and pieces of their story a number of times, but no one would come out looking very good, so I’d have to change the names to Mike and Mike or Thomas and Thomas, to protect the not-so-innocent. Even if I changed their names, there would be no mistake who I was writing about and should they come across my stories, well...they live too close, are highly medicated and own hand guns. I wouldn't come out looking very good, either. So...I won’t be writing about them anytime soon. Not until we move to locations far from each other, instead of just a few doors down. Even this intro is risky, but I just can’t help myself, sometimes! I said...this isn’t about them, except for the fact that I was with them the day THIS story begins.

    John, John and I decided to take a Sunday drive out to Lambertville, New Jersey. It’s a quaint little town filled with galleries, antiquariums, funky little bars and high-end restaurants...not to mention the very friendly, hot, gay, men factor. My favorite thing about Lambertville, though, is the Golden Nugget Antique and Flea Market. But if hot, gay, men will get me there, I say, “Let’s ride, you leather-chap-wearing, cowboys!” The indoor part of the market is a little over-priced for antique dust, but the weekly outdoor part is Mecca for those hunting for bargains and one-of-a-kinds. It’s a wet dream for the likes of this ole fag-mag!

    John and I separated from John, not wanting to be embarrassed by his bipolar, loud mouth personality (yes, we called him friend/lover nonetheless, but still tried not to let on that we knew him when out in public!) John and I were meandering along, doing the first loop around to get an idea of what we might want to purchase. I stopped dead. In front of me was a line of colorful, mental-patient-looking, demonic bunny paintings. I couldn’t budge. My eyes could not be torn away. John didn’t notice that we had stopped walking. He was in the middle of telling me a heated story that I can’t repeat (until I move farther away!) when I interrupted him.

    “ I just really high or do I love these paintings?!”

    John has super refined, tight-ass, expensive taste, so I was sure he was going to talk me out of them and tell me to “...go take another bong hit, stoner-girl”.

    But he didn’t.

    He stopped, stared and squinted.

    “You know...I think I like them, too.”

    Next thing I knew, we were swarming over them, making piles and fighting each other over favorites. They weren’t all of demonic bunnies. Some were collages of human figures, lined and layered, made of old receipts, mortgage stubs, telephone pages and old matchbook covers.

    We introduced ourselves to the dealer and began to bargain. The dealer was a little, scruffy man, named Lyle, (Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile!) who was also a bluegrass musician. Before any deals were made and before John could blink, Lyle and I left John in charge of Lyle's stand so we could go smoke some kind bud out behind the port-o-potties. Guess who got the better deal and who else got a phone number?!

    Lyle told me all about the artist, Wayne Cunningham. He is seventy-five years old (at that time) and sits in his old, beat-up, station wagon painting over someone else's bad art. The other dealers sell Wayne their misfits uber-cheap and then he gives his master-bunny-pieces to Lyle to sell for him. He’s not one for marketing.

    John and I became groupies of the artist. For three weeks in a row we kept going back out to Lambertville to buy more of the paintings (and for me to climb, climax and come down from my bluegrass crush!). I think between the two of us, we now own about forty of Wayne’s paintings. (At one point, since then, I put a bunch of them in my basement because I was starting to feel like a demonic-mental-patient-bunny, myself!)

    On our third visit, we made a beeline for Lyle, almost knocking each other over to get to Wayne’s stuff first. The other John thought WE were both out of our minds. He didn’t see The Genius of Wayne. When we got to Lyle, he was beaming.

    “Hey, Violet! Wayne is here, today! Do you want to meet him?!”

    I froze.


    Lyle looked like I smacked him.

    “Why not?”

    I stopped, stared and squinted.

    “Wellll.....what if I don’t like him? I mean....I now am the proud owner of about fifteen of his pieces. What if I just think he’s a psychotic bum? What if I lose all respect for him? What if I end up thinking he’s just a smelly, old, weird dude? What if I think he's a demonic mental-bunny?What then? I don’t want to fall out of love! No, Lyle. Thank you very much...but don’t want to meet Wayne. But please....tell him how much I love him. You can even point me out to him if you want...but, NO. I don’t want to meet him.”

    Lyle threw back his head and laughed, like only an over-all-wearing-bluegrass-musician can.

    John and I bought about five more pieces each and then left them behind until we finished doing the rest of the market.

    When we returned, Lyle was beaming even broader.

    “Hey, Violet! I got a message for you! Wayne is really, really happy to NOT meet you, too!”

    He followed it up with a bluegrass wink.

    I beamed...and fell that much more in love with the artist, Wayne Cunningham.

    May long live his genius. May long live his demon-bunny-heart.
    John called recently (breaking our break-up silence) to tell me he saw Wayne’s art in a Spike Jonze movie.

    I’m not surprised...and happily elated.
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