My neighbor, Matt, is getting famous. He makes big bronze sculptures in his studio next to Mick’s, my bar. I go over there all the time to see what he’s up to and to avoid doing my own work.
A while ago he asked me if I would model for one of his statues. I immediately imagined myself as naked as Michelangelo’s David, all rippling muscles and buggy-out veins and big hands and–well, you know, big hands.
“Put this on.” Matt hands me a baggy lime-green leisure suit. At least the one I wore to my high school prom fit me. “We need to photograph how the pants and jacket drape.” I am asked to strike a pose of a trumpet player. Not the gig I imagined, but if I may blow my own horn, I do feel qualified. My dad was pretty good on the cornet.
I learned that it is very hard to be blaring one’s horn up to the sky, back all arched and mute outstretched, for twenty minutes.
“What in the world did you do to get so hinked up?” my chiropractor asked the next day. I started to explain, but gave up and lied something about softball.
A few weeks later Matt called me again. They were having trouble getting the trumpeter’s hand right. I struck my best hand pose, and this time they cast it in plaster. Sweet! At least part of the actual me was going to be in the statue. My first hand job.
The statue is now finished. It’s in front of the Qwest Center, along with a bunch of jugglers and clowns, 42 pieces in all. I was surprised to discover that the statue I had been posing for was of an old black man.
At least he is on a pedestal—someplace I have always thought I belonged. And I like my new claim to fame. I literally lent him a hand. Every time I pass him I strike the pose.
His dirty secret is that, although he is a old black New Orleans jazz musician, his stance is that of a lanky Scottish guy from Omaha.
Neighbor Matt is going to be on TV tonight as they run a feature documentary on Illumina, his big sculpture installation at the Qwest Center in Omaha. When you see the old black trumpet player, think of me.