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February 27, 2006

Our Evening with John Baldessari

Scene: Approaching the first floor elevator in the Structure 4 Parking Lot in Santa Monica.

Matt and I were coming back from dinner. Our car was parked on level 6. I'm a stair person, but Matt heads toward the elevator, so I follow. John Baldessari is standing there talking to another person. They are waiting for the elevator. The elevator is on the 5th floor.

Matt says, "Let's take the stairs." I protest. Matt says, "It's only on the 4th floor, let's take the stairs." We turn to take the stairs. I wasn't going to make a scene just so I could ride the elevator with Baldessari.

I am not from California, did not go to school in L.A. and therefore am not privy to having hobnobbed with Mr. Baldessari. I've spotted him a couple of times before from a short distance. He's easy to spot. He's usually a foot taller than everyone else.

As we step barely out of earshot, Matt says, (with a laugh) "That looked like John Baldessari, only taller." I'm walking in front of Matt, rolling my eyes. When we get to the first floor landing, I tell Matt that WAS Baldessari.

Matt stopped dead in his tracks with an expression of total shock and awe, and actually swung around and leaped down the steps. Then he was flummoxed. If we run back down the steps now, it would be obvious we were trying to ride the elevator with Baldessari. We head back down the steps anyway. No one was by the elevator.

We walk up the steps to the 6th floor. Matt's really disappointed. He keeps saying what a great artist Baldessari is, how much he loves Baldessari etc. I asked him what he would have said had we actually had the opportunity to ride the elevator with Mr. Baldessari. He said he would have told him how much he loved his art, how he had always admired him as an artist, and then he would have made some small talk about the piece that was reproduced in the LA times that morning. I've never seen Matt that excited about seeing anyone. It was endearing.

We exit the 6th floor stairwell and Baldessari is in the passenger seat of the car parked right by the elevator. As we walk past, we look, but do not stare. We find our car and get in. We back out of the parking space. Baldessari is in the car behind us. There is a traffic jam exiting the building. We stay in front of Baldessari for the duration of the parking structure exodus, except for one point when another car muscled its way in between us. We turn left out of the parking structure. The car, which transports Baldessari, turns left also. At a stoplight, we are side by side. At the next light, we split for the freeway and exit our secret narrative.

In summary, my husband has been a long time Baldassari fan and we were too self-conscious to tell him that in person.

Back to work.