Tea Time at Blue Cone, Where Art is for Everybody


    When I was 26 I saw the city through a navy blue filter with bleached white edges and a pitch black halo. I don't know why. These days I close my eyes and I see burnt yellow edges, sprayed with oil-based tangerine over a textured white canvas. Again, I don't know why.

Everybody is invited to Tea Time. Everyone brings their own energy.

    That was my lens filter when I tapped the call box combination and passed through the brick wall separating 11th avenue from the artist sanctuary inside. Then up a set of school-carpet stairs and a few doors down on the left. Nobody knows how many doors. You'll have to count them for yourself.

    Everybody is invited to Tea Time. Everyone brings their own energy.

    I knocked on the door, the one punctuated by a blue traffic cone, but I didn't wait for a response. I walked right in. The air was soft and smelled like mineral spirits.

    "The sound card is broken," said Carolyn, the first person to catch my eye. She was floating in one of the corners, momentarily preoccupied with the sound system, because without sound we could forget about finding our voices. "Are computers the thing you know about?" she asked me.

    "Not professionally," I said, which was the least cool thing I could think of saying. But it didn't matter because she was already on the other side of the room talking with somebody else and the music was repaired.

    I gotta be awkward, so I found the stool with my back to the door and began talking to a new friend. She was in the middle of publishing a zine but that night she had her focus on paintbrushes. We started talking and it turned out I'd seen her husband's noise set at Vermillion a few weeks earlier, because of course everybody's connected inside the city walls.

Because everything was real and we were all our truest selves.

    "What are you working on?" asked the person sitting across from me.

    "I haven't written a damn word," I said.

    "That's okay," he said, adding a genuine laugh. Because everything was real and we were all our truest selves. Like the true-est Columbia River or when you close the door after work and fall on the floor and for the first time in eight hours you become who you really are. Some say that a human laughing means a soul in bliss, and damned if that doesn't happen often enough.

    But there wasn't time to analyze. Tea Time ain't for introspection, it's for existing. Three new people walked through the door who nobody had met before, and without saying a word we were all on the same page, like old friends. They introduced themselves and I went out of my way to remember their names.

    While that happened I switched to a shorter stool, fearing that my back might turn people away if it were the first thing anyone saw, but it didn't matter. None of my over-analyzing regretful self-deprecating bullshit mattered. The only thing that mattered was paint, wheat, the ocean and maybe the horizon (horizon optional).

The Blue Cone is an endless run-on sentence where energy prevails.

    Someone sat in my old seat. He couldn't hold it inside any longer and needed to talk about Beyonce. At the same time Carolyn flew by with a giggle before disappearing around a corner. And before any of us knew it we were all talking about Beyonce, using kind words that perhaps you might recognize. And I found myself raising Beyonce instead of punching her down. I'd never experienced a conversation like that in my entire life.

    You already know that the worst feeling in the world is the lonely morning feeling waking-up after a house party. The people are gone, the music is off. Sunshine rays through the blinds. It's you on the floor and a hundred stale bottles. That doesn't happen at the Blue Cone. There is no punctuation, no end point, no party over. The Blue Cone is an endless run-on sentence where energy prevails.

    If you'll let me, I'd like to go back further.

    I remember, once, laying awake through the night in a cold water flat in Ellensburg while old Kate slept in the next room. "The Background" played on repeat throughout the entire night, which was the only way she could fall - and stay - asleep in those days.

    A creek ran through an aqueduct below the apartment and merged with the canal outside our window. That apartment was freezing all the time but when I think of those times I don't recall ever being cold. What I remember is energy.

Good people following their passions and their goal is art.

    She was six months outta hell and another six months away from total disaster. It was a dark time in both of our lives, yet I always felt surrounded by the glow of potential energy. Energy all the time. It never seemed like an end or a middle. It felt like a beginning. The origin of something bigger than either of us. Energy.

    That's the feeling I get with the artists at Blue Cone. Good people following their passions and their goal is art. And remember, art is for everybody. If art doesn't hit the streets and the fields and the desert then what's the point? Crayons with a voice is art, crayons from the bank is a black hole.

    We said goodbye at the end of the evening, and it was the real goodbye. The honest farewell, not the one for protocol. It was a few hours where we weren't required to play our characters.

    It happens on Tuesday. Every Tuesday from now until the end of time because energy cannot be created or destroyed, or so they say.