FROM THE STREET (The Art of Consumption)

Not all the older people were like this. I was particularly impressed by one gentleman who strolled the aisles alone with arms behind his back and pants around his belly. He stood over my booth for some time, silently perusing what CL had to offer. He took a single flyer, placed it in his breast pocket, and left without making up some excuse of how his grandkids would love to know more about Creative Lusting (CL's singles/dating site).

For me, the coolest booth belonged to the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, which featured a baby screech owl named Skeeter that sat on a perch and looked around with wide eyes. As I fawned over the owl, one of the volunteers explained how the group rescued all kinds of birds, including common ones like crows. She told me how one of their crows could talk. I inquired as to what this dark messenger of the sky had to tell us, and apparently, all it can say to its human custodians is, "Go away."

Nova 535

"We're building a house just to fit Theo's art," Mike Terrana confessed Saturday at Theo Wujcik and Jay Giroux's art opening at St. Petersburg's Nova 535.

Like living green, buying fine art is still very much reserved for a certain class of people. Terrana answered more than a few questions I had about Wujcik's art. Walking into the art lounge, I was dwarfed by Wujcik's mammoth works (most of which were roughly 10 feet by 10 feet). I couldn't help but wonder who in the world had a wall big enough to hang them on and if anyone who could afford to buy such masterworks would want to eat breakfast each morning beneath a giant image of Elton John in drag holding a Kung Fu pose or an Asian man dressed in a muscle-suit of raw meat. Terrana claimed to have an entire storage space filled with Wujcik's work that he couldn't wait to put up.

Jay Giroux's art was about half the size of Wujcik's but still massive and impressive. Unlike Wujcik, who focused on a few images, most of Giroux's current pieces are a blend of imagery, graphic styles and colors. His is the work modern art imposters strive to duplicate. Although the ideas and emotional representations of Giroux's pieces may be lost on an art idiot like me, his mastery of styles from pop-art and tattoo-style illustration to more photo-realistic depictions is evident.

The place was overloaded with beautiful works and beautiful people, and there was even more risqué art in the Nova bathrooms. The only art in my bathroom is the dog-eared Playboy hidden atop a stack of towels. My measure of art is more one of utilitarianism than beauty. I judge art based first on price, preferably free, and then on the work's ability to conceal various imperfections and holes that plague my efficiency's walls. I came to this understanding of art through my former roommate Austin, who was in art school back in

Texas. At the end of each semester he'd raid the school's dumpsters for unfinished student works that were discarded. Some of these he'd hang, others he'd finish and turn in as his own work, and still other's he'd turn into shelving units. This gave a radically new meaning to the term "found art." What I didn't realize at the time was that Austin was on the forefront of a new "green" art aesthetic. Why waste time, money, material and energy creating new works when you can piece together masterpieces, and possibly even houses, from art-school garbage.

E-mail Alfie at [email protected]

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Preventing waste was a major theme at the Pinellas Living Green Expo, held last Saturday and Sunday at the Harborview Center in downtown Clearwater. Many of the vendors featured home construction materials that reduce energy waste: thicker windows, foam insulation and low-flow toilets. The current dilemma with going green is that one must purchase more products to be green, and in doing so, generate more waste. This is just a consequence of the movement, being relatively new, and one that is still something of a status symbol for those who can afford to buy hybrids or to build new "green" houses. With this said, I was surprised that the majority of expo attendants were regular folks looking for tricks to save money on their energy bills. There were a few hardcore idealists of the dreadlocked and patchouli variety, aging hippies with gray pony tails, and yuppies uniformed in bicycling spandex, helmets, sunglasses and fanny packs, but they were the minority.


One major exception to this good natured crowd were the prize-whoring elderly, dead set on loading free garb in their complementary cloth, grocery sacks. Those who were less agile (or couldn't simply swipe promo items and run) delivered long oratories about how they loved CL (mostly because it is free) as their justification for leaving the booth with five promotional ball point pens. At times I felt like I was in a Charlie Brown comic strip, sitting at a booth labeled, "the doctor is in." More than a few told me dramatic sob stories before explaining why they needed an entire stack of temporary tattoos. I tried to scare them away with CL's latest cover, featuring a pair of pink bumper-balls hanging below a license plate that read "Nutz 2 U," but they were too blinded by the promise of prizes to be swayed by nuts.

"I need four because I have four grandchildren," a granny in an electric scooter told me as she took four miniature beer mugs from my table.

Did she even have grandchildren? Would she use the mugs to sort her collection of sugar packets from various fast food joints despite the fact that she's diabetic? I can't begin to fathom how excited her grandchildren will be next Christmas when they get matching miniature beer mugs from Grandma. What kills me is that these prize-whores horde promo items like treasure, with the intent of passing it on to their relatives. The reality is that when these pack rats keel over, their heirs will just throw away all the coffee cans full of free pencils and drawers full of stress balls. Perhaps some sort of entrance fee, say the price of bus fare or a pint of blood, would discourage these prize hunters. Or perhaps next year I could set up a booth on how to keep your grandparents from collecting promo garb like Halloween candy. Maybe I'll give away handcuffs or tazers.

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