Abandoning Your Soul


  • My friend Apollonia is an obsessive


  • My friend Apollonia is an artist


  • My friend Apollonia is a business analyst



Apollonia is obsessive


Her husband must sleep in a separate bed because he “disarranges” the blankets while sleeping.


For my birthday dinner, Apollonia offered to host a party at her house.  Though she made the meal, I wanted to make the dessert myself.  As I was preparing the dish, Apollonia was 18 inches behind me at all times, carrying a dust rag and sponge.  Every time I picked up a bowl, she wiped the newly-empty counter area.  When I put the skillet on the stovetop and turned on the heat, she checked the heat and minutely adjusted the gas flame.  Any time the sherry, while heating on the burner, hissed and steamed, Apollonia immediately wiped the stove top.  When I arranged the chopped pistachios on top of the apricots soaked in sherry stuffed with crème fraiche, Apollonia re-arranged the pistachios so they would be distributed in a more pleasing manner.


I can’t do Saturday Fun Stuff with Apollonia till the afternoon because if she doesn’t sweep the garage at 8:00 pick up her dry-cleaning at 9:00 and have her nails done at 10:00 she won’t be able to function.


When she parks her car, she measures the space between the passenger door and the garage wall with a small tape measure she keeps in the glove box; if the space isn’t between 17 and 19 inches, she backs out and re-parks.


There is a phone in each room of Apollonia’s home, including each bathroom.  Each of her friends is assigned a unique ring tone for each different phone.  Mine are “Psycho Killer” for her bedroom, “I Can’t Take My Eyes off of You” for her husband’s bedroom, “Out of My Head” for the guest bedroom, “You Drive Me Crazy” for the master bath, “Party Like It’s 1999” for her husband’s bath…you get the idea.  And, since 18 is a magic number for Apollonia, 17 of her other friends each have 18 ring tones, one for each room.


Apollonia’s 250 dress blouses (one for each Monday through Friday of the 50 weeks of the year (2 weeks for vacation)) are hung 1/2 inch apart on 250 identical white tubular plastic hangers, organized by color…red, reddish-orange, orange, yellow, yellowish-green, green, greenish-blue, blue-ish green, blue, indigo, violet…and not only that…there are 3 rows of blouses, each with the ROYGBIV scheme: the top row for tints, the next row for saturated pure colors and the third row for shaded colors.  Blacks, whites and grays are in a separate closet.  Browns do not exist in this scheme.



Apollonia is an artist


When Apollonia was in high school, she created an installation piece.  Onto a black, shellacked cork-board, she mounted 3,240,000 identical rabbit turds in a precise 1800 by 1800 grid.  1800 rows by 1800 columns.  It took her 6 months to collect the rabbit turds and 4 months to finish the piece, working 18 hours per day.  The sheer audacity of this piece takes one’s breath away.  As you walk around the piece, the rows–visual waves–flow and change.  It looks different from every angle, from each height (if you stoop, squat or tilt your head while you view it,) from any distance.  It is an endlessly morphing, engaging, artistic tribute to obsessiveness.  It soothes, it disturbs, it fascinates, it makes one smile.  It disturbs.  Disturbs.  Fascinates.


With this piece, Apollonia won a scholarship to École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris.



Apollonia is a business analyst


With that same obsessive brain, Apollonia considered the scholarship offer and asked herself, “Do I want to be a starving artist?  What if I can’t make a living?  What if the critics won’t like me?  How will I get health care if I don’t make enough money?  What if I want a big house and expensive crystal?  What if I want to collect miniature pine needle baskets and spend lots of money on that habit?  What will happen when I get old and lose my talent or the public doesn’t like my style any more?  What is art?  What is meaning?  How do I know what’s good?  Must art have meaning?  What if I get arthritis?  Do I want to end up like my older sister, living off Mom?  How will I meet a man if I don’t have a dependable income and I will have to depend on the man and then he will want to boss me around because he makes more money?  Can artists afford organic groceries?  Is a 10 year old car that is affordable as good as a modern car which costs more money but has front and side air bags?  How much will rent cost when I am an old lady?  What if I get bored with installation pieces?  Do I want to be critically acclaimed or commercially successful?  What is success?  What is good art?  How much money can an artist make?  What if I am no good?  Is this a stable career path?


She instead attended Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.


Today she is a retail business analyst.  With thousands of tiny hidden video cameras she collects statistics about store visits: where each customer walked, where they looked, what they touched, how long they lingered, what they eventually bought .  If a customer bought a chemise, Apollonia’s cameras show if she started at shoes what path she took to end up at lingerie; but if she started at handbags, what different path she took to arrive at lingerie.  Apollonia goes to her office and views rows and columns of numbers numbers numbers numbers; prepares summary reports on traffic and demographics and purchases.  She collects more numbers numbers numbers.


She has a big house with a sauna, steam room, swimming pool with a retracting glass roof, tennis court in the back, her own media room, a wine cellar and her own bowling alley in the basement.


She hates her job.


Apollonia tried to paint in her “off hours.”  Her obsessive artistic energy had been sucked out of her by the columns of numbers, so she painted in broad strokes.  No detail.  Large paintings with washed-out colors.  Huge brushes—brushes used for house painting.  No boundaries, no lines, imprecise swashes of fluffy color.  Not disturbing.


I, too, am an artist


When I was commissioned to do a music video, I reviewed my raw footage and discovered, embedded bit by bit into a long concert, an intense sexual attraction between two of the band members.  I cut the music video together in a way that intensified the love story I had found.  I edited the bits of disconnected frames; I stitched them into a story arc.  I made the love story into the main theme of the music video.


It was not the piece I had been commissioned to do: the band had asked for a straight document of the concert.  However, it was the story my actor’s eyes found and it was the story I told.


When I showed the rough cut to Apollonia, she said, “Don’t tell that story.  What if they don’t like it?  What if they are married to other people and are keeping their affair secret?  What if you are wrong?  Just do what they asked—a straight documentary shoot.”


I cried for her.


Today, Apollonia collects miniature horses each carved from a single tagua nut.


  • My friend Apollonia is obsessive


  • My friend Apollonia is an artist


  • My friend Apollonia, unfortunately, is a retail business analyst

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