Carla’s painting of George Gerber

The man in the painting was not ‘merely dead’… but as the coroner in The Wizard of Oz once described it, he was ‘really most sincerely dead.’

However being deceased didn’t suit George Gerber. And it didn’t last long.

By all accounts George was a sociable man, a vibrant man, something of a character. He had moved from New York City at some point and wore a Yankee’s hat to prove it. He loved baseball and its traditions. “Now it’s just ‘money ball,’” he complained.

The man who lived alone in a balconied condo building within easy distance of the coffee shop had spent his working years at the Internal Revenue Service. We can assume that Agent Gerber was very good at what he did.

George kept up with the papers each day and happened to have a face the Chicago readers of Nelson Algren or Studs Terkel would find comforting. No one recalls any mention of a wife or children.

The portrait that Carla Hayden painted is sizable. She plied acrylic washes until she found the whimsy and panache of the man she enjoyed. When the piece was unveiled its subject was delighted, predicting that it would end up at the Art Institute.

After George left this earth the owners of the Brothers K, Brian and John Kim, afforded the work a position of honor near the double-urn brewing machine where, as you can see, George remains very much alive.

First-shift baristas report the hint of a frown on that painted face during pre-dawn hours. But it disappears as soon as the Brazilian, Papua New Guinean or Guatemalan coffee is brewed and George breathes in the caffeine he needs to face the day.

Here’s Carla’s artistic statement…

She recited it at the unveiling of the portrait in 2006. George was there.

Architectural Weave

The human map is an architectural weave
It is a golden stream
Neon signs blinking through the night
an oasis in the heart
angels arc
It lies sweetly in time
It lies sweetly in time

The human map is a song for a loon
a thunderbolt on the line
a salty soup
It sounds like a bell
it can even look like hell
It lies sweetly in time
It lies sweetly in time

The human map is a secret whisper dancing on your lips
A toast to the sky
soft moss sneaking and creeping along the forest floor
it is the hum and rattle of a city bus door
A wink at the moon
It lies sweetly in time
It lies sweetly in time

The human map is a voice skittering along at twilight
It is the wine we drink
it is the color of the rain
It is the wine we drink
it is the color of the rain
A conduit to the universe
the whistlers breath on a butterfly’s wing

The human map is a truth
that lies sweetly in time
It lies sweetly in time

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3 Comments

  1. Randy Gaynes

    Kudos on the commentary, the man who inspired it and the artist who gave him a place of honor watching over the caffeine intelligentsia at Brothers K. Wonderful piece!!

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