MODEL BEHAVIOR

I was having coffee at Peet’s Algonquin-like round table when a woman approached, put her hand on my shoulder, and said, “You’ve got the look I’ve been searching for.”

I recognized her as the celebrated photographer, Elizabeth Kuball. “I do?” I said, beaming. Nobody’d ever told me I had the look before. Brad Pitt has the look and so does George Clooney, but me? Once, in high school, a girl told me I looked like her grandfather’s spaniel, and another time, while walking on Haley street, a girl with a pronounced Adam’s apple told me I looked like I needed a date, but... “What look is that?” I asked.

“Gypsum miner.” Elizabeth said.

“Gypsy whiner?”

She looked at me through the lens of her camera and handed me her card. “Can you be at my studio around nine o’clock tomorrow morning?”

My eyes got as big as flashbulbs. “Did Ansel Adams poop in the woods?”

“Just wear a dark tee shirt,” she said, hustling out the door with her hot chocolate.

Just wear a dark tee shirt? “What about pants?” I yelled, but I guess she didn’t hear me.

I turned to my friends Shelly Lowenkopf and Jocelyn Kremer. “Do gypsy whiners wear pants?”

The next morning she met me at the door of her studio. “Thanks for coming,” she said. “And only an hour early.”

“I was a little nervous,” I said. “I’m not sure about this modeling stuff. Was I supposed to wear pants?”

I saw confusion in her eyes, or maybe it was panic. “Coffee?” she asked, taking something out of her purse that looked like Binaca, or possibly pepper spray.

“No, thanks. I wasn’t sure about make-up either.”

She stuck a hard hat on my head and handed me a box of cornstarch. “Just smear some of this on your face. It’s a head shot.”

“So, the pants?”

“Look, Tim, is it? If you’d feel more at ease without pants, go right ahead. Some people work better without pants – television news anchors, I hear, and wookies. If it’s all the same to you, I’m going to leave mine on.”

“Oh, no...I mean, yeah, sure. I didn’t mean...is this enough cornstarch?”

“Yeah, that’s perfect.” She looked at me through the lens of her camera. “Now, lean your head back and close your eyes.”

“Like this?”

I heard a few clicks. “Try to look exhausted, Jed. You just came out of a gypsum mine after a double shift.”

Good, I thought, a little motivation. It was only 8:15 in the morning, so exhaustion might be a stretch, but professionals rise to the occasion. I tried to imagine it was 8:15 at night.

Elizabeth sighed. “I said exhausted, not drunk.”

“Sorry.” Talentless celebrities exhaust me, so I thought of Paris Hilton.

“Good,” Elizabeth said. Click. “Great.” Click. “Excellent.” Click. “Perfect.” Click.

In my motivation fantasy Paris Hilton’s Chihuahua took a wiz in her Mercedes.

“Don’t smile, Tom! One more. Good, we’re done.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it. Write your address on that pad and I’ll send you compensation.”

I wrote down my name too, just in case. “If you ever need me again, don’t hesitate.”

She held me at arm’s length, smiled and guided me to the door. “Yeah, if I ever get a wookie anchorman gig, you’ll be the first.”

I stopped off for a breakfast burrito at Lito’s to celebrate. It took me awhile to realize why everyone was staring at me. It’d slipped my mind, and Elizabeth had neglected to remind me, to wash the cornstarch off my face. “I’m a model,” I said to the cashier, grabbing a napkin from the counter. “I’m coming from a photo shoot.”

“Si,” she said, giggling. “Wookie?”

On the way home I considered the possibilities of a new career at 53. I might be the Grandma Moses of modeling. Next time I could be a wildcat oil driller, a chimney sweep or a Village Person. Do they wear pants?

From what I hear, I’d fit into the modeling community better if I developed a drug habit. Maybe I could start snorting my ginkgo biloba and smoking my glucosamine sulfate. And, I guess to be a super model I’d have to develop an eating disorder, or, to be more specific, I’d have to do a complete reversal from the overeating disorder I already have. Or, I could stay the way I am and break down some barriers – become a one-name oversized phenomenon. Flabio.

Oh, to dream.