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Aural Report

CAP's Art for Life auction at Montgomery Park
Fund-raising for AIDS, Portland style
by Kurt Dahlke

t Cascade AIDS Project's annual Art for Life auction, the theme is Carnevalesco, and people are presumptively supposed to get in the spirit of Brazil's huge festival.

So where are the muggings? Where are the swarthy vomiting Latinos? Where are the pasty tourists losing their wallets and their minds? Whence the thong bikinis and nudity?

Come to think of it, I'm glad this event is Portland-style.

Art For Life: Drinks, free apps and bargain-priced art from 250 regional artists.

On the other hand, where similarities between the South American festivities and last month's Portland art auction exist, they are striking. If you're no good maneuvering through a swelling crowd of drunks, forget it. Because the event is contracted from last year's breathing-friendly three floors to one – with a tent outside for the live auction – space is at a premium.

Glitterati, literati and all other kinds of "ati" cram onto the main floor of the Montgomery Park building to swill drinks, scarf down free apps from 30 great restaurants and caterers and bid on bargain-priced art from 250 regional artists (including your humble scribe).

Dodging opportunities to schmooze (not my strong point), I long for earlier in the evening, sipping an Imperial pint with my lovely wife in the tiny yet uncrowded M Bar, possibly Portland's cutest watering hole. M Bar closely approximates tiny, hyper-exclusive five-seater bars in Tokyo's Golden Gai. And if you ever want to find me, look to the M Bar – because if I'm not there, I want to be.

Advice for next year: Dress dark, practice your pivot and bid on instinct.

So what about Carnevalesco? Well, some advice for next year: Dress dark, practice your pivot and bid on instinct because you'll never be able to contemplate the art.

On the plus side, it's for a good cause. As we may have forgotten, AIDS is a deadly, presently incurable disease that's on the rise due to pathetic human apathy. Thank heavens there are groups like CAP to keep the issue in the spotlight, spend countless hours throwing parties like this and using sympathetic folks to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to battle the disease.

Montgomery Park plaza: Maybe it's time to find the event a new venue.

In this case, compassionate artists donate work for collectors to bid on, restaurants donate food for bidders to graze on, bands donate music for people to groove on and, hopefully, a whole lot of money is gathered to fund HIV services, housing, education and advocacy in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

Yes and maybe the art is all a little bit safe. And one begins to feel guilty and sleazy wolfing down as many hors d'oeuvres as one can grab.

But the real concern (if just for the night) is this: If you're going to try to weave your way down a tight hallway, ostensibly to look at art, with a glass of wine in your hand, who is to blame when you spill it on your $200 shirt? Does one blame the offending elbow that delivered the blow? Or the knucklehead who saw the gauntlet and thought to drunkenly saunter down with a full goblet of Pinot?

Why does everyone congregate in the halls to chat, anyway? Why not say: I'd love to chat, let's sashay to an open area, shall we? I guess it's the lingering caveman urge to huddle in a cave, out of sight of the saber-tooth tigers.

Whatever the case, lots of stuff is bid upon – with perhaps the real looking-at-art done before things get too crowded. Or maybe all one really needs is one quick hit, either of the art or the Pinot, to know what's what.

Thank heavens: CAP keeps HIV in the spotlight.

But after two years (to my knowledge) of art auctioning at the Montgomery Park plaza, it might be time to find a new venue for the event.

Keep things interesting, give the dopes who'd like to stand and stare at a piece before plunking down hundreds or thousands of dollars half a chance and maybe five feet of remove.

Finally, nothing but thanks to everyone who sweats to put on this event – and who sweat year-round to keep up the good work of CAP.

I'll be there next year, God willing. I hope to see you there, too.

E-mail Kurt at orangeandorange@msn.com, and don't miss his previous reports.

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