Another of the galleries Ed visited frequently was AnythinGoes. True to its name a gallery-goer never knew what might be displayed. The most eclectic collections of anything that could be considered artistic, in the very broadest sense, often ended up on display. It could be whatever caught the owner's fancy, from Objets Trouves – Found Objects or Readymade, to classic realism, humorous, tongue-in-cheek assemblages, or “cutting edge” offerings none of the other galleries on the row would consider.
The gallery was an honest reflection of the whimsical tastes of the owner, Harmon Dolly, a character of the first order. Eccentric was an understatement, and that was one of the reasons Ed Lear had become a visitor to the gallery, had gotten to know Harmon and become a friend. Only friends addressed him by his Christian name. Everyone else knew him by the name he had adopted for business purposes. It was on his business card along with his picture. He had assumed it to amuse, or outrage; knowing some would take it one way and some the other. It was pretty much an accurate mirror of the exhibitions he mounted in his gallery. A couple owners of other galleries, felt it diminished the dignity of the area but had to admit the number of walk-throughs his quirky offerings drew was impressive.
To all but close friends, Harmon's other persona was Salvador Dolly. He had nurtured a mustache like his “almost” namesake's and kept it carefully waxed and upturned in a “have-a-good-day” half circle that matched his welcoming smile. That was the photo he used on his business cards and any advertising he bought to advertise the gallery. In the gallery, he usually wore a waistcoat so he could carry a pocket watch and watch fob. He often pulled it out whenever there were gallery goers present. They usually did another double-take to match their surprise on first seeing him when he welcomed them to the gallery. He'd had his pocket piece bent to resemble Dali's iconic drooping watch image. It no longer told the time, but it told a lot about Harmon. It gave him another chance to chat with visitors because Harmon liked people. In a tourist town such as Ringland, he was a character visitors remembered - a memory they carried home and talked about. And it increased business. He'd told Ed he didn't care if his gallery never turned a profit as long as it was fun.
Another reason Ed liked the owner and the gallery was the resident, all black, gallery cat named Kaspar. He had been named after the famous feline of the Savoy Hotel on the Strand in London. That Kaspar was, and is, a two-foot-high wooden statue of a cat, who has joined every dinner party of thirteen guests since 1927 to ward off bad luck. Kaspar had once been cat-napped as a prank during WWII, and it took the influence of Winston Churchill to have it returned. Impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte built the luxurious hostelry in 1889 with profits from his Gilbert and Sullivan operas. On Gallery Walk nights Harmon, aka Salvador, invariably had Gilbert and Sullivan playing for the added enjoyment of visitors.
Harmon was a dedicated cat lover, and he kept a corner of the gallery for an ever-changing exhibition of cat-related art. That corner was where AnythinGoes Kaspar had his bed, a work of art in its own right. His owner had commissioned one of the exceptional, artistic, craftsmen whose work he had exhibited to build a magnificent couch for Kaspar. He'd paid more than $2,000 for it, claimed it was the most expensive cat bed in the world and submitted it to Guinness World Records. “Gotta win,” Harmon said, “how many other competitors can there be?”
Zen and Zoe especially liked the gallery because, after a period of “get to know you” apprehension, Kaspar welcomed them to the gallery, as he did human visitors. He even allowed them into his cat bed castle, and the three sometimes curled up together to get away when the gallery was busy.
Cat portraits were a specialty for Harmon, and he regularly showed work by a number of excellent animal artists. 15% of any sale made from the KittyKorner went to a local cat rescue organization. He featured photos of adoptable cats and regularly assisted in finding good homes for unwanted kittens.
Kip Mason knew Harmon, called him by his Christian name because they became friends soon after AnythinGoes had opened. Ed and Candace, Zen and Zoe were often together for lunch or when they visited on Gallery Walks.
When Webster Lowe became Director of the Ringland Collection of Fine Art and Antiquities, met Ed and Kip, they soon made him part of their group. Candace met Harmon soon after the gallery began to make a name for itself as a unique place to visit, and she had written features for The Daily Brush about notable or kooky exhibitions he arranged.
Many of the other gallery owners thought Harmon's antics as Salvador Dolly were a sophisticated marketing technique rather than a manifestation of his personality. It may have been both.
Harmon always claimed, “I'm just an ol' Florida Cracker like my Pappy and Granpappy.” There was a lot of truth to that. His family was native Floridians, generations back. His Great Granpappy was in the Ringland area even before Joseph “Moneybags” Ringland had built his empire on cheap land.
And another of Harmon's statements was true, “I don't care if the gallery never turns a profit as long as it's fun.” It didn't have to. His Greatgrandpappy bought land on Hermosa Key when the only people interested in living there were eking out a few dollars as Mullet fishermen to supplement subsistence farming. He still owned a house there, one of the few ancient, wooden structures not gobbled up by the mansion builders. He had sold off the Gulf side of the property for what must have been millions, although he kept an easement to the magnificent beach. He had, of course, improved the old house, very comfortable and modern inside, but still one of the least impressive, almost dowdy by comparison, along the eight-mile stretch of the key. His neighbors on each side and across the road were unbelievable castles.
Ed had asked him, “Why don't you built something to match your neighbors? You could do it.”
Harmon had just laughed, “What would an ol' Florida Cracker like me do in a place like that 'un? I'd have ta get to know mah neighbors. If I got invited in, I wouldn' know how to act right. Never learned to stick out mah pinkie when I'm drinkin' tea. That's for smart folks like you.” He was putting on an act for the amusement of his friends, of course.
Then he added,”Ed, you know I don't need that to feel comfortable. My old place is just fine. You've been in it; it's pretty nice to my eyes, and I can walk across the street to the beach and have every right to be there. The little cabana I have on my 30' is all I need to enjoy the view my neighbors, including the one I sold to, spent millions and millions for. And I've got a great view of the Intracoastal out the back of my humble abode, too.”
Candace winked at him, “Bet there's another reason you won't sell out, isn't there?”
“You've gotten to know me pretty good, haven't you lady?” he smiled. “I keep it that way just to bug 'em a little, kind of like for a couple of “nose-in-the-air” neighbors for AnythinGoes.”
Harmon's closest neighbor on the key was the fantastic mansion where Ed's Mr. Art conducted his monkey business. He never had to look at Harmon's modest home just diagonally across the road because the gorgeous high wall around his property blocked the view.
But Harmon's easement on the Gulf bordered the rickrack barrier marking the Mansion's north side. If he cared to, Harmon could wade a few feet into the warm water and see the full expanse of magnificent beachfront, the swimming pools and putting greens Ed had seen on his stroll with Archie “when things get messy” Anderson.
Harmon did have a major beef with the owners of the Mansion. It was one that gave him pain to talk about. He often brought home stray cats up for adoption to Hermosa just to help socialize them before they met their new owners. One pretty tabby caught his fancy and on a weekend, he had carried the friendly, older feline across the road to spend an afternoon with him as he sat in his cabana next to the rickrack barrier. Tabby had enjoyed the sand on the beach, sniffed at the incoming tide and decided it wasn't for her before jumping on to the stone barrier. Before Harmon could grab her, she disappeared onto the sacred turf of Mansion beachfront. Harmon wasn't as agile as he was when he enjoyed that beach with his parents as a child, and of course, the piled up stone wasn't there all those years ago.
“What happened then?” Ed asked.
“I ran to the water's edge so I could see where she might have gone. What I saw,” he started to sniffle, “I couldn't believe. I knew they had guard dogs on the property, mostly out just at night 'cause I'd heard 'em bark. While I watched Tabby turn as I called to her, one of the guards, I guess, opened a gate and let out one of the biggest, ugliest dogs I've ever seen. It was on a chain – a long one but it dragged behind him like it weighed nothing. He was on Tabby in a flash – just grabbed her in his jaws, threw her into the air and caught her in his jaws again. I had to look away. All I heard was Tabby scream once.”
“My God, how terrible!” Candace cried out, “What did you do?” Harmon was crying, “Nothing I could do. Just stood there in shock. The guard that let the dog out walked down where it was mangling Tabby's body. Made the beast drop her, and then picked her up by the tail, swung her around and threw her over the rickrack, so she landed at my feet. He was laughing and yelled something before he headed back up the beach. I don't know what he said 'cause it wasn't in English. But what it sounded like I still hear in my head – sounded like he yelled BOT BAWA COWCA! That was all.”
Candace was scribbling words on a scrap of paper as she thought they might spell out. She was thumbing her Blackberry. “I'll bet it's Russian. Bot Bawa Cowca – no that wouldn't be right for Russian. Probably K instead of C – вот ваша кошка. That's it. The SOB just yelled, 'Here's your cat.' - and threw it at your feet. What a despicable, horrid, thing to do!”
There were better times for Harmon and the cats he loved so much. Mollie Murray and little Sylvia visited Candace whenever Ed was there with Zen and Zoe. She played with the “caths” happily but teared up when Ed had to leave and take Zen and Zoe home.
“Oh Nana, ithn't there thum way I can have a puthycat of my own?” she'd sniffled. “You thed caths were spethial friends for good witches, and thum timeth helped catht spelths.”
Candace and Ed said almost together, “If your mother approves, we know how you can have you're very own kitty.”
Turning to Mollie,”Won't you ask her? If she says 'yes' we want to take you to visit a special friend of ours. He's close by, and he loves cats as much as Sylvia does.”
Candace had begun to learn a bit about Wiccans, and about the “Magick” they felt they could perform. She had an idea for a Feature story she might write as she researched Wicca. The amount of information on the Internet surprised her. Wicca was worldwide, and there were a number of Covens in the Ringland area. Many Wiccans were hesitant about admitting their practice, fearing discrimination. In 2001, there had been a massive survey done by the ARIS, American Religious Identification Survey, and updated in 2008. That study estimated there were 408,000 admitted adult Wiccans in the US and counting children of Wiccan families, 750,000 people, although the number was probably a good deal higher because many Neopagans were secretive about their involvement. She also learned cats, especially black cats, are very special to Wiccans. They are known as “familiars,” and the association of black cats with Halloween has Wiccan significance because All Hallows Eve is one of the four greater Sabbats, of the Wiccan/pagan year.
Harmon had no idea his all-black Kaspar might have been a familiar of witches, but he readily admitted his feline friend worked some kind of “magick” on visitors to the gallery. The art in KittyKorner held some sort of “spell” for the many cat lovers who made a point of visiting and buying. When Candace asked if he could find a kitten for a special little girl, he happily offered to help but cautioned finding a pure black one might be difficult on short notice.
Mollie and Sylvia's mother, both Wiccans, had asked especially for a black feline, but Harmon was not about to give up Kaspar. When Candace let Mollie know it might take a while to find one, she smiled, and replied, “Now, dearie, don't you worry about that, just leave it to me. There'll be one for Sylvia when you call your friend back tomorrow.”
That evening, Candace couldn't help hearing chanting coming from Mollie's unit. She didn't peek in, not wanting to know if a cat-chant had to be done naked. When she called Ed, to tell him about her conversation and what she was hearing, he kidded her. “Oh, go on Candace, help the ladies out, and join the group. With your pretty red hair and their gray hair you'd probably be the only one where 'collar and cuffs' match.”
“It's not naked that's keeping me out,” she shot back.”I'm just not into chanting tonight, but if you want to check out the cuffs, I'm ready for a little naked with you.” “Be there before the chanting stops,” was the answer she heard as the handset hit the cradle. He was, and he did. And it wasn't the sound of chanting coming from her condo if you had happened to walk by at the right time.
The next morning, when Candace called Harmon, he picked up the phone and blurted out excitedly, “You won't believe this. I've got the sleekest little, all black kitten I've ever seen. Just eight weeks old. Her fur almost shines and you ought to see these eyes. She'll cast a spell on you for sure. Kaspar wants to keep her, but if you and the little girl get here before we change our minds, she's ready to be adopted.”
Sylvia was almost beside herself with excitement when Candace picked her up with her Grandmother at lunch break from the paper. Ed met them at AnythinGoes because he wanted to watch and listen when their favorite child met her “puthycat.”
As soon as the door to the gallery opened Sylvia flew in. Ed scooped her up in his arms, gave her a kiss and said, “Sylvia, I want you to meet two friends of mine. The big one here, with the funny mustache, is Mr. Salvador, and he's holding a little friend you might just like, too.”
“Oh, Misthter Thalvador, thtith ith the nithest puthycat I've ever theen. Can I hold him?”
“Well, Sylvia he's really a she,” then pointing down at Kaspar, who joined the group, “Say hello to Kaspar. He's a boy.”
Sylvia kept her eyes fixed on the kitten, but knelt beside Kasper, stroked his back and heard him purr loudly at the welcome attention. “Heth a sthuper puthy, too. I thinth Kathpar isth a sthuper name. Can I thee the little one – can I hold him - her?
“Sylvia, You may more than hold her. She can be your very own cat – IF she likes you.”
The little girl was cuddling the kitten and feeling the tiny rough tongue on her cheek. “She thinkth I'm her mommy. She loveth me and I loveth her! Isth she really mine to keep? Nana theth she ith a spthechial cat because sheth all black all over. “
All of the adults were glowing at the little girl's happiness. Mollie, picked up both the child and the kitten, kissed the child and said to her. “Do you remember I told you yesterday afternoon you'd have your very own black cat today?”
“Oh yeth, Nana, you thed tho and you alwath thay whaths going to happen before it doth.”
he other adults looked at one another, with a “Did I hear that right” look on their faces.
“What are you going to name your cat, Sylvia?” Mr. Harmon asked.
“I wanth to call her Kasthpar, justht like yourths!”
He laughed, “But Sylvia, Kaspar is a boy's name.”
“Thath alright, Mithter Thalvador, I likth the name and she likth it, too. Her name is Kathpar Sthilvethter, justh like mine!”
“Well, I guess that settles it,” Mollie agreed.