In April 2012, Evan Allgood completed a twenty-five-day residency at the Millay Colony for Artists in Austerlitz, NY. Allgood kept a diary for the duration of his stay, and after months of prodding from Trop editor-in-chief Tom Dibblee, agreed to reproduce the diary in the magazine. For historical accuracy, none of Allgood’s entries have been edited or corrected.
If you’re wondering what artist camp is like, it’s kind of like The Real World only instead of partying all the time, people take themselves too serious. Also there are no cameras because writers are a real rough looking bunch and who would want to watch them get naked and kiss in a hot tub? Not that there is a hot tub here in Auschwitz.
So basically artist camp is when seven strangers are picked to live in a barn where they can work on their art without having to deal with their jobs or families or any of that annoying stuff that swats away their dreams like a Space Jam monster swatting a basketball. Most artists’ art is writing, but some artists like to draw or play violin or make sculptures out of all the rusty junk and twisty logs they can find. Artist camp is free if you can get in, and I ALWAYS get in even though I don’t even have a job swatting my dream, just my parents who are always messing with the thermostat in our house so I can’t get anything done because I always have to fix it, because they do AC at night and heat in the day-time, it’s like their bodies are opposite to the rest of humans. Maybe my parents are cold blooded like the dinosaurs. Maybe I’m part dinosaur, that would explain why I’m so tall and my skin is so dry and no one understands me.
Anyway the first day of artist camp is always Orientation, which if you’re thinking has something to do with ninjas or samurais you’re totally wrong so don’t get your hopes up because I thought the same thing the first year and it has NOTHING!!! to do with those guys, or even karate or dragons. Orientation should really be called “The Rundown” because besides the fact that that movie is awesome, The Rundown is less syllables than Orientation and I always learned to use the least syllables possible whenever possible. That’s one of George Orville’s rules and he invented popcorn so it must be a pretty good one if you ask me.
So the first day is The Rundown when Kelly who runs the colony gives you a tour and tells you the rules and all that stuff. The main rule is to not bug the other artists when they are in their studios because they’re working or pretending to work or THINKING about working and trust me, they get real mad if you pop in and ask if they want to go halvesies on a case of Capri Sun. So shut up and leave the artists alone during the day but at night you have to eat tofu with them and let them talk about all the fat stupid books they’ve read, those are the only rules really.
The Rundown is also a tour of the Millay Colony which is a pretty nice place in Auschwitz with an old barn and a newer building and some woods and stuff. Kelly always makes a big deal about ticks but come on, I’ve been coming here for years and I never got bit by a tick once, you can’t expect me to roll my socks over my jeans and look like a total square, especially not with girls around.
Anyway Edna Millay was a crazy poet who used to live here and you can see her old house which was cool until she kept getting drunk and burning it down. That’s why I don’t drink, it always sounds fun until something catches on fire. Also I’m allergic to alcohol, and penicillin and peanuts and bees, and some other stuff too. Don’t worry I have like ten bracelets on and I talk about my allergies all the time so people won’t try to give me peanut M&Ms or regular M&Ms or anything. I’m allergic to chocolate too but it’s no big deal. The penicillin one is hardest because I get sick a lot but THIS IS THE YEAR I DON’T GET SICK AT ARTIST CAMP!!! I just knocked on this wood table real hard and for a long time and one of the other artists sighed real loud like I distracted him, like anyone works on the first day, give me a break Abraham.
Dinner the first night is really just a excuse for everyone to drink a bunch of wine and talk about themselves with their big red mouths, which is pretty much the biggest most annoying tradition at artist camp. The only good thing is since they love to talk about themselves so much, I already I have a pretty good idea who all these crazy artists are, so here are my first impressions which are NEVER wrong:
-Abraham is a brown-haired fiction and non-fiction writer with horny glasses from New York. He is in his forties and has already published a buncha books and essays and stuff so I’m surprised he could fit his fat head through the doorway. Everyone else seems to recognize him and they are all fawning over him like he was Ryan Reynolds or something but personally I never heard of him and I’m not impressed. Abraham is just average height.
-Lennon is a brown-haired poet with horny glasses from Brooklyn. (Yeah pretty much everyone here either has glasses or is from New York or both, except me, I’m normal.) He is way younger and skinnier than Abraham but seems just as full of himself. He is kinda short and his jeans look like they were painted on, I don’t know how his junk hasn’t been smooshed into oblivion. His hair is kind of long and swept to the side so I would say maybe Lennon is a girl, but then how do you explain the huge mustache?
-Heather is a yellow-haired artist with round glasses from Vermont. I think she is in her thirties and she seems nice but also pretty spacy, I don’t know what the heck she is talking about half the time. I tried to talk to her about basketball and she went off on some tangent about how the arc of a shot “mirrors the arc of our lives,” and I was like come on man the Wizards are 12-41, give it a rest. I am obviously a creative person too but that doesn’t make me some kind of social idiot. Anyway Heather is short and she likes to make art out of crap she finds on the ground, that’s why I said that thing earlier.
-Agnes is a gray-haired poet (she must be like sixty) from GERMANYYYY, WHOOOOA!!! who has published some poetry books. She has a little accent but her English seems real good. I’m afraid because Agnes is an older lady that she will feel like she has to mother us or something, but I am twenty-seven and a half and I can take care of myself pretty much all the time, I just need someone to cook and clean for me and do dishes and laundry and stuff like that. Agnes is above average height, especially for a girl.
-Jason is a weird black-haired guy in his thirties who “doesn’t like labels” and is “a bit of a nomad,” whatever the heck that means. He’s probably from the suburbs and writes poetry like everybody else. Jason wears a lot of dark clothes, I guess to match his hair and general outlook on things. If anyone at camp gets murdered, everyone will look at Jason like, “JASON?” And he will probably hang his head all guilty, like, “Yeah, ya got me,” assuming he hasn’t already fled the colony/state. Jason is average height for a boy, I think he might be Spanish or something.
-Laurel is AWESOME. She is short and gay with short sandy brown hair. Laurel is from San Francisco, she is the COOLEST and already my best friend at artist camp because we’re both in the main building and she doesn’t give me funny looks like the rest of the artists, like it must be some mistake that I got in. (It ISN’T!!!) We are the only normal people here. Laurel is a drawer, I looked at her web site and it is pretty sweet, she draws people by hand in black and white. Maybe this is racist or something but judging by her style choices and attitude Laurel seems like the kind of person who would be friends with my sister Amy who is also gay in San Francisco. But Amy always gets mad when I act like all gay people know each other, so I probably won’t say anything.
So those are the other artists, some of them might not be short, just average but almost everyone looks short to me because I am 6’3″ so that is my own personal perspective.
You are probably wondering what the main building is since earlier I said that all seven people live in a barn, but I am a writer and that just sounded better so I fudged the facts a little which is what good writers always do so they can make a better story. Honestly Diary I could tell you I was a pilot like my dad and I flew an F-16 to Auschwitz and parked it in the field and you would never know the difference because you are just a book for me to stick stories in. I’m sorry if that’s upsetting but it’s the truth, I am a storyteller and you are my vessel.
Anyway the way Millay REALLY works is four artists live in the barn and three artists in the main building, which is newer with better heat and AC (air conditioning) and internet and stuff. The main building is also where people eat and hang out and do laundry. Laurel, Abraham and me are in the main building and the other four are in the barn, which is old and cold. (Trust me I’ve had to stay in it before, and there are mice.) I am sooooo happy I didn’t get stuck with any of the poets. Laurel and I get along great and Abraham mostly ignores me so I think this living arrangement will work out great.
I guess I am in a better mood than most years because this is the first time it seems like I actually have a friend at artist camp, so I hope Laurel doesn’t secretly hate me because then this feeling will go away and I will feel like I got kicked in the stomach.
Thanks for listening, goodnight Diary.
Evan Allgood's work has appeared in McSweeney's, The Millions, LA Review of Books, The Toast, and The Billfold. He lives in Brooklyn and contributes regularly to Paste. Follow and maybe later unfollow him on Twitter @evoooooooooooo.