Northport, June, 1983
Resort-town tabloid reporter Alex Perkins, 33 and most happy hanging out on Northport’s working waterfront, reluctantly covers local arts happenings. When he encounters an oddly attractive, bird’s nest-haired, young woman, putting up posters for a performance piece depicting her bikinied-self striding down a beach, his editor, Steve Towle, assigns Alex to it – presuming he will return with a few decent skin shots for the next week’s cover. Fond of quoting Joseph Goebbels’ “Every time I hear the word culture I reach for my revolver,” Steve’s primary concerns aren’t artistic.
Alex, arriving late, finds Lucinda – naked but for a painted-on black bikini and the words, “This Is Not My Bathing Suit” lettered on her torso – beset by outraged middle-American beach-goers. Arrest follows when the perpetrator refuses to settle for just a warning. To her, this is a matter of of principle (and a good career move). Arthur Dalmore, director of the Northport Museum of Modern Art, newly wooed from New York’s Whitney, bails Lucinda out – peevishly explaining that “This Is Not My Bathing Suit” is an ironic response to surrealist painter Rene Magritte’s infamous canvas entitled, “This Is Not A Pipe.” Alex has gleaned from arts magazines that in Dalmore’s previous habitat, the New York postmodern art scene of the 70’s and 80’s, almost anything might be art: artists locked in boxes, vagina paintings, or even a present day Van Gogh wannabe having an assistant shoot him.
When Alex interviews Lucinda (over beachfront Margaritas) it devolves into a midnight stagger to Alex’s bed at his “Gram’s” nearby cottage (where he’s resided since his divorce six months before). This long night of the body and soul finally ends in a meeting of minds; i.e. in a rapport over breakfast between the anything-goes, twenty-something, postmodernist artiste and a 90-year-old, proto-feminist, New England grandmother.
Soon Alex’s and Lucinda’s adventure moves off-shore when Dalmore invites the pair to join the trendy crowd on his sailing yacht, Pure Conception. At the end of an unexpectedly fraught voyage, the boaters find, as Dalmore attempts to dock at his manse’s private wharf, a dead humpback whale lodged between the pilings. Alex, the local boy, calls in Gram’s neighbor, Captain Fred Avery, for aid on the morrow. Unfortunately for Dalmore, Avery will turn out to be not nearly the typical Northport fisherman he might have hoped for – and careers also may be torpedoed by Fred’s method of demolishing a leviathan.