Because the last First Thursday of the year is always the busiest, the most crowded, the most packed with art, it transforms poor little Pioneer Square into the sort of magical place one might discover in the middle of a great metropolis with a large and vital community of art producers and consumers. The city you are from, the city that is there all through the year, doesn't care much about paintings and sculptures: Its artists starve and suffer, and its collectors refuse to buy any work that is not made of glass. That is your sad city. But here in this December city where you arrived as the night fell and the stars appeared, whose old and mazy streets you explored for hours and hours before discovering its creative core—this city maintains an art world that is rich and robust.

The illusion is perfect, but it lasts for only three hours. Long before midnight has struck on December's First Thursday, the royal horses turn back into mice, the carriages collapse into cabbages, and the busy boulevards dissolve into empty streets. But in that shimmering bubble of time, between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., under the glow of streetlights, in the clarity of the winter air, all of the people flowing in and out of the galleries are beautiful; and all of the people sitting in cafes are handsome; and all of the people ascending and descending staircases in old brick buildings have about them an amorous aura. None of them know you, and you don't know any of them. Where did they come from? Why isn't one of them your lover? And why weren't they at the other First Thursdays of the year? (They certainly will not be here at the next one, in dead January.)

But for now, here in Pioneer Square, through the film of an enchantment that is brutally brief, exhibit after exhibit is bustling with strangers who have dressed in their best for the noble, aristocratic occasion of appreciating and purchasing serious art. Drinking in public is suddenly possible because during these magic hours, cops are of no consequence. In the way certain African witchdoctors can cast spells that shrink a penis down to the size of a toothpick, someone in Pioneer Square has cast a spell that temporarily emasculates the men of law and order.

As for the artists: Some are in very high spirits; but many keep their heads out of the clouds, and like the wise men in the Japanese fairytales that involve the shady fox, cast a cold eye on this fabulous city that Pioneer Square becomes for just three hours. It's just too good to be true.