Did I destroy this work of art?

Here’s an exhibit in a Chelsea art gallery. It’s a pile of stones on a table.

If I move one stone closer to another when no one is looking…

…have I altered the aesthetics in any discernable way?

I’m asking a serious question. Some pieces are made to be interacted with but I don’t think this was one of them. Artists are fastidious about their work, understandably so. Did I wreck this piece?

~~~~~~~~~~

bins

April 7, 1993

Last night I was going to stay home and do laundry but Betsy called and treated me to dinner at a French joint on the corner of King St. and 6th Avenue. She was already sitting at the bar when I got there. Our meetings are joyful. We have a nice time together. I ordered a scotch and soda. She had a Campari. The bar munchies were cod balls and octopus. We shared a trout for dinner.

She picked up the tab. $43. It’s an expensive bistro and we drank quite a bit so I don’t understand why the bill was only $43. Betsy’s a regular and knew the bartender so maybe they left the drinks off the check. The bartender said that Betsy and I are a handsome couple and that we should get married. We laughed and said we agree. All the lust I had for her when we first met has mysteriously evaporated, but I’m still quite fond of her.

We ate at the bar, which I love. It’s more communal. She looked past my shoulder and said, “Oh, here comes my old boyfriend.” I turned around and it was Ricky Jay. He introduced himself and I said, “Yes, I know who you are.” I have a book he wrote called Cards as Weapons that teaches you how to throw cards with knife-like accuracy and velocity. In his stage act, he stands at one end of the stage and flings cards into a watermelon that’s on the other end of the stage. It’s an impressive feat. Afterwards, Betsy told me he has a volatile relationship with his mother. One evening, the police were called because he was throwing cards at her.

Betsy said he’s in town because he’s being profiled in the The New Yorker. I was a bit star struck but managed to sound at least marginally intelligent and not say anything stupid. I didn’t want to embarrass Betsy.

We walked to the Film Forum and saw Visions of Light, a documentary on cinematography. Her pick. Her treat. I learn a lot when I spend time with her. She makes me less drab and doesn’t care that I never went to college. Maybe I SHOULD marry her. I asked if she wanted to come over after the movie but she was tired and got a cab home.

And speaking of ex-dancers…I respect all art forms but I don’t understand modern dance. I saw the Feld Ballet at the Joyce on 8th Avenue with Elvin. They’ve got a lot of nerve calling that stuff ballet. Tutus and dancing on point it ain’t. What we got was droning, minimalist music and twisted, contorted limbs. I fell asleep a couple of times. We both had to stifle laughs. Suppressed laughter is the worst.

Beforehand we ordered the prix fixe at the French bistro next to the Joyce. That’s two French dinners in a row and I’m not crazy about French food. I’d have been okay with a plate of beans and weenies. The waitress was ravishing but I could tell she thought Elvin and I were a couple. His mentioning that we had ballet tickets didn’t help matters. We ran out of time and couldn’t order dessert but they let us come back after the show for it. That was nice.

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Daughter at the Guggenheim.

When they’re adults, they’ll either embrace this stuff or never want to walk into an art museum again. For now, I think they’re a bit bored. But if you live this close and don’t expose them, you’re a shitty parent.

Just wait till tomorrow. I guess that’s what they all say.

When I was young I only ever had a murky vision of what success might look like. My vision didn’t include the Port Authority bus terminal on 8th Avenue and 42nd Street 2x a day, five days a week.

Victo Dolore did a post about how much she enjoys her work. I sat down and made a list of all the things I wish I had tried. Things that would’ve been far more gratifying than being an office drone.

Photographer
Playwright
Reporter
Rare book dealer
Novelist
Letterpress publisher
College graduate

I was such a mess for such a long time. A deadly cocktail of paralyzing doubt and crippling self-loathing with a lethal chaser of lethargic indifference. I had no idea how to go about achieving any of those things. I convinced myself that any attempt would result in abject failure, so I never tried. I needed a proper boot in the ass but none were forthcoming. I hope my daughters don’t inherit my neurosis. Just the good bits.

I just noticed that those are all solitary professions. I thought I kind of liked people. I guess not so much.

If you’re <35 years old, for fuck’s sake, don’t just sit there. Get started.

Wake up every day that would be a start
I would not complain of my wounded heart

I was a short fuse
Burning all the time

~~~~~~~~~~

July 2, 1992

I ate dinner at Carib last night. I had a tuna steak that was out of this world.  Went with John and Howie, who left their wives at home. We looked like three gay investment bankers. Our waitress was a downtown snob who hated our guts and didn’t bother to mask her contempt but we left her a tip anyway because we’re better than that. Those guys are light years ahead of me in the career game but they don’t make me feel bad about it. I appreciate that.

At the end of the meal, after the plates were cleared, a little black kitten appeared. John picked it up and put it on our table. The waitress was disgusted because we had a kitten on the table. Howie was afraid of it. When it got near him, he would recoil in horror and yell at us to get it away from him. He wasn’t playing around.

I had it doing laps around the table chasing a straw. John held its tail and I would tease it with the straw just out of its reach. It turned out it belonged to the restaurant. His name was Bernie. He stayed with us for quite a while. Then, two little black kids walked in and we handed Bernie to them.

Sitting next to us was a black couple on a date. The girl was very pretty and the guy was a mass of muscle. I saw a second kitten under their table and noticed it was playing with a mouse. I leaned over said to the black guy, “Hey, there’s a kitten under your table playing with a mouse.” He looked down, turned to his date and said, “Honey, there’s a kitten under our table playing with a mouse.” She looked, screamed, got up and ran out of the restaurant. Then we called our nasty waitress over and said the kitten under the table is batting a mouse around and she had the exact same reaction. We were laughing our asses off. Finally, a busboy came over with a broom and dustpan and scooped up the now-dead mouse. The kitten was frantic looking for it. It was funny but it spoiled my appetite for dessert.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Absurd this is. I can’t think of two things that have less to do with one another than Yoda and SpaghettiOs. And “Healthy Kids Entrée” and “NOW EVEN MORE!” is also wildly incongruous. Who are they trying to impress with that accented é? This label is fraught with contradictions.

~~~~~~~~~~

Guggenheim ramp. Frank Lloyd Wright treasure.

+1,100% Return on Investment. You’re welcome.

Six years ago I published a book for Nick Hornby and Bruce Springsteen. There were 200 softcovers signed by Hornby and 26 hardcovers signed by both. I set the published price for the softcovers at $60 and the hardcovers at $225. A hardcover was sold yesterday at a literature auction in San Francisco. It’s the first time one has been offered on the open market since publication. It sold for $2,700.

In granting permission to reprint the copyrighted material, it was stipulated that all proceeds, labor and material had to be donated to charity. I ended up writing a check for close to $18,000 to Ambitious about Autism, a school for autistic children in London. The materials cost about another grand. The labor is incalculable.

This sale has opened a debate. My wife, mother-in-law and a few others feel the seller should send a donation to the charity. I think that’s baloney. The implication is that every time one of these books changes hands, a donation should be made. A contribution would be nice but I see the charitable donation as a one-time event. I feel no weight of obligation. Would you?

Here’s a post about the book. Scroll to the bottom for nice pics.

~~~~~~~~~~

Late commute back to New Jersey. 20-something-or-other shrew sitting next to me yammering to her boyfriend non-stop for forty minutes, spoiling my commuting bliss. Talking about nothing. She never took a breath or gave him a turn to speak. Who is this poor soul on the other end?

Foofy Bear. My Zen was harshed by Foofy Bear.

Guys: If your woman calls you Foofy Bear, run. Run as far and as fast as your feet and wallet will take you.

Girls: Don’t call your man Foofy Bear. It’s emasculating. Do you want an emasculated man?

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A new Broadway production of The Glass Menagerie was on my A-list for the spring season. It has an excellent pedigree. Sally Field plays Amanda Wingfield, the doppelgänger for Tennessee Williams’ demented mother. Directed by Sam Gold, another seasoned pro. I started to hear grumblings and disparaging remarks. I asked a pal the day after he saw it if it was worth my time + money. Here’s his unedited feedback for your amusement.

Glass Menagerie was every bit as awful as everyone says it is. Dreadful. Emotionally void. Modern dress. Virtually no set, except a kitchen table and a modern day phone. No Southern accents. And Laura is played by a disabled actress in a wheelchair whose face is somewhat paralyzed. Makes no sense in terms of the character and watching her get into and out of the chair is horrifying. She gets down on all fours and kind of backs in (with help). I was mortified.

Totally opposite of the beautiful play Williams wrote. Sam Gold, the director, who’s usually wonderful, should be embarrassed. However, the audience liked it and I bet the critics will gush. They wouldn’t dare criticize a disabled actor. Or such a minimal production.

The Gentleman Caller is excellent — what you can see of him, because his big scene with Laura is lit only by candles in a candelabra. And I liked Joe Mantello’s opening and closing monologues.

RT is 2:05 with NO intermission. For no discernible reason.

It’s, quite possibly, one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. I suggest you go, just to see how a classic play can be pulverized into meaningless trash.

IMHO, of course

~~~~~~~~~~

Guggenheim snowfall outside; Calder inside.

This blog is nine years old today.

Artiste or Old Letch?

A friend was visiting from California and we went for a Chelsea gallery hop. It’s a satisfying way to spend a Saturday afternoon. We stepped into the Mitchell-Innnes & Nash gallery on 26th Street and was blinded by this light.

Monica Bonvicini
Bent and Winded
LED light tubes, wire, steel

I like bright, shiny things and these light tubes had some interesting angles.

A girl walked into the gallery. As she circled the installation I was struck by the contrast of soft human form against cold mechanical edge. I asked permission to take some pics and she said it was okay. She looks like part of the installation.

I loved how these came out. I thought they had genuine artistic merit and shared them with some friends. What I *didn’t* count on was some of the reactions I got. They accused me of being a base old letch.

One guy called me a “perv.” Another one said it was a pro move. What does that even mean? My intentions were honorable and above-board. It’s not like I asked for her name and number or invited her to join us. She really didn’t seem to mind. They spoiled the achievement.

The James Cohan gallery has a nice solo exhibit by Xu Zhen. I like this concept. Zhen is angry but I’m not sure who at or what he’s mad about. This is the only thing on a wall and it’s pretty stark. The shadows help.

Focus
Camera, aboriginal spear

Where did he get an aboriginal spear? You don’t just pick these things up in a flea market or pawn shop, do you? Can anyone from down under chime in here?

Also by Zhen is this thick, juicy piece. It’s a nice riot of color and texture but you can’t tell its construction until you’re up close.

Under Heaven
Oil on canvas, aluminum

This is a bouillabaisse of thick, juicy swirls and colors. The artist as a confectioner.

I wonder how many tubes of paint he used? It’s a fairly large piece.

The PACE Gallery is the Big Swinging Membrane in the neighborhood. These all-new works are by Julian Schnabel and is a return to form. From a safe distance it has the calm quality of an Impressionist canvas. They’re inspired by the roses growing in the cemetery near Van Gogh’s grave in Auvers-sur-Oise, France,

Up close, the truth is revealed.

Rose Painting (Near Van Gogh’s Grave) III
Oil, plates and Bondo on wood

The nine pieces are constructed using broken plates, china, cups, saucers, etc. They’re affixed to wood with bondo and painted over. They’re about $1 million each and all but one has sold.

Schnable made a series of ‘broken plate’ pieces early in his career. I think I remember reading that not long after they sold (for a lot of dough) the plates started falling off. Art is supposed to last generations and those pieces didn’t even make it past a hyper-modern fad.

This is in the Whitney’s Fast Forward: Painting Through the 1980s exhibit. The image is from the cover of a mass market spy paperback and I love it.

Walter Robinson
Baron Sinister, 1986
Oil on a printed bedsheet

While enjoying this Bond-esque image, who should walk in front of me but a Whitney security guard. Or is that, in fact, Baron Sinister himself?

Choose your next witticism carefully, Mr. Bond.

I control your mobile phone

I used to carry a cell phone jamming device in my commuting bag. It was necessary for my train ride. Asking someone to kindly lower their voice was always met with a stream of obscenities, no matter how respectful and polite I was. I decided to go nuclear and ordered a cell phone jammer from Hong Kong. It arrived in a plain brown box and it was a dream come true. I stopped using it when it broke. Also, when I came across this:

Illegal to operate, manufacture, import, or offer for sale, (including advertising), with fines of up to $11,000 and imprisonment of up to one year.

At first, I allowed brief, necessary conversations. Announcing a train’s arrival time. Pick up a loaf of bread. Meet at a restaurant. But, as we all know, absolute power corrupts absolutely. I began to employ it simply as a means to entertain myself on my insufferable commute. People are genuinely addicted to cell phones and depriving them of their use is not unlike taking a blankee or a ba ba away from an infant.

I began playing a cat and mouse game. They’d connect and start yammering, I’d jam their signal, then allow them to reconnect and start the process all over again. So fun! It really made my commute fly by.

Here are some snippets from posts I wrote years ago about zapping mobile phone service. Don’t judge me. They were all assholes who were making the people around them miserable. They deserved it. All dialogue is verbatim.

 *     *     *

[Screaming] Stop tellin’ me how to live my life ma! I’m 37 years old!…zap…No, I ain’t hangin’ up on ya, ma! It’s the recep–…zap…I SWEAR I ain’t hangin’ up on ya! Quit yellin’. Don‘t talk to me like tha–…zap…It ain’t ME MA. No, YOU shaddup! It’s this gaddamn CELL PHONE!…zap

Happiness is a warm cell phone jammer.

Bang, bang. Shoot, shoot.

*     *     *

No, I’m on the train right now. Did you see the weather report for the pageant? I need to be careful! I don’t want to be a sunburned beauty queen!

zap

Hello? I don’t know it just went dead. I’LL JUST DIE if I can’t use my ph…

zap

Hello? HELLO?!

It doesn’t take much to push a beauty queen over the edge. It’s like tripping an old lady who’s using a walker.

 *     *     *

Gordon Gekko was sitting behind me on the train. He called his bookie and wanted to place bets on tonight’s baseball games. Loud and clear for all to hear. $200 on the Red Sox. $150 on the White Sox. That’s as far as he got.

zap

I’ve seen people get angry over the inability to make a call but this guy exhibited a deep, primal rage you don’t see in public very often. He was desperate to get his bets in. It was 6:55 and the games start at 7:05. But—son of a gun—try as he might he couldn’t get through. I pictured one of Tony Soprano’s Jersey goombahs on the other end.

He was furious. It was the first time I was worried about retribution. Guys with that kind of commitment to gambling usually have a low threshold for anger + violence.

 *     *     *

A woman became so frustrated with the number of dropped calls on the train that she got her Verizon bill out of her purse, called customer service and started screaming at them. I let that call through.

I was hitting doubles. With one flick of a switch I zapped a yappy 19-ish girl with a hip, urban sendibility sitting directly behind me AND the sideways baseball cap-wearing thug sitting behind her. They were both cursing up a blue streak. Such dirty mouths for such young children. I, on the other hand, was feeling much better about the train ride.

They suddenly realized they were having the same problem. They compared devices and cursed their providers (his: Verizon, hers: AT&T) for having such wretched service so close to the city. They were drawn together by a common enemy (technology). By the time we pulled into Newark, they had exchanged phone numbers.

See that? Put your phone down and love might find you. For all I know they’re in the process of becoming under-aged parents as I type.

 *     *     *

Overheard by a passenger who was staring out the window, wide-eyed, slack jawed, in utter disbelief:

Look at that! There’s a goddamn cell tower RIGHT THERE! Why can’t I get a decent signal?!

~~~~~~~~~~

A foggy morning.

chrysler-sm

I like how the sunlight plays off the tops of the buildings in foreground.