What not to do when admiring a priceless work of art

articleInlineI try not to write posts that just regurgitate current events because I think it’s lazy, but simply I can’t resist this one.

While visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art with an adult education class, a woman stumbled and fell onto Picasso’s The Actor causing a tear in the canvas. The painting was done in 1904 when Picasso was just 23 years old and is considered one of the most important works in the museum. It’s from Picasso’s rose period. Few paintings from that era survived and its size—4 feet by 6 feet—make it one of the biggest.

Dealers estimate its value at $100 million.

If I was visiting the Met and saw a woman fall onto a $100 million painting and rip it, I think I might wet myself laughing.

In 2006, Las Vegas casino impresario Steve Wynn was showing off his Picasso and accidentally poked a hole in it with his elbow. It was expertly repaired and it is said that if you didn’t know where to look, you’d never know it was damaged. Ironically Wynn’s Picasso has actually increased in value because of the story now attached to it.

Ever since I was a young boy

I played the silver ball.

When I was young I spent an inordinate—nay—an unhealthy amount of time playing pinball. I became an expert. I honed this useless skill in arcades, bowling alleys and, when I got old enough, bars. I was a bit of a delinquent, but not the dangerous kind. More like the loser kind.

You can get laid if you’re good with a pool cue. Billiards has a dark, poetic panache. They make movies and write books about pool players. But nobody gives a shit about pinball. Or bowling, for that matter. Anyway, technology marched on and my skill with the flippers became irrelevant.

Try to imagine my raw joy when I got news that Silver Ball Museum and Pinball Hall of Fame opened on the boardwalk in Asbury Park. They use to be located in a dank basement in downtown Asbury Park but now they’re right on the boardwalk. $10 bucks gets you an hour of play. Heaven!

Imagine a big room filled with working pinballs, all segregated by era. There are a few historical models from the ’40s and ’50s and a healthy representation of machines from the ’60s and ’70s. That cool cat in the bowling shirt is one of the owners and the other guy is a mechanic. My heros. [This is a partial view. It’s more than twice as big as what you see here.]

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Click on this pic and check out the artwork on the glass. Fantastic. It’s from the 60’s and suppose to be The Beatles. It’s very beatnik and hipster. Actually, if you care about this stuff at all, click on all the pics.

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This was one of my top three favorite pinballs to play. Fireball. When I saw it, I got a lump in my throat and longed for a big bong hit. It has a spinning disk in the center that sends your ball off into odd angles. Release Odin! My other two favorites are Satin Doll (which they don’t have yet) and Evil Knievel (which they do).

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Here’s a couple oldies. I remember playing Big Star (mumble-mumble) years ago.

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Many of the machines have placards that explain the history of that model; the designer, the artist, who manufactured it and how many were made. This is important stuff! I was a big fan of OXO and also played Space Mission. Space Mission came out when Skylab was orbiting the earth. How timely.

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When I told 8-Year Old Daughter I played pinball last night, she said, “What’s pinball?” My skills, by the way, have greatly diminished.

I lost my fucking job

I wasn’t going to write about this because it’s personal but I feel inexplicably compelled to do so. Only my family and some friends know this happened. Well…until now.

In December I lost my job. Benevolent Dictators, Inc. was J.P. Morgan. I lost my job at J.P. Morgan a year to the day from when I lost my job at Morgan Stanley. The reason I steered my career into investment banking wasn’t because I found the work to be so fascinating. (Unfortunately for me, most of those things are not money-making ventures.) My rational was, what could possibly go wrong? It’s New York City finance, for cryin’ out loud!

Losing my job a year ago at Morgan Stanley was heartbreaking. During the course of 2008, I watched many good friends get canned, but I survived several rounds of layoffs. I began to think I was immune. If they hadn’t laid me off by now, I surmised, then I must be safe. But at the end of the year my department was gutted. I loved the work and despite what you’ve read about the industry, Morgan Stanley wasn’t such a bad place to be. It retained its humanity, even in it’s darkest hours.

Four wretched months of unemployment followed. Unless you’ve been through it yourself, you can’t imagine what it’s like. Each morning, my two little girls would get out of bed, walk downstairs and see their father humped over a laptop trying to find any kind of job while all the other dads went off to work. I was damn lucky my unemployment only lasted four months. I have friends who were laid off the same time I was who are just now finding work.

I was hired by J.P. Morgan last April. That’s when the real fun started.

J.P. Morgan is a great place to work if you’re obsessed with money and career and don’t give a shit about your children or your marriage. 10-12 hour days were mandatory. By the time I got home at night, The Daughters were fast asleep. I went a solid eight months without ever seeing them. I became a ghostly specter who floated through their lives on the weekends. Tucking them in over the phone became the norm. I had the same, sad conversation every night with 3-Year Old:

3-Year Old Daughter: Daddy, are you almost home now?

Me: No, sweetheart, I can’t come home yet.

I became detached and isolated. When I was single and lived in the city all those years, I use to thrive on isolation. I loved it. This was different.

I wasn’t the only one at J.P. Morgan who missed their kids. The air was thick with sadness. Nobody spoke to one another. It’s as if Kafka and Dickens collaborated on a nightmare. I would have quit except I had nowhere to go and if you resign, you’re ineligible to collect unemployment and COBRA healthcare coverage. [Don’t get me started on COBRA.]

I was let go just three weeks before Christmas which I initially thought was a callous thing to do. But instead of having a miserable holiday and not seeing my family, I was liberated. I reconnected with my girls. I was torn between the wretchedness of being unemployed for the second time in 14 months and the cathartic joy of being home again and no longer working in a pit of greed and despair like J.P. Morgan.

* * *

This time around, my period of unemployment only lasted five weeks. I have a job. Sort of. I found a consulting gig at Retirement Conglomerate, Corp. I’m not making as much money as I use to, don’t have any benefits or job security and my tenure could end at the conclusion of my project. But getting a paycheck and having a place to go in the morning again is delightful.

Behind every silver lining, there’s a dark cloud. My job is in New Jersey. That means that for the first time in almost 25 years, New York City is no longer a part of my daily existence. Even when I moved to New Jersey eight years ago, I still worked in the city and saw it every day. For the time being, that singular joy is over for me. When I step out of the office, my feet no longer alight onto brightly lit Manhattan streets. It feels like someone took a metal scoop and dug out an important part of what defines me and dumped it in the gutter. What am I without New York? Anything? I can occasionally grab a train into the city in the evening, but it‘s not the same.

My heart’s desire is to find a job in the city. This morning, The Times reported that unemployment in New York is at 10.6%, which is well above the national average.

Here’s hoping. Keep a light on for me, NYC.

500

This is post #500. But who’s counting? And my stats? I never, every pay attention to those, either. Do you pay attention to your stats? I mean, only a complete megalomaniac would obsess over his page hits and spend time weighing the number of comments he gets vs. the number of comments other bloggers are getting. It doesn’t mean that much to me. No, sir.

But just for the record, this is post #500.

Georgia O’Keefe on my mind

Artisté Florenza and I took in the Georgia O’Keefe exhibit at the Whitney. Fantastic. I love walking into an exhibit wondering if it’s going to be worth my time and end up being blown off my feet. I wanted to take 8-Year Old Daughter but this was an exhibit of O’Keefe’s abstract paintings and I thought they’d be inaccessible to her. I want to be careful how I dole this stuff out. For instance, I’d never take her to a Francis Bacon exhibit. She’d have nightmares for months.

I didn’t find O’Keefe’s abstracts to be all that abstract, which is a good thing. Abstract expressionism is pretty hard core stuff that I sometimes have a problem digesting. Like some forms of jazz, it’s art that’s best appreciated by other artists, not mainstream schmoes like me.

There was a healthy representation of her beautiful floral works.

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Her paintings of flowers have been said to have a somewhat feminine bent to them. Do you agree or is that just people being sensational?

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Note to Nursemyra: Do you know who Roni Horn is? They allocated *two floors* of space for her current exhibit! I know she’s a pretty big deal and I tried to keep an open mind but I wasn’t very impressed.