We’re off to never never-land

…and that title is from? Wait…here’s a hint.

I was walking through Union Square on my way to meeting and drinking and I stumbled across the sandman. This is Joe Mangrum. He uses sand to create intricate designs.

sand1 sand2

He pours colored sand through his hand. The piece lasts until the wind and weather say that’s enough.

sand3  sand11  sand31

I chatted him up a bit. He started around 2:30 that afternoon and I walked by around 5:30. I mentioned that it reminded me of a mandala. He said he prefers to call them sand paintings. He feels that mandala is a quasi-religious eastern term that might box-in his work and alienate potential customers. He’s absolutely right, you know. It’s all about branding.


It looked like painstaking, back-breaking work. The crowds were appreciative and respected his space. Check out that red. It really makes the work pop.


*      *      *

I sat next to this brick to read. Guys like this used to take my lunch money away when I was in junior high school. Tattooed neck. Piercings. Big stomping shoes. A steely look in the eye. Doesn’t smile easily.


Except that most of them would not have used a teddy bear iPhone cover or painted their fingernails black.


*     *     *

After the sandman and my junior high flashback, I met two former colleagues for margaritas. We wanted to practice for Cinco de Mayo. I got a little drunk. I’m not a drinker and don’t treat myself to a proper sousing very often. It’s not my thing. It never really was. I was always more of a narcotic guy. I snobbishly thought that narcotics were more elegant and had more panache than alcohol. Can you imagine? What idiots we are in our youth.

I hadn’t planned on a dunking (especially, it being a Tuesday) but we started talking and laughing and that always leads to another round, doesn’t it? Two guys and one girl. The conversation is different than if it had been three guys. This is my preferred configuration. Girls are fun. Each round peeled away another layer of reserve. The conversation pinged between hilarious anecdotes and deep intimacies. You can’t plan evenings like this, folks. They unfold unexpectedly, happily.

The restaurant had this cool little diver sculpture against a lighted blue background.


As a matter of fact, there were a bunch of them.


Actually, there was an entire wall of them.


34 thoughts on “We’re off to never never-land

  1. What an interesting afternoon-evening…..The Sandman’s work is stunning and so very complex…..like, WOW! I hate that it disappears with the whim of the wind…! That guy next to you looks like he is from another country—in the Uniform of the Army, circa 1850…..The grape can really loosen the tongue, can’t it….But, it sounds like you were having a WONDERFUL time. Those diving sculptures are fantastic….how big are they? It’s hard to tell from the pictures…But they must be pretty small, no?

    • The drinks were planned but the other stuff was just happenstance. That’s the fun of NYC. Go for a walk! You never know what you’ll bump into!Now that you mention it I wish I had juxtaposed the sculpture against something to you could gauge their scale. Yes, they’re quite small. A four or five inches tall.

  2. That sand painting is marvellous and I love the fact that it disappears with the wind. Art that cannot be possessed is so much nobler, like a sunset or a rainbow. You’ve always got the photograph to remind you.

    • It’s all very Zen and, whether he likes it or not, it’s a mandala. They’re Buddhist lessons in impermanence. They’re painfully detailed—even more so than this was—and then wiped away. I’ve only ever seen one.

  3. There is something increasingly attractive to Zen / Buddhism activities that even I could connect with. The paintings are articulate and very deep. Bravo!

    • A Buddhist will never tell you you’re damned to hell. They won’t judge your beliefs as being inferior to theirs. And they don’t proselytize. If you want those teachings, you have to reach out and find them. Those guys know how to play the game.

  4. love the mandala/sand painting/SiO2 therapy. Call it what you want it is beautiful in concept and execution. Theatre is also a temporal art – despite the ability to record, once a show is done, it is done forever, never to happen the same way. Once the set is struck? Poof! Never to be again… Part of my attraction to the stage.LOVE the divers in the restaurant! Can we go there? Pretty please?!?!

    • I have a theory that it’s unfair to give awards to plays because it can be a different show every night. The quality can vary. Oscars, Grammys and Emmys make sense because everyone is experiencing the exact same performance. But live performances are a fluid thing.It’s a fancy Mexican restaurant. We can go there! We had duck tacos. They were ¡Muy delicioso! .

  5. I’ve seen a girl do these sand paintings before. She tells stories doing the same kind of thing. Incredibly artistic. What an interesting chap sitting on the bench there. Not a fan of his black nail varnish at ALL. I love those kind of nights out, they’re the best.

  6. It’s not the elegance of the drugs it’s the elegance of the user, given narcotics or booze i’d take the drugs every time, even to this day, not that the bottle and i haven’t been best of friends at certain times in my life, these days i’m just better at knowing when to say when and when to say no… sometimes.

    • I never got a hangover from taking a drug and I simply hated feeling hungover. That, more than any other reason, is why I leaned away from liquor. I missed out on ecstasy. It wasn’t around when I was young and I’ve always wondered what it was like. I’ve heard good things.

    • I’ve never taken anything stronger than paracetemol, give me beer & Jameson any day, I know how to handle them, and they have been good to me. :¬)

    • I love them both, but for real intimacy, for really discovering things about yourself, your relations to others, the world and everything that the mind suppresses in order to be able to function in this absurd world–some well-chosen narcotics for me, any day.

  7. In Ireland,you’d ‘chat someone up’ with a view to getting to know them better, if you know what I mean, nudge, nudge, say no more. And where does the condescending ‘pray tell’ come from?

  8. With the sand thing, I can’t get past a prejudice of mine, that something like that is simply craft, not art. I admire the technique but it doesn’t have any sense of feeling or communication. But that’s just me.Completely agree with you about the male-female configuration. I know how much you enjoy female company (I do too) and I completely recognise that ping-pong, helter-skelter way of talking that can happen sometimes when the fairer sex is present.

    • And a craft is a lesser form of artistic endeavor, correct? I see your point but I think what he’s doing is just as difficult as working with oils or watercolor. And the crowd was responding to it.Do you know what configuration I really like? Two girls and myself. And not for sexual reasons. I’ve just always found women more interesting to talk to. I don’t know a damn thing about fixing cars, very little about sports, I don’t hunt or do any of that manly crap. I like girls. Hell! Maybe I AM a girl!

  9. The coloured sand was a revelation. I find its ephemerality quite touching. Here Health and Safety would get uptight about sand in the eyes.The brick looks incredibly camp.Started the new Jane Gardham but need a refresher to remember everyone.

    • The infamous British Health and Safety division. Aren’t these the same folks who turned the electricity off on Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen mid-song?I actually believe the brick is probably a ton of laughs. I just finished Last Friends. I had the exact same problem with remembering names and places! Let me know what you think.

Vent Central:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s