This is Picasso’s Brain on Drugs

Picasso after his morning coffee.

Another cup and a bong hit.


A second bong hit and a psilocybin mushroom.


A third cup of coffee and a tab of LSD.


Admittedly, that last one looks like a big glop of plaster. But if you look at the progression, you can kind-of/sort-of see where he was going with this. He kept pushing the boundaries until the form was contorted beyond recognition. He  did that with paint, too. I can’t say I like that last one, but it gives me a warm glow to have a vague understanding of it.

These are courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art’s landmark and smartly-installed Picasso sculpture exhibit. It’s being hailed as the last time you’ll see such a complete gathering of his sculptures under one roof. I didn’t understand a lot of it, but it was a thrill.

More tales of women in my past.


June 25, 1995

I didn’t make an entry last night because I was out all night with Maureen. I had planned on going home to watch the Yankees beat-up the Indians. I asked her out for a beer and it turned into an all-nighter. It was fun. She and I talk so easy. I wish I were attracted to her and that she had some social graces. She’s yet another tormented, temperamental artist. This town is choking on them. Their torment is so tedious. I thank God that I’m not cursed with talent. It seems to drive some folks over the edge. We made out once and it was kind of a disaster so now I keep a respectful distance.

Sedaris’ book is out in paperback and is doing well. See that. Sometimes the good guys win.

I met an interesting girl at the Gilberto Gil concert in Central Park. She was a pretty, blonde green-eyed French girl who lives in Toronto. She had a soft accent and a gentle, wispy air to her. She works for the largest French bank on the planet in their Toronto office. She grew up in rural France and was given the choice of transferring to either Jakarta or Canada. She didn’t want to live in a Muslim country so Canada won the contest. Smart girl. She visits New York every few weeks to see her boyfriend who’s an Analyst at Lehman Brothers.

(The Indians are on the radio in the background having their asses handed to them by the Yankees. Good God, will this torment ever end?) [Note: Apparently, not.]

Anyway, her boyfriend had to work, which is what all Financial Analysts do on Sunday, so she was by herself. Her work life is similar to his. She’s routinely in the office until 8:00 or 9:00 at night. Young professionals sacrificing their today for a better tomorrow. They hope. I didn’t feel like flirting because of the insurmountable odds, which was actually kind of liberating. Talking to a girl without having an agenda is always a pleasure.

She’s got a hell of a gene pool. Her sister is in Vietnam conducting a study on how the jungle is being affected by the developing nation. Her sister’s boyfriend is so in love with her that he quit his job in France and followed her to Vietnam. Isn’t that romantic? She complained for a while about how dull Toronto is and how much she loves New York. I know how you feel, sister. She said she can see the Empire State and the Chrysler Building from her boyfriend’s bathroom window, so she leaves the curtain open and looks at them while taking a shower.

Typically, I would’ve been torn to pieces with envy over all this but I was strangely serene. We were sitting on a bench and a couple across the way started making out. It was like watching a softcore porn movie or an instructional video on sexual assault. We watched with a detached fascination. We decided they’d just started dating and were in that phase when you can’t keep your hands off of each other. It wears off sooner or later but it’s nice when you’re in that space.

When we spoke, she looked at me hard, like there were some things running through her mind, but I swear she wasn’t interested in that way. I could tell. I made her laugh a bit and when it came time for her to go I didn’t say or do anything stupid, like follow her out of the park or try to kiss her. This is progress. She had to catch a plane back to Toronto, so she left and that was that.

I go to these Central Park Summerstage concerts exactly once a year. I’ll go to one early in the season, realize how miserably crowded they are and swear off them until next season. I made an exception in this case because Gilberto Gil doesn’t tour this way very often. And it was free.

Come to New York and live like a caged animal.


I called to check the price (because I had to) and you can rent a 360 sq. ft. micro-apartment for $2,750/month.

27th Street IS a fabulous block, so you have to take that into consideration (along with the imminent loss of your sanity).

79 thoughts on “This is Picasso’s Brain on Drugs

  1. Ah, what a great way to start off my morning reading more about your past. Like I’ve said before, when are you getting this stuff published?

    And it seems like micro-living is all the rage with tiny houses. I don’t know, I already live in a small space with two growing kids and my sanity checked out about three years ago.

    • First! Nice. You’re fast. Happy New Year.

      What do you mean? I thought I *was* publishing that stuff? It comes out semi-regular installments. Heh.

      Can you imagine the space that kind of coin could buy you outside of Manhattan? The rub is that when you step out of that cage, you’re standing on 27th Street, which is kind of cool.

  2. I generally aim to find something positive, but those Picassos just aren’t doing it for me. Unlike you’re journal instalment which as always is totally doing it for me…wait…that sounds wrong.

    Location almost everything, but not completely, I don’t think I could cope with a micro apartment, not now, maybe when I was younger. When I first left home at 16, there were four of us living in a very small one bedroom apartment in central London. Great location, but tiny. Hang on, I’m going to see if I can find an apartment for sale where I lived there to see if it says the size….yes, here we go! I lived in this very row, you can see it’s very nice, and the apartment was the same as this one which is apparently 465 sq.ft. so not quite as small as your micro apartments, but remember there were four of us! –

    • Thank you for saying those sculptures don’t work for you. People are so afraid to offend. I’d much, much rather hear a different opinion than an endless parade of sycophants. It makes for a more interesting discussion.

      I think I’m ruined for apartment living. My plan was to wait until my daughters were 18, kick them out of the house, move back to the city and pick up where we left off but I’m not sure I can do that now. I need the space. What would I do with all my stuff?! Thanks for the link. I damn near fell out of my office chair. That’s how I dream of living but never will.

  3. Love the Picassos — and the tour of his brain was great since I ingested it before coffee. And I love how your brain works to weave these pieces together.

    I have a friend from grammar school who has built a tiny house on wheels. She blogged about it. ( She’s an artist and wonderfully talented. But I can’t imagine living in such a tiny place — hers or the well located expensive flat in NYC. Funny thing is, she grew up in a HUGE old house in CT. Her new place would fit in their old living room.

    • If you talk to me in real life, my conversations follow the same disjointed thread. I jump from subject to subject. It’s pretty annoying, actually, I thought I’d best warn you in case we ever meet.

      You’d have to be very, very ZEN to live in a place like that. I’ll bet there’s something freeing about it, though. Having minimal possessions and all that stuff.

      • Actually my conversations are a lot like that — that’s why I think I have ADD. My mind and my conversations have a superball bouncing quality to them. When we meet, we will leave not being able to describe what we talked about!

        I am not at all Zen. I need space!

      • Perhaps politicians could invest in a meeting to counteract global warming — that way they don’t have to admit it exists and don’t have to talk to scientists!

    • Wha? Really, Elyse – you have a friend who built one? I have become obsessed with tiny homes – I doodle and draw and dream in my spare time of the one I’m going to have someday. When I’m retired. And a widow.

      • I Do have a friend who built one. I haven’t seen it (or her in many years). But I followed her blog and it was cool to watch it develop. I could never live in one though. Even though I spend all my time in one room of my house!

      • I recently saw a cable TV show about people who build and live in tiny houses. Is this becoming a thing? It was on right after a show about people who flip houses but before a show about some dudes who work in a pawnshop.

  4. Indeed, the tortured artist shit can get very tedious. Good job you never met Picasso, eh?
    That must have been some expensive apartment being able to see those two buildings from your shower. She did realise they have telescopes on the top, yeah? Typical French bird.

    Well, I’m gobsmacked at your chivalry but you’ve lost brownie points on whoring 😉

    • Hello, Jules and Happy New Year. Nice to see you. Those Analysts work terrible hours but they’re paid pretty well. That’s how they’re able to afford flats with views of landmark buildings. The trick is getting enough time off to enjoy them.

      See, chivalry is not dead yet. It’s on a slow fade but someone has to stoke the fire so it doesn’t completely die out. That’s where I come in. Sad that it cost me some brownie points, though.

  5. I must admit I was hoping you’d steal the green-eyed girl from her boyfriend. Do you remember the Frenchman called Henri in Cheers, who was always trying to steal Woody’s girlfriend? You could have taken revenge for Woody and America. I don’t know what that last sculpture is, but it’s definitely well hung. 🙂

    • That’s what would have happened in a mid-90’s Rob Reiner rom-com film. In the real world, I’m too intimidated to make a play and I watch her walk off into a cab bound for Kennedy Airport. That’s the reality of it.

      Funny you should describe the sculpture in that term. That’s EXACTLY what Picasso had in mind when he made those. He was combining male and female genitals into the same piece. Take a look at that second example. There’s no mistaking his intent.

      • Yet your diaries don’t suggest you were intimidated by American women. You could have asked her about her boyfriend and waited patiently for the chance to say “He doesn’t deserve a woman like you!” in an exasperated voice. Women in a relationship always find that amusing and charming.

      • I found ALL women kind of scary and intimidating. It’s only recently, say, within the past several weeks, that I’ve stopped being terrorized by women. That’s all excellent advice you dole out. Where were you 20 years ago when I was sitting on a Central Park bench with a pretty foreigner? There’s nothing worse than too late.

  6. For whatever reason, this made me think of you this morning. I was searching for a video of Elvis Costello’s “The Element Within Her” and came across this version that somewhat made of Nathalie Portman in an interview, sound off and slightly slowed down, over a demo version of the song. It’s mesmerizing. I must have sensed you were going to publish something like this today.

  7. 360 sq. ft–at least that’s bigger than many New York hotel rooms. (At least the ones I’ve stayed at. Microscopic.)

    I hate to say it, but that fourth sculpture looks like…well…a big pile of poo.

    • That’s true, but I’m betting (hoping) you didn’t pay that kind of cash to stay in a hotel room that size. Also, hotels are temporary housing. This is supposed to be permanent. I love this town but I wouldn’t do it, even if I could afford it. I agree on the sculpture, but I kind of like the one above it.

      • Yes, I said that tongue-in-cheek about the hotel rooms. I certainly wouldn’t want to make such a tiny space a permanent home either. Though I have in the past. When I was in college, I lived in a scary, tiny, sleeping room in an old house. But I was an introvert (and broke) so a dorm was out of the question or an apartment with roommates. But we all need places like that in our past. Builds character!

      • I don’t know if you also meant your ‘builds character’ comment to be tongue-in-cheek but that happens to be 100% accurate and correct. Everyone needs rough patches when they’re young. Coping mechanisms are easier developed early on.

  8. Good lord! A Picasso piece that leaves me stone cold (and yes, I’ve had my heart-starter!) Some of his work I would not want on my wall, but at least I react to it.These? Maybe I need a hit of something more than coffee.
    Your green-eyed French girl? A sweet memory of a non-affair.
    I wonder if the block dictates the price? 27 th street= 27 grand? Come back a few blocks ,say, 10th and you could maybe afford it! 🙂

    • Stone cold because it’s made of stone? Ha. I think it’s plaster, actually. Actually…I’m not sure. I like the third one. Not so much the others but I was trying to prove a point.

      I had many, many, MANY non-affairs. Most of them were non-affairs and it wasn’t from a lack of effort.

      You can easily spend $2.7K/month on 10th Street. Sadly, that’s just a coincidence.

  9. Those Picasso sculptures have a strong phallic element in my humble opinion. I think he was obsessed with a huge penis. Another blogger saw a huge pile of body excrement I see it has an exaggerated penis attached to a head.

    • Your hunch is dead on. That’s exactly what his intent was. He was combining both male and female genitalia in the same piece. That’s all a bit pretentious for my tastes. I choose to either like or dislike them solely on its visual merits. I have no interest in deeper meanings.

  10. I would have no problem living in a 360sq feet apartment. I would have a problem paying $2700 for it. After all, you’ll only enjoy being out on 27th Avenue twice a day (going out, going back in), but you’ll be paying a ridiculous price for about two parking spots worth of living space every second of your lease.

    • Despite my seeming neediness for material things, I think that I, too, could scale back and live in a space that small. In a way, it’d be a relief. But you’re right about the $$$ aspect of it. Even if I had that kind of money I’d feel like a chump spending it. I’ll bet if you called that building today, most, if not all, of the units would be rented.

      • And that doesn’t surprise me at all. I have friends who pay double my rent for way more (and much nicer) of an apartment they need in a comparable area, lease an Audi, and then complain about not having any free money.
        I also had friends who worked in investment banking with 100+ hour work weeks and chose to live blocks from Time Square and pay Times Square rents, because commuting from other boroughs they’d be left with no time to sleep at all.

      • People will pay exorbitant rents in order to avoid a murderous commute, especially when they’re working those kinds of hours. I looked for a house closer to the city for that reason but what was available to me in my budget would have left me house-poor, and I didn’t want that. So twice a day, I’m packed like a lemming into a shiny metal box. [Any idea where I stole the idea for that last sentence from?]

  11. Happy New Year. 🙂

    I agree with petspeopleandlife that Picasso was obsessed with a huge penis. Since it’s attached to a head, it was either a) on his mind, b) way too small, or c) a head in need of some head? The mind boggles. I appreciate some of Picasso’s art, but these just seem stupid.

    I just bought a whole house in wine country for less than the micro. I 💜 NYC, but that’s a crazy price!

    • Happy New Year to you, too! Thanks for your many visits and thoughtful comments over the year. Much obliged.

      Picasso was obsessed with a huge penis? I think you can make a blanket statement and say MEN are obsessed. I think wars have been started by men trying to prove how big theirs was. Think of the Bush administration. Nothing but men trying to prove how big their dicks were.

      I visited wine country with my bride a couple of years ago. I have a good friend who lives in Santa Rosa. Do you know where that is. It’s a beautiful part of the country. Who needs 27th Street?

  12. Their torment is so tedious. Ah, you crack me up. It would be a thrill to witness a lob of plaster from Picasso. Anyone else, not so much. And you still go to those summer concerts, don’t you? I wondered if you ever thought about the girl who lived in Canada since. When you stumbled upon the entry, was it only then that you remembered? I think that is the reason alone to journal. I find I forget people otherwise. I forget names most of all, especially lately. That is a steep price for a little box, but I guess people can do wonders with small spaces. I’ve considered the tiny house. Happy New Year, Mark!!

    • The only thing I find tedious today is my obsession over blog stats and readers and posting frequency tedious. It’s all a big circle, isn’t it?

      Honestly, I hadn’t thought about that girl (or the entire incident, in fact) in decades. That’s what these journals are good for. I don’t have the greatest memory and if it weren’t for these reminders from the past it’d all be lost.

      I could scale down my living to 360 sq. ft. I’d miss my books but it might be kind of freeing. But I can’t see past paying that kind of money. It’s just stupid. I don’t care where you’re standing when you walk out the door.

      • Are you obsessed? With your stats and posting frequency? Or everyone else’s? I can see why you might find it tedious. I just do what I can! I’ve given up obsessing about numbers.

      • I’m obsessed with my own numbers, of course. I’m far too selfish to think of anyone else’s. It’s all part of my sad neediness and hopeless quest to seek validation through the approval of complete strangers. The first step is admitting I have a problem.

  13. Your posts never disappoint! And this one had the added bonus of your writing! And I’m sorry to inform you, but you are cursed with talent…
    I immediately thought of Joseph Merrick when I saw those sculptures. I have a recent book about his life I want to read (someday).
    I think I could live in a small space, if I traveled constantly and could stay in bigger spaces while I was away! Guess that’s the price you pay for living in the big city where all the action is… or not, according to your journal entry 🙂 But you did exhibit a high level of self-control like the gentleman that you are. (Hope you didn’t just spew something on your keyboard!)

    • I suppose I have a modicum of talent but the thing I lack—the thing that has saved me from being driven insane–is a total lack of drive. That’s what I should’ve written. Thank God I’m not cursed with drive.

      That’s an excellent observation about Merrick. I hadn’t made that association but it’s spot-on.

      I would like to live in a SERIES of small places. One in each of several different cities, including Clevo.

      You give me way too much credit. That wasn’t ‘self control’ at all and I was no Agentleman. I knew a hopeless case when I saw one. Believe me, if that girl had expressed even the slightest interest or had given me any kind of green light, I’d have acted, boyfriend or not. I’m actually not a very nice person.

  14. Picasso needs to cut back on the coffee.

    Also, he could probably rent the space under those statue guys’ schnozs as Micro ApARTments for $3000/mo to space-starved New Yorkers.

    • Cut down on coffee or maybe visit a methadone clinic. That might open some vistas for him as well.

      “ApARTments” might be one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever seen in blog land. Get thee to a patent office right away.

  15. I agree with petspeopleandlife above. The sculptures look like a cock made out of a turd.

    We don’t really do this sq ft thing in the UK but I’ve just been sketching out the lower floor of my house and measuring its area. I don’t see how 360 sq ft is “micro”. A kitchen, a living room and a bedroom, each 10 by 10 (bigger than many rooms in the terraces of Lancashire), then a 6 by 10 bathroom. That’s not small to me.

    This on the other hand, is truly small, in a fashionable part of West London. 72 sq ft in total, and yours for £3,878 per month (US$ 5669 according to

    • Reputations are made and lost on square feet. Men measure the square footage of their homes as a proxy for the size of their manhood. It’s real estate porn out here. Thanks for the link. I can’t decide if that’s real or a gullibility test. Could go either way.

  16. WOW! I find that I almost need to take notes when I read your posts so that I can comment intelligently because I get lost in all the comments from others and totally forget my own thoughts! (make sense? it did to me before i wrote it) Anyway, yes there are times when I wonder WTF was Picasso thinking and wrinkle my nose as if to say, whatever, as my teenager granddaughter. (where am I going with this?) I guess it’s to say yes, seeing those all together does give a much better understanding of his thought pattern.

    I enjoy reading your journal entries from back in the day because I seem to have skipped that part of life marrying young and having children earlier than most of my peers. So, I thank you for sharing what I did/didn’t miss! 😉

    I have only one thing to say about the tiny house movement: NO. (Ok, I have to say, not for me.)


    • Yeah, this place is a regular skulhouse. Skulhouse rock. I don’t get much of Picasso but I get SOME of Picasso and when I get it, it makes me feel like a big smarty-pants.

      My journal entries are the only evidence that I was having a nice time. My memory is so flawed that all I can recall is sadness. Good thing I wrote it all down.

      I had a tiny apartment in New York. I shared it with a couple of cockroaches. I’m all about space now.

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  18. You know that entry from your past strangely parallels the last installment on the lounge, not exactly but a bit in mood, tone, and outcome… and once a young Kono spent the better part of a day wandering around the Picasso Museum in Paris, awestruck and head swimming, i remember wanting to find an art store and an apartment in Montmartre, possibly above a sex shop or some other seedy joint, to be young and full of dreams… instead today i’m fixing a toilet.

    • Yeah, I need to get my ass over there. I took a few weeks off and have been playing catch-up all week. There were some posts I could just breeze through but yous are thick and juicy. There’s not breezing over that stuff.

      I admit I don’t understand A LOT of what Picasso was doing but as the years peel away, I find myself slowly understanding. It’s like a fog lifting.

      From Paris to plumbing is a major fall from grace.

  19. Re the Picasso – I see penises every where. Perhaps I’ve been at sea too long.
    Good boy for behaving with the girl involved with someone else.

    • Back in the day (I hate that expression. Why did I just use it?) I was in a writing workshop with Sedaris when he first got to NYC. He was the only one in the room with any talent. You could tell he had a gift. The rest of us were dullards in comparison. Several months after the workshop I was walking through Santaland at Macy’s and bumped into him dressed as an elf. We had a nice chat, wished each other a happy holiday and the rest is history. I always went to his plays and his (increasingly-crowded) book signings and he always had a kind word for me. It’s my best brush with celebrity story. Have you got one?

      • I only met him at a book signing but he was extremely generous. He probably spent ten minutes talking to me and drew pictures in both the books I purchased and wrote jokes based on our conversation. He’s my favorite humorist and his books have meant a lot to me so it was immensely satisfying to have him be so down to earth.

      • That guy is almost enough to restore your faith in the human race. Almost. Some of the stories he read in that workshop wound up in Barrel Fever. I feel extremely privileged to have been in that particular place at that particular time.

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