My First Class Face

I drained my frequent flyer account for a first class upgrade on a flight to Las Vegas. It’s only the third or fourth time I sat in first. It’s not a subtle difference. It’s a significant improvement. It’s like the scene from The Wizard of Oz when everything goes from black and white to color.

I was praying my seatmate would be a wealthy boor. Someone who’s accustomed to luxury and whose standards are so impossibly high that nothing is ever good enough. Hypersensitive, unaware of their good fortune and not afraid to point out the inferior. I love having my prejudices and preconceived notions validated. Well, I got what I wanted. That’s only happened three or four times as well.

I boarded right away. Group 1. Other passengers started their slow Bataan Death March past me to coach. I imagined them looking down at me and thinking I must be a person of substance. Someone with gravitas instead of just regular, which is what I am. I put on my best blasé face. Like I’ve been there so many times before.

A beautiful, stately older gentleman sat next to me. Late 60s. A plume of white, expensively cut hair. A mahogany tan with alabaster teeth. An easy smile. Effortlessly dressed in a casual jacket, crisp, white, open collar shirt, linen trousers and woven loafers without socks. He was going to Vegas to give a talk at a conference. That’s what he does for a living. He travels the world and gives talks.

Soon after takeoff our steward set two small, white porcelain bowls of nuts on our ample armrest. He popped one in his mouth. “They’re not warm.” This led to a discussion on the deteriorating quality of first class air travel. He said it’s lost its élan. “It sure has,” I said.

He asked if I was going to Vegas for wine and women half my age. I told him I’m past all that and just want to shoot craps a bit, see some magic shows and sleep. He winked and said he understood. Said that, in his experience, the men who talk about it the most are the ones who get it the least.

I think he thought I was being coy but, good Lord, I don’t have game anymore. If a woman half my age threw herself at me I doubt I’d realize her intention until after she stormed off insulted. I really did just want to get some sleep.

*     *     *

“Where are you staying?”
“The Palazzo.”
“That’s a nice place. *sniff* I’m staying at The Wynn. I’ll only stay at The Wynn. It’s written into my contract.”

*     *     *

He refuses to eat airline food. For lunch, I ordered the chicken and he said, with 100% certainty, that I was going to regret it. He pulled a zip lock bag out of his soft, leather carry on. It was filled with high-fiber granola cereal. It looked like a bag of stuff he scraped out of his backyard. He told (told, not asked) our steward to bring him a bowl and some milk.

The chicken *was* pretty awful. Even by my low standards.

*     *     *

We finished our meals and he said, “At least the warm cookies are still good. They haven’t ruined those yet.”

When they weren’t forthcoming fast enough, he beckoned our steward over and asked for his cookies. “I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t serve those anymore.” He gave me a conspiratorial sideways glance and said, “See what I mean?” I nodded, knowingly.

I was reading the new David Sedaris book. He said he’s published two books and likes to keep up with contemporary literary trends but never heard of Sedaris, which I found hard to believe. I told him that Sedaris has a worldwide audience and has sales in the millions.

“Let me see that a minute.”

I handed it over. He opened it in the middle of the book, read a page and handed it back.

“That stuff’s not for me. I stick with biographies of the greats. Margaret Thatcher. Benjamin Netanyahu. Ronald Reagan.”

*     *     *

There were two children sitting in first class. They were about five and 10. How will they ever acclimate themselves to hardship and suffering?

~~~~~~~~~

The next time you go to your favorite seafood restaurant and order the mussel appetizer and go to throw the shells away, DON’T.

Marcel Broodthaers
Poêle de moules
Mussel shells, frying pan and resin on painted wooden base
Est: $350,000 – 450,000
Sold for $439,500

I have a stack of newspapers in the corner of my garage that look exactly like these.

Robert Gober
Newspaper
Est: $20,000 – 30,000
Sold for $56,250

Almost double the high estimate. So worth it.

To laugh or weep: contemporary art auction results

I’m sure many of you read about the Basquiat that sold for $110 million to Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa. He relayed his bids to a Sotheby’s specialist on his iPhone, which I find quaint for some reason. The work was listed as ‘estimate on request,’ but nobody expected it to sell for that much. That’s Picasso and Monet territory.

To his credit, Maezawa plans to open a museum in his hometown of Chiba, Japan, to showcase his sizeable collection. He told The New York Times, “I want to show beautiful things and share them with everyone. It would be a waste just to keep it all to myself.” Good on you, sir.

That’s the drama of this season’s auctions. Are you ready for the comedy? Let’s kick the door open and break the hinges with these excruciating exercises in pomposity. On the left, the word “PLEASE” stenciled six times onto a sheet of aluminum. On the right, four shop vacs in a Plexiglas case with neon lights.

Christopher Wool
Untitled
Estimate: $15,000,000-20,000,000
Sold for $17,159,500

Jeff Koons
New Shelton Wet/Drys 10 Gallon, New Shelton Wet/Drys 5 Gallon Doubledecker
Estimate: $7,000,000-9,000,000
Sold for $7,863,500

 

What’s the intrinsic value of a piece of red yarn tacked to a wall?

Fred Sandback
Untitled (Diagonal Cornered Construction)
Estimate: $70,000-100,000
Sold for $60,000

I can’t poke you with a sharp stick throughout the entire post with terrible art. I’m not a complete curmudgeon. I’ve gone hot and cold over Roy Lichtenstein over the years but this piece was bold and stark. Estimate on request always kills me. It sounds like a dare.

Roy Lichtenstein
Nude Sunbathing
Estimate on request
Sold for $24,000,000

I’m no fan of Basquiat. I think his stuff is infantile. Plus, I don’t respect him for throwing it all away on an OD. Poor, tortured, artist. Boo hoo. Idiot. But this is nice. I like Lester Young.

Jean-Michael Basquiat
In The Wings
Estimate: $5,000,000-7,000,000
Sold for $5,975,000

Ugly and violent. I turned the corner and this was high on the wall. It looked very real.

Maurizio Cattelan
Untitled
Estimate: $1,000,000-1,500,000
Sold for $1,507,500

This was one of the showcase lots. I happen to like Francis Bacon but I can understand it if you don’t.

These are based on photos of George Dyer. Dyer was the great love of his life but the relationship was a bouillabaisse of alcohol, abuse and dysfunction. They met when Dyer, a small-time cat burglar, broke into Bacon’s studio in the middle of the night to rob him. Bacon caught him and said if he didn’t go to bed with him, he’d call the police.

Francis Bacon
Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer
Estimate on Request
Sold for $51,767,500

Speaking of British eccentrics:

There’s always one that defies commentary.

Damien Hirst
Dog Days
Glass, wood, paint, cigarettes, cigars, ash and lipstick
Estimate: $350,000-450,000
Sold for $468,500

~~~~~~~~~~

bins

April 27, 1993

I was sitting on the sofa finishing Barry Gifford’s Wild at Heart—wonderful—when suddenly, someone in the hallway started screaming at the top of their lungs, “HELP! HELP! MURDER! HELP ME!” It was the most God-awful, horrible thing I’ve ever heard. The hair on my legs stood up. The first thing I did was turn the lights off because, believe me, you don’t want to get involved in this neighborhood. I’ve read one too many stories about good Samaritans getting the shiv. [Note: What a hero I was. What a man of action.]

I looked out the peephole and the guy across the hall poked his head out the door but didn’t go into the hallway. Someone must’ve called the cops because in about ninety seconds the place was filled with them. They all piled into the apartment next door where those two gay guys live. Two minutes later two cops casually walk out talking about the softball league. Meanwhile, my heart is hammering in my chest.

About ten minutes after that, the cops escorted someone out who was carrying a suitcase. I didn’t recognize him. He must’ve been a weekend guest or something.

What must it be like being a cop? They arrive expecting bloody murder and they’re met with a bunch of gay guys having a domestic dispute. But it could’ve just as easily gone the other way. What a job! Those guys are fucking idiots. You don’t scream bloody murder on this block unless you’ve got someone with a gun on the other side of your door trying to get it. I called Lynne in the front office this morning and she didn’t know anything about it. Didn’t hear a thing. How is that possible?!

Heartache Blvd is paved with successful first dates

bins

April 16, 1993

The actress I met last week is a real tomato. I think I’m smitten. I took her to The Public to see the Irish Rep’s production of ‘Seconds Out,’ which was fantastic. I got choked-up and teary but I don’t think she saw, thank God. The Irish are masters of the written word and I love their music. Just keep them out of the kitchen.

I waited in the lobby and wasn’t exactly sure what to look for. We’d only met once, briefly. All I had was a vague recollection. But I recognized her right away when she arrived. So beautiful! An angelic face nestled inside a cloud of sandy-brown hair. She introduced me to some acting friends who work at The Public.

Afterwards, we walked over to Acme on Lafayette and Great Jones. We sat at the bar and drank. We’d lean forward and touch each other’s arm or hand to make a point and the more we drank, the longer the touch would linger. After we were properly pickled, we saw that, sitting on the last bar stool, was George Wendt, the actor who plays Norm on Cheers. He was drinking a mug of beer, holding it the same way his character does. Art imitates life. Or life imitates art. God we laughed!

She offered to pay for drinks, which was sweet, but I know she’s a broke-assed actor so I paid. It was midnight and I told her to use her money for a cab ride and stay the hell out of the subway. She showed me a can of mace she keeps in her purse. It took her a minute to dig it out. She would’ve been beaten over her head several times by the time she found it.

We walked out to Lafayette and I whistled for a cab. One pulled up. I opened the door and before she got in she kissed me. She reached up, put her hand on the back of my head and gently pulled me towards her. She smelled nice. While we were kissing another cab pulled up next to us for me. So we were kissing between two waiting cabs at midnight on Lafayette Street. A wonderful evening. Seeing her next Thursday.

Lauren and I are leaving for the Bahamas Saturday morning. Her friends at work are making fun of her for going to the Caribbean with ‘just a friend’ but that’s exactly how it is. Them bitches at Donna Karan are a mean bunch. I called her and said I met a delightful girl and would she mind coming down with the flu or tuberculosis so I could take her instead. She laughed.

I called Oscar and told him about the Laura/Lauren dichotomy. He asked me how much Lauren has paid towards the ticket to the Prince concert at Radio City last month. I told him she didn’t have to pay me anything because she’s broke. He said if I was gay there’d be men crawling all over each other to get to me. Too bad for the gay community.

~~~~~~~~~~

I had time to kill before the theater and did a couple of quick gallery hops. Kevin Francis Gray has some of the most unusual sculptures I’ve ever seen at Pace’s 24th St. Gallery. An ugly beauty, if there’s such a thing.

These are marble. Until you’re standing just a foot or two away, you’d swear they were clay.

HOW did he accomplish these intricate folds and crevices in marble. I didn’t think it was that malleable a medium.

It looks like it was a soft material that was molded with hands. HOW?

Pace Gallery doing it AGAIN, this time on 25th St. with Yoshitomo Nara’s Thinker exhibit. You might be familiar with Nara’s moody adolescent girl.

The exhibit included sculptures and drawings but its primary focus is this image that he has worked over the course of his career.

I don’t find the work repetitive at all. Maybe it’s because I have a house full of moody adolescent girls.

~~~~~~~~~~

After Pace Gallery x2 I saw Laurie Metcalf and Chris Cooper in A Doll’s House, Part 2 on Broadway. It’s a terrible title and a terrible marketing campaign for a hilarious comedy/drama. Metcalf and Cooper are pros who can convincingly pivot from comedic banter to serious drama. Deservingly nominated for Best New Play in 2017, but they should shoot whoever thought up that title. I needed TWO personal recommendations before I even considered going.

I felt bad for such a long time about not attending college. If you’d told me when I was a kid that I’d spend a random Thursday evening gallery-hopping in Chelsea before attending a great Broadway comedy/drama, I’d have felt a lot better about the future. All that wasted time fretting. What a shame.

Smashed urn [Han dynasty]. Smashed heart [mine].

In my last post, all I did was move a rock a few inches. Look what he did.

Contemporary artist and political rabble-rouser Ai Weiwei dropped a Han dynasty urn. The event is memorialized in a sequence of three black and white photos. Last February, at a Sotheby’s auction in London, a set (#3 of 8) was estimated to sell from $200,000-300,000. It sold for $1,091,000.

I saw these in the Pace Gallery. They weren’t photos, though. They were much larger than the original pics.

The pixilation only revealed itself upon close inspection.

These are made from thousands of tiny Lego bricks.

~~~~~~~~~~

bins

April 11, 1993

Margret called. She such a racist pig—always making some crack about gays or blacks—but she’s so stunningly beautiful that I get woozy and forget all about it when she pays attention to me. What a body. She was bitching and moaning about men. It’s been an endless parade of mama’s boys who live at home and can’t stand on their own two feet. She called them spineless. I told her I was going to the Bahamas with Lauren and she said she’d miss me, which I know isn’t true.

She asked me if I’d write and layout her brother’s resume. (I knew she was calling for a reason.) I playfully said I’d only do it if she begged me. That I love it when she begs. She played along and said in a breathy, erotic voice, “Oh, Mark, please do it for me. I need it. PLEASE…” We both had a good laugh. Then she called me a bastard, which was also kind of erotic. We’re going to Chinatown tomorrow night for dinner. I love Chinatown. It’s one of my favorite neighborhoods.

Worked until 8:00 and brought home a grilled kofta from the Afghani kabab joint on Houston. Superb.

[Note: What follows is my first meeting with a girl who knocked the life out of me. It took a long, long time to recover. It’s interesting to read about a precise moment that had such profound and long-lasting implications, but to not have any idea at the time. My present self wants to reach into the past and scream a warning. In the break-up, I got New York and she got Omaha.]

I was outside The Public Theater on Lafayette waiting for Klinger. We had tickets for an Irish Rep production. That guy is habitually late. He does it to take control. So passive/aggressive. I took a seat on a steam pipe and watched the big parade. A pretty girl standing next to me looked down and said, “Would you like a BLT?” I thought she was kidding but she pulled a sandwich out of her bag and handed it to me. I told her to pull up a steam pipe.

She was waiting on her roommate, who was also late. We cursed them. She was easy to chat-up. Younger than me. Tall with a long mane of willowy brown hair. Pretty eyes. Smoked incessantly. She’s an actress so I think I’m doomed. [Note: You have no idea, youngblood.]

Curtain time approached and there was no sign of Klinger or her roommate so I told her she should join me, to which she agreed straight away. I tried to give her the bum rush into the building, hoping that idiot Klinger wouldn’t show up at the last second but, of course, he did because that’s what he does. I could’ve killed him. Later that evening he told me I should’ve waved him off.

I gave her my phone number and she called. Laura. I told Betsy and she said that because of the unusual circumstances surrounding our meeting, she’s THE ONE.

I’m having Candace over for dinner again on Thursday after her therapy session with her girlfriend, which is never boring.

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.

~~~~~~~~~~

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.