The enemy within

bins

April 7, 1992

I’m worried about my mental health. Things are going reasonably well. The family is healthy. I’m not nursing a broken heart. I’m gainfully (albeit, unsatisfactorily) employed. Yet, I zone out and get these horrible, violent visions. I imagine terrible things happening to me or the family. Torture or disease or a fatal accident or crime. When I finally snap out of it, my teeth are clinched so tight that my jaw hurts and I have a tremendous headache. I project my angst onto others and assume anyone successful looks down on me and laughs behind my back. I hate people at work who are nothing but nice to me simply because they have a clear career path and I’m headed nowhere. I’m consumed with envy and uncertainty.

Poor Shannon wants to be friends in the worst way but she commits the unforgivable sin of being born into a wealthy family. Old wealth. Really old wealth, according to Ethan. [Note: Ethan was our boss.] I’m mean to her. She invited me to a spring party at her family’s estate. Ethan said it’s a rare opportunity and I should go, if for no other reason, just to see the mansion. It’s got a name. Like, Olde Crest Manor, or something like that. Of course, I told her I wouldn’t go. I don’t have the poise to spend an entire day with blue bloods.

I spoke to Jennifer. She sent some work down to us. I told her about my attending the pro-choice rally in D.C. and mentioned the chant I wrote for it. She laughed. It might be the two best lines I’ll ever write. She seemed genuinely happy to hear my voice. Towards the end of the evening, around 10:00, she came down to pick up her work. I kept my head down and shuffled pages like a news anchor. It’s so sad what happened. She seemed to like me well enough but I couldn’t get past her being a Yale graduate. It’s all I’d think about when we were together. I heard she’s got a boyfriend. Probably someone who isn’t ashamed of what he does for a living, but not as funny. I haven’t had a proper girlfriend in a long time. As soon as they see which way the wind is blowing, they bolt.

My wrist, arm, hand and shoulder are still cramping-up. I’m waiting for the pain to dissipate on its own but it’s not getting any better. I don’t know what to do.

We were in the Times the other day. We’re the #1, top dog PR firm in the city.  It’s because we take all the scummy clients. Those are the ones who pay the highest fees. Last night I worked on something related to the NHL strike. We’re representing the owners, of course. We have all the sin products. Liquor. Tobacco. It’s nauseating.

Today is Billie Holiday’s birthday. The college jazz station has been playing five solid hours of her music. Holy cow, is it depressing. But so good.


The Metropolitan Museum of Art discovered the power and profit of fashion when they mounted a career retrospective of Alexander McQueen in 2011. It proved to be so popular they had to keep the museum open 24/7 on the weekends so they could accommodate the masses. Since then, they’ve feasted on a steady diet of fashion exhibits. Who could blame them?

I can be sized-up in about two seconds as someone who doesn’t know a thing about fashion. But I found the current Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology exhibit satisfying from a design perspective. I also enjoyed its outrageousness. I don’t speak a word of French but I would guess that haute couture and pret-a-porter are synonymous to bizarre and strange.

Alexander McQueen
Dress
Hand- and machine-sewn nude silk organdy and net, hand-embroidered with red-orange glass beads, freshwater pearls, pieces of coral and dyed shells.

McQueen1

Pieces of coral?

McQueen2

McQueen3

Iris van Herpen
Dress
Hand-stitched strips of laser-cut nude silicone feathers, machine sewn white cotton twill, hand applied silicone-coated gull skulls with synthetic pearls and glass eyes

Herpen1

Gull skulls?

Herpen2

Herpen3

Gareth Pugh
Dress
Machine-sewn black silk-wool gazer with overlay of black mesh, hand-embroidered with black plastic drinking straws

Drinking straws?

Pugh_black

Machine-sewn white silk-wool gazer with overlay of white mesh, hand-embroidered with clear plastic drinking straws

Pugh_white

Vincent’s Faded Flowers

I dragged everyone to the Met on Sunday afternoon to see Van Gogh: Irises and Roses. I’m pretty sure they would’ve preferred a trip to the beach instead but that’s too bad. Stuff like this is once-in-a-lifetime.

vang5This exhibit gathers four works that Van Gogh painted shortly before taking his life. All four masterpieces were completed in just ONE WEEK—an incredible burst of creativity and energy, done at the height of his madness.

They were conceived as a set and intended to be hung as you see here, vertical orientations on either end and landscape in the middle. Each vase is slightly off-center. They’re set on a table whose horizontal line runs concurrent through all four works, anchoring them. This exhibit is the first time all four paintings have been seen together since they were executed in 1890.

vang1He carefully selected colors that would compliment and play off of each other. He used paints that had unstable pigments and knew the colors would fade over time. In a letter to his brother Theo, he wrote that, “Paintings fade like flowers.”

These roses were originally pink. Now, they’re a pure white.

vang4The irises, once a deep purple, are now blue.

There was an accompanying video that attempted to recreate the original colors. They used pigment analysis and detailed notes Van Gogh kept regarding his color and process, but they were just educated guesses. Nobody alive knows what these originally looked like.

vang2The girls weren’t terribly impressed with this summer’s rooftop installation but I thought it had some artistic merit. The Roof Garden Commission: Pierre Huyghe starts off with a somewhat confusing displacement of paving stones. I thought it was a construction project but it’s part of the exhibit. It felt disengaged from anything having to do with art.

huyghe4On the far corner of the roof is the primary piece. The meat of the exhibit.

huyghe3Inside a giant fish tank floats (floats!) a bolder of Manhattan schist—the unique and powerful bedrock that allows skyscrapers and transit systems to be anchored to this small spit of land. The tip of the bolder peeks above the surface. A pile of sand rises to a few inches below the bolder.

huyghe5The glass randomly toggles from clear to opaque. I’m not sure how this is accomplished but it’s a nice effect.

huyghe1huyghe2Inside the fish tank are creepy, alien-like tadpole shrimp. I don’t know if they’re there for aesthetic reasons or f they provide a cleaning service. At the end of each video, you can see the glass cloud over.

The exhibit brochure is full of some artistic babble regarding the dynamic gathering of different elements—plants, stones and animals. That stuff never sinks into my thick skull. I just enjoy the visceral thrill it provides (or doesn’t). I require nothing more from the artist, least of all an explanation.


Daughter + Frank Stella’s Die Fahne hoch!

When Stella first showed this painting in 1959 people were baffled and looked for a deep meaning. He responded by saying:

“What you see is what you see. Painting to me is a brush and a bucket and you put it on a surface. There’s no other reality for me other than that.”

That sounds kind of shallow but that’s how I feel about it, too.

Juxtapose Your Day

Juxtaposition is when two contrasting items are placed in close proximity to one another for heightened effect. In concert, a band will play a raucous song followed by a quiet one. Springsteen does it a lot. It’s Beethoven’s favorite device. His music is ether bombastic or delicate. Movies, literature, art—it’s everywhere. Juxtaposition is used to tweak your perceptions.


After the humiliation of watching a derelict violently berate two young girls and not lift a finger to help, the rest of my day unfolded in a narcotic euphoria. It was like watching a sped-up film of a flower opening.

I unpacked the guilt I was carrying for calling in sick (when I wasn’t), and the guilt for not helping those girls and left it on the marble steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Forgiveness is a snap under the right conditions. I came out of the subway at 86th Street and a gentle snow was falling. It was purifying.

Curves within curves.

met-ceiling

The key to a museum visit is to get there when it opens. You float through the quiet corridors and empty galleries unmolested by crowds and noise.

The empty Met Café with snowstorm outside.

cafe3

People have their churches and cathedrals. Their synagogues, mosques, ashrams and shrines. I’ve visited a few of those places with an open heart and have never experienced any of the things you’re supposed to—an epiphany, a swelling of the spirit, becoming flush with joy. Mostly, they bore me. There’s only one place that fills my empty cup o’ essence to the brim and that’s an art museum.

Lovers steal a kiss in the Temple of Dendur.

Dendur2

Art museums restore my faith in humanity and fill me with hope and forgiveness. It’s the only evidence I’ve seen that there might be a God. Listening to a sermon has never convinced me. They’re all slick-haired, television evangelists to me. Art museums are filled with kindred damaged souls.

“His fleece was white as snow…”

snowI never understood Cubism but this exhibit was an historical gathering of paintings, so I felt compelled to see it. I did a smart thing. I bought an audio tour. If you stand in front of a jumbled mess and someone carefully explains the artist’s intent, the mess dissolves into a new clarity and a deeper understanding. Its meaning is unearthed and something that, at first glance, you never thought you could like, much less understand, suddenly makes perfect sense. It turns out I love Cubism very much. What a surprise! I can’t tell you what a relief it is to know that an old dog like me can still learn a thing or two. It makes me sad that I didn’t have any teachers in my youth. What else have I missed?

Looking down into Central Park from the 2nd floor of the Met.

Central Park3

I took a walk through Central Park. Walking through a snowy Central Park will make you glad to be alive. It’ll make your heavy heart light and put a big, stupid grin on your face that will make you look disturbed to people walking past you. And that thought will please you.

“Have I gone mad?”
“I’m afraid so, but let me tell you something, the best people usually are.”

Lewis Carroll
Alice in Wonderland

alice

Beyond those trees, some of the most expensive real estate on the planet.

central-park2

After the Park, I saw a movie. Bridman, with Michael Keaton. It’s about actors. Then I saw an off-Broadway play. A one-man show presented by a guy who spent 10 years in prison. He performed 18 different and distinct characters he met there, oftentimes in conversational clusters where you had four or five individuals coming out of one mouth.

All that happened within a 15-hour period. A near mugging, an artistic revelation, a stroll through a wintery Central Park, a move and then a play. During that entire span, I was alone. I didn’t talk to a soul and do you know what? I loved it.

I love my wife and daughters. Read the back-posts if you don’t believe me. But I’m content in my own skin. I always have been. I’ve never been lonely a day in my life and I don’t look to anyone to supply my happiness for me. I hang on my cross for lots of things. [Here’s one nail: Though my father lived with us until I was 16, I never had a conversation him.] But I’ve got independence, and that’s an awesome weapon to have in your arsenal.


Darla recently announced that she just obtained her 10,000th follower. A few days later, Elyse said she hit 4,000. Congrats girls! Well done and well deserved. I’d like to announce to the world that my follow meter just clicked to:

365

Pretty good, right? And I’ve only been doing this for seven years. Just wait until I pick up a head of steam. The sky’s the limit, bitches. [EDIT: I just reread this. Yikes. I’m not directing “bitches” at Darla and Elyse. Do a search. I call my audience bitches. All apologies if it was taken the wrong way.]

All kidding aside, I have a small, but vocal, following and I’ll take that any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Thank you, one and all.


Bonus track

This magnificent window was made by Louis Comfort Tiffany in 1924. NO PAINT was used in its production. Instead, the color comes from tiny bits of colored glass—he called it “glass confetti.” It throws light and is luminescent in a way paint is not. The water’s mist was made by layering thin panes of glass on top of one another. Other textures were created by wrinkling glass in its molten state.

tiffany2

Now do you believe me?

I Spy With My Little Eye: Something Dangerous

I finally committed the crime I said I’d never commit: I made a parental decision based on what everyone else is doing. How lame is that?

I broke down and got an iPhone for my 12 (and a half)-year old daughter. I felt (feel) that that’s too young to mess with something as hedonistic as a smart phone but my hand was forced. She’s got a lovely group of girlfriends. They all do well academically. They’re polite and can hold their end of a conversation. They’re the types of kids I want her around. And they’ve all got iPhones. ALL OF THEM. When they group text or share photos, Daughter Dear is left out of the loop. I know how that feels. I spent my entire childhood out of the loop and if I can spare her that burden by breaking one of my rules, I’ll break it. I don’t want her drifting to a different crowd because she was disconnected.

This has lead to no small amount of angst, worry and sleepless nights. I’ve taken a dramatic and, some would say, unethical step.

I loaded tracking/monitoring software onto her phone.

You can lecture me all you want about trust and privacy issues but, Jesus H. Criminy, she’s just 12 (and a half). I don’t think ANY 12 (and a half)-year old girl should be left on her own to navigate the scary world of Instagram. I don’t feel good about reading her text messages. It makes me feel kind of dirty. But I’m in a no-win situation.

I’m finding that “little kids, little problems/big kids, big problems” is more than just a clever turn of a phrase. It’s pregnant with truth. I wonder if any of the other parents monitor their kid’s mobile phone use? Could you accuse them of being lazy and uncaring if they don’t? What would you do?


We made our annual pilgrimage to the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the summer installation. Every year they do something special on the roof and every year I drag the kids up there whether they like it or not. (I think they like it.) We arrive when the museum first opens so that we have the roof to ourselves.

Some of these installations are pure genius and some of them fall flat. This year’s model lies somewhere in between. The Roof Garden Commission by Dan Graham is an interesting “S” of steel and glass set between two ivy hedgerows.

Roof Garden Commission4The roof was covered with grass (actually artificial turf) and is meant to be viewed in conjunction with the lush greenery of Central Park.

Roof Garden Commission5The interesting part, the “get,” is the glass. It’s two-way mirrored and while completely translucent from one side, you see a gentle refection from the other.

Roof Garden Commission2It’s a neat trick. You can still see through the reflective side, but the ghosted images of the city can be seen distorted in a half-circle. It makes for a fun family portrait.

Roof Garden Commission1I wish it were a larger exhibit. Once the crowds arrived, it lost some of its magic. People waited in line to take photos from the best, most reflective, angles.

My Bride points. I imagine the dialogue is something like, “See that building over there? That’s where Daddy wishes he had a pied-à-terre.”

Roof Garden Commission3It’s an interesting enough piece although I was somewhat underwhelmed. To date, the best installation I’ve taken them to—hell the best one I’ve ever seen—was Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto’s anthropodino at the Park Avenue Armory in 2009. THAT’S how it’s done.


After the museum we saw a Broadway musical. Despite visiting the theater on an almost weekly basis, the fact is, with a few exceptions, I can’t stand Broadway musicals. Quintuple my nausea if there are children on stage. Broadway kids are the worst. They’re precocious, overly-talented mini-adults. Behind each one, giving a good hard shove, is a failed actress trying to relive the dream.

My kiddies wanted to see Matilda and since I’d be willing to take a bullet for them, suffering a musical seemed like a small matter in comparison. So there I was at the Shubert Theater for a Saturday matinee with a stage and house full of children. Dreadful. Strike up the overture. Let’s get this over with.

I may have to re-think my knee-jerk revulsion. The girl playing Matilda was a joy to watch. The stage design was magnificent. The lyrics are peppered with hilarious asides for adults. Matilda’s mother sings this one from her hospital gurney just after giving birth to Matilda, a child she neither wanted nor loves. Where you’d expect an ode to the joys of childbirth, you are treated to:

“Oh, my undercarriage doesn’t feel quite normal.
My skin looks revolting in this foul fluorescent light.
I should be dancing the tarantella –
Cui buon fare Italiano. [Italian: With good Italian manner]
Not dressed in hospital cotton,
With a smarting front bottom.”

How can you not like that? Thank you, Royal Shakespeare Company.

matilda

Art-o-Rama

My Bride had to spend Saturday conducting Christmas biz-niz so I took the girlies into the city and went gallery hopping in Chelsea. There’s an unusually robust selection of interesting exhibits up right now. This is all a part of my program to brainwash them into loving New York as much as I do. Plus, as any two-bit psychologist will tell you, I’m trying to be a better father than that poor, broken soul who raised me, which shouldn’t be too terribly difficult. The bar wasn’t set that high.

The first stop was the Mary Boone Gallery on 24th St. Two fine, new sculptures by KAWS are on display. This is ALONG THE WAY.

kaws-1

They’re 18′ high and made of wood. They look like two, sad Disney characters who lost their franchise, poor things.

kaws-21

I’m not entirely sure what kind of wood he used but it’s polished and smooth with beautiful grain. The wood glows in the light that streams in from the skylights. This is the other sculpture. This is AT THIS TIME. Daughter improvised that pose. I didn’t direct her to do that. I’m a proud papa.

kaws-31

As with many of these pieces, I’m not entirely sure what practical application can be made. They’re enormous.

kaws-4

This is INSIDE OUT by Richard Serra at the Gagosian Gallery on 21st St. It’s made from his trademark curved steel walls. Here’s a shot from the catalog that gives you a proper overview of the piece.

serraYou can’t really see how expansive it is from the ground. I think they should provide a catwalk or something so you can view it from on high.

serra-a3

We went to a similar Serra exhibit a few years ago at the same gallery. This stuff never gets old for me.

serra-a2

Surprisingly, the girls remembered the last exhibit and even the artist’s name. Mwwhahaha. It’s working.

serra-a4

I have to constantly remind the little one not to run her finger along the edge of the wall. The gallery is paranoid about the oil from your skin somehow degrading the surface. I suppose if enough people did it, it’d have an effect.

The David Zwirner Gallery on 19th St. is hosting I WHO HAVE ARRIVED IN HEAVEN by Yayoi Kusama. It’s a treat!

kusama-2It’s a series of inflatable stalagmites and stalactites that are illuminated from within. The colors slowly change.

kusama-3

You enter a small room, just a few people at a time–it’s a controlled entry– and are given one minute. The walls, ceiling and floor are made of mirrors, so once you’re inside and the door is closed, you get a reflection-within-a-reflection infinity effect. It’s quite disorienting.

“Listen…When you go into these exhibits, whatever you do, don’t touch the artwork, okay? DO NOT TOUCH THE ARTWORK.”

kusama-1

There’s also a brief film of Ms. Kusama reciting a poem. Again, she uses mirrors to effectively convey a infinite depth of view.

kusama-4

You’ll never guess what’s at the Gagosian Gallery on 24st Street? Another new Richard Serra sculpture! This is INTERVALS, a room full of steel plates in varying heights.

serra-b3

serra-b2

serra-b1

Also sharing the same gallery space is 7 PLATES, 4 ANGLES. Plates stand toe-to-toe and are arranged in a “V” shape.

serra-c2serra-c1

Again, who am I to criticize, but it’d be awesome if they provided a view from on high.

The total cost of admission to all these galleries:

$0.00. Nothing. Nyet. Zilch. Right this way, sir. Null. Gratis. Complimentary.

Is this a great town or what?

We also paid a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 12-Year Old Daughter is on a Greek mythology kick and she had an insatiable need to see marble Gods and Goddesses. I won’t include photos of those, but I’ll leave you with this magnificent curio.

eyes

Ready for this?

PAIR OF EYES. Bronze, marble, frit, quartz and obsidian. Greek. 5th century B.C. or later. Huzzah.