Two fun stories about two odd paintings

Everyone was out on Friday evening so instead of going home to an empty house I walked over to MoMA. There’s a modest Jackson Pollock exhibit.

Jackson Pollock
Full Fathom Five 1947


This is considered to be one of his first ‘drip’ paintings. What a mess! But I like it. I wonder what possessed him to take his canvas off the easel and lay it on the floor? He used traditional oil paint but he also used house paint. He threw a lot of other junk in, too. You have to get close to see the other stuff. So close that you’ll be yelled at by the museum guard. Take it from me. It’s like a treasure hunt. Within the folds of paint you can find:

A skeleton key.


Paint tube caps.




Some nails.


A cigarette and another coin.


Pushpins and thumbtacks.


The title was suggested by Pollock’s neighbor. It’s a quote about a shipwreck from Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

“Full fathom five thy father lies
Of his bones are coral made
Those are pearls that were his eyes.”

Isn’t that beautiful? People stopped paying attention to him after the drip paintings. It’s as if Led Zeppelin sang ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and nothing else. Poor Jackson. It drove him mad. He wrapped his car around a tree in a drunken fit. Is it better to have known greatness, only to have it snatched away? Or are you better off never knowing?

Robert Rauschenberg
Canyon 1959


He used a little bit of everything. Oil, paper, metal, photos, fabric, wood, canvas, buttons, a mirror, a pillow, cardboard and, yes, a taxidermied bald eagle. It’s a combination of painting, collage and sculpture all balled into one using found objects. He called these pieces Combines. He’d walk around downtown New York (we’re talking 1959 downtown) and pick up items that inspired him. Clearly, the centerpiece is that bald eagle.


It was given to him by fellow artist Sari Dienes. She found it in a hallway of the Carnegie Hall studio building. The rumor is it was killed and stuffed by one of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. I wonder how it got to Carnegie Hall?

Bald eagles are a protected species, so selling this would be a felony. Consequently, when the owner passed away and bequeathed it to her children, the appraisers valued it at $0. The IRS disagreed and said it’s worth $65 million and they wanted $29.2 million in inheritance taxes, thank you very much. To get the IRS off their backs, they agreed to donate it to MoMA and MoMA agreed to always have it on display for the public to enjoy.

Four people sitting on a bench texting.


And where is this bench? In front of this:


Why bother to let one of Monet’s most vibrant tryptics wash over you when social media beckons? I wish I could report that they were absorbed MoMA’s museum app but, sadly, they were not. They were texting.

The bigger question here is: What the hell is wrong with me? Why am I in their lives? They’re not blocking my view of the painting. Why do I give a damn what they’re doing? This is the opposite of Zen detachment. I feel like a bitchy old man complaining about those damn kids and their newfangled technologies.

It is a shame, though. If I could un-invent mobile phones I’d do it in a second.

It was the last weekend for the monumental Picasso sculpture exhibit so it was pretty crowded. I’d like to propose a new rule: If you have a stroller, you can’t come into an art museum. They banned selfie sticks. Why wouldn’t the ban strollers?

Pablo’s clever guitars on a table.


Picasso guitar2


Picasso guitar1

Mixed media

Picasso guitar3

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).

This is how I lost her

In the last paragraph of my previous post, (Three weeks ago. I know. But when I get the I-don’t-cares, the first thing I stop caring about is this stupid blog.) I mentioned a long-ago dalliance with Bonnie. Go back and reread that paragraph and then come back here. I’ll wait…

This is how I lost Bonnie.

*     *     *

Bonnie was way out of my league. She knew it and I knew it. She was a successful architect and a Yale graduate who had a bitchin’ apartment right across the street from the Museum of Modern Art. She was a Renaissance woman. She dabbled in stage design and performed in a modern dance troupe when she was young. I, on the other hand, had just gotten out of the Coast Guard and had begun an exciting career as a word processor.

She was significantly older than I was. I don’t know by how much because I was never gauche enough to ask, but it was quite a few years. On the surface, you’d think we wouldn’t have anything in common. But I know what she saw in me (aside from my youth). I had an insatiable hunger for experience and knowledge. I hadn’t attended college so I had a lot of catching up to do and Bonnie made an excellent Sensi. She guided me through the literary, artistic and theatrical classics. She taught me all about New York City, which was quickly becoming the love of my life. It fed her ego, which was fine with me. And we were passionate. She still had a dancer’s flexible body and I had energy to spare. We were Bogie and Bacall in reverse.


We would attend functions together and knew that her friends were talking about us behind our backs. We’d take mental notes to ourselves of all the sideways glances and whispers, retire to her apartment, lay in bed, compare notes and laugh our asses off at them. We were awfully, awfully fond of one another, but never in love.

*     *     *

Currently at MoMA is a Post Modern art exhibit. The feature piece is the manuscript of avant-garde artist John Cage’s 4’33. In this piece, a pianist walks up to a piano, sits down and does absolutely NOTHING for four minutes and thirty-three seconds. The “composition” is whatever ambient noises occur in that period of time. Floorboards creaking. People coughing. Programs rustling. Cage was pleased at the premier in 1952 as, according to him:

“… people themselves made all kinds of interesting sounds as they talked and walked out.”

Here’s what the sheet music for 4’33” looks like:

cage-2On August 12, 1992, John Cage passed away. There was a front-page obituary in the New York Times. I was over Bonnie’s apartment and let her know, in no uncertain terms, that I thought Cage was a pretentious fraud and that a front-page obit is wholly unwarranted. I told her that nobody *I* know or listened to was ever influenced by Cage (certainly not Rush) and that four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence is neither music OR art. It’s just lazy. I prattled on for several more minutes and finally ran out of gas. Bonnie looked at me.

“Are you done?”
“My dissertation at Yale was on Cage’s career.”

That was it. I blew up the bridge. That distance between us was never traversed again.

*     *     *

I bumped into Bonnie in the summer of 2012. I was seeing a play with My Bride and she sat several rows behind me. I leaned over and whispered, “Hey, I think that’s Bonnie! Do you think she’d remember me?” I couldn’t concentrate on the play. At intermission I got up and walked to the lobby and out of the corner of my eye, I saw Bonnie get up out of her seat. I stopped her as she walked past.

“Hi, Bonnie. Do you remember me?”
“Oh…I remember you, alright.”

Bonnie ended up marrying a multi-billionaire. You’d know his name if I said it. They were married for a short period of time and then had an amicable divorce. She always wanted to be traveling and on the go and he just wanted peace and quiet. They threw a lavish divorce party for all their friends to show there was no hard feelings. The wheel spins, doesn’t it?

*     *     *

Several people have written to say my Follow button does not include an option to add my site to a WordPress RSS reader. No doubt this accounts for my low readership. It can’t possibly be the content, right? To add this site to a WordPress Reader, go to your reader, click on Edit and add my URL. Conversely, I’ve moved an email subscription widget below the photo of dear St. Lucy and her plate of eyeballs. I blame Obamacare for my Follow button kerfuffle.