Sunday, September 25, 2011

Trash and Vaudeville

At any given moment, assume one of your friends is depressed, one is having a nervous breakdown or terminal writer’s block or suddenly can’t get it up to have stage fright; one has a broken limb or appendicitis, or crippling tinnitus. Some weeks these crises align and your phone rings off the hook at 4 AM, those of you who are pathetic enough to still have one.

So I have a new diagnosis for virtually everything, including cancer and anxiety: Lethal Procrastination. Another expression for Life-as-we-know-it. Just having a diagnosis, for the hypochondriacs and drama queens among my callers--- is a little relief.

My Super has a Hummer. I am dumping coins onto my bureau, looking for the larger ones so I can make my monthly maintenance payment without a penalty, and my super who can barely speak any kind of language commonly understood in New York City has a free apartment on a posh street, a pretty great looking wife, an iPhone and a Hummer.

Nevermind that the main itinerary of this car is from side to side of our street to avoid city parking penalties, and maybe an occasional run to Home Depot. He no longer ‘does’ garbage or plumbing or cleans or much of anything but move the Hummer around and make calls on his coop-sponsored iPhone to union plumbers and maintenance men whose bills have caused my monthly maintenance to exceed my monthly income. Oh, he also opens envelopes at Christmas.

Speaking of trash... he has an aversion to this. But for me, Tuesday and Thursday nights on the sanitary Upper East Side are like archaeological documentaries. I, like my mentor Andy, am secretly fascinated by the ironic dichotomy of what some people need and others discard. By the way people eat sandwiches-- -what they leave, what they cut off, what they take home for their dogs, what they spill out, what they pick up. Their wives and girlfriends. The oreo cream-lickers, the potato-skin peelers, the bone suckers, the slurpers, plate-cleaners, cigarette stubbers. The confusion. The fact that my neighbors spent 6 million on re-finishing their perfect apartment and then hired an art consultant who spent another 6 million buying a celebrity artist’s ‘ready-made’ which is essentially something the guy found in the trash and glued onto something else he found. Points for the artist. Zero points for the people on the 2nd floor who paid $150,000 for some uninspired Grafitti from a Phillips’ auction when they could for $50 have hired our own doorman who has style and spends his nights tagging city landmarks and is quite famous in his ‘hood.

As often happens in middle age, I’ve lost my fashion footing. Besides being able to distinguish leather from vinyl, I can scarcely tell Forever 21 from Balenciaga. Well. Okay... not Balenciaga. But is it the case that some high-fashion does take inspiration from strippers and prostitutes? Plastic surgeons do. Jeff Koons and Richard Prince do. Editorial make-up and hair do, occasionally. Underwear. So if trash is on the mannequins, does it not follow that the real deal is in the trash? Old wood, art deco stoves, hand-made glass door handles. Books. Vinyl. Wagner boxsets. These things are on the sidewalk in the new regulation clear-plastic bags. Everyone loves a bargain; especially we New Yorkers, where on any given block you might see 10-30 'sale' signs, from groceries to services to clothing. But on Tuesday and Thursday nights curbside, your plastic and money are no good. These deals are unsullied by commerce, lucre, mark-ups and markdowns. They all bear the celestial pricetag. Free.

Of course the homeless and the professional bottle-collectors are well-aware of my neighbors’ failure to distinguish value, and they are hard at work on Tuesday and Thursday nights. There are even trucks to collect the furniture for resale and refinishing ---the stuff may even end up tarted up or further distressed at Urban Archaeology or one of those cavernous crammed trendy shops on Houston Street where a young couple or a design-star contestant will re-purchase some ‘vintage’ and spend a great sum to have it white-glove-delivered to some Manhattan loft.

Remember in Warhol’s movie, the shoes Holly Woodlawn got from the garbage? The ones that slickly dressed yuppie-guy tried to procure from her? In my senility I get them confused with the ones Beyonce was wearing on her last red-carpet appearance.

The Bi- and Tri-Cycle of Life. Stuff. Junk. New garbage. Crumpled cash. Trash. Vintage. Trash. Crash. I miss Andy. I could have gifted him my newly-chiseled Jenny-Holzeresque future-vintage recycled grave marker. He might not have perished so prematurely of Lethal Procrastination. Perhaps the fermented will indeed inherit the earth.

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