Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bedraggled

One brief expletive from my son marked the Wikipedia blackout in my world. Remember the 'Day Without Art'? Who even noticed this year? It was totally obscured by uber-festivities at Miami Basel. Could it be that the collectors were too young to recall the solemnity of 1989? The true desolate meaning of A Day Without Art? Too busy texting to even sense a blackout?

Years ago I read Saramago's 'Blindness'. Of course now there is the film, which seemed a bit odd to me, because the whole nightmarish premise is this total epidemic whiteout. Terrifying, crippling, devastating. For those of us who stake our happiness on literature and visual study, this is maybe worse than death. Fear of the dark that never lifts.

I've always wondered about the dreams of a congenitally blind person. Are they visual? Cinematic? And the blindspots of sighted people--- the narcissists who cannot bear the egoism of their mate, the overdressed, overbotoxed women who seem to have no mirrors, the bustling masses who ignore the panhandlers, buy their Hermes bag and fail to donate-- anywhere-- the talkers and interrupters, facebook addicts, the overeaters and cellphone abusers on buses and in elevators, the tone-deaf guitar players who plug in and blast and fail to see it is not the noise, it is the absence of music that annoys.

How about a Year Without Art? A decade? Is anyone listening? Perhaps A Day Without Technology. That will get our attention. A day with Blindness. It will take a crippling epidemic to bring out the truly democratic. Or my version of that. Or, as one of my aristocratic flatmates once remarked to the whining of another, regarding his conspicuous and non-paying gorgeous girlfriend: 'It's simple, old man: 'Those who have, give. Those who don't, don't.' It made sense to me. She was funny and shared her underwear and cigarettes freely. That counted, in those days. Come to think of it, I'm sure the guy's a republican. He had an enormous trust fund and liked to annoy his parents by bestowing it on unworthy bedfellows.

I just ran into an old friend who was virtually screaming at me for posting music on the internet. Did I know Spotify is banking billions and pays .0001% royalties to the artists? Sells your music for profit without rights? 'Yes,' I said. And if you haven't noticed, they are following the JP Morgan/Chase model. Except the average schmuck actually pays fees for this privilege.' Besides, Pat Benatar stole one of my songs in the 1980's and claimed synchronicitous creativity and total innocence. Who wanted the Love-is-a-Battlefield tiny Amazon as an enemy anyway? Not I. Not worth a lawsuit.

I have already taken on the healthcare system, the CDS scammers, Goldman Sachs, the need for free food stations in the city... how can I worry about Spotify too? He was furious. And on the subject of justice...can anyone poor really afford the privilege of suing? Is government on the side of punishing the banks who enticed and billed for mortgages people couldn't manage? Is homelessness a just price for these people?

I bought a Lichtenstein Entablature piece for a lawyer-friend. It has 'Iustitia' ironically chiseled on the cartoon-lintel. He paid 10,000 for this. I got nothing. I didn't want anything. Just the irony. The dealer who sold it probably made $5,000... who knows? Lichtenstein got maybe $300 apiece (some) originally; there are hundreds of these... he's rich, anyway, and a lawyer will eventually go after this copyright issue for him. Not so for my poor lost demos on youtube. Justice?

Here's a little Writerless parable:
A cute guy used to drink at my gigs, made drunk shy overtures, was a grad student at SVA. He begged me to come to his MFA show. So I went--- tons of painters, tons of people, he was drunk. But among the work was this 16-inch square painting of a bed. It was unmade; the sheets were rumpled, the blankets were thrown around... there was a cheap lamp in the upper corner with this eerie light. It gave me the feeling all Vermeers give me. The whites were mesmerizing, the shadows blue and creamy and thick. I couldn't tear myself away. 10 feet away, 6 inches away...

The artist? That's right, my young fan. So I took him home. The sex was perfect drunk-painter sex and neither of us slept or spoke. Three nights later he returned, totally sober, with a package. 'Your portrait', he said. It was a bed. Two crumpled pillows, the blue-white sheets, the shadows, some semblance of my down quilt, some imprint of our quiet broken passion It was like the painting in the show, but 100 times more perfect. It was wrenching. It was tearjerking. Edibly painterly, every brushstroke caressing and sensual and perfect. It was every dark film I'd ever seen, every poem and Leonard Cohen song I had ever loved. Heartwrecking. I couldn't stop looking at it. Except of course to go to actual bed with the guy again.

Somewhere during our brief affair I went back to some other boyfriend, but the painting was bar-none my most prized possession. I looked at it every day, many, many times. I looked at it when I woke up on the way to the bathroom, and at night it was the last thing I saw before I turned out the light. When I was down, I came home and thought how unbelievably fortunate I was to be able to see this. Years. It made me pray never to go blind. No Vermeer, Cezanne, Basquiat, Bacon or Giotto (well, maybe Giotto) would have been higher on my list of desert-island picks.

So one night I gave a party. Friends, musicians, writers, etc. A great all-night party with drugs, drink, tons of black eyeliner and wall-to-wall svelte 30 and 40-something downtown hipsters. My friends. The next morning, I awoke among bodies passed out. The painting was gone. Just like that. Not Goldman Sachs or J.P. Morgan or landlord or Spotify. A 'friend'.

You get what you need, I just advised my son. You get what you need.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Bleeding Arts

If there is anyone out there who noticed the gap, it is not lack of desire or urgency but simply a crippling malwaritis of the keyboard which is not just annoying and hesitant but manifests itself like some form of Gutenberg Tourette's. Of course the $52 royalty check last month wasn't quite enough for a new machine, so even though it is a little funny and Masson-esque, and who would sue an anonymous blogger for a misstatement or obscenity... I was in self-imposed exile.

That said, a month of unexpressed mental entries have stained my brain like dark espresso and I am ornery as an old scribe with no ink. This is the sound of one finger typing. Several times on each key.

For Christmas, my next-door neighbors (our apartments are unfortunately contiguous along the entire length so there is little escape) have bought their pubescent Eric Clapton (Clapped-on?) only-child an entire drum kit with which to enhance his in-house little music heaven. All mothers know teen passions are oh-so-brief so I'm giving the little dork a month in which to disrespect his parents by rejecting the whole music thing altogether. I can even hear that it is one of those Best-Buy specials, not something you actually select at a percussion store. It sounds cheap and designed for cover-music only. The mother has given me a few sympathetic head-tilts in the mailroom, somewhere between apology and revenge, and I contain the urge to blurt out--- "It is nothing compared to your husband's rendition of Miles' All Blues---" over and over on their digital piano. Any seasoned musician prefers the sound of garbage trucks and sirens to the practice sessions of someone who has no musical aptitude whatsoever and even less ability to perceive this.
Guitar Center makes a major fortune from this population which is massive, daunting, and some are of course on the airwaves, banking piles, winning American Idol, Grammies, etc.

To cap it off, a 'painting' has been hung in my hallway, opposite the elevator, so there is no way to avoid seeing it when the door opens. It is actually a large square canvas slathered with shades of blue and green which would be otherwise inoffensive but something about the 'composition' and the technique... well, it makes the Miles Davis man seem almost talented.

I have finally put my finger on what really bothers me about Beyonce. I was in the gym, watching a screen of one of her group-dance videos, without the headphones--- and it was like these Amazon Victoria's Secret models--- but in overdrive. Sped up, jerking like they were poked. Remember the shimmy? That subtle thing Marilyn did, That little sexy move the Raylettes had--- Tina Turner was awesome, but she did move like she was on crack. Beyonce, though, takes it to another level. It's not a move, it's like a weapon. She's a pretty girl-- but it's all just so over-the-top, it makes me yawn. Absolutely zero on the sensuality for all the pelvic thrusts and booty-shakes. It's some crazy wonder-woman cartoon for Tae-bo, a calorie-burnfest, or the thing they put astronauts through before the launch....but no sex. Did you ever sleep with one of those guys who think women like a warrior-thrust in double-time on top of them? Go for it, JayZee.

Last night we had yet another 10-year old music prodigy sitting in, making the Stevie face, stringing the licks together in a 12-bar E blues, the parents cellphoning footage (I'd like to keep a face-bag on stage for these occasions), the tourists getting autographs from the little guys...while we on stage just plod along, trying to scrape some dignity from the beer-stained stage carpet which has borne its share of volume without complaint, unlike myself. These kids--- like the Idol contestants-- could fill a stadium--- 1000 stadiums. And their parents could fill another 5,000.

I remember a Christmas in the 1960's when I bought myself a Candy-Apple-red strat with my babysitting money--- $150. And my mother found it under my bed and made me take it back. 'This is for boys', she said, in that tone which you didn't mess with. It's my money, I wanted to say. I'm going to have a band and I'm going to be someone. I'm going to pierce my nose and get a tattoo and wear 1/4-inch black liner on my eyes and tight black pants to school. But I took the thing back and contented myself with the classical guitar and the flute and the Chopin and the new pink toeshoes and Hendrix on my little plastic record player. I burned and bled. Do I remind her that guitar now sells for $35,000? I do not.

What will happen to these kids and their stage parents, their wanted-to-be-Clapton fathers and wanted-to-be-Mrs.Clapton mothers? Will their kids learn to bleed and burn, not that it helps, not that it feels good to be middle-aged with 300 songs in some kind of tin can and one review from some UK paper saying it was brilliant? How pathetic am I, sitting in Starbucks with my tattered Roberto Bolano and listening to my indie-horror music, and the one finger ticking away precious minutes, wondering how I will ever find the means to help my dead friend's daughter make her fake-blood film, how I will ever record my blood and coffee-stained songs, how I will even e-mail-ask how much I can get in bartered studio time with a broken keyboard?

Jimi, you picked a good time to die. Dime store artists and musicians are as plentiful as tweets; the real ones are misplaced, overdosing, shivering...dying of dread. Bleeding. While the whole bloody culture eats itself to death here...doughnuts and Beyonce, burgers and fries, Michael Buble and the X Factor. Sarah Mclaughlin selling animal pathos while people beat their kids to death, disappointed TV contestants getting more public sympathy than a million earthquake victims.... Wall Street is rocking, bonuses are flowing like American sewage water.

Welcome to the future... the hangover of 2011.