Friday, January 25, 2013

The New After-Math

I am approaching another of those age milestones which prompts assessment-inventory mode.  In one sense I have exactly the life I want—no apparent routine, no apparent ‘boss’ or structure except the pressure of time itself-- plenty of creative ceiling.  The fact that I have very little income, cannot master that Wall Street math that makes millions out of air, and spend inordinate amounts of time devising Rube-Goldberg-worthy schemes to manage, is quite a challenge, some days.  I concede this life of spontaneity, as one gets older, is comprised of myriads of loose ends—things I collect, daily-- thoughts, projects, ideas, inspiration.  Then there are the stray people I take on, the fact that I give time to the insane unemployed physicist in Starbucks, the Holocaust survivor who nags me to at least hear her memoirs because there is neither time nor sufficient megabytes to write it out;  to the blogger with no blog, the dog-savers and ex-junkie poets, and to my friends--- few as they are, now, the good ones.  Not to mention kids, who wouldn’t even know my birthday without facebook, and they are too busy or too guilty or whatever. 

I know now that no one will ever pay me back, and that as I begin to melt more into the fabric of what is the forgotten class of people--- the has-beens and middle-aged-- no one really wants to listen.  I am succumbing to the alarming fact that I go to the library and besides the re-packaged classics whose recent translations are often offensive and colloquial and wrong, the new books—even the New York Times top 10 of the year--- well, they are generally a literary disappointment.  Do these authors feel like failures?  Do they realize that the Housewives of Atlanta are winning?  That Warholian fame has become cheapened beyond his prediction and 15 digital nano-minutes might be all there is.  That the old has been shoveled up and piled on dumpsters not because it is useless and obsolete but because it was real and had a shelf-life, and value has become something the hedge funds determine to accommodate their maximum bonus pyramid.  

My life has resonance, I try to console myself, as I leave the grocery store practically empty-handed.  I attend few gallery openings--- not because I don’t have suitable clothing, but because most shows are just an idea—of course, some are executed with enormous gestures and presented with unprecedented chic décor-ready props, but although they ‘look’ good--- as fashion on the runway often does, it is unabashedly deja-deja-vu for me, and the models, lovely as they are, ‘wear’ the idea, but do not give it real content.

I recently was really taken by photographs of an art-piece done years ago by a window-dresser who actually went a little ‘outside the box’.  They were from the 1970’s—she’d actually created pulp-fiction-type drama within the store display windows--- with guns, intrusive characters… even a plaster hand that protruded from the actual store window---‘Help’ it was saying…’I am crossing the line between reality and advertisement, of theatre and solicitation.’  The artist then placed the mannequins in real situations--- dressed and still—in cafes, one even on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum where she sat—all dressed up and nowhere to go… alone, in the wind, among the then-small crowds who went to museums which were still, in the 1970’s, for art and not spectacle.  I remember the windows.  They were important.  But now I realize they were a sort of foreshadowing. 

Even the 1970’s still had some credibility, some sense.  There were still typewriters and land phones.  The people who brought the news on TV had side-parts and narrow ties and dark suits and spoke extemporaneously with unadorned style and used words properly.  They had something to say-- and when they didn't speak--- well, that was a statement in itself.   How many Anderson Cooper reports would it take to weigh in with Walter Cronkite removing his glasses in 1963?  The old journalists weren’t reading prompters and chatting about pop-stars who can’t sing and football stars with fake girlfriends because none of that was invented and people with no talent stayed home or worked in a cupcake factory and hummed to themselves while they wrapped their kids’ lunch sandwiches in waxed paper.   Some of them even smoked while they did this. 

So now, maybe the mannequins are the art… the clothing--- well,  the packaging--- the ‘carrot’… another public company on the stockmarket because commodities are no longer wheat and corn and coffee—these are altered and manipulated, and futured-out.  Now there are handbags and cellphones which move the markets-- accessories-- and yes, there are worthless ideas--- like facebook--- like Zinga and instagram--- ideas which are mysteriously bankable and which put solid-gold spoons in the mouths of the Goldman Sachs Babies, and the finest sushi on their conference tables, billions of monopoly dollars in every greedy bank account. Web-ideas trying desperately to convince us we are not loose ends--- we are connected, we are touching… we are blogging and we can see Beyonce from our desk, we can tweet her and we can tweet Carmelo Anthony and Ashton Kutscher and we can see what jacket they are wearing, and we can see their baby pictures and their girlfriend’s bikini butt and her spray tan.

I am realizing today that fringe is what happens to the loose ends—when they are gathered.  At the edge of the fabric.  I am not even sure my loose-ends of books and poems and songs are that cohesive.  Maybe I am not even fringe-worthy.  After all there is a fringe-festival and although I attended one or two events years back, I now process it as the ‘cringe’ festival.  I am not speaking virtual or tongue-in-cheek fringe, I am speaking threads and knots and speaker-wire and guitar-chords and lyrics—lyrics that float and haunt and define me, first lines of books I can still remember—these things did exist, these things made me the disorganized and obsolete person I am, on the verge of extinction, without a human-loving society to protect us and find us and tag us and make sure we are not being stoned to death or slightly abused by our neighbors who shop online for their Jimmy Choos and live in glass houses with no books and speak too loud on their phones in Starbucks and misuse the word ‘of’ even in newscasts.  We, the real-time newly unpublishable, who type and write and think and refuse to lipsynch… who hear the sound of one hand clapping and the still-silent voice in some loose-ended non-linear universe with far more resonance.  We are listening, we are counting...

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