|MAY 1999 Part 2|
|Tonight while flipping through the cable channels my wife and I had the classic Male-Female war: on channel 17 she saw horses, and on channel 18 I saw Spock.
Horses! she said.
Spock, I whinnied.
We watched horses. It was Far and Away, a movie wed seen years ago in DC. I pointed this out, but she correctly noted Id seen the Star Trek episode a hundred times. Yes, yes, but which one was it? I flipped back to see Scotty attempting to cut through the door to engineering. Day of the Dove! I said, and flipped back to horses. But they were in commercial, so I flipped to Trek; Uhuru was attempting to block a ship-wide broadcast of a drunken song. Correction, I said. Naked Time, I said. Thats Lt. OReilly singing. Spock cries in this one.
No good. Back to horses.
This morning I found a Post-It square on my desk. It said: RABBIT FOOT.
Huh? Oh, right: that was something I scrawled before I went to bed. Id been watching a Hawaii 5-0, and someone had given McGarrett a rabbits foot for good luck. It made me think how no one seemed to carry severed pied de lapin anymore, and how odd it was that once you could walk into the Ben Franklin and buy not just a chopped-off rabbits foot, but one died a specific color. Next to the rabbits foot note was another Post-It:
FRIEDA, it said, and there was a circle.
That was all I had left from the brilliant dream. The name of the German gnome, and a circle.
The bad mood lifted in the afternoon, and I banged out a column. Took the afternoon walk, listening to an interview with the governor on the radio. One of the more regrettable performances of his short tenure. Its obvious now that the very qualities people liked - hes not a politician! - are the very qualities that serve him ill as the states leader; when dealing with people with whom he disagrees, he is blunt and contemptuous. His bluff & gruff persona is unleavened by self-deprecation, and he seems dispositionally unable to understand that the character of his administration so far runs counter to the desires of most of the people who voted for him.
Hes also a millionaire by now: more proof Im in the wrong business.
Still raining. Im going to play a demo of Kingpin now, and be a criminal brute; then popcorn, then bed. If last night, and the night before, and the night before THAT is any indication, I should strike myself hard on the head before heading to bed; lately Ive laid awake for half an hour, listening to house sounds and cursing the depth of my evening nap. No longer watching Hawaii 5-0 before sleep; perhaps thats the problem. Last night I tuned in, noted that McGarrett was being framed for murder; I was reasonably certain he would beat the rap. Ended up watching a documentary on Stevie Ray Vaughn. I hate the blues - same three chords, same three complaints (lifes hard, my woman left me, Im drunk.) But Mr. Vaughn was . . . elemental. He was like a screen window through which some wild flaming wind blew through, and I could listen to him play for hours. He could play the same three notes for a day and make them all sound different.
Except for the Gallery of Regrettable Food 3.0.
Maybe. A friend a work today let it slip that he owns dozens of old recipe pamphlets. Well, we all know where THAT will lead.
The Orphanage, I thought, was finished & done, and I hadnt thought of it for a long time. It had its moment, it lead to a radio interview, it garnered e-mail: end of story. But this month Ive returned to one of my old pastimes: scrolling through the microfilm of the ancient newspapers, looking for laughably bad ads. Found one today for a Seat Cover Carnival, hosted by an auto supply store. Plenty of circus clip art, with ringmasters pointing proudly at plaid plastic car seat covers. Clowns. Balloons. They had all these trigger words that indicated happiness and gaiety, even though they all knew damn well no one went to Seat Cover Carnival expecting elephants and tightrope walkers. It was just a phrase that said Prices Will Be Incrementally Lower For the Duration of This Arbitrarily Named Event.
Its an interesting thing to watch. The margin is becoming the center, even though the margin has no center, but is simply a space on the fringe of the center. All points in the margin are equally valid, as long as they have the proper attitude towards the center, namely, an amused sniff at bourgeois banality.
Its a posture thats only about a hundred years old. Yawn.
I was thinking of this while listening to a tiresome discussion on the radio about a book designated as the Common Text at a local Catholic university. All the students have to read A Book each semester, and the school had chosen a poetic novel about a man taking care of his lover, whos expiring of AIDS. The host made a vain attempt to suggest that students ought to read the classics. Many of the callers took the predictable line about having homosexuality shoved down their throats - well, turn your head and spit, lovey, and get on with life. Then someone called to defend the book as a teaching tool, a means to get people to understand & have affinity for the gay lifestyle, which by her definition included plenty of random, anonymous sex. Hmm. For a moment I thought this was clumsy satire, a subversive attempt to paint all gays as 24/7 glory-hole piledrivers, but no: she was serious.
Should a Bible-toting flamebreather accuse gays of having constant, random anonymous sex, hes a homophobe. Should a gay author celebrate some lost Xanadu of bathhouse culture, hes a brave marginalized voice. Sorry. I dont buy it. I dont care who you are, but if you can number your monthly sexual partners in the high dozens, somethings wrong. Knock it off. Use the other head.
But already the issue has veered away from literary criticism - start with a novel about two people, and you quickly end up debating how many sexual partners someone should have, and whether there is a cultural prediliction towards promiscuity, etc. Which brings me to my final point: theres a good reason that some people are marginalized: they cant shut up about their sex lives. Its really not as interesting as they think, any more than an old mans digestive history would make for compelling theater.
Of course, should someone write a graphic play about their problem with their spastic colon, not many people would be interested. Which would make them marginalized.
Theres your definition of marginalized: bad artists so focused on the flexing of their individual sphincters they cannot find a means to connect their particular experience to the general human condition. They ought to study great artists like Michelangelo, DaVinci, Wilde, Tchaikovsky, Aaron Copland, James Whale. Every man-jack of the bunch was gay and their art is central to Western Civ - perhaps because in their time, the marginal wasnt celebrated. Maybe if Truman Capote had been writing today, In Cold Blood would have been about his sexual encounters with one of the killers. It would also have been a lesser book than the one he wrote. Look: sometimes the marginal is marginal for a damn good reason. In the past, if you wanted maximum attention, you spoke to the crowd - or at least nodded acknowledgment of the great milling disparate center.
The dross and flotsam of the media world all ends up in a sorry pile at the Strib, a giveaway shelf where people dump their castoff items. The stuff flows into the paper every day by the ton; it's all cheerful and pathetic, pleading for a mention. Once I did a search for my name on Yahoo, the sort of thing you do when you're new to the web, and I found an column by some guy in some small town paper who wrote about cleaning out his desk and throwing away stuff. He threw out one of my books, correctly noting that he would never give it another look, and wished to divest himself of this useless tome. I understood.
Anyway, the other day I picked up a CD single from some woman: Wing and a Prayer, was the name of the song. It had three remix versions, which heartened me; I expected some good thumping club-mixes that would make for good Friday 5 PM driving-home music. I popped it in on the way to work this morning. Dreadful. The original song was mealy flutey drivel, and the subsequent iterations were even gassier than the original. Since I rescued it from the giveaway pile, though, I can't put it back. That seems to be the rule. We all know that the stuff in the pile is bad, but once you take it you're absolving everyone else of the obligation of finding out How Bad it really is. To put it back when you know it's Extra Bad would be wrong. It will probably slide under the car seat and hide there for a few months.
Rain. And: rain. Everyone's mood is damp and churlish. We all want sun. Lord, this stinks. Ah, but it's good for the crops! Screw the crops. I'll go hungry. I'll eat Spam for a month. Fair trade.
Let's see: today. Well, rain. And a column, eventually. That about covers it. Spent the night cleaning up the old Orphanage of Cast-Off Mascots; I went back to look at it the other day and was horrified I let something that bland out on the web, so I redid the site, tightened up the pages and added alt tags. All part of the attempt to fix everything before the enthusiasm completely leaves me. Not that it will, any time soon; given the bazillion people who've tromped through the Gallery - and I thank you all - I'm not about to let the site ossify & die, but as I've said, after the Fargo site goes up and I finish the summer's additions to the Mpls site, that's it: I have no idea where to take this thing next. Frankly, I need a new hobby. It's good to have a new hobby. It's frustrating to want a new hobby and not know what it should be.
Most of hobbies consist of Looking and Thinking. I mean, architecture is a hobby, but I don't practice it; I just look at it, form opinions of varying skill and accuracy, and file them away. At least with stamp collecting you can take the book out every so often and look at the stamps. I don't lean back in a chair on a rainy night and recall previous architectural judgments. Photography is always an option, but that requires equipment, and that means getting deep into geeky particulars. I don't want to be one of those guys hanging around usenet groups debating the virtues of various lens manufacturers.
Maybe architectural photography. Me and Julius Knipl.
The local free weekly has started carrying the Knipl strip (Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer), which is just peachy with me. They added a bunch of comics, most of which stink, but Knipl is one of the best. It takes place in an imaginary New York of the 40s and 50s, in lower Manhattan and the outer boroughs, in a land composed almost entirely of middle-aged single failed men. It's like Death of a Salesman, The Comic Strip. Grim as it is, it's the main bright spot in the weekly, which is the usual well-written, smart, engaged, progressive parade of reasons why life in general and this city in particular are irretrievably evil.
I never know what these writers want. Well, I do: a city where no one makes more than anyone else, the primary industries are Transgressive Theater and Paradigm-Challenging Music, and everyone shuffles from coffeehouse to cabaret in buses or small crappy cars, then goes to their day job handing out grants. Let's build a barter economy built around nose-ring parlors and howling goateed poetry-slam participants.
What they'll never say is that they need they need the people who didn't screw up their lives, because they pay all the taxes. So we'll let them stay. But they'd better shut up.