Saturday, March 31, 2007

For those who are out of the loop

For those of you who are out of the loop, this is a picture of Naomi Campbell. I can only assume she's removed her designer clothes so that she doesn't get them dirty during her court-ordered 5 days of garbage clean-up (for throwing a phone at an employee).

A Quick Note on Identity Theft

Life, as we all know, is a game of inches. A G here, a J there... before you know it, you're somebody else.

I bring this up upon learning that the name of fading-supermodel Naomi Campbell's publicist is Jeff Raymond. Just last week he was quoted in the Times thusly:
" 'They are friends, and they work together on a lot of projects,' Mr. Raymond said."
First of all, I can promise you that I, if quoted on behalf of one of my clients during the days when such things actually occurred, would have come up with something more interesting than that.

Also, what kind of client is Naomi Campbell? My old, now-dead friend John Bailey used to tell me that the only account at Bursen Marsteller from which one could ask to be excused from duty was Philip Morris. The theory being that one should be able to enjoy a pint of beer without the lingering notion that it had been paid for by money wrenched from the cold, clenched fists of tobacco addicts, wheezing and gagging their last breaths.

On a connected note, this is why (plus some onorously elitist admissions criteria) I chose not to apply to Duke University.

Anyway, beyond the tobacco industry, it's hard to imagine working for someone as distasteful as the anger-challenged Miss Campbell. People who believe that being angry entitles them to do or say whatever they want, regardless of consequences, make me angry.

In the interest of fairness, I'm sure there are things I do that annoy other people, but this is The Year of Magical Painting. Let them get their own blog.

Anyway, the next time you hear that I said something about something (at an exclusive cocktail party, say, on the roof of the Soho House) don't automatically assume it really was me.

I feel like I'm being passed over

I'm not Jewish, but some of my best friends are. And I believe that if you've lived in or around New York City for more than half your life, you are, to some degree, honorarily, osmotically, Jewish.

Given all this, I get the distinct feeling that here, in Upper Virginia (as differentiated from Northern Virginia--a locality packed, I would assume, with Jews), that I'm being passed over. That is to say, the issue of Passover seems utterly moot. To wit: there are no sales people at my local Harris Teeter unpacking cases of Kadem kosher grape juice. Likewise, although I may just have missed it, there hasn't been a single article in the Leesburg Times or Loudoun County Mirror on how to cook latkes.

So it was with some delight that I learned that my friend Earl's aging mother confided in him the other day that she had assumed I was Jewish all these years. To quote the old Indian chief in Little Big Man, "My heart soars like an eagle."

Now I, Raymond, can take my rightful place among the great Jews. Men like Einstein. Wasserstein. Springsteen. At least in the eyes of one aging woman.

And though my tires have been slashed and I've almost crashed right here in the swamps of Leesburg, I will not be denied.

So go ahead. Pass me over. See if I care.

Besides...that's a good thing, right?

Monday, March 26, 2007

El Toro Negro, March 16

I actually don't remember the actual date, but it was last Thursday. The stat sheet looks something like this:

67 degrees; slightly overcast
30 miles
I don't know how long it took--more than a couple of hours
13.6 mph average speed
Condition at end of ride: Pleasantly winded and knees hurt

I wasn't troubled about the 13.6 mph number given that a) 30 miles is a bit of a ways, and b) I did take a detour through what they optimistically call "historic Herndon." If you are in the neighborhood, don't make a special trip. Nonetheless, there was a lot of lollygagging around Herndon which dragged my timing down.

Hodgkin's Disease

One of James Thurber's seminal thoughts on the creative process went something like this:

The hardest part of my job is convincing my wife that staring out the window is part of it.

You can tell this isn't an exact quote. He was far too sharp a stylist to double up on the word "part" in so short a space.

Anyway, all of which brings me to the need for painters to look at paintings as part of their work (other people call this "going to museums"), and to Hodgkin's Disease, not as a type of cancer but as the fascination I have with the British painter Howard Hodgkin that took me, this weekend, to a place as far-flung as New Haven, Conn.

This, of course, would be a Hodgkin:

You can see how it can be congtagious.

Here's another:

It's called "In the Bedroom" for reasons that escape me. Likewise the opacity of the titling of "After Degas" (not shown), which apparently has nothing to do with the oggling of young women in tutus.

Oddly enough, the top one is called "In Bed In Venice", which, if you give it a gander, may make some sense.

Me? I'm working on something called "Big Maria I (Plane Too Many)". Which is pretty straightforward: The painting is pretty big (4'x5'), her first name is Maria, it's the first one I've done of her (as indicated by the Roman numeral I), and, of course, the joke in parantheses. It's a phonetic joke in that the name of the painting, if read aloud, sounds like "Big Maria, One Plane Too Many." This is a reference to Maria Bartiromo's much-publicized, alleged mile-high dalliance with Citigroup biggie Todd Thompson (who subsequently lost his job over the thing) in the company jet.

So that's a pretty straightforward title.

Further to Hodgkin, Wikipedia offers, in part:
Hodgkin's paintings often seek to convey memories of encounters with friends and frequently carry titles alluding to specific places and events such as Dinner at West Hill (1966) and Goodbye to the Bay of Naples (1980–82). Hodgkin himself has said that he paints "representational pictures of emotional situations".
Okay, I'll bite on that. But it goes on:

Despite their apparent spontaneity and usually small scale, many of Hodgkin's paintings take years to complete, with him returning to a work after a wait and then changing it or adding to it. He often paints over the frames of his pictures, emphasising the idea of the painting as an object. Several of his works are on wooden items, such as bread-boards or the tops of old tables, rather than canvas. A number of his works not shown in frames are surrounded by rectangles of simple colour.
Here, the boys at Wikipedia go off the track a bit. What they should have said (and which I'd add, but I can't figure out how to contribute to the damned thing) was that Hodgkin's choice of painting over his frame is, in fact, an effort to take ownership of the framing of the painting by otherwise defining the space within the larger whole (i.e. with paint, rather than with a frame). You could argue that his work has more kinship visually with theatrical production than with traditional 2-dimensional painted imagery. Look at "In Bed In Venice" and tell me if it doesn't seem like there's a curtain being drawn aside, revealing whatever the hell it's supposed to reveal.

This man has more curtains than Carter had liver pills. To wit "Going For a Walk with Andrew":

Disregard the white border and remind me to tell you about the hamburgers.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The body is an amazing device

You know that stuff about how the body compensates in unusual ways? Like deaf people have good taste buds, or something like that?

Or how middle age men with perceived inadequacies buy Corvettes?

(Brief aside: I saw a yellow 2007 'vette the other day that I'd kill for)

Anyway, all this by way of saying that I've found a CVS pharmacy that sells the Sunday New York Times for three dollars. Three! That's two bucks less than the retail price in New York.

The Lord moves in mysterious ways. That, plus the 20 long-neck Buds you can buy for $14.oo, almost makes living in Leesburg worthwhile.

Phew. Three bucks.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Inner Child

William F. Buckley, Jr. once said that owning a sailboat was like standing in a cold shower while tearing up hundred dollar bills.

Taken macrocosmically, one could say that life is an unending series of dumptrucks, each filled with shit, disgorging, one after another, their cargo on one's head. Just when you've dug yourself out of one load of shit, another arrives.

Now this is not to say that life doesn't have its pleasures. Sometimes, while digging skyward, one runs across, say, a cigar still wrapped in cellophane. A Philly Blunt? I think they come in a box. So you think, "Great...a cigar!" but then you realize you have no matches, or if you do, they're wet.

It's a depressing scenario, but you can't let it get you down. Particularly us artistic types. The key is to try to tap into the inner child; the spirit uncorrupted by the pummeling of adult life. And speaking of the inner child, this, of course, would be Exhibit A for the defense:

I've never thought of my ears as particularly big, but looking at this picture, and the previous one of Dad, I wonder if I've been in denial this whole time. I was a good looking boy, though. And that is a pleasant smile.

Picasso once said "I've spent my whole life trying to paint like a child."

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

El Toro Negro, March 14, 2007

El Toro Negro, March 14, 2007
71 degrees; slightly overcast
15 miles
one hour
15 mph average speed
Condition at end of ride: Delighted with my Leesburg Personal Best

Actually the time was one hour and two seconds, which I find galling because that means the 15 mph number doesn't entirely hold up under scrutiny. But hey--I round up.

I raised the level of my seat about an inch and I think it added a couple more horsepower to the equation.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Big Maria One

"Where," a chorus of fans and critics have been shouting, "is Big Maria?"

Beats the shit out of me. No...that's not the right answer. People want results. People assume that I'm a salmon; my only mission in life is to swim upstream, sometimes violently, in order to spawn. You think this shit is easy?

Which is ironic, given that I was driving down the road some weeks ago with my father in the passenger seat. He said to me, "I'm concerned that I may die before having another orgasm."

This, for me, is Life With Father (see "Life with Father" Clarence Day, Knopf, 1935)

My response? "Join the fucking club, man!" I screamed back at him.

Anyway, here, if for no other reason than to silence the peanut gallery, is a rough sketch.

This, of course, would be it:

Note the aquiline nose with the Loren-esque (Sophia) bulb on the end, and the treatment of the upper lip--not to be confused with a mustache; I'm sure Ms. Bartiromo's upper lip is as smooth and soft as a baby's bottom. But I can tell you this--the woman's upper lip is a matter of some interest to me. It's one of several fulcri upon which success or failure is balanced. It's one of those fleshy, puffy (but not artificially so), wrinkled ones that make a person sit straight up in bed screaming "Get me out of the sub-prime market!" I stand in awe.

Note: the "join the fucking club, man!" business is of course made up.


El Toro Negro, March 13, 2007--the loneliness of the long distance runner
70 degrees; clear skies; bright sun
6.2 miles
33 minutes
11 mph average speed
Condition at end of ride: Envigorated.

Just went for a spin around the neighborhood to continue the dialogue between my ass and my bicycle seat. Beautiful, warm day. First time this year I wore just a wife-beater--no outer layers.

There is something special about rolling along smooth, black pavement at 15-20, hearing only the whir of the machine and the woof of my breathing. Howsoever briefly one encounters such a thing on a six mile ride, it is nonetheless evocative of the post's sub-head.

Should have worn sunscreen.

Monday, March 12, 2007

El Toro Negro, March 12, 2007

El Toro Negro, March 12, 2007
62 degrees; clear skies; mild wind, increasing during second half
20.1 miles
1 hour 38 minutes
12.4 mph average speed
Condition at end of ride: The inside of my thighs feel like they've been injected with snake venom. Other than that, good.

I am an old, fat man. We hold this truth to be self-evident. And I'm still finding my sea legs, bike-wise. So twenty miles is twenty miles, which it didn't used to be, but clearly is now. Might, in fact, be about twenty-five. And the grim reality is that if you go someplace and come back by the same route, the amount of ups and downs are exactly equal. Yet the downs, when you are old and fat, don't make up for the ups.

Are you following me?

Nonetheless, I remain sanguine. Whatever that means.

Good night, sweet prince,

And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

That said, don't get in a big lather. "Rest," in this case, is the literal use of the term, not the metaphorical. Still...

I never noticed how big my father's earlobes were until lately. Double click for the full effect.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The W&OD

The W&OD, which presumably is the acronym for "Wham And 'Oh Damn' " (an inversion of the two basic sounds you make when you get doored by a cab), was worth the wait. It is the most westerly segment of the Washington metropolitan area's justifiably praised effort to repave unused railroad right-of-ways for bikers and runners, and appears to be an example of the government doing something constructive for We, The People. I reeled off only about seven miles on it today, but do plan to go back--perhaps tomorrow--and invest a more significant effort; perhaps drive my car to the entry point in Lansdowne (thus eliminating 8 roadway miles), then ride the twenty or so miles through Leesburg to Purcellville (pronounced Percy Ville)--the end of the trail, so to speak--and then back.

I've been hit or doored by cabs twice in my life and let me tell you, neither of the experiences was the least bit pleasant. There appear to be no cabs on the W&OD, which already makes it seem like a good place. At one point during the ride, having stopped at one of the trail signs that dot the thing (for purposes of vomiting), I was interested to read that there are more badgers alive today than there were in colonial times. Many of which live, apparently, near the W&OD. Hmmm, interesting. Who knew?

Me? I don't view badgers as particularly dangerous. Certainly not as dangerous as cabs. But that's not to say that biking around Leesburg is not without perils.

To wit: I remember--just to rewind a little--several years ago having survived a 5 Boro Bike Tour in which there seemed to be an abnormal number of wrecks, only to later be hit by another biker on the streets of Manhattan, en route to the traditional Chinese post-tour meal.

We like to eat at the Great New York Noodle Town. They fry chives like nobody's business, and the salt-baked shrimp is certainly worth a spin, should you go.

This would, of course, be a map to help you get there:

Back to real time, earlier today I found myself riding past the guardhouse, back toward my Father's apartment, thinking "Ah, home free," only to be nearly run over by a white haired lady driving and talking on her cell phone.

It's the same concept, except there are no fried chives at Dad's place.

W&OD actually stands for Washington and Old Dominion. The bike path runs from Purcellville to Georgetown, which my brother describes as "the hub." What he apparently doesn't understand is that, what's the point of getting to "the hub" if you are so tired you know you will only barely make it home in the first place? Makes all those other routes--the "spokes" stemming from "the hub"-- seem almost abstract.

Maybe if you started early and stopped for a beer and sandwich in Georgetown. Maybe chili at Clydes. Maybe you come out of Clydes and your bike is gone.

Maybe I'll just ride to Purcellville.

There's also been some talk of riding to Bob White's house.

El Toro Negro, March 11, 2007

El Toro Negro, March11, 2007
57 degrees, clear skies, blustery
15.1 miles
1 hour 8 minutes
13.4 mph average speed
Condition at end of ride: not bad, all things considered

Hit the W&OD bike trail at 3.7 miles, rode it into Leesburg city limits, vomited, rode back, vomited.
Not bad, all things considered.

Didn't really vomit. Thought it added drama.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Briefest of Theological Notes

You'd think that, when playing a school like Greensboro College (as opposed to, say, Holy Cross), Catholic University would have a leg up, Godwise.

Earlier today I sat in the shiny new grandstand in the shiny new Catholic University stadium (perhaps too grand a word--stadium) thinking about this very matter while freezing my ass off. Literally. Man, it was cold. And there's almost nothing colder to sit on than those aluminum bench seats in stadiums. So part of my thinking went something along the lines of: You'd think God would have made it a little warmer.

By this time, I had already gotten to the stadium, stayed ten minutes, returned to my car to add a layer of upper body protection, upgrade my gloves, and pull the floor carpet insert out from behind the passenger seat, then returned to the stadium. The idea of the carpet was to use it as sturdier buffer between my ass and the aluminum than my jeans had proven to be. I eschewed the hat because I didn't want to have hat-hair for the after-game party.

And voila, I was then merely unbearably cold. And with only 50 more minutes to go! Alleluiah!

My father likes to reminisce about a cartoon--Charles Addams perhaps--which features a man recoiling from a dentist holding a drill. The dentist is saying something like: "Oh come on. Surely a grown man like you isn't afraid of a little excruciating pain." It was a version of that.

Here, by the way, is my daughter, sporting her trademark #11, wheeling to do battle with the opposition. That slash of red is either the CUA logo emblazoned on the new Astro-turf (which probably isn't the correct brandname for the synthetic turf that covers the field, but which I have nonetheless capitalized as a nod to Tom Wolfe), or a pool of blood.

So I was sifting through the current popular range of theological perspectives, trying to make sense of it all, when it occured to me. That old business about the Lord moving in mysterious ways. You've heard that one, surely. Then, moments later, Meaghan saw fit to deck her opponent with what she later described as an accidental, glancing blow to the head but which might be described, had it been written up in something like Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight as:
...and she smote her fiercely, and her brainpan was split asunder.
I was also reminded of that bit about Beowulf ripping Grendel's mother's arm straight out of the socket. Likewise, Pat Riley's Knick-driven theory that no man shall procede to the basket without encountering physical harm.

Anyway, all I can figure is that God decided that this wasn't very Christian behavior from one of his favored few, so he punished us all, in advance, with blistering winds and cold stadium seats.

Because what, really, is time to God? It must be quite a plastic notion from His standpoint.

Meaghan was additionally punished by the referee with a yellow card and thus banished to the bench. Her coach was so annoyed (I can only assume), that that was the last we saw of #11, on this day at least.

Still, she looks good in the photo. I wish I had a better zoom.

The final score: CUA 11/Greenpoint 8. So He couldn't have been too pissed.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Big Maria

Now check this out:

I haven't been happy with the photos of Maria Bartiromo that I've seen lying about the web, so it hit me today. Why not, I asked, shoot her off the screen of my TV?

(Which you would know, if you watched the Sarah Silverman Program--for which I offer my strongest endorsement, so long as you are not the least bit squeamish...I mean not the least bit--stands for Teague's Vagina)

Don't ask.

Anyway, there's a setting on my Picasa program that allows me to "sharpen" an image. I don't know what that means, but when I push the button, it makes me feel like whoever the guy on 24 is who used to be married to Chloe O'Brien and is always in charge of taking a really crappy photograph and rendering it sharp and clear with his computer.

Didn't work with the Money Honey--at least not as illustrated above. And who, by the way, since she's now trademarked that phrase, shall henceforth be referred to as $Honey (full disclosure: a usage I've copped from Dealbreaker).

Anyway, while this may not be the image I use, this is a starting point for Big Maria I (Plane Too Many).

The general idea is to render $Honey in the manner of the Virgin Mary--halo and all. Rimming the frame will be writ in gilt the words "Todd...It's Your Boss On The Phone" over and over again until I've framed the image.

That's the idea. Who knows what the execution will yield.

A last thought? I must say, Ms. Bartiromo's somewhat eccentric beauty holds up nicely . From some angles, she looks a little like Streisand (which you can take anyway you want...I prefer my Streisand in very small doses, like strychnine). But still, she's got a smokiness to her complexion, a darkness at the edge of her eyes, that draws me in like some of those moody Springsteen songs.

That said, were I the Chairman of an important division of CitiGroup, I'm not sure I'd toss it all away just to be making time with $Honey.

I do wonder what the name of that eye make-up is. I bet it sounds like a Jackson Pollock painting. Lavender Mist, maybe. Or something like that.

Todd...It's Your Boss on the Phone.

El Toro Negro, March 2, 2007

This whole El Toro thing is of course a reference to Hemmingway's famous blank white page. And I used the Negro version during a particularly meaningful moment in the evolution of Blue Stephanie.

But today, the black bull was the unyielding tarmac of Leesburg and vicinity. I haven't been on a bike since maybe October, so I'm choosing not to be embarrased by the following--the numbers from today's ride:

El Toro Negro, March 2, 2007
62 degrees, clear skies
8.4 miles
46 minutes
12 mph average speed
Condition at end of ride: totally wasted

To my mind, this is pathetic. But I'm an old man, and I'm choosing not to be embarrased.

Adios Campagnola

El Toro Blanco, some days ago

This is what my parking lot looked like during the last snow storm. I shot it from my window like that photographer. Somebody Cunningham (not Billy), Emogene Coco, that woman who was always poking a camera out the window and shooting Washington Square Park.

Like that's an original idea. Who knew they had this much snow here.