Monday, October 26, 2009

Pancho ... and Lefty

I found myself in central Virginia over the weekend. The foliage, while not fully turned, was colorful enough to merit a good deal of oohing and aahing. The game (Virginia vs. 11th-ranked Georgia Tech) was significantly less enjoyable. Unless you happened to have attended Georgia Tech.

It's bad enough to see the old Alma Mater get it's ass kicked on a nice day. Me? I spent most of the game huddled with my friends; each of whom (except one who inexplicably wore a jacket) spent most of the game huddled in his or her rain poncho watching the rain come sideways at us as ferociously as the Georgia Tech option offense came at the Cavaliers.

How, one has to wonder, if you are wearing a weather-resistant jacket with a hood covered, in turn, with a waterproof plastic poncho, also with a hood, does your shirt get completely soaked? Answer: it was a hurricane. It was a football game wrapped in a hurricane. The culinary metaphor would be, of course, a pig in a blanket.

This from Townes van Zandt:
Living on the road my friend
Was gonna keep you free and clean
Now you wear your skin like iron
Your breath's as hard as kerosene
You weren't your mama's only boy
But her favorite one it seems
She began to cry when you said goodbye
And sank into your dreams

Pancho was a bandit boys
His horse was fast as polished steel
Wore his gun outside his pants
For all the honest world to feel
Pancho met his match you know
On the deserts down in Mexico
Nobody heard his dying words
That's the way it goes

All the federales say
They could have had him any day
They only let him hang around
Out of kindness I suppose

Lefty he can't sing the blues
All night long like he used to
The dust that Pancho bit down south
Ended up in Lefty's mouth
The day they laid poor Pancho low
Lefty split for Ohio
Where he got the bread to go
There ain't nobody knows

All the federales say
They could have had him any day
They only let him slip away
Out of kindness I suppose

The poets tell how Pancho fell
Lefty's livin' in a cheap hotel
The desert's quiet and Cleveland's cold
So the story ends we're told
Pancho needs your prayers it's true,
But save a few for Lefty too
He just did what he had to do
Now he's growing old

A few gray federales say
They could have had him any day
They only let him go so wrong
Out of kindness I suppose
Now that, my friend, is a song! When I sing it (and I do sing it), I sing "Lefty, he don't sing the blues/all night long like he used to do." I like the notion of choice ("don't") rather than diminished ability ("can't"). But that's just a quibble. It's also easy to play on guitar, which is never a bad thing.

Were I a clearer thinker, or more motivated at this exact moment, I'd somehow weave into the narrative the fact that the Virginia quarterback, one Jameel Sewell (what a name!), is left-handed. But honestly, hoos got the energy?

I will say this:

The general plan, as it went once the weather set in, was to tailgate (if that's even the right word for standing in a kitchen eating deviled eggs and drinking beer) at my friend's daughter's apartment. Which we did.
Parenthetical aside: I'm not naming names for confidentiality purposes--one can only imagine the perverts and weirdos that read this blog and I'm a firm believer in better safe than sorry. Although I do believe that confidentiality can be taken too far--look what it has done to the practice of medicine today.
Then, as it went, we were to leave the apartment and go to the game. Which we did. Then, as it went, the young people with whom we were tailgating (if that's even the right word) were supposed to join us. Which they didn't.

About half way through the first quarter we received a text message informing us that they would remain at the apartment and watch the game from there. Dry, in one sense of the word, but wet, I can assure you, in another.

It felt like a blow to the head. A massive betrayal. What's wrong with kids today?

Anyway, once we recovered, we turned our attention back to the game. Which was a disaster. We left with a good bit of time to go in the 4th quarter and went back to what we assumed would be the scene of the tailgate, much as we had left it, but which turned out to be more like a scene from a Fellini movie.

Because let me tell you, dear reader--the young people were hammered. Which is fine, since they weren't driving and they weren't skipping class. But wow.

Me? I thought it was charming. Of course I have a high tolerance for stuff like that. But c'mon--although I have never been that drunk, I can assure you that my friend Earl has. So one has to be careful where one throws one's stones. I thought it was charming. I'm smiling even now as I think about it.

I spent much of the time eating deviled eggs and listening to the story of how one young person's horse used to like to eat wood. And I'm not talking Ronnie Wood. I'm talking the barn and such. They finally had to get rid of it. Which I think was for the best.

Then it was time to go, but I didn't want to leave. Because as Ronnie and the rest of the Stones like to say: Childhood living--it's easy to do.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Girding my loins

I'm girding my loins for Georgia Tech. More specifically, the miracle that is Virginia playing Georgia Tech in Charlottesville.

Assuming one has two loins, one is already girded; the second is being tended to as we speak. We may not speak again until Monday.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Change of life

I need to change my life.

Actually, my life is pretty okay, by and large. My life is alright, Paul Simon might say, in a sort of a limited way for an off night. So don't take this as complaining.

But what it doesn't contain--my life, that is--is room for this:

I want to own a Redbone Coonhound.

The one you see here is named Lena. The photo was nabbed from Wikipedia. The one I'm most familiar with lives somewhere in the Wall Street area. I saw it walking its owner a couple of weeks ago and thought it was about the most beautiful dog I'd ever seen. In real life, the dog seems to be a richer, deeper red than the photo suggests. I asked the guy what breed it was and he told me.

Then I saw it again today and I was just stunned by the majesty of the thing. Plus, given the right conditions, who doesn't want to hunt raccoons? According to descriptions of the breed, it's also adept at treeing bears and cougars. I'm less keen to be interfacing with bears and cougars, but still...good to know.

I was talking to a cop outside the Stock Exchange today and, at some point, asked her if I could pet her horse.
Interesting sentence.
Why so?
Well, you start out by saying 'I talked to a cop..."
Which is the most normal thing in the world, assuming you need to talk to a cop.
But then you just let slide the fact that the cop is a woman.
They make 'em that way too, you know.
Of course I know. But when you say the word cop, the mind defaults to the male version.
And then, just when the reader is reeling, you slip the fact that you 'asked her if I could pet her horse' into the mix.
She was a mounted police officer.
You almost said policeman, didn't you.
Yes, I did. But what's the point?
The point is, that's an interesting sentence from such an otherwise uninteresting person.
We're all gifted in our own way.
Like snowflakes.
To a degree, yes.
Anyway, so I tell the cop that I'll hold her horse if she'd like to go write something on the painting. I mean, she's a big fan. I mean, we're really talking about the painting. She tells me the holding-the-horse-thing ain't gonna happen, but I knew it wouldn't even before saying it.

Sometimes when the NYPD SWAT guys wander around to take a look at my paintings I offer to hold their M-16s if that would make it easier for them to write something. Not one time has one of those guys handed me their rifle.
Must be a rule.
Same thing, I guess, with the horse.
That's my guess.
I mean, imagine the uproar if the cop's supervisor were to come around the corner just as you are screwing around with the guy's assault rifle.
Same thing, I guess with the horse.
I haven't ridden in years.
Me neither. We should go sometime.
Anyway, to make a long story short, I am, at some point, thumping this beautiful auburn horse (I'm using the word auburn here, perhaps incorrectly, to describe the standard reddish-brown color of your basic horse) and thinking that a man needs a dog he can thump on the side.

Then, not moments later, the Redbone Coonhound strolls by, smelling for 'coons, I guess, and I'm feeling like it's a sign from God to go get one.

sometimes you feel like a nut...

Today's pop cultural reference is the theme song from the ads for Peter Paul Almond Joy and Mounds candybar. Which goes, as you may remember, "Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don't."

This, from twenty-nine years ago:

The point of the story is that I spent part of the weekend sitting in my studio talking to people who wandered in. They were participating in A.G.A.S.T. (Annual Gowanus Artist's Studio Tour). Chuck came by. I took him down the hall and tried to sell him a photograph.

Anyway, as is always the case, you get your share of bizarre characters. And there's something about my particular brand of painting/public history taking (if that's what I do) that brings them out of the woodwork.

And let me tell you, dear reader, you can tell the nut-jobs a mile away.

So a woman walks in. Starts talking politics. Five minutes in we're talking about death panels.
"Do you know what people don't know?" she asks me.
"No, what?"
Already my eyes are so glazed over I might just as well have cataracts.
"The death panels aren't mentioned in the health-care reform bills."
Sotto voce: "They're in the bail out bills!"
Okay, lady. Move along. As if I didn't have enough shit going on in my life that I have to listen to your crap.

I should have said that to her face, but I'm too polite.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The sausage, Volume 2

CNBC, God blessum, grinds this out. Be sure and click on the slide show too. Although I prefer a slide show that moves through the slides automatically. This one, apparently, requires a click per image.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Irving Penn, 92

Irving Penn is dead. Which means, in part, that there is now no longer any reason whatsoever to look at an issue of Vogue again.

Here is a Penn shot of a kid ...

Here is a shot of an older kid ...

Here's a shot of the wife ...

The man loved a jaunty hat.

Here's a shot of Kate Moss ...

I always thought Kate Moss was the most interesting of the so-called supermodels. Do you listen to a lot of Babyshambles? The British rock band fronted by her drug-addled former boyfriend Pete Doherty? Wonderful. Kind of a modern twist on a Kinks/Clash fusion. La Belle Et La Bete is fabulous and includes Moss singing the line "Is she more beautiful? Is she more beautiful than me?" over and over again in the chorus. The antecedent of the pronoun "she" is, in this case, if I'm not mistaken, heroin.

The answer, sadly, is, apparently, yes.
Do you believe that your prose is enhanced by a comma after virtually every word?
Sadly, yes.
Okay. Just checking.
Albion is also a smasher. An ode to England as if it were a Grecian urn. Sort of.
Down in Albion
They're black and blue
But we don't talk about that
Are you from 'round here?
How do you do?
I'd like to talk about that

Talk over
Gin in teacups
And leaves on the lawn
Violence in bus stops
And the pale thin girl with eyes forlorn

More gin in teacups
And leaves on the lawn
Violence in dole queues
And the pale thin girl
Behind the checkout

If you're looking for a cheap sort
Set in false anticipation
I'll be waiting in the photo booth
At the underground station

So come away, won't you come away
We could go to...
Deptford, Catford, Watford, Digberth, Mansfield
Ahh anywhere in Albion

Anywhere in Albion
Anywhere in Albion

Yellowing classics
And canons at dawn
Coffee wallahs and pith helmets
And an English song

Mmm... Reebok classics
And canons at dawn
Terrible warlords, good Warlords
And an English song

Oo if you're looking for a cheap sort
All glint with perspiration
There's a four-mile queue
Outside the disused power station

Now come away, oh say you'll come away
We'll go to...
Satsworth, Senford, Weovil, Woomoyle, NEW-CAST-LE

If you are looking for a cheap tart
Don't glint with perspiration
There's a five-mile queue
Outside the disused power station
Now come away (away), won't you come away

We'll go to...
Bedtown, Oldham, Nunthorpe, Rowlam, Bristol
Aaa-nywhere in Albion

Anywhere in Albion
Anywhere in Albion
Anywhere in Albion
Anywhere in Albion...
I love the bit about the four-mile queue outside the disused power station--a reference, I'm assuming, to the Tate Modern. And this blog, if nothing else, is about painting. So there you are.

This is a photograph of Kate Moss by Chuck Close. It reminds me of Roman Polanski's comment about Catherine Deneuve--that he admired a beautiful actress who was willing to look ugly.

This from Repulsion:

Believe me, she gets a hell of a lot uglier. And just tell me that boy didn't grow watching every Alfred Hitchcock movie ever made.

Anyway, back to Penn.

This is, of course, the Mothership of Penn images ...

And I'll leave you with this from my boy Keats:
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in the midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,--that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'
And my portrait, from a long time ago, of my friend Elena.

If I had to leave one behind, this might be it. My Grecian urn.

A further note on this whole John Denver business

My friend Joe, who, if he does say so himself, knows whereof he speaks, writes, from somewhere on the Eastern Seaboard:
Because I’m all about historical accuracy, and it’s what I do, John Denver didn’t slam into the side of a mountain. He crashed into the Pacific after running out of fuel. Current wisdom is that he lost control while reaching for the fuel tank selector lever. Not that it would have made a difference as he had run both tanks dry.
One could argue that crashing into the Pacific and crashing into a mountain are more or less the same thing. Still, it's good to have the record set straight.

My father used to tell me stories about the war from his hospital bed. One goes along these lines:
I was doing a training mission at a base in southern California and the landing gear jammed in the up position. The tower told me to circle for as long as I could, then, if the gear were still stuck, point the thing (a B17) towards the Pacific Ocean, engage the autopilot and jump out the door.
Obviously he had a parachute.

Who knows whether this is just an old war story or if it really happened. He was making less sense towards the end of his life. But he did say that it was the only time, other than the initial parachute training exercise, that he jumped out of a plane. And one can certainly envision less attractive circumstances.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Two Questions

Two questions:

Do you watch The City? Unbelievable. It's like Dostoevsky ... in Jimmy Choos.

Do you eat a lot of tuna fish sandwiches?

These are both questions, my friend, that bear consideration. Me? I take a can of chunk albacore in oil, drained as well as I can, and mix into it a minced shallot, a teaspoon of dijon mustard, a tablespoon of Duke's mayonnaise, some red chili flakes, S&P. This, to my mind, creates the perfect quantity for two sandwiches. I tend towards rye bread with seeds (getting harder to find with each passing day--one of the mysteries of society that continues to flummox me). My vision of the perfect sandwich involves the tuna fish, the rye bread with seeds, sliced peeled cucumbers (I don't like the skin when used in a sandwich) and, if the season's right, sliced tomato. Here in mid-October the season is definitely no longer right.

The idea is to eat the sandwich and then, fueled for the trip, go to the studio and paint Gramps--or something.

So I'm eating my tuna on rye with cucumber and watching a tivo'd episode of The City. Except that when Kelly, the head of the public relations agency at which Whitney now works (called People's Revolution, a name about which I have mixed feelings--feels a bit too much like Imitation of Christ, the now defunct fashion label), hands Whitney's friend Roxy the keys to her car and says: a) "Have you ever driven in New York?" and b) "Just don't trash my car" and then they cut, first to Whitney's eyes (as big as perhaps not saucers but certainly the tops of two 16-ounce Bud Light cans) and then away to the headquarters of Elle Magazine, I'm here to tell you, dear reader, that I just couldn't take the suspense.

I turned it off, knocked off this brief update, and will now, after pushing the send button, head, fueled, to the studio.

Wealth is Relative

Are you familiar with the business of rabbit hunting? In particular the notion that rabbits in flight tend to run in a big circle? And that the strategy, once the bunny is flushed, is to turn 180 degrees, shoulder your rifle, and wait for the damned thing to come around? And that the only thing left to do is to make sure you shoot the rabbit and not the dog?

Then, mmmmm, good eating. Me? I love rabbit stew.

Now imagine that you are a poor painter (Forget about the rabbit stew and focus on the task at hand). Poor in the financial sense. And that you are at the gym (I don't belong to a gym, by the way, but in the perfect world that is this hypothetical scenario, the gym in question might be the Equinox in the West Village). You're on the treadmill (and you're thinking to yourself "Didn't I become a painter so I could get off the treadmill?") and an extremely attractive woman starts walking on the machine next to yours.

Because you're an intrepid soul you strike up a conversation. And, after a bit of this-ing and that-ing, you ask her what she does for a living. She says "I'm an expensive prostitute." You tuck this away and continue with the conversation, focusing on your somewhat delusional optimism about the upcoming Knicks season, knowing that beautiful women like nothing better than talking about the Knicks.

Finally you say "Hey, listen. I haven't sold a painting in a while, so I'm dirt poor, but I'd give anything to sleep with you" and she says "How much do you have?" and you say "A buck-fifty" and she says "You seem like a nice person. Handsome in a somewhat older version of Daniel Craig without the cheesy mustache he's wearing on Broadway kind of a way. I'll do it."

Obviously this doesn't happen in real life. It's a metaphor.
Or, perhaps, more like a dream.
But in a dream, wouldn't she have offered to pay for the hotel?
Perhaps the Four Seasons?
I love the turn-down service with the chocolates.
Yeah. Me too.
And the basket of fruit and Champagne that the manager sends up.
But of course none of this ever happens, right?
Actually it does happen in real life. Except, as it turns out, I'm the hooker.

More specifically, I was recently approached, via email, by a women who I'd met at a news shoot a couple of months ago. The conversation went something like her saying "Hey, listen. I'm just a news producer and I know you charge a ton of money for a painting but I'd really love it if you'd paint a portrait of my Grandfather for his birthday at a steep discount" and me saying "How much do you have?" and her saying a number that is not only a tenth of my going rate but is also five times what I spent for my first car (the juxtaposition of which reminds me of when my friend Dave wrote "Wealth is relative" on my American Investor painting) and me saying "You seem like a nice person and I like the picture you sent me. Grampa's handsome in a kind of older version of John Denver, before he slammed his lightweight plane into the side of a mountain, kind of a way. I'll do it."

Then she starts rattling on about the Knicks until I tell her that she can drop her slightly modified version of the parallel structure. At which point she tells me straight-up that not only are the Knicks not going to make the playoffs but that I can stop holding my breath about LeBron James coming. 'Cause he ain't.

Wow. I was feeling so positive. Nonetheless, a deal is a deal. So now I'm painting Grandpa.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Outside Merrill Lynch

I found myself outside Merrill Lynch on Friday with my painting of Ken Lewis. I enjoyed myself less than I usually do, although Alix Steel at did a nice piece on me...

Go here.

Apparently you can't embed TheStreet videos. I thought my hair looked good.

Anyway, my day started with one of the World Financial Center security guys coming up to me and telling me I couldn't do what I was doing. I told him I could. He told me he would call the cops. I told him I would be happy to have a police officer visit the site and that I was sure that, post-visit, I would still be standing right where I was standing, doing what I was doing.

He suggested that he had his doubts, then called the cops.

The cops came, chatted, assured the security guy that I was simply exercising my constitutional rights to:

a--display my painting on public property provided I'm not impeding pedestrian traffic
b--carry an open bottle of liquor in my car but not drink from it, provided I am operating the vehicle in a place called Texas
c--arrive at an event featuring the President of the United States with an assault rifle and a racially charged image glued to a stick.

You pick one.
Given that it's a relatively short document, the Constitution certainly covers a lot of ground.
Yes it does.
Anyway, it must be said that after the cop cleared me of all wrong-doing, the local security people became quite friendly; would stop by and read a comment or two, etc. So that was good.

Look at this picture:

Everything you need to know is here: Four World Financial Center is the address ... The ML sign is displayed prominently ... There's my painting ... There's a person looking at my painting.

My problem (well, part of my problem) is that this is exemplary of the highest level of foot traffic I encountered at any one time. Namely, virtually zero.

For those of you not in the know, Merrill Lynch is located, in some significant part, at 250 Vesey Street--part of the business and residential development known as Battery Park City and the World Financial Center. It lies just to the west of the West Side Highway (which means it might as well be in Ohio) and can only be reached by one of the ugliest public structures I have ever seen--the Vesey St. pedestrian overpass.

It was stunningly ugly when built and, I'm here to report, has aged poorly. See those weird slats on the sides? It looks like an Amtrak train had somehow lodged itself in the air above the highway in the mid-Eighties and now, twenty-some years later, was simply decomposing. I've driven under it hundreds of times and each time, I promise you, I've been amazed at just how unattractive it is.

And the World Financial Center felt like a scene from one of those nuclear disaster movies where the buildings remain but everybody is gone. I mean, where was everybody?

Anyway, to make a long story shorter, at around 3pm the Merrill Lynch security guy emerges. He, it must be said, is different from the building's security people. He tells me I'm welcome to show my painting but that I have to move away from the entrance (which I am not, it should be noted, blocking. I'm situated cat-a-corner from the entrance, if that's how you spell it).

I tell him I was thinking about leaving shortly (my strategy was to throw him a bone in the interest of sharing the love) but that until I did I wouldn't be moving. I felt a little like Michael Moore trying to arrest the board of AIG. He told me I'd better move or he'd call the cops. And he said it in such an unpleasant way that I returned fire somewhat harshly. He stepped away, called somebody while standing in front of the building, spoke in an animated fashion for a couple of minutes, hung up and walked back inside.

What? No goodbye?

Me? I was planning on repairing to the Peter McManus Cafe for a cold beer and the warm embrace of friendship. Instead I hung out for another hour and fifteen minutes, just to piss the guy off.

Does that make me a bad person?