Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Volker Concept

As you often find me, old friend, I'm torn.

First, there's the hard deadline for generating I AM SPARTACUS!, my portrait of Barack Obama, for the first day of business in Season Five of The Year of Magical Painting. In this case, given that the 4th is on a Sunday, the 5th is the holiday, so we're talking the 6th. Which really seems so far away...

Anyway, with all that said, there's my strong desire to paint Paul Volker. Here's the image:

I like it very much; think it would be a cool painting. I love the wrinkles and the hand and the general smooshing of the face. I'm gonna call it Red Volker because: a) I love how people always attach a socialist interpretation to any of the paintings I title Red Something (Geithner, specifically). Second, I'm gonna paint the background red.
The background?
Exactly. Gonna paint the whole goddam background red.
How are people going to write on it?
I have this fantasy that black and dark blue pens will actually write nicely on a red background.
Hmmmm. Interesting.
Interesting indeed. And furthermore, I'm gonna start writing on the damned things again myself.
Because a man has his limits. I stood outside the NYSE yesterday for three hours watching people with absolutely nothing to say write things on my portrait of Chris Dodd. And I'm frustrated.
Are you abandoning the public annotation process?
No. But I'm giving it a little guidance. Or a kick in the pants. Or at least taking my crack at writing something interesting on the painting, since nobody else will.
You understand that you're cruisin' for a bruisin', don't you?
How so?
Because if you think people have nothing interesting to say about Dodd, wait til you see what they have to say about Volker.
I hear you. But, to quote a famous philosopher, I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore.
The plan is roughly this:

1--Paint Volker
2--Paint the background a deepish red.
3--Title the painting Red Volker
4--Scrawl from the tube or inscribe with a brush in white paint a lengthy annotation in a type size, if that's the right word, large enough so that the copy occupies, in a meandering, slightly psychedelic manner, almost all of the surface of the painting typically reserved for the annotation.
5--Present the work for public annotation in the usual manner.

Two copy options include:
Is the title Red Volker a suggestion that the man is a socialist? No--it's a suggestion that the background is red.
Which is a lot of copy, but I do like the kind of call-and-response structure. Or:
Is the Volker rule really a rule? Or is it just a concept?
Which is a bit more enigmatic.

The act of self-delusion you see playing out before your very eyes is my supposition that these words are more interesting than the pablum currently being written on the painting by John Q Public. But I don't care--a man has to do what a man has to do.

Additionally, there's the notion that people will then take their markers and write in, around, and overtop of the primary annotation.

These are the things I'm wrestling with. We'll see.
Is overtop one word?
I don't know. I gave a lot of thought to hyphenating it.
Hmmmm. Interesting.
I just know it didn't look write as two words.
Hey, it's your blog.
Yes it is.

Formula 1 Update

As you surely must know, I'm a Ferrari guy.

But you have to tip your hat to McLaren. This is Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton visiting a warehouse full of McLaren F1 cars. Staged, obviously, but still charming. And the way these guys talk about the cars--particularly the sound Hamilton makes while imitating a F1 engine (more like singing than anything else)--well, manomanoman, you just realize that they, as drivers, are operating on a whole different wavelength than you, dear reader, assuming you drive, and me.

Favorite comment? I like it when Button says something along the lines of "look how many of them have ones and twos." F1 cars are numbered to acknowledge their drivers' final standing in the previous season. So the fact that there are a shitload of McLarens sporting "ones and twos" just goes to show you what we, down in Maranello, are up against.

Monday, June 28, 2010

I've started a second blog

Go take a look. It's called "The Annotated Wall Street Paintings" and can be seen here.

Blog is the wrong word. But I needed a place where people could just take a look at the images without getting bogged down in the sludge that is The Year of Magical Painting (Season Five coming to a theatre near you on July 4th).

Look also at the format. I am thinking of changing TYOMP over to that format. Embedded in this notion is also a switch to a newer program with a lot more options regarding design and function.

Left unsaid is the brassy taste I get in my mouth when I think about making such a switch. The taste? It's unalloyed horror. What if I push the wrong button and the whole thing simply goes away?

Simply goes away.

Roll that around on your tongue and tell me what you taste.

Look, Mom ... I'm on TV!

Damn--Mom's dead.

And it's not really TV, although what is television these days anyway, what with services for watching Grey's Anatomy like Hulu (hula?)? As if you would. Watch Grey's Anatomy, I mean. That thing jumped the shark so long ago it's almost unwatchable (although I do give them credit for shooting everybody at the end of this last season).

Anyway, the line's pretty hazy as to what is or isn't television. Me? I'm on Which is like television. Sort of.


I think I sound remarkably cogent.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Annotated BP Guy Done for Now...

Here's my boy Tony Hayward.

As you know, I give myself the first annotation. You can see it nestled comfortably in the center of the BP logo.

How does that Rod Stewart song go?
If I listened long enough to you
I´d find a way to believe that it´s all true
Knowing that you lied straight-faced while I cried
Still I look to find a reason to believe

Someone like you makes it hard to live without
somebody else
Someone like you makes it easy to give
never think about myself

If I gave you time to change my mind
I´d try to leave all the past behind
Knowing that you lied straight-faced while I cried
Still I look to find a reason to believe

Someone like you makes it easy to live without
somebody else
Someone like you makes it hard to give
never think about myself

If I listened long enough to you
I´d find a way to believe that it´s all true
Knowing that you lied straight-faced while I cried
Still I look to find a reason to believe
Still I look to find a reason to believe
Still I look to find a reason to believe
These are sad times. Fuck you, Tony, for lying in such a straight-faced manner.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Times Square today...

With the annotated BP guy. Which was almost the title.

I like how the green and brown came out, so I'm using those colors for annotation

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Annotated BP Guy

Just a quick glimpse at the annotated BP guy.

Lots of work to be done, but I kind of like the haunted look in his eyes and the way my greens and browns turned out (the idea being to render the CEO of BP, Tony Hayward, as if dripping in oil).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I'm in ecstasy...

Are you listening to a lot of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young? Me? I'm stretching the Tony Hayward canvas and listening to Deja Vu. Specifically, "Almost cut my hair."

I love songs that begin with a declarative sentence. Specifically: "Almost cut my hair." Which happens, happily, to be the name of the song. Which is a good idea. I mean, people mention Bob Dylan songs to me by title all the time and I can never remember which ones they are. "Rainy Day Woman #12 and 35". Honestly, what does that have to do with being stoned?

Speaking of declarative sentences, consider this: "Actually bought some blueberries."

Happened just the other day.

This morning I put the blueberries on my shredded wheat (Two original patties--if that's the right word. I don't like the minis). Plus skim.

And let me tell you, dear reader, I was in ecstasy. Just typing these words makes me realize I'm still in ecstasy. Just at the thought!

Lord have mercy.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Clothes the Emperor Wore

I've been in a bit of a slump, but I think I just figured out what's bugging me.

I look back at the emotional impact of annotated works like The Annotated Fuld or The Fallen Prince and acknowledge that the weight of the thing comes from the heartfelt comments. Which is as it should be. Except that lately people are writing shit like "I heart New York". Which they always have, except now it seems to be the exception rather than the rule. I look at Red Geithner, for example, and feel a little let down that so few people had anything of substance to say to, or about, Timothy Geithner.

And that bugs me.

Consider this:

Big Maria 1 (Plane Too Many). Ahhhh--whatta painting.

I think Big Maria represented the zenith of me writing on my own paintings. Shortly afterwards I decided I needed to have other people write on them; painted Rupert Murdoch; handed out markers; and the rest is history.

Surely you regular readers realize that life is either a set of linked circles or, more likely, a Slinky. So I've decided, at least on some level, to circle back and start writing something on my paintings that I would like to see written on them.
Don't you do that anyway?
What do you mean?
I mean that you always give yourself the "first annotation" on any given painting. Isn't that enough?
Apparently not. I want to say what needs to be said in Big Letters.
Then you should do so.
Thank you. I will.
So consider this:

It's a picture of me in a pair of shorts. Painting shorts, I guess, since there seems to be paint all over them.
Don't all your clothes have paint all over them?
Yes, I suppose they do. Witness the huge blue goober on my stomach.
Anyway, let's do a visualization exercise. First, picture yourself on a train in a station. Can you see that the porters appear to be made of plastic? And that they have weird eyes? Okay, now change gears and imagine a painting of a middle aged man in a pair of white boxer shorts cropped approximately the way I've cropped the photo above.

Now let's pretend it's a portrait of Jim Cramer. Because I like the idea of painting a series of tightly cropped images of the leading financial reporters on television. Cramer, Bartiromo, Gasparino, Burnett, etc. In their underwear. I'm calling the series "The Clothes The Emperor Wore". Surely this is metaphor enough for one day.

Now imagine, because I'm a structuralist, the following pattern of copy that each painting will feature scrawled across it:
1--Pithy quote (entirely fictitious--made up purely to satisfy whatever needs I am feeling at the time)
2--Name of famous financial news reporter (since you can't see their face, you just have to play along. this also makes the paintings waaaaay easier to execute.) followed by the word "wears"
3--Brand and model of underwear
4--Retail price of the underwear
So the Cramer painting's scrawl would read something like this:
I wish I'd just had the balls to apologize ... like that asshole Greenspan did - Jim Cramer wears Jockey Hi-rise Boxers with Comfort Waistband - $22.50
Alternatively, imagine an ornately wrought painting of a brassiere on a relatively flat-chested woman.
If Cramer could see what I'm wearing under my blouse he'd gag a hairball - Erin Burnett wears La Perla Demi-cup Peek-a-boo - $215.00
Honestly, could you just die? Warhol did. Went into the hospital for a routine procedure; came out a stiff. Hey ... it happens. But obviously, for good and for bad, the man lives on. I mean, the above notion embraces what one might call a Warholian gestalt with both arms.

Anyway, these are the things I've been thinking about.

The Volker Concept

I read this in The Times this morning:
"Every banker I speak with knows very well what 'proprietary trading' means and implies."
Paul Volker--testifying before the Senate Banking Committee in February.
The same article went on to suggest that legislators, while eager to insert a surprisingly strict version of the Volker Rule (which will, roughly, ban big banks--recipients of super-cheap Fed funds--from using that same super-cheap money to engage in trading on their own behalf) into the financial reform legislation currently under House/Senate wrangling, are waiting for the Treasury Department to tell them what 'proprietary trading' is so they can put a stop to the nonsense. Until they get such language they are referring to the Volker Rule as the Volker Concept. Tongue in cheek, I suppose.

All of which makes me want to paint Paul Volker:

I mean, the picture alone gives me goose-bumps, given my predilection for guys holding their heads in their hands.

This quite old painting (Girl With Head) could have started the whole thing.

Anyway, I wonder how many people actually know who the guy is. Volker, that is. I remain amazed at how many people don't know who Christopher Dodd is. And he's a Senator from Connecticut--one of the three states composing the Tri-State-Region.

I mean, I could understand somebody from New York not knowing who, say, Blanche Lincoln was (particularly six months ago--she's been in the news lately). But Chris Dodd?

So it's a concern.

Nonetheless, I like painting his picture and then scrawling the "Every banker I speak with..." quote across the top in lieu of the traditional "The Annotated Volker". Which, frankly, should exacerbate the problem.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Nietzsche is Pietzsche

Favorite graffiti ever.

Which of course brings to mind this:
And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.
I am only familiar with the line because I just got around to reading a piece in the Sunday Times by Randy Kennedy titled "The Ahab Parallax". It can be viewed in its completeness here.

Lovely piece of writing. One of the reasons one buys The Times. Just the sort of Mr. Mulliner's Buck-U-Uppo to make me feel good about The Times again, particularly after staring long and hard at their new subway (check it out on the 2 and 3 lines) advertising campaign aimed at potential Times-to-Journal switchers. The lamest, most embarrassing ad campaign in the history of The Times. Here's a pic:

Here's another:

I didn't want to freak everybody out by using my flash, so these were taken hand-held, no-flash, halfway under the East River going, let's say, 45 mph (who knows how fast those trains really go anyway). To make your life easier, they read, respectively:

"Front Row. Every Show." and "Not Just Wall Street. Every Street."

I tried, for a moment, to transcribe them in a way that illustrates what is actually going on in the ad copy (specifically the typographical conflict of large font vs. small font; large font vs. small, underlined font; and small font vs. small underlined font) but it defies Blogger's font management controls. But the more I sat on that subway car, old friend, the angrier I got.

If you believe, as I do, that the battle between The Times and the newly expanded, New York edition Wall Street Journal is, in fact, part of the war between Good and Evil, and that the stakes for journalism (as we once commonly knew it and now barely do) are excruciatingly high, then you look at these lame ads and shake your head in anger.
Memo to The Times: Step it up, please.
Look at that ad copy and tell me you wouldn't have used two, not three fonts and the first one would have read "FIRST row. EVERY show." ????

Or "Not Just WALL Street. EVERY Street." Or, possibly, "Not JUST Wall Street. EVERY Street."

If typography is, to some extent, a way to provide emphasis on certain words or phrases--a guide to how you might read something out loud, if you will--then I ask you, dear reader, how would you read those ads out loud?

The truth? The truth is that some asshole art director took control of the project and came up with something that's gonna look interesting in his portfolio but which is, in the end, confusing and ineffective advertising. I wonder how many Times employees, people whose job it is to consider how type looks on a page, have sat on that train and wondered something along the lines of "WTF? I could do better than that!"

One man's opinion. Now, before we go back to our regular programming, if you are not familiar with Mr. Mulliner's Buck-U-Uppo, Wikipedia (which, believe me, dear reader, has its uses) offers this:
Augustine Mulliner, a meek and mild young curate, arrives in Lower-Briskett-in-the-Midden to assist the vicar, the Rev. Stanley Brandon and falls in love with the vicar's daughter, Jane Brandon. The young lovers wonder how to approach the fierce vicar about their love when a package arrives from Augustine Mulliner's aunt containing a tonic, Buck-U-Uppo (it works directly on the corpuscles) arrives. Mulliner takes a tablespoonful as recommended by his aunt and becomes more confident and assertive. The next morning, after another tablespoonful, he rescues a visiting bishop chased up a tree by a dog and firmly ends a quarrel between the bishop and the vicar, receives the vicar's blessings for his love for Jane, saves the bishop from being forced to wear thick winter woolies, and becomes the bishop's secretary. On returning to his rooms, he finds a letter from his cousin Wilfred Mulliner explaining that the tonic, mistakenly sent to Augustine, is meant for steeling the nerves of elephants in India ("too often elephants, on sighting the tiger, have turned and galloped home," he writes). Augustine promptly writes for three cases of Buck-U-Uppo!
P. G. Wodehouse should be managing the ad campaign for The Times. There is no typographical ambiguity in the phrase "Buck-U-Uppo".

Anyway, all that aside, the piece discussed parallels between the whaling industry back in the day (the purpose of which was to harvest oil from whales) and the modern petroleum industry (the purpose of which is to harvest oil from the Earth) and taps into some Melville scholars for some Moby Dick-related insight. I'll let you read it yourself, but let me just remind you that Moby Dick does not end happily.

Me? I save my Moby Dick analogies for macro-, not micro-, economics. Reaganomics, specifically. For, in the crisis on Wall Street and the crisis in the Gulf, we are surely reaping what that man sowed.

"And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee."

Note to self: Nietzsche is pietzsche ... if not overused.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I Am Spartacus

I'm a big fan of attaching theistic intent to secular events. Thus, based on the following, God clearly wants me to paint Barack Obama and title it "I Am Spartacus":

1--I'm watching an old Seinfeld episode last night and they all go to see Spartacus.
2--Not two hours later (at loose ends, dear reader, due to the rain-out of the Mets game), I am watching the season finale of Justified (possibly the best thing on TV). The shack containing Raylen Givens (the hero) and two of his friends (it's more complicated than that) is surrounded by bad guys. They shout in something like "You can all go free; we only want Raylen Givens". Givens then shouts back "I am Raylen Givens." Seconds later, one of his friends shouts out "No, I am Raylen Givens." Banter ensues.

So, extending the idea to it's fullest, painting Obama would be, in the words of Lloyd Blankfein, "Doing God's work."

Consider this classic film moment:

All of which is fine.

But I'm gonna paint Tony Hayward first. Because Obama is going to be around for quite a while. I'm less sure about Hayward.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

I sometimes think I'm in the wrong line of work

No ... that's not right. But I sometimes think I should be painting other things. This, for example, jumps to mind:

You may remember some discussion about reinterpreting small linocuts by Picasso (heads, mostly) into large drip paintings. This remains, to me, what sounds like a fountain of good, clean fun.

But there are the Chinese masters as well to be considered. The one above, which I just yanked from an article in The Times and don't have any particular attraction to, might be an interesting one. Or at least descriptive of what might be interesting, when dripped and squirted on the page.

It's a thought.

Update: As if you needed an update, but the short-term plan is this: I'm taking Red Geithner behind 85 Broad Street today as follow-up to yesterdays NYSE exhibition. It currently looks like this:

I'll offer people blue markers today and exhibit til about 3.

That done, I'll repair, painting in hand, to the Peter McManus Cafe where I will re-stretch Red Geithner and then simultaneously hand out green markers (the traditional McManus annotation color) and join my friends in slopping beer from a trough like drunken pigs.
That's an unattractive image.
Yes, I suppose it is--although you obviously don't know my friends. Perhaps I'll just have a couple of Bud Lights and comport myself in a manner that would make my daughters proud. Or at least not ashamed.

That sounds better.

Yes it does.
So, just to make sure there's no confusion (since I'm told a lot of people don't read the Greek Chorus inserts), I'll repair, painting in hand, to the Peter McManus Cafe where I will re-stretch Red Geithner and then simultaneously hand out green markers (the traditional McManus annotation color) and have a couple of Bud Lights while comporting myself in a manner that would make my daughters proud. Or at least not ashamed.

Further with the plans, I will then remove the now-finished Red Geithner and use the stretchers for a new canvas. My plan is either "I Am Spartacus"--a portrait of President O'Bama--or "The Annotated BP Guy"--a portrait of the BP guy. The one who looks like a slightly craggier, significantly wealthier Tony Blair.

This done, I will repair to no other a location than the absolute center of the world--the Times Square Pedestrian Mall. Which looks something like this:

Actually it looks exactly like that. I mean, that's a photograph of the place after Mayor Bloomberg--the best Mayor New York has had since, perhaps, Ed Koch--closed the Broadway/7th Ave Axis to vehicular traffic and paved the road with a weird green matt-like surface and handed out amazingly cheezy folding chairs.

This, if it works (you never know until you arrive what the feng shui of the place will be), will be interesting on two fronts:

First, for guys like O'Bama and the BP guy, what the world has to say, above and beyond what Wall Street has to say, will be interesting to see. And since, as previously stated, Times Square is the center of the world (unlike the Peter McManus Cafe, which is the center of the Universe), where better to find people to hand pens to?

Second, it opens up weekends for exhibiting. Wall Street is pretty much dead on weekends. Even though a lot more people live there than they used to, lunchtime in front of the NYSE on a Saturday is a pretty sleepy affair. Not so, however, Times Square.

I do worry about my workload, though.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Live-blogging this whole Cabbucini thing...

Of course we never really live-blog anything. At least not in real time. But I cooked a bowl of cabbucini with a simple red sauce last night and it was just lovely. Note to the adventurous: you have to let cabbucini drain a bit longer than fettucini--and even then it does hold a fair amount of water.

I had it with a glass or three of Rene Junot Dry Red Table Wine. Ghastly stuff, really, but its the best red wine you can buy at that particular price point.
What price point is that?
There are lots of ten dollar wines that are fun. Why do you say Rene Junot?
Because it's $9.99 for a 1.5 liter bottle!
Exactly! It's just barely more expensive than bottled water.
It must taste horrid.
Horrid is a harsh word. I would go with nasty and vinegary.
Oh. Well, I guess for 5 bucks a bottle, in the absence of Two Buck Chuck, which I can only assume is a mythical product, nasty and vinegary doesn't sound that bad.
Anyway, the point isn't about cheap red wine. The point is about how a nice Irish boy from New York could take a quarter-head of cabbage and upend everything we think we know about two millennia-plus of Italian cooking. The audacity of that, my friend, is worth rolling around on your tongue. The almost psychedelic clarity of the thing takes the breath away.
It's like dropping acid.
Yes it is. Except you get to eat as much cabbucini as you want, and watch the Mets.
Yeah... and there's the whole red wine thing too.
Yes there is.
Yes there is.
A final note on the red wine thing, if I might?
Sure, go ahead.
Well, the last time I had lunch at Per Se, the red wine that was recommended to us--ironically an Italian one--cost about $300. And frankly, it was a disappointment.
A disappointment at $300? That's a blow.
Yes it is. And it makes nasty and vinegary at five bucks a pop seem pretty civilized, doesn't it.
Yes it does.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Quick note on watching video here at TYOMP

It is annoying that u-tube has changed the parameters of their imbedded videos so they are no longer exactly as wide as the column of copy you are reading right now. Or, because every coin has too sides, it's annoying that I'm not smart enough to figure out how to make these things fit.

In any case, what happens is that the image bleeds over into the right column, where the links to the archives are. So you are watching the movie but there's a bunch of distracting copy on the screen.

The key, dear reader, is to click the expand button after you click the play button. That actually takes you to the u-tube site itself (I think), where the movie will play unmolested by the architecture of my blog. Plus the image is bigger.


My job, dear reader, is to boldly go where no man has gone before, on your behalf. That said, consider this:

Everybody knows that pesto, the green goop made from basil and olive oil, doesn't necessarily have to be made from basil and olive oil. One of my favorites is made with chopped black olives and walnuts, lemon juice, olive oil and Parmigiano-Reggiano (or whatever it is they put in that green and yellow cheese shaker). Plus a bunch of black pepper. And a zitz of Frank's Original Hot Sauce. Because who doesn't like Frank's? And, of course, a ton of garlic.

So I'm sitting around the house the other day thinking about how good my olive and walnut pesto is gonna taste on some fettucini, with some modest red wine in my hand and the Mets on television (at home, where they are winning, amazingly enough, at a league-leading rate). Nagging me, however, is the question of what the hell I should do with the half a head of cabbage I have sitting in the fridge. Because I know if I don't take action, it's gonna go south pretty soon (despite its relative post-harvest hardiness).

I bought the cabbage because I like to cut it into 3/4" strips and throw it into my vegetarian chili with sausage. Which, let me tell you, is a revelation. When cooked with the rest of the chili, the cabbage ends up resembling, more than anything, a type of flat noodle. And who doesn't like flat noodles?

So, to make a long story short, I marched into the kitchen, put a pot of water on the boil, ripped the cabbage out of the ice box and boldly, my dear friend, went where no man has gone before.

I quartered the cabbage, removed the core, turned it on its side, and began slicing 1/4" wide shards. These strips of cabbage, when cooked, I reasoned, would resemble visually (sorta) and texturally (kinda), the fettucini I had planned on cooking. I call it Cabbucini.

I cooked the cabbage like it was pasta (note to the adventurous: it soaks up way more of the water than pasta does), then poured it into a bowl, added the pesto and some additional cheese, cracked some pepper on the top, stirred the whole thing together, and started shoveling.

Before I knew it, I found myself singing that song that goes "Oh sweet mystery of life, at last I've found you." A part of it can be found at the end of this clip:

Saturday, June 05, 2010

John Wooden

Here's a quickie overview of the famous UCLA/Houston game--one of the greatest games in the history of basketball. Another candidate would be Georgetown/Villanova. There is some talk about Duke/Kentucky, but I"m not giving props to any organization whose foundation is built on the rotting lungs of dead nicotine addicts.

That, of course, would be Duke.

Me? As a young man I carried with me, in a bulging satchel of sorts, what can only be described as a prodigious game. And before it evolved into the thing it became, I modeled my early game on Number 11, Elvin Hayes (who never really got along with that fat kid that played center for the Bullets, Wes Unseld, and who was widely considered to be a bit of a selfish player and, perhaps, although it's a harsh word, dear reader, a jerk; but together they won a lovely championship). Remind me to tell you about my between-the-legs dribble.

But that's not the point here. The point is to acknowledge the death and passing of John Wooden.

"Be quick, but don't hurry," Wooden used to say, and I can't imagine a better five words of advice for almost everything except, perhaps, sex. Which is more like golf than basketball anyway.

I'll spare you the oratory other than to say that in this world so full of plastic imitations of the real thing (John Calipari jumps to mind, although he, dear reader, amazingly enough, is, apparently, constructed entirely of assholes. Which is slightly off topic but still, imagine ... a man constructed entirely of assholes! The mind reels.), John Wooden, as his name implied, was made of something else entirely.

I liked how he called Abdul-Jabbar Lewis til the day he died.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Truth in Advertising

What with all the people running for office who are falsely claiming that they have served in harm's way, I'm stating, for the record, that I witnessed the war in Vietnam from the comfort of my college dorm room.

I sent my brother--surely that's enough.

Anyway, some of the misconception related to this blog is my inclination to write in the first person about matters Vietnamese. This is simply fiction, dear reader, and my choice of voice is simply a choice.

I mention this in a pre-emptive way. Nobody has raised their hand and said anything. Me? I'm owning the issue. Classic public relations.

Here's a classic post from December of 2007:


The Majestic Hotel

Lets just say it's a certain point in time. If you poke your head out the front door of the Majestic Hotel, you can look one way up what the old-timers still call Rue Catinat and see the Notre Dame cathedral. Look the other way and you can see the west bank of the Saigon River.

If you go back inside, turn left at the main bar, right just before the kitchen, enter the men's room, take a seat in the second stall from the left wall, then swivel your head to the right, you can see, scrawled in the mahogany divider:
The abyss is full
of reality, the abyss experiences itself, the
is alive
Kurtz saw that. I know he did. That's what sent him upriver. The lure of the abyss. Not to get away from reality, but to find it. Anybody who thought Vietnam had anything to do with reality just didn't understand the situation. No. You had to go so far up the river that the trees connected overhead. That's where the reality was. Back in Saigon--that was something else entirely.

Later they sent my boy Johnny upriver to find Kurtz. That's where Coppola got it wrong, by the way. He didn't understand Johnny. He thought the whole thing was a metaphor. Kurtz ... The river ... Johnny. Man, that boy could sure eat some beets. And that's what Frankie never got--the whole vegetable thing. You'd eat some beets, then smear the rest on your face. If you happened also to have some blueberries, you were golden. Actually you weren't golden. You were red and blue.

Anyway, do you remember that song by John Prine--Lake Marie? I'll spare you the full details, but one verse goes like this:
You know what blood looks like in a black and white video?
Anyway, the abyss isn't a metaphor. It's the abyss.
Do you know what beet juice smeared on your face looks like in the middle of the jungle, in the middle of the night?
I mean, really. Is all I'm saying. Do I have to spell it out for you? Man, the abyss is alive. Everybody thinks that when you fall into the abyss it's empty. Cold. Dark. Dead.

Naaah. Couldn't be nicer. Me? I've taken the fall. Leap--make that taken the leap. Gathered both feet beneath me, made sure I could feel the mud scrunched up between my toes for maximum traction, and leaped. Lept. Leopt. I'm either a leper or a leopard--whichever one still has his nose attached. And the water's not cold; it's warm. And the river's not dark; you'd be surprised how much you can see. And dead? Naaah. Teeming with life. You want to soar beneath the surface, open your mouth, ingest it. Ingest all of it.

Of course, if you did that you'd drown. Which is not the object of the exercise.

Johnny's mistake was taking a boat. A fucking plastic boat. Me? I'm just swimming. Upriver. Huck fucking Finn in reverse. Some days the current is so strong you're swimming at what seems to be a great rate when, in fact, the river bank is slowly going by... the wrong way. These days, though, I'm pleased to announce, headway is being made. I see less of the sun. I'm seeing lots of green. I'm at one with the river. Which is good, 'cause if you're not, there's more damned things swimming around next to you that would like to bite or otherwise fuck with you than you can shake a stick at.

The snakes make the best eating. Once you get good at it; once you've mastered your gag reflex, you just grab 'em, bite their heads off, and then slide 'em down your throat. Don't even have to stop swimming. Shit 'em out about a day and a half later, bones and all, usually (for me at least) around what I assume to be ten thirty in the morning.

I think the Floating Men have it figured out just right.
I don't ever get lost anymore
I'm never falling behind
‘Cause I don't care where I wind up sleeping
And nobody notices what time I arrive
It feels like a Sunday morning out
I'm guessing it's June
Maybe that highway leads to paradise
Maybe it leads to the fountain of youth

I'm going to hire me a spotlight
And the finest crowd that money can buy
I'm going to build me a grandstand
And stand around staring down at the barren ground
Of this invisible life

I don't dream about wealth anymore
And I don't let myself dream about fame
And I refuse to dream about the poacher's daughter
Or the laughter at midnight in the mud and the rain
I've given up on ever joining the rodeo
But I'd still make one hell of a spy
I know I'll never be a Hollywood Romeo
I'm too easy to see through and so hard to find

It's a glorious world out here
And I'm a glorious man
And it's a glorious day to wait around for a tow truck
With both axles stuck in the sugar-white sand
It feels like a Sunday morning out
Hell, maybe it's noon
Maybe that highway leads to the ocean
And maybe it leads to the moon
I love how he says it feels like a Sunday morning and he's guessing it's June. The only difference between that boy and me is that I can't think of anything but the poacher's daughter.

To see her in sunlight... Manomanoman.

Same band, different song:
I'm nodding off
I'm getting full and lazy
Floating down the river in a second-hand canoe
I've got grapes and apples
I've got cheese and lemonade
Floating down the river staring off into the blue

I bet she wonders what I think of her now
I don't care what she thinks about me
Floating down the river half asleep

I've got my hat pulled down
I've got my toes in the water
Floating down the river getting drowsy from the heat
And I can close my eyes and see the poacher's daughter
Barefoot on a sandbar with a straw in her teeth

I bet she wonders what I think of her now
I don't care what she thinks about me
Floating down the river half asleep

I've got my hat pulled down
I've got my toes in the water
Floating down the river with a straw in my teeth
And I can close my eyes and see the poacher's daughter
Barefoot on a sandbar like she's waiting for me
I swear to God, these guys have got my number. Except the downriver part.

I'm going up. Huck fucking Finn in reverse.


Huck Fucking Finn in Reverse. I am a wonderful writer.