Tuesday, May 25, 2004

God, so I just got home from Metropolitian where I ran into Matt and Kevin. I just checked my e-mail, which told me I had a new Friendster message from Matt, and you don't know with what fear and excitement I logged into Friendster waiting to see what Matt would say. Would he say something kind? I was absolutely giddy thinking about the possibilities.

It was a totally different Matt, someone I don't even know. Joe and I were at the bar for a while inside, talking to Joe's neighbor, when Matt and Kevin came inside from the patio and waved hello to me and talked to Joe's neighbor, who they also appearantly know. Totally uncomfortable, I ran away after waving hello, ran to the bar under the pretense of getting Joe and I more beers, but really just trying to avoid an interaction with Matt, even though he was the one to wave a friendly hello (what about no contact, especially in public, dickhead?).

Yes, and then Peter and Nicole finally got there, shortly after Matt and Kevin had left, and my night was pretty much shot because I had one thing on my mind and I could not be as carefree as you are supposed to be in bar settings, could only think and try to pretend that I wasn't thinking about that person. I wasn't so successful. How long ago was this? Why does this still bother me? On Wednesday, I am leaving.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

It is hot. I have no news in my life. So when I talk to you on the phone and like a polite person you ask me what is new in my life, what is going on, do not think I am lying when I say that nothing, absolutely nothing is going on in my life right now, nothing is new. Same old, same old.

I am sweating at my computer, and am about to go sweat in my bed. Today, I read Dave Hickey's The Invisible Dragon, which did not excite me nearly as much as I had thought it would. I did like the last essay, the sadist/masochist anaology to explain a viewer's relationship to art. It was a neat way to look at it, even if I did not agree with the underlying assumption of that analogy, which was that the institutional arrangement of art (museums) neuter art of its beauty because the works then become something that you did not choose - it is a sadist relationship, rather than a masochist relationship, wherein you, the viewer, possess the agency to choose your pleasure/pain. Blah blah blah.

Yesterday, I finished Matthew Sharpe's The Sleeping Father, which I also did not like as much as I had thought I would. It is something that I probably would have liked in high school, which seems to be what most new, "hip" fiction seems to be - it all seems very adolescent. The irony is also too heavy for my tastes these days. Next on plate to read: Mary McCarthy's Memoirs of a Catholic Girlhood, then W.G. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn (which I know I will love - Sebald is who I am going to start citing when people ask me who my favorite author is - he is what I am looking for - what I want from a book), and then when I get back from the road trip, Ulysses, which I will be rereading, or attempting to read again, along with Peter.

And that's what is new. I read books, and then I go to work at a bookstore. Ocassionally, I will go out and drink, but same old, same old. And I like it.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

I have just made myself a pot of coffee because 1.) I am tired and I know I will be up late into the evening and want to be alert and happy for this period of time, and 2.) Because I wanted to write something here; I wanted, want to, spend some time reflecting about my life. Despite whatever criticisms I sometimes lash at online diaries, they are the perfect forum for this time of self-examination, which sadly, I have not been able to engage in as of late. Whenever I have had the urge to write about my life (My life! For god sake's, look at how easily that mind blowing phrase is tossed about in casual banter), but yes, because it is usually in the late night hours when I am struck my this desire, usually when Dara is asleep or getting ready to go to sleep in her bedroom, which the computer is set up right outside of, and not that I would be tap dancing or something, but you would be surprised how loud typing on a keyboard sounds in an otherwise quiet apartment, and the awareness of how much noise I am, or would be making, prevents me from writing without a heavy sense of guilt. So, I normally say to myself that I will do it in the morning, but you know how mornings are, they are not the time to do anything of the reflective sort. Mornings are for doing actions, which you will later reflect on when the day is nearing its end.

But there are other reasons I have not been writing in my diary, and to suggest otherwise would be an outright deception, and this project is all about honesty, or if it is to succeed, that is what it is all about. And I want this to succeed, I do. So quit stalling you are probably saying, quit giving setup, and get to what these reasons are. And yes, I would like to, but the problem is in verbalizing them, in even admitting to myself what they are, because honestly I am not sure what this reason is. I can try to set up some parameters, give you and my own self some idea of what's going on, so that that way, we can draw the logical conclusions from the presented evidence.

The reason I have not been actively writing in my diary as of late is also probably the same reason why I am "burnt out" (as a friend described my noticeable change in behavior), why any old remnants of a gregarious, hyper self only show themselves in the occasional over-caffeinated or over-intoxicated situation. I don't want to call it depression because I am not sad, but there are definitely some of the same outward symptoms that might be associated with depression of some sort: a decreased level of energy, a lack of interest in other people, never really having anything to say to other people, lots of time spent by myself, declining offers to participate in social activities, etc.

For instance, I cannot recall the last time I have been dancing, surely many weeks ago, and the occasion before that, also surely weeks beforehand. If Friendster testimonials are any indication of how others perceive you (as Bonnie has led me to think about), so many of mine make some reference to my dancing, and I rarely dance now, rarely have a strong desire to. The past couple of weeks, I have also lost all interest in drinking. This may just be the temporary response to overdrinking for so long, but I am not even that excited about tonight's ten dollar all-you-can-drink madness at the Hole that I told a couple people I would go to, and so must go to. This is what the coffee was for, to get my blood coursing so that I would be happy and excited there. I am sure I will be, but my lack of desire to go there, my indifference to boozing and dancing, once such a constant source of excitement for me, is what I am trying to get at, these changes that are occurring in me, that have occurred, and which are being noticed by other people, which I have been slowly starting to notice, but which after a talk with Peter today, am really curious about.

Most people that knew me from New College, or more accurately, most people that didn't really know me at New College, but knew of me because I screamed like a drunken floozy all the time and danced forever, have a certain image of me, that I may or may not have actually once occupied, but which, regardless of accuracy, I am so distinct from now. Not that I am still not a boy-crazy boy who drinks and dances, but I am a different sort of one. When Brian Claeys was here, he commented a few times to me about how I was not the same Charlie, how sedate I was. And it's true, maybe. When people make comments like that to me, I cannot help but feel like the parents in Beetlejuice who morph into disgusting things before their daughter's eyes with sad faces. Only, I don't have that sad face - I am changing, yes, everyone does, or the living ones do, and I am happy doing so. I sometimes pause and mentally feel the fur growing on my body and say, "Wait, what's happening to me?" I reach around and look at the donkey tail that is sprouting and wonder what's going on.

I have been listening to Bjork's Verspertine a lot this past week, and there are these lyrics: "If you leave it alone, it just might happen. It's not up to you. Oh, it never really was." And also something about living in someone else’s rules, once can still be be. Be is uttered twice, and that is what I am talking about, or what I haven't been talking about and want to talk about - how I have submitted to what is going on, letting the tide take me where it may, and am happy doing so. The fact that I am listening to Vespertine is perhaps the clearest example that can actually be pointed to, saying Look, look there, you never liked that album. When it first came out, I hated it, and really could not even bear to listen to it - it caused me physical pain in much the same way as all of Tori Amos' body of work or as much as Beck's last album. But a few years down the road, and I cannot get enough of the album - I am in fact in love with it and its message. Albums are mysterious like that, how sometimes years down the road, you will finally be in the right mood to hear them, that they will resonate with you later. And before, that thing wasn't in there, in my body, and so there was no harmony between the CD and I, but something has placed it there, and now this music plucks like nothing else is capable of at those sensitive, still developing spots. And that is what I am curious about and I don't think as of yet I have come any closer to figuring out why this music, these sounds and words resonate with me now at this point in my life; why I am less interested in social interactions; what exactly is occurring; why do I just want to read, eat, and sleep; why am I happy with this; and why shouldn't I be?

I am happy with all of this right now. Listening to those lines, I said yes, yes, yes, and those last lines in the last song about, "I never thought I would compromise," about being content with your life and doing things that in earlier years you would have thought of as compromising, but which now, you realize that even doing these things, you can still be be. Yesterday at work, Lee, a new employee, making that getting to know you conversation, asked me if I was an artist after some talk about art. I said nope. And then he asked me what I did outside the Strand, the question underneath being: Do you write; What do you produce? And this is perhaps the most distinctive thing about New York, you cannot just be be. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, is an artist, a writer, or a musician. That is what is meant by the question, “What do you do?” What it really translates to is: Which one of the three are you?

Sometimes when you say that you don’t do anything, people look at you like you are that guy in those old fruit preserve commercials who in a hick drawl at a black tie event would say, "Can you pass the jelly?"* No other place where I have lived has it just been an assumption that you are an artist of some sort, and I want to believe, or I used to believe (Do you notice all the switching of tenses here, an unsure of itself future tense that then wavers to a past tense? These are the changes I am talking about, that I want to talk about (and there I go again with switching tenses)) – but yes, I used to believe that this peculiarity about New York made it cool, where everyone was producing something of some kind, but I have also seen lots of people unhappy because of this, people unsure of themselves, unable to just be be because they think that they should be creating something of some kind, writing, or drawing – instead, they just talk about how they want to do more of it, to actually do it, forget the more of it part, but to quit talking about the action and to participate in it, to be one of those bohemian artists that we all used to envision New York consisting of, to finally get around to fulfilling those teenage fantasies, making ourselves one of the actors in an old dream we still remember.

And there I go with the finger pointing, the referring to of other people, ignoring my own stated concern with honesty because while that is true, that I have seen this cause people mental duress of subtle and explicit varieties, I have also been subject to this same feeling of inadequacy when asked this question about what I do. I used to answer it self-deprecatingly. Irony, that always reliable shield, wielded: “Uh, I get drunk, dance a lot, and try to make out with boys.” It was a very similar answer that I said to Lee when he asked me this question, but now that knee-jerk response must also change if these changes continue for just a little longer and give the form of permanence, lose their temporary status, no longer are the easily uttered, hard to explain beyond the one word signifier that we try to brush off thinking about them with: changes.

I am thinking of how the sassy Kara that I worked with at Best Western in Florida would have responded if I asked her what she did, and I imagine her being confused about the obviousness of the question, maybe saying something like, “What do you mean what do I do? I work here, idiot. I am, I exist.” I think this frequency of this question is something that could only occur here. How does one say they are learning how to be be? These days, the question strikes me as slightly presumptuous and sometimes irks me, the need to have to explain yourself, the why are you here if you aren’t a self-identified artist of some sort. There is something keenly superficial about not being content with someone’s thoughts, someone’s words, but to want to know what they are. Are being a stand in for title, some faux-bohemian ranking of coolness, a regressive concern with image, with appearance, the sheen of those you are talking to even. And again, honesty being the goal, honestly, a major reason this question is an irritant is because it strikes at the very heart of these changes, forces me to verbalize what it is I do, and yes I am insecure about that right now because I am not sure what the correct answer to that question is not only right now, but even how I would like to one day be able to answer that question, but for now, there is not much to do except to refer to them as just that, changes, and to just be be. Peter referred to it as my dormant period on the telephone today, and I thought that was a beautifully choice phrase, that not only grizzly bears and caterpillars could have dormant phases, but that yes, I can too, damn it, that this is what this is. And when he uttered that phrase, dormant period, I envisioned a cocoon and a gorgeous butterfly emerging, just like in all those videos we watched in science classes. It’s not up to me. No, it never really was.

* “Can you pass the jelly?” or was it “Can you pass the jam?” - Does anyone remember which it was, and what the brand of the fruit preserve was? You remember the commercial, right? I have googled it for about ten minutes and cannot find out this information anywhere. I think it was a spoof of those Grey Poupon commercials. Both are so humorous and exhibit such a distinctly eighties concern with class and the appearance of wealth.

Also, in countdown six days, I will be making the Florida to Vegas roadtrip and if any of you want a silly postcard you should either reply with your address or email it to me at: seniorcitizendiscount@hotmail.com

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

i am the luckiest guy on the...

Tonight, outside the Strand was a tote bag full of crappy books that someone had just left there, presumably to donate to the store. I normally would have left it there since the night managers do not like dealing with crap books, but it was a tote bag and I had been wanting it. So I brought it in to tell Chris and told him I really wanted the bag. Just leave the books by the dumpster so some homeless guy can get them and try selling them, he responded. Score! So I find a tote bag on the street after having been wanting one for a couple of weeks.

I bought some groceries after work and did not need a bag because I had my tote bag to throw them in.

Friday, May 14, 2004

a smiths cover

LJ, It was really nothing.

My LJ - it has been so long (too long?) since we have embraced. I am not really sure what the case for this has been, why there are no longer the daily updates, and most importantly, whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. That question that Dorthey posed: Are you a good witch or a bad witch?

And right now, I am leaning towards the good witch reply. Because there have been times when I have encountered amazing beauty this past week and thought about ways of describing it, eager to get on the computer, but then have been sidetracked by someone calling me, or by doing something with that someone or other who called me, or by talking to one of my roommates, or simply by being distracted by more beauty. It is fucking springtime in New York. Have you seen this beautiful people in exposed skin, in less layers? Have you smelled the outrageous scents, the undistilled perfumes, the real thing, in Washington Square Park? And I've been listening to 10,000 Maniacs a lot lately, and yes, these are the days.

So forgive me LJ, it was something.

But here is what has happened since we last talked. Last time, I talked to you there was talk about some boy Christpoher. So, I called and left that message on his machine on Saturday morning and no call from him on Saturday, nor on Sunday. On Monday, he called but did not bother to leave a message, and I decided that he was not that interested, to forget about him and to not call him back. And I haven't, and I am not sad at all about him because winter's over, you stupid fuckers! Look out your window. Feel those warm mornings, that heat that wakes you up at eight as soon as the sun is up. You get boners sitting across from just about any hot male on the subway because it is something about the heat, it makes you hornier - is this biological, some springtime desire to reproduce? - and specific boys are not so important as the hot ones sitting across from you on the subway that you fantasize about as you are commuting to your job, the job you got written up at in the last week also.

So yeah - it was coming - I had been calling in sick way too much - about two days a week on average and they had warned me about that and about my constant tardiness, and finally I got written up, but it will take about five more of those before I ever get fired thanks to the fact that I am unionized and need to have no work ethic whatsoever. And speaking of union benefits, in a couple of weeks I will be taking a week of my vacation time to accompany Bonnie on her move to Las Vegas. I will be flying down to Florida and driving with her across the country, searching for America, seeking out the dream, or whatever comes closest, with overnight stops in Tallahassee (or some place close), New Orleans, Austin, somwhere else in Texas (I think), and Flagstaff (or somewhere else), and then of course, Vegas. My Swingers fantasy of Vegas. I am going to make Bonnie say it just like in the movie sometime during the car ride: Vegas, baby, we're going to Vegas! Vay-gas!

Let's see what else. God, how many art shows have I been to this past week? Cindy Sherman, Andreas Gursky, AA Bronson, God - too many to remember, all these mediocrities. But, the Sherman was awesome and the Gursky show is so, so, so good.

There is so much going on, all these distractions from this distraction, making them perhaps, not distractions at all, but the real thing that I have been letting this distraction prevent me from participating in. I have been walking down streets in my neighborhood a lot, new ones that I don't take often. Yesterday on Havemayer, I saw a cat lying under a car in the shade to escape the heat, and this brought back so many memories of childhood, running around the neighborhood, taking breathing breaks sitting on a curb, being level with those neighborhood cats who would seek shelter from the heat under cars - and this sight made me so incredibly happy. I wanted to crawl under that car also, see if I could crawl back to that happy past, if suddenly that would put me back on Canterbury Lane playing tag with Evelyn Herman or peeking into the windows of teh cannibal house with her. Those days seemed right there under that car with that cat. Then I walked over all those helicopter seeds. Oak? I am not even sure now. But those seeds that fall from the trees and if you throw them up into the air they fall, swirling like the propellers of helicopters. I walked over them, these things I had forgotten about, another relic of childhood, and I peeked around to see if anyone else was on the block. No one was. So, I picked up a big handful of the seeds, threw them up into the air, and with a joy that can probably never be equaled in this world, watched them descend, the little helicopter propellers. How long has it been since we have done these things? But why?

You see, LJ, these are the things I am talking about that have been coming between us. Let's also take today for example. See, I was hoping to go to Coney Island today, but the heat suddenly went away with the sunshine, and so Peter wanted to come over and use my computer to do some job hunting crap, and so I met up with him at Union Square after I deposited my paycheck (and they yet again paid me personal days that I don't have - go lax payroll department!). I wanted to check out a couple thrift stores in search of a tote bag before we left Manhattan. Peter tried to shame me for being like all the other thousands of fey, closeted homo hipsters that he sees sporting tote bags every day. And whatever, I am giving in to a hipster trend. It's not the first one I have given in to - I want a fucking tote bag. We didn't find one, but I did find a pink tux shirt for two dollars that I am in love with. And then we walked past Astor Place liquors and our eyes were caught by the huge window ad advertising bottles of wine for 1.99. We looked at the ad a long time and talked about how shitty the wine probably must be. We decided to place cheapness over quality and went in the store at about three in the afternoon and sort of scanned around, trying to eye the cheap wine. An employee spotted us for the cheapskates that we were and pointing to where they were displayed said, "The two dollar wine is over there." We thanked him and Peter asked if it would give us headaches. He laughed and told us it would get us buzzed. Well, that's what we were looking for. We bought two bottles and came back to my house. Jamie S called me because she was in the neighborhood and came over. We played Scrabble while Peter worked on his job crap and the three of us downed the two bottles before the sun had gone down.

Jamie left for her show and Peter and I went down to the river, watched those post sunset moments, since we were a little late in getting there, and then we went and got some pizza and two more bottles of the cheap wine, which we drank while talking in my living room. He then went to some party moments ago and soon I am going to go to bed. And that is why I have not been communicating with you lately because things like that keep happening. And I want you to be happy for me. This is a good thing, how my days are continually occupied with activities and other people. This is a good thing I believe, William.

Saturday, May 8, 2004

All right, it has been a while since I have talked about boys in here. There was that whole resolution to quit being such an emotional exhibitionist, and so I've been writing about art and non-boy things (for the most part), been writing about things that I am probably not qualified to write on and which probably bore you, kind reader. And so, an update of sorts, provoked by a late-recieved message from Christopher.

Let's rewind a bit. Christopher: 26, brown hair, skinny, either nerdy or hipsterish (depending on your tastes), glasses, shy, big nose. He's a copy editor at a silly magazine and writes book reviews also. Right now, he's writing one on Hank Stuever's soon to be published book. Perhaps none of you were around when I was obsessed with Hank Stuever, the Washington Post columnist, when I listed him as my favorite writer on diaryland, when I would post links everytime he published something new. But he's writing about this DC local columnist who I used to be in love with. This is one of the main reasons I think he is cool, I am ashamed to admit. I met him at Phoenix about two weeks ago, rode the train home with him since we live near each other and exchanged a brief, awkward goodnight kiss. Last Friday, we had plans to hang out, but he blew me off to get ready for his party. His party was Saturday, and I went with Daniel, who brought two friends, Michael and Zach.

Throughout the night before we got there, I talked to Michael, was made giddy by doing so. Michael: 25, brown hair, also skinny, really sharp dresser, cute southern slow way of talking, artist, friendly, not shy, also prominent nose. Also, rumored to have a serious boyfriend. So all night before we made it to Christopher's, I talked to these boys, usually mainly just Michael though, and thought he was so cool. We finally make it to Christopher's fairly small party, and it is odd since we don't really know anyone and oh yeah, Christopher is basically holding his ex-boyfriend's hand all night. The four of us pretty much just stuck to ourselves and drank their booze. Later in the evening, we eventually mingled with the others, and then we eventually left Christopher and his (ex?)boyfriend. When we were walking back home, the four of us, Michael, being the sensitve, perceptive boy he is, asked if I liked Christopher and if that was the real reason we went to the party. I confessed that it was, and told him the story. Michael, somehow sensing I felt rejected, told me I could do much better than Christopher. And because it was coming from Michael, the boy who I was enamoured with, I was so happy.

So two days ago, I wrote Michael a rambling Friendster message about the Moshiri show he really liked and told him he should go to the Gursky and Sherman openings. And when I was running through the Sherman show, about to leave to go back to the Gursky show, there he was. I don't know if I can make you fully comprehend the difference between that moment before I saw him, sort of bored and hurried, then that elated pause at the sight of him, a brief flash that extended way past its temporal constraints of a milisecond, and then the happy giddiness I had afterwards. There's no way. It's when Dorthey wakes up in bright technicolor Oz after black and white Kansas. Or just think of a song that really hits you in a sentimental way, puts you back in a sweet place you once existed in, or that you have created for yourself via memory. For me, right now, that'll be the Cure's "Pictures of You." And just that swaying happiness that things are all right, that things are brimming with sweetness - that like the song had just come on in a playlist of otherwise unremarkable songs, is what I felt at the sight of Michael.

I talked to him and his friends for a brief bit before I had to run outside to meet Dara, Sara May and Bobby, who were already outside waiting for me to go back to the Gursky show. He said that he'd probably see me at the Gursky show and I don't know what I was thinking since I was only going to be there for a short ten minutes before I had to run off and see Jaymay. I was really cursing myself for making definite plans, assembling these people to go see Jaymay with me, when all I wanted to do was stay at these galleries and try to talk to Michael some more. But no more Michael that night because soon I was trekking across town to the Sidewalk cafe, but the fact that he showed up made me really happy, whether that was due to my email or not.

This morning I woke up and saw that there was a missed call from Christopher at around 1:30 am. Since I hadn't heard anything from him since his party, I just assumed that he was not interested. However, he didn't leave a message and so I didn't want to call back, thinking that he had probably just dialed the wrong name in his phone or something (which I actually do quite often - there are five names in my phone that start with Chris - a Chris, three Christophers, and a Christy - I just noticed this). But while I was wandering around the city today at about six, my phone said I had two messages. One from Joe at around eleven last night, and the other from Christopher when he called, and fuck you Sprint, for not telling me when I actually got these messages.

So his message was disappointing. Do the most unenthused, blase voice you are capable of and that is probably pretty close to what this message sounded like. "Uh, hi Charlie, this is Christopher (there are lots of awkard pauses where you can almost hear him shuffling his feet), uh, I don't really know why I am calling. It's pretty late, you're probably asleep. Call me back . . . if you want." Writing just doesn't do it justice - it was such a bored, uh, whatever tone. I live for messages from boys I like. I play them a few times over and over, holding the phone close to my ear, and smiling with glee. It's one of the easiest, surefire pleasures that this world has to offer me. The first message I got from Matt included the phrase, "I want to ruin all of your plans for tomorrow." And I mean, not that that is what I want whenever anyone leaves me a message, but some desire should come through in your voice, not "I don't really know why I am calling," and it actually sounding like you really don't, like you honestly don't have a clue how the phone got in your hand, like someone just threw you the phone or something and you are forced to say something.

Even though I am losing interest in Christopher, I called him back, left a message on his phone and maybe he'll call me back, maybe he won't - either way, I don't really care. And speaking of Matt - on Thursday, I went to galleries with Joe, and the very first one we walk into, a packed one, as soon as I'm through the door, there is Matt walking right in my direction. Reflexivley my hand started to jerk up to say hi, and then I remembered no contact, "especailly in public," and so I jerked my hands to my side, looked ahead and walked fast into the gallery. We were there for probably for about two minutes before I dragged Joe out to head places where Matt was not. That was a good interaction. And my resolution was to learn how to live better, to not do shameful things (i.e. throwing myself at dickhead boys), and I didn't. I behaved. I am interacting with boys more normally. Kind of. One probably has a boyfriend and is just being friendly. The other is about as exciting as my grandma.

Oh and PS - I called in sick today to celebrate getting my tax refund. Whoo!

Thursday, May 6, 2004

Two or three things:

First, Cafe Bustelo, you know, that cheap Spanish coffee that is usually all they carry in bodegas besides really gross instant Foldgers - yes, Cafe Bustelo, the espresso coffee in the bright yellow can - it is fucking cocaine! I am a coffee addict and it takes a lot for me to get a buzz like this, but a big cup of Cafe Bustelo (which is a little gross, btw) and I am wired and ready to go. Before this entry I was dancing around to loud Peruvian music.

Second, since 17 or so, I have always been secretly envious of boys that are able to grow full beards. In high school, I remember a couple of boys with big, thick beards and thinking they were so cool. I have sideburn hair, hair on my chin, and hair where I could grow a mustache - but I am missing the hair that could connect all these different areas into a beard. I haven't shaved in two days because I haven't gone to work and wanted to see where hair would grow, and I look really silly. It's something I am not used to seeing and I am constantly tempted to shave, but then I say no, don't do it until you have to go work on Saturday - this is an exercise in becoming more comfortable with your body. We'll see if I even make it through the rest of the afternoon.

Thirdly, tomorrow there is a Cindy Sherman and an Andreas Gursky opening. I am tres excited. Turn up that Peruvian music!

was it my reflection in the well?

Think of the Egypt wing of the Met: the dimmed lighting to protect the displayed relics; relics ensconced in well-lit glass cases that emanate a glow into the dimmed gallery space; and the reverent, perhaps overly serious way the objects are treated create a subdued awe in the viewer who, reading the clues of the lighting, realizes that this is something special which they are viewing. It is a very similar feeling when one steps into Michal Rovner’s show, “in stone,” on view right now at Pace Wildenstein’s Chelsea space. There is the reverential lighting, and in the first room, four glass display cases, each holding a notebook with text in motion or moving figures projected on to the blank notebook pages.

The first notebook has shifting lines of text that literalize many of the currents of twentieth century literary criticism, showing the instability of the text, and that the meaning of the text, in a Barthesian view, is something that is determined by the reader. Rovner’s pieces in this show, however, push this view even further, or dramatize it as such with the text constantly in flux, shifting, dancing, and circling around the pages of these notebooks. The last two notebooks in the first room forgo the text-like lines, as will the rest of the exhibit, and instead of floating signifiers, get right to the point, and have the signified objects, human figures, floating around pages and stones.

Rovner has hieroglyph-like human figures in motion, reminding the viewer of all that is signified by the alphabetic dashes on pages that these human figures replace – that this is what is signified by these symbols, the human body. This is what it all comes back to, these signifiers all represent human activity of some form, bodies that were at one point in motion, maybe even hopping up and down as Rovner often has them engaged. She makes clear that text is always just an elegy for the body’s activities, and to watch these pieces, to think of what texts represent, the life contained in them, it is sometimes breathtaking.

The human figures on the notebooks move in motions and at speeds that recall the motion studies of Eadward Muybridge. In the notebooks, the figures on the page are not in sync with each other – each one is moving at a different pace, engaged in a different physical activity – jumping at different moments. However, in the second room, not only are the figures projected on to stone but they also all move and jump in unison. Why exactly the human figures on the notebooks are allowed to move at different paces while the human figures on her stone tablets all move in sync like an exercise class is something that is not explicitly made clear in the show. There only seems to be the causal explanation that in later eras (the paper notebook eras / post-stone tablet eras), humans possess more agency and hyper-individualism is the norm. Or, since that seems pretty reductive, and given the commentary on the nature of the text being made throughout the show, this distinction between the two acknowledges that the literary movements of the twentieth century freed these texts to be capable of possessing different readings. However, either way still seems a reductive way of looking at the past, and this is one of the troubling things about this exhibition.

The second room with thirteen glass display cases, each containing a stone tablet, contributes to this feeling of being in the archeology wing of a museum. Most of these tablets have figures either hopping in unison or concentric circles of figures that spiral inward. It is a stodgy setup, but an effective one, its purpose being to show the life, the pulse that is latent in all of these stodgy setups, in all of these texts – the life that is there all the time, dancing or hopping up and down.

This attempt to remind viewers of the vibrancy of texts and relics displayed in stodgy settings becomes even more apparent when one enters the next two rooms, when the well-lit glass case is removed and one actually enters these scenes. The first of these is a dark room, lit only by a stone well in the middle of the room, which when upon looking down into it, the viewer sees red figures in motion, running around in a circle, occasionally all grouping together to form flame-like bursts of red. And after looking down into this well, wondering if this is supposed to be a reflection or a prophesy, the viewer then proceeds up a ramp leading out on to a platform which overlooks two giant stone tablets laid onto a floor of sand.

You are feeling like Indiana Jones right now, looking at the Ark of the Covenant, and the music isn’t helping things. A solemn Druid-like beat pulses while below are these two identical massive tablets with these dashes of human figures in rows like some Ancient language you never bothered to learn, and they are all moving in sync, raising an arm to the side, putting it down, turning to the side, and hopping up and down. The effect that this room has is a magical one, looking down at something that is obviously supposed to reference the tablets Moses received, but which obviously has way more lines needed than necessary to write ten commandments, and they are all in motion, all alive – conveying perhaps no laws we’ll ever be able to read other than that the letters are human figures, living ones, and that is what texts are, all they are.

I also checked out a couple of other shows today on my sick day. I checked out Gordon Matta-Clark’s “Bingo” at David Zwirner, which I liked and which for whatever reasons, I am easily distracted, I don’t know, but which led me to thoughts of William Carlos Williams and his two “Pastoral” poems. I also saw Delia R. Gonzalez’s and Gavin Russom’s “Evolution is Extinct” at Daniel Reich gallery, which I don’t even want to start to tackle tonight because it annoyed me so much. It was one of those galleries that you walk into and right away you think to yourself, “I don’t get it. I just don’t fucking get it.” Black canvases on the wall, black floor to wall arches, and cakes set before stone statues. I stood there for a while, really trying hard to be open-minded, reminded myself that this is what experiencing art is about – slowing down, pausing, and meditating about what is being said, trying to look at things from different ways – expanding the mind, as they say.

So I asked to watch the video, the intern started the projector and I sat there and watched a movie, at the end of which, I said, “No, I do get it. I do fucking get it. These jackasses don’t.” A summary of the video: white chick out in the woods in flower-patterned dress bites into an apple, over and over again, a black hand shuts her mouth, and she is killed. In the process, both females and black males are equated with nature, females of the doe-eyed Bambi variety, black males of the savage Kipling or Conrad variety. And in the process lots of long shots of clouds passing, or of a waterfall. The press release that I read fuming after watching this said something about “archetypes” of early cinema, but the film did not present these archetypes (read sexist and/or racist stereotypes) self-consciously. There was nothing to communicate to the viewer that they were aware of these problems. And there was nothing done to critique or subvert these cinematic practices – the film simply engaged in them. It was at this point that I decided the rest of the art was probably equally uninformed and left the gallery happy.

The other show I saw was Farhad Moshiri’s “Rogue” at Kashya Hildebrand, which I had seen earlier but did not notice anything striking about it and so spent little time with. Michael, the boy whom I have a crush on (and who, rumor has it, has a bf), told me that he really liked the show and spoke touchingly about how beautiful he thought it was. He also was the bartender at the opening and so perhaps just spent too much time around the stuff, you know sort of the Stockholm Syndrome of boring art – if you spend enough time with it, you will come to love it, to imagine its beauty. But this time, I did like it more and read the English translations of the song lyrics that he has painted on vases of Iranian love songs. They were really sentimental and made me excited about life, and about boys, about the springtime that I stepped outside into.

Tuesday, May 4, 2004

I just ate a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich from La Bonita that I bought with a Diane Di Prima book. Right before hand, I had trotted over to Spoonbill and Sugartown to try to sell four rare books.

You see, I am a little sick today and so did not go into work, so I thought I should finally try to sell these books somewhere to make money since I did not go to work. I also took too long debating my sickness with myself, trying to decide if I should go into work and make money or stay home. I did this right until one-thirty, the time I am supposed to be at work, and since they just commented on my tardiness, I thought it would be better to call in sick rather than to show up half an hour late. Problem solved. So, I called in sick.

Then because I am sick and because I couldn't really go to the Strand to sell books, I went to a bookstore in my neighborhood, Spoonbill. I went with:

-Revolutionary Letters by Diane Di Prima - an early City Lights copy
-Candide - a printing of 625 illustrated by Paul Klee
-Candide - a printing of 1000 illustrated by Clara Tice
-Fortunate Son by J Hatfield - from the first printing that St. Martins recalled and burned

All four of these books were outrageously low priced at the Strand. I probably bought all four for about ten dollars, and if I were a good employee, I would have told the Strand that these books are worth more. The one I had the most guilt about buying was the never touched copy of Fortunate Son that still had the reviewer's inset in it, because the other ones were just stupid choices. Di Prima someone had made 48 cents because it is an old paperback, and no one there thinks old paperbacks are worth anything. But this one was an unknowing mistake. It was just stickered at half the cover price, whoever priced it probably was totally unaware of its publishing history, which you can read about here. St. Martins pulled the books out of stores after a week in print, caving in to threatening letters from Bush's lawyers, and said that they were going to burn the inventory! Soft Skull later put out the book in paperback form, and the author was trashed left and right by Bush lackeys digging into his past, and because of the pressure, Hatfield killed himself in a hotel room. So should I have let them know that really even though it looks like a normal new hardcover, it is in fact really rare, and should go up to the rare book room?

In case you cannot tell, I did not. (PS - this is also why this entry is locked.) Instead I brought these four books into Spoonbill today, and the man told me the only one he wanted was the Di Prima and that he would give me three bucks for it. Ergo, the bacon, egg, and cheese. I asked him where I could sell the others and he told me across the street, they would probably give me a couple of bucks for each. I told him that Fortunate Son sells for about 80-200 on Bookfinder. And then he looked it up and saw that I was right. It's so funny how new hardcovers are just presumed to not be worth anything, and can look really normal, but have this whole hidden history. So he said that he didn't know if he could sell it but would be willing to sell in on comission, putting in online. And so it's going to go online for 75, and if it sells, I'll get fifty, which would be about six times more than I paid for the book, and which I'd be really happy with.

The piegeons are circling around in front of my window, hundreds of them. They do loops around my building because the man who lives behind me goes out on his roof, does wild bird calls, feeds them, and they all circle around and around and their thin wings, sunlight almost piercing through them, look beautiful when they flap by in great numbers, again and again past the blue square of sky that is my window.

There is that to contrast with this. I had noticed the top story of the Times for the past couple days about soldiers abusing Iraqi troops, but had not read the details or seen the photos. I finally read the details, and then went hunting for the photos that were described in the articles. It is interesting to think back to Sontag's latest book while reading all of these news articles that cannot show the graphic photos but can describe them, because torture in language is different than in photos. And man, it is true. The photos shocked me way more than the reporting on them was able to do. It is unreal, the smiling thumbs up of the soldiers in these photos. I can hear that guy in Pulp Fiction saying, "Bring out the gimp."

And then there are the piegeons coasting by my window in giddy circles.

Sunday, May 2, 2004

still no first person

This is so much harder than it seems. This is totally cheating.

Michael, whom Charlie totally likes, told him that he could do much better than Christopher, the boy whose party Charlie went to tonight, and whom Charlie totally also likes. Charlie sort of likes Michael a lot, and also sort of Christopher. If either one were to happen, Charlie would die of joy.