Thursday, July 31, 2008

(NOT Sleeping With) Kim Bassinger and Denise Huxtable

* * *

Another sleepless night. The constant hum of three fans blowing on me as I toss and turn in bed... cracking knuckles and toes... staring at the dark reflections on walls and ceiling... wondering whether the experience of a four-dollar-and-seventy-five-cent Chicago Superdawg is worth an eighty-dollar car rental... wondering which movie I should download to my ipod for the plane: "Koyaanisqatsi"... "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead"... or "The Big Lebowski".

Then it happens... my mind somehow goes on a train-wreck-of-thought...

What movie was Johnny Depp best in?

I loved 'Donnie Brasco'. Depp and Pacino together... an awesome combination.

(forgetaboutit)

I was surprised at how well he sang in "Sweeney Todd".

(Johnny Depp, I mean. Not Pacino. Pacino wasn't in "Sweeney Todd". That would have been interesting though.)

Helena Bonham Carter did a fantastic job too.

I used to be annoyed by her... but I've been liking her these past five or ten years.

She's married to Tim Burton. Well... not really. They've been together for almost a decade... and have kids and such... but aren't technically "married"... yet.

Helena Bonham Carter was NOT in "Boxing Helena". That was Sherilyn Fenn who played Helena. She was in "The Wraith" with Charlie Sheen. I loved that movie. Well... I mainly loved the car. I hated that one character though... "Packard". He was an asshole!

But regardless... Helena Bonham Carter was NOT in "Boxing Helena". Which was also an awesome movie. I love Julian Sands movies.

Wasn't there some controversy over that movie? Yeah... there was. A famous actress was supposed to play Helena... but backed out. Then the studio sued her - and won - and she had to file for bankruptcy.

Who was that actress?

She was the same actress who played Vicki Vale in the Michael Keaton Batman movie. And she played Holli Would in "Cool World". And she was married to Alec Baldwin... and last year there was that whole thing about him leaving horrible messages on her answering machine and stuff.

Who the hell was that actress!?!


And so... for the next two hours I sat there in bed... desperately trying to figure that out. I knew that I knew the answer... I just couldn't "remember".

Almost 3:00am and I find myself sitting in the kitchen... eating a bowl of cereal... my computer on... staring at the "Yahoo! Movies" web site, so I could find the answer.

And there it is... "Kim Bassinger".

Good. That's settled. I can go to sleep now.

I head to the living room... turn on two fans... (one, a large box/window fan... put on the coffee table... so it can blow directly on me on its highest setting)... I collapse on the couch... turn on the TV to one of the "Music Choice" stations ("Soundscapes"... the "New Age" station) turn off the lights... and try to drift off.

Then it happens again...

Sondra Huxtable...

Theo Huxtable...

Vanessa Huxtable...

Rudy Huxtable...

Wait. There was one more. Lisa Bonet's character. What the hell was Lisa Bonet's character's name?

I had the biggest crush on Lisa Bonet once. Remember those photos of her in Rolling Stone back in the late 80s? Yeah... that was nice!

Lisa Bonet. What the hell was her character's name? And what's Lisa Bonet's new name? Didn't she change it like 15 years ago? It was "something Moon"... but not "Sherri Moon"... that's Rob Zombie's wife... and she's really hot too... but she wasn't on "The Cosby Show".

(THAT would have been cool too though! Rob and Sherri Moon Zombie as two of the Cosby kids. Maybe there can be some sort of a re-make or something. I don't know.)

WHAT THE HELL WAS THE NAME OF LISA BONET'S CHARACTER ON "THE COSBY SHOW"!?!


And so I get up again...

It's almost 5am now... and I haven't slept a wink. I'm sitting at the computer... looking up "Lisa Bonet" on Wikipedia.

"Denise"

Denise Huxtable.

There. That's it.

And yes... she legally changed her name to "Lilakoi Moon" in 1995... but apparently still uses "Lisa Bonet" as her professional name.

OK... Now can I sleep?

Back to the couch. Back to the fans. Back to the glow of the TV. Back to "Soundscapes". Back to my pillow. Back to having my legs tucked between the cushions and the back of the couch. Back to trying to stretch on a couch that's too short.

If I end up not liking the Superdawg, I'm going to feel like crap.

Kerouac was in Chicago. I think it was in Chapter 3 of "On The Road"... when he was on his way to Denver. He was in Chicago... back when Bop ruled the American Night... back when Bop was somewhere between "Charlie Parker and Lester Young" and "Miles Davis". (Or something like that)

Where did Kerouac go while in Chicago?

Do we really need to rent a car?

Isn't there an EL that goes from O'Hare to Superdawg?

I don't know. I'm NOT getting up again. I'm NOT turning the computer on again. I'm NOT. I'm NOT!


And thoughts like those kept coming... on through the final hours... where night meets morning... and skies brighten... and birds spend an hour or two being "annoying" rather than "beautiful"...

Until the faint smell of coffee filled my nose... announcing to me that Holly was up and getting ready for work...

... and "Thursday" had arrived...

... without "Wednesday" ever ending.

* * *

The Cadillac Man

I want to buy a metallic brown 1976 Cadillac Eldorado two-door convertible with tan interior.

I want to be "that guy"...
(the guy with that sweet metallic brown '76 Caddy Convertible...
who drives around town with the top down...
black and tan bowling shirt...
sunglasses on...
tattooed arm resting on door...
black jeans...
black leather boots pressing gas pedal down...
always heading west...
all mysterious-like.)


There's a Tibetan Skull Mala hanging from the rearview...
along with my Grandmother's bean-bead rosary.

There's the irony of a Little Trees air freshener...
(Maybe it's orange... and smells like peaches)
hanging from the knob of the cigarette lighter.

There are wet-naps...
and ketchup packets...
and those little salt and pepper packets...
and a couple of straws...
and an old blue Bic ball-point pen
(which doesn't have a cap... and has dried out)
in the glove box.

I want to drive...
in search of freedom...
in search of my Self.

(Coltrane plays on the radio when I drive like that)

I want to drive through city streets at night.

I want to drive on midwestern highways in the early morning...
(the rising sun behind me)

I want to spend the night at motels with "jungle rooms" and "Sinatra suites"...

I want to spend my time photographing the un-photogenic...
the undesirable side of America.

I want to see what others turn their eyes from.

I want to grab THAT...
and record it...
through the lens...
on paper...
on canvas...
(then force them to look... and pay us for the privilege)

I want a car from the year of MY birth.
I want a car the same age as ME.
And together we will prove that we can make it...
... that we are not to be overlooked...
... that we still have potential...
... that we still can go the distance...
... to reach out...
... to explore...
... to create...
... to take the unthinkable road...
and arrive there safely...
and "on time" (whatever that means)

I want to park in the center of the crossroads...
Toss out the map...
and let the call of America dictate the direction I choose.

The guy with the sweet metallic brown '76 Caddy Convertible...
driving the American highway...
with the top down...
always searching...
for himself.

* * *

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sleep

* * *

Almost 1:30 a.m.

Can't sleep. The upped "L" is sending electric lightning shocks through my spine and down through my legs... leaving me shakes and tremors.

I had to leave the bed... (didn't want to wake Holly)

The room is too hot.

It's too bright.

The fan is making a funny noise.

The sheets are pilled. They were annoying my skin. And they smelled funny.

My Sleep Number seems to be wrong.

I can hear EVERYTHING right now.

I hear my heart-valves opening and closing through my pillow.

I can hear my wristwatch ticking away on the dresser across the room. For that matter I can here the two other wristwatches in the wooden valet box on the floor. For that matter I think I can hear the wind-up pocket watch... in the bottom drawer... tucked away in a box... where it has rested... years since its last winding.

(I can hear EVERYTHING right now.)

I hear the slow drone of Miles Davis running through my mind...

"Recollections"...

but just his horn...

no drums.

And I find myself sitting here... on the couch... the comfort of the LCD glow of this electric moleskine sitting on my lap...

waiting for "Z" to kick in... and carry me away for the night... to the peace of sleep... until the morning comes and pulls me away again.

(I do not know how or why I've arrived "here"... I only know that "here"... for now, at least... I seem to have ceased being "Vin"... and have become "Travis Bickle" instead... guiding my cab through the dark streets of insomnia)

I've made a decision... I'm going to cut my hair.

(Actually... it's a decision I made over a year ago... but "couldn't" allow myself to do... out of "fear" of the comments I'd have to deal with from others who felt that I "shouldn't".)

Now it's time. "Couldn't" isn't an option anymore.

(I've grown tired of this outfit... and it's time to hang it up with the rest... and walk away from the closet... clean and reborn... for a while, at least)

My mind is playing tricks on me. I'm awake... but I'm dreaming. I'm "remembering" with my eyes wide open.

(The Whitney Biennial... around '95 or so... a very "sophisticated"/"upscale"/"yuppie" woman, perhaps in her 50s, looking at a rather "controversial" piece of art - expressing her lack of understanding... inability to connect to the piece... and disgust that anyone would focus on portraying anything "angry" instead of something "pretty". My response as I turned to her: "I guess it's hard to paint pretty flowers when you've been held down and raped.")

But what do I know? I don't paint flowers... and I wasn't held down, per se. Instead I steal moments of time with the click of a shutter... and I deny being held or forced to do anything that wasn't...

whatever.

(I think I've gone too far... but THAT is another story)

Strange thoughts come out of nowhere...

When I die I want to be cremated... returned to Shiva's fire...

my ashes scattered...

some allowed to wash beneath the Cornwall Bridge...

some left at the base of MY tree in Wooster Cemetary...

some blown by the breezes on Slopey Rock's hill...

some spread at the base of the Chrysler Building...

some released to the ancient wind-voices of Machu Picchu...

but who am I kidding... that all could change next week...

(and probably WILL)

(but I still want a really cool headstone.)


It's after Too-A-M now. My mind is drifting... my body getting that buzzing feeling which tells me that the medication is working... and sleep is just around the corner.

Thank God!

or Charlton Heston.

or Joseph Campbell.

or whoever the hell is paying attention.

(in India a Goddess girl was born with eight limbs... and they named her Lakshmi)

(just for the record, I have no idea where I'm going with any of this... it's just arriving...)

Sleep. Time for sleep. The morning is not far away... and I'll need to make pancakes that aren't round... just to prove a point...

that I can.

* * *

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Polaroids: Mapplethorpe (Whitney Museum of American Art)

On view through September 14, 2008...

This exhibit is one I’ve been looking forward to for a very long time.

From the museum’s web site...

This special exhibition traces Robert Mapplethorpe's use of instant photography from 1970 to 1975. Created in collaboration with the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, the show brings together one hundred objects, many never exhibited before. Included are self-portraits, figure studies, still lifes, and portraits of lovers and friends including Patti Smith, Sam Wagstaff, and Marianne Faithfull. Many of these small, intimate photographs convey tenderness and vulnerability. Others depict a toughness and immediacy that would give way in later years to more classical form. Unlike the highly crafted images Mapplethorpe staged in the studio and became famous for, these disarming pictures are marked by spontaneity and invention. Together, they offer insight into the artist's creative development and reveal his pure delight in seeing at a formative time in his career.

* * *

I remember vividly the first time I saw a Robert Mapplethorpe photograph. It was “Calla Lily, 1986”... an image which has since become, perhaps, my single-favorite photograph.

Words cannot describe the beauty of that image. The sharp edge the black background creates. The soft white of petal... almost erotic... reaching through the “spotlight”... hanging, suspended... reaching toward its own shadow. Simple. Sensuous. Powerful.

Prior to that image I had only heard of Mapplethorpe in the context of controversy. His plans for his “Perfect Moment” exhibition at the Corcoran in Washington D.C. in 1989 had created quite a stir. The museum backed out of the exhibition... the Washington Project for the Arts picked it up - but not before quite a lot of commotion had been raised regarding the sexual nature of the photographs.

As a result, Mapplethorpe’s name was known to me... his images, however - were not. These were the days before the internet... before libraries were keen to stocking risqué art books... and when trips to museums, for me anyway - were rarities.

Yet one day I found myself standing before “Calla Lily, 1986”... transformed by the moment.

Not long after I happened upon a copy of Richard Marshall’s Mapplethorpe book being sold by a street vendor near St. Marks in the East Village of Manhattan. Quickly snatching the prize I had found, I made my way toward Grand Central - and almost two hours of pouring through the images during the train ride home followed. I absorbed every page... every image the book offered. In the weeks that followed I found myself consuming other Mapplethorpe books as well... such as “Mapplethorpe Altars” and his biography by Patricia Morrisroe. I travelled from city to city... museum to museum, searching for the opportunity to gaze upon the real thing.

Over the years I have seen many Mapplethorpe photos in person. Museums in Manhattan... Boston... and Philadelphia have presented me with Mapplethorpe’s Flowers... Nudes... and images from the controversial “X Portfolio”. Working as a professional picture framer I had even been blessed with the task of framing an original print of his “Wave (Fire Island), 1980”.

I had seen a lot of Mapplethorpe’s photographs. What I hadn’t seen, however - were the polaroids. Those first images... which set the foundation for his later work.

Sure... I’d seen many of them in books. Some - such as his mixed-media “Self Portrait, 1971” - had had a tremendous impact on my own art. That particular image - consisting of three polaroids behind the metal “cage” window of a paper potato sack, spray-painted purple - had introduced me to the world of mixed-media photography pieces... and spurred my interest in collage, self portraits and mixed media work - all at once.

His frequent use of diptych and triptych style framing/matting - to place a series of two or three (or sometimes more) images side-by-side, blew me away! I had never seen photography presented this way before. Photographs had always been presented in white cotton rag mats in thin black or silver frames... or in cream-colored cotton rag mats in thin auburn-colored wood frames. Multiple images within one frame... double-mats cut without bottom rails on the top mat... frames of bizarre shapes or colors... this just wasn’t done! It wasn’t supposed to be this way!

But it was. And it was wonderful to me!

Now... after 15 years of waiting - I have the opportunity to see those first images in person. Those early Mapplethorpes, which had such a tremendous impact on my own art. The polaroids.

The show is simple. One long room. Most images presented in neat rows - two high. Framed to be the same size and shape (the aforementioned cream-colored cotton rag mats... and thin auburn-colored wood frames used on most).

Self portraits. Photos from hotel rooms. Photos of friends (most notably, Patti Smith and Sam Wagstaff). Early experiments with florals. Early experiments with sexual subject matters. Early nudes. Early experiments with creative framing - such as the use of the plastic polaroid cartridge cases - spray-painted different colors - as frames (such as 1973’s “Candy Darling” series).

Brilliant.

To see these images in person takes your breath away! The images are small... as polaroids are... yet they present so much! Books can only capture part of their essence. To really understand them, you must stand before them!

I had seen the first three images of the “Charles and Jim” series (1974) countless times in books... yet seeing them in person - it was as if I had never seen them before! There is a sense of nervousness... of fear... of anticipation... of submission - which is amplified when gazing at the original. There is a power of the moment which cannot be passed along through books... postcard prints... or internet images. It simply has to be experienced firsthand.

The final piece in the show... “Self Portrait, 1971”... the very piece which graces the cover of “Mapplethorpe Altars”... the first piece featured in Richard Marshall’s book... the piece which inspired so much in me. And it just about brought me to tears to see it in person... finally.

And once again I find myself deeply moved and inspired by what Mapplethorpe saw through his lens.

Robert Mapplethorpe had a way of finding the beauty that is often missed or simply “overlooked”. His images are rather simple in composition. “Black” meets “White”. “Soft” meets “Hard”. That which is usually in the supporting role moves in to the spotlight. And often he forces us to see what, perhaps - we’d rather not... and recognize that there IS a beauty there.

* * *

Simply put - “Polaroids: Mapplethorpe” at the Whitney Museum of American Art exceeded all expectations. It is a rare opportunity to see firsthand the foundation-work of what would become one of photography’s greatest contributors.

* * *

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Needs

* * *

I really need some Tylenol right now...

No... what I really need is to get off of my ass and actually DO something!

I need a drink - yeah... that's it! I need a drink. (...but don't worry... I won't...)

I need to get over this "Writer's Block" I've been going through!

I need to lock myself in a room with only my laptop... my iPod... and a dozen or so pots of coffee - and WRITE, dammit!

I need for "Allison Kimball" to finally come back to life.

All-i-son? Allison? Where are you? Why can I not see you outside my window anymore? Where is your haunting stare when I need it most? Where is your song? Where is that curl of your lip... that sinister smile that says "I know what YOU don't know yet"? Where the hell are you? Are you coming back?

(please come back!)


I need to take EVERY THING out of the living room... and the dining room... and the kitchen... and my bedroom...

EVERY THING...

and put back only what is necessary.

I need to white-wash it all... and start over again!

I need to dig into the back of the closet - and pull out the Keith Haring that has been hidden from the light for so long... and get it back on the wall...

I need to see it there...

I need to know it's there...

I need to "feel" it again...

(Besides... it's an original... and one of the most valuable things I own. So why is it always hidden away?)

I need to sit on a Metro-North train bound for Grand Central...

with my eyes closed...

my head leaning against the cool glass of the window...

my iPod singing Coltrane to me...

my arm sticking to the maroon and midnight blue vinyl of the seat...

my mind wandering towards the possibilities that await me.

I need a hotdog from Gray's Papaya.

I need to stand at the base of the Chrysler Building and look up - through the viewfinder.

(I need to move to New York City)

I need to travel.

I need to get lost.

I think I need to give up "God" for a while...

(and "Goddess" too)

... and see if they can catch up and find me again.

I need to go to the diner at least once a week again...

... just for sanity's sake.

I need to catch a film at Bethel Cinema...

(something "artsy")

I need to find an old beat-up copy of Pablo Neruda poems.

I need to re-read van Gogh's letters.

(I need to stand before "Starry Night" again)

I need to find a bum in the East Village... selling candle holders made out of cut soda cans.

I need some new plain black T-shirts...

... and some plain black long-sleeve Ts too.

I need some new tubes of Liquitex.

I need a new external hard-drive so I can back up all these damn photos!

(I need to spend hours-upon-hours in Adobe Photoshop - tweaking until my mind and the screen are showing the same thing)

I need to punch someone in the face... but I can't. Not yet, anyway. Not until I figure out who that "someone" is.

"I need a brand new friend who doesn't bother me...
I need a brand new friend who doesn't trouble me...
I need someone... yeah... who doesn't need me..."

(Yeah... that's it... tell it like it is, Jim. Tell it like it is.)


I need to dance in the rain again.

I need to stand at the top of the ESB and scream again.

I need to jump into the cold of the turbulent ocean and willingly release all of the "bad air" within me...

release it to the blank sky...

and allow myself to sink... down...

down...

down...

down...

until I touch the Titanic...

until I solve the mysteries of Flight 19...

until I find my own Andrea Gail...

until I have nothing left to search for...

until I have nothing left to find...

and I can push myself off of the ocean floor -

and shoot myself towards the surface...

breaking through like a submarine doing an emergency breach...

to finally be free of all constraints...

and left naked... floating above all that is left behind.



I need to break the glass of the mirror with one swift pounding of the fist...

and kick the reflections of "what once was" under the carpet.


I need to not have to worry about what others are expecting me to say...

... or expecting me to write...

... or how they are interpreting what I "AM" saying...

... or what I "AM" writing.

(I need for others to stop trying to find hidden meanings behind my words! Sometimes they're just words, dammit!)

(I need for others to stop thinking that what I write or say is about THEM... because the truth is, it probably isn't... or it probably is... and either way - it's about ME)


I need for jokes to not be taken seriously...

and seriousness to not be turned into jokes.


I need a fresh cup of coffee.

I need a piece of apple pie with vanilla ice cream... at some diner somewhere.

I need to find the William Forrester within me.

I need a blank journal... and a refill for my pen.

I need to find the REAL me.

(and I don't need anyone else to tell me "how")


And yes... I DO need that Tylenol!

* * *