Tuesday, July 27, 2010

“Dreams are the touchstones of our character.” Henry David Thoreau



Dream: First on the street w/portfolio (broken) of my drawings—stand transfixed in front of a large sidewalk stand where man is making Belgian Waffles—elaborate display—i ask the woman for “one of those creations the cook has just made”—w/out question she hands me something entirely different—When i refuse she insists i explain what i want even though it’s right in front of me—finally i settle for something else—I’m over loaded w/the portfolio which i put down & drawings start to scatter—i put down my leather feed bag to retrieve the drawings—the oversize confection i have in my hand drops to the sidewalk—in a mild rage i return to the stand (the woman has been waiting for me to pay)—Slap! i slam it back on the counter—arms wrapped around the broken portfolio of drawings i start to leave then remember instantly i left my leather bag behind—i turn to run—see it’s being held by a woman who looks dressed as a hotel chamber maid—the bag has a tag w/a number on it but she lets me have it w/out proof of I.D. — Next find myself in a huge downtown building—elegant—a building where money is made, traded etc—i really only want to pass through but the elevator [goes to the] top floor—luxurious office space—in the dream i believe it to be Bache & Co—Suited, elegant men glide over deep carpets & every background sound is muffled until i pass near one of those men—he says to his female companion in a lowered voice meant for me to hear:

“Look at that artist, isn’t she absurd?”

I [walked] up to him & said: “Thank you sir, for noticing that i am an artist, however i am not absurd”—Still lugging the broken portfolio of drawings i go into what looks like a combined office reception area & hotel desk—i ask for directions out of the building—a woman behind a desk (mail pigeon holes on a wall behind her) says something unintelligible but hands me a room key w/number on it—also a receipt to pay a certain amount—can’t quite remember—maybe $72—Exasperated—i run to catch the elevator’—Doors close—a bank of maybe 5 or 6 elevators against a wall—Deco-gold—like in Rockefeller Center—i’m intrigued by some symbols on the elevator doors but concerned as well w/getting into one before [the] doors close (Handles were on the outside to pull doors open)—Finally doors open in front of me & i step into an elevator that has been in dreams long past—a giant room—furnished—people in it i notice are mostly black—there are round cushions—some people stand—[a] few are seated in groups—when i step onto the elevator—(this time w/out portfolio)—the passengers stop to look up then return to their conversations or vacant stares—This elevator was as big as a living room—it surprised me at first but i was reassured to see the doors close & feel the descent—i walked past a woman sitting down. She said: “Well, hello Linda—what are you doing here?”—i looked down—a young black woman missing most of her teeth—i could not place her—but she knew me—said her name was “Roberta, you know, Reggie’s friend.”—Oh yes, but what had happened to her teeth?—Soon i was back up on the top floor—back at Bache but w/out the broken portfolio of drawings—i walked directly into the president’s office—you must get rid of those paintings i told him—pointing to the works on the wall—thickly impastoed abstract florals hung on plastered walls, reminiscent of a Greek villa—he was, in fact, a man w/an accent I took to be Greek & first he was very cool & correct w/me—never asking to see my work but listening intently as I described their beauty.

We walked together around his huge handsomely furnished office—he was warming to my proposal of selling my work. In the last scene, just before i woke he went over to a couch in his office—sat down easily, crossed his legs (he was in an elegant white suit) and patted the cushion—motioning for me to sit down—there was no lascivious intent in this gesture & i felt very comfortable plopping down near him—noticing even a few worn spots on this elegant sofa—(also white) making me feel very relaxed—at ease—& ready to discuss his patronage. Dream ends.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Happy trails to you, until we meet again.

Happy trails to you, keep smilin' until then.

Who cares about the clouds when we're together?

Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.

Happy trails to you, 'till we meet again.

Dale Evans Rogers


An old stuffed horse sold at auction at Christie’s last week for over $266,000. In the collection were also a dog and a couple of other ponies. They didn’t fetch quite as much. It wasn’t just any bit of horseflesh though, that brought the bidders in their cowboy best to Rockefeller Center. This horse was a star attraction—Trigger—the most famous equine television celebrity, ever. On each episode of The Roy Rogers Show, the beloved television series from the 1950s, the Golden Palomino reared back on his sturdy hind legs and whinnied like the thoroughbred he was. Roy and Trigger rode into the sunset a hundred times or more, not counting reruns. Little kids, like me, sat cross-legged before a cyclopean wooden box bowed slightly at the top, and stared wide-eyed at the black-and-white images on the screen; enthralled, anxious and then weepy with relief when the bad guys were routed and the good guys saved the day.

“Howdy. I’m Roy Rogers, Jr. But they call me Dusty.” A tall, robust cowboy, dressed all in black but for his pristine white Stetson, was there to greet me as I entered the show rooms at Christie’s auction house on Rockefeller Plaza in midtown. Behind him, Trigger rose suspended in time from a jumble of carefully staged hay bales. Men and women of a certain age gathered around Roy, Jr. like he was a rock star. Not, as one spry oldster claimed, like the rock stars today.

Roy Jr. went on to tell me his famous parents had intended to call him Dustin, but at the last minute went for ‘Junior.’ He grew up with the nickname Dusty. He gestured to his handsome son—Roy Rogers’ grandson—standing quietly nearby. He was equally the cowboy with his trim goatee, neat bolo tie and identical white Stetson. “He got to be named Dustin.”

I wandered into the galleries, more curious than anything, while recorded tunes from that era settled around me like a worn comfort blanket. A room full of glass cases displayed the kinds of toys I recalled as a child: the 3-D View-Master, metal lunchboxes pictured with Roy and Dale and Trigger. Bullet, the trusty and fearless German shepherd, was my favorite. There were pencil cases and crayon sets that prepared me for the bigger leap to my first John Gnagy drawing kit when I was a little bit older and absolutely sure of my artistic direction. There was the very same cowboy outfit, from boots to faux-suede fringed jacket to lop-sided felt cowboy hat, that my freckle-faced crush at the time, Billy McDaniel, wore when we were maybe six or seven years old. I listened and heard Gene Autry singing: “I’m back in the saddle again. Back where a friend is a friend….” Throat got a little lumpy, tears welled up. I had crossed onto an involuntary path of nostalgia.

A small collection of guitars in the next room reminded me: Note to self. Get The Mister back here. Mannequins lined one wall dressed in the fashions of the original “Rhinestone Cowboy,” Nudie the Tailor. Sequined cuffs, laced fronts, ruffled hems and western images embossed with colorful silk threads. I read later that the grand daughters of the famous tailor—still carrying on his Western tailoring business—had reclaimed Nudie’s trailer—a bulky structure shaped like a covered wagon, which had been a gift to Roy Rogers. It was an emotional bid for them. Not everyone was pleased about the auction. The collection started as a museum in 1967. The old couple that ran the museum got older and the visitors died out. Some thought Roy and Dale would not have approved. “They are spinning in their graves right now,” said a family friend.

Roy, Jr.—or Dusty—was being interviewed in the adjacent room so I hurried to eavesdrop on the exchange between him and the man from the Wall Street Journal. Roy, Jr. was clearly surprised to hear what paper the man was from. “Really? Thought you guys were only innerested in whether it was piggies up or chickens down!” The talk between them immediately turned to—what else—the World Cup. My disappointment was short-lived as the interviewer brought the conversation back to the cowboy’s life.

With the video camera trained on him, Roy Jr. stood beside a pair of cowboy boots the color of worn pennies, rubbed many times for luck to a warm rosy glow. He said they were the first pair of boots his dad owned. They were too poor to have his first baby shoes bronzed. My own family was poor enough, yet poor or not we had our baby shoes bronzed. That crinkled pair of status symbols remains on my bookshelf to this day.

“Did you have a normal childhood?” “Yep,” Roy responded, unruffled. A small group had gathered around him now, aware of the interview and who he was. We held our breath. I waited for some secret to be revealed, some familial dysfunction we could all relate to. “Dad took me everywhere.” He stroked the bronzed boots. “There’s a lot of mileage, a lot of memories. Well, I hopped onto my dad’s feet a few times and let him waltz me over the linoleum. When he was asleep I’d poke him in the nose.”

“Think you can fill your dad’s shoes?” We turned a look of collective displeasure to the interviewer, hunched over his camera. To that impertinent question Dusty answered wryly: “Nope. Dad was an 8 1/2. Ah’ma 10 1/2, so no, I don’t think I’d fit ’em.” He went on to say that in those days the cowboys were pretty small. Shot from below, the camera angled them into giants on the screen. “But then John Wayne came along and ruined all that.”

Gesturing to an odd set up that turned out to be a cobbler’s workbench, he revealed that his famous dad’s first job had been in a shoe company. The skill for the craft never left him and he was always able to make his own boots. Along the clean, white wall behind Dusty ran a double shelf crowded with cowboy boots of all styles and wear and tear.

In another room he’d held his mother’s charm bracelet, brought to him from a locked case by Christie's Public Relations Coordinator, Sung-Hee Park. Dale had worn it every day, adding new charms, until it got too heavy. Was putting all this up for auction difficult? “Difficult?” Dusty thought a moment. “Actually it was a horrendous decision. We’re only in charge of history for so long. Our family’s no different. Dad always said when it all gets to be a burden, then sell it.” We moved in closer to look at his mother’s bracelet, feel his emotion. “It was a different place—a different time—we’ll never see again. They lived the way they talked and never let anyone down. You could always hang your hat on what they told you.”

A behemoth some might call an automobile stretched nearly the full length of the next room. I circled the chrome-trimmed monster knowing full well I would have to persuade The Mister to return with me the next day, even if it meant him skiving off from work. Nudie also designed the 1963 Pontiac Bonneville gas-guzzler decorated within an inch of its massive frame with something like 139 silver dollars. A shiny colt 45 served as the stick shift. In those days you didn’t worry about seat belts. The siblings would fight to perch precariously atop an ornate leather saddle squeezed into the front seat. When dad picked them up from school, they were the envy of all the other kids traipsing onto a far less adventuresome school bus.

“We never made it to the Rose Parade,” Dusty said, a little wistfully I thought. Obliging the interviewer once again, he slid behind the wheel. “It is a little bit garish,” he admitted. And then, with a sly grin, “Unless you’re a cowboy.”

Later, The Mister was pleasantly surprised to hear that Roy Rogers collected foreign cars and was wild about anything British, especially Jaguars.

In the room where Roy’s shooting gallery for kids was displayed, I chatted up one of the guards, a pleasant young man, Hispanic and probably in his late 20s. “You can’t possibly remember this stuff. You probably never heard of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.” No, he told me, he always thought it was a restaurant. “But,” he added, “So much celebrity stuff is smoke and mirrors. It’s nice to know these folks were real.”

Real meant nine kids, some adopted. They were an International family long before Brad and Angelina’s brood. Dusty’s siblings were Choctaw, Scottish, Korean. Linda Lou was his natural born sister but not one of them was favored. I perked up at the reference to Linda Lou, as it was an endearment my dad held for me practically all his life.

Real meant a large round dining room table. “Something missing in a lot of families today,” Dusty said. Dale, their mother, was big on good behavior. She was the Texan. Roy Rogers hailed from Ohio. “You can always tell a Texan,” he’d say, before adding, “But not much. When Dale discovered the spinning Lazy Susan in the middle of the custom made dining table had been pilfered during the prayer before meals she insisted from then on that they all hold hands while they prayed. If one of her children did not heed a warning to behave at the table she followed through on her threat and remained standing above the culprit’s head, tipping the milk pitcher dry. Until the drinking glasses were replaced with aluminum, there was broken glass all the time. “With nine kids,” Dusty said, “you have got to control the situation.”

Especially real to me was the revelation that their mother was a terrible cook. “Mine, too!” I wanted to shout. I swelled with recognition when he said; “To this day I can’t get a sprout through my lips.” Dale was the Queen of Texas but also the Queen of the Leftovers. And she never, ever cooked on Sundays. But that’s where the similarities ended. They hunted and fished and ate what they caught. “We drank raw milk. No worries about any crazy stupid thing you could die of today.

Something in the previous room kept calling me back. I guessed at first it was the car and I wanted plenty of photos in case The Mister did not get to see it in person. But, along one wall of framed memorabilia a black and white photograph of a handsome, lean-faced cowboy caught my eye. A woman peered closer to the photo. “Who is that?” she wondered aloud. Startled, I answered: “He’s my second cousin, Jack Kelly!” “Who?” “One of the Maverick brothers. Brett?” Still confused, I added: “You know, the show, Maverick. James Garner.” “Oh” she sighed, “the one you didn’t see much of.” It was from Jack Kelly’s mother, my great Aunt Nan that I learned in a telephone call that my mother suffered from epilepsy. I was maybe ten years old and picked up the receiver where it hung after my mother collapsed into a seizure. Across a long distance call from California Aunt Nan guided me into aiding my mother. As kids my younger sister and I were in the dark about my mother’s condition. An ordinary childlike transgression would send her into paroxysms of rage. It was the family secret.

My second cousin had written on his photo: “For Dale & Roy—You have no right to celebrate a fiftieth anniversary 45 years too early!” I had never met him, I don’t think. Never saw his handwriting, until then. I want 45 years with The Mister, I thought.

“We lived in a lucky time,” the woman beside me murmured.

Standing before Trigger again I thought about what I had read of a family friend of the Rogers’ reaction to the auction. “Roy always said. ‘When I’m dead, skin me and put me up on Trigger.’ It’s a famous quote. If he got his wish, he’d be up here for sale today.” What might have seemed shocking then would hardly be little more than outlandish in a time when a dubious exhibition called Bodies draws them by the hundreds of thousands. At least the viewer would be assured of the cowboy’s origin, and more importantly, his wish; unlike the bodies of the Chinese men and women on display at the South Street Seaport.

I stopped back at Trigger, clicking away, for sure, but also photographing the other hero of my childhood, the German Shepherd, Bullet, who was also the Rogers’ family pet. He sold for $35,000. Two women, older than me, were chatting gleefully. “Oh, I still say that to my friends. Happy Trails.” She asked if I would take her picture and e-mail it to her. I happily obliged. “I feel like a rock star,” she giggled. Her friend maneuvered a walker around the haystacks. Celebrities, nowadays, she said, they were only famous to be famous. No quality, no gentleness. “No talent,” the other chimed. “They’re all like that Lady Gaga person.” They nodded in agreement. I told them Trigger was expected to fetch over $200,000 at auction. “That’s a lotta money for a horse,” she reflected.

Trigger’s saddle fetched much more. Over $100,000 more. Horse and saddle now separated.

On the way out I passed an office and caught a glimpse of a very tired cowboy slumped in a chair, his long legs stretched fully before him, the white Stetson pulled down over his face.

I left Christie’s. Displayed in front of the building was Roy’s jeep Nellybelle, driven on the show by his sidekick Pat Brady. Across the street tourists snapped away from the top of a big red tour bus advertising Bodies: The Exhibition.


The newest pop star, Justin Bieber, a mere baby himself, has a video of his hit song “Baby.” With over 246 million views it has surpassed Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” as the most watched Youtube video of all time.

That is, until the next big thing comes along.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

“The need to speak prevents one not merely from listening, but from seeing, and in this case, the absence of any description of external surroundings is tantamount to a description of an internal state.” Marcel Proust



The first really Fall day this season. Celebrated w/Mario w/a walk down through Central Park—just before sunset. The ground was blanketed throughout—we avoided the main paths & “scaled” diminutive hillside paths across the park—the sun set w/out much fanfare but steadily nonetheless. This after a last minute mushroom omelette uptown at Mario’s. He seemed hurried & preoccupied when i first arrived—but soon the invigorating pace of our travels sorted him out and he was talking w/out distraction about the problems he is having w/his novel in progress. He can’t get ‘inside’ this novel—the characters are strangers—We discussed how differently he and a writer of such acclaim as Gabriel Garcia Marquez finally arrive at similar statements—philosophical statements.

We stopped for a rest at the Bandshell—a lonely grouping of empty park benches—perfect for an intimate conversation—In fact, we both agreed, the park was an excellent place for an intimate rendezvous—as was borne out w/the occasional couple locked in the proverbial embrace & unaware of their presence in our paths—I’ve often day dreamed about a meeting—a liaison in the Park—it would make a nice short story, i think—a woman’s escape to the Park for relief from the life she is outside of the park (maybe)—She meets the Lover—an accidental yet spiritually fated meeting—what passes between them during that day spent in the NIRVANA of Central Park of a clear Fall?

I know I would end the story w/the woman leaving the Park, leaving the Phantom behind her to become, again, the trees, the shadows, the [?] to untaken paths. It might make a nice short story.

Mario sat recuperating from the five flights in front of The Ritz—When he could relax his breathing he gave me a little lecture in praise of the breast—“much more beautiful than the other thing, NO?”—We discussed what i’d just finished—he seemed to think it wise to spend a year exploring—at play—as it were & thought my decision to start a new series next year a wise one.

Saw two Fassbinders at a recently opened revival house uptown on west 99th Street—Nostalgically arrayed w/ architectural raiment reminiscent of the Deco—Frosty glass brick columns emanating a dull red glow—Really quite elegant in its simplicity—large screen—severely elevated seating so no heads. The films were: Mother Küsters Goes To Heaven & Jailbait. M fought a brave battle to keep his eyes open but I was intrigued the full four hours of film. Jailbait was an archetypal thematic interpretation of the generation war using the father/daughter LOVE/HATE vehicle. Eva Mattes has an incredible acting range—I can hardly believe the slovenly fourteen year-old and Celeste are one in the same woman.

How meager most film acting is—especially the Americans & their horrible dependence on affectation. There will be showings of Fassbinder’s films every Thursday of this month & M has agreed we should see them all. —Oh, and Susan Sontag was just like the rest of us mortals, standing in the same movie line!—the patch of grey in her full black hair gives her away—her presence is really part of the city background—lacking totally in ostentation, yet I could feel her there.

There’s a meeting or furniture moving next door—how closely we have to work—our personal noises overlapping—Some terrific Italian opera on WNYC—Cinderella storyline, I think, but it’s in Italian so i content myself w/the melody as entertainment.

Tomorrow Mario will play actor for a friend & film student of the New School. A silent film—he’s to act an imaginary chess game in Washington Square Park—i’ll go—another look at my old friend Mario. Told me he liked me best with my hair down—told me in more physical terms how much he liked me—I have to keep visits to his apt during the day to a minimum—i guess i really do believe he might be a little in love w/me, but the test would be for him to find a carrot that he can chase w/success. The thought of betraying Miriam overshadows & subsequently makes it impossible for me to think of being Mario’s lover—though the fear that he would overwhelm me is never too far from the relationship.

We also discussed dreams—mine have been intense lately & he’s been having a recurrent dream of ‘escape.’ i couldn’t quite make it understandable to me whether this thing he was trying to escape took one form, many varied forms or no form at all. After our reel-to-reel conversation today i think he may be trying to escape from his old style (current dissatisfying style). i think he’s looking for a stronger political reality—a change of direction—maybe an acceleration in that direction.—Lord knows what my recent dreaming means—filled w/symbolic images of rejection, testing—whispers loudly voiced in my direction—“Artists speak much too loudly.”—Distinctly uncomfortable conversations to have to overhear.

The opera is Rossini.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

“Love the art in yourself and not yourself in the art."S. Konstantin


IN HER YOUNGER DAYS: from my journals, 20 October 1982

The last little story…the very last. Three very drunks had partied at a club called AMPM—trés chic & (so it follows) boring—two of the revelers are artists—one of the artist’s a disgruntled; the two painters had been to a gallery opening earlier that day—So, the seeds of revolution were sown in the especially unhappy artist when she saw, once again, un-truths, half-truths and no-truths in the soulless stills hanging on the gallery walls. The party that evening was to celebrate the maker of these empty canvases.

Three very drunks—danced & partied—indulged in champagne and cognac—picked up another painter for a while along the way. “Are you gay?” asks the artist currently showing in a group at Cordier & Ekstrom of the particularly disgruntled artist. “No,” she says, “but I appreciate your asking.” So for a little while the evening went merrily, madly along—Now four very drunks stopped somewhere in the lower bowels of the city for excesses of artistic conversation. The disgruntled one was full of questions for this new artist—he was married to a painter? How could they do it? Monogamous, as well? How could they do it? The disgruntled one tried drunkenly to describe her work—her paintings as stories—a search for great loves. She thought he understood.

The hour was late—this artist drifted home & left the original three to perform break-neck maneuvers on a fantastical construction on the middle of a drunken nowhere. In & out of conversational meanderings—wandered the spectre of Schnabel—the poison of Boone.

Then, suddenly they were in front of the cave of these demons—cleverly disguised as an ‘in-spot’ called Odeon’s—w/a sweeping gesture of bravado the less disgruntled heaved an enormous whack of flem onto these hallowed windows. Busboys out in a flash to clear away the awful stuff. “Not enough” thinks the very drunk & disgruntled painter—& so convincing she leads the others inside. The drunks became children, stealing tips, insulting vacant, stupid stories & conspiring for a grand exit—a statement.

And so the three drunk-a-teers veered towards the exit—turned and lobbed their glass full of Rémy over the bar and into the mirror. The obligatory panic ensued—police were called and miraculously took the side of the very drunks. The thugs masquerading as waiters were ordered inside—the crowd dispersed & in the silent, early morning hours the very drunk & disgruntled painter told the police she would do it again—for art—and under the protective wing of art she flew home.