The Blue Raccoon

Friday, September 26, 2008

Post Root Canal/Three Days of Rain Ruminations
Continued from previous post...

New York this past Sunday seemed none the worse for wear, physically, for all the market gyrations. The high rises from the roof of MoMA were all still standing straight. But the worst was yet to come in a matter of days; and overhearing conversations I detected not one syllable about the politics of the day or even the economic crisis. Just the usual round of where we're going and what we're seeing and the names of people and where they were from that fell on my ear in an unfamiliar fashion that was neither urgent nor dismissive.

This was my first extended visit to the "new and improved" MoMA. I have to say, I'm not over fond of the design. I liked the temporary site in the Queens staple factory. There, you ran into Van Gogh and Picasso and even Cindy Sherman like old friends at a party.

I remarked to Amie that the new place already had a grimy look to it as though it'd been there since about 1978, which is how the design strikes me: a monument to modernism that is past.

The one design aspect of the musuem I found most appealing was the wooden or composite wood surface floors in the galleries. They Queens location was like many galleries in Chelsea; hard concrete, that after going through a dozen, cause as much foot discomfort as the aesthetic pain one feels after seeing too much of what some have deemed art.

The apartment buildings across the street have always intrigued me. They are pre-war, and don't have central air, as evidenced by the window units. The two are 25 and 17 W. 54th St. that I like fantasizing myself into are side by side; one has this Secessionist Deco angularity with big square windows and and the second has turret bays. And higher up, balconies and terrace gardens. Gawd, how it would be to live in such an ayrie.

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Gazing across the roof terrace on this wondrous day, I found myself in rapturous love with those buildings, and the place.

But one of the great pleasures of our quick visit to NYC that Sunday was having a glass of red wine in the MoMa sculpture garden, hearing the pleasant falling water of the fountains and the Barnett Newman sculpture of the pyramid conjoined at its tip with the obelisk.

I had a jarring memory though; the wire frame chairs that are more comfortable than they appear in particular after a day of art-hiking -- I recalled this photograph, believe it or not; that's Theresa Duncan in her going-incognito style, here.

Funny how the visual memory works.

So we sat there, and I kept editing, and drinking, and basking in the splendid New Yorkness of the moment, and it was just as good as being rich.

Well. Almost.


Don LaFontaine was known to most people who'd never seen him as "The Movie Trailer Guy." His was the gravelly ominous voice, the one that always started with, "In a world gone mad, one man stands alone..." or some such. He was most recently in a GEICO ad. He died September 1, following a collapsed lung, and was just 68.

This video, "Five Guys In A Limo," is kind of a El Divo of voice over princes. Don is first--he was the King of Voice Over, and how they make fun of themselves is enjoyable.

David Foster Wallace

I have a confession to those in the billion-eyed audience who may have mistaken me for a literary type. My reading is not as wide nor as adventurous as it should be; and that's to my deficit.

I did not know his work well. I encountered him here and there in magazines and perhaps due to my own porousness of mind do not remember anything about what I read.

We were born the same year, a month apart, and out of the general same culture, but he was a genius and I just work at being understood. But the little wheels that have no sister whirred too long and much louder than he could stand them, and he hung himself, and silenced an observer of our time just when we could've used him the most.

I further confess that what little I knew about him, made me...envious. This makes me seem petty, and maybe so.

He was 24 when his first novel came out, hitting in a big way, and while I was still struggling with what I was trying to do with myself and switching majors at VCU and slogging away at an immature first-person fiction and thinking the world would end before I ever finished.

There was also following the 1980s literary brat pack thing, that Gordon Lish crop of writers that annoyed me. They were good looking and high living. They demonstrated that fiction is just about impossible to write and remain authentic and getting anybody to read it even more so. The hype soured me on reading most of what passes for contemporary literature in the U.S.

I can't get through so much of the stuff; it hurts my eyes, clotted with brand names, trying to be television on the radio, or sleek as Norwegian furniture in those New York lofts I lust for. But I'm not sure about the value -- of the fiction, the lofts are quite pricey.

And I don't know enough about David Foster Wallace's writing, but should now refresh and remind myself. The rhythm of his name always sounded famous to me, and it conflated with John Foster Dulles in my ear. And I think of Don DeLillo's observation that our famous assassins are always known by their three names: John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, James Earl Ray, Mark David Chapman. But Wallace was a creator, not a destroyer...except at the very end. You can read more about this tragedy, here and here.

There's a story..not about him, but perhaps he'd appreciate it.

So a dog walks into a bar. Sits down on a stool, neither expectant nor presumptious, and the barman is bent over cleaning his glass on the scrubber and he looks up, asks the dog if he can help him. "No, not right now," the dog replies.

The barman goes back to his glass washing then glances up and a rabbi has come and sat down.

The barman looks at the dog, and at the rabbi, and says, "What can I do for you?"

"Just water for now, thanks," the rabbi says.

The barman bends over his business when his ears pick up a click clock clump thinking at first: this is is a heavy woman in heels. But no, he sees instead a horse. The animal sits on a stool, nods its muzzle but make no other sound.

The barman goes back to his work, then stands, shoves his rag into his back pokcet and crosses his arms across his chest. He looks up and down the bar and says aloud, "OK. A dog, a rabbi and horse have come into my bar. Is this a joke, or what?"

Economic Collapse

The Federal Reserve, which is no more a government agency than Federal Express, has been turned into a big hedge fund that gambles with public money and protects crooks. Home owners will continue defaulting on their loans; just exiting and leaving the keys in the mailbox.

Cities are getting sapped of their real estate taxes, meaning ballooning regional and local deficits and shortfalls for affording basic services like road repair and streetscape maintenance, to say nothing of public schools.

Years of neglect and deregulation by both political parties, and a public willing to go along for the ride heedless of warnings that, to be fair, weren't made wide and public (who listens to caution at the height of the party?) have arrived us at the threshold of disaster.

Washington Mutual is seized and sold. McCain goes to D.C., causes a sound and fury of pointless ruckus, and will now make his appointment at Ole Miss to debate Obama. Perhaps McCain will come across as a canky grandfather and Obama a cool, collected sharp-witted customer. I hope so. But either way, we're just in some serious kimshie. The leadership of this country is demonstrably, in too many crucial instances, crazy and clueless, cavalier and callous, cynical and cruel.

Is this the best we can do? Treasury Secretary Paulson down on one knee begging Nancy Pelosi not to kill the bill? And he having to admit its the Republicans who are the problem? You can read about it here and here. Have Philip Glass score it and Aaron Sorkin write it, and we've got an opera.

Finally, a colleague directed my attention to a hilarious interpretation of Keith Olbermann's "Special Comment." Wonder if this guy was told he looked and sounded so much like him, he decided to go for it.

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