Summer’s hand has finally touched Cold City, which could now be called Green City, in my recent absence back east. I returned this week to the lush fullness of our brief northern summertime after a slow spring has barely left the trees aflutter on my departure. I have, admittedly, gotten shit all done since touching down two days ago, despite a rather extensive laundry list of things to do. My lethargy is partially related to exhaustion, partially to disinterest, and yet another part to distraction. The toggling of lives here and there has me feeling the typical schizophrenic contrasts between Oso Raro, Professor and Master Detective, and Oso R., lover and intimate of Mr. Gordo and friend to a cast of thousands.
I am in a sharky mood of late, which can veer between the comic and the cutting. Borrowing a little from Roland Barthes' Incidentsmaxed out with a dash of insouciantpopidolFrance Gall, both full of the meaningful and boringly banal, let’s have a brief news roundup of recent momenticos large and small—
A Sadistic College ex-colleague, when informed by Mr. Gordo of my upcoming fellowship year at Prestigious Little College (PLC), cooed, “Oh, that’s as prestigious as Sadistic College!” Ahem! Someone has not been paying attention! The reality is that PLC has been first tier for some time, and also has an endowment, two things Sadistic College has never been nor had. I am not one to make too much of these things (and not to get too empirical, in an icky US News and World Reports sense), but the dimensions of self-delusion in which those who drink the institutional Kool-Aid cannot see beyond their private universes and institutional hyperbole remains striking here. The tendency to believe one's own publicity is compelling. Put down the four-colour brochure and look around! Oh Yea!
Don't Throw that Rock, Girl!
Mr. Gordo and I spent a day touring Philip Johnson’s remarkable Glass House, as part of a private event sponsored by his institution (the estate opens this summer to the public). The simplicity of detail and the sparse modernity of the structure, which is much smaller than it seems in photos, was the centre of the experience, although we also toured the property and the other various structures Johnson had designed as part of a total experience. Especially striking was the underground art vault with Rolodex-like vertical flap panels featuring incredibly valuable modern and contemporary art, the sculpture gallery designed to resemble a Greek hillside village, and the crazy windowless twin to the Glass House, the Guest House with a cocoon-like Jacqueline Susann-flavoured bedroom that apparently was the favourite of Andy Warhol. My mind was filled with images of sexual decadence, a whole lotta booze, and endless cigs in a WASP-y corner of Connecticut, very Ice Storm-ish, which is also so what is old is new again.
Fame (of a sorts)!
Remember my panel of friends? Apparently, we’ve gotten an offer to put together a collection based on the panel. Or as La Gamine put it in an email today: “We're superstars! Well, we're on someone's radar...” It’s a small fame, but you take it…
Bub-bye! If one believes in reincarnation, he’ll come back as a toad, or perhaps a flea. Not to be too heartless about it, but good riddance to bad rubbish! (Greater eloquence here and here)
L’art des Geeks
Went to see a friend’s work at a year-end show for an information technology grad programme in Big Eastern City, which only reasserted the dominance of technology over content. Not only was it packed to the walls with people (it was hot, and not in a Paris Hilton sort of way), more than half the projects featured noise, movable parts, digital imaging, or a lurid combination of all three, which meant the demonstrations were as cacophonous and busy as the glistening crowd surging through the hallways. Boyish, masculine, gendered energy filled the spaces, aggressively asserting technology for technology’s sake, divorced from meaning or rationale: Boys and their toys. Damn, I coulda had a V-8! My friend’s work, on gender transformation, was in a quiet room full of thoughtful, perhaps overly esoteric, projects without moving parts. She related that because her project involved some thinking and content, it was labeled by her fellow students as “political.” What a statement on where we are today. The whole thing reminded me of an episode of Absolutely Fabulous, where Eddie goes to buy art at a notable gallery, and when the attendant begins to show her serious work, she claims gauchely, “No, I’m interested in work worth hundreds and thousands of pounds!” To which the attendant says, “Oh, why didn’t you tell me,” and leads her to a gallery full of the most ridiculous and stereotypical art that falls under the popular notion of contemporary art. There was a bit of that striving, pastiche-like quality here: spinning mannequin heads and neon tubing, computer images and post-irony irony.
Went to see the Global Feminisms show at the Brooklyn Museum with Mr. Gordo and Big Sis, a hot mess! This show has been generatinga lot of controversy in the art world, but my feelings were ambivalent (I need to see it again). The galleries were horribly laid out, making the show overwhelming with little chance of reflection. Some of the pieces were compelling, but contextually the whole show seemed ongapatchka, trying as it was to include any and everything. There was, of course, Judy Chicago’s canonical The Dinner Party, which had a mausoleum-like second wave effect in terms of its very simplistic representational politics. The crowds seemed mostly there to see Chicago’s work, and perusing the various place settings in the silent and worshipful queue was like attending mandatory chapel. Global feminism(s) is a hot buzzword now, but without a stable definitive context. In this, it risks becoming another trendy catchphrase that is meaningless but marketable. Also, let’s face it, organizing anything around race, gender, or sexuality on such a public scale is a thankless task. There’ll always be naysayers and critics who are laying in wait to rip off your wig and kick your butt, like the tough chola girls at my high school, sneaking mota in the bleachers, teasing their hair even higher, and perfecting the art of thick applications of eyeliner and purple-black lipstick. The trick is to become the chola!
La Donna recently told me, in the context of planning a visit, that she plans to decamp from Montréal to Calgary to work as a waitress (or maybe a high-priced call girl, not sure on this point) over the summer. Not sure of the wisdom of this strategy, but maybe she’ll find a cowboy and live happily ever after. After all, she should get something for a hardship post in Calgary.
Beware the Wash-and-Wear Wedding Dress
One of the reasons I have gotten nothing done since returning to Cold City is that La Vicky has been in town, courting her new love objet, a haimische Lutheran boy-turned-Jew with frosted tips (Conservative: Oh Mary, don’t ask!). I’m happy for her and all, but I have always been a little more cautious in my approach to a new relationship, whereas La Vicks, in her enthusiasm, has already adopted, after two extended dates, the nomenclature of obsequious love, with little nicknames like honey bun, love bucket, and the like. Dinner with those two was like needing an insulin shot after a couple of gallons of Häagen-Dazs washed down with 2-litre mega-bottle of Coke. I would like to think that Mr. Gordo and I are more constrained, but perhaps this is a misapprehension. In any event, it was fabique having La Vicks at my fingertips, literally just around the corner, as we cavorted from IKEA to café to restaurant and back to IKEA, although I know if she lived here full time neither of us would get anything done, we’d lose our jobs, and would have to become high-priced call girls in satin mini-shorts and Lucite heels. Not pretty! Although La Vicks has more of a chance at becoming the Mayflower Madam, via the Niña, Pinta, or Santa Maria, to hear her tell it (I would venture to say there was one or more indigenous villages strewn in someplace between Seville and Texas). The Pinta Puta, anyone? Anyone?
Quiet Afternoons a la campagne
This afternoon I drove out to the distant outskirts of Cold City, in fact beyond the outskirts, for a leisurely lunch with a older colleague, afterwards retreating to her home for Diet Coke and gossip. Her house was exactly how I pictured it would be, much like her: well lived in and comfortable. Her teenaged daughter worked on Sudoku while we sat outside on her enclosed porch and smoked cigarettes, the pool under a leaf cover, her menagerie of cats and one dog moving around the tchotckes and bric-a-brac that reminded me intimately of my great aunt’s house, a favourite place of mine growing up: vases of dusty fabric flowers, the various detritus of suburban life. The front room was a wreck of things: books, mismatched furniture, magazines, throws, papers, remotes, frilly curtains. With all the working class aesthetics, it was a home full of love and comfort, and if not exactly Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe, was a wonderful reintroduction to social life in Cold City. Afterwards, I took the opportunity to wash the car and shop at the local Target, calling La Vicks on the phone to report, amazingly, that Kiehl’s had hit the heartland!