16

DP234401The psychiatrist on the 16th floor has a small black fluffy dog.  She lives and works in this impossibly glamorous building which is, past its prewar lobby and doormen, quite shabby: tape holding down wires to a camera, the land line, the floor is worn, the furniture moved in about 1970, never moved again.  This time I didn’t see the dog, but I did see that in her narrow bathroom, the towels say, “Buckingham Palace.”

I was forty minutes early for my appointment with her and I went around the block to eat a slice of pizza and drink a bottle of water, shitty cheap mealish activity.  All real pizza places are equally shitty, with the worst pictures in the world, and dirty like at night they turn the place over and stomp on the walls and the ceiling to complete the look.  I pulled off my boots and stuck my feet in the backup shoes.

The psychiatrist said, “That sounds very challenging.  I’m sure when the kids are done testing you, things will get easier, and you’ll really be able to help them.”

I said, “Oh, I think so.”  I always reassure other people I am all right, even my psychiatrist.

I actually was all right.

In the elevator going down, the man who runs the elevator and makes sure I don’t run rampant around that building said hello to the French couple who got in on 11, and then the lady with the dogs who got in on 8.  Instead of assiduously pretending we were alone, as he does with every-three-months me, he was all friendly and the French lady said, “These are wonderful dogs!”  Then we were on the first floor.

I spent my break fantasizing about never working this hard again, and I came back to school and saw the kids again, and, oh, these are my kids.

 

Last night I dreamed I was wandering all over trying to get this one class finished to get my master’s degree finished, because I was on my way to the party, and I had had too much to drink, although there was no wine at the party either I was on the way or I’d already been, and I had my cat with me, very inconvenient, I lived past the war monument in a desolate neighborhood.

Today I took the train a long way, and I was walking up, I didn’t recognize the stop, and I thought, what if when I go up, everything is different?  What if now the Union R station is on another planet, or everyone is Japanese or it’s all pink or there are mountains?

It was just that I am used to the Coney Island bound side of the tracks at Union, not the Manhattan bound side, both have the same tile pattern, sort of India Indian.

Today I left school to get a cup of coffee, and I saw my millionth young man with a beard, and I thought, the day is coming, all the men will shave off all their beards, and we’ll see their faces again.  What they all look like.  It’s coming closer and closer.

Image: “New York City” by John Marin, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Windows

windowHorrible pink and gold in the Chanel windows right now.  Very sad because “Chanel” is my favorite, probably because of the sound of the name, the same reason I like “Jameson,” truth be told.  My therapist’s office is on the upper east side, one of the fanciest neighborhoods in America.  My walk back to the subway is down Madison Avenue, past Chanel, Michael Kors, Chopard, Oscar de la Renta, Fred Leighton, which I know from magazines and watching the Oscars.

Some of the windows have mannequins with stuffed animal heads or other accoutrements intended to look whimsical, only succeeding in making me sad.  I don’t walk down such a street and look at such windows to be amused but to be enchanted.  It is the Oscar de la Renta windows I love most.  I resisted this notion because Oscar de la Renta reminds me of Nancy Reagan.  What are you going to do, though?  I have realized now that when I am rich (hopefully never), or a rich man wants to dress me (which frankly would come with its own awkwardness but we’re fantasizing here), it will be Oscar de la Renta for the one time dress.  And wool skirts and pants in very soft wools, the best tweeds, no, what am I saying, I will have those custom-made, a-line, knee-length, beautifully lined, pockets.

My therapist said (gloriously New York), ‘So it’s not that men are afraid of you, it’s that you’re afraid of them.” I was paying her to say things like that.  To say that you are afraid is to set the table for eating the fear.

I sat across the table from a student who was writing a paper and said, “Sometimes people think of an introduction as setting the table,” and he looked at me blankly.

I don’t like how empty the fancy shops are.  It is funny that they have security guards, always, doormen, maybe they are, who stand around all day and make sure that the wrong sort of people don’t come into the shop.  I wonder how they work there and take such long train rides home to wherever they are able to afford to live and don’t feel fretful about the gulf between them and the people they see, maybe it doesn’t bother them, maybe they are philosophical about it.

The windows are still beautiful, especially the ones with real diamonds and emeralds set up.  They are so sparkly they look fake.  When I saw the crown jewels in the Tower of London, I just thought, how tacky.  People didn’t know sparkly plastic or mylar then.  Sometimes the jewels have been put away for the night and there are only empty cream velvet necks displayed behind the perfect glass.  I am walking downtown to the train, down from the talking cure that I have finally got around to formally undertaking, or perhaps I am just paying to talk to someone without worrying that what I say interests her or how it makes me look, either way is good.

This is not a fear one can throw oneself against, like flying alone to Paris or committing to the maybe boyfriend one already has or moving to one’s favorite city, which is the good news and the bad news.  The fear that exists of things that have not happened, that fear can fester like manna did when it wasn’t eaten.  It is not as if I can make someone beloved by me to face my fear of him having such power over me, that is, of someone having that kind of power over me again.

When I was nineteen and in New York for the first time as an adult, a friend and I used to go on tours of “rich New York.”  One stop was the Plaza Hotel, where we made it up in the elevator to the ballrooms to look around.  The flower arrangements were bigger and more lavish, otherwise it was unmemorable, like any hotel ballroom with that weird carpet.   Five years later she would be staying in the hotel, for one extravagant night, her wedding night.  I would cry in the bathroom because no one would ever love me, and someone would pound on the door of the bathroom stall and say, “Are you okay?” and I would feel even worse.  I was okay, it was a nice wedding.  The Plaza Hotel is no longer a hotel.

I told therapist I had a bad panic attack on the subway, that going under the river on the train suddenly, for no reason, terrified me, and I bolted at Wall Street and paced and took a pill and walked and walked staring at the sidewalk, not looking up at the raininess or the fog until my brain settled, until I felt better and got back on the train and went under the river.  I didn’t feel she was terribly impressed by this, in fact, as I was telling it, it was sounding less extravagantly crazy than it seemed at the time.  “You still take the train?”  “Oh, sure, every day.”

I could be so much more interesting.

The Bloomingdale’s windows right now are curtained.  Behind the curtains, the show is going up.  Last winter, it was country by country, a Paris window, a London window.  A pink Eiffel Tower, a red and blue London Bridge.  Last year I tried to photograph them, but I didn’t try very hard.  There were moving elements, and it was dark.  I wanted to show people back home, but maybe they didn’t care to see them anyway?

Image: Portrait of a Woman with a Man at a Casement by Fra Filippo Lippi, the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

Chelsea, 19th Street.

IMG_1822The gallery is upstairs,” she says.  It was PSAT day, thus I had a moment to flit away from school and look about.  I love the PSAT even more than I did when I took it and it led me to be offered lots of money for school which I was too young and foolish to take.

Up and around the corner of this Chelsea gallery, and it sounds like merry-go-round-broke-down is about to come off its tracks.  What?  Around another corner, and “Metal” is the piece: two guys sitting on a slightly see-sawing contraption, hitting blocks of wood.  I thought they were just making music, but they were pounding gold into a thinness to be used on sculptures for the artist in the future.

There are other people in the room: four people playing madly on various cymbals.  They stop when there’s a loud gush from a speaker, and they start setting what look like tiny pink vibrators next to or inside the cymbals, to make them play on their own.  There was a score, they were doing things I didn’t understand, but they had a plan.

The walls have words painted, including: muscles.  And some letters, epistle-type letters, in French.  I sat for a while as this madness went on, until the clangy banging was enough.  I get quite a bit of that riding the subway.

IMG_1824At Marcel Dzama’s show I didn’t love taken-apart cases of stuff so much like Marcel Duchamp’s boxes, even with little painting trading cards, one dedicated to Duchamp, with chess pieces, but they looked only pale imitations to me.  They just made me miss Duchamp, one of my loves.  I much preferred Dzama’s dioramas, which had witty paper people prancing around heavier sculpted heads.  And his wall of video, which showed a dance battle against dead chess pieces, led by zombies in black and white polka dots, which I also happened to be wearing when I watched them.  I danced a little, when the one other woman in the gallery had gone around the corner.

My last stop was Gallery Shchukin: Russian work from my favorite era, early 20th century.  Loose, humorous drawing of dogs in Constantinople (who knew they had dogs there?) a couple of Kandinsky’s pieces I liked just as well as any of his work, not too blurry or out of control as he got later, he still allowed himself some sharpness.

IMG_1836A brilliant collage piece  by Aleksei Kruchenykh with amazing water stain, dust spots, bow tie shapes and basketball hoop shapes working so well together.  1915, what a great time for art.  And the most gorgeous drawing of Paris I’ve ever seen, by Mstislav Dobuzhinsky.  Probably the red on the boats did it, not just the perfection of the scoops of boats and bridge arches and how they live together.  He’s pretty great, and more of his stuff is here.IMG_1830

Top image is also Marcel Dzama, as you may have guessed.

Marcel Duchamp on Artsy

Jeff Koons at the Whitney

 

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I hated the Jeff Koons show. It felt like he went out of his way to make things I would not want to look at. I thought I was so open-minded about what I would look at, what I could enjoy. I am sometimes bored, sometimes uninterested, in an art museum, but I have felt so get-me-out-0f-here as I did at the Koons show.

Let me stop here to say: I am remaining true to my “if you can’t say anything nice” motto.  I am not at all saying the show was bad, or the work was bad.  Men in suits who work in finance are also not right for me, and they are not bad.  Orange juice and beer and pugs are not for me, either.  This is only about my reaction, and no one should take that too seriously, including me.

There is this play-doh mountain, which sounds delightful, but the fringed edges of it, just the way you pull play-doh apart and it frays, and the color, and the way the shapes are so poop-like, it made me so sad.

And ads, ads, ads,why ads, the horror.

I wanted to at least like or be interested in something that said, “Moses,” which is a portrait of Michael Jordan.  Not even Biblical allusion could get me.  Moses.  Right.  Basketball players leading.  Yeah.

The taupe and beige Michael Jackson-and-Bubbles sculpture.  Oh, God.  The taupe and beige, the shininess!  Was I a Puritan?

Is there some place we could be?  Is there somewhere Koons and I could talk?  The vacuum cleaners.  The way he placed them up on lights, lovely.  There were some flowers looking at themselves in mirrors forever in octagonal bounces, and a telephone looking backward and forward at itself that I thought was pretty great.  An Incredible Hulk as pipe organ, okay.  A giant Popeye, why not?

I like shiny things, too, I kept thinking.  He loves his stainless steel, I love black patent leather shoes, so, so much.  Why can’t we get along? And: to figure out things about myself that I didn’t know, like where my aesthetic enjoyment ends, it ends right there at what I think “tacky,” what I think “unoriginal,” what doesn’t fit me at all, which for me is not Warhol or Damien Hirst, but is, I can definitively state, Jeff Koons.

I sometimes stop at a painting I don’t like, I don’t get, and I force myself to look at it a while, to get something out of it, to learn from it.

You learn the most from people who drive you crazy, people you hate, if you can get going that much (I can).  I hate the woman painting by William de Kooning at  my home museum, the Nelson.  I have always hated it.  Not like, I don’t get it, force myself to look at it, but just hate.  Resent.  What is it doing there?  The scrawling of it.  It reminds me of the Cy Twombly show I saw at the Pompidou Center a long time ago.  I didn’t hate that, I just didn’t like it much.

The Koons show pushed me too far.  I would like to think of myself as a very cultured and open-minded person, I enjoy lots of wacky art, but I learned how far was too far, and I still don’t know quite what to do with that knowledge.

I didn’t force myself to stay with the play-doh mountain or the Michael Jackson sculpture, or the basketballs in tanks.  Maybe it was because it was too close to my birthday, and my tolerance for extra discomfort is low?  Maybe you can’t force yourself to be ready to learn from things.  Maybe that day was a preview of what I could, or will, learn from Koons.  I used to have no interest in Warhol, but I got there.

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play doh mountain