I really want to get this going....

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Sunday, April 05, 2009


270. VAGARIES AND INDISCRETIONS II - Mr. Borodin and Hands Together (1967, art loft, the flower wagon):

He was a clown but a lackluster clown he was a terror but a poor terror he dealt with sticks and shovels but could not dig a hole and I never wanted to know his name so I never did - one day as I was walking to the far west end of 14th Street to a friend's loft just like that there he was pulling out of some grease-hole parking spot in a ratty Volvo and he smiled over at me and said "Hey Bonko ! Once I was a Swede and I invented Greed and don't you ever forget me or get over that either ! and how you been anyway?" and he was sincere that much I knew so I stopped to chat (I said "how about that!") and I was rolling a tire serenely at that moment down the street towards the loft if I could and I said "this is mine - we're using it for target practice when I get there - the big center hole in the middle is just right for our aim!" and he laughed back and said "what better way to look good!" and I spoke not a word except "speaking of looking good who's the babe who should be mine?" and he looked to his left and said "who her ? that's my new Sally from Oshkosh and she's posing for picture stamps at Roland's Arcade for Fine Art" and I mentioned as an aside that I'd been there before and he stuttered some words about "thought that was you good God" and sped off and I haven't seen him since though I've read his name in a few little this-and-that articles about 'Life in New York' and always do hope to meet him again and life is like that - one grand go-round grand guignol until you meet your own personal devil with his green-gray machete - and then it's coming your way all that way and nothing you can do about that.
And although it was all very strange indeed I let it be and I lived it too - and I mean I'd heard of 'let a hundred flowers bloom' and all that but this was enough to curl the icing on even the most sedate of cakes : and you must see too that going back and forth across midtown like that was always an adventure to me seeing as to how my own personal point of view had become skewed towards the wide-open spaces and non-rigeurs of loft-living and painter parties (14th Street by the way is the longest crosstown street in Manhattan - refer to any map) and painterly types just coming and going at will in their own form and format - dressed like bums or caring nothing about it either way - some were tediously informal while others who'd apparently come from money or of some finer breeding stock of family still bore with them the traces of a certain gentility more appropriate to Connecticut or Westchester or the upper eastside - a sort of noblesse which carried itself along into even the most scurrilous of habits (seemingly out of place) like sexual adventures or repeat yet transient relationships amidst paint-stained piles of rags and turpentined brushes and dripping and poorly-sealed paint containers - these people somehow affected a morality of cleanliness around themselves and even pretended not to notice more so as to be and act the 'truer' bohemian they'd heard of YET no matter what the initial impetus of their personal lifestyles and habits would always come through even if it was simply in the way they'd butter a roll or coat a bagel or drink their coffee - it was always there for all to see : 'you've become a perfect case of crazy' : I was told that once in one of these places by a guy who had a massive bump on his neck and a noticeable limp - none of which stopped him from being cool and hip (like any of those people who utilize their deformities or odd traits to further themselves along on the scale of uniqueness) and both of which came across as totally weird and boho-styled when draped in leather and fabric - he was VERY cool to say BUT Barnum's days were over I always said to myself and as he spoke I was riveted by his presence and just to hear him speak was both forthright and cool let alone hearing his opinion of me : I'd been non-descript enough so that I wasn't sure why he'd said that but then I realized he had in his hands one of my black-bound notebooks (which I'd left as always on the counter nearby) and he'd been reading from it for some time and apparently was taken by what he'd read - conscripted and engaging - enough to blurt out that comment and then he continued "this is some of the fucking weirdest narrative I've ever read and it seems to just go everywhere at a dart-whim's notice like your mind is leading everything along to wherever IT wishes to go - so very great and so very talented too - compliments to you young lad and let me see more!" - I figured 'another fag on the make' too and decided to assume an air of indifference figuring that if Andy Warhol could do it so could I and this guy was effectively silenced by it but he gave me his name card and an address w/phone number to keep and he placed the notebook back where it was found and got up to go but first he took my hand and said "I do know that we'll meet again in much more favorable circumstances for you my friend - Ciao for now!" and he waddled away "Charmed!" I spoke back fortunately unheard for it was actually filled with venom and I couldn't wait to see him fall down the stairway and crumble in a heap at the bottom served him right but it never happened and he got away successfully and without a scratch DAMN! thought I these sorts of people are dangling about everywhere and hasn't ANYONE ever heard of women ! but of course I knew the answer - for there were plenty of them around too but just then I thought back to Richard Meyer at the library and figured if 'vengeance' really does belong to the Lord then what's mine if anything and where do I get it from - but no answers came and the stairway was again creaking with some people who came up to look around and stay put for a while (this was all OK with me it wasn't my loft and I was used to just spending time in places and scenes like this - I figured to wait for the wine or the food or the soon-to-be-proffered pot I was sure but I always stayed aloof and kept away so as to stay straight while they all flopped around and got stupid or dazed) and sure enough right off the bat one of the girls - the one with the black leather skirt - starts grabbing allover this guy she was with and before long she's basically near naked and in his adroit clutches with not a care in the world (nice couch good scene decent view) and the others along with me just ignored it and let go whatever as so many other things were going on : talk viewing art discussing smoking stabbing the air wasting time : and it was like that often in these lofts and painter studios where oftentimes more non-work got done in workspaces that never seemed fully utilized for their intended purposes until much later or in the dark the solitary lunatic artist would somehow manage to get work done in some sort of solitary inspirational moving about with much of the mess from what had just been going on was still all about him or her - it was after all their own spaces and they needn't have cared nor cleaned - SOMEONE would always end up doing it for them.

And then when I got where I was going I put on the record player some Borodin and sat back to listen : wonderful sound those Steppes made for me : and I wondered what would happen too if I just at that moment decided to put my hands together in prayer and pretend to be once again that simple Catholic lad at play somewhere but I didn't - it was after all long past all of that and my personal jokes notwithstanding no one understood any of that anyway (I'd recently attended - in walking by - a church spectacle on St. Mark's Place where everyone brought in plates of food and after a small procession had them blessed by the priest - it was some traditional Polish parish and it was actually called the 'Blessing of the Food' for Easter or something I forget and somehow right after that I sort of swore never to even bless myself again IT WAS THAT WEIRD and without connection to anything even remotely salvageable as human but whatever)...I wondered what could be blessed here (maybe the riotous rabble along the street would do) but such such were the idle thoughts of a rabid Tuesday late afternoon that I simply stayed in place and listened and watched (I LOVE SPECTACLES) and soon enough someone addressed me anew : "Larry Swenson here hi how do you do?" and I smiled back and he said "this is Myra Wranitz and that's her sister Abbie" and I motioned towards them and said "hi nice to meet you" after which I spoke my name and told them I was friends of the artist here and they said they already knew that and had heard of me before and they knew about the Studio School and knew a few people there too and we shared names and mentioned acquaintances and then he asked if I was looking to stay there for a while or did I intend to move along and study further elsewhere and I told them I was really quite happy with things just as they were and that I'd continue and hope maybe down the line for some sort of a break if it ever came and they understood all that and then this Myra person spoke up "we were just sort of wondering what someone like you sees in all of this" and I said I didn't know what she meant but I saw whatever I could and hoped someday to put it all to use and I told her I'd maybe rather just be a writer I'd seen so many things and liked putting them down with other ideas on paper and that with 'art' and paint and such you couldn't just do that and if I ever got a chance I'd really like to find a way to meld the two together into some new sort of broadside art or message painting or something and they liked that idea but then I said it really wasn't my main concern because I wasn't much interested in getting 'lessons' across as they all usually just turn out to be crap-shit politic things and that was pretty useless and certainly not art the Italian Futurists and the Dadaists had already tried it and it was merely a thought that I'd had in passing and they said they could understand that but did I think there was any value in making 'message' art and I said "not for me I don't think and anyway I don't really have a message I just want to keep doing what I do and it's a pretty singular undertaking and you guys all outclass me by far in money talent and education too - I'm just a fringe character" and they smiled and looked at each other saying "but that's where we come in we'd like to move you up a bit and actually we can see you fitting in to something we're about to undertake called '30 Kids Who Matter' and it's to be sort of a traveling hippie troupe of artists and performers we're hoping to take around the country and show at various venues we'll be sponsoring" and at that point I shut them right off and said "forget it NOT interested - you're already trying to make something fit into a form you've pre-ordained and besides that you're looking to make a killing right?" and they said "yes" and I said "that's not what I'm about anyway and I really don't know how you got my name or what you think I'd do for you but forget it I wouldn't fit in and I'm not interested" - (sometimes now as I look back I think that maybe I was the one being a bit shallow and maybe I should have taken in on it and traveled or at least seen what it was going to be about - actually the only thing to have come of it really was a musical called 'Hair' - but that was another story and another place anyway - plus actually it was me who had just given them my name - though they did say they already knew it) and although they may have feigned a disappointment I didn't really think they cared either way and eventually they just left after a little more simple talk and of course it wasn't much long after that the whole silly scene was consumed by hippie-ania and whatever they had in mind was - for all I know - undertaken and finished : needless to say none of it mattered to me at that point : instead I was remembering the scene from the morning all of which was still fresh in my mind - it was a large flower-wagon being pulled by a horse and the driver was hawking the flowers as he slowly plodded his way along the street and the entire scene was almost breathtaking in that behind him as a sort-of theatrical scrim to his movement was a grand tableau of some of Manhattan's most beautiful buildings along Fifth Avenue and the slow clop-clop of the horse's hooves was like a sound-track to the slow movement and the driver's voice and even though I saw no one stopping the cart so as to purchase flowers it was nonetheless an amazing scene - vivid striking and fresh - and it recalled the many times I'd walked slowly through the 'flower district' as it was then called and witnessed the early-morning tradings and wholesale set-ups of any of an amazing and gargantuan display of plants and blossoms - a veritable full palette of color and hue which always somehow reminded me of an artist's color board all jostling with paint and that memory then brought forth another one of the even older funeral corteges which used to go by these very same streets at the turn of the 1800's into the 1900's as one by one the wealthy of old New York died off - the same slow clop-clop of funeral wagons and their attendees walking or riding their way slowly and with much less color through these old streets and I wondered about the presence and the feel of those passages and those wagons and where they all had gone : I wondered a lot you see about a lot of things : but in no time at all there were other people in the loft coming and going and the two on the couch were done (apparently) with each other and now they just rested while others around them wandered at will - this whole 'loft-living' thing may be hard to understand from a distance but these early-use lofts were quite large and quite open and still very 'industrial' in format and here and there they were broken into walled sections or approximate rooms perhaps for privacy or comfort and each of them - whether artist-studio or not - had massive space set aside for work and I'd been to lofts used as movie sets and lofts used as libraries and meeting centers and lofts used as dance halls too and much of it was always the same - the old columns the stairwells and elevators the plumbing and electric most often exposed along the walls and the blowers and fans used for heating and only sometimes cooling suspended from ceilings and brackets along walls and I'd seen blanketed and carpeted walls and lush floors or wooden floors and good windows and bad windows and I kind of loved them all - let's say I never found a loft I didn't like - even the dingiest and most dreary of them and I just found them to be completely interesting and always subtle and attractive and I thought of them as a perfect adjunct to city living in the same way as the most expensive townhome could ever have been and I liked all the garish and jarring industrial use appurtenances and platforms and lightings and coolnesses and concrete and dock-entries and concrete pillars and the old wooden stairways I COULD GO ON for I was fascinated by these lofts.


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