And now, may I present more photographs of the city that never sleeps, especially not at 5:00 pm.
More to come! In the meantime. . .
Writing Prompt: What’s the most magical thing you saw today?
Because I am currently obsessed with art and I had time to kill, the other day I checked out some galleries in SoHo. There was one with some very beautiful nature photographs and sculptures of demon-headed naked men. That was kind of awesome—not sure I’d want to have a demon-headed naked man in my dining room, say, but as demon-headed naked men go, this was definitely top notch. Actually, Mr. Me and I discussed the demon headed men and thought it was too bad our kids were grown up because it would be really fun to put a demon-headed man next to the bathroom and only have a nightlight next to it to amuse ourselves with their middle-of-the-night screams. But then we realized the joke would be on us because they’d still be in diapers. In their 20s.
Then I went to another gallery had all pop art made by two Brooklynites using their “street sensibility” to art. “Taking it to a new level,” the gallery assistant said enthusiastically of the graffitoed pieces of rough wood and stolen(?) street signs and pieces of chain link fences.
But the art really made me scratch my head and say “What the Hell” was the ouvre of Damien Hirst. This apparently very famous and serious artist seems to have commandeered what was once known as a circle and painted a series of pictures of spots. The spots are in various bright colors. Some paintings have one spot, some have nine (I think) or twelve. There was one painting in this series that was offered for the low, low price of $96,000. If you don’t have that kind of cash lying around, there were also two paintings of four dots each for a much more reasonable price. One of them was $3,500. The other was $3,850. I wondered what that extra $350 was about. Was one of the dots more magical than the one in the other painting? They all had names like Biphenol and Arginosuccinic Acid. Maybe that made them worth the price. He also had some drawings for sale that looked as if they were done by a six year old with a spirograph.
Now, dear reader, I am sure that some of you think that $96,000 for spots on canvas is a steal. And, as I consulted my good friend, the internet, later, I found out it was. The price of Damien Hirst’s artwork has been declining in recent years. (see http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/features/hirstonomics-how-damien-hirst-became-a-cash-cow-again-8874714.html). How could I have forgotten that Damien Hirst is famous for, among other things, his dissected-sheep-in-formaldehyde series? Naturally, the artist has a fortune estimated at 215 million pounds, which is like, what 350-400 million pounds in American? (I could check it if I could bear to face the reality). But fret not–some say the value of his work will return. As the Independent’s article said, “Hirst’s retrospective at Tate Modern last year, featuring a rotting cow’s head and the Bristol-born artist’s £50 million diamond-encrusted human skull, attracted 463,000 visitors, confirming that public interest in his work remains high.”
Honestly, I often like modern and abstract art. But it’s hard for me to keep a straight face ( as the workers in the gallery did, to their credit) when I’m looking at paintings of freaking symmetrical spots. I will say I looked him up on the Internets (check out http://www.damienhirst.com/home) and some of his stuff is more interesting than the Spots, although other things seem kind of nonsensical as well. But I do seem to remember a story about an emperor who had no clothes. There’s definitely canvas there. There’s definitely real paint. But are paintings of regular old dinner-plate sized spots really art? I sure as hell hope so. Because I, too, can paint circles. And I could give any of you at least a 50 percent discount on the 96,000 buck painting.
Oh, and I figured out one reason this guy is such a genius. I thought about the one-spot paintings. If you were so inclined to buy one, which one would you buy? Two seemingly identical items, except in different colors. If you bought the less expensive one, wouldn’t you feel subtly ripped off somehow, as if you weren’t getting the best quality spot? And if you bought the more expensive one, wouldn’t you feel a little bit ashamed of yourself for getting a worse deal? Would people know the difference? And if they did, what would it say about you?
Writing Prompt: Imagine the most crazy idea you can for a piece of “conceptual” modern art.
Okay, so on a Wednesday I go to Montclair Library and I’m looking for a Playaway. A Playaway is the bastard lovechild of a walkman and a transistor radio, by the way. They’re these little gadgets that just have one book on them and they’re about the size of a deck of cards. But it’s kind of handy sometimes. However, they don’t work reallllly well and they always have a used AAA battery in them that dies the minute you get it. Like, analogue to the max. Also, I swear to god, Montclair made their choices of what books to get on Playaway by coming into my house and looking on my bookshelf and saying, oh yeah, Emma, we should definitely get THAT, and isn’t Alexander McCall Smith a cozy writer, so we should get one of those, because she has that, too. So basically the few books that were left were a little offbeat. I chose the award winning (what award I do not know)Per Petterson’s “meditative” book called Out Stealing Horses. And I listened to it on a day when I could find neither my wallet nor my cell phone, only had seven bucks, a couple of bus tickets, and a metrocard with about 7 bucks on it. And I had four important appointments, three of them in New York City. Wow, my day is going to SUCK, I think, as I throw two bananas and a diet coke in my backpack for lunch and So, I thought, this is going to be the perfect chance to listen to a book that’s about some old Norwegian guy who lives alone in the woods.
So I go to my first appointment, an eye doctor, and we haggle for 10 minutes about whether I can just bring my insurance card the next time or make a different appointment because I realllllly have to make the 11:30 bus. But before she can call the insurance company and try to verify whatever (even though I offer to pay in check for now), she has to have a nice long Jersey-style conversation with some other woman about the “venues” they’re trying to book for their wedding. By the way, she’s only trying to book venues where they do one wedding at a time. Finally, she made a long call to the insurance company that I didn’t ask her to do, “I’ll pay with check! Really! Or I’ll bring my card tomorrow!” until 11:20 [she just glared at me when I would hiss ‘really! I can come back!’ and then I said, “I’m going to have to leave now.” And she said “The doctor can do the appointments in 10 minutes.” And I said okay. So fifteen minutes later we both ascertained that my vision is wretched—big news– and I ran out of there and it was my lucky day because I drove home, ran to the bus stop, and one appeared immediately. I started listening to the book. A moody Norwegian guy who lived alone in the woods. It was okay for him to live alone in the woods. He liked being alone. Ever since his wife died, all he wanted to do was eat buttered bread and think moody thoughts. He met his neighbor who lost his dog and it brought him back. Did he know this guy from another life? The guy tells him he wouldn’t kill another dog even though this dog was being a bastard. He killed a dog once before. And it was sad.
Then I’m in New York, pacing up and down on the subway platform. Will I get to Dr. #2 on time? I pace back and forth, trying to up my steps on my pedometer (daily goal 10,000 steps) and watching the beautiful multicolored humanity waiting for the bus. Rack up 1000 anxious steps. Moody Norwegian harkens his mind back in alternate chapters to various adventures of youth. Raking hay back in the olden days. Logging. Milking cows with a fetching milkmaid.
I get to Dr. number 2, whose office overlooks the remains of the World Trade Center. That new building, the Freedom Tower or whatever, is shockingly tall now. It used to be so depressing to look into the pit. Change medications by infinetisimally small degree. Then, to save on Metro card etc, have nice long walk from Chambers street up to 46th street (3.6 miles)
More youthful adventures, alternating with unexciting present day reality of old man, like, how he’s going to find someone to plow his driveway this winter. As I pass a million interesting sights going up Broadway, they all turn into a colorful blur as I listen. On the way, I eat my two bananas and drink my lukewarm diet coke. They are delicious.
His father would take documents to Sweden during World War II, rowed by a similarly fetching wife of some other guy. Young moody Norwegian also finds her fetching. Is something going to happen?. I finally see one thing I actually remember as I reach Times Square: a guy dressed entirely in an outfit made of candy necklaces, including a necklace and a hulu-like skirt. I am now past 12,000 steps on my pedometer. Yay!
Physical therapy session is draining, physically and emotionally. Go to McDonalds and use up most of my bucks. Listen to return to present day. Old moody Norwegian pats his dog Lila and drinks some endless amount of coffee. Remembers stealing a horse with his friend, though I’m not sure why.
I take the subway from Port Authority to health support group even though I am so tired I could croak. Sit through it feeling sick. Luckily, another woman has a problem and I know the absolute perfect solution for her. Really, if everyone followed my advice, what a beautiful world this would be. Oddly, other woman doesn’t like my brilliant plan, but I am still astonished at my own deep wisdom. For other people. Also, I get that there is one little nugget in my advice to her that I can use for myself (it’s about rearranging your life in very specific ways to make the best use of your talents and minimize stuff you hate when you have limited energy). Take subway back uptown in the dark, dash up several flights of stairs to bus, wait, listen more. Admire the fact that I have now broken 19,000 steps—almost nine miles—oh yeah, you GO girl. It is almost ten o’clock. Beautiful woman has nervous guy she’s rowing across river. He is making too much of a racket. The Nazis finally figure out what’s going on . . . they race for the river . . .
The bus comes. I sit down with a sigh, lean my head against cool glass. The playaway stops. In its little screen it says something like “nt wrkng.” No shit, Sherlock, I think. I try putting in another battery. It’s been a long time since I used devices with freaking batteries. But no dice. Whatever I do, as I sit next to Mr. How Can I Explain Anything in Urdu On my Cellphone If I don’t Do It At the Top Of My Lungs for the next half hour, I can’t get the $#*@()_)@#$*_ playaway to work.
So, in short, that is my review of Out Stealing Horses. I have not a clue why moody Norwegian guy was stealing horses. I don’t know what he came to understand. I read the back of the Playaway cover and this is what it said:
“67 year old Trond Sander lives a life of seclusion, tucked away in a faraway part of Norway. After a chance encounter with his only neighbor, Trond . . is flooded with memories of 1948. Only 15, he joined his bet friend Jon in a horse stealing prank. But what Trond didn’t know was that Jon was running from an unspeakable tragedy, and the horse thievery was his unspoken farewell . . . .”
WHAT? 1948? I don’t remember any freaking 1948. I don’t remember why he stole the freaking horses. I guess I am the perfect person to give this review because I certainly am not going to give the end away. Now this is going to torture me. For a long time I was like, well of course you’re depressed, you’re living by yourself in an icy wasteland, dude. But then, given the fact that I barely noticed the amazing visual enticements of New York for hours and hours of walking, subway-ing, bus riding and the like while I inhabited this moody world, I guess I actually did get involved with the book. AND, I finished the day with 1. More than a dollar left and 2. Walking 9.76 miles and 22,415 steps.
Writing Spark: Do you ever listen to books instead of reading them? Do you think it’s the same thing or different?