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Category Archives: Art

Have you thought about the nature of romance lately? Not rose petals and candles and all that rom-com shit. Romance, that grand, elusive quality of certain intangible… it’s not easily defined, and when one tries, it slips through one’s metaphorical fingers.

It didn’t occur to me until today, but love in and of itself is not romantic, not even romantic love. When someone clarifies love as “romantic”, they usually mean that as something more than friendship, something different from familial devotion. Maybe there’s no better word for it, but no kind of love is really romantic. Love is mostly pedestrian moments- sure it’s a lot of fun, and maybe sometimes there are romantic moments, but most of loving someone “romantically” is logistics and certain enjoyable activities. It’s nothing like romance.

Romance is the essence of the most dramatic moments of our lives. The best kind of love is not this way- certainly, it makes better movies when love is so dramatic that it seems romantic at every moment, but love is so much better when it’s easy.

True romance requires hardship as well as euphoria, because it can have no mundane moments. While we all have difficulties as well as some really amazing ones, romance is being something of a mess all the time. We know when we see it- just look at a black-and-white photo of a puddle on the sidewalk with a red rose or a teddy bear or a rag doll and tell me that’s not romantic. Sad, yes, but still romantic. Smoking a cigarette at a bus stop alone in the rain is another romantic activity. Passionately kissing your lover on a boat in the moonlight is definitely romantic. Think about how many great things are NOT romantic, though. Puppies? Not romantic. Going swimming with your significant other? Also not romantic. Teasing your boyfriend about his nerd cred? Not romantic.

I haven’t posted in this blog in months because I haven’t been inspired to write. I’ve figured out that it’s because I’m a romantic writer. I can only write anything good when I’ve got an intense feeling of romance. And you know what? I’m totally in love and happy, and I don’t feel that vague feeling of elevation unless something tragic happens, like the death of one of the greatest young singers. Otherwise, I just live my life and don’t sit here reflecting on it through the written word. Maybe one day I’ll find inspiration without the emotion, but if I don’t, I think I’m okay without it.

I come from a world of beauty. Everyone else lives in this world as well, but so often they fail to see it. I get up in the morning, and while some people sleep through it, and some people appreciate the sunrise, I notice the beautiful graffiti the neighborhood boys have made on the previously bare white brick wall. I went to the Louvre in Paris, and while nearly a hundred people crowded around the Mona Lisa, I gasped at the amazing Titian works around the back. Truly, I do find the balance and perfection of the Renaissance paintings beautiful, but I find the slightly off-kilter figuratives of the Mannerist era (Bronzino, Greco et al) more appealing.
I ride the public transportation, and although there are many attractive men arriving or departing at every station, I smile at the woman who gives up her seat for an old man or the father playing hand games with his six-year-old daughter. Her smile is always brighter than I think possible except in that moment.
I admire Rhetoric, that refined goddess of the silken oration, the passionately lowered voice, the persuasion of the masses. Lovelier, however, is the raw appeal of Truth; no graceful garments has she. Truth weeps in the gutter, dirty and scarred, recalling her story to anyone who listens. So many pass her by, but stopping to admire her and hear her tales is more than worth it when one finds that her history is more fantastically dramatic than anything one could dream.
I live in the world where “anything essential is invisible to the eyes,” as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry says in The Little Prince. I live in a world where the most beautiful picture might not be of a Hawaiian rainbow, but of a puddle of dirty water, where one’s mother can be beautiful at any weight, where gray can be the most vivid color of all.
I come from the real world, and the beauty is all of humanity, feuding, embracing humanity, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. I am its observer; I intend to be its advocate. Whether as a doctor, a politician, a writer, an art historian, a teacher, a mathematician or something else, I will serve and protect the beauty of humanity. I will serve my world.

I try to describe it. The lurid bliss of freedom, calling to me with its vivid hues and dramatic cliffs which everyone jumps off and either finds that they fly or that they fall flat, just seems ever so much more attainable. I’ve been listening to all this jazz (granted, it’s all by the Seatbelts, but still), and I think something about it is seeping into my moods, warming them, making them more spontaneous, making my spiritual cooking that much more innovative and carefree, laughing at life the way the lady sings. I went faraway and discovered that not only was I desirable, I was more attractive than I liked being. Perhaps flirting is the national sport of France, but I would like to not have to play if I don’t want to, but it was damn hard to avoid. I guess the gentlemen here don’t prefer blondes, but I’m a hit in Europe. Something about dressing myself better makes me feel just gorgeous too. I feel like it doesn’t matter if I lose out with one or two- there are just so many other possibilities just waiting to happen. I feel like I’m good with my money, like it’s nice to have money, like it’s nice to be generous and take my mother out to dinner, to not eat so much just because it’s there. If I’m not hungry, I won’t eat. So simple. I’ll eat a little, but if I don’t want more, I don’t need more. Gluttony is just silly. I feel like I don’t need the fast, cheap, half-assed pleasures of life. I believe in the sensual indulgence in the beautiful, the rich and decadent, but in nothing else. If I don’t really want it, I’m not going to bother. I will never go into a store and feel obligated to buy something I don’t want just because I went to the store. I will only buy something that really makes me feel fabulous, because nothing in my lifestyle should be less fabulous than me. I guess I know what they mean when they say “I feel like a million bucks.” Because I’m getting better at it. Normally I’m the lady singing the blues, and today, I’m laughing at life, not thinking of the ghost of yesterday. Screw yesterday. It can go wank because I’m off to glamourland without it. I just want to go around with a fairy wand in my new Italian suit and bestow good luck on everyone, because I feel lucky. I better not play poker right now, because when I feel lucky, I always bet like I’m lucky and then my luck runs out. So I won’t play poker, because I feel like I shouldn’t waste my luck on poker. I’m going to go off and be productive now, because this glamourgirl isn’t too high-fashion to clean her room. And I’ll do it faster than ever before, you just watch me. I am going to conquer the universe, and you won’t even notice that it’s happening. You’ll think I’m the nicest, most charming, prettiest girl in the world, and you won’t even notice that everything is going along to my scheme for world domination. Oh it feels good to know that I can run the world, even if I don’t. And well, this saxiphone sound is damn sexy. I can indulge in the grunge sound, because even dirty and sleazy can be just so delicious and jaded. There is a disgusting beauty in extravagent living, isn’t there? It’s horrible that people steal all the money in order to have gilded toilets while other people starve, but on the other hand, the gilded toilet is just so pretty. It’s what I hate about pop art. It should be prettier for the amount of decadence it represents- but it’s not. It’s not pretty. It’s just- cool. I feel like the emptiness should be more cleverly disguised than it is- more embellishment, more gorgeous material, more distinction. But it’s not disguised. The rich barely dress differently from the poor. They should. Without luxury, how can you hide the triviality of money? The ediface is what you buy, because you certainly can’t buy the happiness. I really can feel the cool washing over me just listening to this music. It’s from the soundtrack of Cowboy Bebop, which is a beautiful anime, just so full of life and style. I cried at the end. That’s right, I cried over the death of an anime character. Some things are just so sad. I guess sometimes sadness is romantic- there’s something beautiful about it. The problem is that the sadness is not worth the romance or the beauty. Maybe beauty is just not what it’s about. It’s too bad, because I seem to be radiating it right now. I’ll just dream my little dreamy dreams I suppose. Maybe I shouldn’t quote things so much in my own writing, but it’s as good as biting a chocolate covered apricot, it really is. Oh summer fruit. I love summer. The heat, the beach, the long days, the fruit… it can’t be better.

Laugh or cry? Those are the choices. The intensity of the moment demands a response. You don’t just get to sit there and think nothing; that would look stupid, incomprehensive, like you don’t understand the importance, the value of this moment.

Should you cry? Does crying make you look weak? Like you can’t handle yourself? Like you’ve been letting life get to you too much, letting people wear you down, letting them devalue your currency of self? Crying seems risky.

So should you laugh? Do you want to make it seem like you don’t understand the seriousness of human sorrow? Are you a heartless fiend? Are you such a cynic that you find this funny? Are you so beyond caring about people that you find this… amusing? How dare you laugh!

You walk along the gallery floor, trying to look introspective, trying to decide how to react to the painting in front of you without being called a bastard or a hysteric. You try looking thoughtful, and yet concerned. A man walks by you, whistling as he goes; you find it odd that he whistles, odd that you cannot get away with laughing yet he’s WHISTLING as he goes by. And then you realize he’s whistling the suicide theme from Tristan and Isolde. You then wonder, what kind of man whistles operatic funeral music? He wears an incredibly ugly cardigan, but he’s still very good-looking. He’s really too young to be wearing a cardigan like that. Perhaps he’s Mr. Rogers’ grandson. You almost start humming “It’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”, but catch yourself in time to realize how offensive that is. You decide to leave the painting, leave its ironic horror for others to look at. Walking out of the gallery, you are surprised when you reach the outside and the sun is brighter than it is on the sea. You have a pair of sunglasses, but at the moment, you want to absorb the brightness, let it linger on your face, soak up the sun as Icarus did. You spin around with your bag in your hand, arms flying out, smiling, and then laughing… and you hear a whistle, not of the star-crossed lovers, but something happy and cheerful- you can’t quite place it. You look up, and there is the man in the awful sweatervest, whistling, looking at you with inviting eyes. You ask him what he’s whistling. He raises one eyebrow, turns and starts walking. His head looks back over his shoulder after a second, and it tips to show you that he wants you to follow. You pause for a minute, and then do so. He leads you around many twists and turns; although you’ve lived in the city for years, you are in unfamiliar territory-not completely lost, but not sure where you are. Finally, he goes down a flight of stairs, into the basement of an old brick building, a cafe. You even follow him here, dubious though you are by this time. At this point, he walks up to the counter, and his song ends. He says something in a low bass voice, too softly for you to hear exactly what, but loudly enough for you to know that his voice is like a deep pool of melted rum chocolate. He pulls out a chair for you to sit at the table, and then sits across from you. You ask again what he was whistling. He smiles a little and says you’ll have to wait until after you’ve eaten. And after you’ve told him your name. You promptly enlighten him. He tells you his as well. You ask whether he likes abstract expressionism and he tells you that he prefers the European works to the American. You are sorely tempted to ask him about his sweatervest, but before you do so, a beautiful chocolate dessert arrives before you, topped with gelato. You are too busy enjoying it to ask tactless questions, and he goes on talking about the beauty of dada and its nonsensical approach to the world, the artist’s response to the organizational militarism of the war. He asks whether you like graphic novels; you say you like the good ones. You finish your dessert, and you ask whether you will see him again. He says yes; you ask him what the song was. And he tells you it’s the song he made about your smile in the sun. And with that, you depart.

So I’ve decided that as part of my new and spiffified organized life, I’m going to blog weekly. No more of this “creative spurt” business (hahahaha, Zachy, I’m turning into a girl!). So maybe I won’t always be brilliant, but there will always be something.

I had my senior piano recital yesterday. The only one of my friends who could come was darling Katie L, but that’s fine with me. It was kind of scary anyway. I wasn’t as nervous as when I did the Foreign Language Talent Show, and I also wasn’t as nervous as any of my fellow pianists. But it was so different from doing a regular recital with Ms. Queener or even like a school talent show. I suppose it was knowing that I was in front of people who knew what good piano playing sounds like- they all knew one of my classmates, or they wouldn’t have been there. I did all right though I thought.

It’s… strange to me to think of how so much of my life is ending. I’ve been going to piano lessons since I was five. I just basically did the biggest performance of my piano career, since I’m not going to pursue it as anything other than a hobby after this year. I might have a teacher in college, but I’ll never play piano professionally because I’m just not that good. It’s strange to think of all these “talents” that kids take lessons for and they take up so much of their lives- and when they leave home… some of them just don’t last. I remember meeting my cousin George’s wife and talking to her when I was in Florida in 8th grade, and I remember playing her piano. And she told me that she had taken lessons through her senior year of high school and she never touched the piano since. And it was totally inconceivable to me that I would ever be like that, but I know so many adults who did things in their childhoods and just never pursued them further. I also know many people who continue to do things they did as kids, like my uncle and his trombone and my aunt and her softball and Paul O and his tap-dancing, but I’ve noticed they don’t do everything they did as kids. They pretty much have time for one hobby, the rest of their time is spent working.

I know it’s strange for a seventeen year old to say this, but I just feel like there can’t possibly be enough time for everything I’d like to do. I would love to be a surgeon, I would love to work with cyclotrons, I would love to run for congress, I would love to be a singer, I would love to spend all my time restoring paintings or blowing up stuff or helping people get jobs or… everything. And that’s just careers. I think of the things I would like to do as an adult that don’t make money- I’d love to travel the world, maybe do a musical, get a bridge club like my grandma, throw awesome parties for my friends, go camping, learn some foreign languages, go to church every week, raise a couple kids in Alameda, play rugby into my forties, keep in touch with all my family and friends, do proper Christmas every year…

…so how the fuck am I going to have the time to retire and go to Tahoe for a couple months a year and read New Yorkers on the beach? I just think of that and it makes me feel so sad. That was what my dad was going to do, you see. Retire and sit on the beach at Tahoe, reading his New Yorkers. He kept all the ones he didn’t finish reading on time- so we have several boxes of them, dating back from the late eighties. And I just think, we all plan like we’re going to make it to ninety-three. Like we’re going to be able to enjoy everything just as much when we’re little old people as we can now.

Carefree youth. Maybe some people manage that. I wonder sometimes where mine went.

I tried a long time ago to write a blog post about The Sun Also Rises. I never published it, because it just wasn’t very good and it sounded pretty condescending, which is not how I meant it. But I feel like I can really explain Brett Ashley.

She’s not a slut- not by the definition below, anyway. She’s much like the heroine of The Barefoot Contessa– at some point in her life, she thought she had it all. She thought that she had found her one true love, that she could just spend the rest of her life making him happy, giving him kids, giving him her body, giving him everything. And she would have been so happy to do that. If Brett could have Jake, really, she would never look at anyone else. She says to him “When I think of the hell I’ve put chaps through. I’m paying for it all now.” She used to just play with the affections of men, using their libido to support her lifestyle and her ego. And then she met Jake and fell in love with him. And so her total and complete love just built up in her- she just wanted that life where he was her world. She just had all that physical energy for him. At some point his accident shattered her hopes and dreams for the perfect life. I know it’s not usual to say this, I know that usually guys use this as a cop-out for douche-bag behavior, but sometimes girls have Needs too. And Brett has no outlet for them. She can’t give absolutely everything to Jake because he can’t take it- he can’t satisfy her. But neither can any other man because she doesn’t love any other man. His injury killed not only his happiness, but hers as well. So she returns to the life she led before- seducing men because she can- but she can’t take any joy in it because she knows what she’s missing. Brett Ashley is “tired of living but scared of dying.” She’s only alive because she doesn’t want to die- she isn’t alive because she wants to live. She has nothing to live for, but she also has nothing to die for. She’s in a perpetual limbo of mere existance.

And that, ultimately, is really what I think about when I face mortality. I think of my endless possibilities for happiness and fulfillment and then I think of my infinite capacity for defeatism, and I think maybe I’ll end up like her. Maybe I’ll end up like Brett Ashley, or Maria Vargas, or any drunk on the streets, drinking because they don’t want to remember that they’re failing at living.

So that’s why I’m getting my ass organized. Maybe it’s more beautiful and smooth and free-flowing just living my life moment to moment, blogging when I feel like it… but maybe life isn’t about the beauty. Sadness is a beautiful, romantic thing to behold. Ultimately, though, I feel like beauty is such an intangible, fleeting thing, and at the end of the day, it’s just not worth it. Who says that the Mona Lisa is more valuable as a work of art than Mark Rothko’s Number 14? It’s beautiful, but maybe art isn’t all about beauty either. Maybe art is really about life. Why do we study the cave paintings at Altamira, anyway? Why do we study the art of the Egyptians? Is it because it’s beautiful? Isn’t it really because we want to know the painters?

I don’t know. Perhaps I overindulge my rambling tendency. God bless you, you just read over thirteen hundred words.