Simple Ideas

In the Presence of

Blogging | September 3, 2012

Cézanne. I can’t take Valium, but I hear it calms one down. So does this landscape. It’s in the Baltimore Museum of Art. I’ve seen it before, don’t know it’s name, but the effect is always the same. I stand exactly where he stood while painting it, well relative to the canvas anyway. I expect he was out in the scene trying to move the feeling, or in a studio recreating the feeling. But relative to the work, I stood where he stood. And felt something. Maybe akin to what he felt. I think that is the purpose of presence.

I’m in Baltimore because my coworkers are all pussies. They cried like schoolgirls with a skinned knees when the call came out to teach the class I just taught. The truth of the matter is that it is nearly impossible to avoid becoming a self serving bureaucrat in the government. It is the easy route. Suck up to the boss, tell them they are wonderful and then when there is work to be done you cry, cry, cry and avoid work. Some life for these people. I don’t hate them or envy them. It is just sad that they are already dead at such a young age.

Pollack. His painting called Water Birds is not the same painting it was last time I was here. Last time it was the first Pollack I’d really seen in person after watching the documentary on his life. Then it was just a splash. Now it is something different. I see representational elements in the work. ???? How in the world did they get there, was it really random or…I don’t know. And since he drips his work, I’m not standing where he stood. I’m 90 degrees out of phase.

Of course I’ve always been orthogonal to the human race. That is nothing new, but I felt it more looking at Pollack than Cézanne. Yeah, first pass I just saw the flow of the painting. Now there was something else in there…I don’t know.

Nagare. His sculpture time and happiness never gets old. It is the reason I keep coming back to this museum. I thought about skipping the museum and continuing north to see my mom, but there was no way I could not stop by and see this old friend. This is the most distant work. It is off the path in the garden, can’t really get close. And even if I could, he probably did half of the work from a ladder. He worked on a plane that is half a sphere surrounding the stone. I had a very very limited angle. I’ll enjoy this work, but never come close to knowing it the way the creator did.

That is half the point of creating. The consumer only gets the output of the process, the creator gets the output and the input. The guy who wrote the song Pumped Up Kicks talks about writing and recording the song in a day. A day where he really just wanted to hang out on the beach. How close were Cezzane Pollack and Nagare to taking some beach time? How much more great art was never created due to distraction? None of us will ever know. But that’s ok, what we don’t know is already boundless.

Gertrude. Gertrude’s is the restaurant at the museum. It’s flawless. The staff, the food and the ambiance is exactly right. The guy who does the beer list is dead on. Local and West Coast brews, I know half the list and have no worries about the half I don’t. I go for a local pick and it is solid. I futz with the menu a bit as I’m not really hungry, but there are three crab dishes and I like the small plate version. The bartender points me to a different option. It’s perfect. The service never falters, on top of things but not in the way.

Every city has this. Baltimore is not known for its high end. But every city has a high end and now and then I bump into it. I can’t help but wonder if the staff here knows they are as good as they are. Most people over value themselves. And in the food biz, I’m not sure how that plays out. There really is a lot of ‘work’ in this business. While I tend to be a top of my field guy, I’m not a work fanatic. I get there by being a play fanatic who turns work into play. Restaurant work really is work. Making painting and sculpture is incredible work. I don’t have the work ethic to be an artist. It is what it is.

Jobs are for people that aren’t pretty enough to make it on looks alone. I think that is correct.

South Street. I drive down my old street in York, Pa. It was destroyed. The street itself. The houses have always been that way. I see the people and recall the Morgan Freeman line, he was out of work and another black man said "No, no, you have to get a job! If a good looking man like you can't find work, there is no hope for me!". And those were the residents. They were not only at the bottom on dollars, they were at the bottom on looks too. There is no one who will drive down this street and pluck a resident out of here, no shiny knight. I never remember a drug problem in town when I was growing up. You would think this would be the place to escape from. I ran into the drug users in high school. maybe this was below the line where even that escape is possible.

My Mom. My mom has become one with her chair. Much the same way I become one with furniture. There is nothing military in either of our postures. Even the word reclining is too formal. And slouching only applies to standing. But this way of ours combines the best of both worlds, this slouchclining thing where we meld into the furniture. We are, I think, at heart, both furniture. Not in a bad way, but in the way that you expect. Provide a function, not bad to look at, and only way you get into trouble is you stub your toe on us in the dark. Problem is there, we both have this scary high IQ thing going. Meaning nearly everyone that bumps into us is the dark. It's not hard being around mom. She is happy to see me. I fix her cell phone. She is way happy about that. She would like me to stay longer, but I only stay a few hours. I'm not blaming it on the autism or anything, it's more that I just stay for a few hours. It's more like the sunrise and sunset. No explanation. it just comes and goes.

Rest Haven. That is the nursing home where my mom worked for years. It can't still be there, but it is. Nursing homes seem like they are 50 years old even when they are new, so this feels like it is a 100 years old. And it hasn't changed. That can't be right. I just can't. The same bricks can't be there. But they are. Parts of me are fighting hard to make this go away, but the bricks continue to stand piled where they are. I'm not this old. I'm not.

I stop at the gas station next to rest haven. The same 50 year old coffee shop is perched across the street from it. Not a starbucks, a 60's vintage coffee shop with the same sign that was there 50 years ago. There are purple clouds in the distance. I light breeze comes off reservoir hill. It's august, twilight. But it is not steaming hot. In fact, I have no memory of an August day in PA being this perfect. I finish pumping the gas. Mom doesn't have many more summers in her. I wonder if I come back...

I need to go shoot a basketball through a hoop. It's been too long since I've done that. I put too much off. I can't remember when I made my last jump shot. That is something I need to keep with me. I'm not dead, yet. Not at this age.

Me. You wouldn't think that would be hard but lately it is. Even when I'm alone, I'm not always here. Mirrors and ingrown toenails pull me back. But I'm gone, somewhere far...or deep, someplace where I'm organizing the world, making it right. Maybe that more than anything is why I'm here typing this alone. There is no one else in my house. No one else here to put things away in the wrong place, lose my stuff, etc. It is just me, sorting through things I don't understand yet.

It's not as bad as it sounds.


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