Sunday, November 22, 2009

American Beauty

When the anvil of unconditional love for one’s fellow man drops upon your nebbish little pinhead, the only thing to do is run, not walk, out into the unforgiving world and flit about in it for a while. Harboring a significant crush on the world, walking around town with a grin on your face like a big gaylord propels us forward against the series of disappointments and ennui that is the human condition. These, my friend, are moments of grace, and they slink back to Graceland as quickly as they come.

So in a fit of unbridled stranger love, I hosed myself down, put on pants for the first times in several weeks, and flung open the door of my tenement building. I minced on over to the Metropolitan Museum (no, it's NOT the same thing as the M and M store you fucking retard, alliteration notwithstanding. The M and M store is a Times Square tourist trap, really, you should think before you speak, even in the solitude that surrounds you after having lost all friends and acquaintances due to these fatuous outbursts) and found my love for humanity momentarily extinguished, and then dramatically rekindled by lots of purty pitchers.

Robert Frank’s book the Americans was released in 1958, after two glorious years of bourgeois bohemian ramblings sponsored only by his vagabond wits, I mean, a Guggenheim Fellowship. Frank is from Europe, Switzerland to be exact, meaning that he is "neutral" i.e. hates freedom. Usually, I find it loathsome when foreigners, especially smug Europeans, or worse yet Canadians, take the subject of our great Republic into their soft hands. But oh man I am forced to rescind my comments once again because I felt like this exhibit was made for me! Like Edward Weston’s photographic rendering of Leaves of Grass, Frank’s images could play roadside companion to On the Road. Truly, because they “burn, burn, burn, like fabulous roman candles,” et al. Why did the Beats say everythingng in threes threes threes?

The exhibit is about values. The photos show the pomp and circumstance of the democratic process in political rallies led by union bosses in Chicago, marching bands, boater hats and all. You’ve got the diner waitress as an exhausted beauty, the Hollywood starlet and her adoring public at a premiere. Consequently, the photos also show what Americans do not value. Images from Charleston, South Carolina show a black nanny holding a white infant, and the masthead for the exhibit captures Jim Crow in a New Orleans trolley car. There are flimsy road signs compelling wanderers to repent in open stretches of western split lane highway, trucks hauling migrant workers to the fields, Puerto Rican trannies in Harlem, and hobos sleeping in public parks in Cleveland. Who knew there were public parks in Cleveland?! The only thing missing was Pentecostal snake handlers. I love that. Next time the Met brings me on board as an art consultant, I’ll be sure to mention that.

I tried so hard to restrain myself from whipping out my moleskin reporter’s pad and recording all my brilliant insights for the day.

I resisted doing so during the Welsh mining boys and indigenous Peruvians in bowler hats, two more favorite things. Then I came to the photo of the blind accordion player, and all bets were off.
As I stood in front of the glass admiring the grotesque beauty and journaling (Yeah, I said it, so what who cares?! You judgemental judge, you should dedicate all that judgy energy into practicing the alphabet) about all the contradictory feelings it brought up in my belly, I felt the cumbersome, unmistakable gaze of an unsavory man’s eyes burning into places that should not burn. “Where did you get those shoes?” the smarmy fellow asked. I mean, I was wearing amazing shoes; I can’t condemn him for admiring, but what a homo pickup line, right? Then on to, “Why are you writing? Are you a student?” “No, I’m writing for a publication.” “Which one?” The Paris Review.”

And then I fled the scene of the crime, lest anyone realize that I am pathological. But no matter! This buoyancy was unsinkable, not even the unscrupulous overtures from museum predator could bring me down. I've said it once and I'll say it again: God Bless America!

1 comment:

paris said...

Goodness. Those aren't really your shoes, are they? Mightn't they have something better (at least another color?) at the M&M?

This is yet another in your growing line of awesome posts, lack of snake handlers aside. Now that you know about the public parks in Cleveland, well, perhaps you ought to steer clear.