I know that many of my paintings are ready for the landfill. If a friend thought there was a good one to be picked from the pile, I would cringe at the thought of it hanging on her wall. I feel the same about the majority of paintings I have sold or given away. I daydream about sneaking into houses and stealing them back. The older I get, the stronger the yearning for anonymity, with just a sprinkle of renown to pay for more paints.
I have a computer to help document the enormous archive of basement art. One day I will publish a catalog of stored work and put it in my box of memories. Then I will set the whole lot on fire, take off my shirt, dance, howl, and watch it burn. Today, for lack of wide open land to bonfire the oeuvre, and no desire to release a trillion microplastics into the atmosphere, I’ll take my unwanted art and paint over it. (I’ll take yours too if you’re cleaning house to abandon your past).
Which is what I plan to do this week and use for my entries into the The Cooperstown Art Association’s 86th Annual National Juried Art Exhibition. I got in last year, which was big news for me. Though I didn’t win a prize, sell a painting, or spread my name. Who remembers names these days anyway? So, as is par for the course, big effort in art is most often like digging a French drain at low tide to keep the Atlantic away from dry sand. Maybe I’ll change my entry theme (see video) to the title “The Futility of Spring”.
The first one off the shelf was a 30 x 40" painting I did last summer during the Amy Coney Barret nomination for the Supreme Court. Supposedly, she is a devout Catholic (yeah right), and people with and without uteruses are very concerned about the Justice’s stance on Roe V. Wade, which is archaic, biblical, and patriarchal. As if any human being could force another to replicate or not replicate cells in her own body.
Barret’s just another Honorable Justice Jill in a high Kangaroo Court. In 1857, Chief Justice Roger Taney cleared a path for the greatest idiot nation to officially begin picking its own scabs to death. His “supreme” decision about Dred Scott (and the same from six of his unwashed colleagues) was impetus to slaughter a couple million people at home and abroad, and legalize the longest stretch of terrorizing racism the world has ever seen.
I do not recognize the institution she applied for. It officiates national justification rather than justice. Its politicizing and hypocrisy is well documented. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. So I made this painting:
How dare we continue to allocate morality to these monsters of ambition! The Supreme Court is the institution most responsible for perpetuating horrors like racism and gross economic inequality. It claims the power to end all forms of discrimination—just like that! But chooses not to. Ambitious hypocrites. The more powerful, the most horrible.
Here is my redo. I kept her crazy eyes and gave them to Jesus:
It’s an analogy. People who downplay the dangers of coronavirus are like those who imagine their Christ to have baby blue eyes. Although I am terribly biased, the statistics might actually corroborate. The Bible Belt aligns with Trump politics (bigotry), aligns with refusal to wear masks. It’s likely that the majority of Oklahomans imagine Jesus looks more like a young Swedish Santa Claus than Syrian refugee. I kept the crazy Justice Barrett eyes, for Christ already knew while preaching the Sermon on the Mount that it was a futile attempt to codify a higher power. And it must have made him feel crazy in the head having to explain a Golden Rule to a bunch of science denying idiots.
It’s Thursday morning, and I will have finished three, not six, as previously hoped. I will pick recent, frame ready work for the other three entries. The painting at the top was reworked from the following, of which I only have a grayscale record:
The third reworked painting was taken from a reject from long ago. The old and the new:
I don’t know if I like either of them. Time will tell.
Finally, the remaining three which I will upload for the juror’s consideration.
[Big note added Friday morning: I must have been out of my mind when I read the prospectus. Only two paintings may be submitted per entry—not six. The new cannabis law in New York has got me eating pot cereal for breakfast.]
Finally, for business and getting rich, I’ve published the second edition of Fish Are Very Capable of Destroying the World. Just Don’t Tell Them, OK?
And a sample to deepen the pockets:
Dealing With Kale
Why not write about nonsense? Very few books on the shelf are dealing with the subject, and the few that are, the very few I believe, do not get down to the heart of the matter. “The heart of the matter” is a good example of nonsensical phrasing. Much more to come in the following paragraphs. Oops! Nonsense again. Oh well, for creation’s sake I’ll keep language at a constant K, just so I can have a little fun and put a smile on the good fellow reading my book. Hopefully he’ll get off the page soon and close his sleepy eyes.
First of all, what is nonsense? For an answer, we have to understand sense. Negation of sense is nonsense. The dictionary says that sense means “running after the bus if you miss it”. Oh no, that’s nonsense! The dictionary doesn’t say that. Yet if the dictionary said anything, it wouldn’t make sense. Who or what is the “it” in “it wouldn’t make sense?” So you understand why I must keep language constant? For any communication that uses language as a means to communicate is nonsense. Really. It really is. What is the it?
Exactly! Now let’s get down to business.
My business is kale. I don’t sell it. I don’t store it. I pinch a leaf off the stalk and put it on a plate. After setting on the plate for three to five seconds, I put a two to four inch piece of cut cantaloupe on top of it. I push the plate over to the cook who needs it. I will not tell you what he does with it. That’s his business. My business is kale. I get paid a very handsome wage beginning my work at three in the afternoon and ending around eleven at night.
I dabble in parsley. The fresh stuff. I chop it very fine, wrap it up in a clean towel, water the towel, and squeeze the green out of the parsley. A little sprinkle on top of a broiled piece of fish—you’re beginning to understand why I get paid so well. Kale and parsley. Very delicate. Behind me is an aluminum tub of oil, thermostatically controlled. Set at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, a fillet of fish mixed with a little flour, salt, white bread and egg water makes a very delicious dinner, if cooked properly of course. I dip the breaded fish into the hot oil and wait until the fish floats. Viola!
Yes, absolutely! I am underpaid.
Now, Just To Fill Up Five Blank Sheets of Paper...
I am not trying to fool anyone. I’m not a writer. When I write, I am a writer. Just as a man is a golfer when he’s golfing. Everything we do is recreation if we’re not getting paid. Doing the dishes makes one a dishwasher. Peeing, I am a peer. What are you doing right now? “I’m petting my dog.”
“Oh. Obviously you are a dog petter.”
Not just people, but every living and dead thing is in the act of recreation, if it isn’t getting paid. If the dog jumps through a hoop, it’s a hoop-jumping dog. Yet when he jumps for the treat on the other side of the hoop, he won’t know what he is until he takes the treat and walks away. Then he’s a dog-walker.
Everything is recreating. The cat, the rock, the wind. Are they doing that for money? Ask the wind to blow for dough, and such a miserable steady storm! Some catnip for the cat. Now what can you make him do? Absolutely nothing! Be a cat-feeder or starve him, for, like the wind and every other thing in the universe, he’s wise to creation, and very wise to the disease that eats at you.
If I could just turn off words and eradicate speech! I despise my articulate self. But I am not getting paid. This is my recreation, so I’m not afraid to use a word I do not understand. I’ll use it to help you to remind me to pet the cat and walk the dog, to be free, and to feel again. Here it is:
Psychoanalysis. If I was getting paid, I would know this word. I am not so lucky. I am not smart. I like myself very much, but not many people get paid for just liking themselves. Modesty is a word. You should see how squirrels grapple with that! Modest squirrels. A civilized, modest squirrel sitting in a slow-rocker, smoking a pipe. An analyst squirrel listening to me whine and bicker with my schizoid self. “Ah-em, Mr. Throop. Your half hour is over. Five acorns and a chip please.” Then floop! Out of the chair and into a tree for a dose of recreation; maybe a round of golf.
One life, or an infinite number of lives in one. I don’t want to fool anyone. I want to fill up five blank sheets of paper because this morning I am a writer. I am the greatest writer! I even have an office. I am wonderful. I don’t receive a penny for my efforts. Tonight I will make nine dollars for an hour of ripping kale off a stalk. But that’s not all I do. Goodness no. I also deep fry French fries, zucchini, crab cakes, and calamari. Yesterday, a very nice man asked me what I do. I told him that for pay, I cook in a restaurant. If I told him what I really do, he’d think I was the most arrogant ass he’s ever met.
A Bird is Naked
This nonsense is a kicker. Right now I am stopping to put my finger to my lips. “Ubba-baby-bubba-ubba.” I don’t want to get naked. I look good enough in the dark. Like a tall Tom Cruise. Nonsense isn’t lunacy. Let me explain. Is there any sense? Do you know how silly human beings look? Not to me, I’m human. But to a bird? But to a bird sounds funny if you take it out of this paragraph and repeat it to yourself over and over on a walk to the store. But to a bird, everything we do has got to be nonsense! Otherwise the poor bugger covers his genitals with a wing, and all his soarings in the sky are just worried, embarrassed getaways.
I’m tired of being a man. It’s asleep all the time. It thinks itself crazy for crying at the moon. It doesn’t really believe the sun is what it is. It doesn’t care. It doesn’t know. It doesn’t feed its young. It thinks. Then it is scared. And then it gets dressed.
If tonight I answered every question asked of me with the reply “a bird is naked,” how long do you think they would keep me behind the kale? Not for long I’m afraid. Put a semicolon between “long” and “I’m,” and you’ll begin to understand the problem of “no nonsense”. Without it, you’re a slave. With too much of it, you’re arrested. In a goofy world called earth now, but “home” then, a young man asked an old man if the latter would teach him the meaning of life. “Certainly,” said the old man, “Five nuts and a chip please”. Upon payment, the old man asked the young man to take off all his clothes. The young man, although perplexed, obeyed the command. “Now flap your arms up and down, and repeat five times fast, ‘I love worms.’”
Again, the young man did what he was told. When he finished, the old man turned around and walked back into his hut. The young man waited patiently, but after quite some time feared that something bad might have happened to the old man. He walked to the door and knocked. It opened. The old man took one quick look at the young man and yelled, “Ah! A naked bird!”, and ran screaming into the forest.
What is the point? Well, it’s a place to jump from when logic gets just too damn sad. And anyway, who gives a tweet about the meaning of life? Today’s old man doesn’t accept nonsense. He lives for it. He breathes it. He feeds on it. It is everything imaginable to him, and yet he doesn’t recognize it. I wish that it made him look like a fool. I wish that after all, he would get on all fours and color the neighborhood with sidewalk chalk. I wish I wasn’t so sleepy, but it cannot be helped. A bird is naked. A bird is naked. A log with a saw and some z’s.
Old Letters From a Tea House
Marie received practically a letter a day while we were courting. What year is it? I live in America on a planet that does not exist in time, so I can write “courting” even if such a word is years out of style. You could write it too if you weren’t so terrified of your freakish self.
Anyway, we courted for two years, and upon engagement, the regular letter writing ceased. Why? A simple twist or turn in our life’s pattern. Fate, however, had nothing to do with it. Seasons still changed on time. Birds and worms continued to do what human beings have no idea what they do. The letters stopped because we got a house bought for us the day we were engaged. A very nice gesture, even if it was the worst mistake. A good deal too, if one was willing to put his life on contract. An indentured servant to an inanimate square. Actually, two squares. It was a big house.
The floors were old and sinking. We went down into the basement to jack the joists up. My back and lungs broke, but most unfortunately, my heart sank.
However, that is not the story I have to tell.
No, I’m writing about courting, but strictly in the imaginative Japanese style. The days of slow cooking, long walks to nowhere, and the pungent stink of moss and pine—even if they existed only in dreams. Days of peace without worry, and nights taking hot baths and eating soup and bread. The love-making lasted from the wonderful night she let me walk her home—I tore a rose from its bush and gave her the flower and my blood—until the first day I used a cat’s claw crowbar. For two years I kept to a regimen of letter writing that if left unchecked for a man’s lifetime would not only fill fifty volumes of useless love scribblings, but certainly keep her desire and longing at a healthy constant. At least that was my heart’s hope. Because what a man should desire, provided he wants to take a mate, is a never-ending sixth grade playground of the mind. You want her. But try to remember when you wanted her more than anything in the world.
Almost every day, for two years, my letters to her arrived. So many letters. If I hadn’t a stamp, I’d draw my own and postmark it from the teahouse, which was wherever I happened to be alive at that moment. From the leaky hovel on West Fourth Street, or resting in a tree’s shade on the riverbank, Marie was sent a piece of me whether she liked it or not. Each letter bearing my mission statement: Our lives are a very compelling story... And then a stream of words about “love, hope, sex, and dirty dreams” from a man who felt and did not care.
I think she liked them. Unless it was her desire all along to make me a carpenter slash plumber slash electrician, designing and constructing her house and my tomb.
I wrote letters. Dear Marie... Love Ron, Tim, or “Gary the wanderer”. How easy to leave a love letter a day. Just one. Ten minutes or two hours of my time. The critics may snicker and complain. They might jump me in a back alley and bludgeon my skull. They can laugh, laugh, laugh and ignite me in a pool of gasoline. But just one letter delivered, left in a book, secretly, or openly tacked to a door, is a determined reminder to ourselves that life has something more to say. That it will always get the last laugh no one denies. Yet to pretend that you’re one up on life, that it will not continue for the rest of them without you, is a game worth losing over and over again. I am a first rate loser. I love to lose! What is a truck load of sheetrock, two boxes of screws, and a promise of a month of back-breaking labor going to get me? No doubt in this letter-writer’s mind, an unhappy, hopelessly neurotic spouse who might just hate me behind her lovely smile. Yes, pretty painted walls to replace the letters. Decorative crafts to stand out stark, and our love-making gone to sleep. Bills get put into a bill drawer, or stuck in a rack made strictly for that purpose, and nobody hopes for Japan again.
Ah, but a letter? Two letters? How about fifty thousand? Why are the men so frightened? Where the hell did I think I was going? I still have an immense debt to pay to her. I have more than an inkling of admiration left for her body and heart. Letter writing, gift giving, shoot!—Just patient, loving thought to the person you hope to spend the rest of your life with. So much more than art, than job, than money. Wind and sun and love—all are still incomprehensible. It’s cowards and devils who are finished with those things. The number one reason why home center trucks clog our city streets, and electric drills sound off the summer morning. A walk over mountain, bridging stream and boulder with your staff... Frighten grouse, friend of deer. The forest is drenched with last night’s rain. What’s that in your pocket? Another letter, or five gallons of spackle? A bag of herbs or a ton of money? Do you hate yourself that much, or are you actually glad to see her sad face?
The Horseless Horse Show
Emily is standing by the car not thinking about words or work. Marie and I get out but where’s Rachelle? We don’t think like that anymore. We say “Hello” and “Hi,” and walk right by her expectant eyes. Afterwards it hits us—Emily’s desire. She runs down the hill to greet her little friend. Wow, that’s easy. Who’s reading Virgil? This is a Saturday morning, one of the first of the twenty-first Century. Henry Miller sat in a Paris cafe becoming retarded in the sunlight. Seventyyears later, passionate men still try to prove how smart they are. They check out their books and “get caught reading”. When they’re not reading, they’re watching “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” after a Saturday afternoon of mowing the lawn and reading with lemonade. Yes, exactly, who wants to be a millionaire? “Who was the Ancient Roman writer who wrote, A Book for Idiots to Read in Two Thousand Years? Was it Virgil? Is that your final answer? Are you sure? Ba-ba booom! The music makes the question seem more difficult. “I’ll use one of my lifelines Regis.” He calls a man in Detroit, his friend who studies Ancient Rome instead of children’s eyes. Books instead of children. Holidays all alone, sitting on a folding chair at the foggy lakeside. America’s obvious wide open spaces for a Walmart dynamo with fast-food chain links. Lucky for him, his friend happens to be reading Virgil on the back porch. Thoughts of Virgil and sounds of gangster rap filling the night air. Kids jumping and screaming at their parents who must barbecue or die. “Geez John, I really don’t know. Sure, I guess it was Virgil. I just don’t pay any attention. I read to stay alive. If I didn’t study Ancient Rome, I’d chop my wife and kids up and bury them in a deep hole.”
“Yes, Regis, It was Virgil. That’s my final answer.”
“Are you sure that’s your final answer?” Ba-ba dummm.
Pause for ten seconds of suspense. A moment for three million people to muse about nothing, to be nothing, to wait expectantly for the next television commercial.
“Oh, I’m sorry. The answer is Emily Smith of the Ox Creek Cavalry 4-H.”
Just a few lines back I mentioned lemonade. When I wrote “lemonade” I was Rachelle’s little friend Ronnie. It was sunny and hot, and in the front yard under the old maple there was a folding chair, a table and a sign with a flower and a price drawn on in crayon. Ronnie and Marie made a card for his sister’s thirty-sixth birthday. A sea hag on the cover. An ocean theme inside. Two people stopped to buy our lemonade. Ronnie’s sister said the card was cute. Ba-ba Dum! The answer Regis? You want my final answer? Fine you dirty human scum. The answer is,
I was born yesterday.
Can I Put All of This Together?
I am a fabulous fake. A fop. A fool. I am a dreamer, an idle laze-about. I am a perfect nobody, a zero, liar, trained coward, a nullity less stimulating than a clump of two-year-old dead leaves. I worship nonsense. I am a sewer worm with a hard hat and lunch box. Draw me with big eyes and a wide smile. Put me to work. My name for today is Frank, the worm.
Saloop, sloop, shoe. Frank slithers through the sludge. He has two little arms, one holds his lunch. Saloop, sloop, shoe. Frank is a sewer worm. He’ll get the regular paycheck on Friday. He and Sally will take the underground to Rocco’s Squash Leaf Restaurant for fried aphids and spiderspit shakes. Then dancing without legs uptown at Chainlink’s, a night cap at Alfred and Mary’s flat, and home to bed for a long sleep-in on Saturday. Frank loves Sally. Sally loves Frank. Worms of the first rank. Unimportant, unopinionated, unworthy, unbelievable! The two happiest cowards of the worm race.
You’re still reading? Ah! You must be a nullity too. The embarrassing part is that you might have actually paid $12.95 to end up reading about worms. “Let’s pick apart Mr. Throop...” You’d have more success pulling an old sock out of the sun. Because Mr. Throop doesn’t care. He doesn’t want you to buy the book. He doesn’t want you to read. He thinks reading is the beginnings of brain math, which is the beginning of the end, he thinks. He writes because he has a gooey ass and no legs. He is a worm underground. So much left to wonder about that anything not nonsense is human, and to be human, Frank thinks, is the greatest laugh of all time. People! Ha-ha! When Frank and the boys get together for a poker game, and Frank’s got a crappy hand but a load of twig shavings in the pot, he’ll human and stay in, hoping the others fold or are humaning too. Frank’s buddy Harry cheated on his wife. Last Friday night he came home with skinstick on his smooth middle part, and she slapped his face twice and called him a human.
You’re still reading? Shall I finish with some logic and reason? Will it help us to sleep easier? No and no. More than five pages got filled. And I do not want to take the writing too seriously. My cat is sitting at the window making humorous noises at the squirrels. A crow is flying and cawing around and around the tree. And now the squirrels talk back. Wow, they really don’t care a bean about us do they?
That crow was laughing at me...
Not at your cat wings!
Thanks for reading!
May your spring May your June Spring.