I went to my first and final birthday celebration yesterday with the kids from the factory. It was fun. We sat outside at a good Spanish restaurant which relieved my Covid fears. Under the heat lamps, the group ate and drank like pros. There was a Spanish version of the Old Fashioned that I dubbed the Fashion Viejo. Grilled octopus, a most delicious calamari, ceviche, garbanzo bean soup, and a Chef's Board of tetilla, manchego, Serrano ham, chorizo, walnuts and olives, potatoes tortillas. . . and lots of sangria. It was a much needed relief to get out of the house with people who are smart, educated, and goofy.
There is a position coming available at the factory that they want me to take. It is not a bad position.
"But," I said, "I'd be giving up all my free time. . . you know. . . all those hours sitting alone, eating alone, napping alone. . . . "
Still, a money infusion would be nice. I'm meeting with my old boss next week for a lunch or dinner. The position would report to him. Hmm. I'm going to have to think about this one. I miss the social interaction and sense of purpose, but I don't miss work. No. . . I don't miss work at all.
What I want is a studio. There I could work. I've tried, but working out of the house is impossible. Not impossible, I guess, but unlikely. An atelier is another thing. You go there to work. You go there to think. You go there for inspiration. Everything is just as you left it. You can begin en media res. People come. There is wine and whiskey and tea. There are costumes and masks and paints and wax. And if I had another, there would be a printing press. There are places to hang prints for examination, and computers and printers. You can try anything, do anything.
And, of course, you are special. Ateliers belong to so few.
But, once again. . . it would have to be a Bat Cave. Perhaps. Maybe not so much any more.
Time, however, becomes ever more precious. I made a series of photographs before I went to bed the night of my birthday. I manipulated them, as I do, until they looked fairly like death masks. Some are quite hideous, but the exaggeration is better than the non-manipulated, inexcusable one. I printed them out very large yesterday and liked them very much. "The Artist in Repose," I thought, but perhaps "The Factory Worker in Decline" would be a more accurate catch. I've made quite a few unflattering self-portraits that I enjoy. I'm thinking of hanging them as a series on one of my walls.
"Why do you have pictures of yourself hanging on your wall?"
"That's not me."
Wasn't it once the fashion to have your portrait painted? Besides, I have no one else to photograph, and looking at the photos of my crippled, aging body somehow makes "it" all easier. I am less shocked when I come face to face with the beast.
I shouldn't really worry about deciding whether to go back to work or not. I think there were many corporate types who were relieved when I was finally gone. My tendency toward mythologizing hasn't helped my reputation any, either. Though I was good at what I did, the idea, I always believed, was to make it look easy. I have become the Demigod of Slackers, it seems.
"Nobody will ever get away with what you did again."
Only the fellow who replaced me has any sense now of my tremendous talent. No matter what, never let them see you strain.
Only here in this faux-persona do I whine and wail and gnash teeth.
Yea. . . this is a great place for self aggrandizement.
I was told yesterday that the picture is hideous and that I shouldn't show it. I, however, find it quite lovely and charming.
I grow old ... I grow old ...
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
I am never able to quote Elliot correctly. His rhythms are not mine. In this passage, for instance, I always omit "the bottoms of" from the line. Indeed, I guess I foul the whole thing up.
"I grow old, I grow old/ Shall I wear my trousers rolled?" I mean, I actually turn the statement into a question.
Let us go then, you and I,
As evening spreads against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go if we are able.
Jesus. It's just ridiculous. In the true words of Elliot:
That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.
Enough of that, however. I will leave you with this death mask and with a quote that Faulkner never quite said but I'm sure he meant:
"Then thing was done. It was over. He did not look back."