Monday, June 17, 2024

A Lazy Day

"When art critics get together, they talk about Form and Structure and Meaning.  When artists get together, they talk about where you can buy cheap turpentine" (Pablo Picasso).  

 My enthusiasm for exercise kind of died when I got out of bed yesterday.  I was stiff and didn't really want to move.  I read and wrote a long piece and made some breakfast.  I thought, "O.K. Mister I'm Gonna Change My Life, take a two hour photo walk." Or at least one hour, I argued back.  By the time I had gotten my shit together, though, (to use an old hippie phrase), it was dreadfully hot.  "Tough luck, old sport. . . you waited too long.  Now get out and go!"

I drove toward Gotham not certain where I would stop.  I had brought my big-assed Hasselblad.  I thought to finish up some film and develop it that night.  I had my courier bag, too, in case I wanted to stop at he Cafe Strange.  But as I drove down the long strip of highway to the city, there was nothing.  Nobody was out.  The streets were dead.  Past the little hipster section, through Little Vietnam, across the intersection of two highways and through the hip gay neighborhoods to the iconic lake and farmer's market.  Nothing but sweltering cement.  Downtown was dead.  Further, into what is being called the Creative Center and down what once was a very dangerous street that has now been gentrified.  I gave up.  I decided to go to the grocery store and get the things I needed for dinner that night with mother.  

When I got back to the house, I wanted a beer.  No. . . a Michelada.  I was angry that I had no tomato juice.  I was tempted to drive back to get some.  

Mid afternoon.  Screw it.  It was Sunday, Father's Day.  Child-free, I decided to take a nap.  It would not be a productive day after all.  

At four, I got up and showered and prepared to go to my mother's.  I was slow.  As I was getting in the car, my mother called.  

"What are you doing?"

Ten minutes later, I was at her house.  Before putting the water on for pasta, I opened a bottle of wine, then began chopping garlic.  My mother cut up broccoli and put it in the steamer.  Water boiling, pasta in, I sautéed the garlic, and add a pound of lean ground beef.  As the pasta drained, I added organic spaghetti sauce to the ground beef.  That is the secret, kids, to a hardy spaghetti that nobody makes.  Try it.  Use lots of beef, not a little.  Everyone I have ever served it to loves it.  My mother certainly does.  

We were killing the bottle of red wine.  Dinner over, we left the table to sit outside.  The afternoon had cooled and the breezes blew.  As we sat drinking our wine and talking, a black racer snake crawled toward my feet.  It was skinny and about four feet long.  It stopped about two feet away and lifted its head, tongue licking the air to smell me.  That's how snakes smell.  Trust me.  I'm a zoologist almost.  

I've always told my mother to love the racers, that they are good snakes and cannot hurt you.  So when I raised my feet up into the chair and let out a sharp, shrill, frightened sound, my mother laughed.  

"Ho-ho. . . it can't hurt you. . . ."  

She enjoyed that.  The snake got frightened and slithered back into the bushes.  

"I don't know why they always cross the driveway here.  I don't know where they are going."

I could see the snake in the bushes.  Just then, another one, a bit bigger, started across the driveway by my car.  

"HOLY SHIT," I screamed.  My mother got up out of her chair to look.  And then a third black racer came across the driveway.  It was like snake armageddon.  My mother simply watched them go back from where they came.  Were they indigo snakes or black racers.  I asked Siri to tell me the difference.  These were black racers, identified by their white chins.  The are smaller than the indigo.  They lay their eggs June through August, so. . . this was a bit of an orgy prep we were witnessing.  The eggs hatch in the fall.  

"There are black snakes all over the neighborhood.  Everybody sees them."  

I began laughing and making fun of myself for being such a scaredy cat.  

"When I was getting my zoology degree, we used to have to go out and collect species, lizards and frogs and snakes and any other vertebrates we could get hold of.  I was the only one in the department, I think, that never caught anything with his bare hands.  I knew I wasn't going to be a very good field biologist.  But it was the hardest major in the university and it taught me a certain kind of discipline.  It was good for me.  In theory."

Yes.  Like I knew snakes smelled with their tongues.  Woo-hoo!

I stayed a good long while with my mother.  When I got home, the cat was angrily waiting on her dinner.  She let me know.  

"Meow, meow, meow yourself you faithless little shit.  Alright, alright. . . I'm getting you your food." 

I poured a whiskey and joined her on the deck.  It was 7:30 and still bright, but the temperature had dropped and the breeze was good.  Still. . . nobody passed on the street.  

At eight o'clock, I went inside.  So. . . I hadn't exercised.  I hadn't taken any photos.  What was the other thing?  Oh. . . yea. . . I was going to read two hours a day.  I could do that.  I could do that now.  

I decided to re-read "The Beautiful and the Damned."  I'd read it, of course, but I couldn't remember anything about it.  It was basically like sitting down to a new book.  Fitzgerald had already hit pay dirt with his first novel, "This Side of Paradise."  I remembered that one well enough. I could skip that.  

So here was Fitzgerald writing at 26.  I'd forgotten how fine the sentences were.  More than fine, some almost as serpentine as Faulkner's, but more accessible, without obvious artistry.  And he took chances, doing things that weren't being done.  No, I did not remember the novel at all.  It wasn't a straight narrative.  He took detours, made strange breaks, added interior monologues and flights of fancy.  

The thing about reading books rather than reading on Kindle is that you can't highlight and send a note to yourself.  I like that about the Kindle experience.  But wait.  I had my phone beside me.  I came to a word of which I was uncertain.  I asked Siri to define it.  Brilliant.  No need for a dictionary by my elbow.  Then. . . "Hey, Siri. . . take a note."  And I read a passage to her.  When I had finished, I looked at the note.  O.K.  I'd need to actually say the punctuation marks out loud.  Otherwise. . . I found a way around the Kindle.  

This made me very happy.  You've probably done this and think I am a moron, but it had never occurred to me until last night.  Things just get cooler and cooler.  

If you don't get hacked.  

I sat the novel down.  It was nine-thirty.  I had not read quickly.  Rather, I poured over the sentences checking modifiers, descriptors. . . trying to understand the Big Fitz style.  I knew what he was doing, but doing it was another thing.  Pages would pass with descriptions of traveling from the city to the country.  He would backtrack and provide historical information, lay the groundwork for meeting a character.  He was never in a hurry with the narrative.  He took his time.  For a not-so-good student who couldn't spell at all (I've had the opportunity to look at his drafts at Princeton), he had a most glorious vocabulary.  He was a mocking bird, really, copying the verbal rhythms and codes of his rich, upper echelon classmates.  He was a fanboy made good.  Those who had known him at Princeton were totally shocked by his success.  He'd taken everything and woven it into a brilliant tapestry.  

So, when I looked at the time and the number of pages I'd read. . . yea. . . I was slow.  But I had notes.  I had passages.  It was not just reading.  It was something else.  

I will try to get back on track today.  Exercise, diet, photo stuff, reading.  I have a plan.  I'll get skinny and creative.  You'll see.  

And I still don't care.  I don't.  I really don't.  

I like the Picasso quote.  It says something about the relationship between art and analysis.  It is pithy if untrue.  Picasso did talk about painting with painters, and Hemingway and Fitzgerald talked about writing with one another.  

But, as that bad boy Anthony Bourdain exclaimed (before offing himself because of a girl), "Eat at a local restaurant tonight. Get the cream sauce. Have a cold pint at 4 o’clock in a mostly empty bar. Go somewhere you’ve never been. Listen to someone you think may have nothing in common with you. Order the steak rare. Eat an oyster. Have a negroni. Have two. Be open to a world where you may not understand or agree with the person next to you, but have a drink with them anyways. Eat slowly. Tip your server. Check in on your friends. Check in on yourself. Enjoy the ride."

I mean, yea. . . that's where the best material lies.  Lays.  Well, there. . . and in love.  

No comments:

Post a Comment