Wednesday, August 3, 2016


In my family, growing up,
there was a lot of fabric  -
my father for most of his
life  -  was an upholsterer
so I heard a lot about it,
always talking fabric. I
always kind of liked it
anyway, I guess from
all that upbringing. He
had these large fabric
swatch books  -  each
entire page, probably
like a 14 inch square,
with some text, on these
large, metal-spool-top
pages, so the viewer,
selecting fabric could
just flip around easily.
A big square of the
fabric itself, in the
center, with pricing by
the yard, durability and
cleaning factors and info,
etc. All the various colors
and pattern schemes. It
was a little crazy  -  much
like on the Internet today,
he'd, for instance, order
12 yards, or 22 yards,
whatever, for the
needed coverage,
each chair, for the
job, and it would
come, in a few days,
in these large tubes,
delivered by UPS.
There was. about 1965,
the start of a synthetic
fabric movement, or wave,
that my father detested. I
actually forget the name
of the fabric, a fake name
they made up for it, same
as 'naugahyde' for fake
leather. Probably the same
idiots doing the name-work.
People actually began buying
this stuff, liking it. It was
Scotch-Guarded (meant to be
'cleaned' by a simple rub, and
water resistant, for spills and
stains and all). All that stuff,
silly now, was a big-deal back
then. Fake fabric. My father,
as I noted, hated it  -  he'd say
it was nothing but oil and
water, some sort of odd
chemical mix made up and
into thread. No real organic
basis, and thus no 'substance.'
I was confused at first, and
checked into what was being
brought forth. My father was
pretty much correct. It was a
chemistry of suspension, a
spun fabric made of the
froth of the oil/water mix
(which is what I guess he
meant) and formed into
pliable threads. What
really irked him was
that it had no staying
power, and no durability.
The 'airiness' (his word) of
the mix, with no real 'fiber'
base at all, meant it just
wore away quickly. It held
stronger colors, yes (also
1960's important, with
all  that flaming, pop-art,
colored furniture and
stuff), but disappeared
fast. Arm areas wore
out, (you can't even
really say 'got threadbare',
because that would be a
misnomer.) Any heavy
use just wrecked it up
good. Which, I suppose,
an upholsterer could
consider 'good for
business', but he did
not. So, you see, I always
loved that stuff; that point
of view, that 'awareness'
of what was being put
over. Disgruntlement,
for sure. it all grew
on me.
As I grew,  he was always
after me to 'learn the trade'.
Take up upholstery he meant,
even if I never 'used' it, he
said every man should have 
a trade to fall back on if times
get tough, things break down, 
or he really needs a job. I maybe
thought about it a few times, as
artisanal-quality work, thinking
if perhaps I could custom-craft 
something cool out of it  -  
even car seats or stuff like that. 
He advised against that  -  as 
the most difficult and annoying 
things (car seats) to do  -  the
tufts and decorative buttons and
edge-seams beads and all. No
money in it, they never want to
pay anyway, these customizer
guys. I just always decided
against it  -  doing what he did.
I could already tell I hated it.
Slavery at a mechanical set
of sewing machines, a little
frame and carpentry work,
stretching fabric, dealing 
with dumb-ass people trying 
to 'redecorate' their dump 
and make everything look 
expensive although done 
cheaply. Fighting with 
people over the most simple
things  -  mark-up, your time 
at the job, they don't want 
to pay, don't have the entire
amount, etc. You end up 
being their freaking bankers 
too. I'd gone out on enough
deliveries, and jobs, and
pick-ups, with him to see
what he had to put up with.
Strange-ass old single women,
or cranky widowers, in places
like Linden, Roselle, Rahway,
and even farther afield, wherever
he'd get a job from  -  Staten
Island, Jersey City, Bayonne,
Monmouth. You name it, it 
was all the same. Married 
people too, the bigger-money 
power couples out of Westfield 
and Scotch Plains. They treated 
him like a peon, he had to put 
up with it, servile-fashion-
like, and he knew it. 
Kow-towing to their
stupid whims and tastes,
answering pointed questions
and their superior-ass stares.
When he brought me along,
it was always the same  -  the
goody ladies would usually
start acting up  -   offering
soda or cake or some crap,
making 'what a nice boy'
chump small talk, acting
all of a sudden super-nice
to my father  -  their fake
jewelry hanging between 
their rising bosoms and all
that fake chicanery. By the
time we left they were
already probably breathing
heavy. I always wished I
was some big, brawny tattoo'd
up Puerto-Rican dude slinging
the furniture for them, giving 
a show, muscles, tight pants
with a bulge. Morons. Female
morons anyway  -  what's that
called, Moronettes?
I knew certainly that I did not
wish to be play-acting for people
of that nature for the rest of my
days, just to make 125 bucks on
a setee. (My father always used 
that word, or often enough, I 
think for like a small couch 
or something. A 'setee'? Boy,
did I hate that word. Right
up there with Love Seat, 
which I at first thought was 
a neat chair sold in porno
shops or something, to 
fornicate in, (or on?)). It's
funny, all these years later, 
in thinking on this, to realize
two things: when I'm walking
along now, in NYC, camera,
art, whatever, I love seeing 
the foreign tourists as they 
go by  -  all those French and 
German and Italian, and the 
rest, people just passing along.
I just love gazing at their
clothing and fabrics, shoes,
belts and the like. All those
jeans and shorts and gabardines
and such, from far-flung lands
wherever. Even the denim is
remarkably different. But I've
always kept that taste for 
fabrics, eyeing them, noticing
the differences. And, in the
same vein, I realize now, still
hearing those echoing words 
of my father about something 
to fall back on, a trade, a skill,
what he was getting at. I
understand now, and I've
done it. That's what art is. Art.
My own, albeit impractical, skill,
trade, language, nuance, way of
putting things across. It's all
I've got, and all I've ever had  -
don't get me wrong, I'm a big
fan of heaving bosoms and the
rest, but Art is, instead, what
I have, and what I've made,
all by myself -  it's durable,
real, not synthetic at all, and
has a real and true basis
in the fabric of Reality.
And by it, as is said, 
'I don't need nobody.'

No comments: