Thursday, August 18, 2016


It's when you give
something back
to others, but is it
also when you get
something back? Is
it called the same thing?
I sometimes felt that
I was owed a lot, but
a person can't just walk
around thinking there's
something due back
from the whole world.
That it owes him or her
something. All those
wasted years  -  those
schools and the range
of really ridiculous
people I use to have
to harken to and follow,
and learn their dumb
lessons from. Jesus, was
that stupid stuff or what?
It still goes on; such a
grief-strike, all of it. I
used to think that if a
person can't be completely
convinced of the rightness
of their own cause, then they
shouldn't be doing it. That's
kind of absolute, yes, but
it works and it's quite a
steadfast rule to live by.
Because of it, I myself
was cut out, had cut
myself out, from most of
the things that others so
willingly got themselves
all involved with.
This is a complicated story,
and I will try to relate it:
One time there was an art
dealer, in the east 80's, he
had another guy with him
(I'd gone for a painting
appraisal on a piece that
I had) and I'd gone up there
to sit and talk with them
(by invite and appointment)
and they had another guy
on the phone, from a gallery
in San Francisco, who was
interested in this piece  -
something I had by the
artist Joseph Cornell. The
fellow in the apartment
with us was a Cornell expert,
had written a book or two
about him, etc. : The resident
expert, and his name I recall
now as Howard Hussey, I
think. (This was like so very
many years ago it's all fuzzy).
Hussey claimed other powers
too. The ability to 'see' things,
'read' other people as they
stood before him (I didn't
know any of this at that time).
He claimed an other-worldly
proficiency with previous
lives and all the ongoing
interconnections. I was there
for art, remember, nothing
of this stuff  -  regardless,
I walked in, he took one
look at me, and nearly
jumped out of his seat.
Completely smashed. He
claimed, immediately, that
I brought with me, and
that all he could see of
me, was Mad King
Ludwig of Bavaria, a
Royal murdered (by some
means, or by his own)
King of Allgau, the
region of Bavaria, as it
were, who did somehow
go mad and lose everything
but only after bankrupting
his treasury and buildings,
before that, a crazed
sequence of complex
and bizarre castles all
along his way,the most
famous being Neuschwanstein
(which Disney later used
as the model for his stupid
Disney castle). This guy
Hussey claimed he could
see me, iconic and charismatic,
leading hordes of horsemen
over the German plains and
fields, wind whirling through
my fiery hair and spirit.
Well, right. I couldn't figure
the guy for much, maybe he
was gay, maybe he just liked
to talk. The whole thing was
funny anyway. I looked it all
up later  -  Ludwig was shunted
into power at the death of his
father, was rather ineffectual,
and within two years had lost
Bavaria anyway  -  to a series
of huge battles with the
Kaiser's massed troops. He
eventually was forced to
abdicate, and then died
mysteriously. All so very
cool, thank you, Howard.
Here's a quote: "The only
thing to be said in Ludwig's
favor," [wow, that's harsh],
"was that once he had signed
the paper ending Bavaria's
independent existence he
refused to go to Versailles
for the gross hailing of the
Kaiser. He was also interesting
simply because he showed
in perhaps its most horrible
form the degree to which some
Germans absolutely worm-eaten
with medievalism." Nobody
ever lived at Neuschwanstein,
it was never finished and it
was opened to the public only
weeks after Ludwig's possible
Anyway, what with all that, the
guy on the phone from San
Francisco (This was about 1997,
and I seem to think, in the rather
fancy east side, professional,
townhouse/apt., there was also,
as I recall, some sort of computer
link on the table going on as
well), kept talking professional
stuff to the other fellow, while
Hussey kept at it. This was a
small piece of art, junk actually,
though I knew what it was
and who had done it (Joseph
Cornell  -  signature, all the
earmarks of his work, here
decayed and in need of plenty
of repair and curating). Believe
it or not, I had found it in the
trash at the curb, unlocking
my bicycle, after having been
upstairs to the small gallery
which was showing some
Cornell. It was in the top
of an open trash bag, with
bananas and sandwich debris
ll over it. I was staying in an
apartment in the e50's then,
right near to the Roosevelt
Island Tramway, and I took
the bag and just went off,
with the bicycle too, as if
nothing had occurred  -
cleaned it off when I got
there and looked it over.
Knowing what I had. It
was, for some reason,
a thrown-out, cast off,
 real-life Joseph Cornell.
It was 1982 when I found
it, and I'd kept it all that
while, until 1995, when I'd
put a small 100 dollar ad
in the art page of the
NYTimes  -  just
announcing, 'For Sale :
Joseph Cornell, etc.'
with a small description
of the piece, and a phone
number. Three dealers
eventually called, but
only this one made any
real sense. So I made the
appointment and trundled
off with it one Summer
day to this King Ludwig
meeting. These guys were
all art-dealers, they bought
and sold, in the field of
big-numbers, like
million-dollar art. I
myself meant nothing 
to them  -  which was 
fine and I didn't care. 
I was out of  my league
and I knew it  -  these fellows
dealt in some ethereal and
very high range of 'exalted'.
Art and money, personalities 
and knowledge. They were,
in their ways, stiffs. I had to
make up a story, right there.
They wanted to know the
'provenance' of the piece;
which is a means of saying
'how'd you come by this, 
who's owned it previously, 
where has it been shown, 
how'd you get it.' All that 
fail-safe malarkey to prevent
fraud  -  or at least until they
could present their own.
I knew lots about Cornell.
I said my grandmother had
been an acquaintance (where?
when?) she'd died, my sisters
took all her other possessions
but all I got and wanted was
this Joseph Cornell box-art,
which meant something to me, 
I'd had it for 15 years and was 
now ready to sell it, etc., etc. 
I guess if it was marked 
'stolen' somewhere, they'd 
have known. It was really
poorly kept, stained, broken,
and it needed major restoration, 
even if it was salvageable. I
knew that. Hussey, the Cornell
expert, inspected it carefully,
very, and vouched it as authentic.
He was the sort of guy who 
knew, for instance, in 1933, 
what 'green-blue' mixture of
paint Cornell was using for 
those five years, where
he was getting his molding 
from then, what cast-offs he 
was using, and, in addition, 
in those years, how he was
signing his work, in what 
fashion, and where the signature 
tapes were being put on the 
backs of the pieces. He dated 
it to mid 1930's, I think it was. 
And more  -  it was solid. The 
gallery guy said it was next 
to worthless, and it would need
massive and expensive 
restoration and research.
Blah-blah. 'That's what we do.'
He'd expect a full restoration 
in maybe a few years and it 
could sell, big-time, or just 
be part of his Cornell collection.
They went in the other room, 
with the phone/computer
guy, came back and offered 
my $8000.  I blanched and
said I was hoping for 30. 
Back and forth (I'm terrible
at all that), and I settled for 
10 grand, check, right then
and there. (I still have copies 
of the check). They wanted to
know if I had anything else 
of his, anything more that my
grandmother would maybe 
have had. (They bought 
that whole story). From a 
garbage bag of bananas 
and tuna, I got 10 grand 
in an hour. Mad King 
Ludwig  couldn't have 
done it any better. But then, 
if he wasn't mad I guess
he wouldn't have
even tried.

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