Tuesday, June 12, 2018

10,888. RUDIMENTS, pt. 344

RUDIMENTS, pt. 344
Making Cars
Sometimes at a loss, I've
struggled through anyway.
I was always aware of my
own shortcomings, that
was the easiest part of
my life. Recognizing
those negatives was a
cinch. I could never
compensate, however,
for the gap and void that
left. I always aimed for
higher things, but never
attained them. That's a
humbling fact, and one
that can cause real personal
and psychological problems,
behaviorally and mentally
too. There are certain flat,
calm, plateaus that I can never
attain  -  like looking at a
Marry Cassatt painting;
there's always something
about them that unsettles
me because, in all respects,
none of them are the way
I see the world at all. If that
world, such a world as she
portrayed, exists or existed,
it was one I never had part
in. It was gentle and calm;
settled and almost lackluster
or plain. A person doesn't
attain that, they're usually
in that position, genetically,
right from the start. That
was the problem with
everything, that 'equality'
stuff. No one ever starts
out alike. And I was stuck,
from the very start, way
behind handicap, and
probably redemption too.
It hurt, and it's always
been painful. John Kennedy
-  like he would know the
feelings of someone like
me  -  said something
once like 'Life is unfair.'
Big whoop coming from
him. That's like one of
those free-market economist
guys saying 'a rising tide
lifts all boats.' First you've
got to have a boat, dumb-ass.
On a day to day basis, as
I've said, about the plainest
guy I met in all this was Jim
Tomberg, maybe 6 years my
senior; a stand-up tough and
rugged type from the San
Francisco Art Institute doing
some time out here, east, to see
what the New York scene was
all about. I myself, as well,
could have been in San Francisco,
having been 'accepted' there,
to the Art Institute, but not
going. Jim sculpted  -  welded
metal stuff, and that was all
he cared about. David Smith.
Mark di Suvero, maybe
even John Chamberlain. I 
forget. They each were working 
in heavy metal (sculpture) 
then. Not the cerebral, Broken
Kilometer type, works, a la 
Walter De Maria, either. It hadn't
come to that yet. Jim used to
just flip that welding mask 
down and get lost in the 
flame and torch. I was never 
much for the metal slab-sculpture 
sort of work, large or small. I 
couldn't ever grasp the connection 
between chunk and volume and 
shape and tension. In fact, its 
very physicality bored me, and 
was the complete opposite of 
all I ever thought about Art 
as being. Who the hell could 
ever care about 1000 pounds 
of some battered and welded 
steel, no matter what it looked 
like or was supposed to capture. 
Design in motion, and movement, 
and grace. Bolted to the floor, 
I'd say. Too much the paradox.
But we never talked about Art. 
He wasn't that kind of guy. 
First off, he boozed a lot; 
got wobbly and sick, walked 
like a Jackson Pollock replica 
almost, and pretty much looked 
like him too  -  same head and 
hair thing going on, same build 
and strong posture, same kind 
of clothing. I don't remember
that he smoked, but probably 
that too. Not that he mimicked; 
it was just the way he was. 
Jim was often found passed 
out, on the sculpture room
floor, leaning, asleep, 
propped against the wall.
One thing I learned early
on was that you shouldn't 
laugh things off. At some 
level everything is important  
-  something can be missed, 
and come back to haunt you 
later. To my mind, everything 
was serious and worthy of a 
full consideration. First. 
Then you could do whatever 
you wished, but at least you'd 
scrutinized with some serious 
intent. Jim was the opposite. 
He'd laugh everything off, 
in ways I only wished I 
could. If things got strange 
and close to him. He'd just 
scoff all the more. It became 
his way of pushing things 
back, keeping that space. 
I find, all these years later, 
that I now do much the same  
-  comic foil made from 
everything. What, me worry? 
At first, however, with Jim, 
it was annoying. I saw it as 
a bad trait. Drunkenness is 
one thing. Wasting and 
damaging your time, because 
of it is something else. 
Porking any female you 
could get your hands on, 
that too is one thing. But 
hurting or twisting others' 
lives over it, that's another. 
All this was all mixed together 
sometimes, as a bad cocktail 
in that gin mill he lived amidst. 
So, there were numerous 
mornings when my surprise 
was the female head that 
would pop up from under 
a blanket somewhere, with 
him. They were never fussy, 
the floor or a couch did fine.
My Mama always said, 
'Naked is as naked does.'
I guess.
Besides the rest  -  and his is
a story I've gone over a few 
times  -  he was a connection 
to 'normalcy' as Warren Harding 
put it. And a little bit of the 
outlandishness that went with 
the place too. He represented 
the solid amidst a lot of growing 
fluff. Kind of like a chunk of
sculptural steel in a pile of
otherwise cotton. My friends
were never much, and neither 
was I. But I'm the better for it.
My nose 'don't get stuck' in
the air. I don't much care
where you're from or what
you've got. I just like
your moment; to catch 
it as it goes.

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