Sleeping on the fold-out bed. A trip to the Met.
Sleeping on a fold out bed always makes you feel foreign. For me its associations are circa 1984, 5, 6 sleeping over at grandpapa’s house in a part of L.A. I will never be able to find again. Magical in its rough, abrasive, dry, heat miasma, liquor-store flowing into the streets beneath the tires of bicycles, strollers, treading flips flops broken glass, old, raw magic.
He had a salmon apartment. His windows had bars, and Afro-Tiffany lampshades colored life visors dealing bids, cards, cash. My brother and I would sleep on the fold out mattress in the living room, kicking windmills around the gigantic metal bed. He in his Forrest Gump leg braces, wild legs kicking. Myself having once again turned into a slowly dying fish in my sleep.
When I was 17, my father, brother and I took our first “family” trip to Hawaii. It was gorgeous and tragic. My body bled sweat to sounds of “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems” and Blondie’s “The Tide is High,” the only two songs played on the island of Oahu, perhaps ever. We stayed in a cheap hotel right near the flashy area of town, or at least the Planet Hollywood. It was a nice thing for my dad to try to plan, right before I went away to college, so I wouldn’t forget about the fact that I had never had the privilege of spending that much time with him in my life. It was cool meeting the woman he was trying to sleep with. Perhaps he had. You could never quite tell with any of them. He would bring lesbians back from Spokane, WA. You wouldn’t know if they were having sex in swings or if he was trying to learn how to play hockey. But they sure liked to smoke together.
There was a single queen-sized bed behind slatted accordion pantry doors, which he stayed on. In the living room, there was a fold out couch. There is a picture of him in one of my photo albums as he sits on the corner of this bed while his ass falls through the frame. My brother and I both connect in another evil dimension when the same thought rejoices “first let’s take the picture. And then let’s leave him there. Let him waddle around until his back goes out. Let him reach for a cigarette and his Pepsi.” But we don’t know how to get off an island. He is yelling at us for help. We let him grunt a little first, while we laugh, so he thinks he is being included.
We slept on that bed all week. Well, I think I did. My brother, having the soul of a beat poet, started sleeping on the floor with the cushions.
I started yesterday on a fold out bed. I had claimed it pre-maturely for the night, and midway though, had it eventually invaded by the one who had fallen asleep drunk halfway on the couch in front of the television. The comfortable cigarette butts and beer stained pillows that once welcomed them in the wee hours, suffocating them with putrefaction by twilight.
It was a hangover day. We are all 26, and find out that our bodies are somehow getting drunker faster than we are, and taking up more of the weekend feeling guilty. I wanted to go to the Met to see the Diane Arbus exhibit. Everyone else sort of had tentative plans to do nothing all afternoon. We all showered, and put on parts of the same outfits we were wearing the night before (In my case, my pink and black party dress, which I had been wearing for three days). We got to the museum by 4ish.
It was me and my blonde posse, TOA and BMS. We take a lovely dew-drenched ride over the Queensboro Bridge up to the museum, while BMS, after having invited everyone on her Missed Calls list to the museum, decided to meet her new boyfriend who was “down the street” from the museum for a few hours. TOA managed to borrow a membership pass from an old family friend and we checked out Arbus and Ernst.
On the way up the steps I was stopped for a photo op. One of those greyed Upper-West Side guys who you can’t figure out how they can afford their apartment, but then notice that all they wear is the same urban safari outfit hoping someone will mistake them for the BBC. I felt like I was taking a moment on the red carpet there as the Nikon ninja instructed me to show him my flower—the one on the side of my hat, that with the rainbow and glitter striped socks probably made him so disappointed when he saw my face and learned that I was not a transvestite.
After an annoyingly loud conversation on her cell phone, TOA and I found the Arbus exhibit, which, for all who saw it, was fantastic. I always feel like such a foreigner tourist learning about artists in museums. That is what they are for, in fact. And playing by the rules and doing anything like I am supposed to always gives me an innocent, haunting, tickling sensation all through my middle. Something that makes me feel like a sexy six-year old. I loved the way they decided to slice open her world. The little secluded rooms for her letters, notes, things collected from under her desk. I wonder at how that kind of elucidation of a person violates and deifies them. Printing a postcard scrawled in their text. The noted equations they did not figure out in their head. An email or a doodle. All of this made the art so tangible. And the photos themselves, like a wedding album full of poses. The “ceremonies” she talked about. The camera’s natural haunting ability to capture moments when we let ourselves be looked at, in hopes that others at present and ourselves in the future will be arrested in the presence of us, who are ourselves arrested in this present moment.
Or you know, some junk like that.
Some of the ones that jump out in my memory are, Widow in her bedroom, Bishop near the ocean (or something like that), Dominatrix holding her client (for my obvious personal sensual sentimentality), the one with the family in the grass all in white… or at least mostly in white. The way it hung in the room, it almost shone… The two ladies at the Automat… Sharon…. The naked Jewish girl with the curls on her head. Yeah, I know she has a last name, and call me racist for forgetting it, but whatever. The black couple dancing (who were probably Negro in the title), and of course, the blind couple in their bedroom, which moved me to tears. Because they’re freakin’ blind. God. Grow some feelings people. But really, for the sparseness of their exterior lives. It was mildly transcendental.
Though I have already blown my wad on Arbus, I saw the Ernst exhibit too, which was like a Mecca Jr. for me, after having trekked out to Philadelphia (the city of brotherly joggers) for the first time to see the Dali exhibit. Both of these men could put me in a surrealist sandwich and I would be a happy blob of sand and hair undulating through a forest of eyes and midnight eclipses on stilts for the resurrection of a phallus on a cross. It would be fantastic. They both have that tall, thin, I’m a genius thing going on that I live for. I thought of Ernst, weathered and grey, and his flopping hairy balls validating my self-absorbed bohemian life under a shower of dove feathers. Surrealists always make me horny. Although, at this point, BMS showed up with her man-flower and I was not in the mood sniff and enjoy him, as she had spent the better part of 24 hours of conversation talking about him, and the hair all over their bodies and the struggles with shaving it off, and I was done with her abstract becoming my reality because it wasn’t placed and juxtaposed thoughtfully enough. And museums always make me air and water… Submerged, misty, frozen. Things like Ernst’s spirit in the fire are all I am drawn too. The red hills, and the comfort and symbolism of space like his World of the Naïve. Tranquility like in his Immortality, or inside the call of the SeaGull… I hum like an O, like suns and moons over his forests, yellow, red and green like funky dawns. I appreciate the wryness of character that shines through the one viewing all of this, whether it is the artist themselves, or the audience, who will find the echoes of voice in all that they do.
For future reference, there is an appropriate place for everything. Text messaging was made for meeting people in museums, I have discovered. If you require homing devices to kept tabs on people in your life, it is best when they can convey the most information with the least wasted energy dealing with bullshit. Talking on one’s cell phone in a museum can only consist of bullshit. There is no way for at least one, if not both members of the conversation to be present. It is also not the place to introduce someone to someone else after talking their ear off about them. To me, it is a place of lone roaming ghosts, and all “Boos” must be silenced so that the wind can be heard. It is also not the appropriate place to eat. Sandwiches are 8 dollars here, and no one who works inside really knows how to make one. We got the hell out of there, and cut over in the pouring rain to an overpriced diner of delicious delights. We retired home, to regain any sort of sensual sobriety. We indulged ourselves in wine and medical dramas. We cleaned ourselves out from the eventfulness of the day. We fell asleep too early. Hours soaked up. And of course, clocks melted.