The not-so-subtle art of being a New Yorker.

There’s a not-so-subtle art about being a New Yorker. Much like a Jackson Pollock piece–every movement defines a very strong emotion; deep urge; challenged spirit; unseen possibility; thickness of character; blurred intent; desperate hope; and a thinning line of innocence–hard to understand until you really see it up close.

It may take someone smarter than you, perhaps a fellow New Yorker, to point out that Pollock is to be felt and not explained. Suspicious, as any good NY transplant will become, you walk up close to see the intense imperfections for yourself. Pictures and postcards–the second-hand accounts–do not capture the beautiful chaos of One: Number 31, 1950. Standing in the MoMa PS1, you understand Pollock’s masterpiece, and like the city that brought it to you, the allover approach is now all over you.

A closer look at this work reveals some of the decisions made in the act of painting: the selection of colors; the use of contrasting matte and glossy paints; if the lines would be thick or thin, fast or slow; whether to wait for the paint to dry or to work wet-on-wet, so that different paints bleed and pool; and a host of others. Only when the painting was completed did Pollock determine where the edges should be. In One: Number 31, 1950, Pollock left a breathing space bordering all four sides of the field of paint. However, in other paintings, the lines and spatters continue beyond the edges.–MoMa

After an unspecified amount of time has passed, you walk away with a Pollock-thick inspired aesthetic that you carry with you wherever you go–this is the art of being a New Yorker.

I can’t quite say that I understand Mark Rothko, so maybe I’ll bump into a Los Angeles transplant at the MOCA who will open my eyes to the brilliance of color.

New York, I will miss you.

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Love, take it to the mattresses.

There’s a subtle shift that occurs after two people realize they’re standing in the moment of finality. It’s as if the world whispers, “Don’t blink or you’ll lose the last moment where you know who is standing in front of you.” The moment of truth, arrived, and this is what it’s like to not know each other anymore.

She slept on mattress on the floor—the same mattress I had purchased after the heartbreak before her—when I passed by the hallway packing the last of my things. I thought, “She has a place to rest her head even if she sleeps near the ground for now, but she’ll get a frame to lift it back up.” It was that same line of thinking I had after the initial shock of the I’m-going-to-leave-my-marriage realization; I’m doing the right thing for both of us in the long run even if the short run scorches our feet.

I’m sleeping on an air mattress tonight in my renovated shoebox in Alphabet City. It’s been quite some time—5 months to be exact—since I’ve been comfortable in my own space. Despite the obvious disarray from the move, I’m free to be free. Although, if I’m truly being honest, here, that uncomforted space issue started one year and five months ago. While I’m being honest, let’s face it, freedom is never free.

Shopping for mattresses is a lot like soul work; you have to know yourself well enough to know what you like, how much you’re willing to invest in your comfort, and not rush it. I was upsold on the first overpriced mattress, a firm with a pillow top, like many other things during that period in my life. Later, I was also talked into tossing it for a terribly old, piss stained, non-pillow top mattress, by a girlfriend attached to most everything except me. After she hurt me in the most despicable way possible, I was sans mattress, not that one fit into my inherited vagabond lifestyle in the first place; couch surfing required less capital and emotional investment.

Futons, the minimalist way of resting your head, was the way to Zen. Mattresses were heavy and laborious constructs of luxury that I didn’t need. No, out with the old and in with the new. I acquired a different, vibrant, soul enriching, school of thought, and the only way to happiness was through the suffering–and, let me just say this about suffering; there were some painstakingly difficult nights of sleep where my back was concerned. Futon people don’t have significant romantic relationships. They just can’t, really, because a futon person is in a transitory state of living that no one wants to catch.

With the first indication of love interest, I tossed that sucker and bought a new mattress, firm, for her back problems. Solving her problems, giving her comfort, and making certain she never woke up in pain, was how I spent the next four-or-so years. Sleeping on that firm mattress, built to sustain the strength of the spine, it occurred to me that this firm mattress was not mine. I purchased it, yes, but this was not where I was supposed to rest my head.

I left her the firm mattress, which was now on the floor with her. I had my freedom, so I marched into Macy’s listening to the divorce theme song “Dog Days Are Over” by Florence + the Machine and I plopped down on that plush Euro bed mattress.

“Can I help you?”

I smiled, big. “Yes, I’m in the market for a new mattress.”

“Feel like testing out the others?”

I closed my eyes, briefly, and despite being internally sold on the one I was on I shook my head yes.

She led me to different makes and styles of mattresses, and I obliged because I had never taken my time before, until we made a full round and stood in front of the first choice; the queen plush Euro bed. “Do you know the comfort level you want?” She asked.

“I do,” I replied. “I want to sleep in a cloud.”

“So this one seems like the perfect fit.” She pointed.

“Yes.”

We made small talk as I spent an extravagant amount of money on my mattress–MY mattress.

“What’s the reason for the purchase today?” She looked up from entering my credit card information.

“I was married for four years and the trade-off was the firm mattress.” I paused and felt a tremendous amount of fulfillment. “Now that I’m teetering on the brink of divorce, I want to rest my head in the clouds.”

The cloud-like mattress arrives on Thursday, so for now I’m making do with the air mattress. I’d rather be like one with air than two on an old piss stained non-pillowtop, firm, break-my-back-for-love type of mattress. So, while we may be strangers and prefer different mattresses, I know one thing to be true about myself–I prefer plush.

 

Cross Post #6: Hipsters, defined.

 

Excerpt:

“But what about their legacy?” I was recently asked by New York magazine. “What will they have left behind after it’s all said and done?” This question gets on my nerves. “Music and fashion,” I answered incredulously. Since when are young people responsible for leaving us with anything more? Have you heard their politics? I don’t want these people voting. I want them doing what they do best: Fun. The greasers were about rock ’n’ roll and making out in rumble seats. The beatniks gave us some good books, but they were mostly about shocking their parents by dancing with Negroes. The only thing the mods cared about outside of dancing and getting laid was fighting Elvis fans. Boomers, who are masters at glorifying their past, insist they stopped a war, but we all know it was Kissinger’s relentless bombing that ended it. Hippies were horny stoners. Though I was one of them, I’m happy to admit punks were more preening peacocks with guitars than anarchists smashing the state. Rap evolved from parties in the South Bronx. The list goes on, and it’s always just teenagers partying.

READ FULL STORY

 

 

We will never forget…

“America is not like a blanket — one piece of unbroken cloth, the same color, the same texture, the same size. America is more like a quilt — many patches, many pieces, many colors, many sizes, all woven and held together by a common thread.” -Henry M. Jackson

Gentle Loneliness

Stumbling into a bar, midday, alone and without any sense of urgency, albeit aimless.  The male bartenders in anytown, USA, pretty much look the same, but it’s their distinguished dialect that differentiates between the regions.  I remember a handful of bars because of their bar speciality, like the Greek tavern by Port Authority in New York City where the owner makes his own stout red wine and generously keeps my glass full without a bill.  I remember other bars for different reasons like Bar of America in Truckee, California, due to embedded nuanceslike the assymetically placed clock beside a large hole in the wall that could easily be covered up by that damn clock.    It’s not really about the bar, itself, that captures the aesthetically pleasing side of my loneliness.  No, it’s the ambiance of life’s vibrations and the romanticized connection to all those sentences I’ve read about characters that have sat on the same type of stool, in the same type of bar, experiencing the same synapses of mood, that connect me to these places. 

It doesn’t end at bars.  There are a series of places that come to mind like some scene of a coming-of-age movie where the shadow of loneliness envelopes the main character causing them to reflect and move forth in life, back on track.  Right off the interstate in Dallas, Texas, there is a grassy knoll hidden by an overpass that is across the street from a well-known hospital.  It was there that I would sit for hours just looking into the vastly lit wide open Texas sky at night, waiting for an epiphany.  I’ve used the term ‘epiphany’ so much that it’s often spouted out from my mom’s mouth in reference to wise stories from a strong-lived life as what my mom calls, “what’s your term?  I had an EPIPHANY.” 

I counted it up once and I had moved 32 times give or take a couple houses during my parent’s divorce, 5 different states, 20 different zip codes, 7 of those were in a NYC burrough, and 3 different towns in New Jersey.  That’s a lot of unsettledment in one lifetime.  I wasn’t running from anything per se as much as I was running toward this idea of a life that I only knew from books and movies. 

Nowdays I can’t really concentrate in bars due some latent A.D.D. that has me more interested in people watching than sitting with my gentle loneliness that brought forth much of my writing.  Other than my pickiness of not sitting by a kitchen or facing the crowd in a restaurant, I don’t really notice symmetrically conflicting items like oddly placed decorative ornaments.  I also just bought a house so there’s no need to go anywhere but home to find myself anymore. 

home

Family versus Family

 

About eight years ago I moved to New York from my native land, Oklahoma.  I had spent a good twenty-three years surrounded by my family and their incessant wonderment of my future.

 

“Got any boyfriends,” Uncle Thed would badger me.

 

“No.”
 

 

“Well, got any girlfriends then,” He just wanted an answer.

 

“I got nothing.”

 

“You going to use your college degree or be a hippie forever,” Aunt Glenda joined.

 

“If it all works out, both,” I knew this wasn’t the end of it.

 

“Do you really think that little band of yours will amount to anything,” My grandmother worried.

 

“Yep, otherwise I wouldn’t be going to New York, Granny.”

 

Within minutes the conversation jumped into the latest gossip about some poor soul in our two-hundred folk town.  I know most people long to be known like the theme song to Cheers, “Where everybody knows your name,” but all I wanted to was to be somewhere that not one single soul knew my damn name.  I needed to breathe for a minute and figure out who I was without everyone else projecting it onto me or reminding me where I came from. 

 

Fast-forward eight years and in taking on a new last name, I also inherited an additional family that is ten times larger than my own immediate family.  Theoretically, my wife and I could have plans every single day of the week if each one of her siblings decided to have a dinner.  The only difference between this is that the back-catalogue of my greatest hits and the infinite collection of tear-in-my-beer songs aren’t carried in the in-law format so excuses like “I have to write because an agent wants my manuscript” are just irrelevant eight-track excuses. 

 

I could write books-upon-books (pun intended) on Alisa Ben, but Alisa Olander really is the forever hippie weaving in and out of responsibilities that amount to a whole lot.

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