6/10. because the night

Patti Smith.

Patti Fucking Smith.

It’s so obvious it embarrasses me.

It’s like: she’s the coolest and the sun is hot. To say anything else seems redundant. Obvious.

But then again, that’s the whole point.

That is why this all started.

Because of the British.

Because I’d rather feel over saturated with news of women whose titles include a few conjunctions than with news of women who are lauded for their genetic makeup and silence.

Because of what Amy said and especially because of the last line of her quote.

Once it comes into the adult realm it’s like, ‘Great, go for it, do your own thing … Sit on cakes. Do whatever the fuck you want.’ It’s just that I get worried for young girls sometimes; I want them to feel that they can be sassy and full and weird and geeky and smart and independent, and not so withered and shriveled … More than it being the Pussycat Dolls thing? It’s just distracting from what is real power.

Did you know Patti Smith invented the mosh pit?

Patti Smith’s black hair inspired millions of girls and boys with Xs on their hands to dye their own hair inky black and stage dive into crowds.

Patti Smith wore ripped jeans sitting next to John Stamos on a plane once and the next day he bought ripped jeans.

Okay, Patti Smith may or may not have done any of the above, but in 1967 the 21-year-old future “Godmother of Punk” moved to Brooklyn to become an artist and then she did. THE END. It was really easy and simple and she didn’t understand why EVERYBODY wasn’t doing it because OMGEASY.

No.

She was 21 and seeking refuge and acceptance. She found Robert Mapplethorpe and, consequently, everything else she was looking for—or, at least, everything she needed.

She was a poet first, a rock star by accident and a punk by necessity. She and Robert lived through poverty and all the necessary growing pains of finding yourself. And she’s shared it all with us.

Just Kids, the 2010 National Book Award non-fiction winner, is a memoir of Smith and Mapplethorpe’s early lives in New York and you’ve either heard about it and already read it or plan to read it and water is wet and other shocking discoveries. But in case you don’t know, it was just announced that it’s being adapted into a screenplay.

Patti and Robert were friends until the day he died.

I can never decide what the most interesting part of a memoir is: the meandering path that people take to become who they’re supposed to be (always so much clearer in retrospect), the little secrets nestled into already known information or the freak encounters that change the entire direction and trajectory of someone’s life. Sometimes, just the act of writing it seems like the most interesting part.

David Sedaris once said that when he re-reads journals from years ago and wants to tear pages out, he resists the urge because he knows that if he feels that way it means he hasn’t learned anything from it yet.

So, here’s Patti, showing us the pages of her journals, pointing out the beautiful and ugly parts like a kindergarten teacher at story time.

“Here is the boy I met and fell in love with in New York City.”

“Here is where I found my confidence.”

“Here is where I lost my confidence. And money.”

“Here are my ambitions.”

Memoirs, and especially the memoirs of women like Patti, are good reminders to keep the pages in your journals. Because the stories worth telling don’t come without their share of bad and it’s a good idea to remember that.

where are you going, where have you been

 

For the past three years, trips out to Los Angeles have been annual and a respite from whatever temperature is plaguing the Midwest at any given time. Usually, it’s in the fall but it was so hot that exceptions were made.

I got an extra Kanter out of this trip and since meeting him I’ve decided I would spend seven billion years with these two in a cabin in the mountains, a Korean mall, an apartment in East LA with a shrieking tamales saleswoman as an alarm clock, in a car in LA traffic or, I guess, anywhere.

So, that’s where I’ve been.

ps, last Thursday I spent the afternoon at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Art in the Streets exhibit featuring the works of Shepard Fairey, BANKSY and Os Gemeos, among many others. The exhibit closed yesterday, but had been running since mid-April. It was the first major exhibition of graffiti and street art and OH MAN, was it amazing.

completely addicted to that jagged little pill

“I’m conducting an informal survey: does it make you kind of uncomfortable when people refer to themselves as an artist?”

I posed this question to a friend the other day.

At the time I was wondering what was so unsettling to me about hearing someone proclaim themselves as a definite something.

The answer is simple and complicated because it’s jealousy, but jealousy on a variety of levels.

On the most basic level, I’m jealous of anyone who can proclaim themselves as something with one hundred percent certainty.

“I’m a toaster!”
The Brave Little Toaster
“I’m a Samantha!”
Samantha
“I’m an artist!”

I am certain of things for 90 seconds at a time, which is then immediately followed by weeks of doubt because how much do I really know? That’s where it gets complicated.

There is a lot of good in the uncertainty, though. There’s a lot of good in not knowing but just making a decision.

Austin Kleon wrote a note on “How to Steal Like an Artist” and the most relevant item on the list was this:

So much of success lies in trying, living and learning. I’m learning to embrace that. I love that this means that on some days you could be a ballerina, sailor, chef, artist, writer–anything.

Claes Oldenburg, 1961

“I am for an art that is political-erotical-mystical, that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum.

I am for an art that grows up not knowing it is art at all, an art given the chance of having a staring point of zero.

I am for an art that embroils itself with the everyday crap & still comes out on top.

I am for an art that imitates the human, that is comic, if necessary, or violent, or whatever is necessary.

I am for an art that takes its form from the lines of life itself, that twists and extends and accumulates and spits and drips, and is heavy and coarse and blunt and sweet and stupid as life itself.

I am for an artist who vanishes, turning up in a white cap painting signs or hallways.

I am for an art that comes out of a chimney like black hair and scatters in the sky.

I am for an art that spills out of an old man’s purse when he is bounced off a passing fender.

I am for the art out of a doggie’s mouth, falling five stories from the roof.

I am for the art that a kid licks, after peeling away the wrapper.

I am for an art that joggles like everyone’s knees, when the bus traverses an excavation.

I am for art that is smoked, like a cigarette, smells, like a pair of shoes.

I am for art that flaps like a flag or helps blow noses, like a handkerchief.

I am for art that is put on and taken off, like pants, which develops holes, like socks, which is eaten, like a piece of pie, or abandoned with great contempt, like a piece of shit.

I am for art covered with bandages, I am for art that limps and rolls and runs and jumps. I am for art comes in a can or washes up on the shore.

I am for art that coils and grunts like a wrestler. I am for art that sheds hair.

I am for art you can sit on. I am for art you can pick your nose with or stub your toes on.

I am for art from a pocket, from deep channels of the ear, from the edge of a knife, from the corners of the mouth, stuck in the eye or worn on the wrist.

I am for art under the skirts, and the art of pinching cockroaches.

I am for the art of conversation between the sidewalk and a blind mans metal stick.

I am for the art that grows in a pot, that comes down out of the skies at night, like lightning, that hides in the clouds and growls. I am for art that is flipped on and off with a switch.

I am for art that unfolds like a map, that you can squeeze, like your sweetie’s arm, or kiss, like a pet dog. Which expands and squeaks, like an accordion, which you can spill your dinner on, like an old tablecloth.

I am for an art that you can hammer with, stitch with, sew with, paste with, file with.

I am for an art that tells you the time of day, or where such and such a street is.

I am for an art that helps old ladies across the street.

I am for the art of the washing machine. I am for the art of a government check. I am for the art of last wars raincoat.

I am for the art that comes up in fogs from sewer-holes in winter. I am for the art that splits when you step on a frozen puddle. I am for the worms art inside the apple. I am for the art of sweat that develops between crossed legs.

I am for the art of neck-hair and caked tea-cups, for the art between the tines of restaurant forks, for odor of boiling dishwater.

I am for the art of sailing on Sunday, and the art of red and white gasoline pumps.

I am for the art of bright blue factory columns and blinking biscuit signs.

I am for the art of cheap plaster and enamel. I am for the art of worn marble and smashed slate. I am for the art of rolling cobblestones and sliding sand. I am for the art of slag and black coal. I am for the art of dead birds.

I am for the art of scratchings in the asphalt, daubing at the walls. I am for the art of bending and kicking metal and breaking glass, and pulling at things to make them fall down.

I am for the art of punching and skinned knees and sat-on bananas. I am for the art of kids’ smells. I am for the art of mama-babble.

I am for the art of bar-babble, tooth-picking, beer drinking, egg-salting, in-sulting. I am for the art of falling off a bar stool.

I am for the art of underwear and the art of taxicabs. I am for the art of ice-cream cones dropped on concrete. I am for the majestic art of dog-turds, rising like cathedrals.

I am for the blinking arts, lighting up the night. I am for art falling, splashing, wiggling, jumping, going on and off.

I am for the art of fat truck-tires and black eyes.

I am for Kool-art, 7-UP art, Pepsi-art, Sunshine art, 39 cents art, 15 cents art, Vatronol Art, Dro-bomb art, Vam art, Menthol art, L & M art Ex-lax art, Venida art, Heaven Hill art, Pamryl art, San-o-med art, Rx art, 9.99 art, Now art, New ar, How art, Fire sale art, Last Chance art, Only art, Diamond art, Tomorrow art, Franks art, Ducks art, Meat-o-rama art.

I am for the art of bread wet by rain. I am for the rat’s dance between floors. I am for the art of flies walking on a slick pear in the electric light. I am for the art of soggy onions and firm green shoots. I am for the art of clicking among the nuts when the roaches come and go. I am for the brown sad art of rotting apples.

I am for the art of meows and clatter of cats and for the art of their dumb electric eyes.

I am for the white art of refrigerators and their muscular openings and closing.

I am for the art of rust and mold. I am for the art of hearts, funeral hearts or sweetheart hearts, full of nougat. I am for the art of worn meat hooks and singing barrels of red, white, blue and yellow meat.

I am for the art of things lost or thrown away, coming home from school. I am for the art of cock-and-ball trees and flying cows and the noise of rectangles and squares. I am for the art of crayons and weak grey pencil-lead, and grainy wash and sticky oil paint, and the art of windshield wipers and the art of the finger on a cold window, on dusty steel or in the bubbles on the sides of a bathtub.

I am for the art of teddy-bears and guns and decapitated rabbits, explodes umbrellas, raped beds, chairs with their brown bones broken, burning trees, firecracker ends, chicken bones, pigeon bones, and boxes with men sleeping in them.

I am for the art of slightly rotten funeral flowers, hung bloody rabbits and wrinkly yellow chickens, bass drums & tambourines, and plastic phonographs.

I am for the art of abandoned boxes, tied like pharaohs. I am for an art of water tanks and speeding clouds and flapping shades.

I am for U.S. Government Inspected Art, Grade A art, Regular Price art, Yellow Ripe art, Extra Fancy art, Ready-to-eat art, Best-for-less art, Ready-to-cook art, Fully cleaned art, Spend Less art, Eat Better art, Ham art, Pork art, chicken art, tomato art, banana art, apple art, turkey art, cake art, cookie art.

add:

I am for an art that is combed down, that is hung from each ear, that is laid on the lips and under the eyes, that is shaved from the legs, that is brushed on the teeth, that is fixed on the thighs, that is slipped on the foot.

square which becomes blobby”

May, 1961

judging a book by its cover

Before we moved in 2009, my father’s college textbooks used to travel with us from house to house.  I remember the orange “used” stickers dotting the sides of seemingly random psychology books and novels in the basement and all around my parent’s bedrooms.

My introduction to classic literature came from talking vegetables and time-traveling dogs, but I was surrounded by it from birth.

I read a book about Mr. Blue’s Farm, then read Animal Farm.

I watched Veggie Tales’ Grapes of Wrath, then attempted Steinbeck’s novel.

Unlike Animal Farm, I couldn’t get by with a notebook full of unknown words and a dictionary.  I put it down after ten or twelve pages and haven’t gone back since.  I’ll probably need to add that to my “Need to Read” list.

I read Catcher in the Rye sometime in my pre-teen years and was later confused by the barrage of teenagers claiming it as their favorite book.  When I read it I was emotionally too far away from the hopelessly introspective and downtrodden spirit of Holden Caulfield and now I’m too far away from that period of angst to take it seriously.

But I learned a valuable lesson from that book: teenagers who count Catcher in the Rye among their favorite books are almost always the most boring people in the room.  This book marked my last adolescent stint with “college” level reading materials and my introduction to the adult (as in grown-up, NOT skeeze)  fiction section at the public library.

In my hometown, the public library let you check out adult fiction books when you turned eleven but only let you check out DVDs after you turned thirteen.  So at first I read books based on movies I couldn’t see–the top two being White Oleander and Riding in Cars With Boys.  Then when those ran out, I simply judged the books by their covers.

The most memorable covers came from Julianna Baggott,

And, as previously mentioned, Jacqueline Susann:

Methinks it was just an attraction to the color pink…but, it served me well.  By (ruthlessly) judging books by their covers I was introduced to fantastic female authors and the books taught me about the little bits of crazy hiding in everyone.

Win/Win.

StolenSpace, a gallery in East London, is currently hosting a gallery featuring book covers reinterpreted by different artists.

And if ever there was an argument for judging books by their covers, this would be it.  Here are a few of my favorites:

How could you not pick this book up?

Bridget Jones' Diary.

I think that last one is my favorite.  I am not above getting “no emotional fuckwittage” tattooed on me.