pretty tough


A man with a German accent, grinning and pointing, asked what I thought of his teeth implants. Discolored, he said they were new. I’d just bought flowers off a sidewalk, a couple bucks slipped in a lockbox for purple weeds and Dahlias.

I don’t expect men to bring me flowers. But, I want to make paintings of men carrying flowers. Awkwardly. With reverence. Nothing’s stopping me.

I need models. Who must be a very tall and Metalheads. I’m interested in their vulnerability. I’m kidding. Any guy over 5’7” will do. But pretty. In the tough way Metalheads are.

Obviously, my subjectivity has no real object. I’ve done a lot of American dreaming.

The town’s crawling with secret societies, fraternities and cliques. When everyone’s in your business, privacy needs a place.

I spent a lot of time reading Foucault and comic books. Artists don’t read widely enough. I can say that. Because I’m an artist, and we all do the same things, over and again. Like on Thursday I saw the cabaret singer steal flowers from my neighbor. Should there be a higher standard?

I wear a medium shirt. Except in children’s sizes where I can still squeeze into an extra large, which I learned exchanging a moss-green t-shirt at the Pirate Museum. The woman was helpful, saying the color worked with my gray beard and blue eyes. She was surprised I live here, making me admit I work from my kitchen table, which is the new normal but still not normal.

She said they were short-handed. I wanted to be hired on-the-spot, maybe as a re-enactor, like being discovered at Schrafft’s.

I’ve worked with people who perform competence. Alone at my kitchen table, it begs the question. Did I tell you I fear the future? Not for myself, of course, because I’m the independent sort, but for others to whom I’ve made promises. I get angry.

We were at Disneyworld for the Bicentennial. All I remember is having to pee real bad, my parents refusing to wait in another line. And two days later buying Uncanny X-Men no.100 at a 7-11 in St. Pete. The cover showed the old team fighting the new team, which turned out to be a lie. But it felt like hermeneutical gold to my ten-year old self, eager for insider information. The X-Men saved me.

Riding back to a frugal motel far from Disneyworld, not peeing was agony. Conscious of being humiliated by my body, I got mad. Like my parents, the someone who doesn’t know how to do things is scared of my anger. What’s worse? Expressed or bottled emotion?

They get you coming and going.

It’s hard to be vulnerable, pretty, and tough, which is the conundrum of the modern man. Or did I get that wrong? I like all the emotions. Maybe not anxiety, but who am I to say?

That comic, slipped in a mylar sleeve, entombed in an acid-free box is now worth 920 times what I paid. Could I sell my last memory of the Bicentennial? I’m baffled by economies of scale.

I worry when I’m still excited by books I read in the 90s. Some colleagues talk about art history as if it were still happening, and oddly dismiss things that’ve come full circle. Who wants to be revealed by orthodoxies with short half-lives?

What’s happening now?

On a hazy beach, horizon indistinguishable, I understand infinity. Not the forever thing, but the all-at-once. Which really is the same. I’m reading Donald Hall’s description of snow on a barn, and chickadees. The sun setting, it grows cool: the last full day of summer.

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