Wednesday, January 16, 2008

beginnings, middles, and ends

1. Commitment (is this the beginning or the middle?)

For several years now, I have been dating my studio. Spending quality time together, in the early days lots of evenings and weekends. Having coffee, dining, courting with new equipment and hanging pretty pictures and generally being on my best behavior and not cursing too loudly. A few long, long nights here and there.

Then I signed a lease. Rather like a marriage, perhaps, although I had to pay a lot more for the first/last/security/insurance fees than one does for a marriage license. Didn't buy a new frock to celebrate, although did spend money on the studio equivalent of registry items from Home Depot. Settled in. Bought drinking glasses, tables, and chairs.

Not that things in the relationship are starting to get stale -- it just happens that I have been advised to take a lover.

2. The Lover (is this the middle or the beginning?)

Apparently, beginning to mature into one's voice as a writer is about carving out the regular time to actually, oh, write. The advice I was given is to treat writing like a love: if one has a lover, one makes time for the person. Not only does one make time for said being, but one makes atmosphere.

So my writing is off in a corner somewhere, sulking and reading bad magazines and drinking cheep beer, because I begrudge the Time When Awake and Coherent that it requires, and because I don't even attempt atmosphere. Aren't a collection of typewriters, the complete Oxford English Dictionary, wire-rimmed glasses sufficient atmosphere? What more is there?

3. An end. Not to end on a downer, but if the majority of my writing, regardless of quality, is ending up here, one can't be too exclusive.

Living in a series of garret apartment rooms: this attraction to being above the push and pull of the fray, the mass of human bodies below. Gazing down from one's windows, god-like, into the swarming action. My very first very own bedroom, the sign of liberation from the ever-present younger-sister, who was given the nicer bedroom with two closets; but my own room, with the long, slanting ceiling ending at a row of windows placed at just the right height for watching the backyard from the bed. The carpeting an irrepressible kelly green stripe, unfortunately indestructible and so never replaced. The lure of the slanting ceiling meeting with visions of the Sistine Chapel, and the beginnings of the project to turn the room into High Art.

Not being an artist myself, this also became the first in a series of life discoveries on the nature and value of delegation, and so a friend was recruited to design, draw, and paint the history of Art, from the Etruscans through the Greeks, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and all of the various movements of the modern era, onto the ceiling, in a series of tableaus measuring 18" by 24". The difference between the installation as realized as opposed to those in textbooks was that each parodied famous art work was drawn using the feline form, rather than the human.

The pencil sketches were of a surprisingly high quality, given the constraints of suburban Dallas, and my budget, a promise of $60 to be paid upon completion. Sixty dollars in high school was a fortune.

What I remember most about that summer of Art, though, was what we called the "trash wall," the flat wall of the room which was the receptacle of our energies when the slope of the ceiling became painful, and we graffitied to our heart's content. My friend and I copied out favorite poems onto the wall, such as that by Edwin Arlington Robinson:


"Together in infinite shade
They deny the invincible dawn:
The measure that never was made,
The line that never was drawn."

The title was "Too Much Coffee."

The project, of course, was never completed, although the pencil sketches were thoroughly drawn, and subtly shaded; this testament to life at fifteen turning to sixteen standing for another dozen years, until one Christmas when I painted everything over with three coats of primer and two top coats. My mother was heartbroken at the loss of the monument to youth; for her the cats really were High Art and also the physical presence of her surly eldest child.

What we did not paint over, though, when readying the wall for occupancy by the youngest daughter, was the small, flat portion of the ceiling, a strip perhaps 3 feet wide that ran the length of the room, and was labeled "The Summer of Our Discontent." This will hopefully remain as created until my parents abandon the property, for the ceiling of the summer of our discontent holds the painted handprints of all my friends from this fragile era, an era which one of us did not survive, his death becoming ultimately the cause of his mother's, and shattering our unity.

His handprint is the only physical notion which remains, preserved in cheap poster paint on the ceiling of the room.

reading film schedules
weather undoubtedly January