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His master’s voice

old_man_at_celeyran-largeSo, a man is sitting in the park eating his lunch and checking out the local talent, when this old man appears, coming down the path towards the bench where he’s sitting.

Now this old guy is old money, you can tell. The kind of money that bought a dozen very good suits on Savile Row in 1956 and is going to get every damn cent’s worth out of them. He’s a little old gent, well into his seventies, but wiry and strong, all decked out in a tweed suit, a smart green waistcoat, matched silk tie and pocket square, fob chain, and a spotless green homburg — the whole production – and he’s striding down the road like he’s being charged by the foot.

In his left hand, he’s brandishing a stout silver-tipped walking stick, and as he gets closer, the man can see that his other hand is cradling the end of a smallish house-brick which he has tucked into the crook of his elbow. It’s a perfectly nice brick – red, quite new, but with a couple of chips out of the near end. The brick has a piece of bright red string tied around it with a careful knot. The string loops down toward the old man’s knees and then back up, the end clutched in the same hand as the walking stick. The string dances and jiggles as the old man waves his stick at young people and rapscallions.

So he harrumphs up to the bench, stops with a crunch of gravel and an excuse me, young man, dreadfully sorry, do you mind? so the man says, yes, of course.

The old man rests his walking stick up against the bench, takes the square out of his pocket and brushes a speck of dust off the bench, leans over, still cradling the brick carefully with his arm, flicks a few leaves off of a patch of grass in front of the bench, replaces the pocket square and plops the brick down right in the middle of the patch of grass. He looks at the brick, moves it a bit to the right, loops the string around his shoe and tucks the end into his pants pocket, then settles back with a sigh of contentment to survey the view.

Now, the man has just about finished his sandwich, all except the dried up crust at the end, so he looks at the brick and thinks, why not? so he goes would your dog like a bit of my sandwich?

The old man looks round at him and says, I beg your pardon?

Your dog. Would it like the last bit of my sandwich?

I don’t have a dog, young man, says the old gent, his eyes boggling out a little.

Sorry, says the man, I just thought, and he points at the brick.

The old man looks down at the brick in front of him like he’s never seen it before in his life. He says, that, young man, that is a brick. You can tell from the fact that it is a damn brick. Does it look like a dog to you?

Well, says the man, it’s got a string tied around it.

The old guy is up out of his seat now. I hope, he says, that you are not suggesting I don’t know the difference between a brick and a dog? He grabs his walking stick and he’s waving it in the air, big random swings.

It’s all too much for the other man, and he bolts for it, shedding crusts and papers as he goes.

The old guy reaches down and picks up the brick.

“That fooled the little fucker, Fido. Good boy.”

[Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – Old Man at Celeyran]


Music

Hello kiddies. It’s a scorcher down here today, and that means margaritas. Tonight, I’m off to see Chekhov. In celebration, therefore, music!


Important issues concerning my lawn and your presence upon it

la_vielle_aux_loques-large

I love my iThings, but the iMessage bug is making me grumpier than a bulldog with one ball.

I use iMessage to chat with my lovely friend Sandra during the day.

At the moment our conversations seem to consist of three or four messages in a row from me (as I realise that none of the messages I sent in the last hour have been delivered, turn iMessage off, reset my network settings, turn iMessage on, and resend the messages that don’t, upon reflection, sound dumb, stoned or needy); followed about ten minutes later by seventeen from Sandra (as she realises that none of her messages have been delivered, stares at her phone in puzzlement for a good six, seven minutes, turns iMessage off, resets her fucking network settings, turns iMessage on, and then resends every single message because self-editing is not amongst Sandra’s skills); followed by one message from me responding to whatever actual content there was in Sandra’s messages; followed by about two dozen from Sandra explaining how she’s changed her mind about three quarters of the stuff she said in her first lot of messages; followed by a few minutes of normal chatting, an hour’s gap, and repeat.
It’s exhausting.

Also, young people.

Young men should stop wearing their jeans so tight it distorts their buttocks and makes them pointy and lumpy at the top and all flat at the bottom so it looks like they go down to their knees, because no girl really wants to fuck a boy who looks like he has a pointy, tumorous, shelf-bum. And they should either shave or grown a beard, none of this manky tufts in odd places and lines shaved into the side and a mustache that looks like they knitted it out of their nose hair and cat dander. I’m in Hong Kong this month, and I swear, dears, if I find myself stuck on the footpath behind one more kiddie who’s walking, wearing headphones, head down and typing on a Samsung, I’m going to push the little shit under a bus.

Also, too, Republicans. Dickheads.

[James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) – La Vielle aux loques]


This is why we can’t have nice things any more…

David Dunlap has a lovely and very sad article over at the New York Times about the imminent destruction of I. M. Pei’s Terminal 6 at Kennedy International. Dunlap’s last few paragraphs perfectly sum up the stupidity of what is happening.

George Cserna / Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University

I flew National a bit during the 70s, while Keith and I were busy destabilizing pro-Batista groups in Florida. I was, even then, a seasoned traveler, but stepping inside that building was a joy, a moment that felt like movie-stardom, like the eye of the camera had followed me in through the doors and into a filmic new age, a shiny world peopled with pert stewardesses and loose boys in tight pants off to catch their big break and movie starlets and dapper-suited businessmen and, of course, the obligatory nuns. There were always nuns. They were usually lugging a guitar, although I did once see one with a tuba on a little trolley.

Everyone would check in early and then lounge around looking gorgeous, watching the earth and its luggage go by. And let me tell you, Pei’s Sundrome was where it was at. I once snuck a sneaky joint in a utilities closet with Truman Capote and Liberace – they dated for a while in the late 60s, and so the only thing thicker in there than the smoke was the cloud of bitchiness that oozed out of both of them. Another time, I wandered into the men’s bathroom by mistake and found out far more about Gore Vidal’s taste in rough trade than any woman needs to know. I swapped lipstick colors with Jackie Collins and had carnal knowledge of a young David Cassidy behind a plant holder. I watched Russian spies pass information to Arab sheiks, and once saw Walter Cronkite passed out in a pool of vomit on the stairs, with a party hat on his head and a funny whistle stuck in his mouth, so that every time he breathed he made a sad, warbling farting noise. The staff had discreetly covered him with a blanket and arranged a few “Do not disturb” signs around him. So considerate.

And yet, with all this, I never missed a flight, except the one time that Truman held an impromptu party airside in Departures that lasted for a week. I had been on my way to Florida to meet with Castro, and ended up being twelve hours late because I couldn’t pull myself away from Lady Bird Johnson’s stash of quite extraordinary coke. People were buying airplane tickets just to go to the damn party. I am told that someone managed to smuggle a small donkey through luggage inspection and Phyllis Schlafly spent several hours riding around on it, shouting “I am the Queen of the May” and flashing her boobs at everyone.

Castro – without the fake beard and therefore almost unrecognizable (he had been flitting in and out of Miami for years pimping his cigar export business) – wasn’t amused when I eventually showed up at Miami International, but I offered him some of Bird’s coke and he perked right up. Bird laughed herself silly when I told her later.

Good times.

Pei Cobb Freed and Partners

In his article, Dunlap quotes from a letter from Pei’s partner Henry N. Cobb to the CEO of JetBlue, and the response that Cobb received:

In January, Mr. Cobb made what he called a “last-minute plea for reversal of this death sentence” to David Barger, the president and chief executive of JetBlue. “Conserved and reanimated, the Terminal 6 pavilion would further strengthen the distinctive identity of JetBlue as a sponsor of design excellence and an effective advocate for a sustainable future,” Mr. Cobb wrote. “I. M. Pei joins me in thanking you for your consideration of this request.” (That’s as close as Mr. Pei would ever get to joining anything resembling a fray.)

Mr. Barger said in reply, “While I share your passion for classic terminal designs, I have concluded the time has passed for the pavilion building to serve any functional purpose.” Mr. Barger went on to express his gratitude to Pei Cobb Freed “for your influence on JetBlue’s first decade” and concluded:

I personally commit to advocate for a permanent display of the pavilion photographs and other architectural artifacts so future generations can continue to appreciate the beauty of Terminal 6 and the uniqueness it once brought to J.F.K.

George Cserna / Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University

Because a photo display and a chunk of ceiling stuck on the wall somewhere over a travelator between the toilets and the fucking Pandora store is clearly an adequate substitute for being able to appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of Terminal 6 by actually visiting it. All those memories torn down, leaving us only memories.

What an arsehole you are, Mr Barger.

Whether Pei’s building makes your loins warm or not (and it makes mine feel positively frisky), destroying something so well made, so representative of a time in our history, should be unacceptable.

That JetBlue and its engineers and managers were unable (or unwilling) to come up with a way to retain this building, and construct the facilities they need around it and through it, betrays a shortsightedness that would make me nervous were I a JetBlue shareholder.

I hope (in vain, I suspect) that Mr Barger might wake up one morning and find Shame perched on the end of his bed, staring at him with fear and loathing in its eyes – a little like waking up next to Michele Bachmann – and he will feel the shame of knowing that he is, and was, a grey numbers man, a nothingness who always took the safe route and failed regardless, a little man who never had the balls to make a visionary decision.

Images: George Cserna / Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library Columbia University, and Pei Cobb Freed and Partners


The little things that keep me sane

I apologize that I’ve been quiet recently. There hasn’t been much posting because every time I sit at my computer and start to write, I have an overwhelming urge to repeatedly slam my face into my keyboard, and frankly ten pages of:

Fkghckugchgo$E&^UCYJhupoji’pads’hoia0J
IPW’EAP/KFNGOAS;DF;KMAA’0HUERW8U098[QGER/LNA
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does not make compelling reading (even if it is more coherent, incisive and factually-based than anything Megan McArdle has managed to write in the last ten years).

I’m going to try and get my mojo back with a post about things that have enabled me to survive a month in which it seemed like everyone in the world had turned into a raging dickhead except you and me (and honestly I was a little bit dubious about you and me).

First – geekery! A new Doctor Who trailer with lots of recycled stuff, but a few intriguing new glimpses of pyramiddy goodness.

I think I might be a little old for Matt Smith, but it would be nice to add a fourth Doctor’s notch to my bedpost. Anyway, you never know, he might be interested in a woman who’s almost as old as his character. Read the rest of this entry »


How long is it until we can leave David Brooks out on a hillside to die?

[Image: Cardinal Mazarin Dying - Paul Delaroche (1797-1856)]

As I have mentioned before, I try very hard not to read anything that David Brooks writes, just in case my brain becomes so revolted it tries to crawl out my ears.

His most recent excresence, however, is so appalling, such a pile of unthinking horror topped off with scads of twaddle masquerading as sympathy, that I can’t leave it alone.

The fiscal crisis is driven largely by health care costs. We have the illusion that in spending so much on health care we are radically improving the quality of our lives. We have the illusion that through advances in medical research we are in the process of eradicating deadly diseases. We have the barely suppressed hope that someday all this spending and innovation will produce something close to immortality.

Obviously, we are never going to cut off Alzheimer’s patients and leave them out on a hillside. We are never coercively going to give up on the old and ailing. But it is hard to see us reducing health care inflation seriously unless people and their families are willing to do what Clendinen is doing — confront death and their obligations to the living.

My only point today is that we think the budget mess is a squabble between partisans in Washington. But in large measure it’s about our inability to face death and our willingness as a nation to spend whatever it takes to push it just slightly over the horizon.

Read the rest of this entry »


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