question arises en route to airport: why this trip? why NYC? why now?
the question is prompted by recent acquisition of no small happiness. clean, careful successes in my professional life, in spite of the chaos swirling around me. steady production of continuing to write thoughts and ideas that aren’t throwaway ones, and irresponsible. finding what in all respects appears to be true love in only a matter of months if not weeks. discovering a church home where the promise of real community (what uw could never deliver) is imminent.
so, why leave at all?
1. work has been utter chaos. leaders there do not inspire confidence in their abilities to make decent decisions. therefore, some type of vacation is necessary. a staycation has been done to death and this may very well be my only opportunity to travel for some time to come. SF has been done repeatedly. international travel isn’t affordable. in spite of plenty of good reasons, the question still lingers.
typical frustration moving through security–why don’t they make the area for placement of shoes, laptop, change, etc. longer to meet the new FAA/homeland security requirements for what people must separate from their luggage and persons? extending the conveyor belt and metal chutes at either end would go a long way toward routing folks through more quickly. brief panic after embedding my boarding pass in my book out of sight.
question comes to mind: in past, going back to childhood, the entire day’s activities are considered holistically to be a part of the vacation. the morning ritual of getting up early and driving to the airport. the time on the plane, etc. most adults probably find much of it to be necessary evils. is it better to focus on the destination and purpose awaiting you at the end, or to make the entire journey be the adventure? there seem to be pros and cons to both, and in life. the cons to the latter see me making a lot of the same mistakes repeatedly and stuck in a million ruts.
i caught a lot of people smiling at me, and wondered if there was a happier look on my face than i remember. my face looks quite old to me, in the dingy studio hotel bathroom mirror. all of the color from a few weeks ago has washed out of my hair, and it’s gray again, and visibly thin on top. there’s nothing much attractive about my face, other than my pretty blue eyes. but, my face is big and expressive, so when i flash a thundercloud scowl people often react more negatively than i could ever have imagined they would. it is much the same with a smile.
i caught myself wanting to know these people. that’s what’s disappointing about the city. a shy, socially awkward person has no chance of getting to know anyone. women think he wants one thing from them, and men can only guess that maybe he wants one of two things. i found myself wanting to be over myself, but not having lost myself like i did ten years ago. it’s one thing to get out a lot and do stuff, and meet many new people, losing yourself in the moment. it’s another thing to lose yourself completely. i want to always know myself, but reach that moment where i am completely over me.
there are millions of people just as interesting as i am in this city, and you want to know where they are going when they’re moving, always moving.
i catch myself in moments of anger, too. i accidentally bump into some lady down in times square, and i’m not completely sure it’s my fault. she just happened to veer into my zig when she thought i was zagging. i smile and apologize, and she flashes me a dark scowl. she is a run-of-the-mill squat, brazillian beauty–too short and wide to ever be a supermodel. but, she’s walking around with her clan as if she’s just been discovered by calvin klein or something.
a man on the plane similarly bumps into me, and it’s the same thing. i want to smack him upside the head for his snide “umm-hmm” delivered to my apology where i was dubiously at fault for getting in his way.
cars frantically angle for pockets of pedestrian-free openings as they try to turn right and beat the light. one comes dangerously close to hitting me, and i smack it.
why some parts of me can’t become aligned and whole, i don’t know. can i not approach humanity with a realistic eye, that is still connected to a heart that remains full of love? why is it the moment some little thing sets me off, i am suddenly welling up with this deeply-rooted anger that insists humanity must always please and delight me, or it is not worth bothering with (or saving) at all?
i want to believe these are the last vestiges of my child’s temperament. some part of me can’t seem to see the world of man but through a lens of “it’s all good” or a lens of “the entire lot of them can burn, save me.” fully rested, free of alcohol and the cares of the day, it’s easy to be an adult. it’s only after the battles of the day start to erode my perfectly composed self that someone else starts to appear underneath.
i would think that a man who is realizing himself beyond what’s average and the norm would be capable of keeping himself decent and dignified even as his stomach starts to tear away at him and sleep comes pounding into his head.
so, here it is, a page almost of writing, and little about the trip thus far.
i’ve also started asking myself intensely why i love the atmosphere of new york so much. it isn’t that unusual to fall in love with this city, to be more comfortable here than, say, bastrop. it’s probably harder to fall in love the day you stop being a tourist and get a job, apartment and driver’s license here, but i’m guessing that for many people something of that first attraction persists.
i’m asking myself about these things in an intense fashion, because when i got up this morning, i was hardly feeling that ecstatic about this trip anymore. i own a condo in austin, have met the lady who in all likelihood is the love of my life, and aside from the madness that is uw, i have a pretty predictable life established in austin. the longer i am here in ny, though, the more i start to have those old little nagging demons of wondering what it would be like to live here.
and, back in austin, i’d been conjecturing that the reason i loved it so much last time was because i was in love with all of the creations of man. new york city is a great place to get as far away from God as possible, if you like, because your senses are constantly bombarded with a comforting buzz that the creations of man are so much better and more powerful. unless you are someone who gets lonely a lot, you would never think to cry out to God, because there’s always something open and something happening. everywhere you turn, your eyes can worship a different idol.
now that i’m here, i wonder if such conjecturing is a little simplistic. such comfort from the creations of man and desire to be far away from God might motivate many to fall in love with NYC, but there are, of course, millions of devout followers of God in this city. i think maybe NYC offers tastes of what heaven will be like–we’ll be surrounded by billions of followers of Christ inside God’s many mansions, and never feel alone. what’s more, all of the people we see in heaven will be glad to get to know us, and we them. there won’t be any of that awkward suspicion over what your true motives are for wanting to meet someone. and, you will be able to know someone intimately without anything sexual taking place.
up at 6:30 am. woke up a few times in the night with a full bladder, but kept thinking that the process of donning something reasonable and grabbing a key was too much work, and that i could force myself back to sleep.
i had some strange, vivid dream that i promptly forgot upon fully waking and remembering where i was. — i later recalled something about trying to have a staring contest with someone while blowing on a trumpet. the first person who ran out of air or blinked won the contest. the other person played the saxophone, and only had a trumpet mouthpiece on him. i was suddenly unable to blow any noise into the mouthpiece —
i found the entire process of remembering everything i needed to be successfully prepared for the day kind of beyond what my tourist brain was capable of. the hotel gives you a bar of soap and toilet paper that you have to take with you to the bathroom.
for some reason, i went to bed thinking the thing sitting on the mini fridge in the corner was a microwave, and i could heat up coffee with it, but it turned out to be a television–not very helpful.
last night, the desk attendant had told me there was free wi-fi waiting for me at the nearby mcdonald’s, so i made that priority number one. i generally only eat at a mcdonald’s when traveling or desperate. i soon discovered that the wi-fi was for whatever reason not 100% available. i got to where the connector said i was on the internet, and i could ping websites and get responses, but the browsers were not connecting. after almost an hour of trying this, i decided that this was a poor way to spend my time in nyc.
if the folks back home don’t get my pics of the trip on fb until after i return, it won’t be the end of the world for them. in fact, it’s a little refreshing having this impediment between me and email. i could probably make it my #1 mission while here–to find wi-fi or an internet cafe, but that would be soul-suckingly dreadful.
it’s still an hour away from the moment the met opens, so i am sitting here in central park, surrounded by dogs and their owners, trying half-heartedly to suck in whatever unsecure wi-fi appears on my network list. so far, not any luck with the wi-fi, and the owners are roughly equivalent to the austin dog park crowd. the dogs are mostly smaller, foo-foo ones, though, as could be expected.
i would like to do some more exploration of what the value of
– art, architecture and other human endeavors that produce artifacts –
is for someone who fears God and wants to place God front and center in his life. one reaction to much of what man creates could be to say that these are nothing more than attempts to fill spiritual voids left by no longer believing in God, and ultimately carry the potential of being idols for worship and fetishization. another could also be to say that objects in a museum carry more or less equal weight in beauty to what one might find in nature or simply on a busy street corner, arising more spontaneously.
the ultimate question is: are these to be abandoned as they are all distractions from focusing on God, or are they to be celebrated with the rest of life as enriching factors of the life experience? for the answer, one might look to examine an alternative world where art has been completely removed. one could envision a world where everyone has heightened inner lives and spend hours of the day meditating on God’s grace and love, but then one might begin to question why we were even put here on this Earth in the first place–after all, if you are going to posit that we are essentially spiritual beings trying to return to God, then you must accept a higher reality where such activity could exist all the time, independently of any physical distractions.
since we are here in this physical world, the answer can’t be complete and utter asceticism, in spite of what so many mystics might want us to believe. the retreat in the hermetic life might be fitting for some, but would seem to defeat the purpose of being born into a physical existence to complete a life cycle as a human being of this world.
reading Jesus’ teachings, it is clear that he emphasized helping the least of these and loving thy neighbor. in order to become closer to God, one must appreciate ALL of humanity, not just well-educated folk who bathe. in God’s eyes, a ninety-year old incontinent hunchback is just as beautiful as a five-year-old little girl at easter, as any supermodel or rock star or athlete or movie star. so, as a being of this world, learning to love others as is, one might conclude that an appreciation of the ways they communicate and express themselves, as well as caring about the fact that if they are now dead, they were once fully-functioning human beings as well. one way to access this state of appreciation is by way of art and what can be found at the museum.
i have yet to conclude if this is utter rationalization–or maybe, it’s entirely up to me to decide what to do with art when i approach it–fetishize it, worship it, pour myself into it to escape from God or appreciate it within the larger context of Creation and humanity as being representative of the beauty that we are all capable of as God’s own works of art.
the met had a larger selection of early 20th century modern art, but the arbitrary application of bizarre rules made viewing somewhat unpleasant. my flash accidentally went off one time as i had to change the battery out, and the guard immediately pounced on me. shortly thereafter, a little asian woman blissfully snapped flash after flash while he went back to turning his back. same with this idiotic rule about carrying the backpack. most guards said nothing as i kept it slung over one shoulder, but one told me to carry it down and made some half-assed explanation about stuff being protected longer if backpacks aren’t warn on back or shoulder. i walked back and forth about three times, and witnessed all manner of backpacks, messenger bags and oversized purses and satchels being worn around shoulders and backs, and the guard said nothing. as i was getting quite hungry, i was a little incensed about this and was tempted to demand that i chat with his supervisor, but then i realized i was being ridiculous about this, as we all know those that enforce the rules are never consistent with their enforcement. while there, i was also asked to pull my laptop out, turn it on, get a tag, and then i could take the bag with me. afterward, i was asked to move to the other side of the rail on the outside steps as i reviewed my map for my next destination. i understand that i’m not in austin, and there is crowd control and terrorists and million dollar paintings and works of art all over the place, but i was just getting frustrated by everything due to a lack of food in my stomach.
back outside, i didn’t realize until too late that i’d been heading down to the whitney, which is closed, of course, when i meant to be heading to the guggenheim. i was going to stop at some random deli along the way, but everything was expensive and fancy. it was madison ave after all, and even the hot dog vendors were getting long lines. i spent the last of the cash i’d withdrawn–$60–at a vendor in central park (i spent $6, i’d withdrawn $60), and found no nearby benches so i am sitting on the ground against a tree.
while in the museum i realized that perhaps i am not having enough fun, relaxing enough, and pausing to just enjoy being away from work and the usual routine. so far, i’ve kept it in my head that everything has to be incredibly focused on getting insights in my mind that i will write about later, and making sure i record tons of photos that i can upload to facebook and impress people with. this is all incredibly ridiculous as i am inevitably going to get caught up in having someone else’s vacation.
i did think a little bit more on the association of idol worship and the meaning of modern art appreciation. people who are advanced in accepting a post modern worldview, that there is no meaning, and tend toward agnosticism if not outright atheism, seem unprepared to consider the unconscious ways that art affects them. even those who do still worship at a church or believe in God seem to adopt strange affinities for certain cultural entities and the artifacts that were created to represent them. a group of high school students was touring the museum and some of them reminded me of me at that age, making careless, brute comments about the works, like “she’s ugly” as their entire commentary on a painting.
there is probably more to be said about what the world would look like if there was no art…people would come to idolize shiny objects in a more primitive fashion. or, would we be capable of smashing through what amounts to entire worlds created between inner and outer worlds and suddenly access reality in a much more complete, truthful way? in short, does art prevent Truth itself from being lost completely to some morbid devolution of humanity, or is art preventing humanity from becoming truly capable of seeing God in all his glory?
it’s now 6 PM, and i’m getting ready to leave to head back down, possibly all the way to rockefeller center, before making my way back up to be in times square around 8:30-9 pm to take pics. the guggenheim was half down for a new installation, and so it was only half price to get in. other than an impressive kandinsky exhibit, and more of some of the same moderns and impressionist painters i’d already seen at the other two museums, there was little of note. i stopped for an overpriced beer at the museum cafe just because my entire body was aching and wanting me to. it felt so good, and relaxed me just enough to soothe some of my sore back and leg muscles and joints without putting me into a drowsy mode. a lot of my earlier grumpiness was washed away with this one beer, and i felt great walking back through central park, discovering rougher trails and amazing views of the little lake/pond in the middle of it. then, my bladder discovered the beer, and began complaining to me, so i hoofed it back to the hotel for a nap.
i thought some more about which museums i liked best and why, and was trying to figure out why i liked the moma and guggenheim better. the met has such an amazing collection of interesting stuff, and i could probably devote an entire week to it and still not get bored. in terms of sheer quantity of early 20th century moderns, i think the met has more paintings. however, i liked the other two museums better because i was never treated like some bumfuck redneck kid around the works. even being half down, the guggenheim was straightforward about the backpack–you need to check it–done. none of this weird, show us your laptop, now you can keep your backpack, except you have to wear it on one shoulder, no wait, you have to carry it at your side–bullshit. both the moma and guggenheim greet the patron as if they are excited to be sharing the art with you, not like some big old stuffy church or library where you’re going to be shushed at and mistrusted the entire time.
i suppose the met can be the way it is because it is the met, but i think museums in general are dismal when it comes to engaging patrons. there are so many wasted opportunities to keep someone excited about their visit year-round online, that it’s just silly.
i received a call from linda p. when i got back and was preparing for my nap. she’d gotten the reference call from c only today. it’s kind of exciting, to think that maybe, just maybe, i’ll have a new job waiting for me in austin when i get back. life could really get to be that good, i know.
i am going to make it top priority for the rest of the year to pay attention more to myself when i am in various states of being fed or not, being sore or not, being awake or tired or just waking up. it would seem that such physical states seem to affect me much more emotionally and psychically than they do others. and, in spite of an almost complete removal of excessive drinking from my life, there does still seem to be excessively careening thought patterns that put me in moods where i can’t see straight to make good choices.
i leave now with only camera as my extra thing.
it’s curious how many really beautiful women smile at me here in NYC. i’m not sure exactly what the cause of this is. i just downloaded some pictures i took in times square, and i took a few shots of my big freaky mug with the billboards in the backdrop. my theories are: 1. all these women think they’re in sex in the city and smile at every guy that doesn’t look like a complete slob in case he turns out to be a rich something exec of fashionartmagazinestheaterfinance. 2. they aren’t really smiling at me, there are just so many people around, that my chances of having a beautiful woman smile at the handsome dude walking behind me are that much greater. 3. this one hit me when i was walking back through central park today–maybe they are experimenting with beaming some type of light, electromagnetic waves at the people of this city to keep them calm and in a state of slight sexual arousal–or putting something in the water that causes such. these women are all walking around like ssri zombies (or they are all taking ssri’s as a matter of course, courtesy of a million therapists throughout the city), and any guy that doesn’t look like a complete slob seems incredibly handsome to them.
should i say that i’m getting kind of tired of nyc already? you kind of start to categorize the people and places into general boxes, the more you walk around here. the art has neatly been categorized thus, and i’m sort of leaning toward spending a lot less at the whitney–just to go and say i was there since i didn’t get to go the last time i was here. and then, down to strand books, and a process of making my way back up through the city.
c called around 6:30 while i was headed down to times square, and they are ready to make me an offer. as always, there are perils ahead for me screwing it up tomorrow. 1. my pay-as-you-go balance is starting to get a little bit low, and i may not make it to a wi-fi hotspot to refill before they call. in fact, i likely won’t. 2. i am not in my natural environment, in front of the internet, to provide the most informed responses to whatever they ask.
looking at the face that popped up in the pictures i took, it always astounds me what i look like to the camera that isn’t ever there in the mirror. the big nose i obsess over in the mirror doesn’t seem as big, but is astonishingly crooked. the skin upon which i find every single zit and squeeze and apply ointment to becomes a sad, sunwrecked, pock-marked old man’s face, weathered and bewildered by life. the up-close face of the digital camera is the honest truth, and it’s no joke. but, what once would have been a moment of utter despair becomes a great bit of contentment and completeness as i finally accept myself, am happy with my own skin and living in it, wanting no changes made. the woman who loves me now is the one i want to love me for the rest of my life because i know for once that she is falling in love with me, and not somebody else. she will love me as i continue to age at this great rate, and i will love her as she is, too.
it all forces me to stop crescendoing into uncontrollable demonstrations of the ego, reaching out to the world as if he were a freakin’ flawless man inside and out. it forces me to be me, and not aim too high or look too low. one need only look low if one is trying to reach out a hand and help others, and once he looks, he’d better cease from looking down, because it’s one thing to look low on this society’s totem pole, and another to look down as if he were some celebrated, squeaky clean saint.
it forces me to look in when looking out is clearly the path of certain death. looking in, shows me God’s true face, and looking in makes me see what’s inside of everyone else as well.
i should hope that much of the anger that jumps so quickly to the forefront is born out of all the false sense of self that has been the trademark of my adult life. this anger is also part of the path of certain death, because inevitably someone will catch a whiff of the anger i toss over my shoulder or mutter under my breath and they won’t take too kindly to it.
day 3 opens having had a few beers last night and me seriously in need of wi-fi now. in an hour and a half, m from c will call to make me an offer i’d be a complete and utter fool to refuse, and my prepaid cell account is running slightly to the low side. not only that, i haven’t checked my email in over two days, so i am clueless as to what’s going on in the outside world in relation to me aside from the girlfriend, condo and dog. not that much else matters, but there might be some huge unknown factor pending, creating a twist i can’t possibly fathom. it’s probably not, though, as i have come to be rather disappointed in discovering when away from email and facebook that little has happened that impacts me even indirectly.
my goal is to run up to mcdonald’s, grab a coffee and egg muffin, try once more to grab the wi-fi there, if not, run down to the public library, see if i can get some there, and if the library isn’t open or i can’t get any there, or get to at least a quiet spot to talk to m, then i’m going to try to make it back here. too much for an hour and a half? we’ll see.
i found some free wi-fi to suck down near the public library. i might have made a mistake in using it to fill my prepaid phone card. i have no idea what’s really being transmitted across this bit of ether. hopefully, too much information for anyone to notice, but if someone did, then i suppose i’m fucked.
the mcdonald’s failed again, and the coffee sucked pretty badly. i made it back to the hotel room in time to accept an offer from c! lord, i am happier than i have been in many months, maybe a year. there is hope, there is light.
turned out the public library doesn’t open until 11 on wed’s, so i’m still outside, somewhere around the lincoln center, i think. lots of picture taking–i don’t think i’ve taken any of this place, so i oughta do it, too.
an incredible eye-opener, going to the whitney, and getting a chance to compare and contrast more traditional media with a lot of experimental and performance art. one artist had as an imperative to not be boring, and most of it wasn’t especially boring, but it was…depressing. i felt sorry for the poor security guards who have to listen all day to the sounds of a woman slamming a door and other repetitive noises. i get that these artists need to make statements and break new ground, but it was all devoid of any richness and permanence. you wonder just how much of it will hold up a few generations from now–who will really want to come to a museum to look at some of this stuff? either the entire concept of the museum will have to change or art will radically swing back to more traditional forms.
an artist on one floor, charles burchfield? — created intensely original watercolors, well-crafted and accompanied with rigorous journals. he was not highly regarded in his time by critics like greenburg who held up pollock and rothko as the logical next step in where art should go. but, there is nothing boring about it, either. his attention to dedicated WORK and craftsmanship reminded me a lot of blake’s designs and poetry. the ongoing deep examination of an inner world, a life aesthetic that accompanies the artifacts produced–this is lost in the existential, post-modern world where the final product becomes a thing so devoid of any ability to delight and interest future audiences, that much of it seems to amount to a lot of juvenile goofing-off.
am now attempting a long walk south, and will see how far i get, before my back and feet put me down for good.
the attempt to recreate the old tradition of beer drinking in the hotel room was met with mostly indifference, then acceptance, and finally, a grim realization that nothing inspiring was coming from it. as the day approaches evening hours, there are little sharp angles of want making me think it would be fun and quite all right to do again. it’s too late to make the last part of the trek down to the giant bookstore. that will have to wait until tomorrow. the morgan library was a disappointment. the entire collection was closed except for a dinky photo exhibit. not even the gutenberg bible was on display. no wi-fi since this morning. my feet and back are just about finished. i was hoping to get c’s offer downloaded, signed and sent back, but that will have to wait.
upon arriving back in austin i wish to:
outline the top 25 important concepts to attach for book study and writing. focus on them in my free time. continue to read merton, wwII books and other diaries. finish my incomplete works and trascribe my journals and mom’s.
the important concepts need to be approached as hidden things, things that modern man successfully believes he has conquered.
1. fetishization and idol worship in modern society.
2. time and its importance (or lack thereof) independent of man.
3. power as the #1 motivator, not money, or recognition–all roads lead to men using whatever means necessary to dominate.
4. the meaning of identity and its surprise plasticity. how deep change can be achieved (and often should be), but is believed to be impossible. how the process of self identification with larger movements, groups, cultures, organizations, brands, etc. fragments the individual and causes the individual to lose his identity in ways he is unaware of. (example could be how when i was writing about united way, even with only one week left, i continued to refer to it as “us” as if i was still very much an integral and valued member of the team).
what merton and today’s surprise artist–charles burchfield–have in common: pleasant surprises off the beaten path that probably should be recognized as offering contributions every bit as worthy as those writers and artists taught in survey classes and celebrated in the canon. they are overlooked because they didn’t embrace whatever ‘ism was in voque with intellectuals and academics at their time, or perhaps any other time. and refused to copy styles that critics were singing their highest praises to.
how many other artists, poets, musicians, etc. have i missed because of this?
of course, they must, above all, truly delight me with their work. life is too short for me to waste my time scrunching my head up in impossible contortions just to “get” whatever the cool and hip kids like.
in 24hr, a supershuttle will be picking me up to begin the end of this journey. somewhere in strand books every muscle and joint from my lower back down began to scream. today was bettersweet–i realized that i could love living here so much more than i ever will love living in austin and the difference in magnitude of love is probably inversely proportional to the degree of which austin or ny will ever love me back. all of the ache of rarely making any friends in austin would be compounded by a factor of at least 20. nobody else seems to quite understand this empty ache, but it’s like being hungry all the time with food everywhere and no knowledge or means to obtain it.
once, in 97 or 98 at a family reunion, as my ventures into mysticism were coming to a head, i caught a glimpse of multiple versions of each person spinning off into different reality time tracks, based on a host of factors, inner and outer, weighing upon their choice-making organs. some died quickly, as they were too fragile to survive the pull of the larger cosmic reality that God and all of us were shaping together. perhaps there are alternate universes, but not an infinite number of them. sort of like eddies and currents in a pool. thus, i started to develop a theory called stream theory to explain why at times reality seems completely at our beck and call, and other times is inescapably our Master. i reveled in my triumphs over my own personal shyness while wooing and dating g. what i failed to realize was the nigh inescapable stream i was putting myself into, even as i got myself out of the old, painful adolescent one that lingered into college. then, one day, you wake up and you are too far down one stream to back up and get in another.
except, sometimes, you are almost 100% certain that a select few alternate worlds DO exist, and aren’t just thought problems for physicists and plot vehicles for sci-fi writers. nor are they the work of the devil, either. but part of a grander Universe of universes that God has wrought.
standing at the 86th floor observatory of the empire state building, i got a very strong sense that somewhere in this city, i was living out the NY dream in a world right next to this one. maybe something like the show fringe, maybe not. the show has certainly revived this kind of thinking and inspired my imagination, but this was something apart from that–like looking backward in Time, except, i was looking sideways.