Clocks [excerpt]

“Jackie, that’s my daughter’s name. She just left for college in Europe. Wasn’t half a decade before we were best buddies, her in middle school, me working 20 hour weeks. That’s the time every kid starts to beat her dad at everything. Always been giving her sports to play and riddles to solve. First to the top of the tree, fastest to eat a hamburger, how much wood can a woodchuck chuck… or like this one I made up, as we sat watching the San Antonio River outside our house back in Floresville:

“Hey, Jackie. You see that shadow of the tree on the water? Is the shadow moving?”

Jackie smiled. “Of course not! The river is moving, but the shadow isn’t. Easy trick question.” She threw a pebble into the river, and it passed right through the tree trunk.

I smiled back. “Wrong. It is moving. Because the sun is moving. All shadows move, just very slowly.”

Jackie’s smile changed into a sneer. “That was a trick-trick question.”

Teenagers hate being trick-tricked. Especially when the trick is slowness, since as far as she was concerned the world wasn’t spinning fast enough. Soon enough the time came that she started solving my riddles, throwing the football farther, eating more hamburgers.

We set up an obstacle course in the yard with tires, ladders, and took turns completing it as fast as possible, while the other timed with my wristwatch. Jackie went first and finished it in 55 seconds. Then I went. I stumbled to the finish, touching the wall of our house and nearly smashing a hole in it.

“Geez Louise!”

“56 seconds!” Jackie yelped.

“Wait,” I huffed. “That can’t be. I was counting in my head, I got 55.”

“No. I got the watch. I was counting ticks, and I got 56 ticks.”

Well, here was an old man’s moment to prove he was still smarter than his kid.

“That’s wrong, Jac. A second is the amount of time in between ticks. So if you counted 56 ticks, that means 55 seconds.”

“No, you’re wrong, dad. The seconds are the ticks!”

“What, you think that a second is the amount of time it takes for the hand to jump from one tick to the next? Those don’t matter. We count the pauses in between those, in between the jumps.”

But she wasn’t hearing me. “It’s the total opposite! A second is the time it takes the hand to jump from one tick to the next.”

“Come on, Jackie, you know that’s not true. Look for yourself.” I showed her the watch.

“Yeah! One, two, three… that’s the seconds! You’re just being a sore loser.”

We went back and forth for another five minutes. She went inside. Normally she’d come around by dinnertime, but this one got her goat for the rest of they day. Next thing I knew she started high school, outside town, came home every day with hours of homework, weekends she spent with new friends, boyfriends, then summer camps. That was really the last summer we spent together. Though I’m sure she forgot that argument completely, I still shouldn’t’ve used the word true with her.

When she left I suddenly had so much free time I thought the world stopped spinning. Surely your folks had the same, huh? What’s a man like me to do, aside from take a trip somewhere? Came here, sent my ex-wife an email, tried to see if she still lived here. But she never answered. One day my legs couldn’t take the walking no more and I just collapsed onto a bench in front of a church. There was a park behind me and kids were playin’. Above the entry to the church, where you normally got a stained glass window, there was a big round carving, of one of those Aztec Gods. Body of a snake, head of a man, wrapped in a spiral, and the scales of the snake body had letters or numbers next to ‘em. In the middle of the spiral there was a metal rod stickin’ straight out. Then outta nowhere a man walks up to me holding a plastic chain and starts to talkin’ in Spanish about some trick he was gonna do, and raising his eyebrows at me, and I had to tell him no thank you ‘bout five times before he left. I fell asleep for a while. When I woke up I had no idea what time it was, till I looked up at the church. The shadow of the metal rod had moved from one scale on the snake body to another. By God, I realized I was lookin’ at a sundial. That’s when I realized that Jackie was right. We were both right. Some clocks got jumpin’ hands, and a second is the pause between jumps, but some clocks got smooth movin’ hands, like that sundial, and a second is the slow jump from one tick to the next. A second is the jump.

 

Shoot the Cartoonist

Already some time ago I discovered the joy of observational freehand drawing. Aside from benefiting my mentality (I can count it as meditation) and its use as a learning tool as I observe the physical world, drawing opens channels to engage the people around me. The cold stoicism of modern strangers melts away when they see me drawing, especially when I draw portraits. They approach with curiosity, and often a conversation will start. When a subject sees me drawing them, they immediately fix their posture, smile, and continue what they were doing with a gently glowing pride. Last week in Alameda Central I was drawing celebrities from memory when a meek ten-year-old boy approached me, with two or three of his friends behind him, and complimented my sketches. I said thanks and asked him if he drew. He said he did a little, so I invited him to do one in my sketchbook. It was of Emiliano Zapata. I tore it out and let him keep it—his smile was so broad as he walked off that it touched his friends’ shoulders. Whenever I go to a bar I sketch a portrait of the bartender on the back of the customer receipt (which I never keep) and leave it with the bill. With just a little more effort on my part (surprise, surprise), I can break down barriers!

It didn’t come to me easily. Like many my age, I came to art through photography, which is a younger, more technologically advanced medium (that is to say, it’s much more convenient for the user), but which in contrast carries much more baggage. To begin with, it’s an impersonal gesture to lift a black box to your face, putting it in between you and someone else, blocking the possibility for direct eye contact. We know of the superstition that being photographed is an intrusion onto the soul. This belief is reflected in the baked-in metaphors we use to describe the act: “To take a photograph.” “Sacar una foto.” These verbs imply an extraction from the “real world,” never to be given back. In 2002, the year I took up photography seriously and exchanged my iPhone for a Minolta X-700, I visited Guatemala with my parents. We took a ferry across Lake Atitlán to tiny Panajachel on the north shore, whereupon disembarking we were greeted by a local woman selling souvenirs for quetzales on the dollar. Instead of buying or even responding I raised my camera to take a photo, and immediately she wrapped her free arm around her four-year-old daughter and turned her back to me. In an instant, in front of everyone else on the boat and the villagers on the dock, I had changed the mood from optimistic to sullen. I felt like a bad human being. If it had been ten years later, I would have instead taken out my sketchbook, gotten a smile, a pose, and maybe even a compliment. I could have given the woman 5 quetzales to pose for me for 5 minutes, then I could have sold it to someone for 20.

Though the art establishment (that is, the faction of society that has looked at this from all angles and analyzed it to death) has decreed that neither drawing nor photography have license to the truth, that neither is extracting something from the world any more than the other, there are qualities of the latter that simply don’t sit well with the human intellect. Because our species is so dependent on, indebted to, and entrapped by its sense of sight, it is difficult to convince oneself that a photograph is not a product of our own vision, but something so comparatively rudimentary, so mechanical (with mirrors, chambers, hinges, and electric signals), that the only justification for its existence is the creative impulse. The internal debate rages on between our intellect and our instincts, and it’s our own fault for inventing so deceptive a medium.

Drawing, in the meantime, has for ages remained comfortable in the middle ground where I think art should reside: between reaping a fruit that nature has spent time cultivating on the one hand, and inventing a fruit supplement in the laboratory on the other. I discovered this after paying a man in Central Park to do my mother’s portrait for her birthday. Not only did he do it swiftly and accurately, he then became my teacher. As a matter of fact, I should be grateful to photography, because it has taken over the role of documentation (and the scrutiny that comes with it) for which drawing used to be responsible (the vestiges of which are found, for example, in the portrait etchings in The Wall Street Journal). Where before kings and presidents had to commission a life-sized painting for their official portrait, they can now come into Annie Leibovitz’s studio, pose for 15 minutes, and be done. Humans are much more comfortable encountering something unknown than they are coping with the loss of something they knew.

This is not an indictment of photography—I just had to outline certain problems that it can’t seem to get rid of in order to highlight the ease with which those same problems dissolve with drawing. When all I want to do is record the characters of the world, their bumps and curves, doing so in pen and paper is my E-ZPass around these modern existential complications.

So there I was, in the Jardín de la Bombilla in south-central Mexico City on a hot March afternoon, drawing the cleaning personnel with their medieval straw brooms, dogs, children eating mangoes, the monument towering like the Taj Mahal at the end of the fountains, and stout security guards (the latter have always been my favorite, partially because their expressions never change, but especially because I visit a lot of museums and sketching an on-duty security guard in a well-lit room of Renaissance paintings feels like poking a sedated lion in its own den). Suddenly I noticed that one guard was slowly approaching me. She stopped in front of me and then spoke an order I had never heard in my life:

“Young man, I need to ask you to stop drawing, or leave the park.”

All of the Spanish responses I had been preparing in my head shriveled up, and I had to stare dumbly at her for a moment while I divined something to say.

“What do you mean?” I finally managed, “I’m not doing anything wrong or illegal.”

At this point, according to normal security guard protocol, she would have simply repeated the order, and would have continued repeating it no matter how I protested until her patience ended, leading to the last step which is physical enforcement. However, another astounding thing happened. Rosa (as her nametag said) looked down at my drawings, and her expression softened. She threw the prepared responses out of her head, and told me the following story.

“Listen, do you see that monument there? Do you see “OBREGÓN” written above the door? Do you know who that is? Álvaro Obregón was first a general in the revolution, and then president. He had many famous battles, like against Pancho Villa and the División del Norte, and lost his arm in the war. He was for the separation of church and state, like you have in the United States. But maybe as you know, we are very Catholic in this country, so the resistance to that separation was very strong. On July 17, 1928, Obregón was having lunch in a restaurant that was located exactly in this park, called La Bombilla, when a cartoonist approached him and offered to draw his portrait. The cartoonist’s name was José de León Toral. Obregón saw the beginning sketches and gave the man a seat at his table. When none of the deputies were paying attention, the cartoonist pulled out a pistol and shot Obregón five times in the face. He was executed soon after. Obregón was given a state funeral and this area was made into a park to remember him….”

Rosa had finished the story already some moments ago but I sat in silence. It dawned on me that this harmless act, to her, signaled danger. In fact, it was its harmlessness which made it so insidious, since cartoons are never judged on photo-accuracy (a great retronym) but by the strength of the caricature. I wondered how it had been remembered that the assassin posed specifically as a “cartoonist” (I couldn’t imagine he announced it out loud), but it’s possible that detail wrote itself. José de León Toral used my E-ZPass to gain access to his mark. Since this story was probably as known to Mexicans as the name John Wilkes Booth was to Americans, I suddenly found myself reinterpreting all of the looks I received these past weeks in Mexico City’s parks, cafes, and museums. Were all of those passers-by quietly frightened, but ultimately held silent by common sense or self-disgust? Did their paranoia just seem too far-fetched and disconnected, until this day when I chose to draw in the lion’s den? Was it like the collective rejection of the mosque that was planned down the street from Ground Zero in Manhattan? I had many questions. But the only one I managed was, “Does the drawing of Obregón still exist?”

Rosa’s eyes remained soft. “In fact, yes.”

At my request she wrote the address and directions in a blank corner of my sketchbook. I thanked her, apologized for the disturbance, and got up to leave, before she stopped me and held a page open—the page where I had drawn her some time ago.

“That’s pretty good,” she said. “May I have it?”

I thought for a moment, then said, “15 pesos.”

There was still time in the day to take the metro to Balderas which is directly in front of the Biblioteca de México. I knew where I was going—down the central passageway, left at the Octavio Paz Patio, through the airport-like Galería Abraham Zabludovsky, under its northwest arcade, and into the wooden room housing the personal library of Mexico’s darling writer, Carlos Monsiváis (all places in which I had sat and drawn before). Just inside the room, before passing the front desk, there is an enormous wooden cabinet with a broad display case housing the tip of the iceberg of knickknacks that Monsiváis, a known hoarder, collected. I had only glanced at it before, but that day I stopped for the first time. After a minute of searching, I found it. Still in the original leather sketchbook, held precariously upright and open by an unexplained action figure of a cat, there was the fated sketch. Álvaro Obregón looking out at me from his comfortable dining chair. Or was it him? His clothing was unclearly rendered, lacking any defining marks of a president-elect and former general, the eyes were too narrow, the arms too long… behind him there was no indication of place, only blank paper… his right leg was entirely unfinished, ending at the calf with a hurried twirl, which killed the relationship of figure to ground… there were no tags or descriptions of any individual pieces (partially because there were too many of them)… I thought that if it weren’t for the tip from Rosa, I would never have guessed that this was Obregón at all. I had looked up the president on the way to the library—with his sharp eyes, paunch, hairline, and moustache, doing a good caricature would have been kid’s play. My worst competitive instincts came to the surface, and pulling out my sketchbook I made my own quick cartoon of Obregón (aware of the security guard lurking in the corner) to compare.

So maybe José de León Toral just wasn’t a good artist. Chillingly, this was only 20 years after Adolf Hitler was rejected from the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. Despite the best efforts of the establishment, it seems bad art manages to creep into the history books one way or another.

The Architect Gets Grandfathered [excerpt]

Look what happens.
I told Sasha he could help to renovate the house. From one immigrant to another, I told him. Let us make it like old times in Sankt Peterburg Arkhitekturnyi Universitet, our nicknames for professors, the long nights in winter and in spring, the Noviye Godyi and Easters, sunlight in the skylight at ten of the morning, the smell of gesso and lacquered wood, the same wood as here, smoking samokrutki on the stairs, …. Even though, when I think about it, there was only Hermitage and Tikhvin Cathedral, cartoons of buildings in a snowy, paper-like landscape, the Leningrad of my memory is a colorful and beautiful city, not so gray. If I am to be a less gray architect, I should like to make The Catskills the same.
And I thought it would be easy, because since the down payment, I am finding only people who are like my old friends in this county, all from Moscow or Kazan, it is like we all bought the same airplane tickets. Why did you come here? Da, da, me too. Are you not supposed to stay with your people? I tried to, and look what happens.
This stupid fucking antlers. It’s a fucking shit. What was he thinking? Chapels in Novgorod? The dachas in the fairytales we read to our children? I can say for sure that when my son sees this his eyes will do the same as my eyes. Big and many lines. I don’t understand. The structure was in, all done. The rafters, the bracing, the triangle was good. All that is left is to paint. But the next morning he decides to decorate. This drunken tree branches, so very stupid.
Yes, it was middle of May when I finally decided to talk to him. Invited him inside the kitchen that we finished the tiles only one week before, he took his shoes off and the beech leaf pieces blow in with him, and I made for us some tea.
Sash, I said, nu shto takoe, what are those silly things.
What, you don’t like them?
Absolutely not. I think they are extra and silly.
Nu Mashinka, he said.
I said do not call me Mashinka. Please call me Marina. We are here in a professional relationship, not old friends. It is not Russia anymore. I never gave you this instruction. I go back to New York for just one week, and I come back and there is this. In this country, we do not have to agree from the heart, but we have to agree on the paper, in writing. We have to work because we agree to it, civilized. Kak beliye lyudi, like white people. You are not following instructions.
He started to yell to me. What instructions? You give me no instructions. Bad specification. Bad drawings. Always late. I remember the lines on his face, darker than before and more angles. He put his tea cup down and it spilled on the tiles which were not waterproofed yet and it left a dark ring. His hands moved a lot. Russians do not point, except when they are angry, or a little disrespect. Somewhere in the middle of his words he tells me about himself, like a beggar telling his life story.
I realize I remember wrong: we only were at the Saint Petersburg University one year together, and he was a transfer. He left before he finished. Returned home to his mother, took care of her and worked in building, just like now. I build many chapels like this, he said. A technical man, a practical man, did not read books. But he had faith in things, and he said he no longer had faith in us. I understood: we are both Russian but we are very different people.

My father once told me that in every relationship, there is a limit to the number of words you can say to each other. Like you open an account with a word bank, and withdraw little by little every day. Some have more yes and some have more no and some have mostly why. Some days you have to ration, save for later. Sometimes you find a new word, a surprise, like faith, and you can live off of it for weeks. Almost as if, on that day, Sasha spent all of the remaining words, and now we talk almost never.

This fucking branches.
Mash & Natash.

Finish what I farted

Several years ago, for Rod Knox’s seminar on daydreaming, I wrote a short story called I&M— a dialogue between two unnammed characters, about philosophical questions, inspired by Before Sunrise. This is how it started.

I: So, what’s new with you?
M: Many things. Actually, it’s lucky I bumped into you, because I’ve been thinking about love…
I: Oh, boy. Let me say first, make sure you’re thinking of love the right way. I strongly dislike when people misuse words. Aggravate, naïve, random
M: …and love, yes. Some people don’t know love when it’s staring them in the face. It’s the most frustrating type of misuse to me, because in its case it gets devalued. Mostly, thinking of the big picture, it’s the evolution of a word that causes meaning to shift. But in the case of words like love, the meaning hasn’t shifted as much as it’s simply become diluted. For me, that’s a dead-end path to extinction.
I: Sure—but nowadays I equate it closer with a kind of voluntary ignorance. Instead of engaging words and language more intensely, the average person is allowed to get by on the shallowest possible thinking. We are so fearful of solitude, of having to encounter our own thoughts and put aside thinking about our appearance for even a moment. Tarkovsky once said it’s important to learn to take pleasure in finding oneself in solitude. It teaches patience.
M: Keep silence. Silence cannot be kept; it is indifferent with respect to the work of art which would claim to respect it—
I: Blanchot?

M: Yep. 

All I can think of when I read this now is: “how exhausting.” Imagine 1000 more words of that.
In the spirit of the solipsistic theme of the class, and of my laziness, I didn’t properly end it. Just cut it off like a punk rock song. Then, a year later, I decided to finish it… somehow:

M: Meaning is a human invention. Like we already said, we need to empathize with animals. They have no concept of right and wrong, good and evil. When one is truly at one with the universe, the point becomes not to question or even to understand the meaning of things, but instead to accept them as they are and have that existence be the only justification required. Meaning is a conclusion of thought, the destination that we deem sufficient to understand something.
I: Once again it’s the case of the conquest of language.
M: And again the universe looks very dull by comparison. Life is a phenomenon all its own. When homo erectus first became aware of his being alive…
I: That must have been the first thought. When man got up off his fours, everything changed. These two thumbs meant not only freedom of movement, it also meant freedom of thinking. They slowly began meditating on the world, then reframing their thoughts from thousands of angles. Then eventually the time-bomb detonated, a dormant perception lit up from the back of their mind, they picked up a stone, and began drawing their world on the dim cave walls.
M: Are you writing all this down? That’s funny.
I: Listen, I have to get going. But it was good to bump into you. I’m glad we chatted.
M: Can we meet again?

It sounds nothing like how I write now. Partially it was the dreary setting of a graduate-level seminar that brought out the petulant philosophy major in me. And yet, I can’t fault the premise for anything. The pieces have floated for years now, and I feel the need to finish what I farted, rub this thing on the forehead until it starts to burnish a tad. The challenge is: I have to speak that old tongue. The story has to be finished with its own voice, as much as I want to slap that voice across the face and tell it to wake up.
It’s getting to be more like Before Sunrise than I thought. I have to collapse time. I have to stitch the ending to the beginning, with words that no longer come to me naturally.
How often does this happen?

Before-Midnight-LB-1

Like Nests of Old

Stick by stick. Beam by beam. I will make this house mine. Mine with the trees.
The studio had to be completed first—a warm brain first to conceive the rest. It was enclosed by September which was his goal (cutting it rather close to first frost in the snow belt), but was still damp and dim on the inside. Halfway through framing out the porch at the south side, in the fleeting heat of mid-afternoon one day, he decided he wanted the studio to remain a few degrees colder. He could crack the small window, close the door, and direct all light to the workdesk. A draft would maintain the humidity at slightly drier than the rest of the house. The rolls upon stacks of drawings and cardboard models would thank him for the museum-like conditions.
“Remember why museums are always so cold?”
Motherbird wove such tall truths. They towered over logic and emotion without the trace of a shadow. They dotted the sky like stars of the branch… like chickadee nests.
“Help me with the rivets,” he goaded his own, either because his toes were chilled or because he felt awful standing idly aside, barking instructions. Looking at the backs of their heads, it was as if the house was helplessly trapped between being actively ignored and having any audience at all.
Things that are passed on so often acquire a new value independent of their function as objects, something which he found calming and unsettling at the same time. On the one hand, he could run his hand along the spine of the book by Bachelard and place it in full view on the bookshelf as one of the finest twigs in the canopy, and simply remember how his mother spoke so fondly of having read it for the first time in school, and learned about the necessity of attics, the necessity of small bathrooms, the necessity of a kitchen around which hangs the smell of recent toast. But on the other hand, that value ballooned and overtook its value as a book, its own necessity of being read, and as the years and memories piled into his mind like spices in the cupboard, it became a specter, and he grew scared of reading it, worried that he might awaken some ghost with a horrible sense of humor, no ear for birdsong, and haunt the house from the moment it was completed…. And so the book was sapped. It more closely resembled the brilliantly colored leaves his mother collected and used as bookmarks.
In the shower, in the sauna, in the ill-fated porch at the north end of the house, in all their pristine, steely whiteness. They were all just interconnected nests. Most of my life I spent sleeping in nested beds. I kept trying to remind him when we’d brush past each other in the hall.
In the attic, I leafed through a yellowing photo album. Colors more real here, though. I read an article about a new technology which would strengthen colors as they aged on photographs. Or did everything else just become dull? Every white wall around me, gently and nervously changing color like old reptiles, made that seem possible. A subtle combination of both, I hastily concluded, as all architects do. It was always like that. God. Nothing but compromises. Balances, a little of that and a little of that… the diplomatic dinner tables where whim and wisdom toast each other’s success…. Couldn’t there be the one time when everything is as per my own mind? I would first have to free myself, yes. But then I could build for myself, and for my family (their gravestones would be split from the shale outcrop at the foothills of my property, staked into the leafy mineral soil by the river and reconsecrated next month… life’s a river, son), and for the jays that come to breakfast at the birdfeeder which I hung from the porch eaves. I would tip my cup to them. Then when we’ve finished our coffee we can both return to our nests, theirs with worms, mine with photographs, poised on the shelves as if to fall.
November is the most social month, the month of sitting across from everyone you know. But when I am in the library or the kitchen, I am alone. When I sit in the sauna, none of the guys will help fill the furnace with birch logs. They’re focused these days on the bedroom, and planning the trim for my deathbed… which I suppose is keeping with our schedule. Just completing it for Thanksgiving, I felt that much lonelier. I suppose, having spent all that time looking at old photographs, I did in fact awaken a ghost, but the ghost was me, as a child, from the winters of 2020. He was a young ambitious architect. He was too committed to authoring the next civic center to realize that architecture is just an elaborate evolution of nests, made of sticks and stones and spit and sweat, which could just as easily come tumbling by New Year’s day.
I awoke in early December to the smell of coffee and toast, and his shuffling about the kitchen. I normally eat quickly, but this time I let him have a look at me from across the table. Like me, he didn’t speak, but I showed him around the nearly-completed house (wood unfinished, sawdust settling, drills and trowels ever like a boy’s toys)—his eyes lit up especially when he saw the studio. He sat down at the sunlit desk, smiled, and, turning to me, said “I think… this is where I’d like to die,” before melting and leaving me a puddle of tears to mop up. You old sap. You get me every time.
Yes, boy, see you soon, when it’ll be your time to build a house, like nests of old.

The architect takes questions

“It is important to let others lead from time to time, to not assert your leadership which, I admit, sometimes feels made up.”
As the leader of the lecture and the reason all comers came, he walked third in the procession down the lawn, kicking up orange leaves. Johnson’s glass house looked on from the side.
It was at this time, for the first time in years, that he sensed his place as leader sublimate.
“Do you mean to imply that the feeling of your position being made up is itself a trigger for your creative struggles?”
All sat and the felled silence awaited his insight.
He’s a clever one, with his euphemisms… substituting “creativity” for “leadership”. He saw his young self in the crowd, a non-conforming snarkster with a t-shirt from the distillery upstate not covering his sown skin (it was fifty degrees maybe).
“I remember when I took a Sunday off with Charlotte to visit the Hudson River Distillery near New Paltz. The day was overcast, and we rode quietly. Houses passed, the occasional deer, all the pastoral nostalgia contained within the falling leaves. I felt the silence of their descent as they landed out of sight behind the barley and corn. The hour was still early– but how would we find this place? It was certainly off the beaten path…”
Was it really one of his influences? Everyone thought that he strongly disliked Le Corbusier… but “really” was being trumped by the prospect of an enigmatic, unbeaten path of a story.
“…I remember the tingle in my stomach when we got out of the car and I saw the building. I was nearly brought to short breath by its earnestness, its open-armed sincerity. It was just living its life out here away from the gaze of society; not only had it been performing a function harmoniously, organically, however you want to describe it, for its world, but it had essentially invented that function as well…”
A man gripped his glass, its last inch of tonic lapping around. How out of place it looked, along with us, in our suits and wingtips, upon a green lawn and before a weightless house. These lawns, just like the grass on a particular hill near Plano, Illinois, were quietly orchestrated tableaux of nature– nature dumbed-down, nature domesticated, for the precise purpose of brushing the perfect amount against the gentleman’s brown shoes, giving him leaves to kick and empty vanishing points to gaze upon. Perhaps their pastoralism was a bit off target. I pinched myself to stay warm. Others pinched themselves to stay awake….
“…I looked upon the silos, and that was it. It was my Corbusian moment, if you will. I have strived for earnestness ever since.”
“But (sir) how can you call it earnestness when it harks back to a time that is largely invented? Or when the edifice can easily invent its own functions? It is being earnest only to itself.”
Scanning the audience he located the only two eyes that were not half-closed. The face reminded him of himself as a young man… when he waited eagerly for every next revelation, when he found good love, when he took the weekend trip off the beaten path to a distillery and discovered his architectural voice in a lonely silo.
The edifice invents its own history, its own means to cobble the path to this prestigious end.
“But as a leader, young man, as an architect, as an inventor of goodness and rightness, I feel I am more than encouraged to make such distortions. You sit in this house, upon that chair, and the temperature is below tolerable. But I have deemed this irrelevant. And if you cannot see so, it is then your following which must be adjusted, not my initiative.”, or so he wished to say, to himself, sitting there upon a clean folding chair, upon the optimistic grass.
“Thank you. We can now take questions.”
Give me your best. There is no path, no building, no tree or branch, no gesture or murmur, no gust of wind, no crease in your suit, that I can’t snatch a veiling thread from. There is no story I cannot weave.
Winter 2012-13. Inspired by Conversations in Context & Philip Johnson’s Glass House.