Genuflect by Gordy Grundy
January 2002; Issue No. 55
Nine/Eleven, Part II
MY FRAGILE EMOTIONAL HEALTH
As an artist, I choose my influences carefully. I didn't choose bin Laden. He has ingratiated himself into all aspects of my being. This insufferable little man sits at every dinner table. His rump covers the barstool next to mine. If my life were a freeway, he'd be driving 45 in the fast lane while honking the horn with one hand and flipping me off with the other. I resent it greatly. I'd like a piece of him. He has turned my well-ordered life of gentle apathy into seething and inhuman frustration. I am swinging mad that I must accommodate his myopia and bear the effects of his sophomoric ideology. On the other hand, I am incredibly sad and hopeless in my inability to escape his influence. Believe me, I've tried.
I am still sideswiped by the events of 9-11. Bin Laden has turned me into a cave dweller; I have no desire to leave the house. I hate to get out of bed. The warmth and weight of extra blankets ensure extra comfort. I have even put an alarm clock under my pillow because the gentle ticking sounds like a comforting, maternal heartbeat. If it works for a puppy, it works for me. For months, the house has been heated to womb temperatures. I am afraid to see the gas bill; the mailman says it qualifies as a parcel. I've fallen into a hooka and I can't crawl out. I don't call anyone nor do I invite anyone over. Black tints all the colors in my palette. I constantly watch videos. I flood my brain with Hollywood plotlines just to obliterate bin Laden's story arc. I might even get cable. I am so eager to end the War on Terrorism that I log onto CNN twice a day to check our progress.
In every artist's life, there are influences which we cultivate, encourage and pursue assiduously. Others we deflect and avoid. And there are ones, such as a stroke, blindness or insignificance, which we cannot avoid. Bin Laden is camped in the latter. He is harder to shake than a boor at a cocktail party.
NOW, EVERYONE IS AN ARTIST.
"Meaningless" is an adjective now commonly paired with the noun "job." Americans lament their uselessness. Since the start of The New Big One, the American wage earner has been mortified to learn that their job has no meaning or relevance. Most of us are not 'on the front lines' like a postal worker or a fireman may be. Our jobs as artists, accountants, mechanics or sandwich makers do not allow us any hand to hand combat with the enemy. We are not a part of any action. The fruits of our labor vanish into a vacuum. What good is making money if we're too dead to spend it. We are impotent. We are like prizefighters wearing lead shoes.
I laugh maniacally. Welcome to the art world.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
The New Big One does not demand that we plant a Victory Garden. Not yet, anyway. We don't have to skim the bacon grease for ammo and I can still buy foil at the supermarket. The New Big One is tricky; everything has changed not at all. I for one have been frustrated by my inability to participate in the war effort. This little bin Laden fella has got my dander up. I want to smell blood but there is nothing I can swing at.
And then one day, it dawned on me. I really was doing a great deal for the war effort and my pride swelled with patriotism. It's just a matter of perspective. My list is long. I have been rowing very hard to keep the liquor industry afloat. I have been using a lot of matches, which helps the lumber industry. There is a manufacturer of a chocolate bundt cake that receives my enthusiastic support. The stockmarket value of See's Candies has risen with my influence. The small business owners of local bars and restaurants have felt my patronage. I have been tipping large (hoping that my largess will be reciprocated on the karmic scale.) The local video store can afford to build another wing from my recently obsessive contributions. I have been helping the environment as well by sleeping more and breathing less. When the time comes, I will buy an Afghan rug to help their ailing economy. This little bin Laden fella may have me twisted in a headlock but I am doing all I can to wrest him away. You can too.
EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED NOT AT ALL
This New Big One has got me really irked, steamed and smokin' red. They say that everything has changed and I gladly took that as a promise. Nothing will be the same as it was ever again. Bullshit! Liars, all. Nothing has changed. The New Year is turning and the media is boring us with a flood of 'Best Of' lists, an editorial tradition I hoped would be suspended. The Academy Awards and the Grammy's haven't been eliminated. The New York Times still doesn't have a comics page. And the art world still has issues.
SUMERIANS AND THE DEPTH OF MY DEPRESSION
I learned a nasty piece of business from a friend. Damn him for enlightening me. Education can be a very bad thing. His insight has sent me spiraling deep into the blackness of depression. I was so horrified by his news that I immediately headed homeward, cranked up the thermostat and camped under the covers. He told me of the Sumerians, a highly evolved race who had created a superior society. They believed in the modern notion of equality between the sexes. An advanced judicial system that upheld individual and property rights governed the land. They invented writing and the wheel. The Sumerians are alleged to have visited this planet two thousand years before Christ. Two thousand! In all that time, in over four thousand years, we the human animal have not evolved one bit. Damn you bin Laden, for you have reminded us of this horrifying fact. You are evidence that Adam, Eve and the dinosaurs were the pinnacle of our humanity and its all been a backslide since then. We are reminded that the conspiracy of dunces is real and they are winning. Damn you, bin Laden.
JUST WHEN THINGS WERE GOING SO WELL...
This little bin Laden fella isn't going to literally pinch many of us. We all know it's easier to slip in the bathtub than get whacked by a terrorist. But he will get his licks in economically. The American artist is going to suffer in the wallet. We will get our clocks cleaned when we find there is less time to make art because we need to make rent. Yah, bin Laden is a bad influence. We will need to change our course to compensate for his ill wind. There is a need to call for action. The bugle plays a reveille. We need to mount up soon, real soon, but the bed is so damn warm and cozy. Our spirits are out of whack and our sensibilities are stretched thin. The brush feels heavy in the hand.
As readers of this column know, every January is dedicated to rebirth and renewal. While one can set any combo of rules, the gist is to lay off the vices for a month. In the past, we have called this effort 'My Own Private Ramadan.' Well, I don't like that title any more. It was funny because no one knew what Ramadan was. Now we do. I don't like most religions. As a matter of fact, except for the sense of community, the pomp and circumstance and the Reverend Ethan Acres, I really don't like any religion. And I especially don't like Islam. I've learned more about it than I care to. It's a hot bed for hot heads. Ever hear of a militant Presbyterian? Not really. Ramadan is out. I've had to rework the letters on the marquee to find an appropriate title. Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce "Beachhead 2002". Just hang tight. It's all we can do.
GORDY GRUNDY is a Los Angeles based painter. His visual and literary work can be found at http://www.GordyGrundy.com.
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