Genuflect by Gordy Grundy
January 2004; Issue No. 67
A MILLION BUCKS AND A UKULELE
It's the 21st of January and I haven't started the New Year yet.
I just can't face it.
The world has gone mad. Everyone is yelling. Elbows are flying. Eyes are getting poked.
I'm not getting up from my tightly-held fetal position. It's the safest place I can think of. And quite comfortable at that. Unfortunately, external forces are trying to invade. Responsibilities pull at my legs. Commitments try to pry open my arms. I'm not moving. I'd rather let 2004 march off without me.
By default, I'm having to adopt the Chinese New Year as my corner to turn around. That's OK with me; it's a long New Years Eve, like a week or so. At least that's the way I've scripted it.
Then, it's lose the hundred pounds, make a million and learn to play the ukulele.
OUTSOURCING THE NEW YEAR
I have to put a little of the 'ole fast sprint' into the day job. That's the only way to keep the wolves at bay. Jobs are getting scarce. Everywhere. Even the fall-back positions are vanishing.
Recently, I called one of the big new Culver City galleries in Los Angeles for directions and the attendant who answered the phone sounded very Indian. (Curry, not casino). I was suspicious of the accent.
I said, "Where are you?"
"We are joost South oof da Ten Frrreeway."
"No, no," I clamored, "Where are you right now? Where are you calling from?"
"Yoo called me!"
"No, no. Where are you sitting right now?"
"I am noot allowed to say."
"Are you in New Delhi?!"
"I am noot allowed to say!"
I was looking out the window at a sunny LA day; I thought of a way to trick her. "Will I need an umbrella? Is it raining over in Culver City?
"Yes! The monsoon ees..."
Times are tough when even the gallery attendant gets outsourced overseas.
THE LINE IN THE SAND
Over the Holidays, mid season, I took off to the desert for a few days to escape the rigors of fun, frivolity and familiarity. I needed quiet and a lack of temptation. Even a professional has to relax. There, in a motel room, I was confronted with a modern device which I do not have in my own home. A TV with remote allowed me to remain an active member of our pop culture, for I had been slacking. I think I was the second-to-last American who had not seen 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.'
What I witnessed horrified me beyond anything else that I had experienced since the Millennium. Never have I been so appalled. (And believe me, I have been.)
On this episode, while everyone else was getting cultured, pricked, prodded and continually reminded to shave 'with the grain', the portly decorator Eye of the Fab Five takes a large canvas, slaps on a few colors and shoves the brush around. He then makes this thirty-second painting the focal point of the redesigned living room.
Upon returning home, the gladly-victimized homeowners 'oooh' and 'aaah' over their new pad. They gush about the painting. They fawn and paw the artiste.
They ask him, "And what is it, maestro?"
"A landscape!" says the artiste.
Then he whips open an art catalogue and reveals his inspiration. He points to a photograph of a dark painting, a toxic landscape at sunset.
"It's just like a...." He says the name of the painter so fast that I never caught it.
The homeowners coo over their good fortune.
I was appalled. Fortunately, a stupor suddenly enveloped me. Only in a coma, can you deflect such great pain. I could not believe what I had seen:
Here was an opportunity for Bravo, an alleged arts channel no less, to educate the public in a progressive manner. The dandelion decorator could have taken his viewing audience to a gallery, spoken with a cordial gallerist and demystified the perceived trauma of buying art. He could have given the Fine Arts a value. He could have elevated the sociological role of the artist in our culture. At the very least, he could have equated a painting to the cost of a new refrigerator.
Instead, he negated every effort than an artist makes. Why spend money on art when you whip it out yourself? How do you afford the expensive facial hydrogenizers that the Queer Eye reveres? Kill the art budget!
In a spa-based economy, the Fine Arts are always the first to suffer.
Slowly, the realization of this pop culture-abortion gave me a sense of purpose. I had to do something to stop the erosion of all that I hold dear.
When I regained consciousness, the pen in my hand was flying furiously over a yellow pad. I was designing the manifesto of a brilliant new arts movement centered around a class-action lawsuit aimed at the blasphemy of the Queer Eye and every show like it. Artists, gallerists and collectors would stand hand in hand, united against the tyranny of poor taste and dull thinking. By page seven, the first year's budget had ballooned to $30 million but I didn't care. Other people's money should be no object when defending the Fine Arts. I knew I could make a difference.
Several nights later, my grand plans took an upper cut to the jaw. All at once, I realized that America's love for the Queer Eye had grown like a fast moving cancer and all major organs have been poisoned. The war had already been lost. Arriving at a holiday party, the first thing the host said to me was "Did you see 'Queer Eye' last week? The guy did a brilliant painting on the show! Right there in front of us! In minutes!"
Then he asked, "How's your work going?"
I swear to God, I think he smirked.
GORDY GRUNDY is a Los Angeles based painter. His visual and literary work can be found at www.gordygrundy.com.