Genuflect by Gordy Grundy
April 2006; Issue No. 79
Just last weekend, Friday night, I was at the Skylight Bookstore in East Hollywood, lollygagging, killing time before the movie started next door. My sweet soul was singing. Life was good. Meandering. Browsing. There was so much to look at. All of it made me happy.
The New Yorker logo caught my eye. It was a big book. I like the New Yorker magazine. It's art-friendly. I have a subscription.
The book was thick, a collection titled 'The New Yorker Book of Art Cartoons.' I like cartoons. I leisurely thumbed through several pages, looking to laugh. I like to laugh.
Suddenly, I didn't feel very well, as if my stomach had filled with cement. I began slapping through the pages rather than turning them. My eyes darting across each. Panic rising.
An icy, cold hand grabbed my heart and yanked it from my chest. These cartoons aren't funny! They are making fun of artists. Humiliating people like me!
What felt like a lion's roar tearing through my throat, sounded more like a distressed falsetto. Had the agony and torment not been so great, I'd have been embarrassed. People were looking.
Crazed, I was! Senseless. Uncontrollable. The blasphemy! The New Yorker!
Like Charlton Heston and his Ten Commandments, I raised the book above my head, so as to smite it down mightily upon the Bargain Books table. But the heavy tome caught me off balance and I fell backward, hard against a freestanding bookcase of Women's Literature. I heard the sound of snapping wood and the bookcase fell, smashing into another.
As I ran from the store, with the 'Book Of Art Cartoons' still held above my head, I could hear the synchronized explosions of each bookcase colliding into the next, like dominoes in swift succession. Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! BAM!
Later, the news reported there were no injuries except for a couple buried under the Human Sexuality section.
Outside the bookstore, a large crowd had gathered, waiting to buy tickets to the triple feature. The neon marquee promised 'Basquiat', 'Modigliani' and 'Pollock'.
Wild-eyed, red-eyed and yelling, I burst from the store. The masses parted. A woman screamed. All eyes met mine.
I looked up at the heavens, beyond the thick book still held high above my head, and I howled with all of the pain that was searing my soul.
A hand touched my chest. Ink-stained fingers smoothed my shirt, wrinkled with sweat. The gentle caress belonged to Laura, a printmaker I know. Her sweet caring face was angled up at mine. Those deep water eyes were filled with compassion. So clear. So tender. Of any artist I know, she is one of the purest. One of the most devoted. ONE OF THE MOST--- Fire and blood rushed to my head. ART CARTOONS! The blasphemy! The indignity! I screamed. I roared.
Like a Grizzly mauling a camper, I began to tear the glossy pages from the weak spine of the mirthless cartoon book. The pages flew skyward. Curious moviegoers leapt at the line art obscenities. As each cartoon was digested, another soul was blackened.
Exclamations rose throughout the fevered crowd.
"That's not funny!"
"What's this caption mean? It's not her oeuvre! I don't get it."
The crowd began to surge and spark. The din, a welter of discordant agony, flared into an irate cacophony. To the right, glass broke and a car alarm hollered.
Three guys, I recognized them as downtown Ab-Ex painters, wrenched a newspaper rack from it's mooring. I stepped aside just in time as they heaved it through the bookstore window.
People started screaming, then chanting. The liquor store, two doors down, was emptied out by a bucket brigade passing cases of beer.
Half a dozen Conceptualists (Culver City hopefuls) had flipped a car onto its roof. They were trying to jam an uprooted ficus tree into the undercarriage.
A chorus of car alarms started to sound like the drone of locusts.
Whoever yelled "Fucking artists!" was answered by a flurry of fists.
As I turned to grab a friend, I got clipped on the forehead by a flying beer bottle. The guy who tossed it had a funny hat on his head. He might have been a DADA-ist or maybe a Muslim. The streetlights began to solarize and my knees started to buckle. Just before I lost consciousness, I saw a palm tree go up in flames.
GORDY GRUNDY is a Los Angeles based artist. His visual and literary work can be found at www.gordygrundy.com
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