Friday, September 11, 2009


I was never good at plumbing the depths, never one to do much more than skim the surface of things. Couldn’t keep my interest in any one single thing for long enough to do much more than give it a slight going over, a limning skirt about the margins if you will. Made it through the credits of most movies. That’s about all I could take before something else would come strolling along to distract me. I’d hove this way and that, find out about some nautical term or a small unremarkable skirmish during the Spanish-American War, and then it came to be that I would be on my way, gone, and somehow back again too, at the beginning of whatever it was I’d been starting out, or more accurately where I’d been starting out from. There were of course things that held my interest for a decent length of time, but those things were mostly something like a robin alit on a park bench or the way Neil Diamond’s voice cracked during Forever in Blue Jeans, and they didn’t require contemplation. I could concentrate on those things. I could get my mind to settle down. But those times were rare anyway, and mostly I’d use music to diffuse my thoughts, to make them swim upstream and away. If I cranked Borodin up as loud as it’d go I would usually be able to stay empty-headed long enough to stay focused, though it wouldn’t bring me any satisfaction. Some meditation-like state I guess. I’d just lie there on the floor letting the music fill me up and empty me out, and soon I’d just be this hunk of meat with hair and limbs and nails and teeth, and I couldn’t understand myself, this fleshy thing that hummed old commercial jingles and ran marathons in the rain and washed its hands. So it became hard for me to conceive of myself as the person whom I had always thought myself to be, though those thoughts would only be momentary escapes lasting as long as I let the music drift through me like that. Then it was back to the good old hemming and hawing, the blurty twists of enthusiasm and lackluster penance, of sudden bouts of back and forth between bug-eyed lucubration and TV watching and doing dishes and smelling plants and feverishly scribbling the names of every person I’d ever met on napkins. A scent of home would send me capsizing into memories, and then I’d sap out and flail into some other haven of a sort, some lesser-than-real place, the whereabouts of which I was often unsure, that would scream me back home, not that it’d ever feel like home, whatever home is, or was, or could be too, it wasn’t like that. It was not like that at all. I’d get song after song stuck in my head, not for long of course. It’d be just one after the other coming through like somebody was quickly scanning through radio stations. I couldn’t make anything stay. I’d start whistling, or no, maybe more like singing very lightly under my breath, “No cuts, no buts, no coconuts.” I’d do it in public, but not so anybody’d notice. At least that’s what I thought. That’s what you think when you do these kinds of things. I don’t know. The trouble with water is that it ripples and that it never stops recirculating. My brain was like that. There’s something else I kept thinking about, when I got the chance. I had this idea for a painting I was going to do. It was going to be massive. A giant canvas. The title was going to be Bear With Fish-Sized Penis. The title just came to me one day out of the big old empty, and there it was, the whole thing, resplendent in larger-than-life magnificence. The details were hazy, but the title wore its way into my mental tableau and it never really left the palate of my dreams clean. I’d had ideas like this before, but they’d always faded within a matter of minutes. Something else would always come along and push them out of the way like an advertisement or a steamroller. This idea about the painting somehow stuck though. It followed me around and nagged at me and junked its way onto the trash heap of my imagination, and it wouldn’t leave me the hell alone. It was weird. I didn’t know what to do at first, so I just ignored it. That worked for a few days. My mind was always transposing things and distracting itself with an unbelievable amount of fodder and offal and detritus-like crap. I had a lot of other stuff straggling along in there to keep me occupied. Like trying to figure out the names of all the actors from the A-Team, or plotting out dance moves alone in my room with my headphones on, or deciding what types of things I could add to Top Ramon, or absently thinking about God. But this image of the bear painting kept coming back to me. It was epic. I envisioned the bear standing up on its hind legs, maybe with a stern look of supernal majesty on its face, possibly holding its front paws up in a graceful butler-like pose, its head listing as if lost in contemplation, an unperturbed stoutness welling up from its sleek chest as a subtle roar made its luscious way out of an elegantly parted mouth. The bears claws would be manicured to add an effeminate touch. One day it just so happened that I decided the bear would have to be a polar bear. I don’t know why. I just started thinking about it that way. That was it. I’d walk around thinking about this polar bear all the time. I’d be fondling cantaloupes at the grocery store or something, and my mind would just hawk in on this polar bear straddling a rock that strangely reminded me of Half Dome, but obviously wasn’t as large. It was a fish-sized Half Dome I guess. Then it occurred to me that I hadn’t even conceptualized the way the bear’s penis would look. I mean, it was in the title. It had to be there. It just hadn’t entered my noggin up until then what the hell a fish-sized penis on a bear would look like. I know a title shouldn’t give away too much, or tell people what to think, or really do anymore than hint at the contents of the piece. Nobody wants to be told what they are supposed to be looking at, do they? That’s not the artist’s job. The audience should work a little, you know? Put in some effort. Well, me, I even have a hard time figuring out what day of the week it is, let alone what the hell some goddamn piece of art is supposed to be, or mean, or tell me about who I am on this big old lopsided orb spinning at a 23.4 degree tilt and hurtling through time and space at a speed that is nothing and everything at the same time. But everybody knows that. Who the hell knows what a fish-sized penis on a bear is supposed to look like? And what about the balls? Would they be bear-sized balls? And would that be bear-ball-sized balls or balls that were as big as a bear? Would the fish-sized penis be the size of a fish’s penis or the size of a fish? Did fish even have penises? It was confusing. I thought about making that the whole point. The audience would be left to use their own latent powers of ingenuity and fancy to make wondering splashes on the canvas with their own conceptions of what was there, of what it meant, of what was hiding underneath the surface of the mundane, the unoriginal and ordinary and trite. The onlooker would be part of the creative process. They would reflect their own ideas back onto the painting, and this would be what it was. It was collaborative, and there is where I figured the genius of the thing must lie. The bear would be more than a symbol. It would be a place holder for a symbol. It would be dynamic and the truth would wave in cockling folds from its splendor. The bear with the fish-sized penis. It was grandiose and wild and comforting at the same time. It was a thought that would not go away. I decided no canvas would hold this creation. It must be done as a mural. I went down to the art supply store and bought paint. I bought brushes. I got ready to do something for the good of humanity. My time would be well spent from this point on. It was invigorating. The mural would be timeless, it would teach the world for ages what it means to be alive. I put on a large panama hat, got all of my supplies together, and walked down to the elementary school by my house. It was summer. Nobody was around. I found a large unadorned wall towards the back of the schoolyard. It had no windows and was covered with that white splotchy substance that is kind of like cottage-cheese ceilings, but not quite. I took out my brush. I dipped it into the paint. Life stood tall and good and wonderful. I no longer cared about who I was.