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NYC #2. Museums. Ground Zero.

I’ve been kind of strung-out on computer programming for the last month. Turning some of my old stuff into ebooks. I keep meaning to write up a detailed “how to publish an ebook,” but I keep learning new stuff. So many gotchas.l

I’ll be announcing my new ebook, Collected Essays, on Monday or Tuesday, and it’ll be available via several channels on my Transreal Books site. But today is Saturday, and not a good time to launch a web product. Today I’m mainly posting more photos from our trip to Manhattan early in March.

As I mentioned, we were on the 34th floor of a hotel on 8th Ave near Times Square. The window actually opened, a little bit, and it was so awesome to look down at the people. Great morning shadows of the cyclists.

And the skyscrapers at night. Another world.

The Met has a renovated section of art from the Arabian countries. Wonderful stuff. One of my favorites was this calligraphic emblem called a “tughra,” from the court of Süleyman the Magnificent, 1555. The pieces of it stand for parts of Süleyman’s titular name. But the details make it rather conspicuously difficult to forge.

Interesting Babylonian art near the Arabian art wing of the Met, too. R. Crumb used to draw flying vulture demonesses. Maybe he’d done some actual art-historical research.

Naturally we hit the MOMA as well. Nice atrium. Great to see the golden oldies of modern art upstairs. For some reason Picasso’s “Girl Before a Mirror” is in storage. The biggest draw right now is van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” Kind of a weird 21st century crowd in front of it, all foreign tourists, and every single one is holding up a camera or cell phone to get a picture of the actual painting in actual real life—photography is allowed, and by now everyone finally understands not to use their flash. But weird to have this anenome mass of arms with cameras on the tips. SFictional.

The really great new thing at the MOMA was a retrospective show of Cindy Sherman’s work. I looked it over first with Sylvia, then with our cinematographer friend Eddie Marritz. We liked her early work “Untitled Film Stills” almost the best, the way Cindy looks so neutral in the images, like stills from European films, she said. Lot’s of exhibition eye-candy here.

I don’t think I mentioned that in this gallery where I did my reading, the Soho Gallery of Digital Art, they had about thirty computer display screens on the walls. So they can put up any show at all with an hour or two of fiddling with the central controller machine. I’d emailed them a link to my paintings site, so they had a lot of my paintings “on” the walls. Was nice to see them.

Yet another museum to mention is the Whitney. They had the Biennial show. Like so many Biennials, this was “the worst one yet.” Nobody takes the time/trouble to develop any craftsmanship anymore. Piles of garbage on the floors, YouTube-level videos of like a woman chewing food and spitting it out. An artist sleeping on a bed installed in the Whitney galler. Six art-school-hallway-type paintings with unmixed colors right out of the tube painted in *wow* squares along the edge of the cheapest possible pre-stretched canvases. It’s all about the accompanying rap. The best thing I saw at the Whitney was a pile of blue-painted wood things leaning outside. (Droned the old man.)

The good old Empire State building is still there, so 1940s, such a dowager. Looking at it near the city-block-sized Macy’s. You don’t specifically find what you’re looking for in a store that big, everything is scattered around. Eventually you happen on what you need. Or on something like it.

We went down to Ground Zero, former site of the World Trade Center. Out in California, I’d had the mistaken impression that they were still stalled in arguments about what to build. But they’re moving right along. Lots of cranes, and there’s a new tower growing up.

The memorial in the central area is deeply moving. They have two square holes in the ground, exactly matching the footprints of the fallen towers. In each hole, water flows down the sides, across a flat part at the bottom, then down into a black pit.

Kind of like the course of life. You come from who knows where, sparkle in the sun, end up on a level plateau, then disappear into darkness.

All the names of the dead are cut into the heavy metal railings around the edges. This is one of the the most moving monuments I’ve ever seen, along with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in DC.

And how are you supposed to feel about it? Sorrowful, certainly. Wistful for the more peaceful times before. But—vengeful, angry, bellicose? That’s natural too. But you don’t want to take it out on a whole country or a whole region of the world.

I don’t see why President Obama doesn’t get more credit for finally tracking down Osama Bin Laden. It was good to get that done. A step towards closure.

And the rebuilding at ground zero is wonderful to see.

Manhattan is, at some meta-level, a living organism. Energy flows down the long avenues in the morning, with each crossing lit by the rising sun. It’s a hive, Manhattan, an anthill, an indestructible giant paramecium. Long may it wave!

2 Responses to “NYC #2. Museums. Ground Zero.”

  1. davidp Says:

    Rudy! Nice eye with the words – loved the blue things especially

  2. Steve H Says:

    I was born there and left when I was an infant; I have one flashbulb memory of stepping out onto a black wrought-iron balcony and looking down at my tiny feet, which were not much bigger than the gap between the iron bars that made up the floor. Between those bars was a huge drop down to a street with tiny cars passing; I screamed and grabbed everything within reach and had a fear of heights for years. My dad used to ride the Nancy Hanks back to NYC from Georgia to see his publisher a couple times a year, but I’ve never been back.


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