Genuflect by Gordy Grundy
Summer 2000; Issue No. 46
"YOU MAY SAY THAT I AIN'T FREE, BUT IT DON'T BOTHER ME"
June 2000; The Sixth Month of the New Millennium: Well, I really got my boot stuck in a spittoon this time. I don't mean to sound vague or cagey but the noose is pretty tight around my neck and any ill timed confession in these pages just might cinch the rope a little tighter. Recently, quite uncharacteristically, a bit of jubilation, a stupid decision and an act of defiance has landed me into a heap o' trouble. The carefree world as I knew it has encountered a sudden squall, more like a Perfect Storm, and now East is South. Someday it will make a mortilarious story. Like the first thing that my lawyer told me. As he tapped a thick folder with his bifocals, he said, "The City Attorney has taken a special interest in your case." I smiled immediately knowing how proud this would make my parents. Noblesse oblige. All of those years of tennis lessons, smart breeding and ivy choked campuses had finally paid off with a handshake from the Establishment, a warm arm across the shoulder and a wink-wink. This good ole boy was proud to be a part of the network. I was in. The City Attorney was taking a special interest in my case. And then I noticed that my lawyer had not jumped out of his chair to give me a High Five. That was the third torpedo to hit my hull. Right now, I'm cryin' too hard to laugh.
I have experienced many things since the Incident and I have gained a greater insight. Very much like Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and her "Death: The Final Stage of Growth", I wish to reveal my "Seven Stages Of Trouble" a work in progress.
HOW LUCKY CAN YOU GET?
My loving but morally superior sister said, "Well, the Cat just lost another one." She was referring to another of the Nine. Very recently, I got lucky, truly blessed. At the very least I should be dictating these pages from a breath controlled wheelchair. Instead, my fingers dance across the keypad. Father Death must have been trying to get on-line when I took my Flight of Fancy. How lucky can you get?
How lucky? I don't know yet. I think I am learning that you are as lucky as you make it. The sole survivor of a violent plane crash can either give great importance to the moment and call it his good fortune or he can blithely ignore it. It is not a question of religious belief; it is an issue of meaning and value. We can curse the ugly Event and sing a dirge on its anniversary or we can use the ski accident to our advantage. When we stand naked at the altar of Chance, we must surrender our free will. We have to take it as it comes. The test of character begins after the dust has settled: How do you mop up the mess? Frankly, it feels like I am trying to find the sunny side of the street at midnight but I will use this moment and learn from it. I will make this event a milestone on which to stand rather than a millstone around my neck. How lucky did I get? Extremely. The trick will be remembering it.
If I ever lean towards glib, the image of my friend Shiva slaps me contrite. While the wound of the Incident was still fresh, my old friend Surfer Joe and his wife Shiva framed my perspective. Shiva is a forceful Earth Mother. Knowing that the Wrath of Kali would be absolute, I stood speechless before her. Verbally, she dragged me out to the woodshed by my ear and tanned my hide with a hickory stick. Then she held me in her arms and cleaned the wounds. Fear of another ass whoopin' like that will forever keep me on the right side of the street.
My contrition is pervasive. My shoulders are now slack and I walk with a stoop. As an artist, I strive for a sense of freedom and bliss. To be without restraint. To paint as pure and as honest as possible. Here I am trying to peel away the layers of my onion and now I've got the law breathing down my neck. I have an Authority Issue anyway and this is flipping my lid. The weight is upon me. I see it in the sleeplessness and the lack of appetite. I miss the spring in my step.
The Good Lawd has a sense of timing and drama. Right now, after several years of hard work, I have just tuned my day job at Happy Daze Promotional Marketing into a hot little V8. The money is playing fast for once and I've managed the biz so there is a daily schedule of devoted painting time. Life is sweet. The job is really about driving a car; it is about mobility. Driving is a privilege in the State of California, not a right. No car, no job. I'm contrite.
It seems that I will be losing my driver's license for a year despite the first time of my offense. To a native Southern Californian, driving is as essential as breathing. The thought of life without a car curls my body into a fetal position and finds me rocking back and forth. I never thought I would whimper.
THE EVIL EYE: A FOCUSED VIEW
Old Man River moves pretty damn slowly. It is a rare chance to win the Lottery. Great moments are seldom thrust upon us. We have to make our own. As I release my parachute, one of the ripcords I shall be pulling is the Pittman Short List, an action in honor of Los Angeles based painter Lari Pittman. I was impressed with a statement that he made in the Los Angeles Times regarding the night when he surprised a burglar in his home and took a bullet in the stomach. All of life's great complexities came down to two simple, clear questions: "Do I want to live?" or "Do I want to die?" Oddly envious, I like the purity and the simplicity of it. It implies action and a clear direction.
Introspection is a dull practice with little reward. Our human minds are so fantastically shaded by the HyperReal that we can never be accurate nor honest about it anyway. Self-examination is too hard, too gruesome and we're too lazy. Moments of genuine clarity are few and far between. It is unfortunate that we need an attention-getter to wipe the muck off our lenses. The bigger the gun, the more clear our vision. Pittman had to ask a very short list of questions. Thankfully, we are rarely faced with a life and death situation such as Lari, so how can we empower a lesser moment with a greater clarity? I will experiment with my Pittman Short List and ask myself the nastiest question of all, "What do I want?" After I have filled a yellow pad with answers, I will then start whacking out the least important until I have the shortest list that I can live with. That short list should contain a very distilled, potent and inarguable truth. It will imply an action. It must work because Lari is fortunately still with us.
We ride at dawn. Trouble is a major inconvenience that requires a great deal of effort. I like to think of Life as a siesta on a chaise at the Four Seasons but the reality is more like falling onto a cactus, blinded by a Death Valley sandstorm. You don't want to tug too hard on those bootstraps lest they break off in your hand. But there is no time for indecision because we ride at dawn. The bugler is sounding the reveille.
In order to get the solid colored balls into a pocket, you have to hit the white one first. Change is static. If I tie one end of a string to the door knob and the other end around my bad tooth, I won't have a brighter smile until I slam the door. Change has to be initiated.
Over the last several years, I will admit that I have been cloaked by a nasty nihilism, a degenerative hopelessness and a cancerous apathy. I have been eating what has been offered. I thought I had found a comfortable, safe place to sit. I guess I'm not as happy with it as I try to be and I don't really know how to get out of it. Have I been coddling myself?
Where do you find your Inner Drill Sergeant? I think mine is out having a leisurely breakfast and reading the newspaper. MOUNT UP! WE RIDE AT DAWN.
REPENTANCE, SACRIFICE AND THANKS
It is a part of our human condition that we feel the need to mark the occasion; I see this evidenced every time I walk my dogs. One of the ways we highlight an event is to give an offering or to make a sacrifice. There are two ways to sacrifice: 1) Gladly and 2) Gladly at the point of a gun. When the harvest is bountiful, we dance and feast. When an unhappy Zeus shakes the ground underneath our feet, we haul out the choicest olive oil, the fattest calf and hope to Hera that my daughter is telling the truth when she swears she's really a Virgin. A sacrifice is an Action.
I have to do something in gratitude for having to avoid, at the worse, loss of my life, or, at the least, a painful inconvenience, both of which I consider life threatening. I must place a sacrifice before the altar as an offering of thanks. I have to find my Virgin, whack out her heart out and hope the Gods get tired of my wailing. The gift that I have chosen is great, one which is very dear and important to me. I have decided to give up this Siren for a period of one year. Everyday, the gall of this Action will remind me how lucky I am; I could be pushing up daisies. The Action will reinforce a movement towards the things that I care for the most. The Action is the cue ball that sends all the others spinning.
Unlike Lari, when I go home and open the front door, I always ring the bell and knock first. I've been paging my Inner Drill Sergeant for over an hour and he hasn't called back. THEY'RE ATTACKING AT DAWN. There is a heavy hand on my shoulder and I don't like the feeling. Anger is a convenient fuel...
TROUBLE IS A SEVEN LETTER WORD
My nuts are in a vice. I can scream but I'd prefer to sing a few bars. I need to take the roar of the freeway and somehow make it sound like the ocean. This situation has backed me into a corner. Now I am forced to face ALL of the ugliness in my life. It's a Moment allright. Dark Clouds never have a silver lining unless we paint it on. I am choosing to use this Whole Lotta Trouble to my advantage. When I am done, I want the silver lining to look like the Second Coming of Christ. I'm not sure how I'm gonna do it, but I'm gonna give it the Ol' Gunga Din.
GORDY GRUNDY is a Los Angeles based painter. Reach him at email@example.com. (Authors Note: Promised to debut in this issue, "The New Bona Fides" has been postponed. I will reveal the findings of a secret society of artists who are actually trying to enter and exist in the HyperReal . Strange things have been happening and external pressures are being exerted. I better stay silent for now. GG)
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