Genuflect by Gordy Grundy
April 2002; Issue No. 56
LIVING IN WARTIME, PART III
There is a moment of which I am reminded. It happens when you are surfing (on a wave in the ocean) and you are leisurely paddling out to sea through the breakwater. The instant of recognition occurs when you realize that the oncoming wave ahead of you, the one that you want to glide up and over, is far larger, moving faster and breaking shorter than you judged it to be.
SHANGHAIED AND WAYLAID
I really should read Genuflect more often. If I had read the last issue of this prophetic effort, I would be better prepared for the jam that I'm in. With snarling rats, both human and rodent, imminent destitution and the ever-delicate search for a car, the palette is rather full. My panic runneth over.
For most of the world, an auto is a utility. To a Southern Californian, it is your spouse. I finally sold my car to an ex-con who is living down the street at the halfway house. He was watching the price, brightly painted on the rear window, as it fell from optimistic to downright charitable. He got a deal and I've been paying for a rental ever since. That's a pinch. I am trying to find a truck. As any self-reliant painter knows, your canvas size is only as big as you can haul. I've been itching for some brushin' room; I want to ponder square feet rather than square inches. The car search began in a showroom. Since then, I've lowered my expectations so often that my ears are popping from the rapid change in altitude. I've scoured the after-markets and I am now working on the nether-market. I'm so desperate for a deal that I've been prowling Beverly Hills, Bel Air and Malibu hoping to find an immigrant gardener who needs to upgrade his beat-up pick up.
I believe in cleanliness and good housekeeping, especially when it is administered by someone in a starched uniform. Given my recent economic challenges, I have had to fire the staff that I had been unable to hire. Good housekeeping is a floater on the priority scale. I have been able to avoid say, vacuuming, with the belief that I will hire someone to do it for me. Dishes don't need to be washed until you've dirtied the very last one. When it's time to scour the tub, I always schedule it for manana. My studio, Taboo Terrace, reminds me of a South Seas shack. Nested in a grove of bamboo, the ramshackle residence is home to many of God's little creatures. Like a Buddhist, I welcome and respect the spider and the ant. I refuse to torture and exterminate any life form until I know the species of my next reincarnation. But even a Buddhist has their limits. I arrived home unexpectedly one night to find a big brown rat, the size of a Doberman, making love to my kitchen trashcan. I hollered like a surprised cuckold. The rat zipped up his pants and disappeared fast. Like a Houdini, I don't know how he did it. Since that night, we have been matching wits in a literal cat and mouse game of intellect and cunning. So far, the sub-species has been making all the touchdowns but the game isn't over yet. This Great White Hunter is relentless.
My part time job is now a full time effort. This is not a result of a carrot but a stick. I have been able to work leisurely in the promotions business. Ideal for an artist, the time was my own and the resulting drachmas could afford more than a few canvases. Wallyworld Studios has been my primary client. There has been more than enough business for my competitors and I to laugh and play together with an easy bonhomie. All were smiles until the sandbox got smaller. Now the fangs are showing. Wallyworld cut their promotional budgets. Drastically. To the white of bone. The gushing spigot now drips slowly, like a Chinese Water Torture. They used to order a thousand of something, now they request ten. My income has dropped faster than a falling piano. I feel the stick. My once ambling gait is now a dead heat sprint. I used to begin the day with my feet in slippers; now I have to place them in a starting block. The clock radio, once soothing and gentle, now wakes me to the crack of a starter's pistol. The Los Angeles Times recently reported that Wallyworld Studios has shown a first quarter profit due to massive cost cutting. I'm black and blue but the shareholders are delighted. I deserve a "thank you note" from each and every one of them.
PRIORITIES AND THEIR ORDER
Given the Wallyworld fiasco, the boss's wife recently suggested that I might want to reexamine my priorities. She was gently suggesting that less art and more Wallyworld might be a practical consideration. Naturally I was offended at the umbrage; I am an artist. Period. Nonetheless, I had to take a moment to pause and reflect on my priorities. Once again, I was horrified by the introspection. The list began with the practical and the immediate. a) Get a car. b) Total receipts, call the accountant and pay my taxes. c) Kill the rat. d) Write this column. The next section identified my various projects. e) Paint daily. A given. f) Script final segment of "ArtLA." Get this: experimental filmmaker Patrick Halm, honored by the Telluride Film Festival, must be a bit daft. He is completing a pilot for a television series about the arts. (Foolishly, there are no car chases.) Further proof of his madness, he has garnered me to host and script. The first episode is 92 percent complete. g) 'Project B': I am starting a new piece which will take me back to some very old influences and roots. It is inspired. It is big. The potential is wild but it will demand a great deal of capital. It also scares the hell out of me, such that I have spent more than a few nights wide awake in bug-eyed terror. My priorities then peter out to that long list of Family, Comfort, Health and Survival. I blanched when I realized how far I place Aesthetics above Existence. Now that I am financially pinched, I will have to bleed a lot more and a heck of a lot faster. I have to pay for my priorities.
When this little Bin Laden fella cannonballed into the pool, he created a wave that overwhelmed most of us. We are having to work harder than ever before. The cost of making art just went up, literally and figuratively. I am often amused and always inspired when I note the sacrifices that my colleagues choose in order to make art. What may be a high priority to us, is often seen as impractical, inconsequential and insignificant to others. There is a great nobility in that 'foolishness.' This is the reason that God looks out for fools, drunks and artists.
THE SWELL OUTSIDE
In a nanosecond, the brain ascertains distance, size and speed. The wave outside the breakline is bigger, moving faster and going to break sooner than I had anticipated. A quick calculation determines that a retreat is impossible; I am too far out. I don't want that monster to crash on me but it sure looks like it might. There is only one option. All you can do is face the wave and try to race over it. This is a shining moment of hellish panic and unbridled hope. You paddle like hell. You paddle like you've never paddled before.
GORDY GRUNDY is a Los Angeles based painter. His art and written works can be found at www.GordyGrundy.com.
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