Faucet Repair

[TW: SI]

Why you should give an artist a studio space

The artist awakens, groggy with death. Her dream clings to an afterimage: face shrieking “mango” at the counter of an airport smoothie place, patrons clapping.

She paws for Forty Stories, sits up and scans last night's highlight: “What is purity in the pure state often consonant with?” She stretches her legs to a stiffened tremor, finds her footing on the carpet. From the closet call IKB trousers, cadmium red socks, an umber sweater, and a canary bandana.

Then into the kitchen with Hejira, sun slicing “Coyote.” Marie Menken’s Glimpse of the Garden full screen on the counter. Around the room the artist tends to her buds: primroses, lavender, orchids, and sage. Then coffee from the moka to a Peter Shire mug and lime squeezed over a pile of melon.

Acid glands as she carves into her morning journal. An excavation of creative urges (a song in open E, a gouache of dripping bedsheets) and an attempt to treat infections (financial illiteracy, suicidal ideation—there’s a painting on its Wiki). She stops writing to meditate.

It’s a cyclone today, but images cut through with assurance. Pink nebulas bleed starry tar, infants crawl, newspapers hit patios, patrician toe, a pair of veiny arms launch a hang clean, a note passed in class, shadows of leaves lolling flicker over woodgrain.

She opens her eyes. And her mouth and her hands. And realizes she must urgently find a way to explain the excruciatingly beautiful problem that we actually live by the atomic promise of this moment.


Date

I burst into the Tate twenty minutes late and scattered an open backpack’s worth of shit across the museum’s concrete floor. She glided over, put her hand on my shoulder and suggested the rooftop lounge to decompress before the show.

We leaned over London as it spiked a pink sunset. An isosceles skyscraper burned white with mirrored light like the tip of a giant utility knife. Red construction cranes flamingoed across the expanse. We talked about the world as a petri dish, humans sprouting and returning to the earth like bacteria, and how mystifying it is for a character to be written into another’s life with no exposition. We compared the shapes of our languages (English square but fluid, Korean a flock of small birds in flight). I brought her Lunch Poems and she bought me a drink.

Then we walked through Guston’s life. She was drawn to reds and figuration dissolving to make room for more. I felt something devotional in his centered symbols and a spark from what he said about unnumbing oneself to brutality (though in her presence I realized it also applied to tenderness). She moved quickly through the room until she became glued, just like I always do.

I chose a place for dinner that was a walk away, and as we approached it she let out a sharp laugh—turned out her twin was a waiter there. Then three hours evaporated. Her name held “the beauty of art” in Korean. Nature was her Great Creator. She also left home for perspectives she couldn’t conceptualize at the time.

Her sister’s boyfriend ran a hotel bar down the street. On the way there, the moon was intensely full. A luminous silver retina. It watched us through the lobby’s glass facade as we clinked lagers. I learned about someone who had, like me, spent incalculable hours shaping solitude into a home to unwind in each day. Who had, like me, developed a taste for contradiction; her deeply sensitive and gentle aura belied the image of her hours later outside Waterloo Station, black hair snaking down a black leather jacket toward a super slim smoldering between black fingernails, smoke curling around the shine of her yellow-brown eyes.

At the bar, she kept accidentally kicking me under the table when she would cross her legs, instinctively apologizing each time. After the third sorry, I told her she was in fact allowed to touch me and offered my hand on the tabletop. She slowly scanned my palm lines, then pressed her fingers into them for a blink of charged silence. I asked her what she was thinking. Then I felt my corners round as she re-met my gaze and told me the truth.


Teachers

Noah Davis, Piero, George Tooker, Nicole Eisenman, Brett Whiteley, Catherine Murphy is in the house, Paula Rego, Sargent, Lois Dodd, Alex Katz, Joe Brainard, Wilhelm Sasnal, Paul Cadmus, Thomas Hart Benton, Inka Essenhigh, Philip Pearlstein, Frank Moore, Frida Kahlo, Chronis Botsoglou, Sibylle Ruppert, Henry Taylor, Sophie Calle, Daumier, Robin F. Williams, Jack Whitten, Jessie Homer French, Jasper Johns, Nyoman Masriadi, Anna Weyant, Justin Liam O’Brien, Rosemarie Trockel, Ingres is in the house, Ruprecht von Kaufmann, Jesse Mockrin, Munch, Grant Wood, Leonor Fini, Tristan Unrau, Justin John Greene, Seth Becker, Eric Fischl, Jennifer Packer, John Currin, Lisa Yuskavage, Freud, Todd Bienvenu, Georgia O’Keeffe, Ivan Seal, Kyle Dunn, Kerry James Marshall, Gareth Cadwallader, Georg Scholz, Ana Mendieta, Christian Rex van Minnen, Issy Wood, Matthew Wong, Austin Harris, Wayne Thiebaud, Jane Dickson, Richter, Neo Rauch, Paul Landacre, Alice Neel, Matt Bollinger, Shannon Cartier Lucy, Peter Blume, Maud Madsen, Peter Doig, Dylan Vandenhoeck, Judith Leyster is in the house yeah, Graham Sutherland, Hockney, Velázquez, Hopper, Lee Lozano, Martin Wong, Guston, Leonardo, Marisol, Gregory Gillespie, Cézanne, Pyke Koch, Peeter Allik, Kent O’Connor, Heide Fasnacht, Brett Bigbee…


A good bruise goes a long way because it remembers a Hereditary outburst. And straining for a low pass knob. And a fart first impression. And legal action by association. And pouring nuclear hot sauce all over its food with a broom to its head. And hearing gunshots at the front door and then hiding in its bedroom only to step in dog shit in the dark. And when laundry was too expensive, getting on its hands and knees to wring it in a dirty bathtub. And a cop’s flashlight like a tunnel to the passenger seat. And losing some scalp getting out of the car under barbed wire. And fighting the Anima under the spell of dark matter. And the rush of illegal dumping within legshot of a ranger. And a shadow downing beer after beer because it was the only cold thing. And mini escapes to the coffee shop shackle, the cotton mouth walk. And an army of tiny knives carving into its ribs. And laughing detonations outside its bedroom window. And Marvin Gaye with no curtains. And demons crawling out of its night stomach. And an inability to keep time. And permanent ongoing renovations. And shaving a circle down to a single molecular point. And a broken axle road trip. And a looking glass living room. And waves of dried sweat marking hat circumference. And garaging detritus. And a clean mirror in a familiar bathroom. And sleep in the shape of a fetus.

And the sun on a pulley in the morning.


Enuresis / Using A Dating App

As I slip underneath my sheets, I remember being told in a doctor’s office that it would stop happening if I stopped thinking about it.

“Take a date night, for example. A case of how your brain benefits from distraction.

You’re cuddled up on a couch in the living room of a foreign flat. A depleted candle has thickened the air with cinnamon. Earlier you went to a bar for watery cocktails, which you’ve since chased with two barely refrigerated beers. A shaky internet connection brings a romantic comedy in and out of focus at irregular intervals. During quiet scenes, you can hear your nostrils.

As the end credits roll, you zombie through a hallway into a low-ceilinged bedroom with a mirrored wardrobe facing the bed. You’re pulled into pillows and remember taking a salsa class years ago where you were told to lead on the first day. You flip over and catch a glimpse of your idiot silhouette contorting in the mirror. An air conditioning unit sputters and pops into gear, coating the room with a loud, deep-throated exhale. Two dogs trade barks and snarls somewhere down the street, sparking hysteria in another one next door. Upstairs a toilet flushes and sends water scattering through plumbing in the walls like blood pumping through a vast capillary network, followed by thuds and thuds and thuds and thuds of iron soles above a booming string arrangement swelling from the living room as a white light shoots into the hallway, an algorithm starting another film you might like.

You wake up first. You stretch your legs and clock the sweetest friction. You deflate into a new day.”


After three years of espousing the virtues of an absolute indifference to thematic cohesion across one’s body of work, I’ve found myself working in a series for the first time.

Oddly, the planet that has exploded into thousands of smaller islands is the world of rock climbing. Specifically, indoor rock climbing gyms. Even more precisely, Sender One in Los Angeles, where Grey climbs. It only took one visit—I went with him and Tessa for a couple hours earlier this month and the floodgates opened.

Firstly, the visuals. If big rock candy mountains shooting towards the sky with tons of planar changes along the way weren’t dramatic enough, they’re pocked with hundreds of multicolored holds ranging from tiny pink gumdrops to suitcase-sized black monoliths. Marked with tags identifying the difficulty of color-coordinated routes, they’re a chromatic choose-your-own-adventure-to-the-summit display. The fact that everyone can see your choice as you stand under these rainbow proposals lays a core question bare: will you choose the comfortable path or risk public failure (perhaps even humiliation) on the more challenging one?

These limb ledges are also fascinating for their truly psychedelic geometry. There’s such a diversity of designs, from oblong red hourglasses to giant lemon wedges to lime green knolls. And their shapes shift as bodies interact with them—one image since imprinted is of a focused climber’s downcast profile next to an amoeba-like splotch of blue with a protrusion that echoed his nose. Like a taxidermied Blue Meanie.

Then there’s the element of body language (my one true love). Never have I been somewhere with so many people voluntarily contorting at once. Watching strangers pretzel themselves onto precarious perches (sorry), I daydreamed about their walks of life. Was the guy mountain goating a microscopic dot in a crucified pose an OB-GYN in bloody scrubs an hour before? Was the woman peering down between her split legs an accountant who just finished crunching her client’s numbers? These were the city’s bipedal sidewalk stoics brought onto all fours and inverted.

What this leads to is an environment that feels like a Ministry of Silly Walks on the y-axis, but there’s also the palpable texture of desire in the air. What I mean by this has less to do with spandex-accentuated bodies and more with constant reaching and reaching and reaching. I’m fixated on this part of it, of arms and then hands and then fingers like spiders straining and grasping for those last few centimeters. Like a defibrillator to my melodramatic heart are the moments where the next move is just beyond the wingspan, so the only choice left is to jump.

But to do so, climbers are legally required to be strapped into a harness connected to a trained someone on the ground who is responsible for their safety. A fascinating dynamic where one person’s ascension is literally bound to another’s humble support. In my case it was Grey who knotted me up and gave me the green light. On the highest climb I did that day, I remember his voice offering tips and reminders as I pulled myself up onto the first set of pegs. These turned to affirmations as I found my rhythm, then faint mutters as I climbed higher still.

In the final push to the top, I remember the sounds below falling away entirely. Being left with my own heaving breaths and a deep focus on one choice at a time was utterly meditative (not unlike pitching, actually), and for a few flowy minutes I took great pleasure in meeting myself where I was. Then it was time to come down.


Incision Inventory:

The most recent one is a tiny crater carved out of my left ring finger. Last night I had Punch Drunk Love blaring from my computer on the kitchen counter while I made dinner, and as I was peeling potatoes for a mash, a loud noise in the film yanked my glance away from the spuds and punctuated a sharp sting. Of note: blood pooling on the cutting board while Jeremy Blake’s abstractions floated in and out of focus.

Next is a slightly smaller poke, almost perfectly round, situated smack in the middle of the webbing between my left index and middle fingers. It was a few days ago while sitting in the front seat of the upstairs section on the 295 bus. Someone had left an empty energy drink can on the ground, and between stops it was rolling back and forth in front of my toes trying to get my attention. It did, so I reached into my backpack to grab a pencil. I keep all of them in a tightly-packed internal pocket and make sure they’re oriented points-down for these situations, but somehow one of them had flipped in transit and decided to bite me when I plunged my digits into its nest.

Third-freshest was a tick-sized blister on my right middle finger that stealthily popped while I was vigorously jamming power chords in my room one night last week. The song in question was MJ Lenderman’s “SUV,” (I prefer the version from his November ‘23 live album), an absolute banger that has enchanted my millions of imaginary fans and kept my neighbors awake regularly over the past couple of weeks.

Flip my right hand over and we meet crime scene number four, another skin balloon that burst on a toes-to-bar skill training day at Crossfit. I purchased some apathetically-reviewed, Amazon-recommended grips to prevent this very thing from happening, but alas, the gear/chalk powder/correct technique precautions still did not prevent my moisturized epidermis from surrendering to the weight of my body.

Same goes for one in the exact same spot on the other hand that happened just days earlier.

Rounding out this handsome group of red reminders is a shooting scar arcing across the dorsal plane of my left wrist. It happened last month on a wet afternoon: I had just hopped off the bus in Shepherd’s Bush to receive treatment for an ear infection at my GP’s office, my backpack’s handle clenched in one claw like a briefcase, when I approached the clinic’s entryway and attempted to hoist the bag onto my shoulders. In doing so, I somehow grated my wrist against the building’s stucco wall. Checking in with the receptionist, I told her I was there for an ear appointment but also wanted to request treatment for the open wound that was dripping on her linoleum.


How The West Was One—the tug of what could exist or the tree branch hallucination above the active hurricane. Slices of life in the circle island petri dishes, but they’re contained by the canvas like an epitaph on a tombstone due to a constant barrage of reminders everydayeverydayeverydayeveryday; I was reading about the beginnings of the Portuguese Empire in the 15th century and then it went 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 in my head and here I am for my dash showing my ass to the world in oil.

Or my passport’s Great Golden Seal forking over $100m in fresh tank ammunition to Israel without congressional review as the death toll in Gaza nears twenty thousand. This just after vetoing the UN’s ceasefire resolution. What color is the tie at the party again? Journalists targeted on a quiet hill—Issam Abdallah’s blackened camera, Al Jazeera’s burning vehicle.

Or an embrace. Of the subconscious, of the baring impulse, towards trust in background updates and shadow syntheses and how “Any thought could be the beginning of / The brand new tangled web you’re spinning / Anyone could be a brand new love.” Maybe a blonde occipital blip on a lavender-gray day.

Or Mom and Dad’s documentary on medical aid in dying, the public service of seeing it all go down in real time. Over many dinners we’ve discussed our hemisphere’s enduring phobia of the cosmic seasons. So there it is stripping us down to our structure.

Or our constructed chapters as records to revisit while we can. All hits no skips, even the duds.

I'm telling myself the story of my life Stranger than song or fiction We start with the joyful mysteries Before the appearance of ether Trying to capture the elusive The farm where the crippled horses heal The woods where autumn is reversed And the longing for bliss in the arms Of some beloved from the past


Second Coming

“He became a truck driver for Heartland Freighters after the war,” Mary said, splitting her microwave enchilada down the middle with the side of her fork. “Drove the rest of his life. That’s how his face became a half moon.” She pointed to her favorite portrait of him, propped upright at the end of the table where he had eaten her dinners for half a century. “I used to tease him that I was the only one who could see his dark side.”

Blake kept his eyes lowered while he poked at sticky remnants of melted cheese. By now, however, Mary knew better than to take offense at his indifference—this was her fourth consecutive summer hosting college baseball players for the local scout team, (her daughter had suggested it after her husband passed), and she had learned that the arrangement was like fostering pit bulls: the amount of attention she received from these young men was usually correlated to their appetites.

“You may be dismissed, darling,” Mary said, acknowledging Blake’s empty plate. “Are you sure?” he said, rising from his chair before the end of the question to grab his luggage. “Yes dear. Leave it there, I’ll wash up,” she said. “Okay, thank you,” he said, his heavy feet debossing tufted carpet as he made his way across the living room toward the bedroom Mary had readied for his arrival. As he passed the fireplace, she saw him double take in the direction of an old picture on the mantel of her posing next to her longtime pastor.

Dropping his bags and closing the door behind him, Blake deflated onto the room’s lone twin bed with a sigh, the bedsprings moaning under his weight, and in doing so noticed an antique bedside table next to the headboard. Inside its top drawer he found a glossy nest of 5x7 inch photos, one of which caught his eye—a young woman in a yellow bikini, in repose on a beach with her back to the camera, head turned slightly so that her profile was concealed but for the tip of her nose by long strands of wet hair.

“Blake? Are you decent?” he heard Mary suddenly call from outside the bedroom door. Startled, he threw the photo back in the drawer and slammed it shut.

“Uh, what?” he blurted, unfamiliar with the expression.

She glanced at the photo from the mantel, now cradled in her hands. “Never mind darling,” she answered, “I’ll come back once you’ve had some time.” It wasn’t too late, and there were dirty dishes in the kitchen she could take care of until he was ready for the story.


(From 21 July 2023)

Hitched to the rattling bumper of McDonald & Giles’s “Suite in C” at Equipment Room, I felt that thin band of warm silence hugging the music for the first time in ages. Deep listening is sacred to ears numbed by urban dissonance, and it re-tuned my antenna for the rest of my nomadic month. To tweaking SEPTA-sapiens recognizing one of their own aloud, to the STM assistant coating my bus in just enough French to catch it, to my name blooming from a 2:00am tongue—such frequencies are vital. But on more than one couch surfed, I was warned of those ducking them. An old friend on a new acquaintance: “He didn’t seem to register any of my answers.” This sounded like a mirror to our modern deficit (or how being heard=being seen), and later made a sponge propped on palms between long glasses of wine feel like love. It probably was.