Thursday, August 31, 2006

To Fag

I watched this documentary How to Draw a Bunny last night about Ray Johnson, a lesser known artist who was a contemporary of Warhol and Lichetenstein and that whole crowd. He killed himself on Friday the 13th at the age of 67 (6+7=13) while staying in room 247 (2+4+7=13) by throwing himself off a bridge. (Apparently he was obsessed with floating bodies too.)

I want to be a gay man. Seriously, and not just because I love men. Maybe its not having to think about having a family or not having to work too hard to get your basic carnal needs met, but whatever it is, damn if they don't get a lot of shit done. When Ray Johnson died, he had hundreds of boxes full of his art work tidly placed on shelves throughout his house. It's not that I want to die and leave behind a huge body of work; that's ridiculous. It's that I want to work that much. I want to be so consistent in making things, to have a practice, so that whatever idea I have actually gets made.

My other work ethic inspiration is Edmund White. White is most famous for the book The Joy of Gay Sex (which I haven't read) but primarily wrote autobiographical essays, novels, and an amazing account of the climate of the gay communities in all major cities in the US during the 1980s called States of Desire. His nephew, who lived with him while in high school, published an essay in the journal Granta a few years ago. He said that his uncle told him that a gentleman's day should be divided equally between work and pleasure, and that he should never wake up after 10 no matter how late he had stayed out the night before. Apparently, Mr. White composed The Joy in the mornings while listening to Brahm's 3rd symphony. This is balance.

And this is what I, like most Americans, and particularly the Williams lack. In this world, we are much more likely to be impressed by someone working out on a stairmaster for 45 minutes every day for three years than someone who climbs the three flights of stairs to their apartment everyday for 50 years. The stairmaster (to borrow an idea from Mirelle Guiliano) is an icon. We walk past it, feeling guilty for not using it but secure knowing its there, and get on the elevator. This is America. God bless us.

Perhaps many gay men have divorced themselves from that whole obsessional, Puritan, self-denial, masochistic thing that we love to roll around in like not getting enough sleep,
extreme dieting, over-working, over-exercising, not being able to not finish a book, eating diet cheese, and all these other bizarre things many of us do and secretly feel proud of. It's like we're afraid that if we stop doing all these things, we'll fall into a hedonistic cesspool and wake up gay, tan, and wearing a neon pink wife beater.

But by binging on self-denial and asceticism, you're already being extreme. I mean, some people find sexual pleasure in being hit in the face and others make themselves read Proust.

When I was at Brigham Young University, the epicenter of cheerful masochism, one of my classmates was amazed that I was eating a donut. She said, "I haven't eaten a donut in like three years." Now that is seriously kinky.

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