Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Hot on the heels of Jerry Williams' passing I went down to the river to check on the baptism access. I was shocked to see that the sign was missing- post and all. Earlier in the summer I had been ordered to remove the LGM's cemetery signs because I had put them under an existing sign for another cemetery. They complained to the code enforcer and an officer removed my signs. OK. I can deal with that. I got 'em back. But to have my other sign vanish? That sucks. The first thing I did was call Town of Thompson code enforcement. The very pleasant woman who answered the phone assured me that they would never remove a sign without notification. She said she knew about the sign but got a chuckle and suggested I call the Sullivan County sheriff...which I did.
The next day I went into the sheriff's office and another nice woman (with a gun and badge) took all the info and said she'd do what she could. I knew this wasn't the crime of the century but still.....On my way home I stopped in the Town of Thompson code enforcement office and asked the nice lady again if she had heard anything? She hadn't, but a not so nice younger woman over heard the conversation and said I needed a permit for a sign and that a neighbor had complained. I asked for the neighbor's name, but she clammed up. I grabbed a sign permit form and left.
I went home and emailed my photo of the sign and supermodel Marianna Louise to Officer Costa and told her about the neighbor complaint. I began work on the Jerry Williams Memorial Outhouse. But this whole sign episode was getting to me. So after setting some 6X6s over a big crapper hole, I went in and dropped my sign application off with the code enforcers. The nice older woman was still there, as was the younger mean one. The younger had her name on her official town shirt. I can't remember it. She took my paperwork and looked it over. "How far off the road is it?" she asked. I asked for the minimum. She looked it up. "50 feet from the middle of the road." That was down the bank and 12 feet off the river in the bushes. My property was only 62' deep. I pointed out how ridiculous this was and she said I would need a variance. OK. Now here's where it gets interesting.
Anyone who knows me will tell you I don't do well with excessive government interference. I'm no tea bagger but... Making me jump through these hoops for a sign, I may not ever get back, was making my neck ache. So I asked about all the signs I see everywhere- Don't Drill, Elect her, Do Drill, Elect him, For Sale....etc. My voice was rising. She had answers for all but the For Sale. "How about For Sale signs ?" I asked again. "We don't regulate them." She mumbled. "So you're telling me if I put For Sale- Baptism access etc., I would be fine?" She shut up and left the room to confer with the other building inspector. The old lady at the front wasn't so nice anymore. "You see what I'm doing?" I owned up. The young woman returned and said if I put "Baptism Access" on the sign I would still be advertising and I would need a variance. The Kafkaesque atmosphere was getting extreme. I grabbed the variance papers and left. All I know is the sign painter will be called. The concrete with be deeper. And FOR SALE will be stenciled in large red letters across the new CHURCH OF THE LITTLE GREEN MAN Baptism Access sign on Holiday MT. Rd. in Bridgeville, NY. In the mean time feel free to trespass anywhere you want.
Monday, September 20, 2010
WE PUT THE FUN BACK IN FUNERAL
Yeah, I've done my crying. And now it's time to get down to business. We've got a church to put on. A week ago I got word that Jerry Williams was very sick with a bad liver and in the hospital in Joshua Tree, CA. I called up his room. He sounded like he had a mouth full of marbles (probably from the pain meds.) but was still the same old Willie. We talked about the up coming church and how I sure wished he could come back and man the organ. The conversation didn't last long. A week of email updates later Jerry Williams is dead. He would have been 62 on Thursday. As Scott Jarvis put it- "Elvis has left the building."
The church was formed in 1986. After a short stint of services around the holidays the church elders decided to shift the focus of the church to special events: births, deaths, wars and major terrorist attacks. We called a service for Desert Storm and one for 9/11. We had a few baptisms, a wedding or two and luckily just a few memorials. But now as the congregation ages, I'm afraid it will be funerals that bring us together. As is the custom I will be getting Jerry's name tattooed somewhere on my person. It joins Richard Hoffman, Greg Bershad, Baby Gregor, Steve Parrino and Jackie Bryer- not a bad record for over 20 years. We have a surprisingly resilient congregation.
Now, for those of you who have never been to a Church of the Little Green Man funeral, fear not. We look at death like most things, as a chance to celebrate life. Before Jerry's condition took him out of the picture the church was already planned. Being the frugal, pragmatic soul we all knew, Willie knew if he couldn't attend one way.....well he could be there in another. To all those who knew and loved the old coot, I hope you can make it. Full halloween costume is recommended. The jack-o-lanterns will be carved and lit. Plenty of instruments will be in the church. If it's warm pitch a tent. Motels and couches in various houses are still available, but going fast. Come and celebrate Saint Jerry Williams. The oldest tree in the forest has been felled. Nothing more to do than start a nice fire in the stove. Willie will be here...guaranteed.
Monday, September 13, 2010
ORGANIST IN NEED OF ORGAN
The first time I saw Jerry Williams he took the stage of 8BC, in the old L.E.S., as a mummy. An ancient white Gibson SG strapped to his chicken neck, he joined Workdogs- Jarvis and Kennedy as part of a night I put together at the club. Richard Kern had hooked me up with the band. "They do blues that punks like." RK said with a stamp of approval. I can't remember if they were any good or not. But a year later Jerry "Willie" Williams formed the guitar god nucleus of my band Purple Geezus and was the venerable organist at The Church of the Little Green Man. Willie was the go to guy or deciphering my idea of arrangement and melody. I wrote the words. Willie put down the licks. Jarvis and Kennedy held down the beat. We didn't suck. And when Chuck and I decided to form the church, Willie sat the Casio across his lap and conjured the LGM. He was the musical soul
Well, in the midst of my recent organist difficulties (we are seeking applications), I got word that Jerry Williams was in need of his own organ. And this time it's not funds for John Dillinger's organ we are seeking. Even though Willie doesn't drink, eats twigs and sprouts mixed with some sort of macro-biotic jizz and lives the healthy life of a desert rat in Yucca Valley, Ca., an old bout with Hep. C has brought his liver to a not unexpected brink. And I'm pretty sure you only have one of those. Willie is in the hospital waiting for a good liver to show up. Figuring he hasn't had a job in the 25 years I've known him, I can only imagine he's not on the fast track to transplantville.
I talked to him yesterday and he sounded resigned and weak. I asked if there was anything I could do from this end? He said to keep the love coming and the fingers crossed. So with my little soap box I hope all my readers do the same. I haven't seen it but I hear Willie is in the movie American Hardcore. His every word accompanied by a howling wind. Ony seems appropriate. Now here's some namedropping:
After hobnobbing with Carlo McCormick, Jim Jarmusch, Iggy, Kim and Thurston, Holly, Amanda, Ace, and Luc Sante at ATP Shewho and I went to a barbecue at David and Brigitte's. Richard Hell just happened to be there. We didn't really know one another, but had crossed paths a couple of times. I reminded him of the time the Workdogs and I had MC'd the coming home party for Carlo (when he got out of that Mexican prison) back in the 80s. I had introduced him as "Mr and Mrs. Hell's son Richard..." He didn't laugh. I mentioned Jarvis, Kennedy and Williams. He knew them all. He asked what the studio used to be called where Willie and Jarvis recorded the first Beastie Boys stuff as well as a shit load of Bad Brains? "A7A" I said. Then we dug into the venison I had cooked and left it at that.
I know Steve Blush bought Willie a computer but I'll bet anything it's not even plugged in. He had a big MySpace site set up by R. Kennedy I think he saw once. So I don't think he'll see this. But just in case he does......Jerry Williams was the best organist the church ever had. He could be incredibly frustrating to deal with as a bandmate. He took all the Purple Geezus 4 inch masters when he left NY and they burnt up in a fire in California. But it only seems fitting. On the hole the guy is one of the most solid, soulful individuals I've ever had the pleasure to know. And if any of the Doctors at Joshua Tree Hospital read my blog- take care of the oldest tree in the forest and find him a liver.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
There's a hillbilly church down in Florida with a congregation of about 50 who plans on burning the Koran on the front lawn on September 11, 2010. I just heard this past Sunday's ignorant, mean spirited, grasp for attention sermon on NPR. Gen. P. the Supreme Commander in Afghanistan has issued a press release stating that this could cost American lives. All of a sudden there is a flurry of press for this up coming event and the church that plans it. What the fuck is the General and NPR thinking? Look, I'm all for freedom of expression. My church burns dollar bills and once and a great while a flag or two and no one is the worse for it. No one gets incensed. No one even notices. But when everyone starts to notice these mouth breathing, slack jawed dumb fucks in Florida, whose fault is it? Do you think Al Qaeda would have known about this without "our" help?
I'm the first one to admit that fundamentalists of all faiths are a pretty humorless bunch. If you believe God's big greasy hot dog fingers grasped the celestial quill and penned the Torah, Koran, Bible and The Book of Mormon....well Scientology is looking level headed. So it's no surprise that these yahoos in FLA. are having a Koran burning fest just to piss off the Moslems. The Moslems above all other faiths are obviously the easiest to piss off. So in response I will allow congregants to have a Bible burning bon fire for the Oct. 9th services. This in no way is to piss off all Christians, merely the idiot fundamentalists with no sense of humor. IT'S JUST A BOOK, PEOPLE!*
*You will still have to burn a dollar. In green we trust.
Monday, September 6, 2010
Labels: Owners:Samm and Teddy Kunce
Labels: Owners:Samm and Teddy Kunce
THE ARCHITECTURE OF RELATIONSHIP
It's a little less than a month before hunting season and before I hit the woods full time I want to try to tie up some loose ends on the art front. The past four years I've been working on two large projects that involve a couple of farm houses and five of my favorite people-Samm, Teddy, Carlo, Tessa and Tristan. The houses are not only homes for these people but artworks that I have had a very difficult time contextualizing as such. It's not like I haven't faced this problem before, but for some reason these two houses (White Sulfur Springs Project and White Sulfur Springs Project II) have driven me to quiet desperation in my attempt to fit them with the art brackets. So here's the first of, I'm sure, many attempts to do so. Here goes.
Of course we must go back in my personal art history in order to give you some idea of the field I'm plowing. In 1978 I did a piece called MISSIONARY (the extended family as sculpture) in San Francisco. In a nutshell I got to know a 12 year old boy I had read about in the paper. Darrell Monroe lived in a flea bag hotel in the S.F. Tenderloin. He was spotted by a reporter sweeping the discarded wino debris out of an alley. The reporter did a human interest piece. I read it and saw what he was doing as Social Sculpture. My "Social Sculpture" was to act as a "Big Brother" taking him fishing and horse back riding. My relationship to him became my art. After a few months he and his family disappeared. I never saw him again.
During this period SF artist David Ireland was transforming houses into art. Tom Marioni was drinking beer as art. Joseph Beuys was coining the term "Social Sculpture" in Germany, Gordon Matta-Clark was cutting buildings up on the East Coast. I didn't feel alone. In the 30 plus years since then my work has taken so many twists and turns it's no wonder my neck hurts. I've never had any problem doing pieces that are from the outset indistinguishable as art- a cow, a stint in seminary, a gallery, a rock band, a church...... But as I dredge up this work I realize the common denominator has always been relationship. Sure I do studio work also- but even that is couched in rumor and myth, created under the name of Kristan Kohl (a German woman who died in the 80s).
So this brings me back to WSSP and WSSP II. First WSSP. In 1998 I bought a one room school house for $30,000. In 1999 I held a graduate summer program there called THE OLD SCHOOL FOR SOCIAL SCULPTURE. The faculty which included Linda Montano, Kiki Smith, Robin Winters and Tony Labat concentrated on strategies for art making, not production. It was a big hit with the students. Luckily I was able to sell the school for a nice profit in 2006. I took the money and bought another old farm house at auction. But this was little more than a shell. It had no well, no septic and lousy neighbors. Nonetheless i plowed into it, hoping to turn it into art.
Enter Samm. As the real estate market turned sour and my money dwindled the artist Samm Kunce bought the unfinished piece and ponied up the cash to complete it. I was saved. Now maybe I could've sold this can of worms to a stranger and had the same results, but i doubt it. It was my relationship with Samm that allowed this work to continue and evolve into sculpture. She believed in me and loved the house. Can you recognize this house as any different than any other house on the road? No. Is it outlandish or unusual in any way that would distinguish it as "art"? No. Am I certain this is art. Damn straight.
Hot on the heels of WSSP my close friends Carlo, Tessa and Tristan found a beautiful piece of property a mile down the road with another old farm house. Carlo is an art critic and collaborator I've known for more than 25 years. We started THE CHURCH OF THE LITTLE GREEN MAN together in 1986. Tessa is a filmmaker and Tristan is my fishing buddy. I love all these people and even though my old man always told me not to work for friends nor family I have consistently disregarded his advice. WSSP II has become my latest source of income as well as my most recent piece. Do my friends consider it as such? I'm not sure. I've always said if Carlo was a better critic I'd have been rich and famous by now. (Just kidding).
This architecture of relationship is what holds everything up. It's what gets me up in the morning and allows me to continue the utterly banal and grueling practice of construction now well into my 50's. Contextualization of this kind of work is problematic but in time the work always reveals itself and if I can sit in a tree stand day after day without seeing a deer or take a Victoria Secret model hunting and call it art how hard can this be to visualize?
WSSP II AFTER
WSSP II BEFORE
Saturday, September 4, 2010
CROSBY, STILLS, NASH AND POP
My musical history starts in 4th grade. I played the trumpet (badly). I was the only one in my class who didn't make band. The teacher said i wasn't the worst. Oh yeah? I had no talent. I quit. I was devastated. I picked up a pencil and started to draw. In the 60s when everyone with or without talent was picking up guitars I isolated myself on the couch and rolled joints. In 1969 at 16 I went to The Aquarian Exposition (Woodstock) with my 14 year old brother Bird, in Bethel. It was wet, muddy and life changing, but not to the extent that it gave me any confidence that I could play. Music was there to be appreciated, but without talent I stayed on the couch. Anybody got a match?
The Allman Brothers played my college gym in NC. Duane was still alive. In 1973 after dropping out of art school, I moved to Woodstock (the town). Albert Grossman and Paul Butterfield lived down the road. It was like a a musician retirement village. In 1975 I moved to San Francisco. Punk Rock came and at 25 I felt way too old. I hung out at The A-Hole, Valencia Tool and Die, The Deaf Club and knew loads of SF punk band members. I did a little promoting of shows. The Mutants, Liars, Rank and File, and hundreds of others played every week. I went to art school and seminary, never taking the stage. I started writing poetry, bought a cow and started MO David Gallery. In 1983 I moved the gallery to the East Village.
I just missed NO New York but met all the players and finally took to the stage (not as a musician but as a performance artist). I still didn't have any talent, but by now I realized it didn't matter. At 33 I started my first band PURPLE GEEZUS and THE CHURCH OF THE LITTLE GREEN MAN with Jerry Williams, Rob Kennedy and Scott Jarvis. I sang (hollered), danced (jerked and spazzed) and had the best time of my life. I still couldn't play a lick of music but the crowd didn't mind. Fuck this artworld crap. I would get into the musicworld. We recorded, put out a couple of cassettes and some vinyl, played every club in NY but couldn't get a deal. By 1992 we had burnt out and broke up. I went to the first Lallopallooza and dropped acid with the Butthole Surfers in their trailer. I was 40. In 1995 I bought a church and moved to Glen Wild, NY.
In 2001 after six years in the country i founded another band back in the city- BLACK TRACTOR with Samoa, R Kennedy, Mark Fairchild and Bob Bert. We recorded, but never played a gig. I bought a guitar and started writing songs. Now at this point in the tale you would think maybe I'd really discover my inner musician, get a record deal and.....fuck this musicworld crap. I sat on the couch and played guitar.
In 2006 I met Josh Druckman who has a recording studio in Woodridge. I recorded a bunch of songs and plan on putting out a CD called LUCKY 13.......someday. This past May I formed THE BAND OF ALL FAITHS with RI Travis, Dreiky Caprice, Sarah Phillips and Josh. We played a few open mics at Dutch's (the local bar) and sucked, but i don't care anymore. Last week Bird celebrated his 56th birthday by going to Bethel Woods (Woodstock) to see Crosby, Stills and Nash. He asked if I wanted to go? I begged off. Those geezers didn't speak to me anymore. Last night I snuck in ATP at Kutsher's Hotel and saw Iggy Pop. I had worked all day painting a house. My back and neck hurt. I was tired and half drunk, feeling my mortality and not a certain amount of failure, but goddamn if that skinny old man can't put on one helluva show. Now that still speaks to me. I wonder if there's still time to be famous?