Thursday, January 31, 2013




As congress debates the gun laws of this country, past, present and future, it gets me thinking about the art of negotiation. My old man always said "If both parties are happy, it's probably a good deal." It seems simplistic, but think about it. If one party comes away thinking he's gotten over and the other party thinks he's been steam rolled, the deal's not going to stand. Gloating and bad blood do not make for a lasting agreement. I pride myself in being a good negotiator. Here's a few deals I've made (or not made) over the years.
   I used to write a monthly column for the trendy downtown magazine PAPER. I started out as religion editor at PAPER. If that wasn't ridiculous enough, when I wasn't picking apart the authenticity of shroud, I wrote about TV, guns, hunting or movies. One such column slammed the hit Tom Hanks movie FOREST GUMP. Everyone loved this movie. I found it sappy and boring and spent the entire column ripping it apart. Well, I guess I wasn't alone. I received a call from a producer in LA for a short- lived TV show on ABC, that came on after NIGHTLINE. I forget the name. They wanted me to come on air and read the column. I had one question. How much will you pay me? "Oh, we don't pay." the young woman responded. "You can promote your act on national TV." Act? I had no act. The negotiations began.
   Over a week of phone calls (this was before email) we went back and forth. Negotiating for money while really broke is like deer hunting with an empty stomach- no fun. Through this week long process I had them right where I wanted them. "How about car fare?" I moaned. At this point I would be happy to take any token, just to save face.  "We can't set that precedent." the producer explained. Like my cab fare issue would someday be before the Supreme Court.  I dug in my heels. "No money. No column. NO TV." "OK" the producer relented. I had them where I wanted them. "Sorry for wasting your time." the phone went dead. Maybe this isn't such a good example.
Here's another:
Recently my old friend artist and writer WR has been contacting me for memory help. (We all need it these days.) "Do you remember 1993?" he asked "I was at Art in America and remember you coming in and out of the office for something." I did remember. In those days the building on the corner of Spring and Broadway housed the downtown Guggenheim Museum. Attached to the big structure was a beat up old Newsstand, holding on like a parasitic fish. I was always looking for unusual spaces to do something. With a little digging I found out that paper/timber mogul Peter Brant owned the building. I called his office in Ct. and was floored when his secretary put me through to him. Thinking on my feet, I pitched an idea for "the world's smallest museum" in the little shack. To my amazement he liked the idea and we set up a meeting.
   This is what started the walk by WR's desk at Art in America a couple of times a week. Big Schnabels hung in the office and I eventually found out that not only did Peter Brant own the building, he owned Art in America, a string of polo ponies and a shit load of art. AND his wife Sandy was the editor-in-chief. Luckily Ingrid Sischy, editor of Interview was in the meetings with me, Peter and Sandy. I'd written for Interview and Ingrid was in my corner. Sandy and Peter didn't have a clue who I was. One thing you can say about the rich is they like to control everything. $100 worth of sheet metal and 2x4s on a tiny patch of sidewalk, next to a billion dollar structure, warranted all PB's attention. I'd stop by WR's desk in complete frustration, only to be filled in on all the dish. Peter was doggin' supermodel Stephanie Seymore  and rumors had it that Ingrid and Sandy get the picture. I didn't care about any of this. All I wanted was the green light to play artist in the little newsstand.
   Our last meeting was on a wed. After months of discussion, this was the day that it would be decided. My upstairs neighbor at 7&C had been playing his drums for half the night and I was in no mood. I grabbed my empty briefcase and donned my "going to court" suit. As I headed for the door the phone rang. It was Peter. I thought he was going to cancel the meeting, but to my surprise he had a request.  "Listen, you're coming down Houston aren't you?" he asked. "Could you stop by the Korean deli and bring me a turkey leg and a cup of coffee?" I couldn't believe the request. I must've been stunned into silence. "Ahhhhhhh......sure. How do you take your coffee?" was all I could muster.
    I set the greasy brown bag containing Peter's lunch on his desk and took a chair. Sandy and Ingrid had opted out of this meeting. One could only speculate what they were up to. As Peter poured sweet 'n low into his coffee and bit into that big, brown turkey leg I somehow knew it was over. Mouth full of leg meat, he wiped his hand on a napkin and stuck it out. "Thanks for all your ideas but I think we are gonna pass on the newsstand. I don't want to rush into something and start a precedent with this sort of thing. For now we're just going to sit on it." I can't say i didn't see it coming. I shook his hand and headed for the door. "Oh Mike." he said, stopping me "Thanks for the turkey leg and coffee." he smiled with turkey stuck between his teeth. I smiled back and left, realizing he didn't even offer to pay for it. On second thought maybe I'm not such a good negotiator. Gun control doesn't stand a chance. I think the newsstand now sells muffins.  

Monday, January 28, 2013




    OK. It didn't really happen like that. Lets go back before the door got slammed and stuck. I'd spent most of the day trying to thaw out the washing machine and fix the the kerosene heater. I called the tech. support # on the heater and got a very helpful woman from sales on the line. Being a saleswoman, she knew as much about these things as anyone in tech. support. We trouble shot it together. Bad wick? No. Bad fuel? I shook the can and could hear ice crunching in the mix. Could be. The burner wasn't seated properly? Damned if I know. It went like this- ect., ect. Eventually I cleaned the mess up, dumped the frozen kerosene, and finally got it working. Success!
   It was at this point I grabbed my computer to check my email. I clicked the button and the big familiar letters came up- YOU ARE NOT CONNECTED TO THE INTERNET!. I have slow satellite. Click again. Nothing. After an hour of no connection I called Hughes net. The girl talked me into an upgrade. Half way though placing an order for "gen. 4", with a rather slow Indian girl, the line went dead. I started to steam. Stay calm- I told myself. I wasn't listening.
    Storming through the kitchen, beating on the groaning washing machine, tripping over the meowing cats, my slippery boots slid on the kitchen floor. Grabbing the door knob to catch myself, two cats shot by me as I crashed to the floor, slamming the door shut. In my frustrated frenzy I grabbed a cutting board and threw it at the table, turning it to splinters. I only wished it was my computer. As I sat on the cold floor I could hear the radio in the other room talking about "impulsive suicide". I heard how many people commit suicide within five minutes of having the thought. Mentally I drew a google map of every gun in my house. All were in easy access. I moved towards the closet. The 9mm. was high on the shelf....then the phone rang. It was Shewho. She was at the store. Did I need anything? I didn't. Impulsive suicide averted.

   I know you've read this far just to find out about what RNButch wanted. Milawyer advises me to say nothing. But I can't help myself. Where's my foot? I need to shoot it.

 Shewho and i sat on the couch, having a couple of beers when the phone rang. This time it was RNButch. After small talk and pleasantries RNButch got down to business. Seems he has a production company with his friend Daymond John from SHARK TANK and FUBU fame. I'd met this guy a couple of times across the road and he didn't seem too interested in anything I had to say. Maybe it was Shewho's assumption that SHARK TANK was a nature show. In any case it took me a minute to remember who the guy was and why RNButch would have a production company? I also was  wondering why RNB would read the blog, and trying to remember what I had written that would come back to bite me. "Anyway.." RNB continued "I turned Daymond onto your blog and told him about the church and stripper pole and he loved it. I was wondering if I could come over tomorrow and talk to you about maybe doing something with us?" IFF! I'm fucking flabbergasted. We set a meeting for noon Saturday.
   So there I sat, the house cleaned up, the art out, the kerosene heater working properly, the house warm, waiting on RNButch. Noon came and went. Hmmmmmm? As the sun set behind RNButch's mansion on the hill I wondered what was going on here? Was RNB pissed over something I had written in the blog and using this as some sort of ruse to twist me up? Was he some sort of evil genius, intuitively knowing how to find my soft underbelly, and slowly, perversely gnaw through it? I wanted to call, but resisted. The fucker called me. Why should it have to......? At dark I got in the car and drove to Shewho's WSSP.
By Sunday morning the only message on my phone was from a Hughes net. installer who wanted to upgrade me that day. No word from RNB. Since this was the last place I thought a reality TV deal for HWS would come from, I was more befuddled and bemused than pissed. The satellite guy showed up and I got in a giant pissing match with him when it didn't work. "You have a mac." he stated flatly, throwing up his hands, like he'd never seen one before. "I don't know anything about macs." What year is this? Again the google map of my guns went through my head as the installer stood up waving his hands. Can't be too careful who you let in your house.

So this is where it stands as of Monday morning. Assuming Daymond John and RNButch are reading this. The first thing I look for when dealing with anyone is courtesy. If they value my time on par with their own it's a good start. I eventually couldn't take it and called Carlito to get RNB's #. Being the good right hand man he didn't give it to me. "You know RNB shouldn't have left me hanging like that." I whined. Carlito agreed and told me I should tell him that. Without a phone # it's a little difficult. So I write it here. I have nothing to lose these days. I jump through hoops for nobody. Maybe RNButch has a good excuse for blowing me off with no call. Maybe it was all a big misunderstanding. Or maybe he's just evil enough to know how to fuck with me. In any case I gotta go bail the tub. Now you know as much as I do.      

Saturday, January 26, 2013




  GNJohn always describes a series of events where shit starts breaking down as "Mercury in retrograde." I don't quite buy this explanation. It seems to occur too often. You be the judge.

   It started even before the temperatures tumbled. In the midst of a hot period of production when it came to making objects de arte, things began to go wrong. I have a simple routine in the morning. I get up, take a leak, stoke the stove, go in the very cold kitchen, pour water in the Mr. Coffee, add grounds, flip the button, turn on the radio, sit on the couch and try to stay warm until the coffee is done. Usually I can't wait until the pot is filled, so I'll remove the first tepid cup. This particular morning I saw there was no coffee in the pot. You can imagine my disappointment, holding up the empty vessel. What went wrong? The light was on, but the plate was cold. The water had not circulated. I stood there, stunned. Then i rattled and hit Mr. Coffee. Nothing. I got a little rougher, then caught myself. Going ape-shit on the machine was not going to help. I forced myself to go to Walmart and buy a new Mr. Coffee- a white one this time.
   Once at the Walmart I decided to see how difficult it now is to buy ammo under NYS's new gun regs.. It wasn't difficult at all. You have until April 15, 2013 to stock up on ammunition, without filling out forms and having a background check. I bought 2 boxes of 30.06 shells. That was worth the trip to the Devil's Emporium. Walmart killed all the little sporting goods stores that used to dot Sullivan County. Gun owners are forced to go there or drive 50 miles to Orange County. It sucks. But that's another issue. Back to my misery.
    When the deep cold sets in around here it becomes survival mode. I heat by wood. The house gets fucking cold when it drops below 10 degrees. At minus zero it feels like the horse barn it used to be. The first thing to be effected is my tub drain. This means taking showers with soapy water around your ankles and bailing said funky water before the next shower. Next to go is always the water pipes themselves. Of course at this point I decide to do laundry. The full load grinds to a frozen halt once the thing has filled with ice water. I turn on the brand new kerosene heater in the gallery to thaw things out and forget to check it for 15 mins. When I do look through the kitchen door I can't see daylight. The entire room is filled with sooty smoke. About here I start to tweek.
   The phone rings. It's my brother Duke. Duke lives in Me. So it's 20 degrees colder there. He puts things in perspective. He has a machine dug 10 foot deep well, with water that looks like it comes from a malaria swamp, and he's so thankful. Before moving to his present uptown digs, he raised two kids in a backwoods house with no running water, crapping outside in a hole, so everything is upgrade to him. I can't bitch about my cold shack, so we talk art. Duke would never call himself an artist, but he is, just not as tormented by it, as his older brother. He's as encouraging as I am pessimistic. It's a welcome pep talk. I don't totally come around to his line of thinking, but I am trying to be more accepting of other's points of view. If they try to tell me how deserving I am of acknowledgement, and to just be patient......who am I to argue.
    But, as we all know this cannot be sustained. The temps drop further, the doubt over the past two weeks of arte production sets in, as I begin to question my entire "practice". I sit in the chair, a foot off the woodstove, legs wrapped in grandma's afghan, staring blankly out the window, questioning every step I've ever taken and why that has now led me to this particular.....? you get the picture. Even the cats annoy the shit out of me. I'm having none of it. I ignore their plaintiff cries. I show no understanding, irritated by their needs. It's at this point I slam the back door a little too hard and it sticks shut. I find this out as i try to dump a large pot of moldy water, with a skim of ice, out the back door. Expecting to have the door swing open I am surprised when it doesn't. My surprise causes me to sloosh the feted brew all over me and the kitchen. Then the door miraculously swings open, allowing the two cats to enter unmolested.
   The phone rings again. This time it's RNButch from across the road. He asks if I have a minute? Covered in moldy stew water, two meowing half- feral cats rubbing my legs in my freezing, soot encrusted kitchen....of course I have a minute. I figured it was about the animals or helping Carlito, or some such neighborly business. But it wasn't. He said he'd been reading the blog. You won't believe what came next.      

Saturday, January 19, 2013




The dark days of January were recently brightened up by the arrival of The Jam Messengers to upstate NY. Church elder and Purple Geezus original bass man Rob K. and Brazilian one man band/ gigolo Marco Butcher kicked off their world tour in a dark suburban roadhouse in Kingston Thurs. night. I'm probably the only person in the state who hasn't been sick the past couple of weeks. I've accomplished this by maintaining my hermit ways. Every couple of days i go to Home depot and The Trading Post to stock up on art supplies and beer. Otherwise it's me and the cats. So I'm healthy. But I couldn't very well miss the JM gig so close to the shack. This better be worth a case of the flu.
    The last time these guys hit town they had pro-wrestling ref. Mike Edison and some coked up girl in tow. We all watched the sun come up from the deck. When the camels and ostriches materialized, across the road in the morning fog, their minds were predictably blown. This time it was 10 degrees outside and not much warmer in the shack. Those frilly rock and roll frocks and pointy toed cockroach killers are not exactly made for NY winters. I threw another log in the wood stove and watched the boys shiver.
   I never played music until I was over 30 and never played guitar until I was 50. Hooking up with lifetime musicians like S. Jullian Jarvis, Jerry Williams and R. K. gave me immediate street cred. and exposed me to a world that is as stupid and frustrating as the art world. But that's on the money (or lack there of) front. As far as the actual song writing and playing level- it's saved my ass for years. Marco is in his 30s but RK is only a year shy of me. You'd never know this when you see the JMs on stage. Yoga master Kennedy out does Iggy on the mic., alternating between head stands and full body flops. I'm in pretty good shape but he makes me look like a spud on stage. I am not worthy.
    After the gig we sat around backstage packing the hash pipe and slugging Jim Beam with a crowd 30 years our junior. Marco asked how I liked the gig? I told him I couldn't wait to get home and tweet about it. He looked at me sideways and latched onto the pipe. Age has its privilege. I can fuck with these youngsters 'til the cows come home. A fool and his money.... a stitch in time saves.........a poor workman blames his tools.....I'm sounding like my old man. We waved our way back to Glen Wild and were snug in bed by 3 am. The next day we recouped and by late afternoon we were 4 of my songs deep into a garage rock recording session in the living room. I may have wasted my youth doing art and  believing my 4th grade teacher when he told my parents "The boy has no musical talent. Sell that trumpet".  But I'm not about to waste my golden years. I don't skype. I don't tweet. I don't text. I don't have a cell phone. I may not be willing to play in public or have a label, but the Jam Messengers.....or as the T-shirts calls them THE JA MESSE NGERS are on tour and more than willing to show you how it's done. Lock up grampa. AARP lists them as a leading cause of early retirement. Well worth a case of the flu.              

Wednesday, January 16, 2013




In a political move NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo rushed through sweeping gun control legislation yesterday. I say "political" because of its timing (so close to to the Newtown massacre) and it's bypassing of usual due process and lack of public comment. On the Federal level President Obama is poised and ready to do the same by executive order later today. Like the gutted Brady Bill before, these moves are reactionary, rushed through in the heat of the moment and most likely will be overturned, once the dust settles. NY always has had tough gun laws. Now it has the toughest, outside of California. So, how does this effect the man (or woman) in the woods?
   With some google digging one can actually read the SAFE (Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act). The first point is the change in magazine capacity from 10 bullets to 7. Of course this will surprise most of us who thought those crazy 30 shot clips were at issue. Oh no. Those clips were already illegal. 10 to 7? I'll have to check, but I think my 9mm. holds 10. It's standard issue with most semi-auto pistols. Will this save lives? I sort of doubt it. It will help sell 7 shot clips. Next is the ammo issue. As I read the law you will now be asked to fill out more forms and be forced to wait in more lines when it comes to purchasing your shotgun shells. The slack-jawed dimwit, manning the sporting goods counter at Walmart, will now be asked to shoulder more responsibility in order to keep the public safe (between coffee breaks). Penalties for breaking gun laws will be tougher, gun shows will be more strictly regulated and and semi-auto rifles with "military options" like bayonet rings, and detachable magazines will be outlawed. Once again I think I got a couple of old clunkers laying around with bayonet rigs. I'm getting more illegal by the minute. Lastly, you now have to renew your pistol permit every five years- instead of "good until revoked". Now they are hitting close to home. More paper work and fees. I'm not feeling any safer.
   Yesterday my hunting buddy photog. George Holz sent me a link @SLATE on "Hipster Hunting".  It chronicled some sock hat wearing gentlemen, fresh out of Brooklyn, who had decided to take to the suburban woodlots with their 20 gauges and kill dinner- of course complete with manifesto and post-modernist reasoning. The whole tone of the article was how the "hip" had now discovered hunting and that it was now OK amongst Generation Q-less to grab a gun and hit the woods. There was a time that George and I would be the only ones at the party who knew a turkey call wasn't a sale on Butterballs at the local C Town. Looks like those days are behind us.
   A new generation of "City" hunters are gearing up for the two hour drive to my woods in an atmosphere verging on hysteria concerning guns. The laws are changing so fast that only the trooper, who has just pulled you over on Rt. 17, knows how many laws you have broken by having live shells rolling around on the floor boards and a gun or two in the backseat. Why can't the Gov. reform NY's draconian drug laws, legalize marijuana, lower my property taxes or ban fracking with such expediency? I'm all for gun control reform, but this kind of knee-jerk legislation does no one any good. There are so many nuts out there who already have guns (legal or illegal). Cuomo is just pissing them off. And as for my homies outta Willieburg- get rid of those sock hats and buy some blaze orange. And leave the bayonets at home. They are now illegal in New York State. I feel S.A.F.E.      


Monday, January 7, 2013




Today is the first day above freezing in a while. So I'm out in the studio, with both doors open, sprinkling pyrodex gunpowder onto a canvas that's been driving me crazy. I've decided to dedicate this year to working as much as i can as a "studio" artist. This means making crap, as opposed to doing churches, or gallery shows OR working for the MAN. I'm taking a break from semi-retirement. This approach to art making is a tough one for me. I've spent almost 40 years trying to leave these decisions to some process, not the esthetic eye. A bloody deer drug across a canvas may look painterly, but it's an action produced image. 30 seconds and it's done. No stepping back to look, and then continue. I light the gunpowder and a fizzling line runs across the canvas, smoke pouring out the doors. Maybe I better move this operation outside.
   I no sooner have the canvas laid on saw horses in the snow, than GNJohn drives by. He brakes and backs up. As I spread wheat paste across burnt paper, I bitch to him about my artistic predicament. "You'd think at my age I'd have some clue about what I'm doing." I whine. He sizes up the mess and tells me how much he wants to go to Florida, the problems of his dying dog Girl, and overall winter malaise. "Maybe you can use it as a background for something." He suggests to the smoking canvas. Hmmmmmmm. Then we bid adieu, and go about our separate days.
  I drag the sticky canvas back inside and let it dry by the woodstove. The phone rings. It's Shewho. She's two hours early for the bus back to town and bored. I give her the update on the "painting" and tell her all about the Clifford Still doc. I saw on PBS last night. I've been a big fan of Still's from when I first moved to SF in 1975 and saw the SFMOMA show in 1976. The doc. sucks but the Still work unrolled in the new Still museum blows my mind. Shewho's not as big of a fan. She asks me if I know about the Chinese artist who does gunpowder paintings? I don't. Figures I'd miss this one. I'll later google him and be relieved that his work has nothing to do with mine, except the gunpowder. But back to Still. Now here's a guy that has no dilemma of image. He hit his stride in 1949 and rode it until his death in 1980. Those big paintings are of nothing but pure existence. Like all the heavy weight painters of the time- Pollack, Rothko, Kline, Motherwell there's little reference to anything before. But  this dude hit it right on the head. They are as fresh today as ever. I'm won over all over again.
    I'm sorry for all the artfag narrative. Look, no one is sorrier than I that I'm not in a tree right now, considering wind, the next front, tracks, how to hit the damn critters. But no season 'til May. That leaves art and religion. You know the deal. So bear with me. I've realized I'm a opposed to a Grandeur. My gestures, though extremely considered, are small. I'm out of the game. My participation in the so-called art world is limited to commenting on Kenny Schacter's fb page. Otherwise it's just me and the decision making process, year after year. Shewho suggests some deer blood mixed with the gunpowder. I'm there. I had considered thawing out some meat for dinner. I decide on stew- more blood. I guess the image will reveal itself eventually. Can't rush these things.