standing alone with a time bomb

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I have always been a huge fan of Dave Hickey’s writing. His peppery little articles in Arforum always reminded me that one could be deep without being pedantic. The first book I read, The Invisible Dragon: Four Essays on Beauty,” was a book I couldn’t wait to give away to friends. I must have bought maybe 7 copies of this book in total, and I still don’t have one sitting permanently on my shelf. It was that important.

The second book, Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy was found tumbled in one of my twenty-three boxes of books I went through before coming back home, to Paris. That’s right… I was a book-collector in a former life.

Anyways, let me just skip right to the good part… his writing.

Stated so simply in the first paragraph of “Unbreak My Heart, An Overture” the first essay of Air Guitar:

“Two nights ago, I was talking with some local artists about things that used to be cool and weren’t anymore – the things that we missed. These artists were mostly kids, so they missed some really stupid stuff, I thought, like Adam Ant and giant shoulder-pads in women’s clothes. I told them that I missed “standing alone” – the whole idea that “standing alone was an okay thing to do in a democracy. “Like High Noon,”I explained, and one of them said, “oh, you could do that today… (pause for effect)… But first you’d have to form a Stand Alone Support Group!” Everyone laughed at this, and I did too, because she was probably right, but I didn’t laugh that hard, because, at the time, I was proofing this book, which constitutes my own last, tiny fling at standing alone. It’s hardly High Noon, I know, but these essays do represent an honest effort to communicate the idiosyncrasy of my own quotidian cultural experience in the United States in the second half of the twentieth century – to recount some of that experience and, whenever possible, account for it.”

Which he then segues, in the same essay to…

“… that these kids, having a duenna and a lot of structure besides, did not require a wide selection of love songs. Then perversely, it occurred to me that the dogs didn’t need any love songs at all. [the author is watcing two dogs fuck in the road].
That was my answer. We need so many love songs because the imperative rituals of flirtation, courtship, and mate selection that are required to guarantee the perpetuation of the species and the maintenance of social order – that are hardwired in mammals and socially proscribed in traditional cultures – are up for grabs in mercantile democracies. These things need to be done, but we don’t know how to do them, and, being free citizens, we won’t be told how to do them. Out of necessity, we create the institution of love songs… We cannot do without it. Because it’s hard to find someone you love, who loves you – but you can begin, at least, by finding some one who loves your love song.”

It’s nice to have this book back again, in my arms. There so much life and moment tied to this simple tome. I lived with it, with glee and astoundment, screwing up my eyebrows with each leap of fancy. It’s been three years, Dave, since I’ve seen you and you’re looking just as dandy as how I remember.

But, in the back of the book, I found a scrap of paper, tucked deep into the spine. It was a poem, a love song, written from my boyfriend of that time. A most beautiful and wonderful man I have never ceased to care for. It must have been written when I was already in France. I remember him now, as clear as lightning, reading the text, in his own handwriting.

Time and time again
Forever near, close to the end
A faraway place close to my heart
A destination, in waiting with you

A way up high, way down low
Lies a body of water, never disturbed
By it all, by it all
Rejoice in my arms, in my arms

Shadows of paper places, casting on the wall
Flying endlessly
collecting in streams
Shallow streams
That collect what is left.

It looks just like paper but it’s really a time bomb.