Tuesday, September 10, 2013


I saw a good movie on Channel 55 this morning, the Art of Getting By. As the laid-back title said -- and what the art professor in there said -- "It can be something big, it can be small, it can be painted in bat shit, as long it's real, something you love."

It's also a little bit about, well, Art, about painting and what moves you, not necessarily in a big way: you can coast along, you get by -- with a little help from your friend. It's fortuitous if your friend is a girl, easy on the eye, and she lifts your heart. The school principal of Morgan High said, "We are finally getting down to the wire." Eventually it's about love. 
I realized late in life -- just last week? -- that all good movies deal with love.  How you get by with your parents, teachers, schoolmates, your buddy, who also wants the girl you love. Basically, then, life revolves around love -- whether you get it or not; whether you lose sight of its importance and, setting it aside for the while, believing you'll still find it there when you get back, you surrender to the immediacy of business.  We have to be practical, right? We cannot spend all our time on just Art, on love, on doing what we really want. Right?

In my perfect world I will be reading and writing and watching movies all the time. Others will be painting their lives away, or integrating their existence with their music, sculpture, architecture, toys, gadgets, inventions -- whatever makes life meaningful and renders love worthwhile. I will never be a clerk, an accountant crunching numbers not my own, a salesman selling products not created by me, nor will I be involved in any money-earning activities that drain the color of life away.

I return to Raymond Chandler, who in one of his novels let detective Philip Marlowe expound on the nature of clerkship: “You go in through double swing doors. Inside the double doors there is combination PBX and information desk at which sits one of those ageless women you see around municipal offices in the world. They were never young and will never be old. They have no beauty, no charm, no style. They don’t have to please anybody. They are safe. They are civil without ever quite being polite and intelligent and knowledgeable, without interest in anything. They are what human beings turn into when they trade life for existence and ambition for security.”

Elsewhere in the novel, Marlowe listens to a cop's lament: “We spend our lives turning over dirty underwear and sniffing rotten teeth. We go up dark stairways to get a gun punk with a skinful of hop and sometimes we don’t get all the way up, and our wives wait dinner that night and all the other nights. We don’t come home anymore..."

Does it really matter, what we think, or do? "...[Our] existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness..." said Nabokov, who hated little men with little minds.  (He tagged Dostoievsky as "that idiot.") I cannot read beyond Nabokov's "Lolita" and Dostoeivsky's "The Brothers Karamazov" bored me to tears. And I don't understand why "Crime and Punishment" is regarded so highly. But it's ok, we can't get all of it right, but our candles can burn on both ends and with a dazzling flash leave a personal mark between two eternities.

"I read the news today, oh boy..."

No comments: