Warm my Heart, Oh Sweet Tacos.

I’m slowly learning that my new office is situated among one of the few, if not only areas in DC Metro where a guy can get Chicago-quality Mexican food.

I haven’t posted for a while because that’s about all I can say for the job so far.  And, the rest of it is occupying the rest of my energy.

Good f**ing honest Mexican food though.

And I can’t tell you how much finding a solid taqueria just made my whole week.  It really did.

So, I’ve learned that, unlike Chicago, the Hispanic community in Prince George’s County, MD lives, by and large, segregated from the rest of the population.  It’s a diverse place, the wealthiest majority black county in the U.S., and not a place where people generally exclude or look down on one another.   But, none of my co-workers ever go to the Spanish-speaking businesses.  Heck, most of them don’t know what a real taco looks like — just figure what they get at Chipotle must be it.  Can’t say I’ve ever been inside a Chipotle restaurant to know whether or not they’re right.

I went to a Mexican place down the street where lunch cost $10.  First sign the place isn’t authentic, right there.

I went to the taqueria by where all the day laboreres hang out.  Plastic table cloths and gnarly aloe pants in the window made it seem promising.  But, the meat in my torta was “aged”, at best.

For me, Mexican food is fresh, straightforward, and served with humanity.

I’m not really much of a Tex-Mex guy.  I know that’s what most non-Hispanics outside of Chicago think of when I say “Mexican food” though.  So, I’ve learned to not talk about it too much and to not take related restaurant advice from people without substantive inquiry.

So, yeah.  Around a corner, on a side street, Edmonston Rd., 3 tacos al pastor and a soda for $5.99.  Lunch special.

And I don’t know why white people are afraid to go in those places.  I go, I’m white.  I suppose eating there seems natural to me because  I lived in Chicago, where all kinds of people eat in Mexican restaurants, run by Mexican people, with Mexican food and Mexican music and sometimes crazy Mexican TV and if there were language snafus we just worked them out.  No big deal.  The waitresses here look at me funny though, as if I might be lost.  Just at first.  Truth is that they’re always nice to me, like I’m a customer.  I eat, like a customer.  And everything works exactly like it does everywhere else.

Except, the food is better and cheaper.

With heart.  Like a thick torsoed old lady who could beat me in arm wrestling if she ever thought about such things (‘cuz she doesn’t)  just finished mashing up my salsa in the old molcajete just  a minute ago. The tortilla chips are properly deep fried and why do so many American people not know that you have to cook tortillas even when they’re just wrapped around tacos.  Properly, a taco should have two tortillas, warm.  White people places always serve doughy tortillas — I can’t even guess why.  What I wanted, what I found, was direct, honest about the flavors of its ingredients, and embracing, just like you’d want a person to be.

Squeeze your lime on top.  Eat your radish garnish if you want.  Tip.  Then leave back to the world where you make your paycheck, where nothing has anything to do with humans, despite the best efforts by the staff.

Things That are Awesome, Especially Dave Letterman

These days, by the time I get home from the first 9-5 job I’ve ever had (yeah, and I’ve been fine and middle-class-ish and stuff) and finish my stint in DC traffic, all I really want to do is open the tap on my box of wine and convince the cats my attention is not what they need.

By the time that’s done and I’ve cooked dinner, blogging is nearly out of the question.

Besides, much of what’s occupying my mind amounts to bitching and moaning — things I will not descend to on this space.

I would like to write a post, inspired by voluminous rantings against Shepard Fairey, about erasing the meaning from history.  He’s sort of the opposite of Nancy Spiro, in the way an artist might use history to communicate ideas.  He’s like infant-sized Che T-shirts, whereas Nancy Spiro challenges her audience to learn more so that our broadened horizons may illuminate us about gender inequality in our own time.

Maybe  I’ll get to that post soon.

There are others.

In the meantime, I would like to tide you over with two awesome things.

One:  Twelve Animals.  Kentaro Nagai’s animation/designs reconfiguring maps of the earth into animal figures.

Two:  David Letterman interviewing Joaquin Phoenix.  It ends with, “I’m sorry you couldn’t be here with us tonight Joaquin.”

I remember, can’t forget, an interview Dave Letterman did years ago with an absolutely wasted Harrison Ford.  I’ve always respected Dave for the way he walked Harrison through that — not that any mortal could have completely obscured the fact that Mr. Ford appeared to have lost a battle to bring himself down from a few rails by cracking a bottle whiskey.  Not that I know what he was actually up to prior to his appearance.

Here in 2009, Joaquin Phoenix was irreparably bazooted off his gourd.  No recognition of the very idea that he’s on national TV.  Too f**d up for me to guess what he’s done to himself.

I link to it for all of you who have navigated evenings, day times,  of dealing with exceptionally intoxicated people, perhaps those of you who went to art school, you who have grown up and formed your lives in such a way that you won’t have to do that any more.  — those of you who know you’ve done this to other people, but are past a point where you would want to shut down that much of your brain again.

More than that, in the context of remembering that Harrison Ford interview, I honestly admire the way that David Letterman politely shows absolutely no respect for a guest that comes onto his show slurring his speech and  unaware of the movie he’s supposed to be promoting.  The entire audience is in on the jokes at Joaquin’s expense.  And Joaquin leaves apparently unaware that he’s a total dick.  His agent will tell him tomorrow.  Dave is the pro of late night pros

Where’s my Mask and Cape?

The greatest thing about running a pseudononymous blog is that when you run into studpidity, you can release a little of your burden by writing about it.

My dumb Me Teech Art butt, on the other hand, has a link right above the blue bar with the Twinkie that answers the question “Who is this guy anyway?”

I used to want to grow up to be just like Sonic Youth.  Not a particular member of Sonic Youth, just an embodiment of a certain approach toward life and art.  Most of us can only imagine what it must feel like to cram drumsticks into your guitar and make noise that actually makes sense…  I’ve been, keenly (I’ll say),  remembering over the past couple of days that a person can not accomplish such a thing, can not really achieve success as an artist, if he/she spends very much time listening to people.  People are sticky.  People play out Intro to Behavioral Psychology scenarios.

Paying the rent, however, more than anything has to do with developing skills for listening to people, then continuing to listen to those people.

So, here’s a lesson from Intro to Critiquing Art, a thing I find need to explain to Studio Art Foundations students:  When a person says something concrete, specific, about making changes to an art work, i.e. “it could use more blue”, “it needs a greater tonal range”, “you really need to incorporate a broader range of sources”, etc., what they are really doing is offering a solution to something that confuses them, an indecisive or undecided middle ground.  In those cases, the exact opposite of their suggestion will almost always work just as well.  I.e., “use less blue”, “limit the tonal range more extremely”, “focus your range of sources”…  The choice is yours and has to do with intention.  The important thing is to understand that the middle ground is bad.  Spare us the pop-Buddhism.  Please have conviction.  Realize that you have confused your audience.  However, their solution only belongs to them.

I had the rare fortune of spending my formative years around a lot of people who weren’t worth listening to.  I learned how to not listen.  I did well in art school.  The most dangerous thing is people who may possibly be moving in good directions.  But, then, maybe it would have been better to have grown up next door to Cornel West.

(BTW, you can thank George Liebert (also here) for the insight into art criticism.  He revealed said insight to me, probably more articulately, when I was his student in a Foundations class, way back when.  He was/is a person worth listening to.)

Taking Time to Adjust, ’cause, well, It Seems to Make Sense

During the course of the past two weeks I’ve wondered more than once how people with real jobs maintain blogs.  Do you all do any work?

I didn’ t used to…

Work, I mean…

I do now — even though I know it doesn’t count for Republicans-come-Libertarianish-ists because it’s for a government.  But, rest assured, I do work now and I try to convince myself that some day even those people will be interested in benefiting from cultural activity à la art centers.

Then there is of course that I’ve changed fields within the visual arts.

It’s hard; changing fields…

Which things need forms signed by whom and which don’t?  When no one’s putting anything on your desk, how do you project forward and know what to initiate?

So, after I come home and cook dinner, now I’m resting away from the internet.  I dearly wish the TV wasn’t so god damned stupid all the time.  But, it is.  So, now I do mindless art prep work and play with the cats.  Then, I go to bed because I’m going to wake up at the god forsaken hour of 6:00 the next morning.

When I have some energy, I’m grooving in my own special can’t-really-groove way to Ill Ease.  In a bit of curiosity about nostalgia, I tried to track down on the internet some songs by New Radiant Storm King.  The album I was thinking about wasn’t relevant/good enough to my cuts-his-hair-short-enough-that-you-usually-don’t-notice-all-the-gray-(even-though-that’s-not-why-I-cut-it-that-way) self, to buy it.  So, thinking that Elizabeth Sharp was the only good thing that ever happened to that band — the drummer and the singer on the only songs I wanted to hear again, I tracked her down.  She’s Ill Ease now and an even smarter version of exactly what I was looking for.

Oh, and about the awkward use of semicolons and all the damned ellipses…  it’s worse when I speak.

We’re Quite Self Reflexive About Our Orwellian Demise

I just came across this:

security

The Playmobile Security Checkpoint.

Your kids can live out a pretend world where people strip off their shoes and belts to have their Snapple taken away from them while undercover TSA agents routinely smuggle in weapons during test exercises.

Honestly, I’d think it was something on Slop Art, if it weren’t listed at Amazon.

But why not embrace the ineffective implementation of police tactics?

(or is that strategy?)

I imagine children growing up with a very different, more ideally adapted set of values.

“OMG 2day = soooo awesome  I got surveilled like 30* b4 lunch”  Fer real.

Advice for Young Artists from a Young Artist

This morning, while searching for something to patch up a newly opened hole in my memory, I came across something I wrote eight, almost nine years ago.

“Some Words for Artists — What Phil Said” In the archives of kleinart.com.

I hadn’t forgotten that I wrote it.  But, I didn’t know it was still out there.

It may be the earliest writing of mine that still exists.

It is a younger, pre grad school me (the editorial intro was updated later) giving advice for freshly emerging artists.  I had curated a few shows by then, exhibited pretty actively between undergrad and grad school, and must have seemed promising, I guess.

Reading my own, old writing gives me exactly the same discomfort as hearing my recordings of my own voice.   (I’ve just barely gotten past the uneasiness of using microphones, even though I like public speaking.)  Rereading this essay wasn’t so bad though.

Interestingly enough, it shows proto-forms of some of the same messed up grammer I cherish so much today.  Plus, there’s only ONE  word written in an improper form — a kind of mental typo I seem to be quite good at.

Catharsis

That’s what I want.

Pure, simple — the other side.

I’m just not going to get it.

It was like this when it all started, this not-working thing.  I taught a summer class, 2 days a week for six weeks.  Even when that finished, during the early days of listlessness my summer pay was stretched over the course of the entire academic summer.

Slow and flat.

That’s not what I wanted.  I wanted a climactic, if not cataclysmic, break.  Overworked one day.  Daytime home singing in your underwear the next.

Whatever, I’ve never been an underwear-only guy, not even when I was single.

In the very same way, I had hoped my return to the world of the employed would be grand and triumphant — not so much in the details, but in the style.

I guess that’s for private sector people, or something.  People who get cabinet posts and press conferences.

Today, I signed an acceptance letter for a new job.  A non-academic, non-teaching, very-much-arts job.

It came following an offer that arrived in its first form, twelve days ago.  This for a job I applied to months ago, that I first interviewed for a month and a half ago.   I’ll start on January 12, my birthday.

It’s good.

It’s positive.

It’s not cathartic.

The first time I was in Tokyo, in 1999, I rode a roller coaster that ran alongside a public transit rail line.  While we twisted, turned, dropped, and climbed, we could watch them plod along, flat and even, on their way to work, I guess.

Now I know how they must have felt.

It’s OK.  It is in fact, on my way to work that I needed to be getting.

And that’s that.

Mrs. Meteechart and I are going to Boston for Xmas.  We don’t know anyone there — we’re going because she’s never been and I like the place.  This time of year, it seems, we enjoy most being a family of just two.  It’ll be nice to be somewhere cold.  I still have trouble acknowledging that people refer to December in DC as “winter”.  And, yes, we’re taking the train.