D Note Chronicles #41
Long time readers of this column may remember that every Christmas I go out to New York to visit friends in the city and my wife's family upstate. This Christmas I decided to host a poetry reading in the city so I could get all my poet friends in one place at one time. So on Saturday December 27th we gathered at a very cool little club called Plan B in the legendary lower East Village. I noticed that my time at the D Note definitely made this reading easier to pull off. Genevieve, who has made up a million fliers for the D Note, whipped up a great little flier for the show no sweat. All the stage time at the D Note rendered me far less nervous hosting the reading than I would have been otherwise. Also, a friend I met here, Tyler Burba, now lives there and helped to secure the venue. Running a venue we know exactly what it means to secure one...we had to promise to bring out a crowd.
And we did. The night went well. Genevieve shot a little film that broke the ice called "Breaking The Ice". In the film I am holding up a thin sheet of ice, so that my head appears behind the ice like a silhouette bust, a kind of still life. Then the action. The camera pans back as I heave the ice at a giant rock. The ice shatters on the rock in a spectacular fashion. The idea was to smash the often frigid atmosphere of "serious" NY poetry readings. But what really broke the ice was when Tyler got the whole audience singing along to Hank Williams' classic "I Saw The Light". Suddenly we were at a revival meeting in Texas and all pretensions fell away. Although we are bold enough to think that the D Note can rise to the NY level of art and music, conversely it is great when NYC lowers itself to the level of a community gospel sing along.
I only had time to see one art show while I was in the city, but it was a wowser. The show was at the Fashion Institute on 27th and 7th and was called "Goth". I went because I love fashion and the show was free, but I was a worried it might get cheesy considering the subject matter. I was wrong. I could spend the rest of this article describing the pieces there, but I will mention just one, to give you a flavor. There was a dress by Japanese designer Kei Kagami which was a completely unwearable mechanical monstrosity. There was a lever off one shoulder and a complicated pulley system connected to the lever and attached to uncomfortable looking prosthetic shoes. The bodice on the dress was made out of shattered glass, both beautiful and poetic. Attached to the dress were two mechanical hands holding magnifying glasses in front of each breast, which was a funny touch. The work was behind glass and was lit for only one minute. Then the lights shining on the piece went out for two minutes so that you were left looking at yourself in the glass and contemplating. Then on for a minute again, then off for two and so on. It took a few rounds of this just to figure out what was going on.
On this trip I was also able to take a day trip up to New Haven where my friend David Larsen is teaching Philosophy at Yale. David's a great artist and friend and it was good to see him again. If you have been to the D Note and have seen the mural behind the stage, then you have already seen David's art.
New Haven is a more depressed town than I expected, which was amplified by all of the spooky gothic architecture on campus. David showed me the Skull & Crossbones building which gave me a chill. But I gave the building a leaping kung fu kick, which turned the chill into a thrill.
At David's pad I noticed he had a fantastic plate collection on his walls. I remembered that the glyph in the middle of the D Note mural was taken from one of his grandmother's plates. I asked him about it. He said that that particular glyph could be found on all Currier & Ives plates and he pulled out a couple to show me. This was a revelation. David had once told me that he chose the glyph for the mural because it was a kind of writing signifying nothing, a perfect symbol for the D Note. But now I was learning that the glyph did signify at least one thing; Currier & Ives!
And Currier & Ives is a whole world unto itself. If you are unfamiliar, they were 19th cent. printmakers from NY who specialized in quaint and kitchy scenes, like a sleigh ride through a small town for example. I love the new idea that this implies; the glyph as a purely decorative flourish to accompany the nostalgic pictures of our American past. I've always read the waves on either side of the mural as representing the Atlantic and Pacific ocean, and the glyph in the middle being the idea of some mysterious aura emanating from the middle, suspended between the waves, somehow suspending the waves themselves. And to find out that this thing can be read as a flourish to the romantic ideal of the American dream seems like a perfect new piece to the puzzle of the mural and the D Note itself.