When the boards went up on stores in Soho I thought the stores were fair weather neighbors who skipped town at the first sign of trouble. In a few days I felt different about it, I began to think of the stores as canaries that built themselves a pine box to lie in as carbon monoxide filled the mine. A few days more and I thought of the boards as place holders in the book of New York City, and I began to think about writing the next chapter of New York City, and was glad that in the hurried days of stocking up before the lock down, I stocked up on paint.
I bet on black paint, but when I got the chance to write, I needed white. The stores are all closed, and the online option is ground delivery from Chicago; IF somebody is in the warehouse and IF the shippers stay up, I’ll have paint in 12 business days, or by last month standards, way way too long. What’s new in the new world is my appreciation of every obstacle as a feature in this updated operating system that I am trying to figure out how to utilize. There is nothing new in the new world but my attitude in dealing with it. I took the extra time the delayed paint shipment gave me to check in on remote friends. I looked in on the most reclusive guy I know, homebound in Brooklyn for weeks before the wave hit (bum leg) and he rewarded my call by connecting me with a rarely seen lurker making (gloved) hand-to-hand spray paint sales. Faster than I could sing “New York I Love You” I had a contactless delivery of 20 cans of white to write my way through a week in the city. It goes something like this:
Thats my couch. Thats a portrait of my family as a shelter in place order. The words and the couch hit the water and make the first splash of summer. That’s my remote, an amazon fire stick, the perfect baton to pass to my son as he readies himself to run the race, just as they are ripping up the track. He just turned 13, a true quaranteen. That’s my level, also my role model, a metaphorical bubble inside me tells me if I’m askew or askance and I try to maintain moderation. Well, I try to try. And finally, that’s my calendar, just loose pages sliding together in the month of Nevuary. We sit together and carry the wait.
Music is a boogie board these days, a way to ride the waves alongside musicians and poets that faced the same tides in their time. If you’re lucky you have a partner to face the music with. And if you’re alone at least you have a rubber ring to hold onto in the rising waters.
It was September, six months and what feels like ninety-nine years ago that Mike and I painted I WANT TO THANK YOU on the side of Pier 40. The wall has taken on a new meaning during the pandemic, so much so that the RED Foundation that commissioned the wall for World Aids Day, rededicated it to the healthcare workers. When we worked at Pier 40 we were part of a community of people who worked on the edge of society, fully exposed to the elements. People that work on the pier are cool, resilient, and confident that what happens day to day is mostly out of their hands. Time is the tide, work is whatever the tide brings forth. As an artist I felt they were singing my song, and I sang right along, The Tide is High but I’m holding on.
The despair threatens to wash us, but our instinct is to stay up. A pro-tip in times of grief is to cry in the shower. The logotype in the top right is a bootleg of a popular t-shirt design a few years back. It seemed designed to be ironic, but landed heavy on the backs of the youth. This is the Coronaville remix, with enough handles on it so we can all bear the burden.
I get the all news I need from the weather report, but I continuously click on the news feeds and its all bad, good for nothing but restless sleep. Sometimes I miss the news and it feels like an analgesic. That’s Us in the boat, this ship flies the flag of empathy and we sail on leaderless, rudderless, hoping for still water somewhere in the future. The sun leaves us, fed up and hoping for better tomorrow. I catch myself typing “hope this finds you well” and wishing I had a better way to say something and nothing at once. I am waiting for a shipment of a new expression, Its coming here from Ireland, but the workshop where good talk is made is the pub, and thats closed for the duration. In the meantime I hope this finds your well.
Here We are, couch surfing past shit covered fans in the distance. Its been such a year this week that news that UFO’s are real barely registered a shrug, we were busy dealing with the dissonance of nurses denying the existence of PPE and the (p)resident reporting sightings of PPE shipments like they are UFO’s. I want to believe truth is real, That tests will be plentiful and tracing will be used wisely. Im sure to be told the lights Im seeing are swamp gas. Bill posts are a visual sound in New York City, and still the best way here to find bands, lost dogs or places to live. Post No Bills, Post Ma Lone.
I love those stories where the star a big part of the story but doesn’t show up until the third act, and here she is, Miss World. We stopped blowing smoke in her face for 6 weeks and she showed a lot of positive signs of recovery. She also showed that she’s more unwell than we knew. In spite of all her ailments, she stays on route, we stan. The tide moves with the earth and we move with the tide; The tide knows where to go, we just have to be on it.
We are losing a lot of artists in the pandemic, and John Prine was the latest at the time of my writing. I painted this panel and the one next to it first. It’s fitting to acknowledge the passing of the old world before we begin anew. This panel is a memorial, which is classic, traditional, graffiti writer work. Graffiti writers always get the job to record the passing of our friends and heroes. We spray RIP and make a place to leave flowers. It’s a hard task to breathe life into a wall, to work from a blurry photograph of a stranger and paint until it looks like you’ve known him your whole life, but the reward is you provide peace, the gift that no one forgets receiving. John Prine was a stranger but I drew him true, the instrument of blue collar Chicago who took his last bows, threw a guitar pick to the crowd (Kurt Vile got it) and exited stage right. When I painted this I didn’t hear Prine, I was on Broadway, so I heard The Drifters. On Broadway is such a great New York City Song. It’s rejection, resolve and reward in 2 minutes and some seconds. The singer starts out dejected and broke, but once he refuses to quit and puts his talent to work, he’s a winner. New York is a dream in action, when you work at the dream every day, you realize the dream. It’s been a dream 9,412 days now, so I’m just paying back on Broadway. I am a grateful pilgrim from Broad St Philadelphia bearing the gift of gift for Broadway.
I remember watching the news when the Naval hospital ship COMFORT sailed up the Hudson after 9/11 and I skipped a breath. It looked like a huge gesture on my little-ass 13″ Sony Trinitron. TV, New York was suffering enough that the US sent a giant hospital ship to help carry the weight. In 2020 when I saw the ship come in on my big-ass Iphone XS Max the gesture looked small enough to be cruel. They sent us a hospital ship that won’t treat COVID 19 patients, like they send around fighter jets that don’t fight. The US Government was never for all of us, it’s always been down to the rest of us to make America again and again. Government is supposed to be public service, but when the government won’t serve us, we serve ourselves. Wearing a mask is simple gesture for the common good, it communicates love for your fellow human and as a bonus the haters have their mask off. The gestures we make show the way we intend to go, The moves we make move us onward, forward”. So stay at home, Capone, wash hands on the regular, Noriega, mask on, Future! New York City will be alright, hold tight.
Thanks for lunch and looking out Cathy Beigen, Thank you Aritzia Soho and Broadway Soho for letting me post up.