I found this vintage bocce ball set today at Gypsy Honeymoon on Valencia. It is now mine.
GIVEN it’s slightly get-on-with-it-already tone, the families of 9/11 victims understandably are said to disdain the word “closure”. But surely, bin Laden’s death must mean the end of something, right? Right?
It probably won’t mean the end of conflict in Afghanistan, and it can’t end the pain of the families who lost loved ones on American airplanes on 9/11, or on English buses on 7/7, or on Spanish trains on 3/11, or in the countless other murders by the sexually and religiously perverse (how often these two deficiencies coexist) actors of Osama bin Laden’s network. But if not closure here, then where?
In an odd twist, it brings closure to me. I turned 18 years old two days before 9/11. In my third week of college in San Luis Obispo, I was awoken to the television, where I watched the towers fall. I went to math class, where I learned nothing that day. Angry, juvenile, and confused, we took paint to our buddy’s hatchback with scrawls reading “Fuck Bin Laden” and “U-S-A”, and paraded up and down highway 101, relishing in the honks and thumbs-ups from our fellow motorists on the way.
Before September 11th, I was an anxious undergraduate art student, insecure in my choice of majors, and unsure of my desire/capacity to actually make art for a living. I still am. What changed on 9/11 was my confidence in my understanding of the world around me. Why were these people going to such great lengths to attack us? Why are my library books suddenly the curiosity of the Homeland Security Department? Why is the President now talking about waging war on Iraq? Suddenly, it seemed, I didn’t know anything.
I vowed to change that. I switched my major to political science, transferred to San Francisco State University, and secured every internship and volunteer position I could. Canvassing the streets of the Bay Area, I raised $20,000 to defeat George W. Bush in 2004. I graduated with honors, and spoke at my graduation ceremony. During this time, for the first time in my life, I produced very little art.
After unspeakably frustrating months, and then years, trying secure the low-pay work that greets undergraduates, I got a job as a political consultant for a business group on a cause I believed in. I was later promoted, only to watch the campaign collapse two months later. Nearly 10 years have passed since 9/11, and nearly 5 since I graduated college. I have little to show for it other than hundreds of hours of fruitless arguments and a blip on my resume. I am faced with the disconcerting possibility that the whole political enterprise was a perfect waste of time, that in an unforeseen way, the terrorists won.
But then again, no. I’ve learned things, important things. Like the difference between journalism and hack literature, and how cosmopolitan values are superior to tribal ones. I learned about how the phrase “conspiracy theory” libels the noble and scientific word “theory”, and that one should view the intentions of “the people” to be just as suspect as those of “the elite”. And then this crucial lesson: I learned to distinguish western values worthy of the heap, like racism, imperialism, consumerism, from those worthy of our most tender affection, like free inquiry, free speech, free religion, and women’s rights.
“I never wished a man dead, but I’ve read some obituaries with great pleasure” wrote Mark Twain. In a way, Osama bin Laden’s death brings a pleasurable close to my interest in politics. I’ve learned all that I’m reasonably sure I will ever know about human nature, motivation, and morality. I’m left largely where I started: a revived desire to make art, and unsure as to how to pay for it. The irony is that my newer opinion, that the best society is one of individuals seeking to maximize their talent dividends while leaving alone those who have the decency to leave others alone, is essentially a conservative one. As it happens, such a place would be maximally capable of bringing us the finality of the terrorists losing.
Easily my favorite president, luckily for me, Lincoln also has one of the most interesting faces in the history of interesting faces. To see more please visit http://www.adriancovertart.com/Adrian_Covert_Art/Home.html.
What do Thomas Paine, Mark Twain, Emile Zola, and Emperor Norton have in common with coffee mugs, hats, buttons, t-shirts, and iPhone cases? They are all available at my Zazzle.com store!
As I heard a New Orleans local put it, “There are only three cities in America: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. All the rest are Cleveland.” With all due respect to Chicago and Seattle, I like the company San Francisco seems to keep. Having never before visited the American south, I just returned from four days in New Orleans, during Mardi Gras.
Of course, the food is phenomenal. We dined on excellent fried alligator and duck gumbo at Cuchon, a polished eatery south of the French Quarter that also provided us with perhaps the best service of the trip. Fried alligator tastes like a tough cross between calamari and chicken. Cafe Adelaide came highly recommended, and is apparently an old New Orleans mainstay. Unfortunately, like many mainstays, Adelaide is way past it’s prime. The shrimp in my gumbo tasted like leftovers. Our entrees took way too long but, in a deft blow to service physics, not as long as our appetizers. A labor force fit for a small industrial city was used to deliver our food, which was still delivered to the wrong people. When we complained to the “manager” that (among other things) we were overcharged, he actually argued with us until relenting. Cuchon’s only rival came from Jackson Restaurant, a hip newer establishment in the Lower Garden District, where we ordered fried green tomatoes, chicken maque choux, and fried oysters. The service was excellent, and so was the food.
Drinking in New Orleans is a different activity. First and foremost, you can order drinks at the bar to go. I cannot overemphasize the feeling of total victory that consumes your first stride out to the sidewalk, cup in hand. It’s triumphant. Drinking is also dirt cheap. Classic cocktails, martinis, manhattans, and whiskey sours were $5 almost everywhere, as were New Orleans’ signature drinks like a Gin Fizz or Sazerac. Demand for beer is never higher than during Mardi Gras, and
yet the price of the supply is so low (3 buds for $3), it’ll make you wonder if you’re still in America.
Speaking of Mardi Gras…the floats we’re amazing, the crowds were friendly and festive, and there we’re way fewer boobs than I expected. Watching grown adults fiend after otherwise completely worthless plastic beads can be highly rewarding, especially since tens of thousands of abandoned beads literally cover sidewalks and trees. We hit Bourbon Street on Lundi (Monday) Gras, and both
Bourbon and Frenchman Streets on Mardi Gras. Bourbon is awesome, if a bit young, like, 21. No, more like a 21st birthday. It absolutely reeks of beer, as the streets are covered in to-go cups from the bars. Discarded beads are very slippery. The French architecture is gorgeous, and the quarter is larger than you’d maybe expect. Frenchman street is the part of the qu
arter that the locals visit, and we enjoyed live bar-rock and jazz in nearly every establishment on the rue.
I highly recommend taking the Natches steam boat for a two hour trip up the Mississippi river. The boat features passenger access to the engine room, two bars, a gorgeous dining room, and a charming two-piece jazz performance. The kitsch factor, however, is a bit of a let down: The buffet on board is mediocre, and looking around at your fellow passengers, one cannot escape the suspicion that a game of bingo, or perhaps a grand-slam breakfast is not too far off. I’m convinced that if some enterprising young southerners would just
ditch the buffet for gourmet bar food, dimmed the lights, and swapped the sleepy duet with a smokin’ hot jazz group at one end of the ship and a DJ at the other end, the riverboat industry might regain some of it’s lost glory.
Then there’s the people. Unlike San Francisco, New Orleans is almost perfectly binary on the color spectrum: just black and white. In four days I noticed two Latinos, and thought I was going to make it home without seeing a single Asian until we stumbled into Cafe du Monde, the famous bignet house. Bignets are a New Orleans specialty which consist of fried bread crop dusted with powdered sugar. For what’s essentially the most famous doughnut place in town to be entirely staffed by Chinese Americans was almost too much cliche to bear, even for me. Forget “The Big Easy”, “Who Dat?” is the city’s real motto, as one sees it crammed everywhere from t-shirts to billboards to newspaper front-pages. Style is in rough shape: women frump it up in pajamas, while men only seem to wear non-funny printed t-shirts which read things like “Skilled in Every Position” and “I Don’t Give a Fuck” and (of course) “Who Dat?”. On more than one occasion, I spotted front yards with plastic flowers planted in the ground (our hosts promised us you could see people actually watering their ‘plants’). One finds dilapidated houses everywhere, even in the wealthier districts. Many
establishments have balconies, everybody has a porch, and there are mouthbreathers everywhere. The sidewalks present a mortal danger.
Amidst the Mardi Gras swag, I struggled to find a classy piece of New Orleans to take home. Luckily, I found two beautiful original prints at Poets Framing and Gallery on Magazine Street in the Lower Garden district, which is somewhat akin to San Francisco’s Valencia street. If you visit New Orleans, you must visit Stephan Wanger’s art gallery. In an ode to his adopted city after the devastation of Katrina, Wanger is completing a series of mosaics constructed entirely of salvaged Mardi Gras beads. The scope and detail is stunning, and his current piece, when complete, will take the title as worlds largest bead image (take that, 5th graders of Scoil Naomh Iosaf elementary school in Ireland).
We definitely had a great time. Next stop: Cleveland. Just kidding.
I was going to type a description of Emile Zola, but then I thought “why compete with Wikipedia?” I’m especially fond of Zola’s role in the Dreyfus Affair. To see more art please visit http://www.adriancovertart.com/Adrian_Covert_Art/Home.html