Gothamist: Whose idea was it to get you and Albert Maysles together to talk? They contacted us! I was enormously flattered. I’m a huge film wonk, as is everybody on my crew, so it means a lot to us. When Albert Maysles calls up, that’s the pope calling as far as we’re concerned, so we’re very excited that he would even know who we are, much less acknowledge us in this way. It feels good.
A lot of Maysles’s most famous work—Grey Gardens especially—really captures the weirdness of the early ’70s, which was around the time you started your own career cooking in New York City. How did his work have an impact on you when you were younger? Well, I come from a family where film was really big. My parents were both serious film fans, and I probably saw most of the Janus film collection by the time I was twelve. My dad would come home with a film projector—he worked at Wilby’s. Treasure of Sierra Madre I must have seen that by the time I was six.
I think he couldn’t bear his sons not having seen any Kubrick. He couldn’t wait. He took us out to see Dr. Strangelove a little too soon after the Cuban missile crisis for my taste, and probably at a younger age than most parenting organizations would recommend.
But film was a big deal, and the names Pennebaker and Maysles were names that we heard around the house. If there was a new Maysles brothers film out my dad would be recommending it. So these were names that meant something at the time. I saw Grey Gardens, I saw Salesmen, though it’s been many years. Gimme Shelter of course. Those things mattered.
What are you expecting, or hoping, the audience might take away from the conversation? Well any chance to highlight the technical aspects of how we tell stories on TV, I’m very proud of. I’m proud of the cinematographers and editors and post-production and colorists that work on the show. Our show is very different than a lot of the other travel shows for a number of reasons, and I think principally the sort of hand-crafted attention paid to things like color balances, individual editing styles, always pushing it with equipment, and sort of the language of sound of each individual episode—we talk about that a lot. We work really, really hard at it. And to be recognized for those things actually feels, in an unqualified way, good. To be recognized for that, by people who do it for a living, that’s the good stuff.
Parts Unknown definitely feels like a different show from what you’ve done in the past. Was there ever a conscious decision between you and the production team, or with CNN, to focus a little less on food and a little bit more on the people and places themselves? I think we just felt freer to wander in any place that interested us. We go in looking at the food, but we’re freer to wander away from anything resembling a format. These are personal essays.
Let’s put it this way: CNN has allowed us to be smarter. To either tighten the focus on one person’s story or one small area of one city or widen that focus to the whole history of a country. To be either completely food-centric like the coming Lyon show, or barely food-focused at all like the Congo episode. They made it very clear from the beginning that they were open to an hour of any story we wanted to tell, anywhere we wanted to tell them. And we felt very strongly that with CNN standing behind us, as they have solidly since the very beginning, that we had a lot to live up to. We didn’t want to just turn out the same show. We’ve tried very hard to up our game every week.
And we’ve handed them some very difficult material. We never would have been able to do Libya on another network. The DRC? No way. And I think the Japan show—with all the hentai culture—that was some difficult fucking material we handed down and they didn’t blink. I mean, no, they blinked. They blinked a lot. But in the end they stood by us and let us go with it.
And that makes a lot of sense. Each episode is a very direct, and I would say very focused, statement.It’s the conversation we have most often when we’re sitting around, me and the cinematographers and producers. We’re constantly pushing each other on what’s the most fucked up thing we can do. What can we do that we’ve never done before? We’ve been talking about shooting on 16 millimeter if we ever get the chance, and at some point we’re looking for the opportunity to tell an entire story backwards, like Memento.
If I fall in love with a film or a director, I’m often the guy to come in and say “Look, Wong Kar-wai! We have to rip off that style, we have to get that look.” It doesn’t matter if only one tiny percentile of our audience has ever seen these films we’re referencing. We’re free to be inspired by films that we love.
You wrote after airing the Detroit episode that “One only need to look at New York’s Lower East Side or Meat District to see what’s possibly coming down the pike for Detroit when it inevitably ‘recovers’.” Do you still think that? Do you see aspects of what Detroit’s going through as reminiscent of Manhattan?Well what will happen with Detroit I don’t know, and how long will it take, that I also don’t know. But I’m pretty sure that as it’s quote-unquote rehabilitated in bits and pieces that it is more likely than not that the people who have been sticking it out there all along are not going to be living in those neighborhoods.
I mean the Lower East Side went from a drug supermarket to an expensive neighborhood. I think it’s something that we always have to be wary of. It’s a subject of discussion in New Orleans, for instance. The influence of money and investment and hipness and artisanal coffee bars—that means that more often than not that original residents who have been hanging on are pushed out. Do you buy into the notion, then, that artists and loft-dwellers are going to refab parts of Detroit as a kind of cheaper Brooklyn redux? It’s always part of a continuum. First come the artists, and then following the artists will be designers and the hip, wildly expensive boutiques, and then a couple of restaurants and then you’ve got a different neighborhood. I’m not even necessarily saying that’s bad. But that’s generally the way it is whether you’re talking about East Berlin or the Lower East Side.
The final episode of No Reservations featured Brooklyn. Could you ever picture a Parts Unknown episode that centers on New York City? I’m looking at the Bronx now. There’s been very little attention paid there. Other than Arthur Avenue there’s been very little attention paid to the Bronx as a borough. Queens is already pretty well acknowledged, at least, as a foodie paradise because of all the great Chinese and Korean places. That alone is enough to make it a kind of powerhouse of gastronomy.
And Brooklyn, you know, arguably we’re looking at the Brooklynization of the world at this point. Everywhere you go, whether you’re in Australia or England or Paris even, they’re referencing Brooklyn in some way. But the Bronx, I think that would be a really interesting challenge. A full hour in the Bronx really appeals to me.
You said last month “people who cannot afford to eat at Le Bernardin eat at Le Bernardin” and that young food lovers are saving up to eat at restaurants that are way beyond their price range. Do chefs think about this kind of younger, less reverent dining population? How is it changing the status quo? I think it’s improved the status quo. Le Bernardin completely redesigned the interior of the restaurant with this new customer very much in mind, looking to make things a little more comfortable and welcoming to a new client and yet keep the old ones happy. I think this is something that, particularly on the fine dining end, people are aware of and they’re grateful for it. It’s sort of awesome!
There’s no doubt about it that people in their 20s, people who used to spend their disposable income on cocaine or clubs or records or films or concerts, they’re not doing those things as much. They’re thinking about food and restaurants as an entertainment or cultural form, and I think that’s great. I think that the more people that know about food, care about food, appreciate food, the better for chefs and the better for the world.
This month’s Film Club selection is WILL YOU STILL LOVE ME TOMORROW?, a movie from Taiwan by Arvin Chen. Read on for more about why this film is part of our Film of the Month Club.
We could say that we acquired this film because of its delightfully charming karaoke scene, and we wouldn’t be lying. But there’s so much more to Arvin Chen’s work than flourish and whimsy, and there’s plenty of that. The story—or stories, because there are several, like variations on a theme—is in essence about being true to oneself, and those close to you, in order to find happiness. The main character happens to be gay, and the film does touch on the difficulties of homosexuals coming out publicly under the pressures of Taiwanese society and family traditions. However, this is not merely a film about gay issues, but rather about honesty when it comes to relationships, both gay and straight.
It’s obvious that Chen understands and respects all of his characters, making it easy for any audience member to identify with them. And he achieves a satisfying happy ending for all without it seeming fake or being sappy. We’re confident you will be completely taken by Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?, and even dare to guarantee that next time you do karaoke with your co-workers, you will get an uncontrollable urge to sing the title song to them as if your life depended on it. Just like the film, it will take a long time to get it out of your head.
The clients are in a different space today. They don’t want to take risks. They want to see the advertising campaign before it is shot. It’s not like 10 years ago. That’s finished. You have to bring the clients so many references. So everyone’s work is referenced. There is not one picture that is new, let me tell you this. And the clients don’t want a new picture.
When you go into a meeting and people put millions of dollars on the table, they want to know what they’re getting. The lighting, the color of the carpeting. The one who wins is the one who executes those boards to perfection.
”—Fabien Baron, one of the most successful art directors, with clients that include Calvin Klein, Dior and Chloé summing up the state of affairs in fashion advertising today. (via)
I strongly reject the concept of respectability politics, which postulates that a style of dress or speech justifies injustice, and often violence, against particular groups of people or explains away the ravages of their inequality.
I take enormous exception to arguments about the “breakdown of the family,” particularly the black family, that don’t acknowledge that this country for centuries has endeavored, consciously and not, to break it down. Or that family can be defined only one way.
I don’t buy into the mythology that most poor people are willfully and contentedly poor, happy to live with the help of handouts from a benevolent big government that is equally happy to keep them dependent.
These are all arguments based on shame, meant to distance traditional power structures from emerging ones, to allow for draconian policy arguments from supposedly caring people. These arguments require faith in personal failure as justification for calling our fellow citizens feckless or doctrinally disfavored.
Those who espouse such arguments must root for failures so that they’re proved right. They need their worst convictions to be affirmed: that other people’s woes are due solely to their bad choices and bad behaviors; that there are no systematic suppressors at play; that the way to success is wide open to all those who would only choose it.
Any of us in the country who were born poor, or minority, or female, or otherwise different — particularly in terms of gender or sexual identity — know better.
Misogyny and sexism, racism, income inequality, patriarchy, and homophobia and heteronormative ideals course through the culture like a pathogen in the blood, infecting the whole of the being beneath the surface.
So it is to the people with challenges that I would like to speak today. I know your pains and your struggles. I share them. It is incredibly dispiriting when people are dismissive of the barriers we must overcome simply to make it to equal footing. I know. It is infuriating when people offer insanely naïve solutions to our suffering: “Stop whining and being a victim!” I know.
But I also would like to share with you the way I’ve learned to deal with it, hoping that maybe it will offer you some encouragement.
I decided long ago to achieve as an act of defiance — to define my own destiny and refuse to have it defined for me. I fully understand that trying hard doesn’t always guarantee success. Success is often a fluky thing, dependent as much on luck and favor as on hard work. But while hard work may not guarantee success, not working hard almost always guarantees failure.
I frame the argument to myself this way: If you know that you are under assault, recognize it, and defend yourself.
Trying hard and working hard is its own reward. It feeds the soul. It affirms your will and your power. And it radiates from you, lighting the way for all those who see you.
When I am asked to give speeches, I often include this analogy:
For some folks, life is a hill. You can either climb or stay at the bottom.
It’s not fair. It’s not right. But it is so. Some folks are born halfway up the hill and others on the top. The rest of us are not. Life doles out favors in differing measures, often as a result of historical injustice and systematic bias. That’s a hurtful fact, one that must be changed. We should all work toward that change.
In the meantime, until that change is real, what to do if life gives you the hill?
You can curse it. You can work hard to erode it. You can try to find a way around it. Those are all understandable endeavors. Staying at the bottom is not.
You may be born at the bottom, but the bottom was not born in you. You have it within you to be better than you were, to make more of your life than was given to you by life.
This is not to say that we can always correct life’s inequities, but simply that we honor ourselves in the trying.
History is cluttered with instances of the downtrodden lifting themselves up. The spirit and endurance that it requires is not a historical artifact but a living thing that abides in each of us, part of the bloodline, written in the tracks of tears and the sweat of toil.
If life for you is a hill, be a world-class climber.
“Go after her. Fuck, don’t sit there and wait for her to call, go after her because that’s what you should do if you love someone, don’t wait for them to give you a sign cause it might never come, don’t let people happen to you, don’t let me happen to you, or her, she’s not a fucking television show or tornado. There are people I might have loved had they gotten on the airplane or run down the street after me or called me up drunk at four in the morning because they need to tell me right now and because they cannot regret this and I always thought I’d be the only one doing crazy things for people who would never give enough of a fuck to do it back or to act like idiots or be entirely vulnerable and honest and making someone fall in love with you is easy and flying 3000 miles on four days notice because you can’t just sit there and do nothing and breathe into telephones is not everyone’s idea of love but it is the way I can recognize it because that is what I do. Go scream it and be with her in meaningful ways because that is beautiful and that is generous and that is what loving someone is, that is raw and that is unguarded, and that is all that is worth anything, really.”—Harvey Milk (Source: cite-belle, via thatkindofwoman)
Here’s a partial, redacted-for-the-sake-of-my-dignity list of stuff I once aspired to write but never did: a “Mamma Mia!”-esque rock opera called “Bastards of Young,” based on the songs of the Replacements. A sitcom set in Brooklyn that inverts “I Love Lucy,” so that the wife plays the stable, amiable breadwinner while her lovable loon of a husband hatches ridiculous schemes, often involving the production of artisanal goods. A thriller about the ultimate rogue trader who concocts a single, diabolical transaction to blow up the financial system. An HBO show, called “Upstate,” about a burned-out corporate raider who returns to his hometown outside Buffalo to save his father’s failing liquor store and ends up trying to rescue the whole town from the double scourge of unemployment and alcoholism. Too depressing? How about this: A reality show in which retired hockey greats like Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier compete against each other coaching teams of — ready for the deal clincher? — inner-city kids who’ve never been on ice skates.
If you had the time, believe me, I could flesh out these ideas for you, explain their origins, describe in fine detail my vision of the characters and plots and how it would all coalesce into something awesome.
Or not. For at least 25 years, I’ve been serial daydreaming like this, recording hundreds of ideas in a sequence of little notebooks that I have carried around and then stacked in a shoe box in my closet, a personal encyclopedia of undone to-do’s. Sometimes, when I’m searching for something in my closet and I see the box, I have a flashback to my first-grade report card: “Hugo has the gift of a rich, active imagination, but needs to work on his follow-through skills.”
My situation, I know, is not unique. Who doesn’t have big plans they never get around to acting on? Everybody swaps ideas with his friends about the excellent TV show they’d make or the groundbreaking movie they’d write. And a couple of my grand schemes got an inch or two off the ground — an agent lunch, a pitch meeting, a trip to L.A., a flurry of e-mail filled with exclamation points — though never much higher than that. And along the way, I also became editor of the magazine you are now reading, so it’s not as if I became mired exclusively in a world of delusional ambition. It’s just that for way too long, I held on to the fantasy of a completely different professional life, and I can’t help wondering why certain creative endeavors just seemed impossible to make happen.
I know, writers have been complaining for eons about the weight of their burden, and it’s not attractive. But I’ve been around it long enough to know that writing anything good that’s longer than a paragraph isn’t easy for anybody, except for maybe J. J. Abrams. You can’t explain how people do it. Some of the most successful screenwriters, novelists, television producers and rock-opera librettists I know are about a hundred times lazier than I am. They take long afternoon naps, play lots of pickup basketball and appear to accomplish little or nothing for months at a time. And let me tell you, their ideas do not all crackle with scintillating originality.
So what am I missing? What is that elusive thing that turns some people’s daydreams into their next novel for F.S.G.?
Earlier in my professional life, as I began to do all right as an editor, I naïvely discounted it as something I never intended to stick with. A respectable occupation, I thought, while preparing myself for the Masterwork of Spectacular Brilliance that would eventually define me.
One of my pet theories about why I could never actually produce anything of brilliance was that I was cursed with a comfortable existence. What might have been my creative prime was spent in New York City in the 1990s, a flush time for the young and college-educated. Magazine-editor jobs paid O.K. and were relatively easy to get, especially compared with now. Maybe I would’ve been better off in the 1970s, when a young person with ambitions like mine had to take a hard job as a means to his artistic ends. Would such sacrifice, I wondered, have sharpened my desire to make it as a writer?
All you have to do is read Mark Jacobson’s classic New York magazine depiction of cabdrivers in the 1970s to know that’s a joke. The story is about nighttime cabbies who aspired to be actors or poets or playwrights. Jacobson was one of them. His original plan was to drive three nights a week, write three nights a week and party one night a week. But as he watched his fellow drivers get sucked in to the working life, he realized how the daily grind slowly robbed them of their dreams.
“The Big Fear,” Jacobson writes, “is that times will get so hard that you’ll have to drive five or six nights a week instead of three. The Big Fear is that your play, the one that’s only one draft away from a possible showcase, will stay in your drawer. The Big Fear is thinking about all the poor stiff civil servants who have been sorting letters at the post office ever since the last Depression and all the great plays they could have produced. The Big Fear is that, after 20 years of schooling, they’ll put you on the day shift. The Big Fear is you’re becoming a cabdriver.”
My big fear, of course, was that I was becoming an editor. I won’t lie. For a long time, I considered this an unacceptable outcome. I don’t know if anyone ever told me, “Those who can’t write, edit,” or if I made that up on my own, but that little aphorism haunted me. Meanwhile, my grandiose writing projects were all going nowhere for the same tedious reason. The minute I tried to commit them to paper, or otherwise turn them into something tangible, my imagination coughed and sputtered like the cheap Renault convertible my girlfriend drove in college. I’d write a bit of dialogue using that miraculous software that automatically formats it into a screenplay for you, and I’d be instantly paralyzed from the neck up. Here was incontrovertible evidence that I wasn’t half as good as I imagined myself to be. The voices I heard so clearly and powerfully in my head became inert and alien on the page. I was surprised by how mortally embarrassed you can be by writing something nobody else will ever read. Even looking back over those one- sentence descriptions of TV ideas in the first paragraph of this essay, I am humbled by how inadequately they convey the vividness they had as I conjured them. It’s like hearing a recording of my own voice. That can’t be how I sound. Oh, but it is.
I recently saw a Charlie Rose interview with John Lasseter, a founder of Pixar, about the creative process behind his movies. Pixar’s in-house theory is: Be wrong as fast as you can. Mistakes are an inevitable part of the creative process, so get right down to it and start making them. Even great ideas are wrecked on the road to fruition and then have to be painstakingly reconstructed. “Every Pixar film was the worst motion picture ever made at one time or another,” Lasseter said. “People don’t believe that, but it’s true. But we don’t give up on the films.”
Hugely successful people tend to say self-deprecating stuff like this when they go on “Charlie Rose.” But I heard something quite genuine in Lasseter’s remarks, an acknowledgment of just how deep into the muck of mediocrity a creative project can sink as it takes those first vulnerable steps from luxurious abstraction to unforgiving reality.
I could never forge through this. My confidence always collapsed under the weight of my withering self-criticism. I couldn’t bear the awfulness and keep going. Even as I’m writing this essay, I have to stop myself from scrolling back to previous parts and banging my forehead against the keyboard as I see how short I’ve fallen of my expectations. My mind goes uncontrollably to whether it might be better to scrap the whole thing and write a different Riff — like, I’ve got a few stray ideas in my notebook here about the glassy office tower they’re building next door to where I live and how it obliterates what’s left of the spirit of Greenwich Village. Or about this ’80s band called Talk Talk that started out making bland pop hits like Duran Duran but then rejected fame and made a couple of crazy, weird, beautiful records until mysteriously vanishing. That Riff will practically write itself, I just know it.
A promiscuous imagination like this is dangerous for writers. As an editor, I can see that clearly. I know that the next brilliant brainstorm is never going to be the one that will just write itself, any more than the last one did. Ideas, in a sense, are overrated. Of course, you need good ones, but at this point in our supersaturated culture, precious few are so novel that nobody else has ever thought of them before. It’s really about where you take the idea, and how committed you are to solving the endless problems that come up in the execution. The more I experienced this frustration firsthand, the more I came to appreciate how naturally suited I am to the job I used to think I never wanted to have when I grew up. Magazines give me a healthy, satisfying amount of creative license, as well as a very defined responsibility. Journalism keeps my imagination from flying off into the ether. At the core of everything is reporting, a real event. And editing allows me to collaborate with people whose talents make up for my weaknesses, especially writers who don’t seize up at the sight of a blinking cursor.
At the same time, the protracted period of realizing all this has been necessary. Struggling with my own creative process has helped me appreciate the difficulties that others go through, while fighting to subdue my own self-criticism has left me open to the possibilities of fledgling ideas that look wobbly out of the gate. Daydreams, weirdly enough, have made me a better editor.
Plus, if I’d understood this all perfectly when I started out, embraced editing right from the beginning, I’d be ready to move on to something else now. Like maybe I’d open a civilized sports bar that served only bourbon and sold vintage Pendleton shirts —
But now I must contend with my editor for this story, who just stopped by my office to see when I’ll stop beating my head against the keyboard so he can get this to the copy desk. There’s no chance of backing out now. He insisted it wasn’t as dreadful as I feared, gave me good advice on how to end it, and also remarked that my reality-show idea is not bad, but does it have to be about hockey? Well, no, I said, suddenly diverted into fantasy land, the conceit could be broader, maybe about how to coach amateurs more generally, so that the competition changed season to season — badminton, bobsledding, roller derby, square dancing. Rock operas!
For a few hours yesterday my Twitter timeline was composed of people marvelling at Snapchat’s decision not to accept 3 billion dollars in a takeover offer from Facebook. To many, the decision is inconceivable: why would not having 3 billion dollars ever be better than having 3 billion dollars? What else could you possibly want?
Some speculated that what Snapchat is after is more money; that they rejected the offer because they imagine that one day they could make more. Perhaps that is the case, but one of the things that people overlook when these kinds of decisions are made is that they often aren’t about money at all.
When I found out that Mark Zuckerberg decided to turn down a 1 billion offer from Yahoo in 2006 it didn’t surprise me. I was sitting in the pool at a house that the as-yet-unprofitable Facebook had rented for employees, but I had negative money in the bank (student loans and an hourly wage job). If Mark had accepted the offer I suppose I would have gotten some money, maybe enough to pay my debt and chill for a while. But it was so inconceivable at the time that he would sell, that I didn’t even think about it. I knew it would never happen. Why? Two things: power and culture. These are the things people don’t factor in when they wonder why people don’t sell their companies at the first or even the second major offer. Because a billion dollars can buy a lot of things— it can even buy power, certainly, because rich people by definition have power— but one thing it can’t buy is the power to change the entire culture. That can be priceless.
When Mark Zuckerberg turned down the Yahoo offer, Facebook was just getting started, and seven years later Facebook has incontrovertibly changed the culture, embedding itself in every aspect of nearly everyone’s lives. Even now that I don’t work there, even now when I travel across the world, Facebook is around me, on people’s laptops and phones and the subject of their conversations. Regardless of place, people are stopping to upload photos and often, lament their attachment to a virtual world they feel they can now, never leave.
After Twitter and Instagram in 2009 and 2011 respectively (the first Facebook tried to buy, the second it succeeded in buying), Snapchat posed the latest, real threat to Facebook’s omnipresence. To Mark and Facebook, seeing people stop to post a photo to Snapchat instead of Facebook must have been disturbing, and therefore Snapchat needed to be bought. But the very fact that Facebook needed to buy Snapchat is perhaps why Snapchat needed to say no. In posing a real threat to Facebook, Snapchat proved that it may have that one elusive thing that no money can buy: the ability to change how people behave, to become central to their relationships with one another, to re-architect human contact, to be masters of the human domain.
The ability to shape the world’s culture is something that Facebook has and doesn’t want to lose, and as evidenced by the buyout offer and rejection, is an ability that Snapchat has and doesn’t want to lose either. And this, to a founder of a hot startup, is how 3 billion dollars becomes meaningless.
Critics, curators and collectors who have complained recently about how the super-rich are ruining the art market should know better
By Julian Stallabrass The Art Newspaper: 05 December 2012
A minor squall has blown up after the American art critic Dave Hickey’s announcement that he has “retired” in disgust from writing criticism. Art is now too popular—“I miss being an elitist and not having to talk to idiots,” Hickey said in a recent interview. Art, he contends, is made for a bunch of extremely rich people for whom the critic acts as “intellectual head waiter”. The Observer newspaper also reported that a number of prominent curators have complained anonymously of having to defend overrated works that happen to be worth a lot of money. One of them even described Tracey Emin’s art as “empty”.
Hickey, we may remember, became well-known as one of the more eloquent champions of “beauty”—that is, of a cheery, market-friendly prettiness in art. Once a dealer, he assured his readers that art buyers following their tastes would produce a various and salutary beauty that could be held up against the dreary run of grim and grimy politicised art found in public spaces and on the biennial scene. It was a version of the Republican “market good, public bad” reflex, applied to contemporary art. Hickey even staged a counter-biennial at Site Santa Fe in 2001, filling it with happy, bright and colourful sculptures and paintings, along with a lot of flowers.
So, coming from him, the complaint that the market has become too unpleasant is odd. It is like Charles Saatchi’s recent assault on dealers and collectors as vulgar and self-regarding. It is, in fact, the effect of failing to recognise your reflection in a mirror, and for an instant seeing yourself as others see you. All this has quite a bit of comedic value, but is there a more serious point here? If critics, collectors and dealers not only fail to recognise themselves but recoil in disgust at their reflection, we may ask: why?
First, there is the matter of art’s coyness about its business side, which Olav Velthius has written about in the pages of The Art Newspaper and elsewhere. There continues to be considerable art-world resistance to the idea that a gallery is just a shop, the art fair just a mall, and the art just another luxury product to set alongside jewellery, antiques, yachts and the rest. In the boom years for contemporary art, huge numbers of new collectors were drawn in, and the art world lost its Euro-American axis. As it became globalised, its distinct minority culture was eroded. In its stead, celebrity, publicity, branding and the glitzy display of riches came to the fore—vulgarity, if you like.
Second, since the super-rich who buy the most expensive contemporary art have been most immune to the financial crisis, and since they also use art as a hedge against the movement of other investments, the top levels of the market have appeared relatively unaffected. The vulgar business of flaunting consumption goes on, while around it everything has changed.
It is not just that something seems wrong with the art world. All now appears in a strange new light: bankers are reviled, the political elite is revealed as corrupt, and capitalism itself has been stripped of its ideological cloak, standing naked as the engine of rampant debt, inequality and environmental devastation. In that new frame, the picture of the elite continuing to spend their fortunes on vacuous geegaws is bound to look less pleasing than it once did.
So Hickey (and Saatchi) may not like the world they helped bring into being, but its direction and impetus lie entirely within the logic of what they represented and defended.
Hickey points to the disappearance of the middle class, who leave behind the super-rich and a courtier class, including those unfortunate enough to write about art. The evaporation of the Euro-American middle class, as its professions are automated or outsourced, is one of the great developments of our age, and it has been greatly accelerated by the financial crisis. It attacks not just art but the roots of liberal democracy as the class that defended the system is disenfranchised by it.
If works of art are vulgar and empty, why should people be any more upset by that than by, say, garish packaging on supermarket shelves? Within the system, the arts are supposed to be the repository of self-expression, set apart from bureaucratised working lives and the standardised fare of mass culture. The durability of this view has less to do with the market than the State, and particularly with those reverence-producing machines known as museums.
With the increasing visibility of its material base (of its being put to use by States, the super-rich and business), art’s ideally free character fades, along with its hold on the imagination. Think of the strange clash of cultures at the recent Damien Hirst blockbuster at Tate Modern: the branded artist set against the branded museum. The staid display techniques sought to impart gravity to what was shown, while Hirst’s glitzy, self-consciously branded work undermined it.
Museums are also responsible for the persistent feeling that works of art have something deep to say about society. If this is so, what does hedge-fund art say about ours? The belief in that link, perhaps, is why we recoil from art’s reflection: we see ourselves, not in a momentary misrecognition this time, but as a cogent, unified image produced by a systematic and consistent causality—money. Do we take a knife to the portrait of our own corruption, as Dorian Gray did? And if we do, what survives?
The super-rich dominate the mainstream image of the art market, just as they do much to control the political agenda. Yet huge and diverse realms lie beyond the culture and the politics of this tiny elite. The years of the art boom were also those of social media, as millions started to show their photographs, videos, writings and art online. Many of them found that it is not so hard to make things that look like contemporary art. Another reflection—complex, contradictory, vulgar and popular, and in some respects less desolating—lies there.
Don King was offering me a $20 million settlement in exchange for him getting to promote my fights again. I told Jackie Rowe that before we could talk about working together and settling, I wanted three things of mine that Don still had—a green Rolls-Royce, a painting that the Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi had given me that was supposed to be worth a lot, and the thing I was worried the most about: a drawing of me in the middle of a bunch of X-Men that Stan Lee had done.
Don called Jackie and told her that he would fly us down to Florida and put us up so we could work out a settlement. Jackie, her son, my girlfriend Luz, and I got on Don’s private jet and flew down. I packed a big block of coke and a duffel bag with a half-pound of reefer. I was doing my coke and smoking my blunts and listening to my Walkman and I was higher than the plane was when an epiphany hit me.
“This is my motherfucking plane. I paid for this plane. And this motherfucker is acting like he’s doing me a favor sending me down on my own fucking plane. This nigga is playing me.”
The drugs were playing with my head and I was freaking out and getting jealous.
Don picked us up at the private airport in his Rolls and he had Isadore Bolton, who used to be my chauffeur before he stole him from me, driving some of Don’s associates in the lead car. We were driving down to Miami from Fort Lauderdale on the I-95. Don said some innocuous thing, and all that jealousy and rage spilled out of me and I kicked him in his fucking head. Boom! You don’t turn your back on a jealous cokehead.
Don swerved off onto the side median and I started choking him from the backseat. I got out of the car to get into the front seat and kick his ass some more, but Don took off down the median.
Now I was on the side of the fucking highway by myself. Don drove a little bit down the road and then let Jackie and her son and Luz out of the car. They came up to me carrying my bag with the half-pound of reefer. I had the coke stash on me.
“Why did you let him go, Jackie?” I screamed. “Now we’re out here on the fucking highway.”
All of a sudden, Isadore pulled up. He was there to pick us up because he lost our car and when he called Don, Don told him to turn around and get us.
He pulled up alongside me and rolled his window down and told me to get in the car.
“Fuck you, motherfucker,” I screamed.
Isadore got out of his driver’s door and I was right on him. I punched him in the face twice, shattering his left orbital bone. The force of the blows knocked him across the driver’s seat and I reached in and grabbed his leg and bit it. Isadore managed to kick me off him and close his door, so I punched the outer panel of his door and bent the steel. I was about to break his window when he managed to drive away.
His shoes were still on the side of the road and he was driving barefoot.
Then the cops came. They were talking to us and I had the half brick of coke and Luz was holding the duffel bag with the half-pound of weed. These cops were so excited to see me that the motherfuckers didn’t even ask me what we were doing on the side of the highway. They’d have put anybody else’s ass on that grass, and they’d be locked up for life for having all that coke. I’m an extremist. Why couldn’t I just buy an eight ball? No, I had to have a half a brick. The guys who sold it to me said, “Mike, this is sales weight. Police are not going to hear that you’re getting high with a half a brick of blow.” And I had this as my personal stash.
The cops offered to drive us to our destination. Jackie talked Don into giving us some money, and he sent a guy over with a couple hundred grand.
In “Blue Is the Warmest Color,” which took home the Palme d’Or at Cannes, our brightly burning heroines first meet in a lesbian bar in Lille. Adèle, a fifteen-year-old high-school student, has already spotted Emma, a blue-haired sparkplug, on the street, and pleasured herself to thoughts of her. When the chance at conversation arises, Adèle asks Emma, somewhat mechanically, what she does. Emma replies that she studies at the École des Beaux-Arts. “Beaux-Arts?” Adèle, always hungry, wants to know. “Are there arts that are ugly?”
This exchange between the two, whose ardors we follow over years, mirrors a debate being hashed out over the film. “Blue Is the Warmest Color,” in French “La Vie d’Adèle—Chapitres 1 et 2,” shows some of the more potent and torrid sex scenes in popular memory: sex scenes between two women, one lasting seven intimate minutes. Force and firepower, Anthony Lane writes in his review of the film in the magazine this week, that amounts to “a fusillade of cries and clutches, grabs and slaps—a pitch of pleasure so entwined with desperation that we find ourselves not in the realm of the pornographic but on the brink of romantic agony.”
The 2013 Cannes jury, presided over by Steven Spielberg, awarded the top prize not only to the director, Abdellatif Kechiche, but to the lead actresses, too. “Three artists,” Spielberg said that May day. If this “took some auteur sheen away from Mr. Kechiche,” as Manohla Dargis wrote, you wouldn’t have known: the red carpet was witness to a symphony of happy symmetry as the established Léa Seydoux, twenty-eight, and the newcomer Adèle Exarchopoulos, nineteen, flanked their director and kissed him. Then, later in summer, Seydoux and Exarchopoulos said that the shooting had been unbearable and they would never again work with Kechiche. The French union representing the film industry spoke of deplorable conditions for the crew. Seydoux, who plays Emma, said she felt like a “prostitute.” Exarchopoulos described a “horrible” continuous take in which Seydoux hit her over and over, leaving her raw.
In late September, Kechiche told the French magazine Télérama that the outrage had “sullied” the film for future audiences; now the public would wonder whether he’d harassed the exquisite starlets. The film’s release, the director said, “should be cancelled.” On Wednesday, the French news Web site Rue89 published a scathing op-ed by Kechiche, addressed “to those who wanted to destroy” his film, alleging slander by a leading French journalist as well as Seydoux. “If my film hadn’t succeeded at Cannes,” he wrote, “I would be a director destroyed … a dead man.” In a note, the site’s editor-in-chief describes warning Kechiche that he might come across as paranoid; Kechiche responded that he’d rather that “than ‘tyrant’ or ‘despot’, which is what I’ve been called.” And yet, the show goes on; for American theatres everywhere except (so far) Idaho, the film comes out—with an NC-17 rating—Friday.
Last week, in Manhattan, I asked Kechiche if the problem was that the actresses couldn’t countenance the ugly work that goes into beautiful product. Kechiche is French, of Tunisian birth. In spectacles and black vestments, he’s a severe type who demands of even fast-talking Americans total comfort with long pauses. He declined my charge, and blew smoke at the implication. “I certainly have never made anyone suffer,” he said, in well-wrought French. “The word ‘suffering’ is completely inappropriate to use about the process of filming. To talk about the suffering of the actor is something I can only laugh at—in such a beautiful profession, where you’re creating through your emotions, your body—to me, there is nothing of suffering.”
“The job of an actor,” he went on, “it’s one of a spoiled child. You wake up, you’re made up, you do a few takes, you’re beautifully lit. Not to get into my social origins, but I’ve seen hard labor, and it is not comparable.” His choice of words seemed to point at Léa Seydoux, who comes from a highly prominent French family dotted with chairmen and C.E.O.s of film companies, and with money invested in oil and soccer clubs. The optics of the Maghreb filmmaker and the white French aristocrat are inévitable. And yet, the point of the film, for its director, is about swallowing what life hands you and growing up. Kechiche sees the theme of the film as nothing less than “experience: love, passion, destiny, relationships, breakups. It’s like a novel of initiation.”
“Blue” opens in a literature class; Adèle, delicate and wild, is a fancier of books (and becomes a schoolteacher through the course of the film). Kechiche references Marivaux, “La Princesse de Clèves”—books from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries—but he insisted that more important than any historical era were the themes taken up by classical novels and myths: coming of age, the play of love and chance, chagrin and self-cultivation. He pointed to Antigone and the heroine of Stendhal’s unfinished “Lamiel” as parallels for Adèle.
The book that Adèle is most closely based on, a French graphic novel, by Julie Maroh, calls the character Clémentine. But when I spoke to Exarchopoulos, the movie’s star—who forever will be known as Kechiche’s discovery—she told me that Kechiche asked if he could use her real name. “He came to me and said ‘Adèle’ means justice in Arabic, and I think there is something true in that.” She said yes.
Exarchopoulos had the Saturday sniffles when we met, a nineteen-year-old new to New York City, wearing clunky patent-leather shoes and a dress with a bejeweled collar. Between slurps of an iced latte (not so easy to get in France), she told me that the film was about “apprenticeship, virgin experiences.” She referred to the director as Abdel—two syllables that ring of Adèle—and it occurred to me how much the film was not only bildungsroman but also roman à clef.
Not until Cannes, Exarchopoulos said, did she learn that the name of the film had changed, to reference Marivaux’s “La Vie de Marianne” and to conjure Adèle’s life—hers, like Marivaux’s work, unfinished. “This movie is so close to us,” Exarchopoulos said. “The camera was so close to us, we had to give everything. Abdellatif wanted to capture your soul.”
Kechiche is “obsessed,” with women, Exarchopoulos continued, observing them, solving their “mystery.” That much is clear when you see the film, all writhing bodies, women feeding each other oysters, falling tendrils. “When he’s watching people,” she said, describing nights at clubs and endless walks with the director, “it’s as if he’s on another planet sometimes. Something spiritual.” On camera, Exarchopoulos does what every French teen-ager does—a mix of cigarettes, sex, and wine, in leather coats and messy hair just so—but she brings a jerking sensitivity and almost animal-like reactivity to the screen. In conversation, she’s like any other person who puts everything out there—which, especially before you’re twenty, is braver than it looks.
“There is something really weird about Abdellatif,” she went on. “Sometimes he’s scary, and you feel a spiritual debt.” Emma may be a fine artist, a touch the sprite, but Adèle stands for instinct, feeling—a heart in thrall or in revolt. Early on, Adèle tells a suitor that she likes languages—the word is langue. It’s the same word, in French, for “tongue,” and the camera hardly ever leaves hers: her mouth, her rude chewing, her sucking, her wails. “Skin and gourmandisme,” Exarchopoulos said, mixing two languages and concepts—skin and eating, greediness, need. There was greed in the filming, too. “Really long days,” she said. “He wants you to never have any consciousness, to take off every mask.”
“At Cannes,” Exarchopoulos told me, “I wanted recognition. I wanted him to let me know if he was really happy or if he had regrets. He would never say, ‘Thank you, Adèle. Thank you, Léa.’ He said, ‘Thank you, Tunisia, and Paris.’ ” (In accepting the Palme d’Or, Kechiche lauded the youth of Tunisia. He told me that their uprising moved him “simply as a human being”; to my probing about nationality, gender, or sexuality, he kept away from identity politics.)
Kechiche’s thanklessness is startling, when posed this way; he seems to owe his leading actors a whole lot. But the director doesn’t seem a person full of thanking. “We say that wewere suffering on this movie,” Exarchopoulos told me, but “we always said that he is suffering, too, but just said nothing.” She confided to me that someone “really close to him” on set even slipped a sleeping pill into his wine. “But it didn’t affect him!” she laughed, wondering if he ever learned. “It’s a devouring passion,” and with it he just kept right on going. “An element of devouring, eating him. He has to create all the time.”
I asked Exarchopoulos if she had worked with other directors since wrapping “Blue.” She told me she spent six days on another shoot. “I was a smaller character, but came in to shoot an important scene, supposed to be complex. And after three takes the director was like, okay, we’re done. I gasped. I was, like, Oh, no, it’s so shitty—I haven’t given anything!”
By: SARAH NICOLE PRICKETT NY Times, November 6, 2013
Instagram has created a new kind of voyeurism — in which you can look into the carefully curated windows of the rich, famous and stylish — and a new kind of lifestyle envy.
“The department store is the last promenade for the flâneur,” wrote Walter Benjamin, the German critic, whose impossible project — “The Arcades Project,” more precisely — documented street life in Paris after the Industrial Revolution. He wrote of gleaming wants, windows gazing back at him, shoppers and wanderers alike becoming reflections of their desires. “The crowd,” he wrote, “is the veil through which the familiar city beckons to the flâneur as phantasmagoria — as a landscape, now as a room. Both become elements of the department store, which makes use of flâneurie itself to sell goods.”
This flâneuring took place when Paris was the capital of the 19th century. Its arcades — high iron-and-glass arches sheltering individual blocks lined with shops — numbered over 300 (under 30, now). Manhattan, capital of the 20th, replaced arcades with department stores and made spectator art of window displays. What is the new Paris, the new Manhattan, the arcade in the age of digital reproduction? It is Instagram: the app built to make you covet your neighbor’s life.
Only now your own personal Joneses are hundreds of miles away in L.A., or on the Greek island of Patmos, or in Milan. Doesn’t matter — all it takes is two clicks for today’s flâneurs, renamed “followers,” to float onto Margherita Missoni’s balcony. That is, a small and square and semipermanent display of Margherita Missoni’s balcony that makes you wonder if an antique rocking horse isn’t the outdoor seating solution you’ve been waiting for, although you do not have a balcony, or even a patio, and cannot in fact remember the last time you were outdoors.
If Twitter is the street, Facebook the suburban-sprawl mall, and Pinterest some kind of mail-order catalog, Instagram is the many-windowed splendor of a younger Bergdorf’s, showing all we possess or wish for, under squares of filtered glass, each photographic pane backlit 24/7. Each pane is, or intimates, an entire landscape or room. Follow enough of the international lifestyle-setters, and you’ll see: women’s fashion, men’s fashion, home or apartment décor, beautiful food, art, color-coordinated books and magazines. Of course, the tags for these old categories are updated: #birthdaylove for a many-braceleted hand holding a pink Nat Sherman; #nodiets for an aerial view of Ibérico ham on a plate.
All elements must be carefully staged to look happenstance. Only the crassest Instagrammer snaps a new pair of shoes in a box, or plainly on a floor. The cannier, cinematic one will instead make a display of the shoes, arranging her feet on a shabby-chic desk next to a Grolsch bottle of daisies atop a stack of French translations. The writer Stephanie LaCava snaps her snakeskin Pradas opposite Audrey Gelman’s funny bunny slippers at Paris Fashion Week. A few cobblestoned streets away, the swimwear designer Lisa Marie Fernandez shows off her white Manolo Blahniks next to her friend’s yellow pair of Gianvito Rossis. Such Instagrams are mimetic: the contents, the casually rarefied setting, the off-kilter composition. What each says is not “this is a good shoe” or “these shoes look good on me,” but “these shoes look good in my life,” which is what Benjamin meant when he said goods are sold by flâneurie.
What feels new with Instagram is the mode of photography that feels most akin to the window display. Rafael de Cárdenas, the architect, shows off Biarritz by way of melons and Marlboros on a snowy white cloth. Jessica Diehl, Vanity Fair’s style and fashion director, snaps her stay in Claridge’s, the five-star hotel in London. The model-slash-writer Laura Bailey comes home from a trip with — she writes — “Paris in my bag”: a strand of Chanel pearls, a Chanel stylo eyeliner, a black diamanté hairpin and a handwritten note, all displayed too well and too brightly to make anyone believe these items have ever seen the inside of a clutch.
These are technically still lifes, but in spirit they are actually the new self-portraiture. It isn’t strange to say, or to hear, from an acquaintance run into on the street, “I recognized you” — not by your face or your body, but by your “style.” Meaning: a hand with carmine nails holding a copy of Anne Carson’s “Red Doc.” A pair of Illestevas resting on the edge of a Café Gitane plate, beneath it a new issue of The Journal. “The arrangement was the meaning,” Joan Didion writes in “Blue Nights.” The same is as true of objects as of words, and the small compositions of personal belongings so recognizable as “Instagram” are, simply, selfies without a face.
Similar compositions can also represent others. One of my favorite recent Instagrams, by the Los Angeles artist David Kitz, is of bandages, Motrin and other supplies for an injury from CVS, all heaped together on a plain white bedspread; the tag is #anklesprain, the caption is “Got the best girl in the world,” and the heart melts. This is my kind of lifestyle envy. For the more aspirational, there is Amanda Brooks, the American socialite who now lives in Oxfordshire, England, with two kids and a million horses. In lieu of a family portrait, Brooks will Instagram four pairs of kayaking sandals on a dock. Instead of photographing her scads of friends, she ‘grams a plate heaped high with packets of quince paste, which she has made to give as gifts. In the comments, a stranger asks her for the recipe.
Belongings being so easily conflated with belonging, Instagram induces a longing to be on a scene, the scene, the next one, a better one. Some hours you can scroll without end as a long block of squares lights up in unison, every frame swinging open to a new angle on the same scene: the same Jay Z performance at Pace Gallery in Chelsea, the same Delfina Delettrez presentation in Paris, the same Ken Okiishi paint-balling robots at the Frieze Art Fair in London.
“There it was,” says the kid in the Willa Cather story “Paul’s Case,” looking up at a wonderland of glowing panes, “what he wanted — tangibly before him, like the fairy world of a Christmas pantomime.” Close observers of Instagram may have noticed the recent rise of a conscious-or-not homage to Walter Benjamin, a snap of the modern flâneur: taken alone on the street, while looking through a store window — the most reflexive of surfaces — at oneself.
My mother started screaming, and I whipped around fast enough to see her staggering from my car, hunched over, hugging her arm to her belly.
“He bit me, he bit me,” she wailed, her voice deep and hoarse with shock.
I ran over and held her small shoulders, then cradled her head in my hands as if she were a child. How many times had she held me the same way over the years, trying to absorb my pain and fear?
She rocked her body, sobbing quietly. “I can’t look. I can’t look at it.”
Her hand had disappeared into the sleeve of her quilted jacket. For a second, I wondered if my dog had bitten off her entire hand, and I was relieved when I peeled back the sleeve to see all four fingers and thumb intact. Blood was dripping from somewhere, though.
I shielded her hand from her view and turned it over. Bright blood pulsed out of a deep puncture wound in the meat of her palm, and little purple dots around the front and back of the hand formed a diagram of my Rottweiler’s jaw.
“It’s going to be O.K.,” I said. “Let’s go inside. I’ll clean you up.”
As she took the long way around the garage and through the garden to avoid passing my car again, I felt the gnawing simmer of heartburn in my throat and a deep hollow sadness in my chest.
At the door, my father took my mother by the arm and brought her in while I picked up the sandal she had lost during the fracas. My inability to turn back time, to close the window or warn her not to reach her hand into the car, was sucking the air from my lungs.
It is so perilous to love people because eventually you will hurt them, and in my mother’s life it seems as if I have too often been the cause of her pain. How many times has she felt this much pain over something I have done or not done, or been or not been?
“You were our dream,” she wrote years earlier on a scrap of loose-leaf paper during a family-day exercise at one of my rehabs.
My stomach lurched when I read it. Even writing about it now, years later, makes something old and deep twinge inside me.
I have dreams for myself. I know how much they matter to me. I know how fiercely I want and love, and how much it can hurt to love someone. Which is why the timing of my mother’s bleeding hand seemed so unfair, after she had let down her guard and allowed herself to dream for me again.
She doesn’t have to worry anymore that I will die of self-inflicted wounds or doses. She no longer has to lock up her valuables when I am visiting, or worry about me making my money in ways she considers unseemly, or wonder if everything I am saying is a lie. She can mostly trust that I am a functioning adult human being who may still flounder but doesn’t violently flail anymore.
I brought her some peroxide, poured it on her hand and then began hastily packing my car. I wanted to leave as quickly as possible, to remove all evidence of my sloppy, destructive existence from my parents’ calm, sweet Connecticut home and protect them from me by getting in my car and disappearing.
I grabbed an empty pack of Marlboros I had filled with cigarette butts and left on my parents’ deck. This is what I leave in my wake: tears, blood, garbage, a mess to be cleaned, a doctor to be seen, emotions to be processed and restorative actions to be taken.
I started my car and drove recklessly down the street to a place I could park, smoke and cry. I thought of my mother hunched on the toilet with her hand in the sink, of her dreams for me, and how I always have smashed them. How I began stealing from her before I was 10, how she had to sleep with our food locked up because I might binge eat too much of it during the night and then throw it all up by morning.
I thought of my mother on her hands and knees, scrubbing up my messes, wondering if I was ever going to be O.K. I thought of the time I ran away from our New York City home in the middle of the night at age 17, leaving no trace, and of how in her search for me she had gone to some of the S-and-M clubs downtown — my sweet mother, whose cheeks glow red when she has a little wine, walking into an S-and-M club looking for her missing daughter, her dream, among the hookers and johns and addicts.
I remembered her standing on the steps of the fancy Connecticut rehab center she sent me to, commiserating with the other parents over the frustrations of the insurance system. I thought of the many favorite sweaters of hers I have taken over the years because they were soft and cozy, and how she searched for them, wondering if her memory had failed her, never turning them up because I had left them at the bottom of one of my purses.
I thought of her arriving at the hospital while I was getting an overdose pumped from my stomach, of her knowing I had tried to throw away the life she had given me. I remembered how angry she was but how she always took care of me, how she never told me I was beyond repair or that she couldn’t help me.
I turned so many of her dreams for me into nightmares. And as I think, at 30, about my own dreams; about the fantasy of having a beautiful child who will love me and grow strong, proud and capable; and of the family I could have, I realize what I have taken from her — decades of hopes, expectations, plans, ideas and desires. I took them all.
I took them with my stealing, lying, alcoholism, eating disorder, drug addiction and suicide attempts. Because of my theft, the blood coursing out of her hand feels as if it is pouring from my own heart. I am unable to give her back those years or restore those hopes. I can’t do that anymore than I can turn back the clock to before I let her stick her hand in my car window.
As I sped away that afternoon, with sheets of rain pouring onto the windshield, images flashed through my mind of all the sweet and tender things my mother has done for me. The ice cream cone she bought for me to share with my dog just that afternoon. The backpack and travel clothes she gave me before I left on my trip to Asia. The newspaper clippings she regularly mails to me, and the special food she always has in her cabinet when I visit. She is always thinking of how to make my life easier and better.
I probably would have lost my life along the way if my mother hadn’t been there to pick me up and help me get back on my feet. Remembering all of her hopes and kindnesses filled my eyes with hot tears until I was unable to see the road and had to pull over.
I turned around and looked at Max, my Rottweiler, and tried to dredge up anger toward him. I tried to want to yell at him, to hit him and to call him a bad dog. But I couldn’t. I felt only compassion for him, for how scared he must have felt to lash out like that.
The truth is, I understood him. I understand the creature that hurts someone irrationally and unnecessarily. I know that feeling and have caused that pain — not with my teeth but with my choices, my life.
Max stared back at me with his guileless eyes. He wagged the stump where his tail used to be and licked my hand when I reached back. He had already moved on from that sorry episode even if I had not. And my mother probably had moved on, too; she is like Max in that way.
And I realized that all I need to do for my mother, to restore her tarnished dreams and mend her broken hopes, is to take care of myself. Her hand would heal with a scar just as my life has. It would never be undamaged again, but it would hold a memory, a story.
Beyond those stories and scars, and despite the sadness and disappointment I have brought my mother over the years, all she wants is for me to be happy, decent and settled.
I can do that, I thought. I can do that today. And I have.