Meaning and Nothingness

This can’t be right.

Recently one morning I looked for something on Netflix to have with my coffee. I settled on a series about the most amazing hotels in the world.

The first episode was on the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore. It’s an architectural engineering marvel completed in 2010. It would be wonderful to visit and admire in person. If you could empty out everyone and everything that goes on inside of it.

From the frat-boy, getting something-for-nothing competitiveness of the casino; to the slave labor of the 5000 hotel employees who make the place run; to the Instagram losers mugging in the skyline infinity pool, this place exudes toxicity.

The hotel has 2500 guest rooms and is almost always full. There are 60 restaurants on site and 53 kitchens with 400 chefs who support the hotel’s food service. The 150,00 pieces of employee uniforms are accessed using 18 industrial size dry cleaning conveyors.

The death-defying cement pond on the roof is two football fields long. A thousand tons of water make it so heavy a computerized system of 500 hydraulic jacks constantly recalibrates balance and support for the building. Think of the energy used just so vacationers can memorialize the one second of their day when they appear to be having fun.

The Gav Bucket

The hotel’s main draw is gambling. And the leisure travel class who wager are not the most eco-friendly. What happens to the garbage of a million guests per year? The shopping bags, racing forms, dry cleaning plastic? Not to mention the Mountain Dew empties and Carl’s Jr. wrappers discarded during a jackpot high?

The show pays lip service to the issue by highlighting the innovative laundry operation that cuts water consumption by 70%. But when guests are allowed to take three to five pool towels at a time, it’s kind of a wash.

The affable hosts would rather talk about the 500 pounds of flour used to bake 10,000 bread rolls each day. My guess is a half to two-thirds are completely eaten, where do the leftovers and unused go? The subject is never mentioned.

So I decided to ask my friend the internet how the Marina Bay Sands disposes of garbage. The first few pages of search results were news and videos produced by MBS marketing their commitment to the environment. This was followed by industry articles and awards echoing the same commitment.

The unifying theme was the importance of protecting the environment. You could tell that because the word “important” was used six times per sentence (with an occasional  “sustainable” thrown in for good measure).

MBS is determined to convince you of their sincerity. They even produce a Sustainability Report detailing the impact of a guest’s stay at checkout. It probably summarizes how ecologically important their visit was to the universe.

Missing in everything is the “how” or “what” to support these assertions. Except for the 60% of rolls that are digested, I still have no idea how the waste is treated.

Miss Daniels, If Your Nasty working the corner of Laguna and Waller.

I’ve always been reluctant to compost because of the gnats. Every kitchen I’ve been in that has a Gavin Newsom contraption also has bugs hovering around.

But in my new building we have a compost chute next door to my apartment. Every evening I take a degradable corn starch bag and heave my compostables down. This one small step has reduced my carbon footprint from a 7 1/2 B to a 6 AAA. The Ferragamos fit again!

I’ve also been thinking about how my new sewer parenting responsibilities affect the environment. Are there unintended consequences from the Montana Hologram Spray Paint mixing with rain water? Specifically, does glitter run-off contribute to the choking epidemic rampant in the Bodega Bay Sand Dab population?

To ease my mind I commissioned a report from EIR’s ‘r Us. If not the most thorough investigators on the planet, certainly the most cost-effective. They concluded that, although Dab asphyxiation is an important consideration, it’s not that important.

On this Earth Day we should all resolve to do our part. It’s important to me and it should be important to you. Most importantly, because it’s important. Sustainably speaking.

 

Fish puking

Guerrillas in the Midst

Stormy rocks!

After one of our many deluges this winter, I took to the streets to care for my adopted storm drain. It occurred to me that since it was my ward, I should be making it over in my image.  Aren’t we all just a little bit tired of rusted iron grates?

They should each have a color that reflects their unique lineage. It’s the kind of personal touch that will help the program gain acceptance. I, for one, am thinking of taking on a second drain and naming it “Miss Daniels, If You’re Nasty.”

No Wire Hangers!!! All dolled up.

If all the sewer parents would add their own special flare, what a festive addition to the neighborhoods it would be. It’s the kind of legally questionable, up-from-the streets spontaneity that used to give San Francisco character. Not today’s techno-cool that is dictated from some money-grubbing C-Suite.

And if I’m arrested? There’s hope on the horizon. Mark Leno has been on my events mailing list since the 70’s.

We need to keep that hushed up until after the mayoral election when I’ll be expecting a full pardon. Especially after my attorney makes a sizeable “campaign donation” under my alias, Peregrine Dennison IV.

Mover and shaker. Of the spray can.

The Joy of Man’s Desiring

Ecce homo, you homo.

I blame my financial problems on Lucille Ball. When I was sick as a child I would lie on the couch and watch I Love Lucy reruns. For Lucy, money was just an obstacle to be dealt with at some point. It was not the most important thing in life. Ideas were.

America was sympathetic to her financial struggles. I was captivated by her imagination and optimism. If she needed a deep freezer for a side of beef, it would be delivered and installed before ever thinking about how she’d pay for it.

Adopting her nonchalant attitude has created many hills and valleys in my life. After the abuses of the 1970’s, my credit score was in Death Valley. When I received an unsolicited charge card from Bergdorf Goodman in 1981 it was completely unexpected.

Bergies was the nation’s most exclusive retailer and Jackie’s favorite store. I fantasized she’d put up one of her watches as collateral, how else could I have gotten the account? I didn’t get to New York often and they only did one catalog a year but I was still able to max out the account with a major purchase every now and then

Detail of the hand painted silk.

San Francisco’s most exclusive retailer at the time was Wilkes Bashford where my friend Cass worked. She was Wilkes’ left nut for years and, at times, his right one too. She swung both ways.

We were in Paris once and she snuck me into a Jean-Paul Gaultier show. The models paraded around in such exaggerated slouches, the backs of their heads were practically sliding down their cracks. It was the mid-90’s and the anti-smoking campaign was at its most rabid. M. Gaultier pointedly made each model puff away on a Camel as they strutted. It was quite dramatic.

I knew the collections created press and brand recognition for the designers. But I wondered why merchandise in stores was rarely as bizarre as what was in the shows.

Cass said it was artistic license, over-emphasizing what the couturier was thinking for the season. Whether it was color palette, shoulder padding or a key accessory, it was exploited to the point of absurdity on the models. The same design elements would be on both runway and rack, just in varying degrees.

This year’s conclave of Jesi return to the stage to see who will wear the thorns.

In the late 80’s we both were working in New York and met for tea in The Palm Court at the Plaza. As we finished Cass said, “let’s go next door and march through Bergdorf’s.”

Bergdorf Goodman is a holy experience and, like most religions, you either get it or you don’t. They’re so ahead of the game you come across items you’ve never seen before and wonder if you even like them.  They linger in your mind, haunt you until you buy them based only on gut feeling. Talk about a leap of faith.

Such was the case with a $1500 Swiss blanket I wanted to show Cass. It was one of a half-dozen uniquely hand painted ones in the home department.  They reminded me of art in a Phillip Johnson lobby: abstract. splashy and colorful set against the clean modern lines of the building.

Cass was supportive but noncommittal. She knew it was a matter of conviction and ultimately up to me. So I bought it, came to truly love it but could never find the right place for it. Until Palm Springs when I realized it belonged on the wall where Phil would have wanted it.

Last week I rehung it as the backdrop for my Porno Jesus Portrait. The artwork is from the same junk store gallery, Finders Keepers, in Fort Wayne where I bought my naive winterscape. I gaze at it often thinking about who painted it, why they painted it and what the hell was going through their mind.

Butt Crack Jesus confers with Gun Control Jesus backstage. GCJ’s slogan: shoot cum not guns.

Working with the painting put me in the mood for a real-time redeemer in the flesh. On Sunday I took off for Golden Gate Park and the 39th Annual Hunky Jesus Contest. This year’s winner was a little Puerto Rican pepperpot who won over the crowd by tossing rolls of paper towels. Who says we don’t have an inspirational President?

After a taxing week of interior decoration, it was great being outdoors on a beautiful, sunny day. Spiritual (but not carnal) congress was achieved and I feel I can carry on for another year.

Here’s hoping the Easter Bunny didn’t shit in your basket.

Easter in San Francisco

 

Watts Style, Chapter Four: The Laguna Lintel

The Greater Star of Dollar Tree

The first post on the 55 Laguna bedroom mentioned how my style was closest to Simon Rodia. Not so much in what he did but in how he did it. Taking a general idea then figuring out the end result as it was worked on.

One small homage was made to Watts Tower though above the closet door. There I’ve affixed jewel-like bits of glass found on the street. “Jewel-like” if you’re accustomed to buying gems at Dollar Tree or Goodwill.

The Lesser Star of Dollar Tree

I’ve blogged before about despising the Safeway on Market but, like it or not, it’s the cornerstone of the hood. Their corporate philosophy is not to do what’s best for the customer but rather to see what they can get away with. The same can of pumpkin that is $1.49 at Whole Foods is $4.29 at the Way. Shelves are always unstocked, the restrooms are filthy. The City is gentrifying around them and they are stuck in ghetto mode.

Still, I do go there late at night or for staples. You can get money orders for a dollar plus the change machines come in handy.

Once after a successful day of panhandling on 6th street, excuse me, after emptying out my coin jar, I picked up a couple of items and went to use the voucher at checkout. The clerk said they could no longer cash them, only the office could and they were closed. Other than being consistent with Safeway’s desire to constantly inconvenience the customer, this made no sense.

A few days later I went back to cash the voucher and asked the office why they couldn’t be redeemed when checking out. The clerk said it was the way the Manager wanted it.

“The Manager may have made the decision but what’s the reasoning behind it? What do you gain by doing it this way?”

I was met with a blank stare, her brain frozen in lemming mode.

Safeway’s slogan was once “since we’re neighbors let’s be friends.” Today it’s “since we’re neighbors you must be a shoplifter.” Items of even middling value are locked up and the onus is on the customer to find someone with a key. Good luck.

One Sunday evening I waited 20 minutes in the bottled goods aisle. I rang the bell, asked four different clerks, listened to repeated pages, nothing happened. Finally I went to the end of the aisle and shouted “For the fifth time, will someone please help me in Aisle 10?”

The customers standing in the four of 12 lines that were open stared at me both offended and with admiration. On one hand they couldn’t believe I could be so rude. On the other, I gave voice to what they all were feeling. As the neighborhood has quickly learned, the most dangerous place on earth is standing between me and a bottle of vodka.

The Most Insignificant Star of Dollar Tree

It was a walk through the Safeway parking lot one night that inspired the lintel. If there’s one thing you can count on seeing there more than rats it’s broken glass. Glistening in the moonlight I picked up part of a smashed bottle seconds before the stampeding rodents could get it.

***

One thing I’ve learned in decorating is a new appreciation for clutter. At ground level it’s annoying as you try to maneuver around it. But I only have a small chest, a chair, and a bed on the floor of my room.

In dealing with 12 foot ceilings it seemed foolish to leave half of the wall space bare. Clutter above your head is not physically intrusive. It’s just something to look at.

W Magazine taught me years ago space is the last luxury. To that I add: use it wherever you find it.

The best way to experience my bedroom is on your back, lying squarely on the mattress. You can take it all in that way.

Watts Style, Chapter Three: Velvet Resistance

Cacti by night

The biggest obstacle in doing the room was getting the draperies right. Part of it was the mechanics of securing them into a wall. It was a constant guessing game in this old building of whether I was dealing with steel or wood studs, drywall or concrete. There’s nothing like the sinking feeling of an anchor plopping out of the wall when you try to screw into it. This will hold 30 pounds of fabric?

The other component was placing existing draperies in a room they were not designed for. I wanted to reuse the eight foot long black pair from my bedroom in Mother’s Indiana condo. My ceilings are 12 feet high.

 

Coachella Cacti two years on. Thrive.

I’ve previously blogged about these velvet warriors but, to briefly recap, they are an art deco swirl fabric that had not been manufactured since the 1930’s. To prevent the Nazis from melting the huge production drums and using them for ammunition, the French Resistance buried the dies in the forest. It was an effective job. They went undiscovered for seven decades. Around the Millenium they were found and used again in production.

Cut velvet for the free world.

The original idea for the new installation was to create the illusion of longer panels with a two foot cornice hiding the space between the rod and the ceiling. That left a two foot gap at the bottom to be hidden by furniture. It was a messy solution.

There’s nothing to be gained by pointing fingers or trying to assess blame in a one-man project, but the quality of the execution was severely lacking. As the year progressed I watched the cornice warp, come off its supports, and sag. It looked like the trailer trash vicious rumors say frequent this room. And it was depressing to live with.

Then it occured to me that the fake-out should all be at the bottom not the top. So I raised the draperies to the ceiling and constructed a shelf that runs the length of the room. The hem of the cut velvet now stops at a faux window sill as god intended.

To hide the rod (a favorite bedroom past-time) I used a single row of Aalvar Aalto black dots. Below the new sill is additional shelving for the unending stash of books. And for the daily ephemera generated by the busy life of an unemployed, social security recipient.

When peafowl cry.

My budget constraints were alleviated by the discovery of an architectual salvage yard in Hunters Point. They seem to make the prices up every day depending on which clerk you ask. I bought three planks of wood, a half dozen four foot glass shelves and 16 brackets all for $18. (For emphasis I reiterate: I live in San Francisco.)

Emboldened as an urban survivalist, I now forage the bowels of the city jonesing for an interior decorating fix. With some success, as will be seen in an upcoming post on the wood slat blinds I spotted on the curb. They are being transformed into crown moulding for the kitchen.

I’m satisfied with the overall effect of the art deco velvet in my bedroom window. However, although I don’t mind accepting limited praise for my gumption, any attempts to closely examine the workmanship will be met with an armed response.

Pace

 

Watts Style, Chapter Two: Memento Mori

The south wall of my bedroom is where the hodge-podge flourishes. Sundry items collected throughout my life.

There were casualties in the past year’s chaos. In 1956 I saved my allowance for the dimestore at the corner of Roscoe Blvd. and White Oak Avenue in Northridge. I had my eye on and purchased a green ceramic Mama Squirrel. To her neck was tethered a gold chain that harnessed her two babies at either end.

Her issue were lost years ago and Mama S succumbed recently. She got clipped by the tail end of a step ladder and crashed on the floor.

That’s one way to handle old sentiment.

 

Watts Style, Chapter One: Primeval

Uncle Fritz was one of the anomalies in my family. Among the throngs of do-gooder farm folk was this urbane swell who was an executive for a Santa Monica construction company. He took a shine to me through his martini haze and lavished his Jack Paar wit on us during his annual visits.

He even wanted me to live with his family when I was a high school senior so I could establish residency and attend UCLA.

Mother put her foot down. She was never controlling after I left home but Bloomington was about as far as she was willing to go for starters. Partially this was a result of all my childhood illnesses. But mainly it was because she had a powder keg on her hands and LA would have been too much, too soon. I probably would have become a junkie.

The Last Frontier: it took a year but there is finally space to walk around the bed.

One summer Uncle Fritz was perplexed by my sudden involvement in 4-H. We lived in the country, though not on a farm, and I had succumbed to peer pressure at my junior high. Out of boredom I needed something to do.

I pursued things like Forestry, where I learned about Indiana’s indigenous trees. And something called Wild Life which took on new meaning after two days of Uncle Fritz’s double entendres: “Has your Wild Life group made it to that strip bar on Harrison yet?”

And there were rabbits. They were cute at first but their fecal production was astounding. I did my best to keep the cages clean but it soon became overwhelming, I couldn’t manage. The bunnies grew as did the mysterious organisms they lived with. One was so ill it expired during the summer judging at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. There’s material for a Kenny Rogers’ song there: She Died at the County Fair.

Subtle lighting effects. They’re calling me the Master of the LED Palatte.

Needless to say attempts to be lumberjack or outdoorsy have never been convincing. But it doesn’t prevent me from appreciating the primitive aspects of it all. Like the Naive landscape that dominates the north wall of my bedroom.

On a slow day I hide in the thicket and practice my duck calls.

I marveled at the 7′ by 9′ behemoth for years in a Fort Wayne junk shop. At $80 I couldn’t understand why no one hadn’t swept up this masterpiece from some back room bar or VFW hall.  I finally decided it would be the perfect backdrop for Christmas in the condo’s family room. So I bought it ten years ago.

Besides its size, it was painted on wood and weighed a ton. I borrowed a short bed pickup and rather precariously secured it with rope to transport it home. The slow drive was via back streets as I anticipated a crash and boom at any moment. Thankfully, I made it without incident.

The Eiffel Tower: appropriate in any decorating scheme

The last hurdle was the nosey 80 year-old retiree next door. His personal radar picked up every click of my remote opener. He was usually out in the drive before the door finished rolling up. After the tense ride home I was in no mood for small talk about the curious piece I was hauling. As the door opened he was nowhere in sight so I accelerated slightly to get in quickly.

Then there was a thud, a squeal and I was stuck. I jumped out to see I had not waited long enough for the door to clear. The impact from the top of the picture over the cab had caught it and bowed both side rails. One-quarter of the two-car garage door was hanging limper than last Saturday night’s trick. The painting, on the other hand, survived the collision like the Hoosier hard woods I’d studied and admired.

Instantly Mr. Buttinsky was out advising me on what needed to be done. And in a way I was relieved he had something to talk about. At least I didn’t have to explain the principles of Outsider Art.

The candles are a reminder of the Palm Springs experience. Look for my new hit single dedicated to the Viagra generation, Like a Candle in the 120 Degree Heat. I will be performing it at Prince Charles’ State Funeral.