Sunday, July 6, 2014

Good Morning Justin

Letter to my Son
Sunday, 6 July

g o r d o     M a r s

Good Morning Justin…

More than forty years ago, when I felt quite young, I made a mask and called it a self-portrait.  The face had yellow skin, dog ears and a preposterously large grin with teeth missing.  The image was of an irrepressibly gregarious character you’d be confronted with in a bar people would know as The Bacchanal.  Anyone who knew me then would not recognize this person as having anything to do with me.  Some self-portrait.  The image was never intended to portray who it is I am but who it is I most wanted to be.  Maybe I was describing an alter ego – someone I felt existed inside but would never see the light of day – unless, of course, I was at the magical tipping point of being just short of drunk.  We all have the desire at times to take on a role we weren't meant to be.  Halloween is an obvious fantasy.  We don’t need a costume, though, to try out a different role.  We just have to find the right moment.  That’s all it is – a moment.  We can’t make it last.  After all, it’s not who we really are.

Eventually I came to call the mask gordo Mars.  Over the years it has remained one of my favorite works.  On a rare occasion I might still think of a life lived more like gordo.  With such a personality I would have arms wide enough to embrace the world.  I would be shamelessly sensual.  My words would flow free of filters and I would point out something extraordinary I find in you.  It’s not flattery.  I say what I think.  I can be horribly boorish, as well.  You may go out of your way crossing the street to avoid me.  That’s of no use.  I will see you and cross the street myself.  How are you doing?  You can’t know how much I've been hoping to run into you.  Why don’t we stop by the deli for something to eat and take it to the park?  You can tell me what you've been up to.  What a great day this is turning out to be.

Sorry.  That’s just not me – never has been.  Maybe in another life.

c  r  a  n  k

A few days back I updated my portrait of self with a new drawing.  It’s black ink on white Bristol board.  I look rather pinched.  I’m squeezed dry; freed from oily sensuality and cloying empathy.  I’m a constant agitation.  Why are you bothering me?  Isn’t it obvious I’m busy?  Back off!  Take a number and get in line elsewhere.  This window is closed.  Sit still and take a pill.

I like the drawing but hate the portrait.  It shows my heart filled with nettles.  The problem with gordo Mars and this sketch of a samurai spreadsheet is that they are both one dimensional.  They are opposite ends of a sliding scale.  They are contradictions.  They are dispositions I’m known to wear, one more than the other.  Ask your mother as to which suits me best.

People aren't comic strips.  We’re subtle.  We are weighted down with contrary motivations that make us appear complex, mystifying.  We spend most of our lives being somewhere between a smile and a frown.  The images here represent nothing more than a moment’s impression.  I can define them as I choose but hopefully I appreciate these sentiments change with time and circumstance.  One day we brood on some moment of squalor.  Turn the page and there is joy in viewing simple light streaming through a window.  Emotional truth isn’t known for its permanence.  It’s like the weather in Chicago – interesting and consistent in its change.  I've had a sturdy ride.  There wasn’t much pleasure found in the nastiest of storms but I always benefited from the vista that came after.


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