The Storming Bohemian Punks the Muse #10: Art Lives!
Sunday: I work through the voting guide, propositions, and candidates, making my decisions. My partner, Argyle C, Klopnick (ACK!), is sure, now, that Hillary’s victory is certain. I ‘m not yet a believer. I think Trump is electable.
Monday: I’m catching the excitement. My female cousins and my sisters post pictures of themselves in white pantsuits. My activist sister in Dallas reports that she will be attending the election night party hosted by HRC wearing jewelry that belonged to my mother and my grandmother. I decide to wear my mother’s pearls tomorrow.
Tuesday: I’m with her. Very excited, I wake up thinking, “Tonight, we’ll have our first woman president!” I take a framed photograph of my deceased Mom along with me to the voting booth. While standing in line, I notice several other voters carrying framed photographs. I know, without asking, that they, too, are toting photographs of women who have passed. I cry. I’m on a pink cloud all day. Tonight’s the night!
Tuesday night: ACK! and I go out to dinner with the ever-dour and ever-brilliant novelist and playwright Dan Curzon and his lover John. We are festive. Even Dan the pessimist is all smiles and enthusiasm. It is a great, celebratory dinner. We return to Dan and John’s Napa retreat to watch the returns.
You know the rest. After an hour, ACK! and I make the thirty-minute drive home in silence. ACK! leaves the house to purchase a pint of bourbon, which he finishes. I go to bed in a state of shock and cry myself to sleep.
Wednesday and Thursday: I can barely remember these days. I am a dream walker. The next day, ACK! sleeps through the late afternoon. I walk through the next two days in shock. I hear there are demonstrations. My friend, philosophy professor David Livingstone Smith, an expert on the subject of dehumanization, posts dire predictions. He has been anticipating a Trump triumph since the early primary days, and his present prognostications are not encouraging. He fears it will serve the Trump forces to see more and more violent street demonstrations and that these will be their Reichstag Fire, making possible a law-and-order crackdown.
Friday: What a week! Is there nothing to which I can cling?
Yes! Yes there is.
On Monday, alongside preparing for Tuesday’s election, I made an extraordinary pilgrimage to the San Francisco shop of John Windle, Antiquarian Bookseller. He has recently opened a Blake gallery, featuring, he proclaims, the largest collection anywhere of Blake’s works for sale. To stand among these prints and paintings and books is to step outside of time and touch eternity, figuratively taking the hand of the master who created some of the greatest expressions of mysticism in the entire history of art.
I wrote in my journal: “On the last day in America: a visit with William Blake.”
Led to the gallery by manager Annika Green, an artist and illustrator herself, I ask how she feels about Blake. She tells me, “I love his maximalism—he’s never restrained—not in life, not in art.”
Surrounded by Blake’s stunning illustrations for The Book of Job, a study for one of his watercolors, and an extraordinarily beautiful tempera painting (one of only a handful of such paintings to survive), I sense that I have stepped outside of history.
That feels good.
Minutes later, I am ushered into the bookstore to chat with the gentle, gracious, and scholarly Mr. Windle. After forty years as an antiquarian bookseller, his enthusiasm, especially for Blake, remains contagious and enticing. Asked about his attraction to Blake, he cries out: “He got it! He saw it! He could see the spirit in everything! He could also see how reason, thought, and mind can obscure soul connection with the spiritual.”
“You sound a bit like a monk,” I remarked.
“I am a monk, in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. I took robes; I did the whole bit. But it’s all attachment and distraction, even the robes.” Then, he added, “I would call Blake a bodhisattva or a saint.”
Mr. Windle is not your ordinary bookseller (is there such a thing?), nor is his an ordinary bookshop. He tells me that a central “vitally important” goal of his exhibit —which includes many pieces on sale for well over $50,000—is that “somebody can walk into the gallery with $5 and leave with a piece of Blake, something that they can value for a lifetime.”
Value for a lifetime. That’s art, not politics.
In Trump’s America, there is still a bookstore tucked away in an office building on Geary Boulevard, where you can step out of time and politics and the obscuring puzzlement of too much reason and analysis and history and encounter a monk who will introduce you to Blake the Bodhisattva.
Sayeth the master: “Do what you will, this life’s a fiction/and is made up of contradiction.”
Forget not politics, my friends, but remember: Art lives, regardless! We’ll be all right.
Rumpus original logo and artwork by James Lorenzato, aka Argyle C. Klopnick (ACK!).
“The Storming Bohemian Punks The Muse” was originally developed as a column under the editorship of Evan Karp at Litseen. An earlier incarnation of this work can be found there, along with many other interesting things.