Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mx Justin Vivian Bond, The Chanteuse of the New Millennium

A bar of gold in the new depression”- Hilton Als describing Mx Justin Vivian Bond

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This past Sunday 20 November 2011 I had the pleasure of seeing Mx Justin Vivian Bond perform at Joe’s Pub for the third time.  I have encountered Mx Bond since the mid-1990’s when Mx performed at SqueezeBox! and hosted a party in the East Village called Foxy.  Mx’s biting, about to go off the rails, wit provided endless moments of laughter and her passionate singing performances were also characterized by a liminal apocalyptic abandon that was appealing in the 1990’s queer landscape and simultaneously frightening as if Mx might cut you.

justinbond112011 Photographs courtesy of JS

And I have seen Mx perform as the character Kiki, the grotesque, over the hill lounge singer of the duo Kiki & Herb.  Those performances too were both alluring and seemingly dangerous.  Where did Justin end and Kiki begin?  Kiki might just cut you too.

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Mx’s cabaret shows that I have seen at Joe’s Pub are no less passionate, no less overflowing with liminal apocalyptic abandon, but the songs Mx sings and those sung particularly on Sunday 20 November 2011. are replete with melancholy, loss and pain.

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In contrast, Justin’s banter between songs is incredibly witty, funny and at times vulgar.  Mx knows that the emotional intensity of the songs would be too much to bear without some relief, without some laughter.  So, on Sunday, Mx recounted getting regular blowjobs from a seedy cab driver in the mid 90’s, volunteering as a candy striper as a teenager, falling in love with a fellow female volunteer, winning a Kate Bush album on the radio, playing the entire album over the phone for the teenage object of her affection.  Laughter filled the room.

But while we (I) may enjoy the banter between songs, hearing Justin sing is why we (I) come again and again.  As I wrote here the last time I saw Mx perform:  While Justin Bond can be devilishly funny, her choice of songs and the manner in which she sings are full of longing and loss. They are always replete with tough emotion. They are poignant. They are cathartic. In this sense her form and content expresses what is essentially human: that life is about loss- loss of youth, loss of love, loss of friends and family. And despite our best efforts and the capitalist myths of everlasting life that surround us, we can never escape this haunting truth.  Mx Justin Vivian Bond is the Chanteuse of the New Millennium.

Read my other posts about Mx Justin Vivian Bond here, here, here and see clips of Mx’s performances.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

You Can’t Take It With You, But You Could Certainly Try…

“When you're dead, you're dead. That's it.”- Marlene Dietrich

The day before his death William S Burroughs wrote, Love? What is it? Most natural painkiller. What there is . . . LOVE…”

We let it in
We give it out
And in the end
What's it all about?
It must be love
- Kate Bush, “And So Is Love”

And if a double-decker bus
Crashes into us
To die by your side
Is such a heavenly way to die
And if a ten ton truck
Kills the both of us
To die by your side
Well the pleasure, the privilege is mine
- The Smiths, “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”

And as your last breath begins, you'll find your demon’s your best friend, and we all get it in the end- Scott Matthews, “In The End” as sung by Mx Justin Vivian Bond

Dietrich Grave The Grave of Marlene Dietrich.  The headstone states, “Here I stand at the mile-stone of my days.”

burroughsgrave The Grave of William S. Burroughs

mauswoodlawnbronx4 Mausoleum in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx

Recently, before having dinner with my goddaughter Nora, her parents and her older brother and sister, the subject of what we wanted to happen to our bodies after our death came up for discussion among the adults.  A____, Nora’s mother, said she wanted to be cremated.  Her husband, P____, agreed.  My answer was a bit different and way more 19th century.  “I want a mausoleum,” I said, “with a bronze pierced doorway that a visitor can look through and there see my bronze coffin raised  on a stone plinth.  On either side of the mausoleum door, I want large weeping angel sculptures with my name chiseled in stone above the doorway.” 

P____ was amused and A____ was horrified.  How could I envision such an ungreen, space hogging, archaic ending for my life.  She said that if I died before her, she would just cremate me anyway.  And I said I would haunt her for all eternity if she went against my wishes.  I know my goddaughter who will be the executor of my will (which will explicitly detail the funding and building of the  mausoleum with all my specifications) will carry out my wishes no matter what her mother says.

According to an eerily accurate psychic that I saw almost 20 years ago, I am supposed to live to the ripe old age of 96 which is fine with me as long as I have my mind.  The year of my death will be 2063.  Nora will be 54 years old. And she will sell all of my antiques and build my mausoleum and I will in a sense live forever.

The year is 2140.  2 young people are touring the cemetery where I am interred in my little house with the weeping angels.  They read my name above the door and Google it with the chip in their brain.  They discover this blog and while picnicking at my eternal front door, they read The Great Within and they are impressed.  They laugh, they cry, they think.  They read this post about my mausoleum and they enjoy a self-reflexive post(post)postmodern moment.

In our discussion of death that night P____, Nora’s father, rightly concluded that after one generation, no one comes to visit your grave anyway and even the generation after you sometimes doesn’t even bother to come.  But, there are always those random visitors to the cemetery and Google and eternal digital life.

One may think it is odd that I am thinking about my death at this moment in my life.  A friend recently described me as “vibrant”- an accurate assessment which is a wonderful feeling after so many difficult years in which I struggled with depression.  Now the right combination of doctors and medicine has given me a new life fostered above all by the presence of my goddaughter, Nora.  When I wrote recently that, “She saved my life”, I was not being dramatic or grandiose.  She really did rescue me from the dark depths.

So, why am I slightly obsessed with my own passing and my own afterlife in a mausoleum?  My desire to have a mausoleum for my remains is half in jest and half (pardon the pun) deadly serious.  Death sucks.  It is not romantic or spiritual; it is dirty and banal and simply a part of life.  And perhaps I want my beautiful mausoleum to counter death’s dirtiness and banality with a small aesthetic jewel that will say with its presence- “I was here, I slogged through all the shit of the world and I survived.”  I am eternal and so is this blog.

And I don’t think you ever get over losing a loved one.  It’s like losing a piece of a jigsaw puzzle.  There are holes and gaps that distort the picture and leave empty spaces in your heart.  You, of course, do move on from loss in death, but only because that is really the only response.

There are several holes in my puzzle- my maternal grandmother Hedwig, my paternal grandmother Anne, my step-grandmother Emma, Aunt Mimi, Aunt and of course more empty spaces will be created as I get older, but we can all take comfort because eventually we will all be together in the splendid, many roomed palace in the sky.

But my body will be in a bronze coffin resting on a plinth in a stone mausoleum with a bronze gated doorway with weeping angels on either side.  Above the door chiseled in stone- “Kelly T Keating 1967-2063. He survived the shit…”

Here are some pictures that are sources of inspiration for the design of my mausoleum:

tombnapoleon3 Tomb of Napoleon at Les Invalides, Paris, France.

canovatombmariachristina2 Cenotaph of Archduchess Maria Christina, Duchess of Teschen (1742-1798) by Antonio Canova, Augustinerkirche, Vienna, Austria.  The Archduchess is actually buried in the Tuscan Vault of the Imperial Crypt in Vienna, along with her husband and daughter, Maria Theresa who only lived one day.

494PX-~1 Maria Christina before she turned to dust at the age of 24 in 1766 by an unknown artist.  She was called "Mimi", was the fourth daughter and fifth child of Maria Theresa of Austria and Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor. She was the Regent (governor) of the Austrian Netherlands in 1781-1793.

Wien_Augustinerkirche_Kenotaph_Maria_Christina_4 Cenotaph of Archduchess Maria Christina detail.

Wien_Augustinerkirche_Kenotaph_Maria_Christina_5 Cenotaph of Archduchess Maria Christina detail.  This angel is what I want for my mausoleum and of course my tomb won’t be empty.  My body will be in a bronze coffin lined with satin, my head on a satin pillow.

henrichapuduchessorleans Henri Chapu, Detail of the Tomb of Helene, the Duchess of Orléans, 1885, marble, life-size, Royal Chapel, Dreux.

heleneduchessoforleans Helene Luise Elisabeth of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Duchess of Orleans (1814–1858) holding her son, Philippe by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1839, oil on canvas, Palace of Versailles.  She was a French Crown Princess after her marriage in 1837 to the eldest son of Louis Philippe I, Ferdinand Philippe of Orléans. She was the mother of the future Count of Paris and Duke of Chartres. Her descendants include the present Count of Paris as well the present-day pretenders to the throne of France and Italy and the kings of Spain and Belgium.

tomblouisxvimariaantoinette Memorial to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette by Edme Gaulle and Pierre Petitot in the Basilica of St. Denis, Paris.

Jacques-Louis_David_-_Marie_Antoinette_on_the_Way_to_the_Guillotine Marie Antoinette on her way to the guillotine by Jacques-Louis David, 1793, pen and ink, Louvre, Paris.

gilberttombdukeclarence Tomb of the Duke of Clarence by Alfred Gilbert, 1892-1899, marble, bronze, aluminum, ivory, Albert Memorial Chapel, Windsor. Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale (Albert Victor Christian Edward; 1864 – 1892) was the eldest son of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) and Alexandra, Princess of Wales (later Queen Alexandra), and the grandson of the reigning monarch, Queen Victoria.

victoralbert Detail of Tomb of The Duke of Clarence.  The angel is made out of aluminum.

mauswoodlawnbronx Mausoleum in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx

mauswoodlawnbronx2 Mausoleum in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx

mauswoodlawnbronx3 Mausoleum in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx

HUJP.PH.21233-3, 9/15/04, 4:52 PM, 16G, 5552x5616 (320+991), 100%, Eakins, 1/100 s, R69.3, G54.8, B77.9 Candy Darling on Her Deathbed by Peter Hujar

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Antique Flâneur and The Petite Flâneuse Stroll Through the City- 9 November 2011 Edition

elephantunionsqGran Elefandret” in Union Square by by the Spanish artist Miquel Barceló.  Made of bronze, it weighs five tons and stands 26 feet tall.

On Wednesday morning 9 November 2011 at 9am I was receiving the delivery of my new (and by new I mean new to me, but old to everyone else, probably 1930’s in date) walnut bookcase to be placed in my bedroom.  The giant 7 foot tall bookcase in the drawing room has been overflowing with books for months now and there was simply no place to put a new title- a condition that to me was unacceptable.  Without new books one stagnates.

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I found my bookcase in Long Valley, New Jersey.  It is not only beautiful with its 3 glasses doors with wood tracery, but it will hold many books and will hopefully for awhile contend with my literary overflow.  What will happen when this bookcase is filled is anybody’s guess.

Until I need it. I decided that the center area of the bookcase will be dedicated to the display of  objets d’art which as you know dear readers I have plenty of things tucked away in cabinets far from the light of day ready to have their moment.  Stay tuned.

Since I had the delivery at 9, I was going to take care of my goddaughter for the day starting at 10.  I met her and her mother in Union Square where A____, her mother and my non-blood sister, had a meeting.  From Union Square Nora and I set out for Bryant Park to ride Le Carrousel.  What follows is what we saw along the way…what an adventure…

We first saw the giant bronze elephant standing in great defiance of gravity on its trunk in Union Square.  Nora was thrilled by the site of it and I must admit so was I.  It is a wonderful and whimsical piece of urban public art.

From Union Square, we headed up Broadway and stopped in at ABC Home where we were dazzled by the sparkling Christmas display.  Of course, my favorite ornament there was a blown glass polar bear.  I should be a polar bear, but it’s impossible…

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On our way up Broadway, I noticed some lovely architectural details on a building around 18th or 19th.

cartouchebdwy A corner embellishment with a blank cartouche.

bellflowersdetbdwy A neoclassical bell flower motif around a doorway.  It reminded me of the “Medallion” teapot by Reed & Barton also with bell flowers, circa 1865-68 in my collection.

P1000294 Neoclassical “Medallion” silverplate teapot by Reed & Barton, circa 1865-1868.

P1010326 Bellflower detail on Medallion pot.

Our next stop was Design Within Reach.  I must admit that I was a little out of my element here, me being a 19th century kind of fella, but I could certainly appreciate all of the fab pieces in the store.

resinstringchandelierdwr Chandeliers made out of resin.

ghostchair Ghost chair.  I find these chairs really appealing and there is part of me that would like one for my drawing room.

silveredwoodtable Side table made of wood dipped in pure silver.  Gorgeous and pricey.

After Design Within Reach, Nora and I stopped into Restoration Hardware as I wanted to look at their Christmas ornaments.  Don’t go- their Christmas stuff is sh*t.  I did however like:

restorhardbirdcagechan Giant birdcage chandelier- wacky and makes you feel like you are living in a dollhouse.

restorhardwingchair Mannerist Wing Chairs- Expensive distortion of a classic.

restorhardthrow Faux fur throw- I should be a polar bear, but it’s impossible…

The highlight of our trip to Bryant Park was a stop at the Showplace Antique Center.  On our way there we passed this intricate gate.

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bearrug If only the drawing room had a fireplace…

brasselephant Nicely priced brass elephant.  It would be fab as a centerpiece on a glass dining table with a pair of chandeliers and this trumpeter in the center.

duckheadbench Brass duck head detail on red metal bench.

duckheadchairs More duck heads on metal harp/shield back black chairs.  These chairs really appealed to me.

giantporcat Anyone need a giant porcelain cat for the living room?

zebrastool Nora really liked this zebra footstool.  Elvis Presley jungle room anyone?

sphinxgarden Stone garden Sphinx.

skybridgeover32st Sky bridge over 32nd Street.  Still think these would make fab apartments.

Finally, Nora and I arrived at Bryant Park and headed to Le Carrousel.  When we boarded the ride, “Je ne regrette rien” sung by Edith Piaf was playing.  Soundtrack of my life…Nora decided to ride the lone frog instead of a horse.

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I stood next to her, so she would not fall off the amphibian.  The ride started and it goes a bit fast for little kids and even me.  Nora became scared and since we were the only people on the ride, I made the operator stop it.  (Well, even if it was full of people, I would have made him stop it.  What my goddaughter wants, my goddaughter gets.)  So, we moved to the sedate bench decorated with peacock feathers and enjoyed the rest of the merry-go-round.

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Bryant Park has a wonderful French feeling and that day it was teeming with cute boys- office drones let out for lunch.  Delicious.  Our last stop before heading back downtown was the Library lions on Fifth Avenue.  Nora thought they were fab and growled her approval.

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