Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Temptations - Smiling Faces Sometimes

The Temptations - Smiling Faces Sometimes

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One of the most grand productions by Normal Whitfield (1940-2008), the high priest of long-form psychedelic soul, one of Motown's legendary greats, also responsible for such testaments to human creativity as "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" and "Papa Was a Rolling Stone." 

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By way of a prologue I can only say that I hope the lyrics of this song and the anecdotes I want to pass to you are related only by having nothing in common with each other. That is, I would sincerely have many fingers crossed that all the smiling faces met were actually telling the truth, and that they don't tell lies, of which I have proof.

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 Ultimately it seems that the protagonist of yesterday's course of events was not me, but new york city, the new york city of december 2008. I was there to mark the path of time, remaining aware of how uniquely NYC dec 2008 every plot turn and twist was, every intersection of people and places, actions and thoughts, dreams and obstacles.

 1. During the day I served as a model at a stock photo shoot, the photographer of which is a friend of mine who is talented, dedicated and clearly relishes his work, as does his art director, a warm person and inventive collaborator, whose husband drums in a popular dance-rock outfit. The shoot was held in the tin-ceiling’d, exposed-brick loft space of a couple who owns now two stores specializing in fine Scandanavian wares. Near 11am, two of my fellow models, a mother-daughter team, became so entangled in an edgy emotional meltdown that the husband was called and the two were evacuated.  The sustained burst of histrionics as well as the sudden departure of both their adult female model and child model was a very rough curveball in my friends’ plans, fortunately, my friend D, a recent transplant from Denver, was available on ultra short-notice, and served as a gracious and spritely replacement, her warmth and ease a welcome relief from the affectations of her haughty, ill-tempered predecessor.

 2. In the early evening I visited J, one of my oldest friends, at his new residence in Brooklyn Heights, we hung out with craig on the rooftop that beheld a great vision of New York, where the sleek neon menace of manhattan skyscrapers beamed down over that remarkable cluster of Sleepy-Hollow style residences that sits just south of the Brooklyn Bridge.  I had to think that my friend’s new digs were a fine step at a time of great personal change; it was clear that the new scene would allow him to re-affirm his love of NYC and the bold explorations it welcomes.

 3. We made our way to a party in honor of the birthdays of P & E, two beloved, gregarious charmers, held at the China Chalet in the financial district. Wall Street at the hour of 12am betwen Friday and Saturday is unquestionably spectral. The bank institution edifices stare unceasingly at passersby, their interiors, full of dreamlike roman columns and impossibly large, low-hanging chandeliers, all seem the elements of some temple left abandoned but wholly intact, their symbols and sacraments having since become indecipherable. It's like a Dario Argento movie filmed in Tokyo. On the way he said that getting roundly fucked up was useful in those moments when you felt your whole self freeze, like an overworked computer, and you needed nothing more than a cleansing reset.

 4. The China Chalet, you may be surprised to learn, has nothing to do with a chalet, unless the traditional Chinese understanding of the term means “a very long series of rooms perfunctorily and tackily furnished, akin to a Chuck E Cheese for grown-ups, that is, minus the pizza and plastic ball-pit but with booze and a dancefloor.” In any case this set-up seems fantastically well-suited for tremendous outpourings of randy, booze-fuelled mirth and late-night affection, such as those in full force last night during what by all indications was a heavy banger. As I left I paused to watch the owner, a garrulous Chinaman, fend off a small group of cops who had gathered in the entranceway, seemingly displeased by the sheer volume of rowdy attendees. He stood on a chair and fussed clumsily with the “maxium attendance” sign while rebuffing the policemen’s accusations.

5. My good friend S, a fashion designer, was there, dressed flawlessly, it was rightly said to her in passing, as a 90's ballerina teacher. Later, while pumping my fist to a song I’d never heard before, I was entertained to watch her receive the advances of a particularly fervently-gyrating blonde gentleman. I reflected that the best course of action when figuring out how to dance is to move as if the song’s rhythm is a limber, muscular equestrian bucking in time between your legs. This is not at all the preferred method of the fervent blonde, who preferred outrageous, heaven-aimed hand gestures and bursts of deep grindage.

6. Enthused on the floor, my Glacial Lakes partner J correctly text-spotted: it was in fact "I Believe in Miracles" by The Jackson Sisters that played at wonderfully deafening volume while I was at the bar, trying with great vanity to order heinekens from the stunningly oblivious middle-aged bartender. 

 7. Severe dancefloor rowdiness ensued, a grinding sea, when during a fiery re-edit of James Brown’s “There Was A Time,” the speakers seemed to fume smoke like from the nostrils of some Oriental beast.

 8. Around 2am I met J & V, two lively bosom buddies, near the coat check. One urged us to slap her red-denimed ass while the other searched in vain for a red bull or some substitute. I theorized to this pair that the dark secret between them was perhaps in fact that V was truly the bad one, and J truly the good one. V answered that the reason she had no tattoos was she had never found one bad enough, which caused J to expound on what such a perfectly vulgar image might consist of. 

9. If I were ever struck by the desire to scrap this blog and start a new, non-music themed one in its place, I would start a blog about politesse. I obsessively read advice columns. Dan Savage, of course. Between Dear Prudence and Cary Tennis, who warrant comparison by virtue of both writing for a different website with a 5-letter name that begins with S, I love Prudence for her no-nonsense tenacity and abhor Cary for his smarmy, limp-wristed, self-indulgent healing talk. Prudence's answers are rarely longer than a full paragraph, Cary's rarely less than a turgid several pages. Prudence often restrains her advice to comments which mean in essence "you need to shut the f*ck up and get over yourself." While Cary's lean towards "I hear your pain. I want you to turn your computer off and go. Go outside, go into the world. Smell a flower. Listen to an old blues song. Pause to watch a bird cut a sublime path through the endless blue sky. Love yourself. etc." 

In this case, politesse is extra important today when social mores have become diffuse, unpredictable, unspoken. Above all these mores have been and always will be mostly about how boys and girls* should handle each other. When Lacan famously said "there is no sexual rapport," he meant, there is no -one- sexual rapport. No instructions or rules for behavior can ever bridge the drafty void that exists between boys and girls, and this fact makes us want all the more furiously to attempt to.  For example, in my own case, I refrain from making advances on someone I genuinely like if it appears that alcohol or other factors may be interfering with their faculties. It seems disingenuous to my own inner sentiments, disrepectful to them, and to myself, as I don't particularly relish the thought of filling the role of 'guy who is standing right there when you're inebriated and looking to score.' This is merely my own psychological limitation, if it can be called a limitation: whether in work or in love, I only proceed forward on the strength of my certainty, and where this strength is lacking, there you will find me in calculated repose.

 *I mean here also 'girls and girls' 'boys and boys' or what have you. I mean simply 'two people who want to hit it.'

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