I’m writing in a closet right now. We just moved our family into town and away from the bucolic bullshit associated with our last pastoral setting because we needed to be here. We found a place that will allow us to save tons of money and the kids are closer to all of their incessant activities. It’s a win/win. But this new place doesn’t have an office. Just three bedrooms and two bathrooms and a huge open concept living area and a beautiful sun room and this enormous walk-in closet which is now my office. I’m surrounded by cheery wood accented shelving and my wife’s clothes. I’m typing amongst the flotsam of a hectic weekend move and I love it in here. I’ve got white noise and privacy which is perfect. But this doesn’t have anything to do with the piece I’m writing this week; I just thought it’d be nice to let you know where I’m sitting.
The desert to the south of here is populated by a strange people who don’t care about architectural art. Their city is plagued with strip malls and poll barns and other forms of utilitarian structures that are designed for one purpose: to make money. They’ve got national chain restaurants and sporting goods stores with huge flashing signs that illuminate their thoroughfares with the conspicuous light of consumption. It’s a bit depressing. But it’s different up here in Durango. Sure, there’s a Walmart and McDonald’s, but they don’t look like they do in other towns. Their buildings blend in with the trees and cliffs because they were painted in earth tones, and they were disallowed from constructing ten thousand foot tall signs proclaiming their existence. You see, we have ordinances, and these ordinances place beauty and value above profiteering and utility. It’s frickin’ awesome. Our buildings are constructed, for the most part, with aesthetics trumping the paradigm of “quick and easy.” And we’ve got art everywhere you look. There are mosaic sculptures of mountain lions prowling the sidewalks. There’s a bronze sculpture of Shakespeare’s “Puck” dancing over on 8th avenue. He’s shirtless and prancing in place. He’s displaying his ferrous form unabashedly for all to see. But then there’s the one piece of art that pisses off everyone. This one:
It’s okay I guess. To me, it looks like a T-Rex had sex with a banana who then had sex with a moustache. The baby from this three parent love triangle sits at the intersection of 550 and 160. But the reason people don’t like this inbred abomination has nothing to do with its parentage; they hate it because the city of Durango bought the “sculpture” from an artist in California (there’s nothing wrong with Californians, it’s just that we have plenty of local artists who should’ve been paid instead). As you’ll remember from last week’s post, even the assholes in Durango are saints. So when they protest this T-Rex/banana/moustache by way of vandalism, they do so with taste. It gets a large dinosaur head on Halloween. It gets a Santa hat on Christmas or an oversized mortar board and tassel around graduation. Someone made to miniature versions of the statue and put them at its feet as if it had babies. It’s always something, and the city has been getting pissed. But frankly, they can suck it. The people who they’ve labeled as vandals are creating through their humor a tradition. They’re making Durangan this Californian addition, and I love it.
I drove by that perfect little church on Third about two weeks ago and I watched a bride, all smiles and white lace, walk across a verdant lawn dappled with shade from antique elms. She was happy and so was her retinue. It looked like one of those perfect weddings, you know, like a dream fulfilled, and I smiled. A few days later, I noticed a wedding veil hanging from the T-Rex/banana/moustache and I smiled again (and took a picture for this blog). I just wanted to take a moment and congratulate that smiling stranger from a couple weeks ago, and I wanted to thank her for her addition to our dubitable sculpture.
I’m sure a few of you have noticed that I’ve gotten off my ass and started posting once a week to this blog. Usually, my barren wasteland of a blog is updated every three months or so in a haphazard attempt to battle back with nonsense the virtual tumble weeds that plague my writing. But now, I’m back in school, and we’re required to post weekly; my assignments are the stones I throw to kill simultaneously my scholastic requirements and the few requests I receive for more blog entries. And now, we’ve been asked to include in our week’s entry a poll for you to take. First, I’d like you to read last week’s post here: https://thevelveteenmaraca.wordpress.com/2015/06/20/duranggiti/ and then, please be brutally honest:
Did you know that the scientific name for a flying squirrel is “assapanick?” It’s pronounced exactly how it’s spelled. Isn’t it crazy that we continue to call the flying squirrel (which doesn’t fly) by its common name when its scientific name is so badass?
<noscript><a href=”http://polldaddy.com/poll/8944475/”>I hereby decree that we abandon the common name for this beloved tree ninja and start calling it by its true name: Assapanick. Do you agree?</a></noscript>
People who walk around carrying cans of spray-paint give far too much credit to the word “fuck;” there really isn’t much shock value left to the good ol’ F-bomb. But you still see it everywhere, spray-painted in red or black with little rivulets of paint running down from the letters as if they’re bleeding profanity. At one point, I’m sure the word caused people to take notice with a sharply indrawn breath. “Dear lord Betsy, look at what some cretin has scrawled on the wall!” But now, we look past such markings. Our brains construct little blind spots wherever “fuck” is spray-painted on something and we look elsewhere. We start to ignore all the graffiti around us, even that which is F-bomb free, and maybe that’s why it took me so long to realize that here in Durango, the graffiti is of a different sort. It’s positive and tasteful and perfectly Durangan.
Some of it is banal like these stenciled storm troopers over by the Mongolian Grill:
Some of it borders on the transcendental like this bit of advice that can be found on the bridge by Animas Brewing:
But some of it is perfect, like this simple message that’s written on the dumpster over by Durango Taxi:
I’m sure a woman wrote that message. There’s too much femininity in the curvature of the “ay” for it to be written by a man. I see this dumpster every time I pick up my daughter from Stillwater (that’s her on the lid), and every time, I smile. Graffiti found elsewhere is meant to stir up a bit of visceral offense. The people who make it wear on their faces smug smirks that say “fuck ‘em” while the spray paint hisses. They’re mean little bastards who don’t care about the average passerby. And that’s the difference between here and there. Whoever wrote “you’re okay” cared about whoever might read it. Hell, they even knew their homonyms and took the time to spell out “okay” as opposed to using the bastardized version. There are those who’d argue that only assholes partake in graffiti. That might be true, but if it is, it only proves that even the assholes in Durango are great people, and that’s why I love it here.
My eldest daughter almost talked me into adopting a one-eyed cat. He was the type of creature that could only be loved by someone benevolent like my child. I said no, but if I would’ve said yes, he would’ve been named One Eyed Willie, because as a Goonies fan, it would’ve been the axiomatic choice. HEYYYYY YOOOOOU GUUUUUYS!
One Eyed Willie was one of the cats up for adoption at the Humane Society over by Walmart. We take our daughters there by way of bribery if they’re patient while the wife and I peruse the thrift shop next door. We walk in and battle back the ambient barks and meows with an affable hello to the girls up front. There’s a transparent box on their desk for donations. I always put in a five. And I make sure they see me do it, kind of like we all do when tipping at a coffee shop. That way, they know I’m not just stopping by to let my children harass their kittens. But like I said, the kittens only have to deal with the harassment if my children let me and the wife shop.
Just like a Goony, I feel like a treasure hunter at the thrift shop. Once, I found a cutting board with a big “J” on it. I have an extensive collection of German steins thanks to the thrift shop. I even found a framed copy of “The Irresistible Waltz” by Vivaudou. I paid twelve bucks, but I’m pretty sure it’s worth fifteen trillion. The wife is more pragmatic in her shopping. She usually buys clothes which she wears for a few months before dropping them back off as a donation. We both have our routines. We walk in, give each other a high-five, and then split up like a football team after the huddle. Or at least, we used to. Now we walk in together and find the mannequin with a moustache to see Carla’s latest “work.” Carla is the ridiculously nice woman at the checkout counter.
Here’s her first installment; I’d say this is an obvious protest against bourgeois consumption and its effects on the next generation:
This one besmirches nudity and our misplaced idolism:
This one is just a nice cross-dresser standing next to a chicken and holding some GMO broccoli:
Would you believe that someone actually complained because of this last one? Apparently, someone took a break from their thrift shopping to gripe about the fact that a male mannequin was garbed in a dress. For fuck’s sake; art critics piss me off. And despite my sarcastic tone, that’s exactly what Carla is doing. She’s making art. Sure, it’s a bit ironic that a mannequin is being treated inhumanly at a thrift shop benefiting the Humane Society, but whatever. I think it’s awesome. Art is one of those things that just pops up at times. Carla’s efforts should be applauded despite the fact that she’s blurring the gender lines associated with an already androgynous mannequin. And that’s why I sat down to write this. So… dear Carla, as a long time and avid patron of your thrift shop, I’d like to say thank you for the smiles.