On a Sunday: or, ‘anticipation’

Robert was cutting out sideshow freaks from an oversized paperback on Tod Browning. Hermaphrodites, pinheads, and Siamese twins were scattered everywhere. It threw me, for I couldn’t see a connection between these images and Robert’s recent preoccupation with magic and religion.
As always, I found ways to keep in step with him through my own drawing and poems. I drew circus characters and told stories about them, of Hagen Waker the nocturnal tightrope walker, Balthazar the Donkey-Faced Boy, and Aratha Kelly with his moon-shaped head. Robert had no more explanation of why he was drawn to freaks than I had in creating them.
iI was in that spirit that we would go to Coney Island to visit the sideshows. We had looked for Hubert’s on Forty-Second Street, which had featured Snake Princess Wago and a flea circus, but it had closed in 1965. We did find a small museum that had body parts and human embryos in specimen jars, and Robert got fixated on the idea of using something of that sort in an assemblage. He asked around where he might find something of that sort, and a friend told him about the ruins of the old City Hospital on Welfare (later Roosevelt) Island.

On a Sunday we traveled there with our friends from Pratt. There were two points on the island that we visited. The first was a sprawling nineteenth century building that had the aura of a madhouse; it was the smallpox hospital., the first place in America to receive victims of contagion. Separated only by barbed wire and broken glass, we imagined dying of leprosy and the plague.

The other ruins were what were left of the old City Hospital, with its forbidding institutional architecture, finally to be demolished in 1994 [Ocean Beach]. When we entered it, we were struck by the silence and an odd medicinal smell. We went from room to room and saw shelves of medical specimens in their glass jars. Many were broken, vandalized by visiting rodents. Robert combed each room until he found what he was looking for , an embryo swimming in formaldehyde within a womb of glass.

We all had to agree that Robert would most likely make great use of it. He clutched the precious find on his journey home. Even in his silence, I could feel his excitement and anticipation, imagining how he could make it work as art.

b/w
Miscellaneous prize fight still footage

and1: speaking of which I look fairly pinhead-ish as I watch fireworks over Stanford Stadium last night after the San Jose Earthquakes defeated Los Angeles Galaxy 3-0 — I liked the Georgian guy, number 11.

Or, as David Shields says, when I write about Mark Kozelek or Robert Mapplethorpe I am writing about Mark Weiss


This is actually a potential introduction for a Sun Kil Moon show proposed for September 27 at The Mitch in light of his “The Opener” story on the Donny McCaslin record; it recounts a show in Tampa in which the promoter and his buddies make life even more difficult for our hero; we can do better. That is, I might just read this — which only references Sun Kil Moon in that I name drop a contemporanous recording, Ocean Beach. And I segue from the line “turn this into art” by saying “Please give an Earthwise Palo Alto The Mitch welcome to Sun Kil Moon” It’s exactly 3 min: Three Kil Mins.

About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player; he also sang in local choir, and fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32
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