a way to begin
this photo is why the subtitle for this blog is ‘i do nothing’. I love this photo. somewhere, taped into a sketchbook or scrapbook or journal, i have a reproduction of this photo which i clipped, i now realise, from the pages of vogue magazine. the photo was published in vogue sometime in 1992. in 1992, i lived in a fantastic apartment in a building called the grandview, on eastlake avenue on the edge of downtown seattle. the grandview was between a tavern, the lobo inn; and a club, the offramp. i spent a lot of time in both places. the lobo’s bartender was called bob, the beer was desperately cheap, there was a pool table and not much else in the room. i think you could get a microwave burrito if you were hungry. one night at the offramp, i can’t remember who was performing, i heard one of the greatest exchanges between a man and a woman that i have ever heard. he: that’s a nice dress. she: it’s not a dress, it’s hot pants. i’m not entirely sure how long i lived at the grandview. a couple of years, maybe three. most of the time i was there, a party was taking place. many of the residents were friends, and the way i remember it, we just took turns hosting the party, which floated gently from apartment to apartment, on streams of red wine and beer and whisky. there was a soap operatic quality to living there as well. i had a massive, unrequited crush on my neighbour down the hall, only to find out years after i’d moved away, that her best friend, who was my upstairs neighbour, had at the time harboured similar, and similarly unrequited, feelings for me. i managed, while all that was going on, to have a brief encounter with yet another of my neighbours. it started very well, but ended rather badly. i was young, and lacked grace. i had a roommate who would get drunk and play the accordion to pogues records. i had two roommates, a couple, with whom, for about a month, i did nothing but drink tea, smoke cigarettes and solve crossword puzzles. two cats lived in that apartment with me (and my first, and longest serving roommate, a man i’m pleased to say is still my friend, even though sharing a domestic space tested the patience of us both), and one of those cats is still alive, 21 years later, living with a friend whose sister was my upstairs neighbour. behind the building stands a small russian orthodox church that i visited on a class trip when i was in high school. behind the building raccoons would appear in the middle of the night (and may still), to scrounge in the dumpster where we left our bags of rubbish.
at the time, i liked to cut pictures out of fashion magazines (any magazines, really, but i did like fashion magazines particularly), to use in making collages, or for ideas, or because the pictures turned me on. luckily, one of my neighbours subscribed to or bought several such magazines every month, and periodically a box of back issues would appear in the front hall of the building. my apartment was on the ground floor, at the front of the building, and those boxes of magazines almost always found their way into my living room. that’s probably how i came across this photo of quentin crisp. it’s a great photograph. the hat he’s wearing looks ridiculous on his head. he looks aloof, nonchalant, vague (looking vague – for more vague thought about looking vague, visit the blog i share with my brother), and yet there seems to be a confidence, almost a challenge, in the way he holds this card that states, unequivocally, ‘i do nothing’. it’s a manifesto. for some reason, it resonated with me then, and still does. it’s not that i want, literally, to do nothing. i’m not actually very good at being completely idle. not for any length of time, anyway. and quentin crisp, despite his declaration, didn’t do nothing, he did a great deal. it’s more about an attitude, a way of thinking about oneself, one’s place in the world, or one’s response to the world, or maybe, the response the world has to you and your activities. recently, in a heated discussion about politics, when i mentioned that i am an artist, the response was ‘well mr. artist, maybe you should get up off the sofa and go get a real job’, or something along those lines. so, clearly, some people (thankfully i know very few of them), are already predisposed to view what i do as nothing. why disappoint them? in my high school yearbook, i wrote something embarrassing about searching for the perfect wave and the endless summer. it was my intention, then, to go to southern california and use being in college as the pretext to spending my time on the beach and smoking marijuana. i was an idiot. however, in that youthful statement of intent that now seems so silly, there must have been some modicum of truth to materials, some small part of me that understood itself, because i now see a line that runs from it, through my attraction to this photo, through my favourite poem – shiftless, by raymond carver, and so on. perhaps it’s not so much about literally ‘doing nothing’, but more about not doing what’s expected. also, i have always liked pictures of odd celebrities.
that seems to be the story of why this blog is subtitled ‘i do nothing’. i welcome comment, discussion and debate about this and all material on this site. i found the picture of quentin crisp here.