Friday, March 07, 2003

The obituary is truthful but condescending. Roberta Smith in The Times.

Of the many refugees from the moralizing hypocrisy of the middle classes, more than a few have found employment and comfort over the centuries as the playthings of the rich. From its beginnings there have been two critiques of capitalist democracy, from the left and right, but recently we've tended to fade one into the other. Earnest naiveté is still prized over self-awareness, and it's certainly less bruising to the ego, at least until you're pulled up short. Americans remain a people of faith, if only in themselves.

Colin De Land was almost pathologically honest, which is not to say he always paid his debts. No man I've ever met was more convinced of the emptiness of desire, or greed of any sort, while being so capable of indulging (or wanting to). If Europe recently could still give us the self-destructive artist as painter instead of pop star, only the United States, which has no end of pop stars, could give him to us as a gallery owner.

I wrote this a few weeks ago. It will have to do for now:
The guy running the job didn't show up this morning and nobody else had keys, so after waiting in the cold for almost an hour we went to a coffee shop to wait some more and read the papers. Between phone calls to the turned off cell phone of our employer we had a lot of time to waste. The East German is so disgusted by what's going on with Iraq that he's thinking of becoming a Communist. Larry from Barbados told us that if you're deep sea fishing in the Islands and catch a marlin you have to cut off the spike before you get ashore or you risk 9 months on a weapons charge. Mike said that his parents had been hippies and that they had taken him to Woodstock as an infant and had lost him in the crowd. They were reunited after someone asked Country Joe McDonald to make an announcement from the stage: "Hey, Anybody lose a baby!?" It's in the movie.

We split up. Mike went to Bed Bath and Beyond to buy a toaster. Larry, The German and I went to the Apple store. After an hour or so we walked back to the job and met up with Mike again. No one was at the site so we went back to the coffee shop and had lunch. Then we went back to the job again, with no luck, and called it. Mike and I walked north to the subway where we said goodbye and I continued up to Chelsea to see a few galleries and get up the nerve to visit a friend of mine who is dying of cancer. They sent him home from the hospital last week. He'll be dead in a few days.

I went to Colin's gallery and phoned his house to see if it was a good time and if I should bring anything for anybody who was there. Jack picked up the phone and said they didn't need anything, and that I should just come by. I walked the two blocks to the apartment building, took the elevator to the 10th floor, walked down the hallway and knocked lightly on the door. There was a sticker on the door jamb, it said: "Stop the War Machine." Jack was there with a caregiver, Taka, and Spencer. I spent a few minutes with Colin by his bedside. It was hard. It was the first time I've ever been on a death watch. I stroked his hair and held his hand, then went to talk to Jack in the living room. The caregiver was watching TV. I said it wasn't easy for me, but I knew Jack had been through this before. He laughed. The phone rang and he went to pick it up.

I went back into the bedroom and saw a blond girl in a beret sitting on the bed next to Colin. I didn't recognize her but I figured she was a friend of Kembra. She looked a bit like a stripper. Her name was Amanda but (she said) Colin called her Peaches. Amanda and I talked for a while, each holding one of Colin's hands, trying to give him something to be aware of other than pain. He spends most of his time doubled up. He's lost a lot of weight and his skin is yellow green; his liver is finally giving out. Amanda got some ice cream and I spooned small amounts into his mouth. Amanda said, with mock disdain: "I guess... vanilla is your favorite flavor."

Taka was sitting on the floor with a laptop and a digital camera collecting images for the gallery archive. Jack came back in the room and asked Spencer about pain medication; he was curious about some suppositories he'd found. Taka looked up from the computer: "Oh.. those are great" We looked at Taka. " No... really" Jack smiled and offered to administer them to whomever might be interested.
Before I left there were a few more visitors. Amanda thought Colin might like to watch a movie. I thought he could at least listen to one. "What do we have?" she asked. Spencer picked up a video box with a photograph on the cover of a woman being taken from behind. It was Jane Birkin, and Serge Gainsbourg, based on his most famous song. "We have the sex film." Amanda was curled up, smiling and looking somewhat kittenish, next to Colin on the bed.