Hello, Everybody—Nice seeing you again.
A couple of months ago, Sluggo and I drove down to Washington D.C. for the big DADA show at the National Gallery. Even though it was scheduled to come to MOMA (and it’s there now), we figured it was easier to drive 500 miles roundtrip with a Boston Terrier and stay in a smelly, cheap tourist hotel than try to see art at a big MOMA show.
To get from New York to Washington, you have to drive through Maryland. They should have put a rest stop on their state quarter, because they definitely have the best highway rest stops anywhere, all clean and fancy. My favorite thing is the Maryland rest stop penny machines. I love penny machines: They’re so low-tech, and so satisfying. You put in a penny—and also two quarters—and turn a big crank, and the machine keeps your fifty cents but it gives you back your penny, all squashed with a design pressed into it. The designs are usually the state bird, or the state capital building, or something like that. But at Maryland rest stops you can get the FRANK ZAPPA PENNY.
Here it is. I guess Frank Zappa was born in Baltimore. I didn’t know that. The only famous person I ever knew of from Baltimore was John Waters. Someday I will get a squashed John Waters penny, and my life will be complete.
It was on this trip that I found another reason to hate the Patriot Act. The day before we left for Washington I came down with the worst sore throat and bad headcold that I’ve had in years. I was chugging Airborne, sucking on Cold-Ease drops, and gulping down Dayquil and Nyquill the whole way. Okay, here’s the thing about that: Because the rest of the country is addicted to crystal meth, the latest version of the Patriot Act, signed by George W. this past March, included a section called the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 that restricts the sale of over-the-counter products that contain pseudoephedrine. I guess it’s a good idea. (I saw a TV show about how cutting the supply of pseudoephedrine directly correlates with a reduction in the rate of meth addiction, and I wish I could give you a link to it but I forget what it was called.)
Anyway, since this federal law went into effect, the big drug companies have the option of either putting their products behind the counter or changing the formulas. I guess Dayquil and Nyquil changed their formulas, ’cause you can still buy them right off the shelves but they don’t work worth a darn. Once you give up on the natural stuff and go to icky pharmaceuticals, you expect them at least to make you feel better, but Dayquil and Nyquil are both useless now. I spent the whole trip sniffling and coughing and feeling like crap, and I blame the Patriot Act. I can’t get a cold medicine that works, but congressmen like Patrick Kennedy can get any drug they want.
Here’s another thing the federal government has done that I didn’t know about before: They made a deal with the cable TV network Showtime to give them the rights to all the documentary film archives in the Smithsonian. No kidding. If an independent filmmaker wants to use material from the archives that used to belong to the citizens of this country, they have to be working for the Showtime on Demand digital cable channel that only twelve people will ever see. The Washington Post article about this deal quotes some person whose title is “vice president for media services at Smithsonian Business Ventures.” IT’S NOT SUPPOSED TO BE A BUSINESS VENTURE, IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE A NATIONAL ARCHIVE. The government has sold our birthright for a mess of pottage.
By the time we got to D.C., not even the Chinese-American Waffle House could cheer me up very much. That’s when I knew I was really sick. But the Dada show turned out to be totally worth the trip. We wandered into the National Gallery on Sunday afternoon just in time to hear a long selection from Ballet Mechanique played on reconstructions of the original instruments. There were plenty of other audio moments in the show, too: Most of the galleries had smaller anterooms featuring recordings of sound poetry, as well as Dada films and documentaries of Dada performance pieces. Instead of being strictly chronological, the show was organized by cities—Zurich, Berlin, Hannover, Köln, New York, Paris—to trace the growth and development of the Dada movement. This allowed one to see that everything was pretty much Kurt Schwitters’ fault. The biggest revelation, for me, was the work of Sophie Taeuber. We especially loved her marionettes, of course, but her Dada needlepoint work was SO far ahead of its time, and you could really see how much she influenced Hans Arp, and how that influence spread out over time to others. It’s a great show.
Seeing the Dada exhibit in the National Gallery really was much more
pleasant than seeing a show at MOMA. We were at a big, blockbuster show
on a Sunday afternoon during the last couple of weeks, and just walked
right in—there was no line at all. (And admission is free, versus $20
apiece at MOMA.) The galleries were busyish, but not jammed with those
lock-step “audio tour” people, so you could actually see the art, and
go back a couple of galleries if you wanted to look at something again.
We spent hours and hours looking at art, watching the films, and
discussing what we saw, instead of spending hours and hours standing in
a line outside, waiting to get in. I’m sorry you don’t have that
option, but I still think you should see this exhibit, because you’ll
probably never have the chance to see anything like it again. It’s at
MOMA through September 11.
Thanks for reading my blog post this time, and may God bless.