Wednesday, March 29, 2017

When Stories Begin To Write Themselves at 12:18 AM

This story was motivated by my beginning the reading of Krista Tippit's: Becoming wise: An inquiry into the mystery and art of living, which was a birthday gift from friends Jan and Jerome. (I believe that Tippit's writing is a little more profound than mine but I enjoyed the adventure!)

• • • • •

Even in the bathroom the stories of life unfold and are explained in ways that do not reveal themselves unless looked for or at times asked about.

In that dungeon or that palace, called the bathroom, where we participate in the most basic of bodily functions as well as in fixing the beauty with which we would like to perceive of self, the magical stories of our life can flourish.

We cleanse, purify, and beautify but we also eliminate, pass gas, belch, and at times with illness vomit our insides out.

A look in the mirror can reply, "How beautiful," or "How old and ugly!" We look in the mirror and shift our glaze slightly left, then slightly right until we fix just the image of ourself we want to hold, then leave the mirror behind and carry that image with us, for better or worse,  throughout the day. And this is only one of our stories. But if you look more deeply, even in the bathroom things of your life can tell their stories.

What does the oversized digital clock on the wall over the sink tell me besides the time? Is it reminding me that all things pass, that all things change, and that one day I too will be gone as is my beloved Gregory? Some would say it's just a way of being on time, not keeping someone waiting, not missing an appointment. But that tells a story as well in a different way, doesn't it? 

The $200 Simply Human Magnifying Mirror hanging on the wall next to the large mirror allows me to visit, with accuracy, the pores of my face and attend to them as necessary. It also allows the errant eyelash to be found and washed to safety. Are these activities of vanity or necessity or both. $200? Sounds like an expensive venture, but hell at 72 years of age at least I can see what I'm looking for!

Over the toilet on the wall is yet more of my Asian collection, the majority of which is now at Michael's Museum: A Curious Collection of Tiny Treasures, now a permanent exhibit at Chicago children's museum since 2011.

There are three beautiful framed collages done by an older woman named Jo Nelson. Joe and her husband Bill bring her artwork to Evanston each year to show at the art fair which takes place just outside the front door of my condo.

Her pieces are gorgeous, well constructed of many small things, many of which are not only beautiful but also precious: for example the Mud Jade Buddha that is delicately mounted sitting on a wooden platform which is sawed in half and glued to the center of one of the pieces.

When discussing her art, Jo admits she has never been to China or Japan and has no interest in the people, the country, or the history. She just has been attracted to Asian items since she was a little girl and has amassed a vast trove of wonderful pieces which she enjoys weaving into visual feasts.

Surrounding Jo's artwork, neatly spaced to the left and the right are six smaller black shelves, each holding a multi colored ceramic temple or pagota with tiny ceramic mud people artistically placed sitting next to each one. On two longer black shelves, above and below Jo's pieces, are displayed Foo Dogs, Chinese dragons, an iron incense pot, several Asian sculptures, and a Japanese triptych folding screen with a hand painted scene on silk.

I'm not sure of the story that these items tell, short of their being miniatures. Perhaps it's the beauty and spirituality which is so artistically expressed by the Asian peoples. Perhaps it relates to the Buddhist nature that helps define these cultures and most recently has become part of my life as well. 

Hanging, twirling from the HVAC vent running across the back of the bathroom are two mobile units, purchased at the Chicago Museum of Modern Art, each holding12 postcards. Each post card artistically pictures a male nude, some current day photographs and some from vintage times. The men are beautiful or handsome or ruggedly ugly. Their bodies definitely buff. While they are not behaving sexually they certainly suggest sexuality. I'll let you revisit the story that you most likely know they tell about my life :-)

There are three framed large posters in the tub alcove dealing in order with Joseph Cornell, John Lennon, and Madama Butterfly.

The Joseph Cornell poster is from a show of his work, 1903–1972, which took place at the Menil collection in 1997. The Menil Museum is in Houston where Gregory and I visited on a Texas junket to my family who live in Fort Worth. Joseph Cornell's work, done by this non-artist in his garage workshop in the house where he lived with his mother, creates from found and created scraps, environments that at once are surreal and non-existent as well as familiar. I tried my hand at creating some Cornell type boxes but gave up when I realized that I did not have a garage in which to collect the multitude of bits and pieces that on a moment's notice call would be available to create my masterpieces as they unfolded themselves.

We did not get to see the Cornell show but did visit an installation called, "Witness" which provided a huge display of objects selected from the studios and workshops of famous Surrealist artists which they used as inspirations for their work. In the corner of this exhibit, on a well lit wooden platform, was a glass topped coffee table, the inside of which was reachable through a drawer at the bottom of the table, that belonged to Mrs. Menil in which she dumped hundreds of wonderful objects; new and old, precious and common and which she allowed her grandchildren to use to explore, discover, create, tell stories, and more. It was the motivation and prototype for one of the collections at Michael's Museum called the "Table Treasure Hunt." 

The next poster shows a profile photograph of John Lennon with the words from his song "Imagine." The lyrics of the song are stunning: 

Imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try, no hell below us, above us only sky, imagine all the people, living for today. 

Imagine there's no countries, it isn't hard to do, nothing to kill or die for, and no religion to, imagine all the people, living in peace.

You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one, I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will live as one. 

Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can, no need for greed or hunger, only the brotherhood of man, imagine all the people, sharing all the world.

You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one, I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will live as one.

The third poster is a show poster from the Lyric Opera of Chicago dated 1982. The opera is Madama Butterfly by Puccini. This poster is particularly important to me as I was not in the first one but was in three of the returning productions over the years. My role was Uncle, which in some productions is a singing role but not this one, but is an important part of Butterfly's family and part of the wedding party with lots of stage time, up front and center!

On the Wall between the tub alcove in the shower is a handcarved wooden plaque from Thailand which contains in 15 individual niches, 15 hand carved Buddha amulets showing seven pairs of seated Buddha's in variation and one individual pose.

Hanging on the mirror back over the sink, above the red ceramic fountain that contains water running constantly as a drinking fountain for my cats, is a banner with a quote from his Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, entitled "The True Meaning of Life." We are visitors on this planet we are here for 90 or 100 years at the very most during that period, we must try to do something good something useful, with our lives if you contribute to other people's happiness, you will find the true goal, the true meaning of life. No need to tell the importance of the story behind this one!

So even in a room as as mundane as a bathroom, If you look closely, and sometimes ask, there are stories to be told.


  1. That's a lot to say at just past midnight! I feel as if I was visiting with you in the bathroom--both of us clothed, of course, looking around. I didn't know all the stories.



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