Glass Letter Boxes at Lunch by a Parking Lot in Los Angeles

I hated Steve Jobs. Now that he’s dead I like him better. Looked snotty to me, but he came up with some nice things. I’m using an iPad right now, trying to master the stiff-finger jabbing action in my lap with the thing leaning in front of a Greek salad on a greasy streaked patio tabletop out of the sun in a breeze that keeps flipping my napkins over and threatening to send them back toward the door from which my food came – delivered to a number on a stick. The number’s gone now. She must have taken it when she placed my trays in front of me. So far, the finger-jabbing is workable if not entirely productive. My problems with Steve Jobs notwithstanding, I dig this pad and carry it everywhere, even when I should know that it makes me look like – what do you call them – a goddamn geek. But I have too much face-breaker in me to ever be mistaken for a geek with an iPad. I annoy geeks because they sense the lout underneath the programmer.
So anyway or anywho as all the wannabe smarties like to say – if someone says anywho to you, just casually punch their front teeth out, understand? Even if it’s me. The use of the word indicates a fractured personality who wants to present itself as innocuous. Anyhow, there’s a thing about iPads and rear-facing cameras, filters, touch screens, Wifi connections, and trying to capture the moment or the under-moment of a place as surface-oriented and deeply mysterious as Los Angeles. You can’t let snobbery and distaste for a personality prevent you from diving into what you identify as bullshit for a nice swim in the same dirty water everyone else is so interested in. Sometimes, for the artist, immersion is essential. You can’t stand on the shoreline watching the swimmers, critiquing their bathing suits and lovely fat rolls. You’ve got to go in and swim around between their legs like a lingering shark looking for easy meat. You can still be a little separated as far as viewpoint, but you must try the water. That’s my theory behind the photo of the parking lot. It was taken on the move from parking spot to Panera Bread, then filtered up, framed and filtered again while trying to control the napkin traffic across my lunch. It’s a little like painting really. Despite the stupidity of the millions of photos uploaded to the hellish quagmire known as Instagram, the digital photo/filter combo just might be vastly superior to the instamatic toy point and shoots that it so cleverly imitates. You know, art’s a funny thing. It crops up in odd places. There’s that photographer – can’t remember his name now – maybe it was William Eggleston… don’t know… but any… who? Anyway, back in the seventies when galleries and museums – if there’s a difference – were all showing black and white photos as art… well this guy throws a bunch of color snapshots into a suitcase, travels to New York, walks into the Museum of Modern Art and demands a showing. He becomes one of the great photo artists of the 20th century and sets off the realization that color photographs can be shown as art. Everyone at the time of course really knew that, but they didn’t act as if they knew it. There’s a huge step in between.
I don’t know of another device that mixes production and consumption the way the iPad does. It puts the two things so close together that sometimes I lose track of which one I’m doing. There’s nothing uglier to me than the site of some poor sap hunched over his cell phone, trying to stay in contact with people through monkey thumbs, squinting at that thing like his sad little life depend upon it. Loser. But an iPad seems to open things up. Some people flip them around like they didn’t spend any money on them. But by and large people keep them out of sight. Millions upon millions have been sold all over the planet and I have seen perhaps twenty in public use over the past several years. People hide them at home I think. Maybe they buy them and can’t figure out what to do with them. Very strange. But then of course it fits with the general inability of most people to figure out what a pencil is for.
Right here where I’m sitting several weeks ago there was a different guy here wearing big yellow puffy circus pajamas with a floral print. He had a pile of green garbage bags, water bottles, a grocery cart and a laptop computer. He was a gregarious fellow who had words of advice for the other diners on the Panera patio. I was thinking about my iPad that time also and tracked him with a sliver of my vision, waiting for him to approach with his stream of bullshit. I was ready to smack him down with an irritable comment. I don’t like interruptions and I don’t like people. He kept cleaning himself as if he were preparing for a shower or had just taken one. I couldn’t stop watching him. He’d found one of the electrical outlets on the patio and had set up camp around it. When another diner appeared to be in search of power this guy led the way to the only other outlet in the vicinity. I couldn’t help myself. I was starting to like and admire him. He sat down and began to ostentatiously configure his laptop and work area. A family came over and took the table next to his whereupon he zeroed in on them and began to describe his research projects in the face of their disinterest. But he had my attention from across the entry ramp. Food runners seemed to be treating him well, stopping by to listen for a few moments, then removing food mess from nearby tables abandoned by the college kid study squads. Gradually, he quieted, settling into his work as I did mine.
So, my dear foolish unsuspecting reader, can one penetrate the mysteries of a place as disguised and uncaring as Los Angeles with nothing more than an iPad? Can one be a serious artist while ensnaring oneself in the velvet corporate ropes laid so sneakily by Mr. Jobs? Well, it’s better than reading a magazine I should say. It’s better than writing with a Bic in a Mead. There’s an advantage to not moving one’s fingers the way they move over a keyboard. The hand movements elicited by the iPad have more in common with movements familiar to artists than those required by keyboards. The hands are thinking more. Pointing, tapping, sliding, brushing, squeezing, wiping, hovering. That’s what I think so far anyway.
To blog. What that is remains a puzzle for me. I’m not sure a blog is a form that makes much sense and then, just as quickly, I am sure. I am losing my taste for finding those little web nuggets and posting about them. There’s no such thing as a nugget anymore. Everything is already found, linked, commented, tagged. There’s nothing new, nothing unfound, nothing yours unless you make it. A form that might make more sense is a single entry expanding infinitely, always the same link, but with updates that never end. News sites do that a lot, but it’s always centered on a current story. Or maybe it’s writing blog posts that that don’t try to be news. They try to be posts. Maybe one should print one’s blog posts and then go tape them to lampposts. Maybe you pick one special lamppost in your city and turn that into your blog. There’s so much reporting going on… everyone wants to be a newspaper. I can’t blame them really because being a reporter must be or must have been one of the best jobs around. But reporting doesn’t make good art. Eh, well maybe it does. I’ll throw a bunch of my blog posts into a suitcase, walk into the Museum of Modern Art and demand a show. That’ll teach them!