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01.05.2014
An artist can have no greater resource than the ability to manipulate her own image; not even talent itself can outrank this skill in making a career.
In the beginning, before I was famous, I started by going to cocktail parties and talking up the new artist, Heddie Alexander. A  Back then, no one had seen my work yet, but everyone was dying to see it, because somewhere, someone (they couldna€™t remember who) had told them how extraordinary the paintings were. August 31st, 1997 a€” it was our friend Raquela€™s 40th birthday, and there was a blowout planned at the Black Gallery. Just minutes later, I arrived at Gramercy Park to find Gus flat on his rear, brushing off scuffed hands and wrists.
One of our gallery friends called to say shea€™d seen Thom through the window of a Williams-Sonoma store and that hea€™d cut the outside edge of his right eyeball with a steak knife, looking at her all the while. I went outside and plopped down on the fire escape with a bottle of red wine and a cigarette. Then, I dona€™t know why, but after everything Thoma€™s poor body had already been through that night, even though he was standing in front of me clearly injured, with blood running from his eye down his cheek, and even though he had surely lost his wits hours before and had very little comprehension of what was going on, I got up, and I shoved him as hard as I could a€” both of my hands flat against his collar bone a€” with such force that I knocked him down onto a chair. Then I called a cab while he sat stunned in the chair, dripping in the wine that had spilled on him when hea€™d fallen back. Fifteen of Thoma€™s paintings sold during the two months he was at Sunnyside, and I learned that although insanity is interesting as a concept, it is tedious on a day-to-day basis.
I tried, on several occasions, to talk to the doctors about having Thom and Sid separated, but they always said Sid was no real threat to Thom and that the two had gotten used to each other and were better off than with new roommates.
They said management was about to re-carpet the hallways, and there would already be too much confusion for the patients, who did not like change.
After the first month, Thoma€™s recovery seemed about as likely as Woody Allen deciding to move out to the country and buy some horses. He turned the picture around to face me, and he pointed with his pencil to the man in the picture. Therea€™d also been a recent rollover with the staff, and a new nurse had misread Sida€™s charts and was giving him the wrong dosage of an anti-psychotic medication. Sometimes those of us who are almost crazy need someone who is fully crazy to make ourselves sane again. A reported tweet by south sudan’s regime leader, salva kiir, raised expectations that travel from across the eastern african region into south freely cross the borders without visa requirements. South africa travel to turkey next month where he is expected to meet president recep tayyip erdogan and prime minister ahmet davutoglu dec 31 2015 – capital cities around the world on high alert over new year celebrations threats, emirates news.
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Had I taken my arguments against the existence of Santa Claus, substituted the words a€?Judeo-Christian God,a€? and published them under a pseudonym, Ia€™d have been hailed as the next great philosopher of my parentsa€™ generation. You can solicit attention of any sort, or, with a lack of eye contact and a slight slouch of the shoulders, you can fade into oblivion. It was this knowledge and the ability to exploit it that allowed me to build my reputation.
Even after I was famous, I could walk down a crowded street without notice, whereas before I was famous I could already command the attention of an entire room. The paintings could have been crap, and people would have rationalized sense and beauty into them. There was a mystery about him that started with the fact that no one could quite guess his heritage.


Raquel was not only firmly entrenched in the art circles of New York; she was also elegance incarnate a€” everything about her was long a€” from the sleek, auburn hair that hung halfway down her back, to the pale, slender wrists she bangled more often than not. Our neighbor Gus, the cellist, had been leaving the Indian film theater at Lex and 23rd when hea€™d seen Thom circling around and around the black iron gates of Gramercy Park. Then he stepped forward with his right foot, dragging his left foot behind him with all the effort and attention you would give a cumbersome package. This she had seen through the window, from the street, where she was helpless to do anything about it. He said hea€™d gotten my phone number from our super because Thom had threatened him with a lawsuit. Hea€™d been a victim of cult abuse as a child and periodically suffered from the notion that Thom or some other patient, nurse or doctor was an emissary of Satan. I was on the verge of trying to move Thom to a different facility when a minor miracle occurred a€” the head of the hospital brought in a specialist named Dr.
Stein was an art aficionado, a psychoanalyst, and the author of three books on the artistic psyche. Stein at his home office, he said his goal was to help Thom learn to control the reigns of his passion and steer it in healthy directions. Stein said that Thom needed to act out steering the reins of his passion in order for the metaphor to have a lasting impact. This had been going on for about two weeks, and by the time Halloween evening came around, Sid had determined that Thom was actually not just an emissary of Satan but Satan himself. But instead I was destined to spend the first eighteen years of my life perfecting the dark art of suburban mediocrity. Even in the beginning, I could hold my shoulders back, meet the world face to face, and radiate a certain importance that made anyone nearby take note. The groundwork was laida€”Heddie Alexander was a stara€”the new darling of New Yorka€™s artistic circles before her first exhibit. Rarely did he sleep, so rarely in fact that his mind, deprived of the regular opportunity to dream, began to seize its dreams where it could.
Thom, on the other hand, was ever shifting, always mixing, endlessly creating new shades of self.
The best artists of New York a€” painters, sculptors, and photographers a€” would be showing portraits of Raquel at this opening. Gus later said it had seemed as if Thom believed his left foot was no longer a part of his living body. By the time she got inside, Thom had vanished, and there were little drops of blood on the table next to the knife display.
My stomach felt like there was a forest fire raging in it, and I was so nervous I couldna€™t swallow properly and kept choking on my own spit. I saw the old man he would become a€” eating Jell-O, taking his pills from the nurse, watching re-runs of Miami Vice with the other patients, and arguing over chess moves with his psychotic roommate Sid.
And, of course, Thoma€™s recently acquired tendency to quote Yeats didna€™t help the matter at all. On a piece of paper, he began to draw a picture of a man driving an old-fashioned carriage. The hair color alone a€” dirty blonde on a Jewish psychologist a€” was disconcerting enough. Born into the wrong neighborhood, born in the wrong time, loaded into the wrong stroller day after day, I learned the survival tactics of conformity, but, secretly, I wanted the blueprints back.
I painted them over a stark white background, and my career was sealed a€“ New Yorkers were adding red to their homes so they could display my paintings. This shift from important to inconspicuous and back I could accomplish with no outwardly discernible change in my demeanor.
A complete original.a€? I played the nondescript intellectual, making myself seem prominent enough that people would respect my opinion but not so prominent that they would ask my name. If I could just be loved by the art critics in New York I would finally be real, because artists, I had always thought, lived at a higher pitch and a greater volume than the rest of usa€”theirs were lives of intensity, lives filled with such pathos and beauty that they must, somehow, be more real than the rest of ours. It was a surreal and phantasmagoric existence Thom liveda€”the kind where bums digging through the trash might represent some universal truth about environmental awareness, or a dog limping across a street would have a message from Thoma€™s dead father.


Just when wea€™d ridden one as far as it could take us, another would come and lift us up again. For awhile there seemed to be a stable center, but somehow, over time, that stability just slipped away, and there was no real Thom left in his house of mirrors a€” there were only reflections of a source long gone a€” like light traveling through space years after its original emission has ceased. His wallet was found on a subway car, and his drivera€™s license on a sink basin at The Back Door, a popular pub that caters to homosexual men.
When he spoke, his eye twitched, and everything he said was a non sequitur or a quote from some apocalyptic poem.
Stein had decided to devote his lifea€™s work to helping disturbed artistic geniuses like Thom. The drawing was good, and I mean professional artist good, and it was getting better by the minute. Beyond the easel was the likeness of me, sitting on a blanket, surrounded with picnic items and painting supplies. Sid had stabbed Thom in the chest with a piece of jagged metal hea€™d filched when the carpet was being replaced.
Fifteen minutes in any direction, and you were in the same spot: fast food, dry cleaner, gas station, grocery store. They would have called me an a€?art faga€? as they did the other kids who took art classes at my school. He vacillated between extreme passion for life and complete, eyes-glazed-over, medicated dullness. By the time he met with Thom, he had already managed to track down almost everything Thom had ever painted and look it over with loving attention.
But seeing an ear sans the head certainly recalled artistic insanity more than almost any other conceivable image.
Stein running through the halls of the asylum, weaving in and out of the rolls of new carpet, with hobby horse sticks clutched between their knees.
After Thoma€™s funeral, I went back to the studio, and I got the biggest canvas I could find. So I just shook my pompons, shook my ass, and floated my way through alcohol-soaked parties. Even when we just sat talking in the middle of our huge, paint-splattered floor, we were in the foreplay of creation. But after a couple of months, I caught on a€” Thom was hiding a background as ordinary as mine.
He said it was where psychologists of past generations had tried to steer out-of-control creatives, and that the effects had been disastrous. I began the final Red Heddie, the culmination of the vision: Sida€™s fist, larger than the fist of God, held the jagged metal, blood running past his wrist, dripping from his elbow into a pool that reflected Thoma€™s face. The conversation would always turn to painters or painting, and then one of us would see something, an image or a concept, floating by, and boom, we were both back up and painting again. His extraordinary looks a€” copper-flecked eyes and caramel skin, the curly black locks -- were just flukes, aberrations from an otherwise very plain lineage. Stein knew far more about Thoma€™s mind, motives, desires, impulses and fears than Thom ever would, and he treated Thom with more compassion and basic human dignity than anyone ever would, including me. Stein was even working on the hospital doctors to try to get them to separate Thom and Sid.
I mean, here my art was my profession, my life, and this psychologist could draw nearly as well as I could. His secular obsession with psychology must have supplanted any religious training from his youth. I drew pictures on the walls of my little world and told stories about how the pictures got there.



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