A masterclass in procrastination
WAKING UP ON MY SOFA THIS MORNING, fully-clothed and irradiated by apocalyptic levels of over-enthusiastic sunlight, is the somewhat unpleasant start to my day. You may think that’s because I would naturally want to wake up in bed, which is correct. But the sofa is my bed; the unpleasant start is due to something that is happening today which is not yet fully with me, which is playing hide-and-seek at the edge of my consciousness.
I cough, I blink. I have sore, dry eyes, and a coffee-and-cigarette hangover—a raw throat and a headache that only coffee and cigarettes can heal—and pressing through the dull ache is a nagging, vague thought of a task or an appointment, an obligation that won’t leave me alone. Something insistent and inescapable, like a plucky four-year-old determined to find his way home after mommy left him in the Mall, by the fountain, with a note pinned to his collar. The four-year-old isn’t howling yet, but he will be.
It’s definitely not my birthday. I know that. I won’t have to feign excitement at getting just what I wanted, too tight and in burgundy. The sun is so blazingly, hellishly bright in my living room that I’m squinting. My head splits in two. Give me a break, Mr. Insufferable Fireball of Happy!
Not even a foot away from where I’m lying is my desk, a long, low sheet of thick, tempered glass on chrome supports; on it two monitors and, sharing the same plate, half of a dry, curled-up cheese sandwich and a half-pack’s worth of cigarette butts. There’s a corded mouse, a corded keyboard and speakers, and two external drives; there are four cigarette packs, three of them empty, torch lighters, a can of butane, three Bic lighters, two of them working, and an assortment of mugs half full of cold coffee.
And dotted across the landscape of my desk —which is really a dining table—there are clusters of miniature skyscrapers, entire miniature city centers of cigarettes stood up on their filter ends which have burned away like that when I found I had no ashtray, and it seemed impossible to get up, walk to the kitchen and get one.
Mugs half full of cold coffee make great ashtrays.
I chose this dining table as my desk because it’s a spacious twenty square feet, giving plenty of breathing room for monitors, books, papers—or at least there should be. But through an odd glitch of the magnetic pole, or an obscure form of Tourette’s, everything on the desk has gradually shifted and inched and crammed itself together at the very front left corner. I’m becoming convinced that my apartment is gradually listing, tilting downward on the east side, as though I’m stuck in an amateur, low-budget re-enactment of the sinking of the Titanic. The monitor, the ashtrays and the cups and the pile of unopened mail are all just one nudge, one sleepy sweep of the arm away from disaster.
Certain nights when I’m working, I feel the cords conspiring against me. I think they’ve been reading Boy Scout rope-tying manuals when I’m not looking. The speaker cord tangles and altercates with the keyboard cord, so the keyboard doesn’t quite reach as close to me as I need, and should I stand up too quickly, their abandonment issues are triggered. The cord for the mouse, who I suspect is the leader, attacks my ankle and in my attempt to extricate myself I drag it off the table to the floor, where it pops its cover and ejects two double-AA batteries like astronauts abandoning their mission.
I’ve remembered now. It’s tax day.
TAX DAY. Beside the left monitor on top of the pile of unopened mail is a large manila envelope filled with my bank statements. I have six years of unfiled taxes to complete, the Canada Revenue Agency wants forty-thousand dollars, I have fifteen cents in the bank and I have to reconstruct my income and expenses from 2012 to 2017.
I look at the envelope. And I whine a little.
Like this: WHHHHIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNE.
Whining is my “warm-up,” the scales and arpeggios, the “unique New York” tongue-twisters of my anxiety, because I have to know that when anxiety is in full flood, I’ll be technically capable. Method whining, sense-memory whining? None of that sloppy, touchy-feely business for me. A good, technically solid whine, and hit the mark ten times out of ten.
Now the debate: Cigarette or vape? Vape or cigarette? This is a two-day-old problem, and, honestly, to call it a debate is just silliness. I’m lighting a cigarette—vaping makes me cough.
But I need java before any meaningful tax-filing or full-throttle whining can happen, so I stagger to the kitchen and discover that the bread dough I mixed at 2:30 AM has completely overflowed the two-liter measuring jug and has started to form a leathery crust. It looks like a sad, deflated baker’s hat, or the skin on a pork shoulder.
Honestly, it looks like a Claes Oldenburg that you can bake and eat, thereby pre-empting any world-record-shattering sales, and then shit out again as a one-off iteration. Put that in your catalogue raisonée.
I divide the dough in half and tuck both pieces into loaf pans, like two plump little newborns, just barely catching myself before I mist them with “Go Green!” all-purpose household cleaner instead of oil, then I cover them tenderly with plastic wrap.
I pour boiling water over the grounds in my French press, French press it, fill a mug with it, and whisper to the mug of it that, somewhere, as unlikely as it seems, milk exists.
I’ve been at the computer for two hours, but I am not “doing my taxes”. I have not “made a start” on my taxes. I have not even opened the envelope with my bank statements. I am smoking and watching Act One of a stunning production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute on YouTube, with steam-punky, mysterious animated set designs by the South African artist William Kentridge.
This reminds me of Mozart’s struggles and the tragedy of his end. Mozart died suddenly, at thirty-five, with his life in disarray, with his wife doubting his fidelity; died hopelessly in debt because of his extravagant tastes, his poor money management, his concerts that were successes of prestige, but not profit, and, scholars suspect, because of gambling and sexual promiscuity.
I have no problem with gambling.
I look up Kentridge in Wikipedia (The Encyclopedia You Write Yerself!™) and find we’re exactly the same age. He’s a lifetime, dedicated, seriously important world-class artist since adolescence, and, as the son of highly respected activist lawyers who represented victims of apartheid, he makes subtle yet trenchant political and social statements through his work.
I reflect on my current condition as an aging, unknown blogger teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, the son of a helmet-haired narcissist and an alcoholic itinerant shoe salesman with a secret second family, then I write a grandstanding, pretentious, but actually pretty good review of the production. You can read the review, below, if you can endure the grandstanding. Please be sure to tell me how good it is.
My only reservations are that the production was staged at the Théâtre de la monnaie, which seems to mean “Theatre of the Small Change;” and that the audience has either been instructed not to clap or even move because the production is being filmed, or they have all drunk cyanide-laced Kool-Aid and are actually dead.
Queen of the Night’s aria, as she knocks high “F” out of the park? No detectable pulse from the audience. Flatliners napping.
Pamina sings “Ach, ich fühl’s“? Collectively, they couldn’t even fog up a mirror.
OK, right now it’s 2:08 PM, and I think of my friend who is helping me with the taxes even though it makes him behave like he’s smoked a pipeful of crack, and I want to huddle in a corner and scream, “Why can’t you just help me THE WAY I AM?? Why do I have to IMPROVE the way I behave?”
Even imagining this scenario fills me with dread, because it’s substantially a new version “you heard the vinyl, now see the live show” of the time he cut me out of his life. I already owe him two-hundred eighty bucks for the copies of my book he purchased for me so I could approach Indigo, the bookstore, and that I gave away to casual, petty-criminal acquaintances who won’t even read it, because I’m scared to approach Indigo and even more scared of the acquaintances.
I can still redeem myself and start on the taxes if I start NOW! I can! I CAN!
It’s time to have a quick gander at the New York Times. I read an in-depth piece about antisemitism in Germany, and how it’s never really gone away, just lain low waiting for its next chance to poison the hearts and minds of entire nations.
It never has to wait very long.
In Germany, young Jewish professionals are advised not to advertise their Jewishness, bullying of Jewish kids at school is ignored, and the furthest-right political party uses Islamophobia to drive a wedge between Muslims and Jews, so that everyone’s suspicious of the wrong people, the inherent, centuries-old antisemitism of Christian Europe is ignored and the whole problem can be marginalized and attributed to radicalized immigrants. This is a handy way for antisemitic Germans to deny that they are the problem.
Kind of like how this post is a handy way of ignoring my problem, which is procrastination and owing the tax man forty-thousand dollars!
Yes, David. Your problem with back taxes is exactly the same as Jews who have joined an antisemitic, German right-wing political party because they’ve been hoodwinked, distracted by their vulnerability to the antisemitism of a few unrepresentative immigrant Muslims.
On the other hand:
I forgot to download treats from Creative Whatsit, the site that offers me free graphic design assets every Monday. So I download two fonts:
which are handsome display fonts which I don’t need and will never use after this instance, and an assortment of botanical vector drawings.
Check out these members of the Myrtle family!
Still wandering, confused and dazed, in my metaphorical bathrobe down the wrong lane of the online expressway, past the off-ramps marked “Completed Tax Returns and Happiness, next seven exits! Bear right!” I’m suddenly distracted by oncoming traffic, that sidebar you might also enjoy that lists other New York Times articles that you should be reading instead of the one you already are.
And I’m torn. Should I investigate why Game of Thrones was a disappointment, which I knew it had to be anyway without viewing it because, hello??!! Fantasy??!! Meaningless drivel??!! or should I read about Robert Mnuchin, father of Steve?
Robert Mnuchin is an art dealer, he is eighty-nine years old and a Democrat, and he tears up as he refuses to talk about his son, Steven.
(You may recall that Steven is the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, the embarrassing mansplainer who told Maxine Waters, Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, to “pound her gravel” [sic]. This goes a long way towards explaining his father’s tears.)
Robert Mnuchin is also the man who recently purchased the Jeff Koons stainless steel sculpture —“Rabbit,” see below—on behalf of a mystery buyer, setting the record—$91 million— for the price of a work of art by a living artist.
Here is the sculpture, with Jeff Koons himself, back in 2009, processed as “oil painting” with FotoSketcher and then according to my special patented Photoshop “let’s appropriate, then mess with, this image” method which can be extended to fill as many hours as you want to waste:
Jeff Koons is kinda sexy, or is it his billions that take him from Pee-wee Herman to Hot? He is definitely kind of kinky looking. I would very much like to fuck around with Jeff Koons and I would even pay him for the privilege. I would like to be lying naked on a pile of banknotes in the middle of his California King-sized bed in the master bedroom of his penthouse. Jeff Koons has got to have a penthouse, right? Do you have the phone number of his gallery?
That takes the fuckin’ CAKE. Can you believe the nerve of Jeff Koons taking MONEY from ME, a still-gorgeous-and-no-one-can-believe-I’m-a-pensioner-but-still-when-it-comes-down-to-it PENSIONER? What a scumbag! Yeah, go out and oppress another sexually delusional, gold-digging POOR PERSON, OK?? Mr Ninety-one Million Dollar Bunny?!??!!
Mr Koons, like Bill Kentridge, is exactly the same age as me. I reflect for a moment about Jeff Koons, his millions and kajillions, his jet-set life printing money by blowing up dollar-store toys and recreating them in condo finishes and about the devastating, shiny, subversive simplicity of his art.
And I reflect on me, the mere plaything of a Revenue Canada apparently staffed by mercenary sociopaths—thugs, really—who do nothing but make snarky, passive-aggressive remarks about my missing six years of back taxes and their phantom forty-thousand dollars. I still have not started my taxes. I still have not opened the envelope with my bank statements in it.
Maybe me, Jeff Koons and Bill Kentridge should all get together at the hooker Harvey’s at the corner of Jarvis and Gerrard, across the park from me. Jeff could make a stainless steel replica of a burger and sell it for $100 million; Bill could knock off some quick, socially-relevant charcoal drawing animations of the hookers who hang out at Harvey’s and make it into an opera set; and I could cry.
Because, stick with what you know.
The Robert Mnuchin article leads me to an article about 80’s superstar gallerist Mary Boone, who made then-unknown artist Julian Schnabel into an international sensation, and who is currently serving a thirty-month prison sentence for tax fraud.
In an article bristling with dropped names of the art world, one anecdote stands out. It concerns Larry Gagosian, he of the legendary gallery. Gagosian for a brief time lived in L.A., sharing his house with artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, with whom he’d become friends in New York.
This was around 1981. Also sharing the house was a woman Basquiat was dating, a singer with a record contract and, because Gagosian had lost his license and his buddy Mr B. couldn’t be trusted behind the wheel, she also doubled as their driver.
“Hey, Madonna,” they’d say to her, according to the article. “We need to get to Sunset.”
Madonna. Abso-fuckin’-lutely true.
Currently eating fondant icing with a
Sometimes the simplest things are the most profound. Then, there’s me eating fondant icing. The recipe is: A bunch of icing sugar in a bowl, a little milk, then mix it up. I think you should probably cook it, for the full fondattitude, as they say, but I didn’t because that would have delayed the onset of the eating.
Eating the fondant icing was the point, not nit-picky accuracy or food safety. Take a chill pill, my little Miss Pauline Kael with fingers in the pies of Julia Child!
I made the video with Filmora, a video editing app which is way more fun than Adobe Premiere Elements but just as powerful. It costs $59 USD, which I don’t have, so I used the free version that slaps a big watermark on it.
But I don’t mind. Ever since Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce forgave my sixty-thousand in credit card debt in exchange for me tattooing their logo around my anus, I’m pretty amenable to being a brand ambassador.
I used a number of effects, and the learning curve wasn’t too steep. The bit that looks like wonky VHS tape or a TV on the blink is intentional, so make sure you don’t get annoyed and toss your monitor across the room!
Heavens to Betsy! That I should be the cause of you cracking the screen of your, etc etc.!
Things that annoy me about Trump today: He threatened Fox News because they had Pete Buttigieg as a guest. He basically said that Fox would have some ‘splainin’ to do, which is not common in a democracy, and kind of what the Nazis said in Munich, just after the Beer Hall putsch, when they shut down the last free press.
Imagine the POTUS being so threatened by someone who doesn’t even have the Democratic nomination yet that he posts this embarrassingly sulky Tweet:
They asked Liz Warren to go on Fox, too, and I’m quite disappointed that she got all snippy and declined. She thinks that would legitimize them, but in fact, like Pete’s publicist said, you have to meet the people where they are. She missed an opportunity to win over the hearts and minds of people who I suspect would really have been open to her message of economic social justice.
But I guess she was too busy scrubbing the Ovaltine mustaches off her local constituents’ faces with a moist napkin. Take the friggin’ pickle out, will ya, Liz!?
Trump is pardoning war criminals. He has already pardoned a soldier who killed an Iraqi detainee, which the ACLU has called “endorsing murder.”
Like most things he does, he’s keeping just barely within the law and/or his rights as Prez (aka finagling), so you have to finagle a bit yourelf to call him on it. (This, by the way, is how Trump forces us to descend to the sub-basement to deal with him.) He probably thinks that Iraqi’s don’t count as people, much like he condoned roughing up “criminals” by the police, because—well, because they’re criminals and in his mind they have no rights. I await the news that Melania has added an extra padlock to her bedroom door.
Trump has a “funny” name for Pete Buttigieg. He calls him “Alfred E. Newman [sic].” The spelling of MAD Magazine’s mascot’s name should be “Neuman,” so he can’t even get his puerile name-calling right.
Because name-calling highlights Trump’s world view and maturity level and suitability for office most succinctly, I find this the most annoying of the three things.
Why is it that the letters that should most demonstrate compassion are in fact strip-mined of all care and humanity?
I receive a letter from the Bank of Montreal, addressed to DAVID JOHN RODDIS, telling me what I already know:
Bank of Montreal has received a demand notice.
The Bank is obligated and must comply with this demand notice.
Canada Revenue Agency
Accordingly, the following action has been taken:
Funds Remitted: $0.00
Now you’d think, seeing that Bank of Montreal rarely writes to me since they grew up and left home, that they’d up the intimacy factor a little bit, show that they remember. This vibe of “just walk back into my life, steal a beer, put your feet up on the coffee table, then ask for forty-thousand so you can take your girlfriend to the double feature at the drive-in and a cola at the A&W” takes me just a little too much for granted. It cuts.
After all I’ve done for you, “BMO Representative.”
I really should make an effort and open the envelope with the bank statements.
Reading about Jeff Koons, and figuring out whether he might get all dom and alpha-male and have raunchy, round-the-world artist-sex with me if I bribed him, leads me to his website. There I find an extensive list of his works, including a version of a drawing by eighteenth-century Rococo artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard.
All Koons does is stick a big, convex blue mirror in the middle of an ink-jet print of the Fragonard, so here’s the original Fragonard. It is surprisingly NSFW:
“Gimblette” referred to a donut-shaped biscuit, but it salaciously refers to quite something else in this piece, which umistakeably, pornographically portrays a little girl pleasuring herself with her spaniel’s tail. Here is the beginning of art historian Patricia Simons scholarly piece, wonderfully titled, “PUPPY LOVE: FRAGONARD’S DOGS AND DONUTS.” You’ll have to pay to read the rest, and be my guest.
Lazy entitled white heterosexual German males from the former East Germany are mad at the brown immigrant people who have taken all the jobs. Except the brown immigrant people have done nothing of the kind. Lazy entitled white heterosexual German males from the former east Germany also have been deserted by their females, who under Communist rule at least bettered themselves, gained independence, then got the hell out when the Wall came down. So now the guys are wondering who is going to find us wives?
(I’m back to the New York Times. This article click-baits me into thinking it’s blaming Angela Merkel for the malaise of East German males.) Lazy entitled white heterosexual German males from the former east Germany are a noisier, more infantile version of males everywhere these days. Germany, like the U.S., like Canada, needs immigrants right now. Who will pay the taxes to support social democracy otherwise? Who will take the jobs everyone else is too high and mighty to take? Who else will serve as a scapegoat?
So these disgruntled man-boys are, of course, all voting for extreme right-wing, anti-immigrant political parties, because that worked so well in 1938.
I decide I want to comment on the article:
“Build a wall and save democracy from toxic masculinity, from the invasion of lazy, entitled white heterosexual males!”
but I discover that the comments for the article are closed.
The Angela Merkel angle? She’s a self-made woman, an East German who bettered herself, in spades, and got out. And as Chancellor she was a daily affront to the East German males, a slap in the face. If she can do it, why can’t you?
Who will find me a wife?
It’s now 7:29 PM, I’ve spent almost eight hours on this post and I’m feeling really guilty, which is usually the sign that I’m going to buckle down and do what I’ve been putting off doing all day, i.e., my six years of delinquent taxes.
When I go to the kitchen to make coffee I discover the little unbaked loaves all leathery and sunk in the bread pans, because during ten hours of being abandoned they have risen, lost hope and collapsed.
I’m horrified, like the protagonist in a Barbara Gowdy short story who’s left her kids to suffocate in a locked car as she runs off to fuck some stranger in a motel room. After a long summer day of grappling on a chenille bedspread, bathed in the hot, slippery juices of my self-centered lust, I’ve returned to the appalling tragedy and resulting insanity that are the fruits of my life’s single, unforgivable lapse.
I think I’m going to make those cinnamon rolls from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice,” which means I’ll need to whip up a big batch of fondant icing. Loblaw’s is still open and it’s a beautiful spring evening, so I can walk there, and maybe even buy a vanilla bean.