Bronzed Pair of Booties by Edward Mycue

Bronzed Pair of Booties
by Edward Mycue

— bronzed pair of booties holding down a sagging telephone line,
— picture from a gone time but one that is still just out my window
here on fulton and octavia streets next to olive trees with plastic bags caught in
—“witches cowls”—filled with passing breezes
amid caws of crows & occasions when sea birds escape east from ocean storms &
to California from the Sierras when calmer,
settling in our parking lots deciding maybe east or west again, birds moving,
pausing; only flitting hummingbirds silent so far
— & my mind’s bronzed booties imaged there from pairs of tennis shoes often caught
on lines where drug runners marked territories;
my San Francisco mind-marked with long densely-textured decades written, cared-for,
polished, discarded, & somehow are written again
because the mind wasn’t finished with them & i was unable to find a step-down
to get free from voices, visions. where when i’m
dead will those booties go? will there be telephone lines & poles?
will it all sink as sediment under risen shores scraped, lathered by
empowered tides with only birds on their ways in their days that alone continue
below fish swim above our yesterday silt
in fog, rain, wind & sun without anyone until “time” arrives as
earth itself fractures into “space” that collides beyond my deeming.

Madonna del Parto by Joan Z. Shore

Madonna del Parto
by Joan Z. Shore

(After Piero della Francesca’s fresco)

My name is Miryam.
I have been married young, too young.
My life was very simple, sweet, and mild.
And now I am with child.

I don’t know how it came.
My husband cares for me, works hard;
He loves me quietly, he holds my hand….
We cannot understand.

I am not ready, I’m afraid.
This life within me frightens me, it stirs
Incessantly, demanding to be born.
My flesh is torn.

I must be strong.
Dear Yossef, too, must bear this pain;
Must help me raise this child, this precious jewel.
The world is cruel.

Postman by Seree Cohen Zohar

by Seree Cohen Zohar

Sun-ruddy cheeks puffed in anticipation
of his titian beard tickling newborn fingers,
sprigs from a wildflower bouquet flung
cheerfully above a fresh-clipped lawn,
there he goes, the postman
striding home, telegram in hand

while you, conqueror and tease supreme
of oils and brushes lathered in sunlight, left us
the rousing chuckle that bounces
Joseph-Etienne’s artfully untrimmed plume
across the span of his double-breasted cobalt sea.

Book Reviews Spring 2013 (AQ6)

Amsterdam Quarterly Book Reviews Spring 2013 (AQ6)
by Bryan R. Monte

One Window North by Kate Foley, 69 pages, Shoestring Press, ISBN 978-1-907356-63-6
Song of San Francisco, by Edward Mycue, 20 pages, Spectacular Diseases, (no ISBN) 83(b) London Rd, Petersborough, Cambs., PE2 9BS, UK.
Poet Wrangler, droll poems by Marvin R. Hiemstra, 65 pages, Two Harbors Press, ISBN 978-1-937928-46-9
Less Fortunate Pirates by Bryan Borland, 87 pages, Sibling Rivalry Press, ISBN 978-1-937420-24-6.

During the past submission period, I’ve received four books that I felt were especially worthy of mention—each for slightly different reasons. The first book I received was Kate Foley’s One Window North—her fifth poetry book from Shoestring Press—with its beautiful, cover illustration of the view out the poet’s north-facing kitchen window by Claire Peasnall. Since I interviewed Foley in AQ4, I’m a bit more familiar with her work. One of the reasons that Foley’s poetry is so interesting is because she draws the reader into her descriptions. Another reason is because she depicts life in Amsterdam where she has lived since 1997. Before her move to the Netherlands, she was head of English Heritage’s Ancient Monuments Laboratory. Thus, it’s not surprising that many of her previous poetry collections have been about paintings or the process of making art.

One Window North, however, distinguishes itself from her previous books in that it is less about visual art and more a personal view of herself—her life in Amsterdam and her mortality and others’ since, as she mentioned in her AQ4 interview, she is “knocking on a bit.” The book’s first poem, “How Loaves Come Singing” states: “Those who are statistically a little closer/to death, not necessarily wise,/ are less inclined// to find the idea romantic.” “A Short Chapter in the History of Stone” follows. It is about the stoning of an Iranian woman for infidelity. A third poem, “For Agnes Sina-Imakoju” about “a sixteen year-old girl shot in a take away” follows directly thereafter.

There are many more poems about death and mortality in One Window North. “The Tin Factory” describes someone being fitted for an artificial heart and there is the more personal, “Heart Surgery.” Poems such as “More Less an Island” and “Oma” describe elderly pensioners, “Postcards” and “To the Field of Reeds,” the artifacts and ideas of the hereafter from ancient civilizations in present-day Malta and Eqypt respectively. These are sparsely-worded poems about weighty subjects. All benefit from Foley’s cinematic ability to zoom in on only what is important to tell a story.

In fact, most of One Window North’s poems are no more than a page to a page and half long. Foley’s experiments with long poetic series such as the 21 sections of The Silver Rembrandt and A Fox Assisted Cure have been scaled back. One Window North contains a series of six poems entitled “Coming in Late” about music concerts perhaps inspired by frequent visits to the nearby Concertgebouw. Here, Foley has definitely raised the bar. Trying to describe music is far more challenging and abstract than, for example, portraying the colours and/or figures in a painting. How does one describe tonality with images? Foley does so by describing a drumroll as: “a drummer pouring out/the thunder of a barrel of apples,” or “A young pianist, wobbly as a calf,/her plump figures butting the notes,/tears on her face. I must admit I’m not sure I know exactly what “shubertian uplands” or “pizzacato mountains” look like, but I can imagine what they feel or sound like. And this is what makes One Window North a delight to read.

The next book I would like to recommend is Edward Mycue’s slim, ten poem volume entitled “Song of San Francisco.” Sean Carey, in his introduction to this book, refers to these poems as a Song Cycle. The first poem, “The Song of Cities Like Viruses,” starts with the line: “is survival about leaving a message of what works.” Survival and disease are two themes that are woven through the next nine poems. “Sugerstrands” talks about how Mycue’s mother: “…cupped her right hand into my head to press me/into a welter of old beliefs…” to try to protect him. In “I Went Out Into the Sun of Broken Glass,” Mycue describes how “I went out queer, clumsy, read, and egg-/shell thin drinking the evening thickening and soft,” a very elegant beginning of a journey that would take him to Africa as a young adult in the Peace Corps and to San Francisco later as a gay man. He describes failures along the way in “SOUB – Same Old Under Born as: “some solo spinout,/ some bungled possibility, some/token aspiration.” He explores his genealogy in “Old School,” and his connectedness with “We Are All Husbands Here.” And “Memory Tongue” is one of the best poems about San Francisco’s emotional geography: “San Francisco, you/blind, handsome city./your harbor has a stone/ in its mouth.” echoing my sentiments exactly (as a former ten-year resident). This thin book of songs is well worth reading.

Marvin R. Hiemstra’s Poet Wrangler, droll poems, has a more comic tone, but its poems are just as well-written. Poet Wrangler shows the range of Hiemstra’s poems which vary anywhere from very short, thin poem’s of Eastern/hippie wisdom such as in “The Poet’s First Duty.” in the book’s third section called “Dancing at the Last Roundup.” “Don’t forget/to blow/tenderly/in the ear/of the Universe/ as often as/you can.// The Universe/gets/so lonely.” Longer ruminations in the same section include the series of four poems from page 52 to page 57 which include “A Poet’s Handy Tool List,” “A Selection from “The Poet with Us: Nora May French,”” “Just Found Dream,” “Wooly, My Muse,” and “Tell Them You Are in Rehab.”

Hiemstra’s poetry exhibits a playfulness that is not afraid to experiment with line length and typography and mix it with humour to talk about love, loss, and of course, the meaning of life. The book contains list poems, poems about dreams, even poems about prehistory such as “Carbon Dating Can Be Pretty Sexy/Just Remember Forever Isn’t” which begins with “Long, long ago, people got stuck/in thoughts, giraffes galloped by, joyful,//notes bouncing on the landscape. People/painted those giraffes on solid rock.” Hiemstra writes: “I print poems,/heartscapes high on a cliff. Rock Face/will cherish my words, hold them tight/till Earth crumbles.” And he puts the relative worth of his poetry into perspective showing its reception by one of the modern guardians of literature, the librarians, in “Best Compliment Ever.”  “Our poetry review has hatched at last./ I deliver it to libraries stuck on hold: jolting/each slow motion librarian from a dream…” The book fails to excite the “dusty librarian, who stifles an Arctic yawn…” The poem ends with an unexpected validation from a homeless man next to “a jammed Wall Street Journal rack/ he whispers, “Hey man, I really like your shirt.”” This puts the poet’s desire for connection, notoriety and/or recognition into perspective. Hiemstra’s Zen-like, humourous observations remind me of those of Allen Ginsberg or James Broughton.

Less Fortunate Pirates by Bryan Borland is a collection of approximately 50 poems about the writer’s “first year without my father.” The collection starts in December just after the writer’s father dies in a car accident and continues through the next year just beyond Thanksgiving. The collection begins with “Instructions for How to Approach the Bereaved,” at a funeral or wake and continues with a “buried,” “frozen” Christmas where “Midnight mass turns/mourning chapel/Jingle bells toll joylessly.” It includes poems about childhood reminiscences, genealogy, his father’s profession, dreams about his father, and a psychic’s explanation of the real reason for his father’s accident. All of this whilst the writer gets on with his life packing away his father’s belongings, fixing his mother’s home and caring for the family plot.

Pirates is an impressive collection of mostly short poems which are powerful in their combination of the mundane with the writer’s remembrance of his father’s absence. For example, in his poem, “Pedestal Days,” “Pardons come as easy as breath/in the waxy face of difficult decisions,/the color of the casket,/which shirt goes with forever.” Or from “The Day That Cemeteries Change: “Like a backyard quarterback/I kneel with my bare knee//to settle the flowers we leave/against the winds of our absence.” Such writing is simple, precise and concentrated and draws the reader through the collection to its conclusion in December a year later. It is a book, which undoubtedly will touch both those who have lost a parent and lost who have not.

Isn’t it Nice to Feel Feminine Again? by Juliet Cutler

Isn’t it Nice to Feel Feminine Again?
by Juliet Cutler

I look for myself in museums.

Oh, there I am. That could be me running alongside Guido van der Werve in Nummer veertien, home, a film about Van der Werve’s journey running, biking, and swimming nearly 1,200 miles from Warsaw to Paris. I recognize myself in his desire to fully experience the beauty and pain of human existence.

There I am again, in that painting. I could be walking among those lonesome, blue sailboats under Max Pechstein’s crimson sunset sky.

Just there, in those Art Deco posters, I would love to get all dolled up in my flapper dress, a long feather in my cloche hat, and take a ride on the Nord Express.

Isn’t that why people go to museums? To understand themselves and the world in which they live, to gain new perspectives, to see beauty, to experience insight, to learn.

That’s why I go to museums. I see myself in them, and I am often transformed by what I see.


I guess that’s why I left the Stedelijk Museum feeling so melancholy. I know that humanity can be base, rude, even nefarious. I’ve seen the reprehensible. I know the horrors. I’ve howled and screamed in the darkness, “This isn’t real. I want to wake up.”

“I saw you do it.”

“This hurts. Stop it.”

But, really, what is the point of all the terror revealed? What are we to do with the visions of Mike Kelley?

A hall—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple
               red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple . . .
Faces—only men, only white
Words—desire, pleasure, rape, chaos—only men
Money—Pay for your Pleasure, give money for the victims—only women.

I am angry. Where am I? Where are my words? How am I seen?

Maybe like the women upstairs, sitting below the frogs, legs splayed wide, lips parted, all vaginas and nipples?

Always the object.
Never the subject.


A promotional poster catches my eye just outside the permanent collection. It reads, “Stedelijk Museum: Maris, Breitner, Jongkind, Lautrec, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Chagall, Picasso, Mondriaan, Klee, and Sluyters.”

So, these are the noteworthy subjects of the Stedelijk Museum—eleven men.

I can find over 30 works of art where women are the objects. Most of these works are by men.

In 10,000 square metres (98,400 square feet), I can find only ten among hundreds—Jo Baer, Isa Genzken, Hanne Darboven, Rineke Dijkstra, Marlene Dumas, Yayoi Kusama, Paulina Olowska, Jackie Winsor, Martha Rosler, and Maria Hees.

These are the women of the Stedelijk Museum. Like colourful balloons in a quiet corner, where the crowds are a bit thinner, you can seek them out. Maybe there you’ll find a glimpse of hope amidst the pervasive moans of Mike Kelley? Maybe there you’ll find something transcendent, progressive, and truly contemporary?

Kelley’s Shed by Zed Dean

Kelley’s Shed
by Zed Dean

(Note: All quotes are from Isabelle Graw’s, “Dedication replacing appropriation: fascination, subversion and dispossession in appropriation art.” In Louise Lawler And Others. Hatje Cantz Verlag GmbH & Co KG, 2004. Artworks mentioned include: Orgone Shed, 1992, Colema Bench, 1992, Lumpenprole, 1991, and Blackout (Detroit River), 2001).

Viljam awakes with a square of blue light igniting his chin, his Cashmere collarbone, his drowsy drunken heart. Memories of a shrill alarm that starts and stops, restarts and stops as he jumps back and forth amongst playground objects in a large white room, come back to him wrapped in a shroud of migraine. The blue light reflects up from his shoulder to illuminate, though bleakly, the inside of a radiation-proof bunker construction seemingly erected around him. No light is allowed in through the joints. But some words, words he’d thought, written or copy-and-pasted, slowly seep through. “Postmodernism” is, was, is, was, “a quotation culture.” Is, was. “The disregard of a context that accompanies cultural appropriation.” Context. Catalogue. Wall text. How did he ever end up with just a three-page slot to write. These walls had been promised him. How had he ever wound up with the chapter of the catalogue that was doomed to be scrapped. How had he ended up amounting to nothing at all?

If he turns now to look outside through the little door, he knows he’ll see the dreaded bucket. So many arguments about that damned bucket. Designed by the artist, –possibly backdated– as a stale joke about the brand name of a plastic manufacturer that no one remembers. Viljam was now complicit in its re-engineering into a health-and- safety-standards compliant work of art, insured against a five-digit figure. “The possibility that the appropriated body would activate its powers of resistance and fight back was, with hindsight, incredibly overrated”.

The good thing about opening receptions like Mike Kelley’s is that one can leap from tipsiness straight into performance art. He’d crept into the Orgone Shed last night holding the first bottle of champagne from the third batch–guests had been invited according to social status, carefully slotted into three different one-hour long tours. He’d fled there, partly avoiding the aggressive flirtations of the head of Education, partly hoping to close a deal that he’d slowly built up from half-smiles and knowing glances with the guest curator. Instead, the wrong faces would all look in through the shed door from time to time. He would respond with dialogues from a play he’d half-written about Wilhelm Reich while waiting for a reply to his Amsterdam application letter. It all suddenly seemed so appropriate. Even if Einstein’s lines came across as the weakest…so sexless.

Halfway through the night he’d made his way down the hallway to crawl underneath the carpet with all the other corpses. No, no, he must have dreamt that. The security system would have never given him the leeway to get that far. No, it must have been somewhere else. Maybe the river of broken china. But the only safe place, he’d decided quite correctly even in his inebriated state, was the radiation-shielded orgone accumulator. The movement detectors had no access to him there.

He thought of Freud, Anna Freud, and how she had hounded poor Wilhelm Reich out of the field of psychoanalysis. While Anna re-shaped the twentieth century’s sense of self on the capitalist basis of accumulated sexual repression, W.R. had propelled the sixties with orgasmic energy and utopia. A historian he knew had come up with a small thought that provided him with some minimum comfort: after all, what could the twentieth century amount to without the sixties? But this all seemed very far away, before feminist PC, before self-help and DIY.

In a sense, the shed was a mise en abyme of the whole retrospective. It tried in vain to absorb all the energy that was supposed to radiate from a monstrous accumulation of hedonistic pleasure embodied in fifty years of postwar pop products. “To allow the appropriated material even a minimum of own momentum would have meant falling back on modernist premises”. Maybe, he thought, as the last non sequitur before the lights came on and the Sunday morning shift started, masturbation had an intrinsic value beyond its possible exploitation for humanist causes. Somehow, Viljam concluded, as he tucked his shirt into his Comme Des Garçons taper trousers, masturbation was the one thing he hadn’t thought of doing that night, alone in the Orgone Shed.

A Kind of Cousin by Kate Foley

A Kind of Cousin
by Kate Foley

(After Michael Kelley’s “Animation 20, 2007” at the Stedelijk Museum)

a great deal of pacing
                                   if we are
to mutate into one work of art
regarding another we must do full-stops
as well as commas
                                     in front always in front
of the not-to-be-afraid-of-it
             is that the right word?  of the artist

and I am so happy to be suddenly
mugged by a great fist of Karel Appel’s
colour and the clown faces speak quite tenderly to me
telling not to get above my station
or pretend to understand Barnet Newman

             elderly couples who know the steps
move a few of them at a time
on their afternoon Culture  and there is a special
tone of voice you must locate
if you wish to speak of

                        part of the music of turning into a pitch-
perfect reflection

             but haunting as a gull’s shadow

over the sky-light

                                      a child screams
all through

             unseen                       a thin scream

feral teeth in his calf

                                                      if this is art

I am its awkward cousin.

The HMS Inaccessible by Bryan Monte

The HMS Inaccessible
By Bryan R. Monte

Many of the Stedelijk’s critics have complained that the museum’s new, modern, white wing looks like a giant bathtub next to the original, 1890s brick building. I would argue, however, that it reminds me more of the white hulls of the giant cruise ships that dock in Amsterdam, towering over 19th century, brick warehouses. And I wonder how much the new wing’s streamlined design reflects the Stedelijk’s (subconscious?) desire to compete for these tourists with the neighbouring Van Gogh and Rijksmuseums.

Before it can open its doors to boatloads of tourists, however, the Stedelijk needs to solve several accessibility problems between and within its new and old wings to allow visitors of all abilities to make their way independently through the museum. Due to the accessibility problems and obstacles I encountered during my six visits from January to March 2013, the Stedelijk felt to me more like the tsunami-overturned ocean liner in the Poseidon Adventure than a whimsical, Postmodern pleasure ship.

How Do I Get Out of Here?

On my fourth visit to the museum within a fortnight whilst preparing to write this review, I heard a gray-haired Dutch woman in the new wing’s basement lobby exclaim: Hoe kom ik hier daaruit! (“How do I get out of here!”). Perhaps she’d been confused by the express escalator which only links the basement and upper floor special exhibit areas and bypasses the ground-floor lobby to exit. Or maybe she was irritated by the periodic screams from David Kelley’s Animation 20, 2007 audible two floors below. Whatever the case, even on my fourth visit to the museum, I was still having trouble piloting my rollator (British English: Zimmer frame on wheels; American English: walker with wheels) through the Stedelijk’s old and new galleries.

Feeling a bit like Shelly Winters, who plays a former Olympic swimmer in the Poseidon Adventureand takes a small band of tourists to safety through the creaking bowels of the overturned ocean liner, I led the woman and her group of eight retirees to the far end of new wing’s basement where the small (less than half the capacity of the old wing’s), barely noticeable (from the other end of the basement) public lift would take them back up to the lobby.

Then I became angry. Even though most of the lifts were working this day versus my previous visits on the 17th, 18th, and 22nd of January, why, I asked myself, after a €170 million extension and upgrade, wasn’t the new Stedelijk more accessible and navigable for its patrons than the old museum? I began to count, in chronological order, the barriers I had encountered whilst exploring the new museum, and I wondered why no one—not even the critics from the reviews I’ve read so far—seemed to have noticed this.

The first obstacle I encountered each day was at the museum’s main entrance—a large revolving door. As I tried to enter the museum here with my rollator, I was waved away by a security guard who pointed to a plate-glass door just to the left. Painted on it in white letters and with wheelchair and pram pictograms were the words: “Entrance” and “Toegang.” Behind this door inside, however, was a blue cord that visually roped off or closed the door to admission. The guard unhitched the cord and unlocked the door to allow me to enter. I looked for the standard, blue, large button with a white wheelchair common on most upgraded buildings for disabled people to open this door themselves or request entrance. Strangely, I didn’t see one.

The second obstacle I encountered was just after I had paid for admission, used my electronic ticket to clear the high-tech, double-wide turnstile, and checked my coat. The floor of the Stedelijk’s new wing’s lobby is at least a metre lower than the old building. This difference could only be negotiated by ascending six steps. A special lift had been built in the middle of these steps, but on every day I visited the museum it was not working. The lift I directed the retirees to on the 30th to go to the lobby was also out of order on the 17th.

I stood behind my rollator at the foot of the stairs to see if anyone saw my dilemma. No one came to my aid. No one would have had to, however, if a corrugated-steel ramp, which bent back once, had been laid on the right side of this staircase where there are almost five metres of space.

After waiting a few minutes, I caught the attention of a blonde-haired woman on her way down the corrugated-steel ramp at the Van Baerelstraat employee/service entrance. I asked her if she knew how I could get into the museum. She said she would notify someone at security that I needed assistance. After a few minutes, she came back, led me up the ramp she had descended, and used her electronic key to open a wall-high door in the side of gallery 0.26 to give me entrance to the museum.

I was now in the Stedelijk’s furniture and housewares section, a treasure of objects and interiors including Mies van de Roh chairs, old Philips radios and a reconstructed Mondriaanesque Geert Rietveld black, white, yellow, blue and red bedroom similar in importance to the Dutch as the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Arts and Crafts Rooms are to the British. I made my way again through the museum’s “original” galleries and became reacquainted with old friends—Picasso’s Sitting Woman with Fish Hat (complete with lemon, fork and knife); the big-eyed, Spencer and Toorop self-portraits side-by-side; Van Gogh’s green-handed La berceuse holding a yellow cord; Mondriaan’s reassuring, regular geometric exercises in yellow, red, black, blue, and white; and Matisse’s La perruche et la sirène with its pink, orange, green and blue tomato, seaweed, parrot, and mermaid shapes pasted onto a white canvas after the old master could no longer hold a brush.

Tired after about an hour or so of visiting old friends, I decided to try the museum’s second-floor Zadelhoff Café to lift my flagging spirits. Here, instead of being able to just relax and refuel with a cup of java, I encountered my third obstacle.

The café’s tables were set in rows just wide enough for my rollator. One or two patrons had turned chairs aside and draped their coats over them obstructing the walkways. I tried carefully to negotiate my way to a free table, grazing more than a few coats and bags along the way. I wondered why at least one of these aisles hadn’t been made wide enough for wheelchairs and/or rollators or why a disabled section including a table or two without chairs hadn’t been created.

Thankfully, getting the waitress’ attention once I found a free table was much easier than finding a seat. Drinking my koffie verkeerd (café latte) in the container provided, however, proved to be yet another challenge. The coffee was served in a tall, handle-less ceramic cup which was too hot to hold without a napkin even though, mysteriously, the coffee itself was the proper temperature for drinking.

In addition to the hot and hard to hold coffee cup, the café’s ambience was very much unlike that of the glitzy, glass-box restaurant and bar at the museum’s entrance. If eating there could be considered dining at the captain’s table, then eating here was barely second-class and quite possibly steerage. The café’s chairs and tables seemed positioned for the maximum seating and flow through. And the views, on either side, were oppressive. On one side was a white-washed brick wall with Lawrence Weiner’s black, block-lettered piece, Escalated from Time to Time, Overloaded from Time to Time, Revoked from Time to Time. On the other side was a bare, white-washed brick wall. This is unfortunate because if the seating were adjusted 90 degrees, café patrons would enjoy views of either Dan Flavin’s Untitled, a pink, yellow, green, blue and white neon sculptural tribute to Mondriaan in the old wing’s grand staircase lobby, or the late-19th/early-20th century, brick buildings across the street framed by giant, arched windows.

As it is now, however, the café feels jammed into a former second-floor landing. It feels cold (due to a breeze which seems to flow from behind the bar and out towards the grand staircase) and penitential—not in the religious but in the custodial sense. It reminded me of my high school’s 1950s-style functional eat-your-food-and-get-out-because-there-are-hundreds-of-other-people-waiting-cafeteria. Definitely not a place where tourists or, on this afternoon, mostly Dutch retirees and elderly patrons will linger to enjoy a break before resuming their afternoon of Art.

On 17 January I ended my visit at the Stedelijk here. But on the 18th, 22nd and 30th, fortified by a cup of java, I explored the new wing and the Michael Kelley special exhibition. I should note here before my critique that I like to shake things up and view special exhibitions, especially retrospectives, in reverse order so that discontinuities are foregrounded and point more strongly back to their origins.

The Michael Kelley Exhibit

The Stedelijk’s new wing has doubled the museum’s exhibition space. There is a new, upper-floor, steeply pitched theatre for viewing videos, with built-in, wooden seats. Sadly, there is no special space for wheelchairs in front where their users can sit out of the traffic flow. During my first visit, this cinema was playing Kelley’s Banana Man (1982). The video itself felt contrived and acted in the way a small, community theatre would perform Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle (No offence intended to Brecht or small community theatres) as the actors surrounding Kelley chanted “We’re not moving” as they swayed in chorus around him. Not something I would expect from someone who lived and worked in Los Angeles, the capital of the film industry.

In the next gallery were four, more memorable video works—snow blowing in a howling wind in a laboratory bottle, the two Mary’s video shown in the free, exhibition guide, a sort-of Halloween haunted house encounter with mama, and the fourth, a young man or older boy getting a shave in a barber shop whilst being taunted by two barbers (to the point of child abuse I would think) who use the p-word for vagina. Perhaps this last video was some sort of flashback to bullying Kelley had experienced in school. It was apparent from the last three videos that Kelley definitely had “issues” with mother figures. On the back balcony were a series of Kelley’s artworks—animated graphics on plasma screens—featuring futuristic castle cities in laboratory bottles that scream, moan, laugh or whine whilst appearing to expand or vibrate. The screams were audible down at the museum’s main entrance lobby and even in the basement.

At this point, I encountered the museum’s fourth physical barrier. Between the second-floor balcony and the musical, lime-green express escalator that brings patrons down to the special exhibition space in the basement are a series of stairs. The lift that would help me circumvent these stairs, however, was out of order. Once again, a ramp would have solved the problem since half the staircase is already blocked by one of the non-permanent border walls of the Kelley exhibition. My only choice was to reverse my course back through the museum into the old wing, take the lift downstairs and again request assistance for access to the basement galleries.

I reached the basement via the Van Baerelstraat service lift. After a call on his walkie-talkie, I shared the lift with a guard and three other people—two cleaners with their mops and buckets full of water and cleaning fluid and another man who was moving large, black boxes. The security guard squeezed all of us in before taking us down to the basement. The lift opened up not in a public space, but in a service corridor where I encountered my fifth obstacle—two sets of electrical cords laid across the corridor floor which I had to jump with my rollator.

Finally back outside in the public portion of the basement, I looked up at two cloth banners by Kelley—Animal Friends  in the basement. Just inside the exhibition’s entrance were two others that were banally provocative. One in black and white read, “Pants Shitter and Proud of It. P.S. Jerk Off Too (I Wear Glasses).” To the left of this banner was another that featured a giant cookie jar with the motto: Let’s Talk About Disobeying.” Further inside the exhibit was a massive green, grey, tan, purple and brown herringbone carpet under which were the shapes of human bodies. To the left of the carpet were a series of drawings, including one, a smiling rag doll, which is on the exhibition’s folder’s cover. The series also included Kelley’s Kissing Kidneys drawing. Behind the carpet were a series of portraits of stuffed animals and a simulated photo of Kelley as a teenager. In the next room was one of Kelley’s signature works—his sculptures of used/recovered stuffed animals, More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid and The Wages of Sin (1987) sewn or glued together. To the right of this sculpture was what I would consider the most transgressive part of the exhibit—two black and white photos of a naked man and woman from behind having simulated sex with stuffed toys. They reminded me of a similar set of three photos upstairs in gallery 1.22—one with a shirtless, mohawked blond punk pissing on a green chair, the second of a naked man and a woman in a tree, and third of a woman with an exposed breast squirting milk out of a teat.

To the left and in the next gallery, Kelley’s Banana Man video was playing again on a small video monitor. On display next to it was the yellow plastic suit he wore during its filming. Across the gallery were cardboard tubes out of which bellowed the sounds boys make when they blow though them like trumpets.

Except for the bodies under the rug, most of Kelley’s art seems unimaginative and even puerile—and not in a naïve or playful way either. Having attended grammar school with Jerome Caja, the artist who shot to fame with his Marcel Duchamp/Salvador Daliesque (re)interpretation of Bartolomé Estaban Murillo’s Immaculate Conception by painting a Bozo clown face on the Virgin Mary and on the angels surrounding her, I know that Modern and Postmodern art is mostly about rebellion and revulsion from one’s upbringing and creating some sort of unique signature over someone else’s work, especially if your sign(ature) upends that work’s or tradition’s original intention. Caja and Kelley grew up in similar, mid-Western suburban neighborhoods – Caja just outside of Cleveland and Kelley just outside of Detroit. So it doesn’t surprise me that Caja’s signature became his Catholic Bozos and Kelley’s, his stuffed-animal sculptures sewn or glued together.

Caja’s art, however, boldly and bravely subverts mythological and religious themes. His paintings include The Birth of Venus in Cleveland (a self-portrait now owned by the Smithsonian in which Caja stands in a backyard, inflatable infant’s pool wearing only fish net stockings, a leather jacket and a bra) and The Last Hand Job. He created his works from found objects due to his extreme poverty—painting on abandoned pieces of paper and cardboard, even McDonald’s French fry boxes and soda pop bottle caps—mostly miniatures with acrylic nail polish—before he lost his sight to CMV and his life to AIDS in 1995. His works exposed his frustration, anger and rebellion with his Catholic upbringing and his unpleasant, painful life cut short at the height of his artistic output. Kelley’s work, like Caja’s to a larger degree, seems dependent on its shock-value especially with video works screaming from the balcony or moaning in the basement for attention. Kelley seems to accomplish this best with his four videos on the second floor. But compared to Caja, this work seems like a shock without a programme—more like an irritation or a bad joke, not a sublime artistic statement.

And Kelley’s John Glenn Memorial Detroit River Reclamation Project with its collection of objects of the same colours laid in trays and/or stacked (occasionally resembling his later towered futuristic cities) or pasted on a mannequin and its racks of suburban newspapers about boy scouts, clowns, ventriloquists and community musicals and plays, doesn’t really dredge up and (re)create as many new perspectives as do, for example, Michael Brady’s giant abstract and almost topographical canvases made from Hurricane Katrina detritis. That’s what I would really consider “found art” and a profound display of craftsmanship and technique.

In addition, as a gay man, I ask myself where does AIDS Crisis of the 1980s and 1990s register in Kelley’s oeuvre? Nowhere that I noticed whilst visiting this exhibition.

What I missed even more, however, were redundant, low-tech systems (such as ramps) to allow museum visitors with disabilities to move through the galleries, corridors and floors comfortably and independently. Instead of sailing away comfortably for an afternoon of Art in the white-hulled, HMS New Stedelijk, I felt confounded by mobility obstacles in what I experienced as the HMS Inaccessible. I realize that in cutting-edge, Postmodern architecture, hallways and staircases that seem to lead nowhere and balconies and lifts that are almost too small for practical use are de rigueur jokes. However, even a hip, new, museum wing should be designed to help everyone keep his/her dignity and mobility without having to ask for assistance. At €170 million, the new Stedelijk wing shouldn’t be a poorly connected maze; it should be amazing. Sadly, it isn’t—yet.

Neil Hughes – Act III from Flaw, A Play in Five Acts

Act III from Flaw, A Play in Five Acts
by Neil Hughes

SOLOMON WISE, Liberal Democrat Prime Minister
JOHN HUTCHINSON, a Liberal Democrat Lord
JOHNSON, Solomon’s Parliamentary private secretary
SMITHERS, an architect
ZIGI, Solomon’s wife
DOREEN, a London East End prostitute
MAGGIE, another East End woman
HANS, Zigi’s father
ROBERT, a Londoner
JO, a Londoner

Background to Act III: Solomon Wise, Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats for ten years, opens the new parliament building in his district whilst his marriage to Zigi, his German émigré wife, begins to falter and political dissent begins to strengthen.

Act III, Scene i

Westminster. The opening of the new Parliament building.


ARCH: [Stepping forward.] And now O great God, Father of the Universe, we give you our thanks, because you, in your greatness, have remembered your people in their wretched humbleness. We give thanks for your tender mercy towards your people. We listened, you instructed. And now—this great extension to our seat of government we see today completed—ready to be opened for the better good of the public and to the glory of Your Name, and for Your servants, our members of Parliament. Let us pray:

Father of all, we know that we are all weak and small creatures only in your sight. Keep us humble and keep us close to the true purposes of Your Word, but give us grace to man these your organs of government which You have given to us for your very own worth—capably and with the deference that becomes people who have submitted and bowed their allegiance to your divine will. And we ask particularly that You will bless Solomon, our Prime Minister, in all the tasks that lie before him, and keep him in the wisdom of your divine government and your holy ways, for we ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

ALL: [With varying degrees of confidence.] Amen.

ARCH: And now let us say together part of the litany of the Holy Name of Jesus [Gestures to audience also; others respond about half a dozen times, ‘Lord have mercy’.]


And now the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all, Amen.

[Goes to Solomon.] Thank you. [Others relax and talk among themselves.]

SOLOMON: My privilege. Our privilege. “Lord of the Universe”—I like that.

ARCH: I try to make the liturgy interesting.

SOLOMON: Yes, and it’s very representative of what we believe about God. The unity of the church.

ARCH: Care, though, lest we treat God too much as an object—taken-for-granted. He is our Heavenly Father, our “Divine Lawmaker,” if you like.


ARCH: I must go and — have a wash. I’m stifling hot in this outfit, you know.

SOLOMON: Thank you, again, my Lord. We’ll see you shortly.

ARCH: Indeed. Certainly. [SMITHERS and JOHNSON come forward, one each side of SOLOMON.]

SMITH: A lovely service, don’t you think? [Pause.] Here some people have perhaps a living example that we still have some religion in all of our hearts. Don’t you think?

SOLOMON: [JOHNSON?] Well, the banquet is being served in the refectory now. Shall we go?

SOLOMON: Yes—Mr. Smithers—Clive. [Exit JOHNSON.]


SOLOMON: Do you have any religious leanings yourself?

SMITH: Yes, I’m a practicing Anglican, myself.

SOLOMON: So what did you think of all this?

SMITH: A little artificial; pleasing, but a little artificial.

SOLOMON: You must tell me why you think that. I’d be interested to know.

SMITH: Oh, it’s of no great importance. I thought—

SOLOMON: I’d like to hear, though.

SMITH: [As they exeunt.] I’m somewhat more Low Church than the Archbishop. A little more evangelical. [After they exit.] “Lord of the Universe,” for example—I don’t like that phrase; makes me think of Islam, or something like that.

SOLOMON: Well, we have to be broad-minded. Don’t you think?

SMITH: Even when we’re Christians?

Act III, Scene ii


SOLOMON: I assure you that it’s always worth having a go at something first before it becomes too much of a challenge. It saves a lot of problems afterwards.

ZIGI: What about the things that are too much of a challenge?

SOLOMON: Well, there are always going to be challenges—the fewer the better, perhaps. Yet I suppose challenges, that we do have to and which we can overcome successfully, do tend to make us better people. They have to be faced.

ZIGI: And so, what about all these people today? What are you going to do?

SOLOMON: I’m not absolutely certain, to tell you the truth. I’m lucky in that I’ve seen them all before—but I’m not sure what’s been happening in the meantime.

ZIGI: They will want to see you. You must see them all.

SOLOMON: Of course.

ZIGI: So I’ll wait for you here, shall I?

SOLOMON: All right. I’ll see you later. [Kisses her.] These people who come to beg for understanding—why don’t they put their own lives in order first? I can only pray for them and then try to sort out their needs and their situations. I’m not a superman. [Exit ZIGI.]

Enter JOHNSON with DOREEN and MAGGIE, arguing.

JOHNSON: Two ladies to see you, Solomon.

DOREEN: ‘Ere listen — it’s ’er — she’s after me property again. This time she wants me to give ’er everything, me ’ouse an’ all.

MAGGIE: Ah, shut your trap, baggage.

SOLOMON: Well, ladies, please—

MAGGIE: No, I don’t—

DOREEN: ’Ey, and listen—don’t come round my way with that whinin’ dog of yours any more and those two whinin’ kids, and the cat that goes through the rubbish at night. Starved like a skeleton, she must be and the dog and the kids, for that matter.


SOLOMON: [interrupting] Well, ladies! [Slight pause.] Now, who’s first? —ladies!

MAGGIE: [to DOREEN] I can decide what ’appens to me own bloody kids, can’t I?

DOREEN: Stop shouting! Christ’s sake! You’re like a hyena! Yap, yap yap—all yer ever do is “Yap, yap, yap!” Shut up!

Mr. Wise, I ‘ope you don’t mind us comin’ to you again an’ talkin’ to yer, but this cock-sucking woman, as I was saying, ’as tried to get ’er own young ones sold off to gypsies to beg, yeh—now she’s put our own ’ouses on tick to the council; both of them, yeh; to Hackney council!

SOLOMON: I see; and whose are the houses?

DOREEN: Well, we’re temporary residents, at the moment, like. It’s a kind of half-way house abode, you know, so to speak, in Dalston Lane. Sheltered, like—

SOLOMON: Sheltered from what?

MAGGIE: Fuck all!

DOREEN: Ain’t no business of ’er’s what I do with my property and my lifestyle. Me life’s me own.

SOLOMON: [Racking brains.] You mean you’re squatting?

DOREEN: Well, if that’s the way you want to put it, yeh. [Slight pause.] She wants to give our ’ouses back to the council —

MAGGIE: So do you, y’old bitch—

SOLOMON: Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Who do the houses belong to, anyway?

DOREEN: [To MAGGIE.] There now, answer that, if you can, you madam!

MAGGIE: Excuse me—if we’re there—no-one—and that includes Hackney council’s — got any right to move us —

SOLOMON: Yes, but who do the houses belong to — ?

DOREEN: Anyway, I think we’re made our point quite clear — If that’s all right with you, Mr. Wise.

MAGGIE: Yeh. [They both begin to bolt.]

DOREEN: We’ll ’ave to get going.

SOLOMON: Yes, but as you’re squatters you do have legal rights—

DOREEN: That’s what they tell us, but we don’t want no social workers snoopin’ round.

MAGGIE: No. Yet, I suppose, as the houses are the council’s, we’ve got no chance, anyway.

SOLOMON: I’ll still help if I can.

DOREEN: I thought you were bloody going to! [Pause; they turn and exeunt, slamming the door.]

SOLOMON: I did something wrong there. What was it? Maybe I don’t keep my own constituency, which is like my own house, in order, after all. [Pause.] I’ve still got division in the party, too, since John Adrian left and joined the Tories. It would be nice to see John Hutchinson again. I wonder what he’s doing now. Perhaps he could tell me where I’m going wrong. [Pause; sits.] He always seemed close to the public eye. Close to God, you might say. Holy! He always seemed very lively, too.

Act III, Scene iii


HANS: But what is the real problem? Surely you can tell me—I am your father.

ZIGI: I don’t know. I think there are always problems with him, but I don’t know how to talk about them.

HANS: And the job? That’s going all right, isn’t it? [Silence.] He seems to be running the country satisfactorily. I know that’s not everything, but—

ZIGI: Ja! But that is no sign that he loves and cares for me. And the job—that is all right. Sometimes I think he has no love.

HANS: I will ask him why he has made it possible for you to think like this.

ZIGI: No, no—don’t stir up trouble where it is not necessary. I’m glad you care—let’s leave it at that.

HANS: You told me not long ago you did love him a great deal. Is that not true now?

ZIGI: Then, I was a young girl. Now, I am a bit more cautious. That wasn’t recently, anyway. Let’s not worry about it. Let’s go and have some tea.

HANS: I hear he’s produced a book also. What do you think about that, this book, if I can ask?

ZIGI: I haven’t read it. I’ve only read a few of the separate pages he passed over to me and — I didn’t understand much.

HANS: Is it theology he’s written?

ZIGI: I think so, yes—theology and philosophy.

HANS: And what is the subject of this book?

ZIGI: Many different subjects. In fact, I don’t ever think I will understand them all. How to be wise, how to be honest, how to be obedient, and so on.

HANS: He’s wise already. [Laughs.] But—that’s something every man and every woman must learn for himself.—And can he dare to be so bold? Also, then we must wait to see what he has to say about it himself.

[They are about to exeunt.
SOLOMON downstage. He is dressed impeccably.]

SOLOMON: Wait. No, wait a minute.

ZIGI: We thought you were going to meet us in the dining room.

SOLOMON: Well, I’ve decided to meet you here.

HANS: So we eat now?

SOLOMON: Yes, yes—let’s go through. Did you want to ask me anything about my book, Hans?

HANS: No—we thought maybe you would tell us something about it over lunch.


SOLOMON: Certainly. [All three go to exit.] How much has Zigi told you?

HANS: Not very much.

SOLOMON: [As they exeunt.] That surprises me, because the other day she was very interested in leafing through the pages. She said she thought some parts of it were quite good, when I asked her.

ZIGI: Come! We must eat.

Act III, Scene iv

SOLOMON and HUTCHINSON. In the garden of Chequers.

SOLOMON:            You see, the lilac that’ll soon come up too. Then in these borders we’ve got chrysanthemums, pansies, a rose here and there—laburnum, of course—plots of bright colour. To keep the place looking nice right through the summer. What do you think?

HU: I remember it when David was Prime Minister: by golly he looked after it well.

SOLOMON: They keep the grounds impeccable. Michael’s quite the expert gardener. [Slight pause.] Well, what do you think about the election? You’re keeping very quiet. It’s not that long off, is it?

HU: Is it? I haven’t quite kept an exact record.

SOLOMON: We do have to make some plans, provisional though they may be. I thought I might call you in to speak something about it.

HU: Mm. And is the party all prepared for the event, do you think?

SOLOMON: I think we will be, by then. I’ve had some ideas for publicity, too. Tell me what you think.

HU: Go on.

SOLOMON: You remember that Miss South-East person from the TV?—I think perhaps you won’t. It’s just that I thought perhaps she might be interested in helping to lead our campaign. She said on the TV when she was interviewed—that she was very interested in theology and she also said, actually, that she’d be very fascinated in getting to know me, the Prime Minister. Well, I thought I’d let you know what I think—let me know your opinion—maybe we should bring her into the campaign in some way. She is a notable status symbol, after all. Millions of people know—or think they know—who she is.

HU: Yeh — how much do you know about her background? She’s probably a soft Tory. Where does she live—Basildon?

SOLOMON: I don’t even know what party she supports or where she lives. But perhaps we can find such things out. She’s only one string in the bow, in any case.

HU: We’ll see. Here’s somebody coming.

[Enter JOHNSON.]

JOHNSON: [To SOLOMON.] Sir, there’s a deputation at the gate to see you. I don’t know how they knew you were here.

SOLOMON: Who are they—from?

JOHNSON: “Feminism Now.” Some of them obviously aren’t wearing any bras, either.

SOLOMON: And others are very flat-chested, no doubt? They’re the ones who want to be allowed to be called ‘Mister’ and to own their husbands’ property as well as their own. I can see them for a few minutes, if that’s what they want. How many are there of them?

JOHNSON: About six.

SOLOMON: [To HUTCHINSON.] Looks as if I spoke too soon. Die-hard feminists here to see me. Sorry about that.

HU: You could ask them if any of them would like to be Liberal Democrat status symbols in the coming election.

SOLOMON: Ha, ha! You always were a wit, weren’t you? Excuse me a moment. [Has turned to exit.]

HU: Solomon, wait — one minute. You’re going to give women a say in the country, aren’t you?

SOLOMON: Yes, why shouldn’t I?

HU: No, nothing much, really — I’ll tell you later about something. [Exeunt SOLOMON and JOHNSON; & HUTCHINSON partly himself. Pause.] Interesting fellow. He hates women, virtually all women, I’d say, and yet he wants one to be his campaign generalissimo. Mm—nice roses—might not be around to use them in the spring.

Act III, Scene v

[Enter ROBERT and JO.]

ROBERT: If you ask me, it’s agoraphobia.

JO: She always keeps so much to herself, doesn’t she? Maybe it is—nerves. Maybe he is—getting on top of her.

ROBERT: I’m sure they’ve split up. She spent all day, one day last week, locked in her office—I think it was Tuesday. They said she wouldn’t answer the phone and wouldn’t let anyone in.

JO: So I heard. Maybe you’re right. I haven’t seen him round here for a while, that’s true.

ROBERT: Here she comes now.

[Exeunt ROBERT and JO. Enter ZIGI.]

ZIGI: But he’s a wide patron of the arts, and especially the theatre. And yet it’s weeks since I’ve seen him in here. I wonder why that can be? I do hope it’s not just because of me—we have our small arguments.

This is the book. I’ve been reading it.

One thing they always say about my husband is that he’s a clever man. I wonder if it’s true or not? Let’s see what he’s written here—

“I searched for wisdom day in, day out, but I did not find it.”


“Everything is a waste of time. The rich have all the power and they exploit the poor always. They always exploit the poor. But who is better off in the eyes of God?”

Hm. He’s wise but he doesn’t know that what we think is always refracted and altered by what happens to us. He always thinks in isolation; he’s got no common consciousness, even though he works among the people, he’s too self-incriminating and self-aware. I don’t want to read any more of his books. [Puts book down.] They make me feel as though there’s a mode of thinking in this life that I’ve missed out on, somehow. All right, I set out to be wise in a way, too, but what about just dealing with the day-to-day problems as they arise, and learning wisdom that way? Why does he have such a false idea of what wisdom is? I suppose it’s not much point thinking any more about this just at the moment. But what about God? Where does God come in? Is God an entity who really needs to be worshipped? Or is He just an experience, a sensation, in Solomon’s mind which needs to be dealt with? Oh, I believe in God, too—but not in the same way he does. Something perhaps Freud or Jung would know more about. Are you there, God? What do you think? Do you want me to talk to you?

Ah, I must think in more practical terms. Solomon will be what he will be. There is a kind of fate in this world which none of us can do very much either to encourage or to block. Well, I must do my best only to love him.


Robert Marswood – Economy

from Book II, Chapter 3 of Out of Zion
by Robert Marswood

Surprisingly after his unnerving meeting with Joe, Brad slept soundly for the first time since he’d arrived in the San Francisco. He knew the postcard would comfort his mother, even if she thought he was at the other end of the country. In the next weeks, Brad’s guilty feelings and survival anxiety also began to dissipate and a new, genuine curiosity about the City began to grow. He started thinking about staying in California and going back to university.

By some miracle, he’d managed to flee Provo with just a five-minute warning and all he could stuff into a backpack. Now after having lost two weeks’ rent and a month’s deposit on his first shared apartment, he’d still managed to get a second, studio apartment—“roach motel” or not—for himself. And he had a steady temporary job photocopying documents—even if it was just for two more months.

In addition, he was becoming familiar with San Francisco’s unpredictably hilly streets and its changing neighbourhoods and microclimates that had him unzipping and then zipping his jacket as the sun shone and then hid suddenly behind clouds or fog as he commuted from work to his apartment.

Brad could now find his way around town without looking at a map. He automatically knew where to get off the bus, tram or Bart. And he finally realized, after watching the scores of “clones” with short hair and tight T-shirts walk under his kitchen window each hour, that by accident he had ended up in a place most gay men dreamed of living.

Brad’s escape fantasies, however, had always run geographically in the opposite direction—back East where he wanted to get a Masters degree or a PhD and then teach. He wanted to live again in some green, suburban neighbourhood similar to where he’d been born in Ohio, where the trees planted themselves, were watered by rain not artificially irrigated and grew in forests thick as broccoli tufts. As an adolescent, Brad had daily fantasies about running away from his Mormon convert family in Utah back East to his relatives. From what he’d seen, it seemed that people only got more zealous about religion and/or sex the farther West they went. Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, San Francisco and Los Angeles were proof of that.

For the first time since he’d arrived in San Francisco, however, Brad began to see the City not as an irritation or a temporary weigh station, but as his new home—even if his uncomfortable, noisy, expensive, tiny, cockroach-infested apartment could ever be compared to the two, large, detached homes with front and back yards where he’d lived in Ohio and then Utah. Brad comforted himself by remembering this apartment was safe and warm and his own. It had a long way to go, though, before he could call it comfortable.

At the moment, Brad had only two chairs “for friendship,” but no third “for company” as Thoreau had said in Walden. After three months of living in his apartment, the only other pieces of furniture were a mattress and box springs that were on the floor in his studio’s living room. The rest of the apartment was echoingly empty. Brad needed a desk, a kitchen table, a nightstand and a dresser. In desperation, he took a board out of the kitchen cupboard and put it over the bathroom sink in order have a “desk” where he could write. And the bathroom was the only room in his studio with a door that could close to shut out the constant rumble of Haight Street traffic. To shut out his loneliness and fears, Brad re-read Walden cover-to-cover as he did Emerson’s philosophical works—especially his essay on Self-Reliance and Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass along with Der Zauberberg, which Brad read to keep up his German. These books were more than enough to satisfy any sudden urge he felt to open the Scriptures or get dressed and go to church, especially on quiet Sunday mornings when he seemed to be the only one awake as he ran through the Panhandle and into Golden Gate Park.

And as he ran in the early morning on the weekends, Brad began to notice abandoned tables, chairs, lamps and other furniture left at street corners or along curbs. Brad guessed that these had been dumped at night by people who had left town quickly. In addition to the furniture, piles of clothes were not uncommon. Shirts, pants, underwear, socks and shoes were often left behind in a line or in a pile on the pavement. Brad wondered if their wearers had performed a striptease or been squirted out of their clothes, taken up in a sudden Rapture or abducted by aliens. And there were the abandoned boxes of personal belongings—books, stereo records, framed pictures, cigarette lighters in the shape of guns and ships, bookends—personal knickknacks that were too heavy, bulky or considered worthless.

Brad soon began to collect some of these abandoned items for his own use. And furniture and clothing that were good, but for which he had no use, he “recycled” to second-hand stores to make some extra money.

Some furniture was too bulky or heavy to carry. For that, he used a dolly his supervisor, Cathy, had been complaining about at work.

“I wish somebody from building services would come down here and get rid of this,” she said as she stumbled into it every Monday morning as she tried to hang up her coat and forgot the dolly was still there. “We don’t need this anymore to move files.”

“Don’t worry,” Brad told her. “I’ll take care of that.” And he did, putting it over his shoulder after work that day and walking right past the security guard who didn’t even look up.

He used the dolly to move a pine desk someone had painted army green that had been abandoned on the corner of Fell and Clayton. It now stood in his living room against the wall facing the kitchen.  Its pinewood was light enough that he hadn’t had to take the drawers out before he rolled it up two blocks to his apartment. The neon purple and orange, four-drawer, oak dresser that stood next to the silver steam-heat radiator across the room, however, was different. Brad had found that farther away at Cole and Judah. It was so heavy he had had to take out its drawers to make the shell light enough to roll it back to his apartment. He prayed that the drawers would still be there when he got back. And by some miracle, they were. Less interesting finds were a saggy, six-shelved, cherry bookcase that was missing its back. It had been abandoned, for good reason, at Oak and Masonic. Brad brought it home and wedged tall books between the shelves to straighten them out. He also had a piece of pegboard cut at the Haight Street hardware store that he nailed to the bookshelf’s frame to close up the back and add support.

On the corner of Ashbury and Page, Brad found a blond-wood telephone table. He used it as a nightstand on top of which was a digital AM/FM alarm clock, the only new purchase he’d made for his apartment. On the floor in the alcove of the three bay windows, was a black, plastic stereo record player. Next to it was a stack of Longines Symphonette Society recordings of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies and ballet music. Brad had found all of these things in a box left out on the curb at Cole and Page with a sign that said: “Take What You Need.” Brad guessed that since most people played music from cassette tapes or CDs, no one had wanted the plastic ’60s portable stereo and worn classical records. The stereo still worked, though the scratches on the records and the hiss from the old needle spoiled the quiet passages. And in the kitchen in front of the windows and next to the refrigerator was a maple table that had a deeply scratched top and two broken legs. Brad had glued and wire-trussed the legs back together and covered the scratched top with a red-and-white checkered restaurant tablecloth he’d found sticking out of a dumpster.

With his apartment “furnished,” Brad turned his attention to making extra money from collecting more things abandoned on the street. The biggest moneymakers were the books, especially hardbacks with dust jackets that he bought sometimes for $5 a box at garage or estate sales in the Haight or the Inner Richmond. Just one book, if it was a first edition or a relatively popular one like Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception, could be worth at least what he paid for the entire box when he resold them to used bookstores on Mission Street in the City or on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley.

Clothes were initially Brad’s least popular kind of second-hand goods, but Brad needed “new” clothes since he’d only been able to jam two pairs of jeans, one pair of dress pants and temple undergarments, three button-down shirts, and two pairs of socks into his backpack before he ran out the back door and jumped over the back fence to elude the Provo Police. The first items of clothing Brad looked for were things he could wear himself—especially to work. Things like socks and underwear seemed to wear out the fastest, but were hardly ever sold at second-hand stores.

Brad sorted the clothing under his bathroom’s bright, 100-watt light. Wearing rubber gloves, he shook the clothes against the tub’s white enamel to see if any articles harboured wildlife. Clothing, which was too worn, torn or stained, was moved immediately from the cardboard collection box to a plastic garbage bag that went down the building’s trash chute that evening. Clothes Brad thought might fit him or which he thought he could resell to second-hand stores, he washed first, by hand, in the tub. Then, he took them to the Cole Street laundramat for a complete wash and dry. Within two months, Brad had an extra dozen pairs of wearable socks, three pairs of dress pants and shirts, four T-shirts and a week’s supply of “normal” underwear.

What surprised Brad the most, however, was how much money baby’s and toddler’s clothes brought at the Mission Street thrift stores. The first time Brad put the baby clothes on the counter next to the jeans and T-shirts, the store owner’s hairy, tattooed arm reached surprisingly for the toddler’s garments. He offered Brad a dollar for each piece in good condition. Brad didn’t realize how many poor, young families lived in the Mission.

And as he became more experienced and made more money at his “recycling hobby,” as he called it, Brad bought a second-hand bicycle. He fitted it with saddlebags like those he’d used in Germany on his mission. The bike increased his range, so he could cover all the garage sales in the Richmond and the Sunset from early Saturday morning to early mid-afternoon before the fog rolled in and people usually gave up for the day. Sometimes they just dumped what they hadn’t sold at the curb with a sign that said: “Take What You Need.” And Brad did, again and again.

Brad was able to replace many of the books he’d left behind in Provo, especially the 19th– and 20th-century novels and the Norton Anthologies. He even came across a copy of Hortense Powdermaker’s Stranger and Friend from his anthropology courses. He added these books to the old bookshelf in his living room. Within a few months, all its shelves were filled.

As Brad put the last book in his bookcase, he decided that he needed to change his “hobby” from something a little less hunter/gatherer to something more settled. He continued scanning classifieds every Thursday and Saturday. However, instead of concentrating on estate sale ads, he looked under the help wanted category to find work on the weekends since his “temporary” weekday assignment had been extended for another two months. Most of the ads he saw were for second- or graveyard-shift cleaners, security guards and attendants at senior citizen centres.

Brad had thought about getting a second, weekend job for a long time. He couldn’t really afford to go out to the bars—not if he wanted to save money. Most bars in the Haight and South of Market charged a cover on Friday and Saturday nights. Once he paid to get in, all he could afford was a bottle of mineral water, which he spent the night nursing and refilling from the bathroom sink tap when no one was looking. And the people Brad met at the bars—if he could even communicate with them over the deafening music—seemed only interested in one-night stands. Three times he’d made the mistake of inviting guys home. All three men had looked and seemed nice in the bar. Once in his apartment, however, all they did was complain about Brad’s mismatched, “junk furniture,” “an apartment with no TV” or that Brad wanted to use a condom. So Brad finally decided it wouldn’t really make much difference to his “social life” if he worked seven days a week.

He interviewed for job at a new senior citizens’ centre on Geary Boulevard in Japantown. The interviewer, an overweight middle-aged woman, was so desperate to fill the second-shift, weekend position she hired him on the spot without doing a background check.

“We can get that done later,” she said.

Brad wondered for a moment what would happen when she did. Then he decided: ‘Flip. I need the money,’ and just crammed that worry, along with many others, so far back into his brain that he didn’t even think about it again for the rest of the week.

His new boss’ name was Peggy. Peggy Lee from the way she piled up her hair in the kind of a beehive Brad hadn’t seen since he’d left Utah. And Peggy was so happy that Brad showed up for his own and other’s shifts early—unlike many of other security guards who came to work late and half-drunk or stoned—that she decided to let sleeping dogs lie. She was afraid that if she dug too deeply she might lose Brad like all the other attractive, seemingly well-adjusted men who had come into her life, who, with a closer look and a few hours of research by private detectives, turned out to be con artists and/or living under an assumed name usually so that their wives couldn’t track them down for alimony payments.

In addition to working the second shift weekends, Brad was called in at least once a week to pick up a graveyard shift. Brad soon began to look forward to working at the centre because he got a free, hot meal for every shift he worked.

And as he worked seven days a week, Brad tried to forget the $6,000 he’d saved and spent on his two-year German mission. That money would have been more than enough to have gotten him started comfortably in San Francisco without Brad having to work two jobs and scrounge through other people’s trash. Brad wondered if he could ever save that much money again living in San Francisco. At the moment, he was only saving about $250 a month. He wondered if that would be enough eventually for him to go back to university and get a degree. But thinking about the past or the future only made Brad feel angry or panicky during the day and unable to sleep at night, so he forced himself to concentrate almost exclusively on the present.

When he got home one Saturday night around 1 AM, he left the lights off in his apartment as he looked out through his windows down at Haight Street. The electric #7 bus twanged by, singing along the overhead wires. Above the store tops across the street were the hills of Cole Valley, which led upwards towards Mt. Sutro and its red-and-white striped radio and television tower, tipped with red flashing lights. Up by the tower, simple, two-story, three-bedroom homes were built into the hills. Brad followed the housetops and streetlights westward until he could see the gray-and-white concrete blocks of the University of California San Francisco hospital and its parking garage wedged into the side of the hill. This is where Glenn worked as an intern. Brad had stayed away as Glenn had instructed him when he’d first arrived in town so that Glenn wouldn’t get involved in any of his trouble. But now, six months later, Brad thought it was time to pay Glenn a visit again.