Dicks and Bongsby Brandon Edmonds / 31.01.2011
The world is mostly other people’s stuff. Out walking in my neighborhood I came upon some of it. A small Croxley notebook. It is soiled and wrinkled. Someone put a flame to the page edges. As an object it refuses to become mine. Genuinely strange, funny and disturbing. But we’ll get to that. There’s a beautiful short story by John Cheever called “The Seaside Houses”. A family have gone away for the summer. They’ve rented a place on the shore. “You get the sea-rusted keys from the house next door. You unfasten the lock and step into a dark or light hallway, about to begin a vacation – a month that promises to have no worries of any kind. But as strong as or stronger than this pleasant sense of beginnings is the sense of having stepped into the midst of someone else’s life.” The lost notebook does that too. A friend once told me he was leaving the Louvre and happened to look up into the apartments across the street where he saw a beautiful young woman changing. We always seem to be trespassing.
The notebook teems with dicks and bongs. There’s a blue pen-rendered bong on one of the pages, cross-hatched and shaded, fairly precisely delineated. Smoke pours from both openings, at the top of the pipe and out of the bowl itself. Yet no human presence. The bong could be magic and smoking of its own accord or what we see is more likely the aftermath of a hit. Smoke trickles as it does in Rome on the inauguration of a new Pope. Alongside the blue bong is a prior attempt in black. Scribbled over. De-selected. I’m reminded of the final Alien movie when Ripley finds a laboratory with prior versions of herself – hellish, malformed creatures begging her to kill them. The phantom draughtsman wanted to get the likeness of the bong just right. The drawing has the fussed over strain of verisimilitude.
Why draw a bong so lovingly? We might venture to guess who we’re dealing with: a teenager with a vegetable glint, moody and averse to sports, surly with parentals, a boy or girl, there’s a gender-neutral name on one of the pages, Kaylen, prone to closed doors and withholding, a person on their way to the kitchen at midnight with the munchies. From the Cheever story: “I have never known the people from whom we have rented, but their ability to leave behind them a sense of physical and emotional presences is amazing…and who was the woman who painted red enamel on the nails of the claw-footed bathtub? What was this moment in her life?” What will our bong artist think in time about this moment in their life, when they were stirred enough by Kush to commemorate it?
On the next page is the wackadoo fallout of all those hits. There’s a sort of sloping corridor drawing with a smiley face character looking right at us and doors with eyes or portals and a horned figure with wings and a bloody axe in its hand. A face, Kaylen, a self-portrait? WTF is written in capitals, confirming our speculative teen hunch. A large veined penis floats at the bottom of the page. A random blouse with buttons and bow, something Daisy Duck might wear. The notebook is an inner record of a powerful herb’s affects. The mindspill of a total stranger. A book of amateur, ugly wonders.
Another horned figure with a tail this time, an X for facial features, and its own erection in hand. A grinning skull on a tiny body suggests familiarity with Tim Burton’s filmography. A smiley face with headphones. An impressive word “tetrahydrocanabind” appears. On its own page is the Taoist Yin-Yang symbol. Enfolded duality. Classic teenage groping for depth.
The centerpiece of the notebook, the showstopper, is “Christ Bong”. It is a blunted kid’s idea of heaven. Mega bong. An insectoid steam punk contraption of conjoined funnels linking multiple bongs, obsessively annotated with the word “weed” 6 times over. It is crowned with a smiley face and the self-admiring epithet “fucked up”. In brackets “Hoooly Shit” – those redundant extra o’s conveying the mind-blowing possibilities of the dream bong. Dead end suburban transcendence.
On another page, the fingers-crossed aspirational legend “smoke weed ‘til my eyes bleed” and the deflated comedown: “Life is so unnecessary”. Oh Kaylen don’t be blue. You have your whole life ahead of you. The Cheever story once more: “Are we truly this close to one another? Must we impose our burden on strangers? And is our sense of the universality of suffering so inescapable?”
Amateur, ugly wonders.