Monday, April 30, 2007

A Perfectly nice

cover ruined, because for some reason they put the bar code on the front instead of on the very empty back cover. Go figure otherwise the cover for Ellipsis looks pretty good, plus I got a check for $20.00. There's also a b&w repro. of the color double portrait of my two old roommates Peter and John from 1968 inside the magazine. its cheap enough at $7.50.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Cardboard Sculptures

These are cardboard and paper sculptures that I did in the late 90's. They hang on the wall and I'm mighty pleased with them. They're packed away somewhere and haven't seen them since I did them. My friend Lee who is a wonderful graphic designer cleaned them up for me and made scans so that I could apply for a workshop grant at the Dieu Donne Papermill in Soho. I'm not holding my breath on getting this grant, but what the hey. My assemblage class that I was hoping to teach at Artlab in Snug Harbor Staten Island was cancelled because of low registration, so that was a blow to me.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


I had always assumed that Tom died on his birthday, but I was wrong about this. He died a few days before his 48th birthday in 1987. He died during a hot humid New York City August after several months of being in a coma from complications from AIDS and several months of fighting the system for letting him have the right to die in a dignified way. The last conversation I had with him was at the end of June on a Sunday. It was Gay Pride Sunday but I did not take part in the festivities this year. I had spent the day at my brother’s house in Queens and at the cemetery where my father’s tombstone was unveiled. In the Jewish religion, an unveiling of the tombstone is held one year after the death, and it was on this hot Sunday in June that we held the ceremony. I was terribly worried about Tom as he was going downhill very fast, and my mother could tell that I was not altogether there, in my brother’s living room in Rosedale Queens, but somewhere else. “You’re worried about Tom aren’t you,” she asked. I shook my head in the up and down yes motion and soon after I took my leave to go back to Manhattan. The train ride back to the city on the Long Island Railroad was hot as hell as the air conditioning wasn’t working and the trip took hours, as the damn train kept breaking down, and we had to get off the train we were on and get on another one, not once but twice. I was a wreck when I finally got back to my loft. Just after dousing my face with cold water, the phone rang, and it was Tom. He wanted to see if I could come over that night, but I begged off, and told him why. I was just so exhausted from the day with my family and the sorrow there. I would be over tomorrow. He understood, but I felt bad about not going over to his apartment, but my body just simply said no. Early the next morning I received a frantic call from Andy a friend of Tom’s who told me that he had found him on the floor that morning, and he was unable to talk. I got myself together quickly, made some calls to a few of his other close friends and made my way over to his tenement apartment on the lower eastside. It was a horrible sight that I found. Tom was unable to talk or move much and this was the start of our terrible time. I knew this was bad, really the end. For many months I had watched my friend fall apart slowly at first and then faster. My feelings were so mixed up, I had great sadness but also anger at Tom for not taking better care, for not protecting himself, for his casual attitude to AIDS. “If I get it I get it” he had said to me several times. I was appalled but there was nothing I could really do. I had myself to take care of and happily I had tested negative for the AIDS virus the several times that I had taken the test. How I had gotten away with this I will never know, but I thanked whatever God was watching over me. Tom was not so lucky. He was constantly having terrible bouts with herpes, and his doctor just was not responding to him the way he should have. “Why don’t you go to my doctor Tom? I really like him a lot and I think he could be of some help.” “Oh Ira Joel he would say, why fix the windshield, when the motor is gone.” He was having terrible night sweats, and horrible bouts of diaria and several times he had bowel movements in the street. He was humiliated, and I would burst out crying after hanging up the phone after his telling me of these awful things. During that late winter and early spring I would get over to his apartment as often as I could climbing the 6 flights of stairs, to get his laundry together for us to do at the neighborhood launderette. I knew he was sick when the usually too proud to accept anyone’s help Tom didn’t give me any arguments in helping him. One day I asked him if he wanted me to do some vacuuming around the apartment, “Only if you do it in the nude Ira Joel.” “I wish I could Tom, but you know how shy I am."

We would sit in his small living room, drinking his good coffee with me trying to be lively and positive when deep inside I was heartbroken. On that hot June Monday after gay pride day and after the tombstone of my father was unveiled, I made my way to his apartment. His friends would now have to take total control of the situation. Although he still had family, including his mother they were far off in Minnesota, and too old to be much help. On that hot Monday I met Pedro Jose who was a close friend of mine and Tom’s and whom Tom had worked for at his bookstore over the years and we discussed what should be done? Calls were made including one to Tom’s close friend Hugo, a poet who lived in his building and was as we found out Tom’s executor. I had never much cared for Hugo. He was a mediocre poet one of those East Village Others who would do readings at Smokey coffee houses around the village and sometimes get his stuff published in some of those obscure poetry magazines that flourished in the late 60’s and early 70’s. His thing was to write one line of poetry a day in his lined notebooks, and he had 100’s of them that filled up his bookcases. I met him years before I knew Tom. M and me were at a performance of The Living Theater and Hugo came over to say hello to M. “I can’t stand that man” M said after Hugo left, “ and he’s a lousy poet to boot.” Needless to say I was quite surprised to see him years later at a dinner party that Tom threw and to learn that he lived downstairs from Tom and was one of his best friends. I found him to be entirely self centered and full of himself. He was a gay man for most of his life, but when he was around 50 he decided that he no longer wanted to be gay, and had married a very sweet woman named Marion who came from Mississippi. Although I wished them both luck and happiness I was a little bothered by his switch. Was he really straight now, or was he one of those men who lead double lives. They were not in New York that week, but visiting Marion’s family down south, so we placed a call there. “But we’re on vacation he told me” “So what you must come back immediately we need you here, Tom is in a bad way.” Hugo did not want to give up his vacation time, and tried to get us to agree to letting them finish out the week but me and Pedro Jose would have none of it.” “Listen Hugo, Pedro Jose told him you get your ass back up here pronto.” We would have to take turns sleeping at Tom’s apartment to make sure he got through the night ok. This was going to be very tough for me, as I didn’t do so well sleeping in other places but I grit my teeth and spent a sleepless night in his tiny spare room with no air conditioning and no fan, just the hot air to keep me company along with his tiny black and white TV. I hardly slept a wink, and in between watching “Wolfen” on the tube I would constantly check up on Tom to make sure that he hadn’t rolled off the bed. Luckily or so we thought Tom had written up a living will which said that no extreme measures should be used to keep him alive if his quality of life went downhill. He was one of the first to make this sort of will, and it was not as common as it is today. Later on this will would be the cause of most of our problems in trying to take care of Tom.

To Be Continued.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

New Pig Collages

Had trouble getting the blog back on line. Google made it difficult, and I spent many hours trying to find help. Forget about it. I finally stumbled into the right password or right sign in field and here I am back in business. Anyway what I was trying to do all day was post these newest of my pig collages. I'm really enjoying doing these, but I'm running out of collage material on this particular theme, so will have to find some new material. The material must be cheap and wonderful. Like finding a $1.00 book on the anatomy of a pig was really great. Maybe I can find a book on the anatomy of a cow or bird for cheap. I gave Anton a paint set last year for Christmas, but he has not opened it, and I asked for it back, because I don't want the paints to dry. Every Christmas I buy Anton something "creative" but he never uses the paints or clay or kits for making prints from using just the sun and they go to waste. The expensive color pencil set sits unopened. Anton should take an art class but he won't.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Blue Print Review

The German literary magazine Blue Print Review Issue # 11 has just posted 2 of my drawings.
click on the link and then click on the poems "Foreign Dream" and "Cynical Moon." Just think 50 years ago they would have put me in their ovens, now they're putting me in their literary magazines. I'm flattered.

Monday, April 09, 2007

My Vincent

Occasionally in the early 1970’s my friend Vincent would swoop down on Manhattan from his perch down south and would treat me to good restaurant meals and tickets to the theatre. In order for him to save some bucks he would stay with M and me in our loft in the flower district sleeping on our small guest bed set up in the living room. We were pleased to have him and besides he was almost never there. He would quietly ascend the stairs to the loft usually in the early morning hours after a night out and down on the town and sleep a few hours before starting off on his usually busy days in the city. Vincent had many friends and acquaintances in New York and they included poets, actors, artists, movie stars, writers and several no good nothings, which I think were his favorites. I know that he liked me and maybe even loved me and sometimes I would catch him looking at me in more than a friendly way, especially when he was drunk which was most of the time. The sex thing had never reared its head in our relationship, I mean I had a lover and besides sex with friends generally didn’t interest me, it usually just ruined the friendship. Sometimes me and M would light heartily talk about having a threesome, but M’s bark was worse than his bite, and I knew nothing would ever come of this. I won’t say that I wasn’t attracted to Vincent. He was tall, with a lovely southern accent, sandy hair that would usually be somewhat unkempt in a fashionable sort of way, pretty blue eyes and a big box that was hard to miss. Vincent taught in the theatre dept. of a small southern university and I had met him a year or so earlier when I went there with M who was going to give a lecture at the college on African-American Women playwrights before 1950. Vincent was a big asset for the the university arranging for big shot theatre people to come down and lecture and he would even talk some heavy duty hitters to donate their papers to the college instead giving them to Yale or Harvard. I could only surmise how Vincent did this but the university was so grateful that it would pay for Vincent’s trips to the big apple so he could see what was on the boards. Vincent adored the theatre. This has been his passion since he was a boy in that small sleepy southern town and had seen a traveling company performance of “ Come Back Little Sheba” with Jan Sterling and Paul Douglas in the leads and who were married to each other at the time. The bug bit, and on his trips to New York he would see practically every show that was on, first a matinee and then an evening performance. He would see it all from Charles Ludlum’s Theatre of the Ridiculous to Shakespeare and everything in between. He also loved gossip and would regale me with the most marvelous stories about practically every actor and actress who had ever lived and performed on the great white way and on the big silver screen. I would throw out a name, and Vincent would come back with some outrageous story about the actor or actress. Naturally all my queries had to do with sex and sleaze and not about how many Tony or Oscars someone had won, or how many performances a play had run. I wanted dirt and Vincent was the one to cover me with it. “You should publish a newsletter” I once told him. “Yeah and will you put up the bail to get me out of jail.” Or “will pay my lawyer fees.” If Vincent knew that I liked an actor or actress and they were performing in play he would do his best to make sure that I saw them perform. Usually M would pass on these theatrical evenings, since he didn’t give a shit about the theatre unless it was some dumb boring performance piece given by some 3rd rate poet or artist. But me and Vincent loved glamour and the theatre and off we would go to see Joan Blondell miss her cues in “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds” or a young unknown Meryl Streep in a small part outshine everyone in a revival of “The Cherry Orchard”. For my 25th birthday Vincent flew in to New York and took me and M to see Joan Hackett in Night Watch. We went because Vincent knew I liked Hackett and M had to come because it was my birthday. The play was a total disaster, with everything that could go wrong going terribly wrong. The scenery got stuck, lines were dropped and cues missed and at a pivotal scene poor Joan was left standing on the stage as the revolving set refused to move and the audience roared with laughter. It was like a scene from a bad movie about a bad Broadway play. Hackett looked angry at the curtain calls, and M called it “the best evening he’s ever had in the theatre”. Drinks. Joe Allen’s was Vincent’s favorite spot and that’s where we headed for hamburgers and booze. Too much booze of course. Those two could throw it back with the best. Then on to another theatrical bar where Vincent late in the evening ran into James Kirkwood and Tom Tryon two old queens that he had most likely bedded down. He went over to them to say hello and left M and me at the bar, and that’s when the trouble began. “Who does he think he is?” M said. He was pissed that Vincent did not bring us over to introduce us to his celebrity friends. I knew why of course, M was drunk and when drunk he could be nasty and mean and I didn’t blame Vincent for not bringing us over. No doubt if it were just me and Vincent alone he would have done the polite thing. Well M would have done of it, and when Vincent returned M was horrible to him. Late. It was getting late. The bar was empty, and I thought w should leave but M was angry and wanted more to drink. “Now M” we should be going Vincent said. “Oh yeah did your fancy friends leave.” “Why don’t you sleep at their place? I tried to calm things down, but suddenly a glass was flying in the air, hitting the mirror over the bar and cracking it. Lucky for us the bartender was in the back getting ready to close and didn’t hear or see the mess, and we quickly left the bar. In the cab back downtown everyone was screaming at each other and as we stumbled out of the cab, the night was turning to dawn. In the loft still drunk, Vincent suddenly grabbed me and gave me a big deep kiss, and I figured what the hell lets see where this goes. Before I knew it we were lying on the bed and Vincent was trying to pull M down to join us as pants and underwear came off. M would have none of it and started to freak out. “Vincent, get out” he yelled, “just get the fuck out of here.” “What are you doing M?” I yelled as I realized that I was suddenly nude” “Both of you get the fuck out” “Fine with me M, come on Vincent lets go.” Crying loudly Vincent put his clothes on, and threw his stuff in his overnight bag. “But where should I go. He cried. “You can go to hell for all I care”, M screamed out from the other room.” I tried to calm them down, but there was no way that this was going to happen. “Can you call Truman? maybe he can put you up?” I said. Vincent went to the phone and woke Truman up who said it would be ok, and I walked Vincent down to get a cab with him bawling loudly filling the early morning dawn with his sobs. After I put Vincent in a cab I went back up to the loft and had breakfast with M.

Photo: Joan Blondell in her youth.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

New Pig Collages

Someone named Tantra sent me this email, and for you dear stupid Tantra I post 3 more unprofessional unsmoothed not intergrated childlike collages. Enjoy.

hi, there,

Ira the art we use is specifically created by our artists to illustrate the literary works, using images, characters, mood, concepts from them to bring out their essence. if you'd like to submit illustrations for some of our accepted works, we may have a slot in this upcoming issue, with the deadline june 1. like your work, particularly the visceral quality of the first one, though there is a kind of "childlike" quality to the way the collages are cut and pasted that is not quite the professional look i would prefer. i'd like to see the edges smoothed and more integrated, not as obvious. if you can integrate the parts of the collage in a sophisticated way, i would be interested in seeing submissions for illustration of the works, if you are open to that.

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