Notes on New York City V

In the museum, people move with false reverence. What we're affected by is not so much the painting, the sculpture, the historical or the avant-garde--it's the way we're all here together, but all separated by experience.

In front of my favourite Monet (and why should this be my favourite, this image of a cathedral I have never seen, cast in a light I have never experienced?), two women with their studying faces on. One (short dark hair, glasses, very still), hands crossed at chest; the other (longer dark hair, full of nervous energy), hands placed at the small of her back, bag worn across her chest and in front, as if she's afraid of something, wants to hold her possesions close. They seem to be looking for something in the painting, something, perhaps, in the cathedral itself. Sharing (or trying to recall) a memory that neither of them actually owns. I want to sit in front of the painting, as I do every time I am here (there is a bench placed before it as if just for me) but they distort my view, they may as well have stepped into the image itself, and I'm too fascinated by watching them watch it to pay any real attention to Rouen Cathedral.

Walker Evans' collection of postcards. Americana distilled. The streets were wider then; no, that's not right, they were only emptier. People against a patchwork backdrop: LA, Nashville, church spires, telephone wires. Shiny black automobiles, from the days when they could still be called "automobiles," still had some dignity.

Gauguin's Tahiti is enough to make anyone crave a warmer place. I photograph it in black and white to see what, when the image is bled of colour, is left. Still something, I'll tell you that much.

Irrisistible for the artist to make a sketch. One girl, on the floor, cross-legged, pony-tailed, makes a sketch of a lumpy, pasty female nude. Her breasts uneven (the nude, not the girl). A man, in flat cap and scarf, has brought his own folding chair, sits before a scultpure, balances his pad on his knees. People peer over his shoulder; the rendition is good, exact.

Back on the street, the Upper East Side, the sunlight is almost too much after the shadowed light, the light made for looking at things. We squint our way down Park Avenue. There's nothing to eat in the Upper East. What, I say, do rich people not need to eat? Do they, I ask, as we pass Gucci, Prada, Christian Dior, get their sustenence from expensive shoes and ugly handbags? Do they get off on knowing that we will find their wide-avenued world unpenetrable?

Probably, the Man says, to shut me up. I'm hungry, therefore irrational.