Dirty Filthy Art

Studio 54, CBGB, seedy 42nd street, burned down buildings, disco, punk, Andy Warhol and the emergence of hip-hop all characterize New York’s past. The city’s gritty past has always fascinated. My mom told me stories of visiting the city in the 70’s.

She told me of seeing freaky people on the subway, burnt cars lining the streets of the South Bronx and the smell of garbage rotting. Instead of turning me off from New York, she managed to develop my fascination with the city.

The New York, I called home was very different from the decadent decay of the 70’s. Cupcake shops, a slew of Marc Jacobs shops and family friendly Times Square were more of a main stay. Therefore, I always looked for New York’s edge. One ghost of Manhattan past, which is still around is graffiti art.

When I walk anywhere from Nolita to the East Village, I keep my eyes open to graffiti. Nowadays, there’s less edgy graffiti. There is almost mural art, which randomly shows up in buildings from the Bowery to Layfette Street. It marks today’s interpretation of graffiti art.

Authentic graffiti art often shows up in the doors of tenement buildings in the Lower East Side. I never really understand the writing, but the flamboyant letter fonts and sketching represent urban edge in the midst of gentrification. The most fun and unexpected place to see graffiti art is in bathrooms.

At bars and coffee shops, which line Ludlow Street, the bathrooms feature art on the walls. It is both an obscenity for the eyes (i.e. lots of penis drawings) and magical art. I sometimes, take longer in the bathroom just to observe art on the wall. It’s my own private modern art museum without the high-ticket prices.

New York has less graffiti these days. Recently, the New Museum had a display of an apartment door covered in art by the most famous street artist, Keith Haring. It displayed a time when the city was low on cash, but rich in experimental art. However, mainstream New York gets, it still lures the creative types. Although gentrification maybe here to stay, the city still is an exciting place to live. It also retains an appreciation for thinking outside the box.

The Strand

Dark corners have always been places of self-discovery for me. In no other place does intellect and beauty mesh more eloquently than a bookstore. I love independent bookstores (the chains are great too). There’s always a great selection of local authors, interesting interior design and a proper infusion of new and used books.

I have fond memories of discovering my first gay magazine at the indie establishment. XY magazine during the late 90’s was targeted at gay youth. The mag not only had interesting articles, but funny comic strips and even a little poetry. I took the magazine to the bookstore’s uninhabited frontier, the gardening section.

There in a riveting sea of books about dirt, soil and tulips, I had an epiphany. Through the power of written words, I realized I wasn’t the only gay boy in this big bad world. It soothed my soul like wine on a warm Spanish afternoon.

The gay magazine sensation still caught my interest. However, as an out gay man in New York City, I wanted to keep cultured beyond magazines. I went to the theatre, museums and was very exposed to the cultural quilt of the city’s five boroughs. One of my favorite activities was to check out the Strand Bookstore.

The King Kong of independent bookstores, the Strand advertises itself as 18 miles of books. Any time, I entered the multi-leveled shop it felt more like a small city. Books were substituting for buildings and it had a dense population.

The Strand has always fulfilled my curiosity of the world. Through its travel section, I learned about Brazil and China, the two countries I most want to visit. I also re-visited the many museums, sidewalks and history of my favorite cities already checked off my travel list.

While satisfying my wanderlust, I also wanted a feast for my eyes. The Strand’s wide selection of art books expanded my world of knowledge. The graffiti art of Keith Haring, surrealism of Salvador Dali and the eccentricities of Julian Schnabel paintings were not only pleasurable for the eyes, but taught me about eclectic art genres.

I shifted through the Gucci and Versace’s of fashion books, read proper old English literature from Charles Dickens to Jane Austin in the classics section and discovered Sylvia Plath’s dark side via poetry. Having a moveable feast with Ernest Hemingway also meant I met Gertrude Stein through her very poetic words.

I also found a smorgasbord of gay literature at the Strand. A true testament to being out and proud meant no more hiding in the gardening section. I read my gay books out for everyone to see. Dark corners were as antique as the first edition of Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer.

Leaving the Strand always had the sensation of a very cultured holiday. There was plenty of art, sights and high culture to fill the brain with pleasant memories.

The cozy smells and sounds of page turning make reading into a very simple but lovely life experience. No need for a symphony orchestra when I have a world of words to provide escapism.

The Extraterrestrial Saga

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a gaylien. Flying through the galaxy passing the many stars & planets shining brightly is a most fabulous spaceship. Unlike sterile looking spaceship, which makes one yawn, this dome of fierceness is decorated in bright neon.

It plays Madonna, Kylie & Bronski Beat for 24 hours a day. Hence, if you hear “Material girl” too many times, it’s not time to check into the mental institution. The spaceship’s interior has fancy glittery disco balls & a downstairs art gallery with works ranging from Keith Haring to Salvador Dali.

These are gayliens (gay aliens). They’re not all green, but come in rainbow sherbet variety of flavors & colors. Home is desolate planet, where the moon shines brightly, rather than the sun. NASA never shows houses on planets like Mars. Therefore, they more than likely live in holes in the ground.

Why would these aliens leave desolate planets? Sample sales & societal acceptance, duh. From the soft ball-playing lesbian to the intellectual but neurotic gay to the queen, gaylien life extends a broad spectrum of personalities.

Films like Star Wars & E.T. show lovable aliens & creatures from outer space. However, where are the gayliens? We’ve seen aliens who want to take over the world & the one’s who circle the stars bewildered, since they don’t have a smartphone. Therefore, gayliens need to be represented too.

Space like the closet is a place of desolation, where it’s dark & lonely. Therefore, leaving that place of isolation on a spaceship is especially ideal. Whether they’re looking to shake their tail feathers or sit in a circle & talk about feelings, somewhere in the galaxy it exists. Launching like a rocket man, into the unknown. The gayliens’ primary mission is not to return to the dark hole in the ground.