Saucer, Krasner, and Mrs. Maisel
I have one distinct memory of the 1950’s. I was walking on my street – High Street in Wareham, Massachusetts – knocking on doors of houses and encouraging anyone who answered my knock to vote for Dwight Eisenhower for re-election to the Presidency. This would have made it sometime in the fall of 1955, and I would have been six years old. The distinct memory, though, was not of knocking on doors or talking to people. I have no memory of those specifics. The distinct memory was seeing a flying saucer. It came into my peripheral view from the east, as if it were passing over the Wareham River, and it traveled, while I watched, east to west, slightly southwest toward the Intermediate School and the Town Hall. They hadn’t built the outdoor basketball courts yet, and certainly not the high school track. The flying saucer was silvery gray and slim and it appeared and flew out of sight in only a few moments. But I remember it clearly, distinctly, like I remember what I had for dinner last night. Salad, with Mediterranean olives, and yellow summer squash.
I guess you could say I was interested in the 50’s, a little, back then, because I got and hung out with my first-ever dog, Taffy, and hung around with Butchie and Bruce and Royal – even a little with Philly across the street, though he was a year older and probably more of a bad ass than the rest of us. Oh yeah, and I saw a flying saucer. Plus another funny thing – Dwight D. Eisenhower turned out to be probably a better President than most of the ones since then.
I raise these bits of long-ago memorabilia because these last few years the 50’s have come back into my life. A lot. Big time. After a few years of this last decade artist thing I found myself more and more interested in the style of abstract expressionism, in particular the “New York School” artists most prominent in the 1950’s. I could give a long list of names but won’t – just three, in another minute. About the same time poetry made a long-awaited re-appearance in my life – maybe from all the way back to “Listen my children and you shall hear” and Hiawatha and “The quality of mercy…” – and poetry here in the second decade of the 21st century flew in on the wings of Allen Ginsburg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and the poems and especially non-fictionalized novels of Jack Kerouac. They became, and are, my peeps, and they were all 50’s cats. And ditto for my favorite artist – David Park – a Massachusetts boy who traveled out to the Bay area and led a whole new style of figurative abstracted painting in San Francisco and Berkeley all through the 50’s.
(Before going further let me remind any reader that I am a white male, and therefore my experience of the 1950’s, both during and now looking way back on, was and is through white male eyes. Racism and sexism ruled back then, in the midst of wide-spread optimism and the good life and jamming people in phone booths and slurping down goldfish. Racism and sexism still rule, sadly, though we’ve lost the optimism.)
But back to this story. I have as of late romanticized the 50’s. I have spent precious hours day-dreaming of going back, ala Marty McFly, and hanging out with people I now consider heroes and mentors, with those I’ve come to know over all the intervening years. I’d like to couch surf with the De Koonings and David and Lydia Park, sit with a coffee in The Six listening to Ginsberg read his “Howl”. Heck, with all my recent Cape Cod posts, take classes with Hans Hofmann and Robert Motherwell in Provincetown.
That picture up there. Three books of artists and their art – Hofmann, Motherwell, and Lee Krasner (often remembered as Mrs. Jackson Pollack but in my opinion a much better artist.) All books I’ve bought used on Ebay. The library book in the photo is a collection of writings and reviews from the poet Frank O’Hara, a fixture in places like The Cedar Tavern and The Club in 50’s NYC.
Truth be told, I have crossed paths with nearly all the folks I mentioned, their physical space anyway, and their creations, except most often accidentally and as so often is the story of my life – way, way fucking late.
And now, just this last week, I have found (and again through the signing up for Amazon Prime streaming quite accidentally), found my way – along with my wife – to make the acquaintance of the marvelous Mrs. Maisel, yeah, back there in the 1950’s, living large, living larger than the world (read – white men) would have her, where the planets and stars and mythologies and voodoo and all that had her – and had I think lots of us – believing that more was possible. More. An all-inclusive more.
And this morning I remembered back then to a day when my earth stool still, for just a few moments – me and Dwight D and maybe Michael Rennie.
I’d sure like to run into Doc Brown this afternoon, set the controls of the Delorean for ’55, and hopefully go get a coffee with Gregory Corso and Midge Maisel. That would be very cool.