Grievances, Art Basel Miami, 2023
I was just in Miami, at Art Basel, and this is a list of things that bothered me
Frank Stella! Cynthia Talmadge! George Condo!
On my first night in Miami, I woke up just before five in the morning, and remembered that these three artists, whose work I admire, would be represented at Art Basel.
I woke just before five in the morning because I had to urinate. My grievance is with my bladder, which, as I’ve gotten older, wakes me up at ungodly hours, interrupting my much needed sleep.
I’ve tried countless things in my attempt to stop being bullied by my bladder. My most recent experiment involves not consuming any liquid after dinnertime. It hasn’t worked. As a young man, I didn’t realize how lucky I was. I didn’t experience gratitude for my restful sleep, for my bladder’s obeisance. I was arrogant, often going to bed with a noticeably full bladder. “I’ll just take a piss in the morning” I’d tell myself. And it worked. I would take a piss in the morning. At twenty-two, I was in charge. Even the urgent need to urinate could be ignored, dismissed as unimportant, manageable. Not anymore. Aging, the inescapable humiliation, the classic grievance.
Buffet Gluttons/Turkey Sausage
One morning I woke up early, excited to explore the complimentary breakfast buffet at my hotel. I was too late. It was too late for me. Somewhere between twelve to sixteen people were stuffing their faces. I hoped they were feasting on yoghurt, and not on what I’d come to enjoy: beef sausages. I was forced to eat turkey sausage, the sausage family’s most boring meat. Only an idiot would suggest turkey is anywhere near as satisfying as beef. On a good day, I’m able to consume six beef sausages. The breakfast kind, typically the size of a tall man’s ring finger; not the large, barbecue variety, typically the size of a tall man’s penis. Turkey—light and forgettable—hits differently, hits disappointingly. I ate fourteen small sausages, wished ill on my fellow diners, and returned to my room.
Florida is the greatest state in the union, hands down. Unfortunately, it’s constantly harassed by a large orange globe in the sky. I’ve heard that Egyptians once worshipped the sun, called it Ra. Religion is almost always masochistic. I saw skin on people in Miami that could be used to reupholster the sofa of a morbidly obese man, that could hold his weight comfortably, stretch but never break. The sun in Florida challenges the human epidermis in the way gravity challenges a parachute, pushing, always pushing, punishing and weathering. I once saw a parachute on the side of the road in rural Indiana. If it had two eye holes and a big red stripe, I could’ve easily mistaken it for the large, deskulled face of a Floridian. I love Florida, but when I’m there I only go outside for thirty minutes in the very late evening.
Lists about Art Basel, or any other art fair, are some of the worst lists being compiled. Lists of the most expensive artworks, lists of the participating galleries, lists of celebrities spotted in attendance. Jay Z, Lisson Gallery, 2.1 million. If I have to see a list related to an art fair, let it be a list of sexually transmitted diseases spread at the fair. Every four years in the Olympic Village, free condoms are made available. Athletes from around the world, unaccompanied by their partners, are free to engage in sexual congress with other athletes, and their secrets remain secrets. The Olympics are the Las Vegas of healthy bodies. The only condoms I saw at Art Basel were limited edition, printed with anime characters, or a Courbet seascape. Once opened, their resale value plummeted. My grievance is not with indiscriminate, unsafe sex at art fairs. It’s with lists, lists just like this one.
Figurative paintings painted because “figurative painting hot right now.”
The maintenance of toe and fingernails is something I thought about while I was in Miami, and which bothered me. Because flip-flops are Florida’s state shoe, I was forced to look at a lot of toenails. Looking at, and possessing toenails, is unequivocally unpleasant, even disgusting. No matter how much money I have, or how nice my wardrobe is, when I clip my nails (or wipe my ass) I’m reminded that I’m just a filthy animal. The big toenail, unusually thick, like a piece of damp chalk, often presents challenges. Occasionally the space on the clipper isn’t large enough to accommodate the nail, and one is forced to approach it from an angle, haphazardly. When this happens, I feel like a Roman sculptor, chiselling a piece of marble. Sharp shards whip past my face, and invariably become lost on the floor, which means I might later injure my foot by stepping on one. The pinky toenail, shaped like a Bugles nacho chip, is always a nightmare. The hands are much easier than the feet, and slightly less abhorrent. Being right-handed, I clip the nails of my left hand with ease. After almost five decades, I’ve got the technique down. Perfection, every time. Once the clippers are in my left, non-dominant hand, things change radically. Each time I attempt to clip the nails of my right hand feels like the first time. I’m like a teenaged boy on prom night, awkwardly fumbling with a bra strap. The nails get clipped, but it’s always ugly, and the results are an unhappy compromise. The job I do on my right hand is always just good enough. A more evolved people wouldn’t have toe or fingernails. That we still have them speaks to our unsophistication.
In Miami, every Uber driver is addicted to cologne.
“Men still wear cologne?” is always my first thought. My second thought is that I want to jump out of the car, but as of today, I’ve never done it.
Only an asshole would say he has a problem with the ocean.
I have a problem with the ocean. Last week I put my foot in it, then withdrew it.
“Ugh,” I said, “that shit’s too cold.”
The water was probably around seventy degrees. In a hotel, the pool would likely be the same temperature. Seventy. And I’d happily swim in it. My problem is that I know, from beautiful experience, that the ocean in Miami can be even warmer than body temperature. Only this past August, I floated, carefree, for hours in an ocean at least five degrees warmer than the blood in my veins. Glorious, erotic, luxurious; these were words I used to describe my experience. Is it better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all? When it comes to the ocean, to the heavenly beaches of South Florida, I believe it’s better to have never loved at all.
I still can’t believe that ABC cancelled My So-Called Life after one season. I shook my head at this fact multiple times during Art Basel, Miami.
People who had no involvement with Art Basel trying to capitalize on Art Basel, to make money through things like newsletters or paywalled blogs.