Before leaving New York I caught an exhibit at the Met that, I’m afraid, closed today: a collection of works by the seminal Los Angeles artist John Baldessari. I love his work because it’s conceptual while also being playful—clever and thought-provoking but not at all pretentious.
One of the ideas he plays with is the complex, and sometimes arbitrary way we make meaning. He puts together found, seemingly unconnected images and inserts barriers between them. One piece juxtaposes a stylized photo of a woman with a nosebleed, and a picture of pelicans. Another takes four plain black and white photos with captions and arranges them in every possible permutation.
Adjacent to one of the photos is this quote, from the artist : “As soon as you put together two things you have a story.”
I loved that. And it seemed a perfect coda to end my time in New York.
Allow me, in my usual circuitous fashion, to explain.
For the most part, my experience with the city on this trip tended toward the negative.
First there was the whole stolen wallet thing. Then the twenty minutes it took me to walk two blocks of midtown logjam following my nausea-tinged bus ride. There was the response from one well-meaning employee to my alarm at paying $6.75 for a child-sized popcorn (“It’s freshly popped.”) And that of the horribly sour moviegoer who I asked whether anyone occupied the adjacent seat holding his coat (turning, in slow-motion, to look at me as though I’d interrupted his private meditation with a high-volume shriek).
There are few occasions in our culture when it is permissable for grown men to openly cry.
One of those occasions is when they win a sports championship. (Actually, can anyone think of another?)
For the first time in over ten years I watched the NBA Finals last night. As I lay in bed–awake, and unable to fall asleep from the excitement of the whole thing (midway through the series E and S converted me into a Laker fan, I know)–I pictured the wet, exuberant faces of Pao Gasol and Derek Fisher as they accepted their trophy and wondered how much that kind of emotional display has to do with my love for the game.
It’s a love, as I mentioned, that has been long dormant.
Growing up, my dad and I were die-hard Knick fans. We had partial season tickets (I allowed him one call of “Defense” per quarter), and the rest of the games we watched religiously–and with uninhibited volume–from our family room in Brooklyn. The first and only fan letter I ever wrote was to Hubert Davis, the backup shooting guard always overshadowed (but rarely outplayed) by the scrappy John Starks. Hubie never wrote back.
But then the Knicks diminished in profound fashion: we’d grown accustomed to being fans of a team that could compete for a championship, even if they never actually got one. We abandoned them. The first time that I watched any basketball team since then was this past year, when E started taking me to Lobo games (UNM’s college team is actually quite good).
It’s been thrilling for me to rediscover my love for watching the sport. Honestly, it’s the only one I enjoy: baseball is too boring, football is too slow, I never played soccer and don’t know the rules. I’m sure I could get into any of them if I put my mind to it, but the nostalgia I have for basketball is something special.