Genuflect by Gordy Grundy
November 2002; Issue No. 59

Recently, a local society magazine sought the benefit of my wisdom for their terrorist anniversary issue. They wanted to know "How has September 11 affected your life?" Had I made the deadline, my response would have read: "Extremely. That little bin Laden fella has pinched me economically. He has whacked me in the shins of my security. He has slapped me upside the head philosophically and kicked me in the arse of my complacency. September Eleventh truly marks the beginning of the new Millennium."

I caint even renember if i tol' you before. If I have then I'll tell ya again. I drink because of the Snumeni--the Sumerians. They're a buncha dead goddamn Middle Easterners and they're laughin' at me. Laughin'. They're flipping me the bird sayin', "Think again asshole. That's progress." They're laughin' at me. Well, fuckum. Thats'n why i drink. I hate those fuckin Sumerians. All of 'em.
[Editor's Note: Over 4,000 years ago, the Sumerians were an ancient and august civilization who inhabited the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East in an area now known as Kuwait. The Sumerians invented the written word, upheld a system of law on which our legal system is based and believed in more than a few equal rights between the sexes. Some say they even had invented the wheel.] [Psychiatrist's Note: It seems that Mr. Grundy suffers a great deal from the Sumerians. It began in college when he awoke during a history lecture and overheard a brief overview on this ancient tribe. Naturally, he did not pursue a greater study of these people but nonetheless became fascinated with what little knowledge he had of their accomplishments and their 'modern' thinking. Conversely, what ensnarled, or rather, haunted Gordy is the fact that these brilliant people stood upon this earth so many thousands of years ago. He would whimper, "We're regressing." I immediately put him on meds.] [Fine Art Professor's Note: Yeah, Gordo had a hard time with the definition of 'modern'. Especially 'post-modern.' He couldn't fathom it. He thought modern was supposed to be progressive, like something better. He thought evolution was working toward a perfection. It became the monkey on his back, well, one of them anyway.] [Psychiatrist's Note; continued: In his rigid, rational mind, Case Number 827711 (Gordy Grundy) could not fathom the attack of September 11, 2001. He is confused and confounded by the precepts of the militant Islamic. Noting their lack of political motive, he is astounded that their motivations are religious based. (Grundy is an atheist who calls himself an agnostic "just in case." Professing to be a rational thinker, he deplores the belief in any religion beyond 'ceremonial comfort.') After 9/11, the patient was stunned to realize that such ideology was not only real but also pervasive, a concept which he considers regressive. In one session, Grundy spat upon my coffee table and said, "Civilization?! You bore me."] [Bartender's Note: Bad news. Anyone comin' in here even mentions a Sumerian and fists start flyin'. Yeah, I don't go there with him.]

It's hard to breathe freely when you are ducking for cover. A battlefield trench is no place to make a market list, travel plans or a date for cocktails. It's hard to think clearly or progressively when bullets are zipping overhead. In a foxhole, your first priority is survival; your second is meager comfort. The concept of 'future' has a short timeline.

This fall 2002, the once lavish and always highly anticipated opening of the Los Angeles art season came and went without notice. Where the city was once alive and electric over the launch of a new season and the debut of bright fresh talent, this year nary a peep was heard. Galleries, normally shoulder to shoulder, were as empty as a Kabul bunker. "Cable," explained one art dealer, "The new fall lineup at HBO and the terrorist's on CNN really knocked us for a loop." Another lamented, "Art was king for awhile." Indeed, for a brief, shining moment, the fine arts stood tall. Today, market forces have shifted and priorities have changed. Our short march toward Beauty has now been officially and sadly abandoned. All we can do is look back and smile at those sweet and kinder days when art was like a religion.

I would like to share with you a scene from my new play, "The Harbingers". This hard-hitting, gritty three act features the free-swinging, free-lovin' lives of six young artists in urban Los Angeles as they make art, make love and make life. [Mature audiences only due to gratuitous nudity.] In this scene (Act II, Scene 7), SALLAY, 36, is a color field artist who makes a living as an admissions recruiter for LACART, the prestigious private art university. Her lime green hair and pierced features belie her conservative wool suit. On the phone in her office cubicle, Sallay is desperately trying to sway Mrs. Sweeney, a buyer of her product.

SALLAY: (into the phone): ".... Well, yes. I admit we haven't had any alumni in the Biennial in several, in a, but this year our team looks solid! We're thrilled. Out of our grads, we have two sure-hit Blue Chip Damien Hirst-types and a strong public arts sculptor to cover the backfield. Regardless, Mrs. Sweeney, we feel your Tim has a natural ability, a raw talent to become a great, great art..... Oh, yes! Warhol big! The huge- Manhattan-loft/Spain-in-the-summer/Taschen-type..... Right, our curators think he's got what it takes. And after just two years with us..... What do you mean he wants to be a Navy Seal?!..... (patiently) We also need warriors on the frontlines of art..... Well, then your son can start his own jihad, an Art Jihad!..... Mrs. Sweeny, heroism is a wonderful thing but it's been done with 9/11. We're over it..... Yes, but you get paid for heroism. Beauty is free. It demands a greater value, a higher..... I understand heroism has a better pension plan. Mrs. Sweeney, beauty is hope. It speaks of a better..... Relevant? Why, it's all-important, sometimes it's just hard to tell..... What do you mean law school is cheaper? We can finan--Mrs. Sweeney? Hello? Mrs. Sweeney?
(She cradles the phone and massages her temple.) (to herself)
"Fuck. There went rent."

Not so long ago I was sailing down the freeway with the window open and the wind blowing. The All News AM radio had become white noise, lost in the background. But I could hear it enough to note that the tone in the news announcer's voice had become suddenly urgent. I rolled up the window so fast I whacked my elbow. "What was it?" I thought, "The Next Big One?!" I flipped up the volume. His voice was strained. He spoke at a fast staccato. I knew it must be bad; I felt a little queasy. "...of Homeland Security has lowered the High Alert Level from Orange to Yellow, I repeat, has downgraded the High Alert Level to..."

What do Mohammed, Brigham Young and L. Ron Hubbard have in common?

GORDY GRUNDY is a Los Angeles based painter. He lets it all hang out at