Blinders

Harry Gamboa Jr.

one

“I can’t see anything. I didn’t expect to go blind so suddenly but I can’t say that I miss seeing anyone or anything. I’ve already seen it all. I’ve always assumed that being blind would fill my mind with absolute blackness but that has been as false as my hopes of witnessing a miracle. Everything is red. Maybe it’s blood that filled my eyeballs after the retinas detached themselves. All I know is that I feel like running so that I might bump into things or wander helplessly into dangerous situations. I need a way to be killed quickly so that I won’t have to be pitied or assaulted by people who view me as an unwanted obstruction to their view of a more perfect world. They’ll never see me begging nor scratching at the surface in an attempt to discern the subtle nuances of our failing society. Fuck everyone who has 20/20 hindsight. I don’t trust anyone with foresight. Give me a cigarette or I’ll vomit all over the place,” said Dinno as he reached out into the empty void as the filter tip of a lit menthol cigarette was placed between his fingers.

“You’re not blind but you are sick. Maybe you’re trying to avoid the inevitable. I’d kill you but I wouldn’t want a lethal injection as compensation for the effort. I’m more of an electric chair type of girl,” whispered Nilia while she carefully poured a few drops of a white milky substance from a small brown glass bottle into the froth of the hot cappuccino.

“I love your scent of natural sexuality but hate your sense of moral certitude. I can sniff out the slightest vapor of feminine intrigue. If I say I’m blind, I’m utterly sightless. You can’t judge me. You’ve got no right to tell me that I can see. I’m not sick. It’s all due to an unfortunate accident. I was born human,” said Dinno into a thick cloud of swirling smoke.

“My sexual drive has been neutralized by violent men with ridiculous dicks and passionless pacifists who were pussies. Abstinence is righteous and sterility is sublime. Animalistic fucking is for idiots. It’s all about sexually transmitted diseases and ugly flesh. No thanks. I’d rather have my cocktail of honey, vanilla extract, and heroin. I put a few drops on your cigarette as a way to improve your point of view,” said Nilia with her eyes shut tightly as she sipped the caffeine and opiate drink.

“Now we are both blind,” mused Dinno.

“All afterimages must die! I can’t imagine what I ever saw in you,” Nilia swooned as the narcotic took effect.

"Ersilia," drawing by Colleen Corradi Brannigan

two

Dinno has retired himself from the L.A. art scene where he once created havoc at every opportunity during a twenty-five year period encompassing the 70’s, 80’s, and early 90’s. His most important paintings were burned by his first wife in 1983 and a vast volume of writings, drawings, and photographs were destroyed by water damage in the rains of 2005. In early 2006, he donated a cardboard box containing a small stack of notes (sheets of paper containing incomprehensible squiggly lines), several obsolete video cameras, a damaged first generation G3 Powerbook (unsuitable for USB/Firewire connection), and a bullet-riddled 1970 Chicano Moratorium poster that had been autographed by Cannibal (of The Headhunters), Oscar Zeta Acosta, and Frank Zappa, to the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center. The authenticity of the signatures are not in question but the ownership of the poster is being contested by various artists, activists, dogmatists, former band members, and a dubious Hollywood producer who specializes in making movies that debunk the spirit of urban Chicano history by glorifying himself through characters that would never survive a few hours in the real world of East L.A. The box has been placed in a sealed room until all institutional concerns have been resolved. The remaining few items that could provide a hint of Dinno’s former prodigious creative force has been reduced to handfuls of ephemeral junk that are stuffed into his coat pockets with other scraps having been formed into odd folded shapes as a way to provide momentary comfort between his swollen feet and the holes in his worn shoes. Dinno now begins each day reciting the Rosary in memory of his abandoned Catholicism. During a recent impromptu prayer vigil, Dinno’s favorite pair of Dior sunglasses mysteriously vanished, triggering his current bout of hysterical blindness.

three

Nilia’s professional demeanor and astute knowledge of contemporary art is impressive. Her command of the English language would befit those of the highest educational achievements. However, her academic career ended in the 6th grade when she was expelled for stabbing her middle school principal in the neck with a sharpened pencil after being told that she would have to submit to a strip search for “candy.” Up until that point, her childhood had been filled with nothing­ness in the claustrophobic farming town of Norvine. Swift prejudgments by the State of Califor­nia compelled Nilia to waste the rest of her adolescence by undergoing several years of sexual, physical, and psychological abuse at the hands of brutal authorities and psychotic inmates. In 1990, at eighteen years of age, Nilia was released from the Mojave Springs Detention Facility. She walked out of custody onto the dusty desert highway carrying a paperback copy of Andre Gide’s autobiography, Si le grain ne meurt (If It Die), and a street map of Los Angeles where she was intent on making a name for herself. Within a few days of her release, she was dancing in the milieu of drugs and alcohol at various nightclubs in Beverly Hills and Inglewood. The intensely colorful burning flame that is tattooed on her forehead along with excessive makeup and false eyelashes, made Nilia strikingly alluring to both sexes. Her turquoise eyes nearly hypnotized everyone who had the pleasure of peering into them. A middle aged man calling himself Claude du Crème and claiming to be a corporate chemist, offered to drive her from The LAX Bar on Century Boulevard to his mansion in the hills. She stepped into the black classic Jaguar and was driven at high speeds to the edge of a cliff that juts out from the elevated northern tip of the Palos Verdes peninsula. Upon parking the car at an incline against a rock, Claude produced a small vial of the synthetic inhalant known as “smudge,” a chemical compound spray with the scent of burnt flesh that is purported to cause selective memory loss and a heightened sense of euphoria when sniffed in proper concentrations. The 60’s Led Zeppelin song “Dazed and Confused” played loudly on the customized speakers as the chemist buried his face into a small brown paper bag and inhaled deeply. His eyes rolled back into his head as he became limp and listless. His surprisingly blue face fell onto Nilia’s lap. His breathing had stopped. Nilia nearly experienced a fatal contact high from the lethal acrid fumes. She crawled out of the car to the rocky precipice from where she took in the breathtaking panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean. She felt it was too deep and too vast. She told herself that she would never look at the sea again nor allow herself to be placed into such a precarious state of danger. The sound of crashing waves, rock music, and her own cries of terror lingered in her mind during the next few months as she stumbled into a relatively normal rou­tine of working at minimum wage jobs and living in an unfurnished studio apartment in the High­land Park district of Los Angeles. The thought of drowning, swimming among scaly creatures, and being swept along violent currents sometimes entered her consciousness, causing an immediate response to ingest various colored pills that would calm her nerves and leave her craving for dark bitter chocolates. In 2004, Nilia emerged from a decade-long detour of reading classic literature and financial news to become a sought-after figure in the underground and mainstream art arena.

four

Dinno has been carrying a memorandum in his coat pocket for many years. He wrote the words during a frenzied creative period and has forgotten the contents that were never mailed to the intended recipient. The information was typed using a 70’s IBM Selectric typewriter (an anti­quated noisy writing machine) that had been equipped with a Geneva font ball. He folded the typed cotton paper into an origami-like representation of a handgun, then slipped it into a faded pink envelop that was sealed using rubber cement, duct tape, and numerous staples. The envelope has four 3¢ stamps affixed to the upper right corner and carries the statement, DO NOT BEND OR GENUFLECT, at the lower left corner.

 

DATE:                   October 23, 1987

 

FROM:    Mr. Dinno

P.O. Box 11151

Los Angeles, CA 90001-1151

 

TO:           The Editor

Art in Aztlán

1968 Eagle Street

East L.A., CA 90022

RE:            Invoice

This memorandum constitutes a bill for photographic services rendered in connection with the published essay, The Death of Fundamental Beauty in Barrio Calligraphy and Body Art. Although, the photographs that were taken did not appear in the magazine, work was performed in the photographing of images related to the triple-homicide of tattoo artists Mok, Wont, and Zuberb (not your typical cholo monikers). I am demanding the return of all photographs, proofs, and negatives. The remuneration is required to pay for film, processing, and meals.

The true value of services equals several thousand dollars.

Total amount due: $350.00

 

PS:  I believe that your arts magazine should avoid the pathetic pitfalls of trying to mimic mass media publications. The glossy pictures of quaint mythical barrio lore do a great disservice in hampering the advancement of Chicano artistic and intellectual progress. Save the pablum for those who would rather pretend that all is O.K. We both know what is going on here. Military, tobacco, fast food, credit card, religious, and generic art advertisements have no place in any magazine or organization that incorporates the name of Aztlán. It could be that your dedication to Kapitalism outweighs all ethical concerns. Also, dead artists have a way of redeeming themselves. By the way, muralism, altares, actos, and all things rasquache are dead.

five

Nilia is the executive director of the high profile Nethers + Mixum Gallery which is lo­cated at the Nevernot Arts Complex in Santa Monica (an environment usually overrun by af­fluent Westsiders who peer over the edge of conventional tastes as they parade rare breeds of dogs, expensive automobiles, and fashionable accessories while remaining aloof and aloft in a stratosphere of privilege). The gallery is currently closed for one week while the low profile mul­timillionaire owner is in Paris (along with a random delegation of Los Angeles-based collectors, exhibiting artists, art critics, poets, and institutional representatives) to view the Los Angeles 1955-1985 exhibition at the Centre Pompidou. During the owner’s brief absence, Nilia’s scheduled activities will include all curatorial objectives for an exhibition of concrete slabs stained with blood from random street crimes, the completion of several printing projects involving catalogues, price sheets, and exhibition invitations, as well as the shipping of seven large scale mixed media works to an anonymous middleman in the Middle East. Most of the multitasking will be accomplished via the multiple wireless devices that she carries in her limited edition Prada briefcase. Nilia has obvi­ously outgrown her adolescent stages of outrage, despair, auto-destruction, and aimless rebellion. She is now a fully grown woman who prefers to distance herself from reality on her own terms.

Nilia is in a concurrent dream/hyperconscious state as she sips her cappuccino. Dinno is sitting across from her at their stylized brushed aluminum table on the exterior balcony of the pretentious Brentwood coffee shop. He has been sitting perfectly still with his eyes shut for the past hour. The cigarette has burned down to the filter leaving a gray twirl of ash balancing against gravity in the imperceptible chasm between what is literally “here” and what should be figuratively “there.” Soothing synthesized music plays in the background evoking a distorted and soulless contemporary interpretation of, Nocturnes, by Erik Satie. The warm dry air is typical for the an­nual Santa Ana wind conditions but there is no wind at the moment to carry the voices, music, and noises beyond the small parallel universe that has formed in the minds of Nilia and Dinno.

“Dinno, I will be needing your signature before I can dispense the allocated monies for your services. Here’s the contract, but you won’t have to waste your time reading it because it is written in legalese that can be summed up in lay terms as meaning that you agree to relinquish your rights to ownership of seven works of art, that is, a terrifying pile of torn cardboard, split wood, shattered glass, broken plastic, all stained with your body fluids, some painted with oils and acrylics, and only a few constructed to survive any substantial critical analysis. In other words, you understand that in exchange for eighty $100 bills in cash, that Nethers + Mixum Gallery will be the sole owners of these works without fear of harm from any legal entanglements.,” blurted Nilia with an unexpected clarity of meaning as she passed the single sheet of paper and a sleek Montblanc fountain pen in front of him.

“Where can I buy $8,000.00 worth of guns, drugs, and prostitutes?” murmured Dinno as he took the pen and signed “Dinno” in his characteristically iconic scrawl (that was once denounced by Congress in an effort to eliminate federal support for the arts) across the dotted line.

“It’s only money and now it’s yours,” smiled Nilia as she placed a Tumi black nylon wallet with black leather trim into his right hand.

“I remember the first time you handed me money and how it burned a hole in my hand. This time, the cash feels so cool and crisp as though it has travelled a long distance or has been frozen in someone’s account or has been chilled and counted by fascists. I accept no responsibility for my past creations and only hope that no one will begrudge my inability to look towards the future. Nilia, are my eyes looking into the sun? Please, hold my hand and walk me to the curb so that I can walk to the nearest liquor store,” whispered Dinno as Nilia gently held him in her arms and kissed his scarred cheeks lightly, leaving a faint blur of red lipstick that only she could see.

six

In 2001, the following material was unanimously rejected in its entirety by the highly regarded National Biennial Art Symposium review committee which deemed the prospectus unsuitable for publication, presentation, or further consideration:

Neglect the Desire: Put your Face into (in 2) the Fire

a de facto prospectus

by

Dinno

I wake up in the morning and see my face in the mirror and wonder why it is still

attached to my head. I set the detonators properly and put myself into harm’s way but

nothing happened. Am I so foolish to think that a few explosions will change

anything

at all? Maybe it would be better to swallow poison and keep my secrets, secret!

Or, I could mix colors and words to keep the world entertained while everything

goes to hell. I see the children running and laughing and only wish that I could

relive long lost moments but everyone is dead or nearly forgotten. Maybe I should

take a picture of myself and spit at it until my complexion clears up. The

question of identity is simple but the answer is absurd. Erase everything.

Delete it before you read it. My body is collapsing and all that keeps it animated

are chemicals and an affection for my own ego.

I’ll wake up tomorrow, smear my face with household accelerants and light a match to my nose

(to spite it)

Let me know what I look like in charcoal gray

when I return as the eternal worm, i.e., holier than thou

and prettier than the evil that is spread

by those who believe that they can

create beauty,

achieve joy,

and

be happy

Let’s burn away the desire

Put your face into (in 2) the fire

seven

“I can make it from here. It’s been too much fun,” said Dinno as he glanced at Nilia’s graceful hands and imagined what it would be like if she were holding an obscene sex toy.

“I’ll keep on searching for the few extra pieces that might still be in existence. You would be quite wealthy if you decided to create new works. I’ll bring more money if I find anything. You are still a handsome man and a little bit of attention to the fine details of grooming, fashion, and a willingness to play the game would make you an art star. Young beautiful women (and prob­ably men) would be all over you. If I were still sexually active, I’d give you a blow job right here, but then that would ruin my makeup, our relationship, and my own sense of self-esteem,” Nilia laughed as she waved goodbye.

“The last time I came in my pants was years before you were born. Sex is too heavy a price, no matter how nice the offer might be,” Dinno attempted to smile as he held tightly onto the black wallet.

“I’ve always loved your commitment to angst,” said Nilia, noticing his unattended erec­tion, as she turned away sensually, dressed in a Bebe black cashmere miniskirt and Armani white leather jacket. She walked slowly in Salvatore Ferragamo white high heeled boots towards her new Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet that was parked at the far end of the crowded parking lot.

Dinno looked at Nilia with such an overwhelming sense of momentary lust and hatred that he cried quietly, shedding hot tears that felt as though they were drops of molten wax from a votive candle. He believed that he would never see Nilia again because there was no possibility that she would ever recover any additional works for him to sign away for only a few dollars. Everything that he had ever created within the parameters of the term, “artwork,” had been destroyed, lost, or was already in the possession of collectors, art institutions, universities, and/or governmental domestic security entities. He understood the false pretense of their friendship. He felt that he should have taken a stronger hit of heroin. He knew that his days of being an artist were over.

"Hypatia," etching by Colleen Corradi Brannigan

eight

 

Page 5,877 – 03.01.06

These writings will be burned by the end of the day as they are always turned to dust (especially during Lent). I need to confess to myself/others/you but I can’t (because there is no need to divulge anything when I’m already nearly forgotten). I have made several purchases but not quite ready to put them to full use. They are neatly packed in my suitcase. I’ve shaved off all head and body hair and painted myself in thin rows of concentric black, red, and white stripes/rings. In my present state, I resemble an aging venomous coral snake with grotesque appendages. I haven’t uttered a single word in ten hours. I’m not certain if I’ll sound like a civilized person or some wild deformed reptile when I finally do say something. I’ve spent the entire day taking several hundred digital (8 megapixel) photographs of myself in room 319 of the Hilton Checkers Hotel. Blood is smeared everywhere. I will be drinking only water and eating the few small candies that were already here when I first arrived. I still have more than $5,000.00 in my possession. I’d like to go on a shopping spree but there isn’t any time.

My wish list:

1. Glock 33, .357 magnum semiautomatic pistol

2. Beretta Xtrema2, A391Xtrema KO Camo Max-4 HD 12 gauge shotgun

3. Heckler & Koch USP Compact 45 calibre semiautomatic pistol

4. Hennesy “Paradis Extra” cognac

5. Heckle & Jeckle Cartoon Collection, DVD

6. Virgen de Guadalupe, statuette, by Lladró

7. Aztlán passport

I will spend the rest of the night uploading many of the images onto my web site. The meta names consist of my favorite words: Coral, snake, stripes, nether, venom, blink, vanishing, double talk and half-life. Time to burn away the thought. Must turn to dust. I can’t see. I can’t see.

nine

Dinno has not been seen by anyone in more than twenty days. There has been a tremen­dous outcry of indignation and sincere concern regarding the posting of his photographic images on the Internet that have been called “disturbing,” “neo/hyper-porn,” “emblematic of mass anarchy,” “delusional cross-species affront,” and “psychological lawlessness.” Rumors of his suicide (or murder) have been circulating among the Chicano intelligentsia and art world cognoscenti. Upon initial reports of his disappearance, many of his enemies were among the first to publicly announce that Dinno is “passé” and/or a “cultural terrorist.”

A singularly abhorrent artist (name withheld) who is widely known for his fatuous posturings along with cowardly acts of financial and intellectual property theft (who has oftentimes put other people’s lives at risk in order to raise his own visibility in the arts and who successfully lied about his academic standing, along with fraudulent insider lobbying, in order to secure his tenured position as a professor at a regional University of California campus) claims that Dinno stole his ideas for the performance and photographic project. He publicly stated that he would not be detoured by Dinno’s “poorly executed” appropriation of his “original concept” and that he would invoke university and foundation monies to “properly” shoot the entire sequence of photographs utilizing a professional staff of technicians, designers, and his own ensemble cast (consisting of graduate students, groupies, and wannabes) to produce billboard-sized limited edition photographs. Although these works have not yet been produced, nearly all have been designated for various museum exhibitions and private collections.

There have been several reported sightings of bumper stickers that read, DINNO’S PIX, affixed to upscale German and Italian automobiles that have been seen cruising along the 10 and 405 Freeways, and on Pacific Coast Highway near Zuma Beach.

Dinno’s ex-wives and children have refused to speak to journalists but have issued a joint statement through an impartial representative of the affected families:

 

“Although many of us may love Dinno, we hereby dissociate ourselves from his acts, words, and intentions. Do not impose sanctions against us for what this man does to the world.”

Attested in good faith:

 

Ex-Wife #1, age 54, mother and grandmother of: Son #1, age 37 years, Sons #2 & #3, ages 35 years, Daughter #1, age 31 years, Son #4, age 24 years, Daughter #2, age 22 years, Grandson #1, age 9 years.

 

Ex-Wife #2, age 42; mother and grandmother of: Daughters #3, #4, age 22 years, Daughter #5, age 19 years, Daughter #6, age 17 years; Daughter #7, age 15 years, Granddaughters #1, #2, & #3, age 2

 

Ex-Wife #3, age 40; (no children)

 

Ex-Wife #4, age 29; mother of: Daughter #8, age 11 years, Daughter #9, age 7 years, Daughter #10, age 3 years

 

Ex-Wife #5, age 22, mother of: Son #5, age 4 years, Son #6, age 8 months

{Unidentified children born out of wedlock = 3 sons and 4 daughters}

{Aborted fetuses = 16}

ten

During the past sixteen days, several hundred people have reported seeing a small translucent angel hovering above the intersection of Whittier Boulevard and Lorena Street in the Boyle Heights district of Los Angeles. The angel is said to have illusory holographic three-dimensional qualities and is seemingly devoid of any mass. Numerous traffic accidents have occurred whenever unsuspecting motorists suddenly veer off course to avoid hitting the apparition. Spanish-language media networks have sent reporters to the site but have not yet recorded any high definition digital video footage of the angel. Futile attempts to grasp the angel by hand or capture it with a variety of electromagnetic nets have frustrated the efforts of several atheists and cynics who claim that it is merely a mechanized puppet of The Vatican. Experts in laser and advanced guidance systems technology from the California Institute of Technology and Jet Propulsion Laboratory have been conducting an active search for energy sources at the site. Several MIT scientists fervently deny that the angel’s purported luminance possesses a dynamic range of invisible colors that could actively erode the presence of yellows and blues in the solar system (which could there­by alter the existence of black and white). Fluctuating ambient radiation levels at the site have challenged critical notions related to fusion reactions, black holes, and recent assertions attributed to string theory. The Smithsonian Institution has sent several research fellows to observe inter­cultural crowd behavior. The military is keeping a watchful eye from above utilizing armed airborne predator drones that could be remotely controlled to fire low yield nuclear weapons should it be determined that the angel poses a direct threat to internal security. Unidentified national security agencies have conducted preliminary investigations and have not verified the existence of the angel nor have they acknowledged their own presence at the site. Several undercover police officers and uniformed snipers have shot several high-powered weapons at the angel and were publicly embarrassed by their superiors when they failed to hit the elusive invisible target. Rival gang members, some with extensive criminal backgrounds, have noted the spontaneous erasure of tattoos and the loss of scars upon seeing the angel. Thousands of believers from all over Los Angeles County have descended on the four street corners to pray in silence. The truly faithful followers of the newly formed Cult of the Angel claim to have heard the angel speak in Spanish, Nahuatl, English, Japanese, French, Korean, Mandarin, and Latin. Although the content is strictly forbidden by recent domestic security laws, the angel’s words in any language are clearly stated:

“Cruelty is masked by sorrow. Violence is shrouded in denial. You will not see the truth until everything has been swallowed by the relentless universe. Molecular bonds are easily broken. Our Holy Mother has touched many of you. Go forth blind­ly until you have reached your destiny. Do not see what is before you. Accept your fate. Pick up the gun, the knife, the bomb, and embrace revolution. The void will set you free. All of my love to the many children who have visited, crossed, and perished on this very spot of earth.”

Nine elementary school children have been detained by the authorities for repeating the angel’s words in class. Los Angeles Unified School District officials have issued student expul­sion notices to the parents. Foreign language press outlets have reported that special detention pens, similar to Vietnam War era “tiger cages,” are being established in Guantanamo Bay for the possibility of accepting underage “domestic visitors.” More than two hundred middle school and one hundred high school students have received truancy notices and fines of up to $230.00 per student for attending street “angel prayers.” The mayor of Los Angeles has urged all students to return to class so that they may excel in their studies and become model citizens. English-lan­guage news reporters and television crews have been noticeably absent from activities surrounding the angel’s purported appearance and the growing list of recognizable followers. Several award-winning movie actors, deceased (Klaus Kinski, Gilbert Roland, Ida Lupino, and Ava Gardner) and living (Isabella Rossellini, Isabelle Huppert, and Forest Whittaker), have been rumored to be present among the nameless faces in the crowd. The geopolitical importance of the “blessed” gathering of believers has been conclusively analyzed by an eclectic team of highly placed “thinkers” and has prompted decisive action by a disavowed governmental agency that serves under the auspices of the classified Rapid Anti-Terrorist Squad (RATS) laws.

On the morning of Wednesday, April 5, 2006, the solution to the “angel” question was put into effect:

8:00 a.m.               Secure perimeter (encompassing Whittier Boulevard and Lorena Street) bordered by the 60 Freeway (North), Euclid Street (West), Esperanza Street (East), and 5 Freeway (South).

 

10:00 a.m.            Initial attack via subsonic weapons causing immediate disequilibrium, paralysis, blindness, internal bleeding, and heart stoppage in 90% of all humans, mammals, and birds within targeted area.

 

11:30 a.m.            Automatic arms fire by designated elite squad brings human death toll to 100%.

 

12:30 p.m.            Demolition, construction, road building, tunnel digging, painting, and urban special effects crews work in tandem to destroy all structures within the perimeter, perform mass burial, lay several thousand square feet of lawn strips, asphalt, and concrete; placement of prefabricated buildings and playground equipment; pave streets, paint murals and graffiti, installation of surveillance cameras.

 

3:00 p.m.               Release squirrels and pigeons into affected area.

 

4:30 p.m.               Disband perimeter control to allow general public use.

 

5:00 p.m.               Civic dedication of the new, “Angel Park.”

 

6:00 p.m.               1st Annual “Festival del Parque” celebration.

 

8:00 p.m.               Park closed.

eleven

Dinno had been marching with more than a million people in downtown Los Angeles on behalf of immigrant rights. The marchers had been instructed by Spanish-language radio personalities to wear white as a symbol of peace but Dinno was the only person in the massive crowd wearing all black. He stepped out of line for a few moments to slip inside Clifton’s Cafeteria at 7th and Broadway streets to have a slice of chocolate cake and a cup of ultra-caffeinated coffee. He was sitting comfortably at has favorite table on the third tier of the main dining area when he was approached by a young man who looked somewhat familiar yet completely out of place.

“Professor Dinno, I saw you get off the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus at Washington Boulevard. I was surprised that you would participate in a mass movement,” said the former student who never identified himself because he believed that Dinno actually remembered his name.

“Good to see you beyond the reach of study and tests. It’s been a few semesters since I’ve assigned any homework. You must try the German chocolate cake, an old recipe that was formulated by a madman who worked on The Manhattan Project. It seems like I chose the right day to go out and get a little sunshine,” smiled Dinno as he tasted the sweet chocolate frosting.

The former student was now wearing headphones and had turned on the professional portable audio recording equipment. With the Sennheiser microphone pointed at Dinno, he looked socially awkward and not fully equipped to carry out a deliberately effective interview. Dinno had seen this deceptively adolescent behavior before but knew that he was in the presence of a brilliant young man who would one day (probably after this particular recording) impress his peers and members of his chosen profession. Before the former student could say another word, Dinno presented him with a 99¢ keychain bearing the image of the Virgen de Guadalupe.

“Here, she’ll allow you to get through the day free of harm,” said Dinno as the caffeine seemed to take hold of his nervous system.

“Thanks, Professor Dinno. I could use the help. I’m working on a documentary video related to the current threat of anti-immigrant sentiment and the rising sense of empowerment among immigrants. I’m using three HD cameras but all of the camera operators are out on the streets and we’ll meet later at the end of the march. I’m conducting audio interviews and recording ambient sound. It would be a great honor to have your position on the current situation,” said the former student as he pressed the “record” button.

“I am completely opposed to the war. I am in favor of eliminating all restrictions on im­migration and believe in open borders. There should be a global moratorium on unrestricted capitalism, elitist communism, heartless terrorism, and mindless fascism. Schools should teach children to become experts in critical analysis, economic forecasting, abstract reasoning, and creative problem solving. Monies that are spent on the space program, weapons, and right wing propaganda should be implemented to fund universal health coverage, the arts, and to protect the environment. Democracy is an outmoded and corrupt model of falsifying the meaning of the constitution. The death penalty should be reserved for those who violate the public trust. The use of torture should be abolished. Freedom, as we now know it, should be redefined to include social responsibility. All people have the right of privacy and should repudiate all forms of intrusive sur­veillance. We must neutralize all nuclear weapons and apologize to humanity for producing illness and death that has been caused by our insane policies that poison the earth with deadly radioactive elements. All current nationally elected, corporate, religious, and military leaders should be deposed and reeducated to become domestic workers, manual laborers, and despised underlings who can be easily abused by the masses,” said Dinno as he finished eating the chocolate cake.

“There have been rumors that you are dead, hospitalized, in prison, or that you have been given luxurious refuge in Malibu by your collectors. Your career as an academic was brought down by allegations that you impregnated several students and faculty members. Your art career came to a sudden end when you publicly denounced the creation of physical art objects. Your recent Internet project provoked such a backlash that a coalition of disparate groups has hired Russian computer hackers to delete most of the content from your web site and substitute your images with pictures of dollar bills. Do you feel that your support for immigrant rights actually has a negative effect on the outcome of those rights? Your erratic nihilistic ethos has added another layer of cultural pollution that has threatened the integrity of the common good. Are you an illegal alien?,” the former student said in a tone that revealed a desire for upward social mobility.

“I live a lifestyle of absentia. All four of my grandparents, and both of my parents were born in México and they all immigrated to the United States in the early 20th Century. I called myself Chicano the day I was shot by police during a riot in East L.A. when I was nineteen years old. I was called an artist the night I taped my eyes shut and swam across the tar pits. Names are of no use to me now. Concrete thinking and action has its limitations. Now, back to the streets,” said Dinno as he quickly exited the building and was instantly absorbed by the stream of exuberant marchers.

twelve

Voice message #1

“Dinno, I want you to call me immediately. No one uses a pager anymore. Your outgoing message sounds like it was recorded inside of a dumpster. I know that you’re still alive and well in L.A. More than a million people protesting in the streets and you find a way to have your photograph appear on the front page of several newspapers throughout the U.S., Mexico, Europe, and even Iceland. Maybe you’re trying to impress Shakira or Björk but they’ll never be interested in an artist who wastes his talent, who disappears, who doesn’t care about being rich, and who doesn’t participate in instant communication. Call me, I have good news in seven figures. Silent partners, wealthy foreigners, investors, buyers, and a few trust fund kids. Oh, don’t ask me how I pulled off this deal. I’m great but you are the key. Call me. I’ll do anything except have your baby. Call!”

Voice message #2

“Dinno, it’s me, Nilia, your most favorite and ultimately ravishing (although you’ll never fuck me) art person. Don’t ignore my calls. I need you and you need me. I’ve attracted old and new money. We need to close this deal. Want to stuff your pockets with cash? You need to pay off all child support payments going back to the 70s. You could buy a new Aston Martin or Bentley and live the life of a success­ful artist. You’ve got to talk to me before it all goes to someone else.”

 

Voice message #3

“I’m going to kill myself. Maybe this isn’t your number.”

 

Voice message #4

“Dinno, the project involves you going to the Middle East and Asia to create a few works for several major hotels, embassies, and private residencies. You’ll also be required to produce a performance piece within the Arctic Circle. You’ll be featured in all of the major art publications and society pages. Your Coral Snake project was a hit among the richest of the rich. You’ll be provided with a driver, an executive assis­tant, and four star hotel accommodations. Everything should take less than a year to complete. At the start of each month, I’ll personally deliver twelve equally large cash payments in euros, yen, dinars, dollars, pounds, and rupees. You must call, I have detectives looking for you. Don’t make me hurt you in order to get your life back into shape. Let’s have coffee. I’ll sweeten it up for you. Ciao.”

 

Voice message #5

“Dinno, the gun is pointed at my head. The deadline is tonight. Motherfucker!”

thirteen

Dinno was carrying the inexpensive brown plastic suitcase that he had purchased at a thrift store and felt that it would be a fitting piece of luggage for his short trip. The suitcase was probably more than fifty years old with a streamlined design that was elegantly modern and futuristically functional. Dinno was dressed in a combination of fine vintage clothing, a new Valentino shirt, and accessories that included a handmade pair of gold cuff links that carried elaborately engraved question marks. His hair was cut close and dyed a reddish brown. His thin brown mustache was drawn in with a tinted eyebrow pencil. The oval shaped tortoiseshell rimmed glasses added a nostalgic semblance of mystery to his overall appearance. His physical presentation to any bystander on the streets would be that of a gentleman from a bygone era (in sepia tones). Dinno was ready to revitalize the world with his singular act of violent absurdity. The full impact of his in­tended actions could be discussed and analyzed at a later time by journalists, art historians, social psychologists, and others who are eminently qualified to deconstruct any myth.

Dinno had already agreed to all of Nilia’s business and art production deadline conditions during a conversation from a filthy biohazardous public pay phone near the Olvera Street tourist area. During his three-minute impassioned monologue, he renounced all antisocial attitudes and behaviors; told Nilia that he was looking forward to living in the desert and that he was ecstatic about possibly seeing the aurora borealis; promised not to cause any trouble and to complete all assignments promptly; stated that regardless of country or religion, that all local laws and customs would be strictly observed; declared his newly found dedication to abstinence and mentioned that his perpetual lust for her was finally extinguished; and insisted that he was in an rarified creative mood that would propel him across the globe as a fully functioning artist and living genius. Dinno told her that she would see him within the hour so that he could sign the multiple contracts, swear unconditional loyalty to several international non-disclosure agreements, look over the itinerary, and pick up the initial payment of more than seventy thousand dollars. He even hinted that he’d go on an extravagant shopping spree to buy all of his adult, teen, and young children gifts with a special gesture of giving diamond rings to each of his ex-wives. Nilia nearly wept with joy at the anticipation of cashing in on the biggest venture of her life. The conversation ended abruptly when Dinno failed to put additional coins into the pay phone as was demanded by the digitized voice of the non-existent human representative of the telecommunications corporation.

fourteen

Everything appeared to be operating normally at the Chinatown Metro Gold Line Station on Monday, April 17, 2006 at 3:15 p.m. while many people were waiting for their respec­tive light rail trains to take them to Pasadena or in the opposite direction to the nearby landmark Union Station train depot. According to several witnesses, a man dressed in various shades of brown and carrying a suitcase approached the tracks slowly. The man opened up the suitcase and pulled out a porcelain statuette of the Virgen de Gudalupe and a small unglazed ceramic bowl that was decorated with an Aztec skull motif that he placed onto the platform. He poured a thick yellow flammable paste into the bowl, then ignited the substance with a disposable cigarette lighter causing bright red, orange, and blue flames to fan at the idol’s feet. He put his black wallet (containing a substantial amount of cash along with pictures of many children and women) next to the fire to form an improvised altar. As the train speedily approached the station, he removed his spectacles, straightened his Versace tie, and used a Monger 9” black titanium assault knife to effortlessly cut out his two eyes. He placed the severed unseeing balls into the burning gel before jumping onto the tracks in time for the train to roll over his lifeless body.

The official response to the surge of 911 emergency calls was delayed by excessive traf­fic congestion but was overcompensated in magnitude by ordering helmeted riot police and fire rescue personnel to be on guard for further fatalities. Most of the individuals who were present during the deadly incident had already departed aboard trains using the alternate track. Investiga­tors on the scene found the smashed fragments of the bowl and statuette (the wallet was stolen by person or persons unknown and thereby was not included in the police report). A teenaged boy who was wearing designer tortoiseshell rimmed glasses was detained briefly by Metro S.W.A.T. then released when it was assessed that he would not be shot nor charged with committing any crime. The coroner’s recovery team collected several plastic bags full of unidentified freshly ground human flesh and washed away the unrecognizable splatters with powerful sprays of water from industrial-strength hoses. The remains were listed as “John Doe #567” and arrived at the overly crowded coroner’s storage facility that was jammed packed with numerous corpses resulting from the many homicides, suicides, traffic accidents, deaths by natural causes and unexplained illnesses that had taken place within the boundaries of Los Angeles County earlier that day. Whenever cadavers categorized as “John Doe” and “Jane Doe” outnumber freezer capacity, they are cremated immediately. The ashes are placed in generic urns and set on a shelf in the gloomy basement of the Los Angeles County Crematorium at Evergreen Cemetery in Boyle Heights which is situated near the construction site for the projected eastern extension of the Metro Gold Line. The “shelf life” of the ashes extends to seven years during which time financially responsible immediate kin should be able to identify and lay claim to the remains, otherwise, on Day 2,494, the ashes will be sprinkled as a nitrogen-rich fertilizer for the perpetual rose garden that provides a lively organic red coloration around a frighteningly dull concrete gray building.

When investigators reviewed the train station surveillance videotape, there was no visual or audio evidence that any suicide had taken place. It was assumed that there must have been a glitch with either the surveillance cameras or aging software. None of the witnesses had taken any photographs and many found it difficult to believe that they had seen such a horrifyingly graphic human tragedy on such a beautiful sunny day. Several highly trained police officers filed for sick leave after claiming to have been exposed to the revolting sight along with the accom­panying stench that comes from the forced ejection of internal organs, bone marrow, and feces. The veteran train operator was unmoved by any emotions and gladly took the opportunity to book a flight for a 4-day vacation to Cancún during the mandatory time off after encountering his third “jumper” in two years. Rumors immediately spread throughout Chinatown that the dead man was walking the streets and would seek vengeance by pushing their children and elders in front of speeding trains. The teenager who stole the glasses recognized Dinno as the acclaimed artist even when his eyes were no longer in their sockets. He originally intended to keep the glasses as souvenirs but decided that it would be more profitable to sell them online. When the police let him go, he immediately uploaded his observations of the event onto his increasingly popular blog:

 

sEvEnTeEnApRiLtWoThOuSaNdAnDsIx, It WaS lIkE aRt, StAb, BuRn, No tImE tO pRaY, lItErAlLy GrInD tO a HaLt, DoLlArS iN mY pOcKeT, gAfAs To SeE yOu BeTteR ‘cAuSe WhAt TrUlY cAnNoT bE, hAtE mE mOrE bEcAuSe I lAuGhEd ToO lOuD, lOuDeR wHeN i CoUnTeD iT aLl, TiMe To PaRtY, tO cElEbRaTe ThE aRtIsT, tHaNkS dInNo, FoR gIvInG mE wHaT i DiDn’T hAvE. bEt YoU wErE fUcKiNg TiReD oF fUcKiNg OlD mAn, GaVe It Up, BuT iN fRoNt Of ThE rEsT oF uS? aIn’T nO pSyChO gOiNg To ToUcH yOu WiTh A tEn FoOt PoLe, EsE. i’Ll SpRaYpAiNt YoUr PiX oN tHe NeArEsT wAlL, gUtS aNd AlL. nEvEr ThOuGhT yOu As An AfTeRtHoUgHt BuT lA vIrGeN wOuLd NeVeR aPpRoVe tHe SeLf-An­NiHiLaTiOn, ThE sElF-cOnFlAgRaTiOn, YoU aRe ThE rEaSoN wE aLl DeSeRvE tO sUfFeR, mOnEy WiLl DrOwN oUt ThE nOiSe In My HeAd. RaToVaTo.

fifteen

Daughter #1 and Son #1 arrived at the front office of the crematorium to present a handful of required documents to a soot-covered man who explained that his duties as clerk were complicated by recent fiscal cutbacks and ongoing bureaucratic mismanagement. The clerk looked over the bundled birth certificates of Dinno’s children, family photographs, art exhibition brochures, and newspaper clippings before stating that they would be given an hour-long opportunity to search through Necropolis East, a locked storage area at the rear of the building, to possibly find their father’s ashes. The clerk typed on the keyboard of a nearby computer to access the several hundred entries made during the past week and printed out a hard copy of a list of urns that would be examined. The clerk handed them a “hall pass” and silently led them down the morose corridor as they passed an extraordinary number of No Smoking signs. They entered a dimly lit room with a low ceiling and many shelves on the lengthy walls. Each shelf held an impressive row of urns. Each urn carried a label listing its identification number as well as its date of entry and termination (fertilization) date. The room and its contents resembled Dinno’s notorious 1984 Blowout instal­lation of copper and zinc tubes filled with gunpowder at the now-defunct Museum of Automatic Reflex in Riverside, California.

After an exhaustive 60-minute review by the siblings and a follow-up 2-minute review of electronic records, there was nothing that could directly connect Dinno to any of the several thousand unclaimed urns. The two surviving children had been given the task of disposing the ashes according to their father’s stated wishes (based on a brief handwritten note on a napkin that Dinno had left behind on the bed during one of his infrequent visits to Ex-Wife #4, requesting that any remains, regardless of condition and totality, be tossed into the Los Angeles River from the 6th Street Bridge that serves as the border to East Los Angeles) and were extremely disappointed when they were hurriedly escorted out by an armed security guard who was eating a cold slice of pepperoni pizza. They were told that they would receive written notification that the deceased could not be located because there was no traceable evidence that Dinno was actually dead. The widely disseminated rumor that Dinno had committed suicide at the light rail station and the notion that Dinno had been cremated courtesy of the Los Angeles County was based on several hundred email messages, web pages, blogs, text messages, streaming video, and other forms of technologically enhanced gossip.

sixteen

Nilia was stunned when she received an anonymous voice message that announced Dinno’s demise. The complex investment project that she had been hoping would become an ongoing lucrative source of fluid cash was deflected into a doomed downward spiral by what she regarded to be a successful conceptual hoax. She felt that she would be able find out the truth about Dinno’s survival status. During the week following his purported death, Nilia drove endlessly through every street and alley of the affluent neighborhoods, hillside communities, barrios, ghettos, and gated communities of the Los Angeles basin. Confident in her belief that she would find Dinno, she constantly cruised the several hundred miles of interconnecting freeways that serve as clogged arteries for the desperately ill megapolis. At one point during her search, she was nearly killed when several bullets struck the windshield of her car as she drove along the 118 Freeway. The shooter was a man in his 30’s who was driving an older model pickup truck while high on methamphetamine. Nilia caught a glimpse of his contorted blistered face as he drove off at nearly 100 mph. For an instant she had feared for her own life but soon regained her composure and once again worried about what it would take to resurrect Dinno into the world of the living.

seventeen

The newborn’s cry was unmistakably healthy and strong. Dinno’s sense of déjà vu at the sight of the baby girl (who carries an uncanny resemblance to his own baby pictures) was an affirmation of life and his ability to procreate beyond his means. The young mother was visibly exhausted after a painful thirty-hour labor that had transpired without any serious complications. She would love, care, protect, and raise her child to become an active participant in the world, intuitively knowing that the biological father (not simply a disengaged sperm donor, but a man whose creative spirit was often shared among his progeny via a dynamic set of “creativity genes”) would not be in constant attendance for daily family activities but would instead, provide his own form of love from afar and offer an intricate legacy of artistic presence. Mother (soon-to-be Wife #6) and Daughter #11, would be welcomed into the inner circle of ex-wives, siblings, nephews, and nieces as full members of Dinno’s extended family.

Dinno noticed that the sweet child was fully cognizant of her own existence as he kissed her on the forehead. The beautiful and courageous mother was smiling deliriously as he kissed her cheek and stroked her indigenous-dominant mestiza long straight black hair. They were both looking forward to meeting again in Las Vegas next month for the fifteen-minute wedding ceremony at Lady Luck Chapel where they would exchange their marriage vows, kiss, and then spend a fun-loving weekend together in a nearby off-the-strip motel room (Daughter #11 would be cared for by Ex-Wife #5 during their brief honeymoon). He walked away discreetly from the delivery room and moved away from the hospital quiet zone where he could laugh, sing, and pray aloud as he headed towards the familiar skyline of downtown Los Angeles. Wearing a black leather jacket, blue denim pants, and steel-toed boots, he blended easily into his natural habitat of the busy city streets. Within the next few hours, Dinno would remind everyone (and be reminded) that life is cheap and that death can be cheated by anyone who flirts with dangerous ideas.

eighteen

The attacks came without warning. Six Predator drones fired many dozen rockets that destroyed buildings, freeway bridges, entire Los Angeles neighborhoods, and numerous popu­lar gathering places. Nearly 54,000 people were killed in a single day as a result of the multiple explosions. More than twice that number would surely die of leukemia and other forms of cancer from being exposed to the depleted uranium that was delivered by the sophisticated warheads. It wasn’t the first time that an American city had been targeted in recent months, nor was the violence equal to the ever increasing effects of natural disasters such as floods, fires, earthquakes, and viral plagues. The attacks were in accordance with new executive security measures and although such internal warfare violated the Declaration of Human Rights, there was no possibility of any international complaint or countermeasure. Most people in the United States were unaffected and the flow of money between consumers and corporations actually increased to reflect the broad approval of eliminating dissent, subjugating undesirables, and providing the opportunity to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure through publicly funded emergency redevelopment.

One rocket specifically targeted a small house near Echo Park Lake that was widely recognized as Dinno’s last known place of residence. Several bodies were pulled from the rubble and identified in postmortem reports as young males, possibly day laborers, who had found the unoccupied place to be a suitable location to hide from increased anti-immigration enforcement sweeps. The location was sealed off with a chain link fence bearing a placard: U.S. Property.

nineteen

Nilia was smoking an unfiltered cigarette as she waited impatiently and excitedly for Dinno to arrive at the rear entrance of the FM radio station. The Lasting Aghast Show would begin its live broadcast shortly and Dinno would be the featured guest during the opening minutes. Nilia was intent on interviewing him in a manner that would generate witticisms, brilliant observations, and a public mea culpa (a necessary step for the rehabilitation of his career and possibly to save his life from further attacks). Dinno walked off the street looking very much like a stylish grand­father in his simple (yet elegant) Hugo Boss blue three-button suit, with white v-neck tee shirt, and white shoes. Nilia withheld her desire to slap his face as she kissed his lips and led him by the hand into the recording booth in time to put on headphones, adjust the microphones, test the volume levels, and watch the digital timer count down to zero followed by the 15-second musical introduction. The green light switched on signaling that they were now on the air.

“Welcome everyone. Our guest, Dinno, has agreed to explain the circumstances that have surrounded his confusing vanishing act. I’m happy to announce that his solo exhibition of new mixed media works will be presented next month at Nethers + Mixum Gallery. His autobiography, Dinno!, will be published in several languages to accompany the Coral Snake World Tour of his photographs and lectures. Now, Dinno, we’ve all been wondering, where has the man, the artist, the enigmatic icon been?,” asked Nilia in a farcically commercialized voice.

“Hello, Nilia, happy to be here. There is always an answer to any riddle. Mass hypno­sis and mass hysteria are the dual protagonists to my enduring absence. I was here all along,” giggled Dinno as he looked at the loosened top red button of Nilia’s blouse.

“It was rumored, reported, documented, that you were seen jumping to your death in front of a speeding train,” Nilia slapped Dinno’s wrist.

“This collective dream makes for great wish fulfillment but I’m dreadfully afraid of trains because they remind me of snakes, and snakes represent venom, and it is a toxic sense of superiority that has entered the bloodstream of our supposed leaders. It could be that a wrecked train travels on a fixed track that leads to perdition. No, I didn’t jump,” said Dinno.

“Many people are blaming you for the strangely popular sightings of indefinable angels. Quasi-religious events are taking place throughout the country (with catastrophic consequences). Are you a member of the Cult of the Angel? Could it be that you are using advanced digital image projectors to manipulate the belief systems of an infinitely malleable public?,” Nilia noticed that Dinno was slowly squeezing the trigger of a semiautomatic pistol (Glock 33, .357 magnum) that he was now holding in his hand.

“We are in the midst of the 21st Century Dark Age. Wars are fought for despicable rulers. Ignorance is valued over knowledge. Human life is worthless in the eyes of the powerful. The rest of us are better off blind. In other words, Nilia, love doesn’t conquer all,” Dinno smiled slyly.

Nilia was taken aback when she suddenly saw a small angel dancing frenetically above Dinno’s head. The angel plunged its sharp ephemeral claws into Dinno’s unseeing eyes and repeatedly pierced his genitals with a golden spear. Dinno vomited a pool of fiery blood, unable to speak, he fell to the floor as he shot several rounds that struck the angel’s misty face. Nilia screamed in terror as the angel scraped her shoulder with its silky wing. An infinite expanse of heavenly blue waves filled Nilia’s mind as the angel licked her ears and breasts lustfully with its forked tongue. A nearly airless voice whispered into the microphone for all to hear clearly:

… Go forth blindly until you have reached your destiny. Do not see what is before you. Accept your fate. Pick up the gun, the knife, the bomb, and embrace revolution. The void will set you free…

©2006, Harry Gamboa Jr.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Harry Gamboa Jr. is an artist and author. He co-founded Asco (Spanish for “nausea”; 1972-1987), the East L.A. conceptual-performance art group. He is a member of the faculty at California Institute of the Arts, Program in Photography and Media. His website is www.harrygamboajr.com.

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11 comments
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