Monday, April 02, 2007

Miami Dice I (continued)

So I stand on a staircase in front of a window. Behind me buzzards, and the occasional lazy pelican, glide by on the rise of cushioning thermals and glare into our sky-high humanarium. What do they make of the bronzed throng and the walls crowded with pictures? Many of the latter I recognise as mine, one or two almost forgotten, some I would not now know how to do, most made for love alone,
a few to impress
but I digress
I start to tell how I arrived at the cocktail scheme and how I wanted it to be about Mallarmé the founder of concrete poetry and first god of the Sackner Archive and to use his poem Un Coup de Dès whose first lines I have translated (for the spots in Miami Dice)
A throw of dice
will never do
away with chance
which by permutation produces a concrete flourish of ambiguity:-
Away with chance!
A throw of dice
will never do!
A throw of dice
will never do
away with chance.
Yet Mallarmé did not yield a quaffable clue which was a pity since the disposition of words on the page of his seminal poem was the liberating model for my own texts in a humument. It would also have suited the cocktail to be called 'aleator' (from the latin for 'thrower of dice', pronounced as in 'See you later, aleator'). But it was not to be, so I turned to the next in the French succession, Wilhelm Albert Apollinaris Kostrowitzky, and struck if not gold then liquid amber . It was under this, his real name, that Guillaume Apollinaire was drafted into the army. His comrades in arms found the name Kostrowitzky a bit of a mouthful so called him 'Cointreau-whisky'.
Jeremy King considered this combination mixed in equal parts a novel but viable recipe for a classic cocktail, to which would be added a dash of the poet's third given name, the mineral water Apollinaris.
Thus I had a cocktail but had to end my shaky oration with a stirring toast to the Sackners in a conceptual drink neither titled nor poured.
The evening continued ever more convivially with the arrival of Sara Sackner the filmmaker, and John Pull the eminence grise of my website.
Now the guests depart as they do in American events, like guilty creatures upon a fearful summons. The party's nuclear group finds its floridian way (ie without seeming to touch a sidewalk or encountering the open air) to a cosy corner of a cavernous restaurant, eating again. Then somehow Ruth, Marvin and myself are reteleported to the penthouse.

I seek a smoke and head for the balcony imagining a calm moment of solitude in the balmy night, savouring the view over the city. I open a door and walk into a wall, a solid rush of suicide-assisting air which if I hold my cigarette aloft smokes it for me faster than I could myself. Another round to the Sackners in their war against the weed.

Oh Those Reds... Acrylic on canvas, 1969-1973
Instead I sit in the kitchen with a cup of coffee facing an old picture of mine, the best of the catalogue of colours I made over thirty years ago with intervals determined by coin tossing. It is a special (and infrequent) pleasure to enjoy a picture one made long before hiding as it does within its stripes such mixed memories.

Mall Pavement, 2004, oil on board.

I recently revived this procedure when designing a pavement in Bellenden Road which runs along the fronts of the shops (in appropriate tribute to the ubiquitous barcodes). I echoed this in a little painting (now proudly using a minted coin of my own design, one of only 18,000,000 copies) of a projected mall flooring in black and white marble with a granite border in dollar-green.
But it is time for bed. I make for my alloted room, fearful of its ceiling composed entirely of mirrors. This was installed by the previous tenant, a famous fancy dancer, and has no doubt witnessed many a steamy and athletic pas de deux on the enormous bed below. Certainly it has never looked down on so drab a sight as the lone ageing artist turning the unarousing pages
of the TLS
but I digress
I did indeed find the name of the cocktail some weeks later when reading about Apollinaire in Richardson's splendid life of Picasso: how the poet first met the artist in Austin's Hotel in which seedy establishment I stayed for a month in 1955 on a travel scholarship, reading the works of Henry Miller while remaining unaware as only youth can be that the frequent feet upon the stairs were those of clients visiting prostitutes. It is still there in the rue d'Amsterdam though now considerably smarter and more respectable. The fact that it was also at the premises of a Mr Austin in Peckham that I bought the original copy of A Human Document in 1966 (unaware in this case that I would still be working on the book more than forty years later) clinched the matter. Austin's Furniture Repository has now gone the way of such emporia (replaced by Austin's Buildings, a more profitable property speculation). If a restaurant can be called the Wolseley then a cocktail can surely be called an Austin. One day perhaps I'll have an Austin at the Wolseley. Not my sort of drink really, so perhaps a Baby Austin will do.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As any student of that 1970's linguistic phenomenon 'Strine' would surely know, an 'Austin' is composed of exactly 33cl. of liquid amber nectar.