Daily Archives: December 28, 2008

>Asheville, Part Deux: William Christenberry

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It was sunny and cool, but not cold in Asheville. We strolled through the downtown area, looking in art galleries, pausing for a coffee and something sweet at the City Cafe. We bought a few ornaments for next years Christmas tree….hey, you can’t beat 50% off! My middle name should be Discount.
We wandered through the Grove Arcade, which is an old building in the center of town that has become an indoor mall, only no Starbucks, no Crate and Barrel, no JC Penney; thank god. This mall had all sorts of cool furniture stores, and mountain crafts; deli cheeses and wine……me love the wine. There was the old man playing Bach on the violin–I only repeat this because Carlos told me over breakfast this morning that he went to speak with the man, and discovered the old man was blind.
At the Four Corners Home store Carlos found a lamp he must have; he’s a sucker for lamps, don’t ask me why. But this one was pretty cool. It was cast of iron and the lamp shades were folded over the iron-work like sheets of paper, hiding the bulbs. It was a bit more than we wanted to spend, and Carlos did try to barter a discount of sorts. In the end, we took a business card and decided to think about it. They do free shipping, so maybe in a month we’ll have his lamp.
We also visited the Asheville Art Museum. As with music, Carlos and I have distinctively different tastes. I am far more abstract and want an immediate reaction to a piece of art, while he is more reflective, and likes anything that resembles an Old Master work; he’s Old World, I’m New World, I guess.

On the top floor we encountered an exhibition by William Christenberry. I’d never heard of him, but some of his ink-and-brush works were amazing. They reminded me of Chinese calligraphy, although most were of trees he saw while growing up in Alabama. He also had several sculptures, many of tall white house with two windows and a door; he called them K House. Interesting, but I didn’t quite get it.

Off to the side, I noticed a dark curtain closing off a section of the gallery. They keep the room draped, warning you before you enter. It housed a piece of Christenberry’s work he called the Klan Tableau. Growing up in Alabama from the 1930’s he saw first-hand how the Klan worked. In 1960 he heard there was a Klan meeting at the Tuscaloosa Courthouse, and went to see what it was all about. He climbed to the third floor, looking for signs of a meeting, and turned a last corner to find a Klansman, in the robe and hood standing as sentry outside the door. The Klansman didn’t speak to Christenberry; he merely looked through the slits in his hood. Christenberry saw his eyes and fled. It began a life-long fascination with the KKK.


The Klan Tableau is something I’m glad I saw, oddly enough; it’s also something I never hope to see again; and something I won’t ever forget. There are paintings of men in hoods, eyes ablaze; there are hoods with skulls inside; dolls dressed as Klansmen all over the room. Many of the pen-and-ink drawings are on Red, White or Blue canvasses. The instant I walked in the room I found it hard to breathe. It was so oppressive, the images so filled with hate. Paintings and cards, dolls, everywhere. White sheets. Hate. Fiery eyes. Hate. K Houses that I now saw as the shape of a hood; windowed eyes, a door for a mouth.
Christenberry doesn’t display the tableau to honor the KKK, or even to dishonor them. It’s on display because it’s part of our history, and history is destined to repeat itself; if we don’t remember what’s happened before, it might certainly happen again.
Once we got home, I did a search on Christenberry, and read an article, a review actually, in the Washington Post online. The young man who reviewed the Christenberry exhibit, and the Klan Tableau, found the Klan room old-fashioned and laughable. He said he grew up, like Barack Obama, in what he calls a post-KKK world, so these images were not fearful, they were antiquated.
I disagree. The world isn’t post-KKK. The klan is around, perhaps more quiet than usual. I think that’s worse than having them march in the streets, having them hide in houses and meeting halls.
And I don’t think fear ever gets old. Fear is fear, no matter what group uses it, or what group feels it. It won’t go away; it won’t get old.
I think it changes shape and continues on and on.
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Filed under Anti-LGBT, Art, Asheville, Bob, Carlos, Hate, KKK, North Carolina, President Obama, Uncategorized, William Christenberry

>Road Tripping

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You know, when you meet someone, that right someone, that someone who seems to share your same values, who seems to want the same things in life as you, who may have the same likes and dislikes, it’s a great thing.

That’s me and Carlos. To a point.

We met; we clicked. We have the same values and morals, believe in a lot of the same things. He’s a recovering Catholic, and I am a not-so-much believer. He doesn’t do drugs; I don’t do drugs. We both wanted monotony in a relationship….Monogamy! Monogamy, is what we both wanted. Yeah, monogamy, that’s it. We aren’t party boys, although I had done my share when I was younger. We’re more settled, and not in a bad way like an old house, or day old bread; we’re just more sure of what we want and no games need to be played.

But we do have differences, which make our relationship, and any relationship, interesting. Carlos loves horses. I once saw Roy Roger’s horse, Trigger, stuffed, in a museum in Apple Valley, California. Carlos knows classical music; I know what I like. We were in Asheville this weekend, strolling through the Grove Arcade, and I heard a violin playing somewhere up ahead. Pretty music, I thought. Carlos says, Ah, Bach. He should have a goatee and been stroking it and saying quietly, Aaaaaaaaaaaaah, Baaaaach. He knows his Bach from his Mozart; his Stravinsky from his Tchaikovsky. But I can pick a Dixie Chicks tune out of the air; and I can sing-along to Cher, or Diana, or Judy, or Bette.

I get pop culture. Carlos wouldn’t know pop culture if it bitch-slapped him. When the media began to call Jennifer Lopez, JLo, Carlos took it to mean Jello. He calls the woman Jello; of course, she’s famous for that so-called juicy booty so maybe Jello isn’t far off the mark. But I digress.

You mention Britney Spears to him and his eyes glaze over like boysenberry danishes. I don’t know any Britney music, but I can pick her out of a picture, bald head or bad extensions; I know her. If I say I love The Police, he thinks I mean actual police officers, not Sting and Andy and Stewart. But then you see a shot of Maria Callas or Kathleen Battle, and he will give you a lecture on their best arias and their worst behavior. So we aren’t that different in that regard. My pop culture references are from this century while his are, well, not.

And driving is another difference. The man has never seen a speed limit sign in his life. He thinks the speed limit is however fast the fastest car is going. You ask him what the speed limit is and he says, I don’t know……fifty….seventy? This, mind you, is through Smallville, as I like to call it; without the hot guy in tights.

So there we are today, on the road to Asheville, and he’s speeding like I don’t know what. The speed limit is seventy, so that means eighty in ‘Carlos’ speak. And he’s changing lanes into other cars! I’m hearing horns honking and watching my life play out like a bad Joan Crawford movie from the early sixties,. So, there I am, in the passenger seat, being a backseat driver. Slow down. SLOW. DOWN. God, I was annoying. If I was driving and had someone like me in the passenger seat, saying the rosary and checking for signs that the car has airbags, I’d floor it and aim for a bridge abutment. I realized to day that I have two choices: I can either do all of the driving, or I can duct tape my eyes shut and lie on the floor of the backseat. It’s a coin toss.

So that’s a bit more of me and Carlos; so alike; so different. So perfect together. Unless we’re driving, or trying to find a radio station.

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Filed under Bob, Funny