back download PDF

My Life in Politics

Tim Davis

1. Thrift Shop Washington
Waiting for the Gilbert Stuart to degrade, I think icon. When you ponder what has walls, start with schoolhouses, stop at caskets, and be certain it is human to adorn them. No image is safe from markered-on moustaches or the death march museumward. What endures is splinters and poor interpretations. Like this one.

2. Closed Circuit
Pockets of legislative process like tritium for H-bomb triggers, so statesmen can watch it on TV. So, so goeth C-Span. Everready is a battery without a bunny but stringers and whips are on top of bills the Senator has never read.

3. Combatant Balls
In a box. On a counter. Of a gift shop. Of a museum. About nuclear submarines. In New Jersey. During winter. On a Sunday. Aimlessly arrived at. Made in China. Under fluoro tubes. With permission. Set in resin. And in Guadlcanal and Tikrit.

4. Seven Entertainers
Xena Warrior Princess looks like Bill Clinton' mom. As do some of the women he loves. And in Sunset Boulevard t-shirt shops, I've come to play Pompeii. Hurculaneum, insists Xena. OK. Meanwhile the wrist is voted most erotic axis as Buffy and John Kennedy share a, yes, explicable encounter. The figures at right are believed to be Mao and Mata Hari.

5. Grandmother's Buttons
My grandmother fingered a fed. When I was twelve, we chained ourselves to part of Cape Canaveral. She told me she felt guilty that she'd never been arrested, but proud she'd marched on Washington --despite Wilt Chamberlain's head obscuring her view of King and Lincoln. On day one of the Kuwait Conflict, she'd held up peace slogans on a median strip in West Palm, baffling the rank, filing Floridians. This is pale nostalgia. Can the photograph cure it?

6. The Madonna of the Left
Paralegal blue mascara. Half a Migrant Mother, half a Sharecropper's Wife, but all plot. There once was a girl from McMansion. There once was a fashion of resistance. There once seemed a reason for fighting. The liberals were scratching their patches. The olive gray drab felt committed. The street seemed beyond the dean's purview. You can't even shock your grandmother.

7. Give Me Your Money, Bitch
14th Street is between precincts. 14th Street is imprecise, a DMZ of past-date Energizers and chalky blindness where viscounts of discount barely notice there are wares. On 14th Street, it's easy to forget the city is named for a Duke --it shuts up its dukes. What is it with former theater districts remaining howlingly mute? And cautiously costumed? And the NYU kids molting Westchester and Arthur Murray and Band Camp for tatters? Staging La Bohème for econ. suitemates. La Bohème on 14th street again.

8. Drug Warriors
May we describe the look in her eyes? If there weren't rock-n-roll maybe no. But Fuck You I Love You's here to stay, as long as there are ATMs to rage (and lean) against, and calomine-colored hair dye at every corner deli. Rage light. People For Against. People Against For. The right likes is frictionless. The left likes it glowy. Open your eyes, and tell me a story.

9. Mac Collins for U.S. Senate
No one asks about the rooster and the egg. What I mean is women middle-manage myths. While Mac was out a-coffeeing, a staff of Masters and Grads kept the line tacky enough to tow. A campaign HQ in an abandoned bank implies a vault of printer cartridge ink. The x-axis is mightier. Let's fight till we type it up.

10. Oval "Office"
Replican-can, the windows Duratran. We see what the president did but turning all cyan. ¬History is how the dyes held. Sacredness' color leaching. Here are all our Marbles.

11. Former Governor
Photographs see surfaces; dream essences. Luckily light is more than particle and wave, beyond syntax and grammar. It is the crunch of maw and mandible as you announce who you insist you are. It is the tug of undertow coming from the gravity of Pluto's moons. It is how to lie and uncover lies. Light is criticism.

12. Press Only
Attempting journalism I discovered documentary. Invited to the press conference but lacking sat. phone and dig. back, I got narrowly locked out. Locked, that is, face to face with a Delphi of reaction shots. I couldn't hear the announcements, but noted the annunciation.

13. Lobbyist in Green
Damsel indignant, parked across the Atlanta Connector from how the halls hallow. She told me she'd never been political, down from the Cobb County hills of million dollar funeral homes, but these electronic voting booths had done scratched her LeBaron. It's hard anymore to stay outside, except the halls of power.

14. The Lobbyists
Daves do what Daves will do. Pacing the cell placing the call. Targeting. Listing. Crossing off. Red in the elbows. Daves hold the hand of the handholder's handler, praising emoried nails and danging with taint prose. Is there a special circle in Dante for middlemen? I'd call it Power.

15. Free Clinic
There is no cure for curiosity, said Jaime, as he wrenched his back with his bootstraps. Voltaire (who thought Jews "deadly to the human race") wrote "Regimen is superior to Medicine," but we were on our second run when the drive belt busted. Salus Populi Suprema Est Lex [Yawn]. Let them fend for their bootstraps. Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals, dying of nothing. Not too formal, not too casual. Now that Macky's back in town.

16. U.S. Stretched
Broader strokes getting my Gorbachev on. Jupiter rules America's symbol: the Coverup. Bald eagle comb over, re-graced ex-execs. Language will be smeared by image, eventually, but still show through the cracks.

17. Whitney Biennial
No comment

18. One People, One Nation, One Taco, One Destiny
"This was a Pizza Hut, now it's all covered in daisies." David Byrne "And no one I know got killed in South Central LA; I've got to say it was a good day." Ice Cube Sincerity is the new irony. I'm sorry. Hope is the thing with hot sauce, and some day the ghettoest wing stand will be Smithsonianed. Hope is the thing with opinion. I'll have the Fallujah Burger, please, with a side of riots.

19. Flag Wavers
"This thing Allegiance I suppose, Is a ring fitted in he subject's nose." Howling catatonics, Labor Day or Memorial (is there a difference, except for when the pools close?) Their classmate was killed in Iraq. They'd taken up drinking hair tonic. It slapped them, the traffic just passing.

20. LIARS!
It is heartening (and brainening --and throatening) how many passions happen in generic settings. Our faith in frames sets revolutions in rumpus rooms and the bomber at the mall. Content may be a seven-letter word (that's a four-letter word with an index finger and two thumbs) but it's all we have to fill the walls with.

21. Voting Booth Storage
Lunch. Coffee. Cigarette. Them's the breaks. Do you find all the aimless retirees going back to work at Ames unquieting? When people talk about their jobs, the almost universally don't discuss their work, but flash out at the politics of the workspace --from Kapital to sitcom-- like listening to music for its rests, or a film for its flickering leader.

22. Connecticut Senate Floor
That's the budget in blue. A picture of a filibuster, so the Senators are on Blackberries or in the can, or getting counted. Every photograph is a filibuster, a running commentary to nobody occupying attention but not space, and also a thing to block the other side --the unseen, the unattended, and the arch-- from speaking.

23. Anti Flag Burning Rally
The media's a misnomer. There may be a they and we to be between, but the boys with the betacams seem eerily on the receiving end. Forgetting our Hypodermic Needle Model and Implosions of Meaning, isn't it easy to see the media as just another audience? A superaudience of huge veiny-eared desperate swiveling dishes, horny and hungry for any glimmer of a story. The "culture industry" was created in 1923. In Frankfurt. And in '04, here: a misnomer.

24. White House
Sometimes I think of the camera as an enormous ear you turn toward a very needy, awfully talkative friend of a friend, who sits on the floor and unburdens. It's an easy act, and obvious, and canonical, and mute, and also necessary, like how you have to stand up to feel your weight on your feet.

25. Abortion Clinic Protest
An art history of arms outstretched versus a political science of arms outstretched. The protestors hold a book, a sign, a slogan. The guard holds a disposable camera. A political science of language versus an art history of same. Everyone hired to be here is Hispanic. The only boss is white. Versus.

26. Circuit City
O cards to play, O sleeves. A black sheep on a bleak ship walks into a bar, and acts as you'd expect: stunned to see anyone in the room. An allegory and an embarrassed snicker walk into a bald spot, O cramped chest of knowing you're the wrongest possible person for the job.

27. Mock Protest, Communist Summer Camp
This is a photograph of a relief. And of a frieze. I testify I saw The Refusniks trounce the Hollywood Ten in ring toss, sack race, and Tell it Like it Is. Utopian as a glade of clover. A calliope in the minutes of the meeting. Endangered species Happy Meal. I don't make this stuff up. Resistance isn't futile amid macaroni, glitter, cardstock, glue.

28. Nixon Monument, Nixon Birthplace
I'm a Silent Majority baby, born two days after Nixon told us "Americans are a do-it-yourself people," and then let us do it ourselves to the Laotians &c. However appropriately, this is not a malicious photograph. The camera is a love machine, and the legions of malicious photographs are heavily depleted. Malicious folk songs, there are tons. But after driving all the way to San Clemente and being told politely --as only old Republican ladies can be polite-- that no tripods were allowed in the library, this stain was my only recourse.

29. Anarchy and Copyright
Anarchy and Copyright were lovers. They had a quarrel one day. Anarchy threatened to leave her. Said he was going away. Hardcore logo. Encapsulate and elude decay. The Christians have it simplest, though I like to lobby for a constellation called The Line Segment. Are simple things hard to tear apart? Yes, but watch it when they do. Monuments will carry their bases. Hindenburgs of hydrogen will blow. the lovely lustful graffiti will outlast the wall.

30. Democrat and Republican
File me. Lay me away. Fold me in manila. Tear off the carbon. Sticker it. Clip it up. Check me off the list.

31. Marvin Pratt for Mayor
Figure/Ground for Alderman of Art History. Figure/Ground will faithfully execute the office, from Red Figure amphora to Crewdson in gaffer's blue, you can count on Figure/Ground. And when Marvin Pratt has lost the runoff and retired to the Boca of consultation, the Tampa of TV punditry, Figure/Ground will publicly pardon him, publish a tell-all, and await coronation.

32. Arab=Jew
The equals sign was introduced in 1557 by Robert Recorde in his algebraic thriller, The Whetstone of Witte. A fellow of All Souls, surveyor of Mines and Monies in Ireland, and physician expert in unmasking false prophets, Recorde also authored The Grounde of Artes, The Pathwaye to Knowledge, and a medical textbook entitled The Urinal of Physick. He never, however, visited Newark.

33. Popsicle
These colors don't run, the way all ideas don't turn to ink and sugar; all belief doesn't mate with simple hunger; the way my side doesn't look like your side, reflected in your side's eye.

34. Planned Parenthood
Still life with big odd uneffected dominoes. With polygons of propaganda danged to chipboard distribution center shelving. The ideas of March become the VHS cassettes of school year assemblies. Programs. Pogroms. Pom Poms. For the good of the well in an NGO jet setter's desk set, lies the ink that launched a thousand balances.

35. Limbaugh/Romance
Enough Said

36. Gun Show in Mall
Know your Czechoslovakian Pistols. They ran me out of Town Fair Tire but bleached their borders wise at Def Con Food Court. Paranoia: the uniter, and Neighborliness: a lay of wife. The slime of sallow, callow, swingstate enterprise was pre-primordial, bowling for dollars but also excreting together a rain of shared fear. It's just a pile of books. It's all a satellite dish of nasty tacit facets.

37. The Napping Anarchist
This picture is like a historical novel. Lincoln shaving with a straight blade, thinking, "Public sentiment is everything." Camus' periodic joint pain frosting up his "Invincible summer within." Marcus Aurelius whistling something Lydian as he memorized, "The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing." They say Xerxes' breath smelled like densely patterned tatters.

38. House of Representatives Barber Shop
8x10 glossies. Do celebrities travel with them? Do Representatives buy them with the House's money? The industry of signatures approaches eleven figures annually. Signing your face. Giving it away. A ham sandwich of death masks. Sick of feeling poster sized.

39. Bush Cutout
A small business on Pennsylvania. G, and 17th, operated by a Kurd named Sala, not, he insisted, after Saladin, Islam's greatest crusader. Sala (after a grandfather/scholar) sat in a lowslung beach chair reading Pascal in English and quoting Dante in Kurdish (his translation) and offering polaroids of presidents for a fiver a pop.

40. Merritt for School Board
No one told him the dead don't vote. Uncle bankrupts uncle dealing honest hourglass sand, and still the dead don't poll. The dead don't donate or feel swayed, even as the center expands past its siding --and even as our ancestors continue to impress us, with their slick hair and immigrantish elegant epitaphs. I am my own Tammany Hall. I am my own gerrymander.

41-48. Founding Fathers' Crotches
How the Beaux Arts said to manufacture manhood. Unintimidatingly flaccid and unembarrassingly fulgent. The Great Compromise as opening theme and fertile crescendo. DNA standing for Do Nothing Attributable. Democracy, No one Argues, is as sexy as stenography. Hear ye, Heary Ye, Being everything to everyone means getting no one's knickers in a twist.

49. Election Map
I propose secession. Honestly, even one big union won't help us now. Please let middle-left and center-right retreat to their own corners. The Red State ("C'mere Rouge") can have its unsustainable genetic megafarms, and Christian-petroleum-polyester piousness, making the world safe for the stock exchange. The Blue State ("Indignigo") can have its antiquy-radical placards and sweat-shop-clad environmentalism, conflating FDR and DNA. Please separate these children. The family is treating itself cruelly, on a level almost Sophoclean. This country is a tragedy, literally. Fatal flaw and all.