Like a lot of people, I'm not very religious. Which isn't the same as saying I'm immune to the religious experience. Playing the djimbe, when I was a kid, was about as close to God as I'll ever get. I once saw Randall Cunningham's most promising season ended by Bryce Paup. Later in that game Eric Allen picked off a pass, zig-zagged his way some 90 yards, through the end-zone, and then into the tunnel where, standing on crutches, Randall Cunningham was waiting. Allen handed Cunningham the ball, and I thought then, there might be a God.
I went to the Met yesterday, the boy likes to draw, so we've put him in a class there. I've been several times before, indeed we have a family membership. And yet somehow, I'm never prepared for the raw power of the place. Samori went up with the kids to sketch in the modern art gallery. I meandered around until I came to a gift shop. I bought a bookmark shaped like a lyre for $8.99. This would test my maturity. I'm always losing bookmarks. I resolved to have my manhood judged by how long I can hang on to this one.
I found my way down to the sculpture garden and circled The Burghers Of Calais a few times. It's funny to know something is beautiful, and not know why. I think it's the incredible detail--but that doesn't really say much. I don't want to go to Paris without being fluent in French. But son, I really need to see those hands.
I sat for a minute, insecure, because everyone else sitting was sketching and I can't draw a lick, and for some reason, I think I should be able to. I took some notes on my recent thoughts about the Civil War and the diversity of slavery and then set off, like Langston (and apparently some dude named Jacob Niles.), to wonder as I wandered.
I stopped in front of a color pencil drawing of two women smiling over a small cake. According to the description, the women were strangers. Some guy stopped next to me and took me for an artist. I think it was my gutter style--hoodie and Air Force ones, but perhaps not, since he introduced himself as an artist too. He was wearing a three-piece suit. I told him I did not have the gift, and he shook his head. "Just get some pencils and put some stuff down man."
This struck me.
It's exactly what I tell people when they say things like, "I wish I could write." or "I wish I had the gift to write." In my mind there is no gift--there is a considerable amount of labor, but I don't have much interest in talking about talent. There are a lot of talented niggers on the corner, in jail, under early tombstones. That's what my mother used to say.
The rest of my day was troubled. I logged into Warcraft five times and didn't stay longer than ten minutes. I couldn't sit still. I was pacing the house. I was convinced that I'd recently wasted a large sum of money. I walked outside that evening and took the bus to Morning Side Heights and sat in that cafe where, I'm convinced, all writers eventually go. The place is beautiful and cliche.
I can't go to the Met without getting this overpowering feeling that I've wiled away too much of my brief life. You look at the Burghers and wonder how much care that took. How hard he must have worked. And you wonder if you'll ever be so fortunate as to work that hard at anything. I got up at three this morning and worked on some writing about DOOM. I have been up ever since.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.