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An Artist’s Notebook of Sorts

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2 July 2012

gratuitous image

No. 5,107 (cartoon)

Why don’t you ever stop to think?

I might not start again.

3 July 2012

Panamanian Government Reception

The International Whaling Commission is a hotbed of inertia. I go there for the money and the “receptions,” which is bureaucratese for “free drinks and dinner.”

These are unpleasant affairs with challenging logistics; I’m competing with literally hundreds of other freeloaders. Arrive too early and you’re subjected to tedious welcoming speeches, which are even more boring than usual since each paragraph is sequentially translated into at least three other languages. Arrive too late and the best food will be gone, and you may still have to listen to the same mind-numbing speeches you were trying to avoid.

All these nuanced strategies are lost on Antoinette; she’s too busy complaining about the Panamanian government’s reception tonight. She had to wait in line forever for a drink, and the barman gave her vodka and some chemically-flavored orange drink instead the vodka and orange juice she ordered. The food was greasy and starchy. The tiny plates were too small for anything but a few bites of the greasy, starchy tidbits. And so on.

I reminded her that we were there to belly up to the feed trough, not for a sublime culinary experience. And only a complete amateur—that would be Antoinette—would order a drink when rows and rows of glasses of cheap wine are there for the grabbing.

Antoinette harrumphed.

I was tempted to tell her that her air of entitlement was especially disagreeable given the context. I’ve seen a number of apparently very poor Panamanians in the streets that border the convention center who were far more deserving of a government-sponsored free meal than she was.

4 July 2012

The Golden Unicorn

I was walking through Panama City when I spotted a Chinese restaurant, the Golden Unicorn. My first thought was that a Chinese restaurant in Panama must be horrible, and thought of all the wonderful Chinese restaurants in San Francisco. A few seconds later I realized that I was thinking like an arrogant, ignorant American. Why should an American Chinese restaurant be intrinsically better—or worse—than a Panamanian Chinese restaurant?

I detest imperious Americans, especially when I am one, albeit momentarily.

5 July 2012

gratuitous image

Gratuitous Photo of the Weak: Panamanian Rainforest

Panama’s rainforests are filled with shrubberies and wildlife. And malaria, poisonous thingies that bite and sting, dengue fever, and more. That’s why I made my obligatory Panamanian rainforest photograph outside my hotel, rather than risk perspiration and worse. My photo shows a shrubbery and wildlife; anything more would be redundant.

6 July 2012

No Guns of Any Kind, Musicians, Pets, Food, and Beverages

The Hotel El Panama has a curious restriction. “It’s strictly forbidden: Bring into the hotel: guns of any kind, musicians, pets, food, and beverages.”

Musicians?! There’s a reason for that.

Panamanians were humiliated when American neocolonialists invaded their country in 1989 to capture Manual Noriega. The dictator took refuge in the Vatican nunciature. That led American troops to launch what remains perhaps the most absurd psychological military operation in history. They surrounded the embassy with huge speakers and blasted the would-be refugee with horrible music at deafening volumes. The opera-loving Noriega surrendered after ten days.

Even though the tyrant was by all accounts a despicable scumbag, Panamanians were nevertheless upset by the violation of their sovereignty. That’s why loudspeakers throughout the country now pump out wretched music incessantly. As a result, every Panamanian can withstand months of the most brutal aural assault.

And that brings us back to the Hotel El Panama. Why ban musicians from guests’ rooms? They might be good musicians, and weaken Panamanians’ ability to withstand a sustained attack of horrific sonic dreck, that’s why.

¡Viva Panama! ¡Viva Billy Idol! ¡Viva Panama!

7 July 2012

No Panama Hats

Before I left for Panama, I only knew two things about the country: the Panama Canal and Panama hats. For my Panamanian art piece, I thought about building and photographing a series of tiny canals. I abandoned that idea when I found that the heat, humidity, and pollution made it intolerable for me to spend more than a few minutes outside of my air-conditioned cocoon.

And that left Panama hats. I figured I’d photograph every kind of hat I saw, since any hat in Panama is by (my) definition a Panama hat. That didn’t work either; virtually no one in Panama City except the police and soldiers wore a hat. And so, I’m back in San Francisco empty-handed, aesthetically speaking.

That’s the difference between a professional photographer and a worthless artist like myself. A pro would have returned with strong images; I returned with one photograph and lots of excuses.

8 July 2012

Bulimic Broccoli

Conrad cooked a great dinner tonight featuring a vegetable labeled “baby broccoli.” It was scrawny, almost wispy, and didn’t look like baby broccoli. Babies are squat and chubby, no? I suspected that he actually bought some mislabeled bulimic broccoli, but I was of course too polite to suggest such a possibility.

The purported baby broccoli was the least interesting part of a lovely meal. I can’t recommend it, veal, or anything else from the post-fetal food groups.


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©2012 David Glenn Rinehart

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