TB: For several days this summer, I used the bathroom at a McDonald’s down the street. Raw sewage had bubbled up from my shower drain. Workers squeezed into the improbably small opening beneath the house and pulled up lengths of foul smelling rusted pipe. A grave-sized swath of concrete, jack hammered out of the garage, revealed more defective piping, running like veins toward the main sewer line. Disconnected from the plumbing, my bathroom fixtures reverted to a showroom display state, an image of function devoid of its essence. The Soviet children’s film, “Old Man Khotabytch” came to mind. In it, a school boy is disappointed when the eponymous genie conjures a (predictably) non-functioning solid gold payphone upon the boy’s request for a phone to call his mother.
We encountered Furniture Land + en route from the car to the lobby of the Hampton Inn where my landlord had finally agreed to put us up. The sans serif of the sign’s lettering bore a nod to European design, while its amateur kerning carried the quality of a knock off. The store projected a veneer of taste that comes with wealth. We stared at the display of faux-minimal dining room sets, lit gaudily by brass fixtures, overpriced and shoddily constructed furniture we could neither afford nor had space for. I hadn’t showered in days, was wearing a t-shirt covered in foundry wax, and shouldered my toiletries and a half bottle of whiskey in a tote bag. This is it, I said to Josh. Yes, absolutely, he agreed.
JS: On our second date we walked to get food down the street from Tanya’s studio. On the way to the taco stand, we found a bed frame which we agreed, if it was still there after lunch, should be a work. It was, and ended up in Tanya’s solo show. Years later, it was no surprise that we found the title for this show on another walk. I welcomed the staycation across from the Americana shopping mall in Glendale as both a joke and a relief from my little hobbit-house live-work space, where, around the same time, the central AC had stopped working. I don’t mind the place, even though I can touch the ceiling, and there is only one skylight for natural light: it can be great for editing photos. Piles of books clutter the space, discarded furniture from long since passed-away grandparents fill up most of the footprint, usually covered in more books, artwork, and coffee cups.
In 1989, my parents moved from a beach town to the Inland Empire, where they could afford to give us kids the kind of comforts they had grown up with. In the post Reaganomics Southern California cool version of the American dream, it’s ironic that they moved us to the desert to live among other Orange County transplants, all holding on to the same belief in a better life. The landscape grew up with me. Our neighborhood of cookie-cutter McMansions felt like a scene out of “Edward Scissorhands,” with friends’ homes featuring similar floor plans, filled with similar furniture to hold the weight of similar modern lives. Every morning, my stepfather pulled out of the driveway on his way to sell sprinklers and palm trees to developers.
My friends and I who got out of the IE swap tales of survival like war buddies, except that we escaped the trappings of a constructed fantasy that had been sold to our parents. However, I know this to be not entirely true: you don’t escape capitalism, it evolves into new forms. When I see the windows of box stores that line every boulevard in America, wrapped with photographs of an idealized contemporary life, I am reminded of why I left home. Like our stay at the Americana, Tanya and I often find ourselves vacationing in suburban areas, their quiet streets and tract homes similar to the town I grew up in. Sometimes we feel like aliens zooming in to see how the humans are getting along these days.