The Unbearable Banishment: <i>We're off to never never-land</i>

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

We're off to never never-land

...and that title is from?'s a hint.

I was walking through Union Square on my way to meeting and drinking and I stumbled across the sandman. This is Joe Mangrum. He uses sand to create intricate designs.

He pours colored sand through his hand. The piece lasts until the wind and weather say that's enough.

I chatted him up a bit. He started around 2:30 that afternoon and I walked by around 5:30. I mentioned that it reminded me of a mandala. He said he prefers to call them sand paintings. He feels that mandala is a quasi-religious eastern term that might box-in his work and alienate potential customers. He's absolutely right, you know. It's all about branding.

It looked like painstaking, back-breaking work. The crowds were appreciative and respected his space. Check out that red. It really makes the work pop.

*      *      *

I sat next to this brick to read. Guys like this used to take my lunch money away when I was in junior high school. Tattooed neck. Piercings. Big stomping shoes. A steely look in the eye. Doesn't smile easily.

Except that most of them would not have used a teddy bear iPhone cover or painted their fingernails black.

*     *     *

After the sandman and my junior high flashback, I met two former colleagues for margaritas. We wanted to practice for Cinco de Mayo. I got a little drunk. I'm not a drinker and don't treat myself to a proper sousing very often. It's not my thing. It never really was. I was always more of a narcotic guy. I snobbishly thought that narcotics were more elegant and had more panache than alcohol. Can you imagine? What idiots we are in our youth.

I hadn't planned on a dunking (especially, it being a Tuesday) but we started talking and laughing and that always leads to another round, doesn't it? Two guys and one girl. The conversation is different than if it had been three guys. This is my preferred configuration. Girls are fun. Each round peeled away another layer of reserve. The conversation pinged between hilarious anecdotes and deep intimacies. You can't plan evenings like this, folks. They unfold unexpectedly, happily.

The restaurant had this cool little diver sculpture against a lighted blue background.

As a matter of fact, there were a bunch of them.

Actually, there was an entire wall of them.


Blogger OldLady Of The Hills said...

What an interesting afternoon-evening.....The Sandman's work is stunning and so very, WOW! I hate that it disappears with the whim of the wind...! That guy next to you looks like he is from another country---in the Uniform of the Army, circa 1850.....
The grape can really loosen the tongue, can't it....But, it sounds like you were having a WONDERFUL time. Those diving sculptures are big are they? It's hard to tell from the pictures...But they must be pretty small, no?

May 1, 2013 at 11:39 AM  
Blogger Gorilla Bananas said...

That sand painting is marvellous and I love the fact that it disappears with the wind. Art that cannot be possessed is so much nobler, like a sunset or a rainbow. You've always got the photograph to remind you.

May 1, 2013 at 12:49 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

The drinks were planned but the other stuff was just happenstance. That's the fun of NYC. Go for a walk! You never know what you'll bump into!

Now that you mention it I wish I had juxtaposed the sculpture against something to you could gauge their scale. Yes, they're quite small. A four or five inches tall.

May 1, 2013 at 12:53 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

It's all very Zen and, whether he likes it or not, it's a mandala. They're Buddhist lessons in impermanence. They're painfully detailed—even more so than this was—and then wiped away. I've only ever seen one.

May 1, 2013 at 12:56 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

There is something increasingly attractive to Zen / Buddhism activities that even I could connect with. The paintings are articulate and very deep. Bravo!

May 1, 2013 at 1:54 PM  
Blogger mapstew said...

People often judge me by my tattoos, my bald heid, and my magnificent beauty.

May 1, 2013 at 7:43 PM  
Blogger mapstew said...


May 1, 2013 at 7:43 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

A Buddhist will never tell you you're damned to hell. They won't judge your beliefs as being inferior to theirs. And they don't proselytize. If you want those teachings, you have to reach out and find them. Those guys know how to play the game.

May 1, 2013 at 9:02 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

I'll bet they do. I'll also bet they throw all their prejudices and preconceived notions out the window once they hear that voice of yours. It'll disarm the hardest heart.

May 1, 2013 at 9:04 PM  
Anonymous daisyfae said...

love the mandala/sand painting/SiO2 therapy. Call it what you want it is beautiful in concept and execution. Theatre is also a temporal art - despite the ability to record, once a show is done, it is done forever, never to happen the same way. Once the set is struck? Poof! Never to be again... Part of my attraction to the stage.

LOVE the divers in the restaurant! Can we go there? Pretty please?!?!

May 2, 2013 at 6:32 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

I have a theory that it's unfair to give awards to plays because it can be a different show every night. The quality can vary. Oscars, Grammys and Emmys make sense because everyone is experiencing the exact same performance. But live performances are a fluid thing.

It's a fancy Mexican restaurant. We can go there! We had duck tacos. They were ¡Muy delicioso! .

May 2, 2013 at 7:04 AM  
Blogger Jules said...

I've seen a girl do these sand paintings before. She tells stories doing the same kind of thing. Incredibly artistic.
What an interesting chap sitting on the bench there. Not a fan of his black nail varnish at ALL.
I love those kind of nights out, they're the best.

May 2, 2013 at 10:21 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

There's a great sped-up video on YouTube of some monks making a mandala. Even the closing ceremony when it's destroyed is beautiful. The sand is wiped away in a swirling pattern.

May 2, 2013 at 10:35 AM  
Blogger savannah said...

reading this it's as if i'd spent this day with you, sugar. minus the sitting at a desk and working part, of course! ;~) thanks, UB. xoxoxox

May 2, 2013 at 10:51 AM  
Blogger Kono said...

It's not the elegance of the drugs it's the elegance of the user, given narcotics or booze i'd take the drugs every time, even to this day, not that the bottle and i haven't been best of friends at certain times in my life, these days i'm just better at knowing when to say when and when to say no... sometimes.

May 2, 2013 at 1:55 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

I hope that one day I get to take you and Mr. by the wrist and drag you around town. This place certainly isn't for everyone, but everyone should see it at least once. Six weeks 'til Daisyfae arrives.

May 2, 2013 at 3:23 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

I never got a hangover from taking a drug and I simply hated feeling hungover. That, more than any other reason, is why I leaned away from liquor. I missed out on ecstasy. It wasn't around when I was young and I've always wondered what it was like. I've heard good things.

May 2, 2013 at 3:25 PM  
Blogger OldLady Of The Hills said...

They are fantastic! So very different from anything I've ever seen---certainly on a whole wall of a pub or eatery....What a unique idea....!

May 2, 2013 at 4:19 PM  
Blogger dinahmow said...

And me!

May 2, 2013 at 5:52 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Yes, this will be Round 2 for you! And, unless I'm mistaken, Round 3 for Daisy. Next!

May 3, 2013 at 6:52 AM  
Anonymous paulo1 said...

You do know what 'chatting someone up' means don't you?

May 3, 2013 at 8:35 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

In the U.S. it means having a conversation. Pray tell, what does it mean in your neck of the woods?

May 3, 2013 at 8:52 PM  
Blogger mapstew said...

I've never taken anything stronger than paracetemol, give me beer & Jameson any day, I know how to handle them, and they have been good to me. :¬)

May 3, 2013 at 10:57 PM  
Blogger Ellie said...

The Sand Man certainly has pretty colours up his sleeve. Did you happen to ask where he gets such sand?

May 4, 2013 at 2:11 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

I didn't ask but it was interesting. He had several plastic bags filled with colored sand scattered about. It's an unconventional medium. Some artists use oils or gouache.

May 4, 2013 at 3:06 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

I wasn't 100% certain what paracetemol was so I Googled it. I thought it might be an exotic Hibernian hallucinogen. Hardly the case! It's for a headache!

May 4, 2013 at 3:11 PM  
Anonymous paulo1 said...

In Ireland,you'd 'chat someone up' with a view to getting to know them better, if you know what I mean, nudge, nudge, say no more. And where does the condescending 'pray tell' come from?

May 4, 2013 at 8:32 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Say no more! A nod's as good as a wink. I can assure you that's not the road I was going down. Would say so if it was. I tell the truth here. Condescending? Me?

May 5, 2013 at 7:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love them both, but for real intimacy, for really discovering things about yourself, your relations to others, the world and everything that the mind suppresses in order to be able to function in this absurd world--some well-chosen narcotics for me, any day.

May 7, 2013 at 4:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With the sand thing, I can't get past a prejudice of mine, that something like that is simply craft, not art. I admire the technique but it doesn't have any sense of feeling or communication. But that's just me.

Completely agree with you about the male-female configuration. I know how much you enjoy female company (I do too) and I completely recognise that ping-pong, helter-skelter way of talking that can happen sometimes when the fairer sex is present.

May 7, 2013 at 4:43 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

And a craft is a lesser form of artistic endeavor, correct? I see your point but I think what he's doing is just as difficult as working with oils or watercolor. And the crowd was responding to it.

Do you know what configuration I really like? Two girls and myself. And not for sexual reasons. I've just always found women more interesting to talk to. I don't know a damn thing about fixing cars, very little about sports, I don't hunt or do any of that manly crap. I like girls. Hell! Maybe I AM a girl!

May 7, 2013 at 7:10 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

My days of recreational drug use are long behind me but I wish I could still experiment once in a while. It's just one of those activities that are no longer available to me. Like promiscuity.

May 7, 2013 at 7:13 AM  
Blogger Pat said...

The coloured sand was a revelation. I find its ephemerality quite touching. Here Health and Safety would get uptight about sand in the eyes.
The brick looks incredibly camp.
Started the new Jane Gardham but need a refresher to remember everyone.

May 8, 2013 at 6:32 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

The infamous British Health and Safety division. Aren't these the same folks who turned the electricity off on Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen mid-song?

I actually believe the brick is probably a ton of laughs.

I just finished Last Friends. I had the exact same problem with remembering names and places! Let me know what you think.

May 8, 2013 at 6:41 AM  

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