1991.12

Saturday, 12.21:

Flying somewhere over Tennessee, I think.  Cloudy.  In Houston it was raining, had rained all night.  I kept dreaming, something about pushing things away.

At lunch with J.P. and Alfredo and their new friends, Joe (or John?) and David, J.P. tells a story about Ruby, the elephant at the San Diego or some other zoo.  Ruby has taken up painting:  attendants will stand before her with a palette and brushes, and Ruby will indicate which color she wants a brush dipped into; sometimes she will change colors, sometimes indicate that she wants more of a certain color.  She paints only when she wants to and cannot, it seems, be coerced into continuing once she has decided a particular canvas or session has ended; she’ll back away and stare placidly.  The same if someone switches her colors.  J.P. said she paints “mostly abstracts,” which I found quite funny.

It seems that zoo officials, after long deliberation, decided that they would no longer exploit Ruby by offering her work for sale to the public.  The canvases had been priced at a rate comparable to that of a “local unknown artist” and had sold like hotcakes at $350 to $700 each.

More background on Ruby: when she first arrived, she was the only elephant at the zoo, and subsequently became depressed.  Her (stall?) (pen?) (house?) lodging was near a duck pond, and out of a sort of depressed malice (or natural sadism–who knows?) Ruby would take grain from her trough and lay a trail from the duck pond.  She would wait for a duck to come pecking along the trail, and calmly step on it, squashing the duck flat.

J.P. said everyone is so happy that Ruby has a new outlet for her artistic temperament.

Brought along two books to read on the plane: Juan Rulfo’s Antología personal and Linda Gregg’s new poems.  The Rulfo is slow going; I move my mouth to form each word; it’s good practice.