Jenny, Jenny, who can I turn to?
You give me something I can hold onto
I know you think I’m like the others before
Who saw your name and number on the wall
-Jenny/867-5309 Tommy Tutone
By Jack Elliot
The walls of the underground bar are chalkboard, completely blank- great areas of empty space waiting to be filled with aphorisms, insights, pictures, lists, portraits, messages, games of tic-tac-toe and hangman- blank canvases for any customer who desires to leave his or her mark. As a denizen of this chic new speakeasy-esque bar, I have had a great deal of time to observe the scrawlings, etchings, and musings of the public who stumble in and out on a regular basis. Being located in the heart of Santa Monica, a place often celebrated for its art and culture, wouldn’t one expect nothing but prolific eloquence, beauty, and perhaps even avant-garde cubism to sprout unendingly across the walls, as a testament to the brilliance of the city’s collective mind?
Alas, this does not seem to be the case. Since the walls are cleaned everyday by the bar staff, I have had the chance to witness the limitless potential of the chalkboards’ blank space become riddled with an onslaught of banal commentary (i.e. for free ASS call 867-5309) mammary glands, and most of all, phallic symbols- which only become more obscene and ubiquitous as the late night hours pile on and on. Although there’s the occasional inspirational quote or drawing peppered here and there (Tommy Tutone lyrics aside), by nine o’clock on a Saturday (needless to say, this is after the public has finished making love to their tonic and gin) these quotes are usually wiped out of existence by the myriad giant scrotum superimposed over them. Which then begs the question: Santa Monica, what is on your mind?
Should these scrawlings be considered a celebration of our nation’s sexual liberation? Should we laud and praise (perhaps even worship?) the phallic symbols- as a testament to the shedding of our puritanical values? Or rather, should we sympathize, commiserate, and buy rounds of drinks for these tortured artists, desperately trying to communicate the feelings of their most secret hearts? Or perhaps we should be alarmed, and interpret the caveman like etchings as a sign of the juvenile stagnation and arrested development of our nation’s collective imagination? Or should we just join in the fun and add hairs to the various genitalia, in an attempt to at least add some realism to the work (for artistic credibility, of course).
Regardless of the reasons behind and the interpretations of the artwork, one thing is clear: it is not an insignificant amount of the general drinking age public that still stands in pubescent-like fascination of the birds and the bees. Sigmund Freud, next rounds on you. And could some turn up that Tommy Tutone?