I am almost halfway through a wonderful series of books on the U. S. presidents. This series was edited by Arthur M. Schlesinger who was, informally, the historian of the Kennedy Administration. The books, concise and consistently readable by non-scholars, have been written by professional historians and by people like Gary Hart, George McGovern and John Eisenhower, Dwight Eisenhower’s brother.
It is enlightening to follow the history of the U.S in this flowing narrative, written around the people and politics of the times. Some of the stories will be very familiar; the battle for supremacy between the executive and the legislative branch, the pervasive and bitter enmity between the parties, and the infighting within the parties; the often schizophrenic nature of our national disputes, i.e., north vs. south, east vs. west, rich vs. poor, black vs. white. No matter how much things change, they remain the same.
I have read through presidents five through twenty, that is Monroe through Garfield, and look forward to catching up on the trials and tribulations of the Prezes, or POTUS’s (would the plural be POTI?) closer to my era.
Will Rogers was once asked if he belonged to any organized political party.  Rogers replied, “No, I’m a Democrat.”
I would like to put in a joke about the Republicans, but I watched the 10 man, 1 woman debate last night, and it just wasn’t funny.

Van Hokkkh

Went to an exhibit of Van Gogh’s paintings last Sunday at a museum, The Clark, about an hour and a half east of Albany. Everybody knows Van Gogh; red hair, pretty nutty, cut off his ear to give to a girl he liked. He was different, and his paintings were different; thick daubs of paint, everything kind of swirly.  And bright, very bright. A few of his paintings can actually make you sweat.

What people don’t know is how to pronounce his name. It isn’t ‘Van Go’, rhymes with ‘It’s hot, make the fan go’. But ‘Van Hokkkh’, the sound you make after swallowing a moth, and nothing rhymes with that. But then Van Gogh was Dutch, and there are a lot of moths in Holland, so Van Gogh or Van Hokkkh is a very common name. You can’t throw a severed ear in Holland without hitting a Van Hohkkh.

What surprised me, and probably shouldn’t have, was the crowd at this museum. I could not get into the parking lot, and I clocked a full mile and a half of parked cars before I found an open space on the street.

Inside The Clark, of course, the exhibit was packed. There were a few dozen paintings and a few sketches, but it was ‘scuze me, scuze me, scuze me, oops sorry’ to get anywhere near most of them. In that kind of environment, the delight that attaches to being a member of the human race fades rapidly. I admired many of the paintings from a distance of fifteen or twenty feet.

Vincent died poor and depressed from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Poor and depressed because he only sold one painting during his lifetime. One.  Ironic then that people cluster at museums around the world to squint from a distance at his work. Even more incongruous, his paintings have sold for as much as fourteen million dollars. That kind of money will buy a lot of paint, or a whole box of prosthetic ears.

The moral of this story, if there is one, is that genius, or talent, or skill, or even something as pedestrian as hard work, is rarely recognized during its day. More often, not at all.

Here is a picture of Kirk Douglas, as Vincent, in Lust For Life.   Would you buy a used easel from that man?