Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

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The Wit and Wisdom of Andy Warhol

In light of last week's viewing of Closer, conversations at yesterday's party, and tonight's partial viewing of Woody Allen's Mahattan -- a film that looks great with the light of the Christmas tree reflected on the television screen -- I've been thinking more about intimacy in relationships than I usually do. When I came across this passage -- a self-contained unit, really -- from The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, it resonated with my recent thoughts:
The best love is not-to-think-about-it love. Some people can have sex and really let their minds go blank and fill up with the sex; other people can never let their minds go blank and fill up with the sex, so while they're having the sex they're thinking, "Can this really be me? Am I really doing this? This is very strange. Five minutes ago I wasn't doing this. In a little while I won't be doing it. What would Mom say? How did people ever think of doing this?" So the first type of person -- the type that can let their minds go blank and fill up with sex and not-think-about-it -- is better off. The other type has to find something else to relax with and get lost in. For me that something else is humor.

Funny people are the only people I ever get really interested in, because as soon as somebody isn't funny, they bore me. But if the big attraction for you is having somebody be funny, you run into a problem, because being funny is not being sexy, so in the end, near the moment of truth, you're not really attracted, you can't really "do it."

But I'd rather laugh in bed than do it. Get under the covers and crack jokes, I guess, is the best way. "How am I doing?" "Fine, that was very funny." Wow, you really were funny tonight."

If I went to bed with a lady of the night, I'd probably pay her to tell me jokes.
What interests me, as someone who has a hard time getting into the space of Warhol's "not-think-about-it," is his focus on the transitions from one mode of being to another. I've long been fascinated with transitions. Indeed, much of the advice I give to others -- and, on those rare occasions when I'm listening, to myself -- concerns the need to manage transitions with great care. Certainly, both Kim and I place great -- some would say undue -- emphasis on transitions in our philosophy of childrearing. I'm reminded, though, in reading this passage, that the word "transition" operates on the same conceptual plane -- metonymically, that is -- as words like "exchange" and "decouple." That is, the difficulty we humans, regardless of age or background, seem to have with transitions are bound up with the difficulty we have in being intimate. As far as sex itself goes, the strangeness of the passage from not-yet-doing-it to doing it to no-longer-doing-it figures, again through a metonymic logic, the stages we experience in the relationships that make sex possible.

I do know that, despite Warhol's reservations, humor seems to be one of the best ways of integrating before, during, and after into an experience with a common denominator. Whether it's possible to fully enjoy doing it while still engaged in the reflective consciousness that characterizes deep irony is another question. Joel did tell me, back in his Toronto days, that he had been surprised to learn that Pavement's Slanted and Enchanted was a great record to play while doing it. Perhaps it is possible to be both here and there at the same time. Come to think of it, the overlapping of music and sex invites further scrutiny. How is it that, while conversation usually has to be of the "That feels good. Do it harder. You have a great ________ " variety for the sexual contract -- the one that signals both parties' sincere commitment to working, a la Habermas, towards a mutually satisfying understanding -- to be upheld, there is less of a stigma attached to focusing on music during the act. I hate to sound like one of those lame-ass pop anthropologists of the mid-twentieth century or, worse still, Allan Bloom, but there does seem to be considerable overlap between the experience of music and the experience of sex. Abandon is the constant. For the record, incidentally, personal favorites include Ornette Coleman's The Shape of Jazz to Come (57th street), Public Image Limited's Metal Box (Harbor Light in Fort Bragg), and the Velvet Underground's "Sister Ray" (617 Napa). Maybe Andy should have put a record on.

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