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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Monday, August 15

Gapers Block

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As an occasional diversion I will feature someone outside of the arts in this column, posing three questions concerning art to someone who serves the city and/or its citizenry in one capacity or another.

Santa Claus. I believe the man needs no introduction.

Q: Where do you find art in your work?

Santa: There's no art in my work. It's all about charity. I show a little, you show a little — 'tis the season to give, eh? Charity isn't art — charity's something more admirable: it takes no imagination, just heart.

To be real, though, I do know one thing about art. I know where every great art theft is hanging. That's one of the benefits of keeping a list, checking it twice, and then having the freedom to break into peoples' homes: I get to immerse myself in all of the great mysteries out there. Ah, those thieves — there's nothing more impressive than a masterfully performed art theft. God save the art thieves!

Q: Should art entertain or provoke? Should art jar one's politics, make one question his or her faith? Or, should art just throw politics and faith out the door?

Santa: I better not dive into this one. If you haven't noticed, I'm sort of exploited by both sides of that coin. And I'm still rosy-cheeked, fat as all hell, and Ho-Ho-Hoing. So, there you go.

I will admit, though, that there's a side of me that wants to put Sam Harris' Letter to a Christian Nation under everybody's tree. It's a small work that's evoked such blurbs as this one:

"I can't sign my name to this blurb. As a New York Times best selling author of books about business, my career will evaporate if I endorse a book that challenges the deeply held superstitions and bigotry of the masses. That's exactly why you should (no, you must) read this angry and honest book right away. As long as science and rational thought are under attack by the misguided yet pious majority, our nation is in jeopardy. I'm scared. You should be too. Please buy two, one for you and one for a friend you care about."
—Unsigned, New York Times best selling author

It is a truly necessary book. The publisher should've printed a few hundred-thousand more of them.

Q: Who's your favorite artist, and how would you explain to this person your first experience with his or her work?

Santa: Artists are big clumps of crap. That's all they are. Even more so, I'd say, when they aren't giving credit to the muse. I know, that's one old-ass word, muse is. But bottom line, it's there and that's all they got.

You ask a dumb question, you get the right answer. Go figure. But you ask it and it brings to mind one muse in particular. The courage and resilience this one's shown in her battle with MS has given her lesser half the audacity to avoid categorizing the realities of life into direness. I caught up with him one early morning during a particularly decadent visit of his to NYC. He was sitting at the small table of his shabby room in the Chelsea Hotel, anticipating the guilt of a hangover, when he penned for her:

For Victoria

She cuddled into my featherless courage
That night when she opted to leave
A window open, and in our sleep
Her mosquito-stumped breaths distributed
The boredom of late summer breezes
Beyond the barred residency of my
Perpetually stored sense of withdrawal.

I happened to open one eye that night
And I happened to see a broken angel
Struggle in through our open window.
I then opened my other eye and I happened
To see the moon's unison with a nerve-
Vacated tragedy play out selflessly through
The orphan-like composure of the broken
Angel's own resigning eyes. My third eye
Sealed to savor the stainless tears of rescue.

I then chose to speak to her words I can only
Hope her sleep will in the future transfer to
The secret of a day-lit joy: "Sweet sugar,
If this disease should ever get the best of you,
You can be damn certain you'll get nothing
Less than the very best of a better me."

She'll be finding one of her wishes under the tree, this much is certain; he, on the other hand, will be finding a clump of coal there. So, don't you go asking me about artists. There's that old saying that goes "It's the singer, not the song," but that's just plain-ass backwards to me.

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About the Author(s)

John Hospodka is a life-long Chicagoan, and today lives with his wife in Bridgeport. He does not profess to be an expert in anything; he's just a big fan of the arts and is eager to make more sense of them. Direct comments or suggestions for interviews to

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