Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Boats Against the Current

An Ounce of Water from Jay Gatsby’s Swimming Pool (inspired by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel The Great Gatsby) – Vintage 1920’s art deco glass lithographed picture frame; vintage 1920’s art deco crystal perfume bottle with sterling top; dried leaf; dried daisies; old feather; broken sea shell; strand of genuine vintage pearls; altered art pieces—postcard of Gatsby House, newspaper article on car accident, colour prints of marble tile, white marble and wave mosaic

The end of the season.

The days grew shorter, summer was fleeting.

There was a slight chill in the air now after sunset.

The tips of the leaves were just turning gold.

The sun sparkled on the pool’s gently undulating waves.

The gardener wanted to drain it, get it ready for its long winter’s nap, pointing out that it was better to get a head-start before the leaves began to fall, clogging up the drains. But he had said no, stating that he hadn’t had a swim all summer—it could wait until tomorrow. And so, he headed inside, emerging a short while later in his au courant one-piece bathing-suit with its black trunks and striped top, pausing only to stop in the garage to blow up a rubber air mattress before diving in.

Time seemed to stand still.

He floated, all but oblivious to the sounds surrounding—the serenade of birds, the hum of a speedboat on the bay, the clear, cool water lapping against the pool’s tiled perimeter.

The speedboat moved on, the rumble of its motor fading, then the birds took flight as the languid silence was shattered by one gun shot—then another—and then, once again, all that was left to be heard was the lapping of the clear, cool water against the pool’s tiled perimeter.

Cool, clear water slowly being tainted with a spreading scarlet stain.

The rubber air mattress drifted aimlessly, buffeted to and fro by the afternoon breeze, its rider motionless.

The great Jay Gatsby was dead.

Jay Gatsby—West Egg’s young rajah, a small town kid with big dreams, the former James Gatz, a hick from North Dakota. He a self-made, self-disciplined, self-invention sculpted from a suspect youth as an Oxford graduate, a disillusioned soldier, a rake, a bon vivant left off the leash in all the capitals of Europe, a possible rum-running yachtsman and even a little boy who once liked to read Hopalong Cassidy.

Yes, quite a mystery was the great Jay Gatsby.

The respectable old wealth of Long Island’s East Egg watched on in dismay as the nouveaux riche of West Egg partied. The music was too loud, the girls too loose, the men too louche, manners be damned, and despite the laws, the liquor flowed freely. The stone steps, the marble patios, the great lawns of Gatsby House, a massive faux French chateau on the Sound, were venues for orgiastic carousing, revels that made the 20s roar to the syncopated rhythms of snare drums and bakelite bracelets. And while his guests—both invited and uninvited—gorged their stomachs with fine fodder, seared their throats with bootleg gin and danced the foxtrot and the Charleston into the wee hours, their host, that same aforementioned handsome, prosperous, and enigmatic Jay Gatsby, was to be found alone, standing on the dock, his eyes searching the night for a glimpse of a strange green light in the distance.

A strange green light that symbolized his buried past and his hope for the future, a strange green light that hung on the end of the dock of his lost love…


Daisy Buchanan—a brittle, angelic creature, pampered, superficial, and spoilt, with a sirenic allure, an indifferent enchantress who conjured up days of divine romance long gone even though she was now wife to another.

But still Gatsby clung to his American Dream, enmeshed in the seemingly fragile cobwebs of what went before, his life as dusty, dried-up, and desiccated as the Valley of Ashes, a desolate stretch of land laid out between West Egg and Manhattan; a veritable desert, dark and barren, of black cinders left behind by a devastating fire.

A wasteland soon to be the setting of a horrendous event.

Too fast; they were going too fast.

A shadow darted.

A scream.

A dull thud.

The screeching skid of tires.

A momentary silence.

The snarl of an engine as it was revved up, before speeding away.

And the American Dream lay in the ashes.

It was something both simultaneously fated and accidental, something that had far-reaching consequences, something that punished the innocent while the guilty went free, something that caused the clear, cool water of a swimming pool to run red.

And across the bay that strange green light had gone out.

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And then one fine morning—

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”