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The Snoose Boulevard Renaissance

by Earl Carlson 3 months ago in Humor
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(A Brief History Thereof)

Many years ago, in a reality far, far away (in the Old Mixers on Seven Corners in the Snoose Boulevard neighborhood of Minneapolis) a gaggle of art students would congregate after classes, to discuss aesthetic theory. Since the professors, under whose tutelage they labored, were veterans of the Art Students’ League and had been present at the inception of Abstract Expressionism, these students gravitated toward the idea that a painting’s value must be inherent, without reference to any object or any idea outside itself. That is to say, for instance, that the aesthetic value of Van Gogh’s several paintings of his room at Arles would not be diminished in the least, for a future or a far distant society, in which the chair had no utility, and in which the concept of bed did not exist. Further, though visual works have always been exploited as tools for propaganda, such use does not contribute to aesthetic worth, and indeed, in most cases, serves only to detract from its actual value.

These students understood only too well that they were paddling against the current of the evolving art scene. Even at their own school, younger professors had introduced ideas from pop art and feminine art and the art of ethnic identity, ideas implying that the aesthetic values were in constant flux. New voices asserted, at high volume, that art must shock the sensibilities. Others replied that art has value only as it advances the cause of Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Still others, chanting their mantra, “Less is more.”[1] insisted that real art lies only in the total absence of art.

As time passed, and the favored professors began losing influence to their younger colleagues, the students adopted a siege mentality, metaphorically circling wagons against the onslaught of blasphemies. They thought of themselves as the last bastion of visual aesthetics and the only hope for civilization as we know it. They assumed the sacred task of restoring beauty to its rightful throne, and they began referring to their mission as the Snoose Boulevard Renaissance. They did not doubt that they would succeed in their quest and would reap richly-deserved rewards in the form of grants and commissions. More than once, in their rhapsodies, they wondered aloud about which actors would be most suitable to play them in the movie version of their lives.

As the years passed and success continued to elude them, the membership evolved. A few at a time, they graduated. Some went on to grad school to perfect an L.o.S.[2] Others left for the East Coast or the West Coast, and disappeared, as raindrops into the sea, never to be seen again. And yet the Snoose Boulevard Renaissance persevered. Most remained on the west bank, and new converts replaced the departed. When the Old Mixers became Sergeant Preston’s and raised prices accordingly, they moved kitty-corner to Joe and Pete’s Two-and-a-Half Street Saloon. And when, a few years later, Joe and Pete’s became Bullwinkle’s, they repaired to the back room of Big Alice’s Fine Wines and Burgers, farther down the avenue.

Beer was cheap then, and therefore, plentiful. Consequently, voices were often raised in passionate disagreement over trivial details. On occasion, voices were raised even though there was no disagreement. Arvid Sjogren and Einar Nordin, in particular, often waxed wondrously vociferous over which of them was more thoroughly in agreement with the other. Though such free and open discussion was always to be tolerated, a really foolish remark might provide sufficient cause for expulsion from the premises, and re-admittance to the group required penitent and persistent petition.

At this point, I shall briefly mention my own presence at these gatherings, for, it’s true, I was among those hopeful students. But I seldom participated actively in the discussions. Remembering the only bit of advice my father ever gave me,[3] “Nobody ever learned anything with his mouth open,” I was content to hold my tongue and listen. So it surprised me as much as anyone, when one sorry evening after having drunk far too much, I opened my mouth, and the most irrational drivel that anyone ever uttered came tumbling out. I remember it now as one remembers a dream. Suddenly the room, which had been raucous in revelry and tumult, grew silent. Every face turned, open-mouthed, to me. And time stopped dead.

The next thing I remember, I found myself alone on the sidewalk with the firm understanding that I was no longer welcome in the back room at Big Alice’s Fine Wines and Burgers. Of course, I knew that, in a week or ten days, if I returned, hat in hand and eyes averted, I would be granted conditional re-admittance. But I had so thoroughly humiliated myself that it was several months before I could bring myself to approach those premises. And I found, upon my return, that the building had been torn down in my absence. Asking about the neighborhood, I learned that Big Alice had moved to a new location, but no one could tell me exactly where that might be.

For months, I walked the streets and alleys of the west bank, even ventured into Dinky Town, hoping to spy a friendly face. Eventually, I lost heart and took a civil service job.[4]

And so I lost touch with my companions. I recently learned that, one by one, they have all moved on, abandoning their sacred quest. Out of all those happy, hopeful students, only Einar and Arvid remain faithful to the dream. And they are no longer on speaking terms.

I now fear there will never be a movie to document and to celebrate the Snoose Boulevard Renaissance.

[1] Let me be perfectly clear: The idea, “Less is more,” is entirely consistent with the aesthetic theories held by the Snoose Boulevard Renaissance. In fact, over-attention to detail was deemed the hallmark of small minds and illustrators. But, some folks do tend to take things to idiotic extremes.

[2] Here, I must apologize for the use of a technical term, for which there is no satisfactory synonym. L.o.S., standing for Line of Shit, roughly translates to salesmanship.

[3] I seem to remember that this was rendered more as admonition than as advice.

[4] I should add here that, purely by chance – or perhaps not – I did manage to stumble across the new location of Big Alice’s Fine Wines and Burgers during the great Halloween Blizzard of 1991, but that is a story for another time.


About the author

Earl Carlson

My stories/essays have appeared in the Eunoia Review: the Blue Lake Review: Firewords Quarterly, the Beorh Quarterly, and The Mensa Bulletin, Buried Letter Press: and Novella T, among others.

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