City Paper is not for tourists
an artist’s studio in Houston, contemplating the enormous busts of U.S. Presidents that this artist had made his calling card.
“Look at that hair,” my bandmate replied.
“Jackson’s hair is indeed a thing of beauty,” I observed. “The great swoops and swirls of this former President’s ‘do’ not only denote a severe kind of Wagnerian expressionism (and, indeed, Jackson and the composer Richard Wagner, though separated by an ocean, were contemporaries), but are the perfect physical manifestation of Jackson’s domineering personality. Unlike the U.S. economy during Jackson’s tenure, his hairline refuses to succumb to recession or depression. This is the hairline of a man who served in the War of 1812 and numerous wars against Native Americans; who admitted the States of Arkansas and Missouri to the Union; who destroyed the Second National Bank; who survived an assassination attempt; who presided over the extermination of thousands of Cherokee Indians on the Trail of Tears; who personified the broad outlines of populist Jeffersonian democracy whilst ignoring its humanitarian foundations; and, unforgettably, found his way on to the American $20 bill.” I stared at Jackson and contemplated his complex legacy for some moments. “In addition,” I added, “Jackson looks like the bass player of a garage band from Baltimore, or the troubled star of a 1960’s French new wave film.”
“I appreciate your clever repartee in re: Andrew Jackson’s decidedly pre-Civil War, yet surprisingly contemporary appearance,” my bandmate confided, “but must point out that my family has Native American roots.” Leaving this awkward factoid hanging in the air, my bandmate strolled to the other side of the parking lot to contemplate an enormous bust of William Jefferson Clinton. Having no other company, I looked Jackson full in the face.
“Well, Jackson!” I exclaimed. “What do you make of that? It seems simply impossible to even joke about your presidency these days. In the future, I will have to center my observational humour around the less controversial Presidencies of John Quincy Adams, William Howard Taft, and Gerald Ford.” I turned on my heel and followed my bandmate across the parking lot. Jackson did not reply.