black magic

Mark Rothko made me do it. I will be ever grateful to that plenitude of enigmatic black paint in his chapel for pushing me out the door. Because, at eighteen, I really did not get it. Well, them. Fourteen giant canvases of dark earth to inky night, arranged in an octagonal building on the grounds of the Menil Museum in Houston, Texas. They are oddly appealing, but opaque. Very opaque. And very very black. No words of explanation anywhere, though declaring it a chapel implied an obvious spiritual intention. In no way obvious to me, I asked at the museum for a book. The attendant suggested the Brazos Bookstore, just down Bissonnet Street.

Independent before that adjective was even necessary, the store was small and beautifully strange to eyes just now emerging from twelve years of parochial schooling. Exquisite art monographs hung like paintings on thin bracket moldings along the east wall. Categories like “Shambhala” and “Jungian Analysis” leapt up from short stacks alongside the sunny windows. But, most intriguing to me was a ten-foot by ten-foot block of shelves on the back wall behind the desk, dense with curious titles and crowned with but one word, capitalized. TRAVEL.

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