Issue #200
A Party To End All Parties November 9, 2012

Hana Food Menu Board.

Artists' Words: Beautiful Oar

by Mary Walling Blackburn

J. comes to me full. I ask J. where he got that sandwich. I got it on Metropolitan, J. says. Did you get it at that place where they name their sandwiches, I ask. Yes, I did. Next, I ask: Did you order, “My Girlfriend is a Whore”? J. answers: “I ordered it without naming it. I listed the ingredients without saying the name.” It’s a technique. It’s avoidance. It’s clean hands.

And what did the guy behind the counter say when you order it by listing the ingredients? “You want “My Girlfriend is a Whore?” J. nods because J. doesn’t want to die. J. must eat. The sandwich stands between him and death. It tastes incredible, asserts J.

Later, we are driving to Maine. J. asks me what I would like for my birthday in August. I say that I would like the name of that sandwich changed. Can J. rename the sandwich? J. agrees to this birthday present. J. asks me what I would like to rename the sandwich. Green mountains are around us. Trees flash. The car is driving fast. I recall giving a talk. I said to the audience: Vagina is not a lovely word in itself to pronounce but how bout we never separate it from the word Beautiful. What if it can only be said prefaced by the descriptor beautiful. Two lovers exchange:

-Will you touch my Beautiful Vagina?
-I love your beautiful vagina!

A month later, a woman who attended the lecture comes up to me: I wanted to tell you that we only refer to it as “Beautiful Vagina” since that night! In a flash, I remember all 50 people in the room and I pretend their vocabulary is forever altered. I tell J. that the sandwich has a new name: My Beautiful Vagina. I imagine the transaction. Consumer and Cook:

-I’ll have my Beautiful Vagina.
-My Beautiful Vagina! You got it.


The beauty is that the cook yells it; its some whitmanesque Brooklyn yawp traveling through time. He doesn’t mean the consumer’s vagina or maybe, cock. It is his and it is lovely. He knows what is female about himself and he likes it. A deli fantasy.

I am dropped off in Maine. By a lake. The rental car disappears down the dirt road. J. emails:

I have good news and bad, or should I say great news with a caveat.  There has been a partial agreement that I can name a sandwich after an extended period of eating sandwiches.  However, I cannot replace the name of the woman-hating sandwich.  This was, according to the girl I talked to, not an option.  Still, pretty great news, I just hope they follow through after I eat 40 sandwiches and surprise them with the name.  I will still aim to rename the death sandwich, maybe they will reconsider after a month of getting to know their new regular customer with the large order.

“I will still aim to rename the death sandwich.” I think J. is referring to another sandwich: “Who Killed Gertrude Stein?” Perhaps J. wants to be a Brooklyn Isis/ Alice, suturing the fragmented scraps of Osiris/Stein back together again. If J. recollects the ancient Egyptian story, J. will remember that Isis forges a phallus out of gold to replace the cock, the only part of the dismembered Osiris she cannot find.

Gertrude Stein is not dead. I’d like a Golden Phallus. Hold the sprouts.

J. is a studio assistant in Brooklyn. Part of the agreement is that the Artist pays for the employees lunch. Part of J.’s job is to order lunch for the 4 or 5 who paint canvases all day, every day. The employees are limited to this deli, Hana Food on Metropolitan, until the deal is sealed. They are instrumentalized. They tire of eating Drunk’n Asshole, Black Panther, Party Upstairs, Munch My Box, Cocaine, My Girlfriend is a Whore, Avatar, Who Killed Gertrude Stein? But they sup it up.

Half way through August, the night before my birth, meteor showers come like clockwork. J.’s email arrives then, as well.

You are 39.  I talked to the owner and he agreed to have My Beautiful Vagina made into a permanent sandwich on the board.  He might even get rid of the other, less classy one.

It is delicious.

Have a nice day.

Included is a picture of J. taken by a person working at the deli or the owner. J. is next to the counter and J. is beaming. In one hand J. holds a sizable sandwich and in the other a sandwich sign. It reads: “My Beautiful Vagina: sopressata, olives, and balsamic vinaigrette $9”

Ecstatic, I skype.
J. cautions that it won’t be up immediately. They have to wait until they are ready to rewrite the board.

I return to Brooklyn in September and I return to Hana. I say, Where is My Beautiful Vagina?
They offer to make the sandwich if I can tell them what is in it. I offer to purchase the sandwich if it is written on the board. The cashier and the cook assure me it will be written on the board. I return and ask again. I’m looking for my beautiful vagina. They never have it.

My inquiry is a humiliation  that reaches both ways. I ask politely and they refuse politely. We are embarrassed together- suffused with secret anger and invisible laughter. A year passes.

Perhaps there are a couple options. One is crude and vague. This text “goes viral”. Gawker. Gawked.  Men and women rush to Hana demanding their Beautiful Vagina loudly and clearly, all day, for hours. The owner caves. The owner erases. People eat.

Another is where I invite the owner to dinner. We sit down. I offer a list of new names for his sexist and racist sandwiches. I understand his shock strategy and with his consent, the re-christenings would adhere to his dedication to sex and pop culture and would be implemented slowly over time in order to retain his misogynist fan base. I tell him that I will run a Kickstarter campaign to cover his losses in the transition or maybe United Artists if I am nominated. I tell him I will offer the donors sandwiches with new names and the highest donors will be allowed to rename a sandwich of their choice. In my fantasy, he is really into it. 

The fantasies go dead at the end. I get joyless about sandwiches and dashed subversions.
I conjure one last fiction:

Me and the owner of Hana Foods: 

- The vulva in Mohawk, it translates to ‘a nice canoe’. 
- You want the sandwich to be called "Nice Canoe"?
- No. I would hate that. Maybe I even I hate sandwiches. When I read 'Nice Canoe' I realized that it could change everything (regarding sexual exchange) if that is how all conceived of female genitalia. I read it in an interview with Katsi Cook, an Akwesane Mohawk midwife. She said: it’s perfect: when you think about [it] — you know, as a woman’s healthcare provider, it does, it’s in the shape of a canoe and it’s a brilliant interpretation of that part of the woman’s body, “a nice canoe,” (laughs), on top of all the other meanings you can draw from that explanation.

The owner watches a man in very tight denim jeans walk by: "He has a Beautiful Oar, no?"

Mary Walling Blackburn, Dallas/Brooklyn, was recently included in the Paper Monument anthology, Draw It With Your Eyes Closed, Curiosity and Method: Ten Years of Cabinet Magazine, and Architectural Inventions: Visionary Drawing of Buildings. Her pedagogical experiment, Radical Citizenship/Anhoek School is currently on view at the Tate Modern's Project Room as part of the Silent University. She has written for E-Flux Journal, Cabinet, Triple Canopy and Afterall Journal.


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