July 5, 2014
Generally speaking there are two separate types of people on this planet, Hustler, and the hustled. Or you can think of it as people who are leaders, and the rest are followers. In most cases, it is a hustle, and I think America in general is really good at the hustle, and in fact it is a nation of hustlers. This seems like a negative connotation, but in fact many hustlers are visionaries, in fact, I think most great writers and artists are hustlers. It takes a special mind to look at a piece of paper, or even map, and plan out the narrative that is out there, and the hustler’s job is to make, and then sell that dream or art to the masses, or to even the few, who will appreciate that art. Sadly people who go to work for a living are usually the hustled, where they don’t own or control their destiny. Speaking on behalf of myself, I have been hovering somewhere between the hustled and the hustler.
The Hustle has been around since the dawn of time, but probably the first famous American hustler is P. T. Barnum. The beauty of Barnum’s vision is that it was complete, where he made a world or a piece of the landscape that is total. In 1841, he purchased Scudder’s American Museum and turned it into “Barnum’s American Museum.” All in one building you would have a zoo, museum, lecture hall, wax museum, theater, and of course a freak show. He also filled the museum with dioramas, panoramas, cosmoramas, scientific instruments, modern appliances, a flea circus, a loom run by a dog, the trunk of a tree under which Jesus’ disciples sat, a hat worn by Ulysses S. Grant, an oyster bar, a rifle range, taxidermists, phrenologists, pretty baby contests, Ned the learned seal, midgets, Chang and Eng the siamese twins, a menagerie of exotic animals, and the masterpiece without a doubt was the Feejee Mermaid (a mummified monkey’s torso with a fish’s tail). Outside the building was almost as good as what was happening on the inside. For the five story building he had illuminated panels, banners and flags that were lit all up with limelight. He also had huge paintings of wild animals that were facing down the people on Broadway and Ann Street in New York City. His other master stroke was to hire the worst musicians he can find and have them play on a balcony above the entrance. The theory was that the horrible music being played would make the crowd go inside the building to get away from the noise.
Between 1841 and 1865, the museum attracted 38 million customers, each paying a quarter to get in, and remember the entire population of the United States at the time was around 32 million people. So in other words, Barnum’s little museum was a gigantic success. There is no mention or record of the writer Raymond Roussel going to the Barnum’s American Museum, but one would think he may have heard about it. To go inside a structure or a piece of property where anything can happen, or to see the most amazing things. I’m sure Barnum never looked himself as an artist, in fact, he was thinking about himself as a pure showman, but alas, what is it when a person creates a world of their own imagination? And on top of that, to sell it to the masses. On a certain level, Walt Disney did the same thing as Barnum, with his films and of course Disneyland - but I’m more amazed by Barnum’s over-the-top personality and the way he conveyed his sensibility on a large canvas which was his imagination.
The hustle part is getting the audience through one’s door to see the work that you made. As I mentioned, there are two types of people on this planet. But a hustler, there are various colors and types that make a hustler. Leadership is one, but also thinks of one who first thought of building a nation. Whatever it’s the United States, or Zionist’s Israel, it’s an act of imagination made into reality. I’m never in-tuned to those who use the hustle for power or to cause misery in the neighborhood, but I greatly admire the artist, the con-(wo) man, and visionary who wants to build their own version of the world.