May 2017




Charging Bull and Fearless Girl at Street Level



For nearly three decades, a bronze bull— about three times the size of a real one— in nostril-flaring attack mode, testosterone personified, has held its ground on a traffic island in the Wall Street area.


From day one, a steady stream of people have come to see it, and it has long since become one more iconic point of destination for tourists. Unsurprisingly, the piece is entitled “Charging Bull.” I get it. Wall Street. “Bull Market.” A symbol of financial optimism. You wouldn’t want a bronze sculpture of a bear down there, now would you.



Ever since its arrival, an odd ritual has taken place. “If you build it they will come.” And if you build it with large exposed testicles, they will rub. Which people feel compelled to be photographed doing, as if to say, aren’t I “ballsy”? Wait till the folks back home see this. As if it’s something that hasn’t now been done at least a couple of million times, I would think. So much so, they have grown shiny with wear. But to each his own. (And in the vein of the old Letterman pet shtick, I’d love to see a bit on some late night show: “Stupid Tourist Tricks.”).


This bull has captured the imagination of a diverse mix of people. On the day I was there, there were even some beaming Buddhist monks posing with it. You would think those dedicated to a life of loftier spiritual goals, would not be so taken with the false idols of this world. But then again, they were not from Tibet, but from Delaware of all places. Which might explain it in some small way.



And now something new has been added to the bull-visiting experience.


Not long ago, a slim 4’ 2” bronze girl appeared within some 20 feet of this behemoth. Hands on hips, body thrust forward beyond the tips of her shoes, this tiny, soft featured, nine-year old (patterned after a model that age), is standing undaunted before the beast. Almost suggestive of a David vs. Goliath confrontation. Not surprisingly, she is entitled “Fearless Girl.” And a controversy quickly ensued over this unexpected tableau.


The bull’s creator, Sicilian-born artist Arturo DiModeca, now 76, was not at all pleased. And as of this writing he is threatening litigation if the girl is not removed from the premises.


He claims that this interloping upstart piece of art, alters the positive intent of his work, and changes its meaning into something negative. Within his stated protest, he goes on to define his bull as representing “…freedom in the world, peace, strength, power and love.” A bit overreaching, I’d say. Strength and power, yes, that’s obvious. But freedom? Peace? Love? B _ _ _ _ _ _ t!


Yet it does raise some interesting issues about art in a public environment and what rights an artist might have in protecting that work, in such a placement.


While DiModeca decries the audacity of “Fearless Girl” infringing on his space—assuming of course it is his space— “Charging Bull” came on the scene, as a piece of “guerilla art.” Meaning, it was never commissioned by anyone, nor issued a permit. It was originally placed under a Christmas tree on Broad Street (not far from where it now stands), in the middle of the night on December 15, 1989. Quite a feat to sneak a 7,100 pound sculpture onto a New York City street unnoticed, even in the wee hours.


It was promptly removed in the light of day.


Then championed at the time by Mayor Ed Koch, it was given its permanent home near Bowling Green, the oldest public park in NYC. And to this day DiModeca, still does not have an official permit for his bull’s placement.


But beyond any bureaucratic issues regarding the rights of an artist in a public space (a gray area a court may ultimately have to decide), what DiModeca doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge, is that despite the statement he was trying to make with this piece 30 years ago, it is not something immortal; it has not transcended time and the changing zeitgeist here in 2017.


The high esteem in which Wall Street was once held, has been significantly diminished, to put it kindly. Not too many people are enamored with this bastion of unbridled capitalism these days. Bernie Sanders claimed only “the top 1%,” and it resonated. DiModeca may also have heard of the Occupy Wall Street protest movement of 2011? And was not Hillary vilified for giving speeches on Wall Street for what many thought to be obscene fees? And that she might be owned by Wall Street, which in bipartisan consensus, is not a good thing to be beholden to? And that attention has now turned more toward the economic woes of Main Street; not the financial triumphs of Wall Street? One might make the case that it is the bull that ought to be moved, not the girl.


But what to make of “Fearless Girl”? She too has an interesting genesis. In short, a coming together of cause and commerce.


The statue was installed this past March 7th, the night before International Women’s Day. i.e. “Cause.” But unlike the bull— this piece by a 45 year-old American artist, Kristin Visbal, who was born in Uruguay— is hardly guerilla art. It was commissioned by a financial services company State Street Global Advisers (SSGA), i.e. “Commerce.” And it was originally given a one-week permit from City Hall to stand where she’s standing. Then in light of its immediate public popularity, that permit was extended to a month.


At first, she had a plaque at her feet which read, "Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference." This generated much controversy as "SHE" is not just a female pronoun, but an investment product and NASDAQ ticker symbol as well. And therefore, it was argued by many, to be a blatant ad disguised as a public art work. The plaque was later removed.


The controversy continues on social media and elsewhere. Particularly, as the permit has now been extended until next February. As Mayor Koch once loved the bull, Mayor Bill de Blasio loves this little girl. And if you’ve ever been a parent of a little girl, you cannot help but love her too. On a personal level, she has reminded me of a poem I once wrote, “So Six,” that was inspired by dropping my daughter off at school one day. Implicit in the lines, is that even at such a young age, she was already coming into her own. A couple of stanzas read:


A sprite with backpack
and lunch box, she walks.
Deliberately. Each step
with purpose
with dignity.

she is at once, so small, so
big, so soon,
so sure, so six.


So yes, I might be a bit biased in this debate. And following my visit to Evacuation Place, the official name of that traffic island, I’ve concluded that both sculptures are exquisite works of art and should stay put exactly as they are. While I’ve passed the bull several times over the years in going about my business, the presence of this little girl now generates a dynamic that wasn’t there before.


Yes, she’s changed the originally intended meaning behind DiModeca’s work. Yet in so doing, her presence seems to have elevated both sculptures, judging by the increasing crowds they are drawing in adoration (the only way to describe it). Ultimately, isn’t that how art in a public place should be considered: on-site, by real people, expressing acceptance? Not just from a distant debate over turf and political correctness, nor a critique over artistic interpretations.


Someone once said regarding poetry, that the question should not be, “What does it mean?” but rather, “What does it feel?” And at street level, this display feels uplifting.* Not once did I overhear any discussions regarding the meaning of it all. People, as one, were flat out enjoying themselves. And anything that can do that, should be welcomed. Especially at a time when there are more like twenty miles between us, rather than twenty feet.


“Let it be,” as someone once intoned.


* Webcam at








Quote of the Month










Scaffolds (With an Introduction)



When I returned to my native New York over six years ago, after a 31 year run in Los Angeles, exceeding that of even The Phantom of the Opera (life takes on some unexpected turns), what struck me was how much the city had been transformed in my absence. For the most part, for the better.


While I would get back here frequently enough over that span—usually for short business trips or family visits— I hadn’t noticed the dramatic upgrades in the city from the perspective of a resident. Yet—and a rather large “yet” at that—upon my now permanent return to start a new life, I saw an eyesore that wasn’t here “back in the day.” Scaffolds! Everywhere you looked.


I came to learn that a new building code(s) had been put into place, requiring that an inspection be done every “x” number of years, to check for any structural damage, most especially, that of loose bricks. Lest one fall on some unlucky head, who had just bought a winning lottery ticket. Add to that, the overkill of new constructions all of which requiring extensive scaffolding, as real estate moguls vie to “out-skyscrapper” each other (Edifice complex?).


No one seemed to notice or comment on these scaffolds, but me. And though they were obviously necessary for safety reasons what with men (and women) working overhead, I saw them not only as unsightly, but taking up considerable sidewalk space. Which in concert with zombie-like tourists taking selfies, further impeded pedestrian traffic. Especially in the midtown area where I had now lived. By the way, why aren’t big cities across the U.S. and around the world so “scaffolded”? No loose bricks falling in London or Paris, aka The City of Lights? Guess not. Just terrorism. Like everywhere else.


Anyway, it all has served as an inspiration for a recent poem I wrote. One in which much poetic license has been taken.



Block after block
as far as the eye of a prodigal son could see


besmirching even
the Grande Dames of buildings
Carnegie Hall
The Plaza, The Dakota
on the very sidewalk where
Lennon once lay dying


scaffolds, scaffolds, scaffolds…


as if penalties for unknown breaches
of high or low crimes and misdemeanors
as might a boot on a car wheel of a scofflaw,
as might a cuff about the ankle
of some low-life under house arrest


or as might naked repression
by dictatorship governance
over civic dissension;


a suggestion of a breakdown in laws
written and unwritten
on communal order


and in the process blocking out the sun


though pilgrims from exurbia might see them
as offering the shade of childhood elms
in a memory of one summer everlasting—


conversely offering


cover from a forecasted downpour upon
the balding heads of the native born
shunning the burden of five-buck umbrellas


or impeding pedestrian flow for the throngs
caught up in a midtown scurry—


an affront to esthetics
that only the effete might see;
a miner tunneled in from West Virginia
would not give such enclosures
a second glance…


or is it all the proverbial glass
seen as half empty;
a shattering of all that was once so clear
that was once held dear:


home is where the heart is
home is a state of mind
home as Frost said
is a place where they have to take you in


home, like Elvis,
has left the building
affixed to yet
another scaffold.


                                —Ron Vazzano







Planetary Realignment



April 2017




May 2017








Crayola Sidelines Yellow Crayon Called ‘Dandelion,’ Announces New Color in the ‘Blue Family’”



This news, which appeared in most major outlets on and off line, didn’t hit me as hard as the retirement of Raw Umber now some 27 years ago. Though in an attempt at acceptance, I colored one of my poems with its passing. It concludes:

Why the mourning the death of Raw Umber?
It is quite apparent
the world wants Fuchsia
and there will be no turning back.

The world apparently also wanted Dandelion among six other new colors at the time. And now it too has fallen out of favor. At just age 27, it has been banished from the box of 24. Or is it just a ploy by the powers that be to create a marketing buzz? And that Dandelion is the sacrificial lamb?


Though give Binney & Smith— the company that has been making Crayolas in some form or another since 1885— some credit. When it removes a crayon from circulation, it does so in a humane way. Often putting it in its Hall of Fame as it will with this variation on yellow—the deposed Dandelion. A waxed version of “getting kicked upstairs” I suppose. It could be worse.


Imagine an Assad-like CEO running the company, and having them all melted down! An act that would be so heinous as to cause outrage across party lines.


I maintained in a piece several years ago (SEPTEMBER, 2010 MUSE-LETTER) that you could trace “The American Experience Through a Box of Crayons.” I was being facetious, but only to a degree. Here are some edited considerations and the points I made (no pun intended), to support my contention.

In 1958, that first mega box of 64 crayons— with a built-in sharpener!— was introduced (its first appearance being on the Captain Kangaroo Show). Suddenly, all things were possible.


Those school projects on white construction paper, (with glued on cotton for clouds?) could rise to heights heretofore unimagined.


Isn’t that the American way? Expansion! Variety! Choice! Added value!


Yet this cornucopia of hues, would prove in time to cause much consternation. For as un-politically correct as you could possibly imagine, the box contained a color called “Flesh.” As in… Caucasian.


Though fairly soon after in 1962, partially in response to new sensitivities brought about by the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement, the company changed the name to “Peach.” Ironically, it had never dawned on a company in the color business, that flesh indeed comes in many colors.


• Even up until the 90’s some controversy persisted, as “Indian Red” was changed to “Chestnut.” Apparently, school children were wrongly perceiving it to be the skin color of Native Americans. I wonder where they got that idea? (Washington Redskins anybody?).


Though in reality, the name of the color was inspired by a pigment used in paint oils produced in India.


And speaking of Native Americans, note this incredible portrait of Sitting Bull done entirely with Crayolas by an artist named Don Marco, who also owned up in an interview, to missing Raw Umber.

Meanwhile, back at the box, as if to overcompensate for any past perceived racial insensitivities, and in a spasm of political correctness, the company introduced a Multicultural pack that all but shouted: “See, we get it.”

A Yale University study found that the smell of Crayola crayons is one of the most recognizable scents for adults, ranking out cheese and bleach which placed at 19 and 20.


I was heartened to learn of the valuable contributions an Ivy League school was making towards the betterment of America. No other country can make a crayon whose scent can hold a candle to ours. And we’ve got the numbers to prove it!


Has not the emphasis on R&D and data analysis always been a hallmark of America? So why would delving into the smell of a crayon be any different?

• Reflecting our newly developing culture of empowerment and 15 minute fame cycles— personified by reality shows, wherein any ordinary Joe (or Jane) has a say in who stays or leaves the island or gets fired—Crayola marked its 100th anniversary in 2003, by asking consumers to name new colors. And conversely, to vote others out of the box. Here’s how that went:



Inchworm Blizzard Blue
Jazzberry Jam Magic Mint
Mango Tango Mulberry
Wild Blue Yonder Teal Blue




Inchworm? But as Shakespeare once said, “What’s in a name? Would a crayon by any other name, and in any other language, not be as green?”


In keeping with today’s business mantra of “Building the Brand” — with all its attendant businessspeakCrayola is very much in step. According to its licensing management company:


“…extend the unique, vibrant, and fun aspects of the brand into the home, personal care and food categories.”


“24 manufacturers have been enlisted to develop innovative licensed products leveraging Crayola’s brand equity of color, creativity and imagination.”


Brand building has even long since entered the political arena. As of this writing, the Trump administration is considering how to brand his first 100 days in office.


• Finally, who has not felt the joy, if even through the extended hand of a beloved child, in taking a Crayola crayon to a sheet of paper? And in so doing, as if to announce to the world… “Look at me. I can touch the stars.”



For better or worse, we now as a nation, color both inside and outside the lines with abandon.

Meanwhile, I wonder what this new crayon in the “blue family” is going to look like. And what Ben & Jerry’s type of concocted name will be selected among the many that no doubt will be submitted. If a darker hue, I offer Blueberry Hill. “Fats” chance though that that would ever win. (I know. I can hear the groan from here.).






I have been invited to participate in a poetry reading at the 22nd Annual Lower East Side Festival of the Arts for the third time, this coming Memorial Day. This event is sponsored by…


155 First Avenue (bet. 9th and 10th Sts.) NY, NY 10003

May 28th: Sun. 4-7PM


I will be reading be reading “Scaffolds,” which appears in this Muse-Letter among others TBD.








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