Kids, don’t try this at home (or anywhere else)!

Well, I’ve decided that if I’m going to keep up the charade of being everyone’s favorite Wandering Jew, I’d better get out there and do me some wanderin’. I mean, what kind of girl about town would I be if I didn’t occasionally get out of my pajamas and into “street clothes”, let my hair down (quite literally), and venture into the so-called real world to see what’s happening outside of Pine Valley? Do I really need to see one more obese toddler waddling out onto the Maurystage wearing nothing more than a Sumo-sized diaper, hear one more snaggle-toothed, mullet-haired macho schmuck bragging about how he “owns” his “bitch”, or witness one more wet-faced, long-lost mother/daughter reunion? I suppose it’s only a matter of time before I metamorphosize not into a giant cockroach but into a belligerent teen in a tube top stretched over my enormous adolescent chest, bulbous gut proudly exposed for all the world to see, and give the jeering audience the ever-popular double finger as I say, “You don’t know me! Don’t hate! Don’t hate!”

Every once in a while I turn into a hermit, and, except for jaunts to the James and Pilates, hibernate in the apartment for a few days. Days where I’ll get my complete RDA of all essential nutrients from three Wasa crackers, a can of chick peas, 14 Viactivs, Crystal Light lemonade, and a Milk Bone. Eventually, however, the glamour wears off, and I realize that I really have to “get crackin'” (which for obvious reasons always makes me think of two big, nude, obnoxiously white ass cheeks and a cat o’ nine tails) and make sure I get the hell out of the house.

So today I took the N/R (my favorite subway, for some reason — and not because it stops right outside of a Banana Republic or Bloomingdale’s) to the New Museum so I could witness a large mechanical installment called Cloaca produce large mechanical kaka.

Since January 25, the 33-foot long Cloaca, conceived by Belgian artist Wim Delvoye, has been inhabitating a room of its own at the museum, where it actually ingests two meals a day, digests that food (and it’s good stuff too, from local restaurants such as Markt, Jerry’s, and Savoy), and, once a day, at around 2:30 p.m., displays the results of its remarkable digestive powers for an all too eager audience. It is fed twice daily (in private at 11:00 a.m. and on display at 4:30 p.m.) through a plastic funnel “mouth” that leads to a garbage disposal and then a meat grinder, both of which chew the food before it embarks on its 24-hour tour of Cloaca’s own digestive system. Cloaca’s stomach, pancreas, and small and large intestines are presented as six glass reactor chambers into which chemicals to aid digestion (acids, bases, and bile, to name just a tasty few) are added. Electronic sensors monitor the chambers, and the food is pumped from one chamber to the next via a series of tubes and pipes that connect them.

So there we were. Just two of us at first, silently bonding with Cloaca if not each other, both pretending we were there just to enjoy Cloaca’s company as we scribbled nonsense in our respective notebooks. (My elegant entry consisted of this: I can’t believe I’m waiting around to see a machine take a shit.) Occasionally other people would sort of tentatively step into the room, wry smiles attached to their faces, glance sheepishly at Cloaca, information pamphlets in hand, and then disappear. A few remained. But by 2:20, there was quite a gathering. I started to feel all self-righteous. None of these shitheads better block my view, I fumed silently. They haven’t even bothered to give the thing the courtesy of an introductory walk-around. Damned voyeurs. They’re just here for the end result. They care NOTHING for the — the — the process of elimination! Indeed, one goofy-smiled chick actually went up to the guard and asked, “Did it poop yet?” (Aside: Add “poop” to my list.)

Finally the moment arrived. Everyone congregated around the glass enclosure like proud grandparents waiting for infants to be wheeled into the maternity ward. There were giggles. Laughs. Guffaws (uh, that would be me, in response to one guy’s comment that it would be funny if there were a little magazine rack inside the enclosure) (OK, it wasn’t that funny, but I was a little nervous).

And then, without fanfare, either trumpet or otherwise, Cloaca did its duty. (Sorry for the homophone.) It looked more like a glob of chocolate frosting squeezed through a pastry bag than “fecal matter” (a term I will never be able to say with a straight face). One old guy applauded. I, again, guffawed. (I’m surprised I didn’t start barking like a circus seal, and flapping my flippers.) Two or three of us snapped pictures … before the guard came over and said it wasn’t allowed. I, of course, swallowed my camera and fled the building immediately.

I won’t even address all the pretentious artistic interpretation crap here. I did agree with a couple of very basic comments offered by two guys near me. One said, “I feel like I’m invading someone’s privacy!” And the other said something about a very private function being put on very public display. I wanted to toss in something about how remarkable it is that Cloaca’s digestive tract is only twice as long as ours.

I must say that I half expected Cloaca to turn its back, arch its eyebrow, and tell us all to “scat”.

P.S. One of the guys I was talking to said that the guard told him that earlier this week Cloaca actually “had the runs”. Which reminds me. The installment, uh, runs through April 28.

P.S.S. If you really want to see a picture of the end product, email me.

Update: You can see the picture here. Go on. Click it. You know you want to.
Update, September 25, 2002: For more information on Cloaca, please visit the Belgian site, where this entry is linked.