• My Summer

    21 août 2007, 7h38m

    The Freedom Tunnel is a street art landmark. The tunnel is a few miles of an amtrack commuter rail disused for a number of years that, though now back in service, in those empty years' time became covered with hundreds and hundreds of spray painted murrals. I would have had no reason to go there if not for my friends from out of state who have a taste for miniature adventures. We found the tunnel and made our way slowly into it, pressing ourselves to the walls as trains passed at half-hour intervals.

    We walked and walked for hours and hours and started trying to find a way out of the tunnel aside from just coming out the other end. There are small entrances along the sides of the tunnel but they are all kept tightly locked from the outside, so those weren't a solution to our problem. I was the only one with a flashlight (my cell phone came with one attached) so I was the first to enter one of these tunnels and the only one to see what was there. The beam of my light highlighted the pale torso of a man lying on his back, one arm over his eyes and the other awkwardly at his side. He was unusually thin and his skin was abnormally pale. His skin looked slick to the touch, but I didn't have time to think very much because my first reaction was to leave the man alone as quickly as possible. "I don't think we should be here," I whispered back to my friends following me and we all scrambled to turn around and leave.

    I assumed, by the urgency with which they turned to leave, that my friends had seen the body too, but they hadn't and, the more I think about that night (my recollection unchallenged by other accounts) it was definitely a corpse that I saw down in those tunnels.

    My imagination reels from side to side with the possibilities of his death: a suicide? The awkward resting pose of the man's arm makes me think of an overdose and that thinking is why I decided not to inform the police. Dying in perfect loneliness underground inside the kind of euphoria that comes between times of wanting the drug seems to me the most romantic willfully self-destructive climax a life could want to have. I wouldn't take that from him. His life deserves to disappear without leaving ripples on the surface of a lake.

    But here I am making waves of his death(?) in telling you about it. And, more than that, I wanted to make a painting to sum up the way I felt: I had his figure in mind and I sketched it quickly to make sure my imagination didn't run too far away from the actuality of the experience. I wanted to mount canvas on a light box and paint the negative space around his body with enough thick, heavy layers of black to block out the light coming from behind the canvas. His figure would be set into the surface of the painting as a whole and would gleam slightly.

    That summer I heard Deerhunter's Fluorescent Grey and hearing Bradford Cox call dead flesh "fluorescent grey" clicked in my memory; he got it right with two words while I waited to cover the surface of a canvas. My head and my hands buzzed and went numb when I heard it first and the sensation intensified, peaked and drifted away as I listened and listened to the track over and over again that summer.
  • Swastika Girls

    19 août 2007, 6h21m

    I bought Robert Fripp and Brian Eno's No Pussyfooting on a whim the day before I was set to perform in my art college's monthly "experimental" music concert. I wasn't nearly as familiar with either artist as I should have been, though I was generally familiar with both and I'd read a "personal history" segment in The New Yorker years before in which someone I hadn't heard of at the time spoke well of the album and certain alien-sounding passages in it.

    When I got back to my studio, nervous because of the impending concert, I couldn't focus on work and I curled up under my desk with my headphones on to listen to "No Pussyfooting" with my eyes closed.

    The album finished and I realized that the fire alarm was going off and the studios were all empty except for mine. It wasn't that I couldn't hear the sound of the alarm over the noises coming through my headphones; I thought the alarm was part of it! I raced outside only to hear the fire marshal tell everyone to head back indoors. Fortunately it was a drill that time.

    When I did play at the experimental music concert that night, I chose to end my set with a rather stupid-sounding cover of the second song on the album, Swastika Girls, my own little swastika girl scowling at me from the back of the room, impatiently ready to be anywhere else. Anywhere but in the noise-filled room.