April 24, 2012:
I don’t have to do anything today.
That’s my first thought upon waking. It shoots me into cool, empty space, where the stars are goosebumps on God’s dark, unfathomable ass crack.
Sandy glasses and dirty coffee makers crowd the big wooden table. Garth and I sit next to them, eating cinnamon toast crunch, oranges and pudding. Cheery sun flutters angelically thru the window, batting its eyelashes.
A crowd materializes in the hall, surrounding Conceited Ponytail Guy. He stands with hands thrust deep in his pockets, a sheepish grin deflecting their questions. He tries to explain the movement, justify our presence at the Biennale. Words like “right, left and utopia” fly around. Like all press everywhere, they aren’t buying it. It’s too abstract, too philosophical, too new. What catchy headlines will they sift from this mire of leaderless chaos?
I used to like seeing my name and picture in the paper, but lately the press feel like poisonous insects. They can’t be trusted. They’re tools, not of the people, but of the boot heel. Their mission is not to collect and present true facts, but to filter facts according to agendas so that they may make money. They can’t be blamed. They’re trying to survive. Nevertheless, I prefer to be my own press. I am a giant eyeball made of flypaper. Everything sticks to me as I swivel around.
I don’t have to smile.
That’s my 5,089th thought of the morning.
The word is written in big letters at the bottom of a list of tasks on a chalkboard in the middle of the hall. It sticks me like a skewer to the ribs, but I don’t have to do it. I could be the worst, most repulsive asshole in the universe if I wanted to. This isn’t the service industry. I won’t get fired. Supposedly, you’re valued for your contributions here, not your personality.
Thought # 4,000,130: I need to know how to get tampons for free. That would solve all my problems.
My morning hours disappear into a pile of random crap. They turn into speakers, computer monitors, heaps of cables. I sort them into plastic bins and place the bins on metal shelves in the tech lab. My afternoon hours disappear into the bedroom and the basement. They become large, dirty shelves, tables and dividers. They become piles of tarps, sleeping bags and ground pads. I dig them out from under piles of boxes and jungles of DVD players. I haul them up cement stairs. I shake leaves and sand out of them. I fold and organize them. They come to resemble a cafe area and a sleeping area, separated by a wall of shelves.
At first, I work alone. Ponytail Guy comes into the room, speaking German with another fellow. He gestures with irritation at the stack of sleeping bags I’ve made in the window seat. He plucks them off one by one, setting them on the floor. I wait for a break in his conversation and say, “Do you need me to clear the space around the window?” I’m trying to help. I get no response. He doesn’t even look at me. He’s a foot away. I know he hears me. “Do you need me to clear the window space?” I ask again, loudly, clearly and politely. Still no response. I drop the blanket I’m folding and storm out of the room.
“That guy is such an unimaginable douchebag!” I sneer to Garth under my breath.
“The guy with the ponytail.”
Garth’s had problems with him too. They were building the kitchen floor together. Ponytail Guy was using a power tool wrong, so Garth politely attempted to correct him in order to make the work easier. Ponytail Guy got offended and chose not to use that tool at all. He also refused to speak to Garth for the rest of the day.
“Let’s go talk to him,” Garth says.
This approach hadn’t occurred to me. I was going to jump straight to gouging his eyes out with a chainsaw. He’s gone when we get back to the sleeping room, so Garth and I finish cleaning and constructing it together.
Thought # 13, 900, 007: I hated my girl scout leader. She was stuck up and her hair looked like a poodle.
“Assembleaaahhh!” Hector calls from the center of the Hall. He cups his hands over his mouth. “Assembleaaahh!” His voice carries like a shining bugle note over an empty plain. Paula joins him. Their voices harmonize in a war cry that fills every room and hallway.
A circle of chairs gather shoulder to shoulder in the Hall’s center. Inside those, a circle of blue couch cushions snuggle together. Inside that there’s a fluffy beige rug. People drip into the concentric rings, filling the chairs and floor. Little kids in rainbow sweaters jump on the cushions and vault over the picnic benches. People open laptops and notebooks.
The kids belong to Fabricio and his wife. They wear rainbow sweaters too. The wife looks like a Gypsie Kaleidoscope, swathed in layers of colorful pants and skirts. Her long, dark dreads thread thru seashells and tangle up into a green scarf, sticking out in all directions like a wild jungle plant. I can’t stop looking at her. She’s from that mystical, elusive “Somewhere Else” I’ve been looking for.
We met Fabricio last night. He harvests mate (mah-tay) by hand from the forests of Brazil and makes beer out of it. It’s the first open source product I’ve heard of. He will release the recipe for anyone to use, modify and produce.
A short, skinny girl in camouflage pants and blue pixie-cut hair facilitates the assembly. Instead of assuming a position of neutrality and making sure the conversation runs smoothly, she argues endlessly with people, delaying and drawing it out. She monopolizes and micro-manages the conversation and then gets irritated with people who direct their comments at her, as tho she’s a chairman, rather than addressing the entire group.
She insists we must get consensus on the order in which agenda items are discussed. She outlines two different “Order” options and puts them to a vote. No one gives any signals. She does this four times, receiving a lukewarm response which hopes only to shut her up and force her to move on. No one really seems to care about the order in which we discuss topics, but she isn’t picking up on that. She can’t gauge her audience. I’ve never seen any facilitator do this and I can’t see why it’s so necessary. We spend an hour on it before actually beginning the meeting, which drags out into torturous tedium for three more hours.
A flower made of bicycle wheels spins overhead. I let its metallic hiss fillet my brain. White paint chips off the faded wood table. Splinters stab into my fingernails. Globs of leftover color gather in my cuticles and I remember last night’s painting. Mozart’s notes turned my collarbones to glitter and I blew it onto the wall like pixie dust. That feeling of connecting and disappearing sinks into my knuckle creases like a tattoo. It will be remembered by no one except my decaying body, as it wears away against the world’s rough roads, getting smaller and smaller like a bar of soap.
This is not a tour. This is not an exhibit. This is my life.
Garth crawls past folding chairs onto the center rug and plucks 2 cookies from a wrapper. He hands one back to me. It’s a sandwich of waffle wafer, cinnamon and caramel. My teeth sink thru it, my spine glows and my forearms radiate the neon pink of dawn.
Alinka breaks out crying in the corner. She argues with someone at a neck-snapping pitch. The assembly ignores it at first. Grisha eventually wanders over to investigate. Some of the things she donated to the children’s booth have disappeared and no one can explain.
I must know that I need to disappear and become thin mountaintop air if I want to paint an honest picture. Forget everything with my rational mind and let the world and all its greasy hamburger wrappers sink into my skin like feet in wet sand.
The assembly has a big, long, noble discussion about how everyone should take care of the KW and refill toilet paper holders when they go empty. Then someone takes the last cookie and leaves the wrapper on the carpet at the center of the group. Everyone ignores it. Garth picks it up and sets a pink piggy bank in its place. A knife protrudes from the coin slot in the top of the pig’s head.
I need to acknowledge the pad stuck to my crotch and the fact that I’ve been on my period for two weeks straight.
I can’t do this. Four hours, no concrete decisions, infinite revolving arguments about why the sky is blue. As if the answer would make a difference in our lives.
I leave the assembly. I don’t care what decisions they make. It’s not as tho I let others make rules which I will passively follow without question. It’s more like I let people make rules which I totally disregard because I don’t feel that they apply to me. That’s not meant to be an egotistical statement; it’s a proclamation of self-sufficiency. I’m not interested in tangling myself up in a massive ball of yarn and throwing myself down 13 flights of stairs.
Even laws made by real governments feel like something meant for another universe. For example: I’m only allowed to stay in Europe for three months. Does anyone in a position to remove me from Europe know I am alive? Will they send someone crawling into the bushes to check my passport?
Two days have passed as quickly as single frames in a film. I was moving constantly, and when I finally went to bed at 4am, I still wasn’t tired. I like it that way.