And Then I Fell Out the Window

Life, examined and punted around

Art Monday: “And Heat It Too,” Page 1

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Well, I’ve been sorely neglecting Art Monday, but I’m trying to bring it back! Here is the first page of two from a little comic dealio I’ve been working on. To be continued!

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Adventures of a Living Statue Part 3

The hardest part is first getting settled. People already have their eye on me because I’m in a flower-covered, 15″ tall wig. My newest addition to your costume, a vintage veil from Goodwill, is aesthetically stunning but also makes my wig tilt back precariously. My biggest fear today is that I’ll tilt my head wrong and the wig will just come toppling off, and the illusion of some mystic statue fortune giver will melt into a frozen bald girl with a white face.

This doesn’t happen, though. Instead I get settled, full jar of fortunes at the ready, folding fan in the other hand. Then it’s the waiting game for who will be the first. This is my first time being a statue at the evening farmers market. I’m hoping people will come once the market is in full swing, but for now I’m just being watched by a couple old guys on a bench by the burrito truck.

My glazed-eye stare rests on the Local Burrito truck. Local Burrito has a Facebook and a Tumblr, I learn. Then a woman comes toward me, bends and drops a dollar in my basket. I  smoothly shift to life, bending and offering out my jar of fortunes. She takes one and smiles at me, and I am energized.

I GOT A DOLLAR, I GOT A DOLLAR, I GOT A DOLLAR, HEY, HEY, HEY!

The market ends up being a great choice because of one big thing: KIDS! Toddlers and children are at the market with their parents, and point and gawp and sometimes, sometimes I come to life for them and I see their look of astonishment. Some come up to me with a parent-given dollar, afraid of me at first, but when they shyly came up and I bent, smiled and met their eyes, they were usually delighted. That was worth it all.

One young girl stopped with her mom to give a dollar, then they sat on the bench in front of me because the girl wanted to keep watching me. “You think she’s pretty?” The mom asked. “Yes, she does look like she is at a wedding with her veil. …No, my hair wasn’t that tall when I got married. It was a bun at the side of my neck.” And I listening as the mom had a conversation with her daughter.

Something about being a living statue is addicting. Maybe it’s moments like when the man stopped for a fortune, read it, then came back and gave me another dollar. “One for me and one for the horses,” he said. “This is really wonderful. You made my day.” I wonder which fortune he got.

Or maybe it’s just getting to overhear conversations, to stand still and watch people and soak up humanity like a sponge.  1262890_10100299544438059_1617618150_o

I couldn’t do this every day, and possibly not even every week, but it is a singular experience to look at yourself in a street window reflection and see a rather magnificent doll instead of a human being, to interact with humans as an Other, then to come home, pull off the beehive that Marge Simpson would envy, and grab a beer, talking easily with friends in white face paint and enjoying the luxury of being you, a human being.

Luchador Watson!

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Luchador Watson!

Context: The Baker Street Babes had a podcast about the original Sherlock Holmes story, “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton”, in which they giggled about the part where Dr. Watson picks up a chair and is ready to deck Milverton with it if need be. “Someone needs to draw a picture of Watson in a luchador mask with the chair,” one of them suggested. As soon as I heard it at the bakery, I thought, I’M ON IT. Then this happened. It makes me giggle.


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Adventures of a Living Statue Part 2

For real this time. I struggle with the white makeup consistency, but I roll it around until my face is white, then on goes dark lipstick, darker eyeliner, five times more mascara than I wear on a night out. It doesn’t fully come together, though, until I pull on the 15″ high black beehive wig, which I have adorned with fake flowers and greenery and a bird. I literally put a bird on it. I look in the mirror and I’ve transformed into something other than me, something unusual and striking and what might strike some people at a glance as a statue.

The most awkward part of the entire morning is walking to my spot in the ped mall, but I just try to keep my teetering wig balanced and march down the street. I feel a bit better as passersby glance at me and then bust out in a grin. This is it, I think. I am doing this for real. 

It’s a sunny Friday morning, breezy. School has started back up, so all the kids except for the tiny ones are gone from the brick-paved ped mall. However, I find myself in that frantic week of university students moving in to prepare for the start of the school year, so the place starts bustling. Once I’ve found a good spot, all I need to do is put down my donation box, get my jar of fortunes at the ready, and stand still.

Standing still is hard. I’m sure that surprises no one. Things were slow at first, and there were long periods of standing. When people put a few coins or a dollar in my donation box it not only meant that I was getting a nice little tip, but it also meant I got to stretch a bit as I bent at the waist, pulled back my folding fan, and held a jar of fortunes out so that they could take one. Then it was back to the pose, trying to remain still, still, still.

The thing about standing still is that it is the ultimate meditation. You are forced into the moment and into what you are doing because you have one unblinking view ahead of you, and your brain is focused on keeping tabs on every single muscle and making sure it doesn’t stray too far from its position.

The other thing about standing still is that you become this strange mixture of very noticed and very invisible. You can stare blatantly at someone, watching them intently, and they will walk right past as if you are an inanimate object. And until someone drops a coin and releases you from your spell, you are an inanimate object. As physically taxing as that may be, it does make for the ultimate in people-watching.

I noticed how so many people walked with their faces glued to their phones. I realized that I was guilty of that so often–texting back a friend as I tripped over sidewalk cracks and electrical cords, and for all I know I could’ve passed by something unusual, something beautiful that I completely missed. I vowed as I stood there to pay attention to my surroundings more as I walked, if only just to soak up the beauty in the mundane. 

It was hardest to stay still at the reactions. The first person to drop money into my box was a friendly older lady. “You look beautiful,” she said. “Well done.” And in dropped a dollar. A dollar! Someone had given me a dollar just for standing, just for being.

A lot of people asked, “Wait…is that real?” “Oh, no, she’s real. I saw her blink.” 

“Oh my God, I love you!” An exuberant man came up to me, headphones around his neck. “Another street performance artist! Together we’re going to save this town! I love you! You’re awesome.” He tipped me, I bowed, gave him a fortune, and he called a friend. “Hey, man, you’ve got to come to the ped mall right now and see this street art! It’s awesome!” It was hard not to grin at that.

I made a concession for my rule that I would only move if money was dropped–when I saw little children I would bend, raise my fan, and wave it at them, then return to position.

Standing got more and more exhausting as the time went on. During long periods where nobody would stop, holding a position started to be unbearable. I could feel sweat trickle down the backs of my legs, and sometimes when a stronger breeze fluttered my robe, I could make tiny tiny movements to ease the tension a bit. 

Every time someone stopped or commented or dropped a moment, though, I got an energy reboot. Every time I was about ready to say, “Eh, it’s probably about noonish. I could pack up,” someone would come along in a few minutes and would stop to take a picture, to smile, to grab a fortune out of my jar and read it. Maybe they’d read it out loud to a friend, or maybe they’d just slip it in their pocket and go about their day. Either way I felt this bubble of happiness and connection.

It was four hours before I finally packed up and started back home. The arm that had been holding the jar was so sore I could barely rotate it, and my shoulders and neck were stiff, but it was all worth it. As I walked home, I slowly started to shed my statueness. Wig tucked under my arm, robe billowing out behind me. My ghost-white face still got some stares, of course, but I was me again, and I felt like a better me, a kinder me who noticed more.

And, when I went home and counted through the cash, I found I’d made about $32! $32 for 4 hours…that’s better than minimum wage. And no taxes deducted.

It wasn’t the money, though. That kind of money wouldn’t make it worth the time, the effort, the sore muscles afterward that carried into the next morning. The whole experience was transformative. I was able to connect with strangers in a far more intimate way than I ever could just observing from a park bench. And I really saw people, and heard them. I felt engaged, alive, and energized, even through the tedium of not being able to move a muscle.


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Art Monday! (Cough-Tuesday…): Rock Fossils and Human Fossils Too

I’ve got a two-fer(yikes, sorry, my Midwest is showing): A page from my sketch journal and a tale besides. Image

Bulgakov and I were getting antsy for some learning. Adjusting to life outside of college not only means figuring out how to create your own budget, personal project goals, and social life, but also how to seek out intellectual stimulation. So on Sunday, Bulgakov and I reveled in our day off by going off to Coralville Lake to hike around. 

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On the way we decided to stop at the Devonian Fossil Gorge, a rocky area between two hills scattered with tiny seashell fossils, and, along some of the limestone edges, amazingly clear imprints of hexagonaria coral (creative name, seeing as how it’s a bunch of little hexagons). I also learned from Bulgakov that Coralville is called Coralville because it used to be a coral reef. Which, you know, would explain about all the coral fossils. 

After we ran around pointing at fossils and yelling, “Look! Look! Look!” like little children, we drove up to the visitor’s center to see if we could get a trail map. The visitor’s center is about what you expect from a minor local hiking attraction in Iowa: a small wooden room with a wall of brochures and maps, a row of stuffed birds that you’re not allowed to touch, and two old brothers who talk your ear off until they start talking about their sister-in-law’s knee gout and you finally make an excuse to leave.

But actually, it was pretty hilarious talking to them for a while. I can’t make what they said up. There was the brother with the cane named James (NOT Jim!– “If you call me Jim, you’re insulting my mother!”) and his older brother (didn’t catch his name). James was absolutely crazy. 

“I didn’t learn to read until I was 34.” he told me earnestly.

“How’d you pass high school?”

“They just passed me on through,” he said. “But I started reading when I was 34. I wore out my dictionary. I wore out two copies of the Bible. I read then entire Hebrew history.”

Other things James told me:

“I got some of those magic mushrooms, you know, and I put them on a pizza, because when they bake they get real big, then I gave some to my dad.” “Did he know there were mushrooms on it?” “NO! You don’t give people pot-mushrooms and tell them about it! He wasn’t mad, though. We’re best friends.”

“He was real tall, and I was always pretty short, but there’s a benefit to being short. I have the tiniest, tiniest wife. I don’t know how I got so lucky.” “So, tiny wives are better than big ones, then?” I confirm.

His brother chimes in, “Oh, hell yeah! Big wives can beat you senseless!”

“My wife’s tiny, but she’s fierce,” James continues, “She’s a crocogator! She’s got the head of a crocodile on one end and the head of an alligator on the other! Now he always asks, if its got two heads then how does it shit? And I always say, it don’t! That’s why it’s so mad!”

The brothers laugh and Amy and I look at each other, each of us thinking the same thing, “Are these guys real?”

Before we finally left, James made us come over to the gazebo overlooking the river valley. “Let me show you one thing and then you girls can get on out of here. Look at all those trees. Imagine this is the fall, when they’re all different colors. And you know, what? I have to say, I found Jesus.” Amy and I nod, wondering where this is going. It doesn’t go anywhere. “Now, I tell you what. Come fall, you two get your sorry asses off the couch and drive out here to look at the leaves.”

“We will, definitely,” We promise.

“Get your lazy asses up and come and out and look at the leaves. Okay, now, get out of here! Go! Go away! Leave!”

His older brother comes out to bid us goodbye. “You didn’t listen to anything he told you, did you?” He asks. We just laugh and wave goodbye, then get in the car and drive to a trailhead to hike around by the lake. I couldn’t help thinking, as we walked and then later, after it started raining and we went to the natural history museum to learn more about what we’d seen, that humans have been on the earth for such a short amount of time, yet I could probably spend an entire Jurassic period or a Devonian period and still be surprised by human beings in all their endless variations.