If you've been here before and read Ellie's post, you know that I have taken advantage of the geographic diversity of my friends in distributing my cards in an array of settings. Well, even before Ellie got underway, dear friend Eric had approached me about trailing my cards across the U.S.
In his own very generous words, "I've known Debbie for many years from our careers as film editors in Los Angeles. We've kept in touch, and I've watched her evolve over time into an accomplished photographer and blog writer, who has now emerged as a poet - always growing as an artist. When I first went to her 'I Hold This Moment' website and saw the cool 'words and images' cards that Deb was taking out into the streets and posting at random locations, I thought, 'Aha! Deb is now a guerrilla artist!' As I planned my escape from Los Angeles for the summer, back to the old family cabin in Saratoga Co., NY, I decided to take her up on her request for help in getting her cards into new territory, and offered to post some of her cards along my cross-country drive, guerrilla-style: I'd stealthily post a card, then be on my way out of town before anyone noticed the important message I'd left behind, compelling them to hold that moment! What an adventure!
"Armed with seven of her cards, I loaded my car and headed east. Unfortunately, by the time I took my foot off the gas pedal, it was five days later and I was arriving at the cabin. So instead, I decided to post the cards in various New York State locations..."
Eric is an astute observer of humanity and the goings on around him. Here are his musings prompted by his postcard dispersal.
July 8 Northville, NY
"When we "go into town" for groceries and stuff, the closest place is Northville (pop.1050), eight miles away. My co-conspirator Leslie and I are sitting in the laundromat and I'm struck by this poor woman sitting over by the dryers, and how miserable she looks. I notice there's a bulletin board next to the exit. Then I think, 'Duh! This woman needs a little cheering up, and probably could use some inspiration, too. I'll post one of Deb's cards.' And up went the card that begins, 'you search for your personal portal to your personal path...' Hopefully, she'll come over and read it."
July 21 Northville Laundromat
"I'm back here with another load of dirty laundry. The sad woman is nowhere to be found, and much to my disappointment, Deb's card is gone. It's been replaced by a colorful flyer called 'God Loves You' put there by the Broadalbin Methodist Church.
'Here we go again,' I'm stewing, 'big box organized religions, and their well-funded proselytizing! How can we hope to compete with the Methodists? The little mom and pop ideologies just don't stand a chance!' But upon reflection over a bag of Mike and Ikes from the vending machine while my laundry does circles in the dryer, I realize that 'God Loves You' is not such a bad message at all, and in any case, the messages on Deb's cards are all different, and as such there is no specific dogma, creed, or 'word' contained in them as a whole. Anyway, I shouldn't get all hung up on the meanings of the cards; my job is to get the them out there, where the public can find them. In a recent e-mail, Deb had suggested putting the cards in well-trafficked places. Maybe Northville is just too small..."
August 8 Albany, NY
"The bus station in Albany is tucked beneath a downtown maze of exit ramps and overpasses, like a necessary but unglamorous organ; a spleen, or maybe a colon - since we're talking about bringing people in and sending them back out. Several thousand people pass through here every day, coming from or going to Buffalo or Boston, Montreal or New York City, and points in-between.
"Outside, several eager cabbies wait for fares. Inside, people wait for their busses. A young man slumps forward, dozing off. His cell phone slips to the floor. A family sitting in a booth in the snack bar chats loudly in some foreign tongue, interrupted by the ticket agent who slips inside the doorway and informs them that they're about to miss their bus.
"Our friend Robin has been visiting, but now she has to leave, and we're dropping her here to catch a bus to Logan Airport in Boston. I place a card in the snack bar, next to a greasy poster of a giant hamburger. People here have time on their hands as they wait to depart. I can't resist posting Deb's card 'Beginning' ('when you climb out of a hole...'). She must've had the Albany bus station in mind when she wrote that!"
August 21 Edinburg, NY
"We take the back way home from Northville, up Tennantville Rd. Leslie, a set painter by profession, notices this half-demolished old shack by the side of the road, saying it reminds her of a movie set, where one wall of a room is left out to accommodate the placement of the cameras. We stop to check it out, and I feel a sudden urge to post a card in this beautiful but surreal spot. It's not exactly a 'well-trafficked area,' but we're here as a couple of lookie-loos, and others may stop here, too.
"The owner comes out of the house across the road to see what we're doing. Far from being angry at us trespassers, Dave (who is about fifty) is amused at the number of people who have stopped to look at the dilapidated relic, which is being dismantled piecemeal and hauled away by a neighbor in his spare time. He asks about the card which I've tacked to one of the walls and I say that I've been posting a number of them in various places for a friend in California. When he asks what their purpose is, I say, 'She's an artist.' This explanation seems to satisfy him. He chuckles and nods his head. Dave is a good man.
"He gives us a brief history of the area: Tennantville was a 19th Century hamlet located several miles deeper in the woods. There, a few dozen workers were employed in logging and milling lumber, as well as manufacturing various wood products from canes to toothpicks. He isn't certain how old this shack actually is, but when he acquired the property several years ago he was told that it had once been a little convenience store which served the rural community.
"Seeing that he has piqued our interest, Dave points to the barn next door, battered and leaning to one side. He tells us that the barn was the scene of a snowmobile fatality seven or eight winters ago when a drunken snowmobiler, traveling at high speed, failed to negotiate a curve in the road and crashed into the barn head-on, dying at the scene. A crude sheet of tin still covers the point of impact. Behind the barn sits a deep stand of Ponderosa pine, thick treetops cutting out the sunlight to the forest floor below - gray, gloomy, timeless - nature silently waiting to reclaim all trace of these old structures.
"I feel a brooding sense of energy here. Long before we arrived to post our card, many souls passed through this very spot, and at least one of them died here. Without getting too distracted from being in the present moment, I believe it's good to be aware of the past, and of those who have gone before us."
August 28 Edinburg, NY
"I drive past the old Tennantville Rd. shack a week later and an additional two-thirds of it has disappeared, including the wall where the card was posted. Apparently Dave's neighbor has been continuing the demolition. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust."
August 31 Saratoga Springs, NY
"Except for a couple of brief hiatuses for world wars, folks have come to the Saratoga Race Course each summer since 1863, when wealthy Easterners would arrive in Saratoga Springs to partake of the curative waters, to watch the horse races, and to escape the heat of the big cities. Today, old money families like the Whitneys and the Astors still come here, rubbing elbows with tens of thousands of common folks, all watching the races, hoping the Thoroughbred they've wagered on will win them some money.
"I post one of Deb's cards under the grandstand, just around the corner from a bank of betting monitors which is being studied intently by hundreds of fans between races. Later, I cruise back several times to stalk the posting, and am disappointed to see that everyone seems so intense in their study of the betting monitors that nobody is drawn over to look at the card. I could probably put a burning cross on the wall, and no one would notice. Actually, the one thing that probably would make people notice the card would be to attach cash to it, or at least a parimutuel ticket for an upcoming race. But that isn't in the ground rules, I suppose - although no actual ground rules were included with my supply of cards."
September 9 Saugerties, NY
"I drive south a hundred miles to Saugerties to visit my old friend Alan, whom I've known since our days as freshmen in the college dorm. Just a few miles from Woodstock, its more celebrated neighbor, Saugerties has reinvented itself from a dying old river town on the Hudson into a gentrified patron to tourism (with a few rough edges), fortuitously positioned a convenient distance for weekenders up from New York City. Alan suggests that we post a card at a civic arts project he has seen: an exhibition of about two dozen large sculptures and assemblages displayed on the sidewalk along a three block stretch of Main St. We park and walk.
"Our favorite sculpture combines elements of two local landmarks: the old Saugerties Lighthouse, and Big Pink, the historic house in the nearby woods where The Band wrote and recorded their breakthrough album "Music From Big Pink" in 1968. We made a pilgrimage there a couple of years ago. The Band had long-departed, but the house, now just another residence in exurbia, is still pink.
"Back on Main St., a little girl makes faces at us from inside the window of a beauty shop. A bored crossing guard at the corner watches us post Deb's card. It looks right at home, nestled between the lighthouse and the pink house."
September 27 Brooklyn, NY
"We are in Brooklyn, visiting Leslie's brother and his family before she flies back to LA. It's unseasonably hot for the end of September, and everyone is hanging out on the sidewalk, or cooling off in Prospect Park. As we walk around, I carry Deb's card with the image of all the old staples from long-ago ads covering a telephone pole as I search here in Brooklyn for another telephone pole covered with old staples on which to post it. Unfortunately, the telephone poles around here are all metal - there's not a single patch of rusty staples to be found - but I do come across this cool classic archway at a corner of Prospect Park. Knowing that Deb is a dog lover and dog rescue advocate, I place her card on a metal pole beneath a flyer for dog walking."
September 28 Brooklyn Parade Grounds
"The Parade Grounds at the southern edge of Prospect Park has a rich history: Civil War era troops drilled here from the 1860's until late in that century. Baseball diamonds were added, and for many years thereafter, it was the scene of Brooklyn's highest caliber sandlot baseball games (Brooklynites Sandy Koufax and Joe Torre played here, among many others).
"Just across from the Parade Grounds, back in the late 1940's, young writer William Styron lived in a rooming house, fleeing Manhattan, as did so many before and after him, for the cheaper rents here. His upstairs neighbor was a woman who had been relocated to Brooklyn after having been liberated from Auschwitz. She became the inspiration for Styron's acclaimed novel 'Sophie's Choice.'
"Today, we sit on the sidelines, watching our niece and nephew play in the kids' soccer league. If Brooklyn is the melting pot of America, and I'm pretty sure it is, then right here is where they make the special sauce. Several thousand people of all ages and ethnicities will visit the Parade Grounds today. I post Deb's card 'If a tree could speak...' on a tree next to the sidewalk just outside the main entrance. Hopefully, it will attract some attention."
October 11 Edinburg, NY
"I want to thank Deb for the privilege of posting her cards. It was even more fun than I imagined! As I looked for interesting spots to post them, I found myself looking at old familiar places and seeing them in entirely new ways. The experience of posting Deb's cards, then photographing the posts and then writing about them, expanded my role to to that of 'collaborator,' if only temporarily. But isn't that precisely what interactive art aspires to? Thank you, thank you!"
And I want to thank Eric for taking me and my cards on this journey of his NY travels, of offering a glimpse into a different kind of lifestyle far from my California roots. As always, I welcome anyone who would like to post cards in their travels or in their territories.
If you are a Southern California resident, I want to alert you that I have a large-sized words & images piece, 'Beginning,' in an upcoming exhibit "American Dream: Lost or Found" at Orange County Creatives in Laguna. Exhibit open from November 3 - 28, 2014. Please hop on over.