As the sun rises over Ashland, Oregon on a freezing January morning, I’m standing alone in the middle of a cow pasture, holding onto a loose piece of string that’s supposed to represent my connection to ... society? Community?
Actually, it's not clear to me what anything represents because I’m having trouble staying awake. A friend rousted me from my sleeping bag only a few minutes earlier to participate in this secret Saturday morning experimental art performance. The performance involves mostly me, standing in the frost-covered grass, (and this isn’t part of the performance) fantasizing about a cup of coffee.
That night, I’m fighting sleep again. At least I’m inside this time, though. I’m lying on the cold cement floor of a warehouse, watching a friend's avant-garde film, e.g.— audio from the 1976 sci-fi classic Logan's Run spliced over images of shoes from old detective films.
The kids lying around me are mostly in art school; mostly interested in concepts I can't get into, like minimalism. My friend David, the one who roped me into the performance this morning, once explained his minimalist tendencies to me: "I'm interested in exploring boredom, failure and disappointment."
So, I’m here at a super-positive, community-building, art-sharing weekend to try and dig their artwork. But in practical terms, supporting my friend's pro-boredom artistic forays means getting comfortable on a cement warehouse floor while freezing my ass off for two days. Someone passes me a bottle of wine and a bag of popcorn salted with nutritional yeast.
On the drive back to Portland the next morning in our Dodge Intrepid, we stop once for gas, once for ice cream and once for antique shopping. The winter rain turns to winter snow. We roll into town long after dark, and we're only thirty blocks from my house when suddenly, the windshield wipers stall.
Cyrus pulls the Intrepid off to the side of the road. He's wearing a felt Christmas tree on his head as a hat and has a fat ceramic cat in his lap - his antique store buy. He and I get out and open the hood. The street is silent and snowflakes drift into the engine, melting on the bundle of car organs. I shine the weak blue light of my cell phone into the crusty metal mess. We conclude we have no idea what we're doing. We return to the car and Cyrus returns the cat to his lap.
There are four of us in the car and together we hatch a plan. Sarah and Julia remove their shoes and pull out their shoelaces, tying them together to make two long, sturdy cords. Cyrus threads the cords through two holes in the wipers and pulls the other end through the open car window— yes, this process involves driving with the windows open—and into our waiting hands in the front seat of the car. For the next thirty blocks, we drive slowly, pulling the wipers manually back and forth across the snowy windshield. It is definitely the best performance of the weekend.