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Gold Digging

I have a craving. Sort of like when you’re all, “I really want pancakes for dinner! Someone make me pancakes!” in a really whiny voice, and you say it over and over again until someone serves you a plate of hot pancakes or hits you in the face so you stop using that really annoying voice. Sorry. I like pancakes.

Actually this is not about pancakes at all (although isn’t it really always about pancakes??). It’s about art. (Aren’t pancakes an art? Ok, I’ll stop.) It’s about weird art. How do you classify art as weird? I don’t know, you tell me. What does weird really mean, anyway?

You know. I’m not talking about lovely printed photographs, or museum art, or the odd-looking statues you can find in every large public park. Weird art. You know, like, I want to buy seven pairs of old shoes from Goodwill and spray-paint them gold and then cover them in gold flake and hang them up around town.

I want to paint a mural in the inside of an 19th-century abandoned funeral home. I want to watch people in costumes made out of car parts pretend to be sea monsters and battle each other while dancing around a stage made of recycled pallets and old tires. I want to have an indoor picnic in a room filled with a huge tree made out of cardboard. I want to hammer a pencil onto a wall. I want to throw an all-silver Andy Warhol party and eat food out of aluminum pans covered in aluminum foil while dancing under disco balls and bubble machines. I want to sit in a cafe sipping a latte and watch a man in a pig costume read me terrible poetry. This is all weird art shit that I’ve done with my friends.

Ok, so, now that I’ve moved halfway across the Earth, now that I’ve settled in, I’m ready! For weird art. (For pancakes.) For making things. For creating. I can’t stop! It’s a thing I do. It’s a craving I have.

Now, who’s in Seoul and wants to go on an adventure to find some spray paint?

 

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A few days ago I woke up and somehow almost immediately decided that a good way to become a more active Instagram-er would be to take one picture every hour — sort of a documentary of a day in my life, in pictures. It went well… for a few hours, anyway.

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“8am #adayinpics”

A hotter-than-normal Michigan summer morning, therefore, fan on full speed.

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“9am #adayinpics”

Eggs for breakfast with the morning email scan-through.

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“10am #adayinpics”

Tiny potted plant gardening.

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“11am #adayinpics”

Running work errands, sweating profusely, examining the beautiful city I live in.

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“12pm #adayinpics”

Heading back home, stopping to admire the potential of a once-abandoned building that’s already being realized.

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“1pm #adayinpics #resume”

Working on my resume, attempting to create an image of myself on paper that shows my own potential.

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“4pm #adayinpics #walden”

A resume rest and Walden in the living room.

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“6pm #adayinpics #naptime #hidinginsidethehorribleweather”

Finally retreating back to the relative comfort of my bedroom and box fan.

follow me on Instagram: @ohnewfree

There is a very specific conversation I’ve had before with people I loved or cared about at the time, or with people I had wanted to love or care about in the future, when they were leaving, or when I was leaving (but usually the former), leaving for good, and I’d have this conversation knowing I’d never see them again or speak to them again, etc. It’s only happened a few times, this conversation, maybe only twice that I can remember clearly. Once was in second grade, when the girl I called my best friend moved to West Virginia, and I knew I would never see her again, even though I wrote down her new address on a scrap of paper I then proceeded to lose, and now I’ve lost everything of her: her name, her face, and her address.

The second time was many years later, in High School, with the boy I (secretly) called my boyfriend, that someone else would call my crush; a strange friend-like-but-not-friend-like relationship. Relationships get more complicated as you get older, but the simple moments of leaving stay simple and stay with you. He was just changing schools, but I knew that our strange fragile relationship wouldn’t last, wouldn’t survive the separation. I knew I would never see him again, and I told him so in our very last conversation, and though he denied it, though he said we’d see each other again, hang out, talk, go places, we didn’t, we never did, we never have, we never will.

I feel another of these conversations approaching, but I feel like the next one will be different, possibly won’t include a conversation at all, and it might be directed at or include the city I live in, was born in, have spent most of my life in, as well as all of the people I’ve ever met, or seen, or spoken to on the streets of my childhood neighborhood, in the state and region and road I grew up in and on and around. I’m leaving, moving, growing up and taking off, and saying goodbye to people and places, or maybe not saying goodbye at all, maybe just thinking back, reflecting, taking it all in once more as someone drives me to the airport, or as I cross the state line in my little black sports car, trunk full of belongings which will be my material memories of this place I’ve been in for so long. And maybe it’ll be different this time, this goodbye will be different than all the rest, won’t be for forever; we’ll still have holidays, and funerals, and maybe a couple months in a few years if I lose my job and my apartment and move back home for a while. I won’t lose everything from this relationship, although the faces will fade, and I might get lost on the side streets next time I drive on them.

In our hectic, ever-changing, let-me-check-my-calendar lives, it’s easy to forget what’s around us. Literally around us. Like, the tree next to your driveway, or the elementary school in your neighborhood, or the cat across the street that always watches you when you go to check your mail. And it’s no surprise that we do this. Everyday things don’t matter so much when they’re always there, and you’re always running around them trying to get those calendar tasks completed — swerving your car to miss hitting the cat, stopping for those pesky elementary school busses, etc. Slowing down is not usually in our schedules. But today, it was in mine.

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Today I went somewhere in my city that I’ve never been before. You could call it exploration, and maybe it was, but this was different. As part of a community design workshop, I was told to go observe. To sit, quietly, and listen, and watch. To look at a place of my own choosing and think deeply about it. To really look at it. To examine my surroundings.

I was at a local park, one that is mostly abandoned and overgrown. The spot I chose was close to a former golf course, near the club house. I sat down near the building on a cement staircase, put away my cell phone, and took out a scrap of paper. I listened. I heard, first, the sound the branches of a nearby tree made in the wind. I heard birds chirping, and cars passing by on a nearby road. I looked at the shadows the trees made, and compared those to the shadows made by the handrails of the staircase.

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DSCN3541I watched the journey of an ant across the step I was sitting on, and drew an ant on my scrap of paper. I looked at the boarded up building and thought about how I, sitting on this staircase built into the side of a hill, was looking at a small example of humanity. I could hear the buzz from one of the still-functioning security lights on the building, and when I walked over for a closer look, the sound from the light drowned out everything else.

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I then made my way to the golf course itself, tramping through long tangled grass and pits of dandelions. Observing was different while moving, I found, but wandering through such a strange place and really looking at it still made quite an impact.

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I also remember looking at the trees — how they had been, many years before, placed with golfers in mind. Today, they stand awkwardly apart; the maples and the cherry trees natural decorations of the past.

The last thing I spotted before heading back to the workshop group was a sign, placed far out into the wild, overgrown, dandelion plantation. Plodding out past the decorative trees, I came to the sign for hole 2. The painted map, faded and peeling from the weather, showed what the space use to look like.

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Stumbling over more dandelions, I made my way out of the golf course, past the buzzing security light, and up the cement stairs. Only it wasn’t just an overgrown golf course anymore. It wasn’t just another park. It was different. I understood it a little bit better than I had before. I had given 30 minutes to this place and had taken away a greater understanding of not only that ant on the step, or that annoying light, but also about interaction with space in general, and how people tend to move through their lives without really looking.