Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Away Away Go

A 3-Day Bar
The night before the big studio recording, one of my main collaborating artists received a 3-day bar from Tent City for missing a scheduled meeting. Aiyiee! I was in camp when he arrived to explain his situation. His zip drive walked off with someone at the library. He'd been frantically trying to retrieve the disk and recompile his graduate school applications when he lost track of time and missed his meeting. The camp adviser was lenient. In light of the freezing weather, he'd be back in camp on Sunday and they'd hold off bagging and tagging his personal belongings if he successfully filled his three securities. Mark's participation is crucial to the project. He's one of five teams, only three of which are prepared to go into the recording studio. I stepped in to offer assistance. Here's a guy who, in the midst of trying to drive out of a rut, lost his very last home due to a missed meeting? Seems harsh, but rules are rules and Tent City isn't the easy ticket we outsiders think it is. I offered him a place to work for the day, a computer to help him reconstruct his files and sleeping quarters for three days. It took some pains to set it all up. It meant borrowing a friend's old computer, installing Word at 5am, reclaiming my boat heater from a friend's garage and going to Tent City at 6am before making a 7AM meeting. But I just couldn't fathom losing another artist. The collaborations have been a significant part of the project and, after losing Giant, the resident poet, I knew I needed to fight for Mark.

Where? Where?
Giant, aka Matthew Barrett, left camp yesterday with no proclaimed destination. It was planned, but not long planned, his departure. When I asked where he was going he said, "Away." I knew he'd been having a hard time, not only with the camp politics, but with the anniversary of a friend's passing and with his tent-mate's impending departure. And by now I also know that even a sane, healthy, well-adjusted individual would break down given these conditions. You need to get out. The conditions are too much, too constant, too implosive. I'd seen Giant begin to turn offers down. He didn't want to go through with the collaboration. He declined to read his poetry at the Christmas dinner. He seemed both hurt and proud. This wasn't his first time leaving and it won't be his last. I trust he knows what he needs and is following a path. He'll be missed. He is missed. He was an upstanding member of the community who fought for what was good and pulled his own weight and shared what little he had and was eager to help and quick with a joke and a smile.

Coffee at Victor Steinbrueck Park 
SHARE consultant, Scott Morrow, heads to Victor Steinbrueck Park (the little park with the totem pole by Pike Place Market) in the freezing dark, predawn every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning from 6:00-7:30AM with coffee and donuts for the homelessHe's been doing it for 20 years. It's the way he connects with people on the streets. Every few years, he moves to a new location in a different part of the city. If you want to  talk to Scott, that's the time to catch him. I needed to see Scott about arranging community credits for Tent City 3 residents willing to work the Tether Gallery show on 6 January. I'd like to mimic Tent City life and need a couple of securities and an EC to screen people. If it weren't for the predawn coffee, I wouldn't have seen the magnificent sunrise! Ten shades of orange washed over Puget Sound and Rainier stood up in her nightgown and the Olympics, powdered themselves in a wisp to the west. Everything was a mix and marriage of elements, then the oranges darkened and magically became blue and the day began.
Audio Recording
Christopher Wilson, the recording artist, arrived at my studio at 5pm with a large silver trunk in his arms. It contained the majority of his digital recording equipment--audio monitors, preamplifiers, filters, noise reducers and power sources. I went to his car and helped him carry the rest of his equipment in. I had no idea there'd be so much of it--headphones, vacuum tubes, mic stands, silver cords, acoustic blankets and, ah, that little Brauner microphone like a little robot in its box and like a satellite poised on the mix stand. Roger, from camp, could have told me its magnitude and star date. While Chris was setting up, I asked about the equipment and about the kinds of work he does. He records classical music. When he was at Cornish, he scored modern dance pieces then moved towards something called electronic academic. I asked, What's electronic academic? He told me to check out John Gibson. I'm listening now. Shhhhh. Don't anyone move. Such a focused music. Isolating, heady. It's got something to do with the horizon, I think. One moment you're walking on water, the next your father is breaking the china. It belongs in a gallery. Would be friendly to an installation. Or partnered with an art film. One of Gibson's pieces is a laptop orchestra called Wind Farm. Six sound artists sit on the floor working laptops, three florescent bar lights placed on the stage behind, three monitors above show clouds passing over water, then turbines.

Oakley arrived at 6pm as instructed and the others were soon to follow. Three groups came in to record. Oakley and Josie Elizabeth Davis were the first pair. They recorded a loose presentation of their project, which involved photographs of a stream Oakley planned to take and a musicalized accompaniment Josie would develop. While their piece didn't appear to stem from a specific experience at  Tent City, Oakley's choice of an eagle and a running stream struck me as poignant--both powerful symbols of freedom in the natural worldLyn Coffin and Mark Miner were next with their prepared script, "Beowulf at Tent City." Unfortunately Lyn was out of town, but luckily the fabulous Vanessa DeWolf agreed to read for her. And Mark is such an articulate guy,  so able to convey the experience of life at Tent City in clean, clear language. They spent a bit of time reviewing the script and explaining the significance of the choices Lyn and Mark made and what a particular objects and actions meant. The last artist pairing was Jacqueline Jaurez and Vanessa DeWolf. They had an easy rapport and laughed a lot. They shared stories and talked about their ideas for a performance. At the very end, they tried a short improvisation with words they developed at their first meeting. That was exciting to hear.

3AM Security Shift
After checking in on the cats and resting a bit, I arrived in time for my security shift at 3AM. Quite a feat, given that I had, just moments before, been sleeping on a sheepskin rug in front of an electric fireplace with two black cats at my feet. I'm cat and dog sitting this week which means access to lovely, warm homes and sweet, furry animals that need my attention. I'm crossing town twice a day to visit them. Along with my many duties at camp and my attempts to prepare for the gallery show and listen for the Song of Tent City, it's too much, but I couldn't say no. Not only do I love all these animals, I need the money.

Alas, the sign-up sheet for Friday was "lost." When they reconstructed it, they forgot about me and someone else signed up for my shift--a shift I waited in line in the cold for, a shift I needed. So we had three securities instead of two, but with half the camp inside the church asleep, it made little sense to have extra securities outside. I offered to do a shift inside or fill a shift later in the week if that was needed. "So you're bowing out?" was the response I got. Ach! It's assumed, at all times, in all situations, that you're in the wrong, negligent, planning to be negligent, and should be made jump through hoops to prove yourself. The system is against you from the start and makes you feel as if you're in junior high school and being penalized for the mistake it is assumed you are going to make before you have the chance to make it. The whole world makes mistakes everyday and it is forgiven for them, but when Tent City makes a mistake they lose their home. That is the difference. But when one is working in a system where they cannot be right, they have little incentive to be conscientious or helpful and so have to learn other ways of coping. I understand why why people get frustrated. I myself need to get out and have been noticing that urge since I first came to camp. It's cold. One just can't stand around doing nothing, freezing their feet and hands off. One needs to get out. Go to a cafe, a bookstore, . The rules seem sometimes to be so roundabout and ridiculous, they seem designed to make you fail. They only way to outsmart them is by not being around to follow or break them, is by getting out. I signed up for three open shifts, then bowed out of this shift and went to bed. Before I left, I went inside the church to see the sleepers. I have work tomorrow. I have to clean house and make an airport run before noon. I could use the sleep. 

Going Inside
On very cold nights the residents are invited inside the church to sleep. Into. Inside. Walls around. Roof over. Into. Last night was one of those nights. It was our second invitation in fact. This time we accepted the offer. After giving up my security shift, I went in to see. It was my first time inside Maple Leaf Lutheran. I sat in the first pew, in the dark, listening to the concert of snoring. It was a mix of strange and peaceful and human, bodies all around. It made me think of the real and unhallowed sounds that would have accompanied that hallowed event with Mary and Joseph in the manger. People all swaddled and curled up on the altar, in the aisles, on the pews, sparkling paper stars overhead. Two men stood guard at the doorway, waiting, listening. The world outside stood waiting, listening, glistening and proud, as if just having exploded, as if just having stretched out.

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