No pictures for this one – I remember it was dark, reasonably early in the process, before the truly major panic mode set in, when I still thought that I had time to sort and save instead of cull and trash. This was one of the moments when I realized that I didn’t.
Out on the back porch, which had become something of a dumping ground for yard equipment and old pet stuff and a couple of dead barbecues and so on, I found a dozen or so wooden dowels. They were all 36″ long, about 1″ in diameter (maybe only 3/4″), all dirty, all very old. Replacing them if I needed to would probably cost me $1 each at Home Depot.
One might think that they were there as debris, their origination and original purpose forgotten. How insignificant they were, how worn, how used, how old! Just some crap that for whatever reason I hadn’t bothered to throw out years ago, right?
One couldn’t be more wrong.
When I was an undergraduate studying physics at UC Irvine in 1977 or 1978 I had to take some “breadth” requirement classes. History. Art. Economics. English. Literature. Something other than math and physics and computer programming. I picked art.
Art 101 A-B-C at UC Irvine was not your typical class. UCI was (and still is) world renowned for modern art, avante garde art, performance art. I was expecting painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, that sort of thing. I got performance art (and a little bit of painting, drawing, sculpture, etc).
At the first session of class I got the usual information about how the class would be run. We would meet three days a week and do various things in class, while we would also have a weekly project to work on by ourselves outside of class. The first week’s project – “Take sticks and strings – make art.”
Let us pause to look at our 21 year old physics major who is expecting and used to assignments such as, “Read Chapter Five and do problems 10 through 25.” There’s some confusion, some ambiguity, some anxiety here.
WTF does “take sticks and strings – make art” mean??!!
I couldn’t get an answer to save my life. The teacher, Jerry Green, looked like he was ready to bust out laughing in my face the more I protested and asked questions and tried to pin him down. “Take sticks and strings – make art.” That was it. It was all in there. Figure it out.
The most I got from him was “something between toothpicks and telephone poles, thread and the ropes they use to tie a supertanker to the docs – make art.”
That wasn’t helpful.
In desperation, the day before it was due, I went to the hardware store (I don’t even remember if there were Home Depot stores that far back) and got about two dozen 36″ wooden dowels and a big ball of heavy-duty twine. I went early to the art department campus and outside of the classroom I started tying knots on a light pole there, then suspending the sticks. Sort of like a big spider web, almost random, not real stable, not really blowing in the breeze, some of the sticks tied together so that they made a bit of a 3-D form around the light pole.
It was a “thing.” It mean nothing, there was no symbolism, it was just a stupid thing that I did out of desperation and panic to fit the instructions I had been given. I hated it. I hated the class.
Jerry loved it.
It’s late, I’ll talk more about the art class tomorrow. But those sticks that I found in my back yard two months ago? The ones that were filthy because they’d been used to hold up plants and muck out drains and all sorts of dirty, disposable jobs over the intervening 40 years or so?
Those were the dowels I had bought for that class.
One by one I snapped them in half. It wasn’t hard, most were already rotted through or cracked. I tossed them into the trash and moved on. It didn’t take five minutes.
That’s one of the things I left behind in this move.
A dozen or so 36″ wooden dowels.