Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Today's phone call
While I'm on the other line, I get a message on my office voice mail from a man whose name is unintelligible. I call the number he leaves.
He's got a large collection of bags, he says, and he wants to know whether he needs a permit of some kind to lay them all out in a public space so he can take photographs of them.
I start asking questions, partly to figure out what he wants to do, and to determine whether I need to refer him to the Film Permit office, for a still photography permit.
But no, he's not a professional photographer doing a photo shoot. He's an artist and he wants a space large enough to lay out these bags - I'm still not sure what he is talking about - because he has so many of them. And maybe he wants this to be an art project.
I'm looking out my office window at the park with kids on their scooters and playing on the swings, and I say, "Well, you could do it in a park, but you'd want to be careful about foot traffic, I guess."
He says, "Yeah, that's why I don't want to do it on the Promenade or someplace like that. What I was thinking was the Civic Auditorium lawn."
"That would be a great place for it."
"Say whatever happened to that place, that was a great place, all kinds of great shows. Why'd the city shut it down, anyway?"
And I feel, unexpectedly, a spur of anger again, at the way things had gone. But I reel it in and I relate the story to him objectively - the plan created through years of community outreach and consultation, the partnership negotiated, the renovation planned, the lost funding, the shutdown.
"Such a shame, that was such a good place," he says. "How could they do that?"
It sounds almost like he's accusing me too, and I just blurt out, "Well, I lost my job!" I'm horrified at losing my composure. He murmurs something kind, and we return to discuss his project.
"The funny thing is," I tell him, "that space is kind of unregulated now. It's public property so anyone has access to it, but it's not a park so there's no rules for it."
I encourage him to do his art project there, and ask him what he's going to do with it when it's done. He starts to tell me that back in the '80s he was a musician with his brother, who went on to be a success with some big name bands. But he worked with more arty groups on project that they hoped would be a big hit. He named a name I recognized.
"That must have been fun, working with him," I say.
"It didn't work out, it broke up over money," and I hear in his voice an echo of my own blurted out anger and disappointment. Like mine, a distant grievance brought back into sharp remembrance and pain.
I listen as he goes on to tell me how the world changed, the record business died, and 9/11 happened. He got into marketing, which resulted in the collection of what I now learn are gift bags distributed to guests at celebrity special events. He's written a song about them. He wants to photograph and make an art piece about them.
I listen and he talks, and then as I take a breath, I can feel another shift; it's like we both remember the context we're in again. I tell him I think his idea sounds interesting, and it should be fine for him to use that open lawn for photography. He thanks me for my time.