J’ouvert was this morning at 6 am. The beginning of the transplanted-for-weather-Carnivale here in Brooklyn. Usually it began at 3 or 4 am. Perhaps this is about slaves having to secretly celebrate. J’ouvert means, “day opening,” or “I open.”
This year it was moved to 6, and accompanied by an even-greater police presence, and enormous lights. People gather and throw powdered color at each other. In the day, you might see someone who was there, with the white they are wearing showing streaks of orange or blue. Every year a few people are shot, and this year, in spite of the security, a few people were shot again, just not at J’ouvert official’s spot, where the police prevented the carrying of large bags, alcohol, or weapons. A couple of blocks away.
I had this moment I didn’t care what was at the museums here, and I thought, this might mean I should leave New York. I never wanted to be someone who walked through Grand Central unmoved. Who found that beauty day-to-day, dull. I don’t find it dull, but I don’t notice when traveling under it, it is just another stop.
It was a feeling much like the feeling I had in Kansas City my last year there. I’ve done that. I’ve done that, and done it well, and now there must be something else.
When I was in Kansas City, I sat in a car with a friend and told her I was planning to move back (home?). I still felt guilty for leaving in the first place, and if we could still be friends the way we were, or how we were friends now, what with my visits, leaving and returning, I wasn’t sure, it was a lot to choke on. Most of my most intense talks have taken place in cars. Where we retreated to say what we had not been able to say. Where someone said what had to be said before we could part.
I ran into friends at the Whitney. It’s a big city, but not that big.
There were big installations of sand and water and rocks to walk on, little huts and tents to peek in, and vats of foam blocks, tart hay, and books to step in, lie in. Any art event that requires taking your shoes off excites me.
Were we having an art experience? I don’t know. I didn’t think much about the tropics, or Eden (the respective titles of the pieces). I felt joy at playing, and at seeing other grown-ups playing. There were garments to take up and put on. I pulled a red stream of plastic off the rack, and placed it over the top of a tent, where I liked it. My feet had a lot of stuck-on sand. Go back, the guards said. Back: up through the centimeter-high stream on the white plastic squares, exiting that other way onto rock, instead of sand.
Art via my bare feet, on my back. People love lying down at museums. They just love it. The vat full of hay smelled like the Renaissance Festival to me, that was the place we went that had hay. And it does smell “sweet,” as the novels always say.
I climbed in the vat of books, and that was a funny Scrooge McDuck idea. None of the books were anything in particular, not trashy, not classic, nothing, I didn’t recognize them. They weren’t all that comfortable.
I waited a while for the vat of foam pieces to open up. A couple were in there. When I stepped in, the man said, “Be careful. It’s easy to fall.” I sank in, and lay back. I would like a bed just like it. Crumbs from eating in bed would fall to the bottom!
There was a room with hammocks and Jimi Hendrix blasting. Lie in a hammock. In another room, more creepy sad ’60s images, but this time, blue beds and pillows to lie on. Just lie there. Put your back into it.
I had lost my friends, then I found them. I recommended the stream and the shoe removal.
I had come to see the Calder mobiles in motion. They “activate” them on the hour. “Activate” is much too aggressive a word. A man had a yard stick with white tape on the end. He covered his shoes in blue hospital shoe covers, and a child said, “Why do you put those on?”
“To keep the platform clean,” he says.
He steps up onto the platform, walks over, and touches the yard stick to the mobile with the power and insistence of a parent cleaning the skinned knee of a child. The mobile moved at the pace of a slow walk.
Still, it was lovely, things were changing, changing in circles, and the shadows, especially, were change, were nothing, actually. Were in space, at the moment they were, and then on, and on.
Some of them, the man “activated” with just his hand.
“They chose some of us for the training, the people at the institute, and if we did it okay, they let us do it,” he explained.
What should move must move, if only to tremble.
I did not walk down for the West Indian Day parade today. I got coffee a couple of blocks down, and there watched the men wear flags as capes, kerchiefs over their noses and mouths, the women with feather wings built as big and amazing as the Eiffel Tower, girls in tutus, women with garments that defied gravity, showing underboob or the whole naked side of each side of them, behind netting. I heard the pounding bass from afar, and the man shouting on a mic, as they do, from a truck. I didn’t feel I needed to be there. I’ve been there.