Archive for November, 2007
sign translated: Where I am is not who I am.
I missed all of day four. on day three I went home around one in the morning and posted the blog and went to bed. my mind was so full of images and sounds and thoughts turning over and over and over I could not sleep. at seven in the morning I was still awake…and wide awake. finally I slept fitfully and woke up around five feeling crummy: achy body, sore throat… but I was determined to go to the état and listen to the story telling and sleep in the tent so I could get the night-time sounds. this plan of mine did not happen which kinda bums me out, but as I am feeling sick it was probably just as well. on the last day I did go to the état and stayed about seven hours, but with no fire barrels to keep warm I was freezing and my feet were wet so finally at about five-thirty I went back home and crawled back into bed.
so…the point of this little diversion is that my body (and here I am projecting onto other bodies as well) could not handle being outside for three ten hour days. and I came from a place of warmth and health, and returned to that place each night. at the risk of sounding naive…it seems to me we have shelter because our bodies need shelter. and maybe it is really that basic. we need shelter and we need to shelter those who do not have shelter for the simple reason that their bodies are like our bodies and need to be sheltered.
left at: État D’Urgence, Place Émilie-Gamelin.
today, I am happy to be able to say, “the barber” was back. as part of my project for atsa I am recording sound to create a portrait of the “état d’urgence,” but today I focused on the visual of “the barber’s” hands as he combed and snipped. I want to capture the transformation he effects–both in terms of the person’s look and in terms of the person’s state of being. “the barber” (that is what he wants me to call him) spent a total of 48 minutes giving attention to this one hair-cut. pretty amazing.
later in the day one of the guys asked me if I had eaten yet and I told him no…not yet, he said, “follow me” and proceeded to escort me into the dining tent where much to my surprise we were served a gourmet meal by a group of young singers who later sang for us and told jokes. It really is incredible how atsa creates this space where others give and connect.
I am experiencing a really strange push-pull of emotions: sadness and anger because a country as rich as canada has three hundred people show up every night to sleep on the floor (the table tops are used to elevate people above the cement) in a tent in a park in downtown montreal in the winter. then I have a rush of “love” as I witness the genuine caring we give to each other. but I think in the end for me the sadness and anger wins out because this poverty is a human to human creation. it is neither an act of nature nor an act of war. we, us good ol canadians, we created this suffering and we tolerate that this suffering exists. and the état proves, makes manifest, that we can do a lot, we have the resources, we have the human power, but the état also proves that we allow this poverty to exist–save for these two individuals (pierre and annie) who have created this temporary structure where we do come together and show what we, us citizens, are capable of.
and irony upon irony this location where the état takes shape, place émilie-gamelin, is named after a woman who ran a soup kitchen all year long…
left at: État D’Urgence at Place Émilie-Gamelin, Sainte Catherine corner of Berri.
yeah…this “dreamemt sign” should give you an idea of my day today.
yesterday was the festive wonderment day where I spent hours holding a mirror. I held the mirror on my lap sitting opposite the guys so they could see how they looked as their hair was being cut. the hair stylist/barber took his time, he was thorough, he did a good job. I watched this barber, this man, touch another man’s hair, face, neck. I saw him bend a head down so he could carefully clip hair at the nape of the neck, I saw him curve an ear back so he could snip those long hairs that hide just behind the ear, I saw him tussle hair as a mother would tussle her child’s hair as he gave the final touch-up. all this tender touching and it was so beautiful the way the guys would close their eyes, relax under his care, allow themselves to be transformed.
and today the barber was not there.
and a certain excitement of something new happening had evaporated. and rain turning to ice covering the snow made it slippery to walk. and it felt grey. and I looked at everyone. many, many people. too many dispossessed people. and I was invited by atsa to give a conference about my dream project. and I felt there was nothing I could say. I had nothing to say. there was nothing to say.
but the mike and the sound system were brought in just for me. julie had been told to bring in the sound system and set it up so I could say something. I tried to talk. but I was so sad, and I was fighting the urge to cry. and fighting the urge to cry takes a lot of energy. so I don’t think I was sounding too professional standing up there with a mike looking at all the people who were trying to keep dry, trying to enjoy a warm coffee. it felt irrelevant and wrong to talk about me, what I had done, what I had hoped to accomplish. so I talked about being there. in the tent. feeling sad. after stumbling some words out and pausing and stumbling more words out and pausing a woman came up to the front with me and she said she could see I was suffering and what I needed was a hug. she hugged me, and then she went on to say as a street person she knows every street person needs this. this touch, this care, this concern. and she’s right.
left at: in front of Mario and his dogs squat, which is an amazing diplomatic feat for atsa as dogs are officially not allowed in this park (some would say in an attempt to get rid of homeless people as many homeless people have dogs,) État D’Urgence at Place Émilie-Gamelin, Sainte Catherine corner of Berri.
the artists installations and the tents for atsa’s état d’urgence are being set up today. it feels kinda ironic how we occupy space to “make space” for those who have none. I have ambivalent feelings about the état d’urgence… so I feel privileged to be able to participate at the event and feel out what this feeling of ambivalence is for me. on the one hand I think this event is great. a gathering together in a downtown space of all the people who normally are kicked out of places like this park. a time when we come together and support one another, offering food and warmth and connection. and I like how the état d’urgence is big and loud and demands attention. and I have a lot of respect for annie and pierre, it really is amazing how these two artists have mobilized the community around this event. and this is the eight year…that certainly says something about their dedication and perseverance. I guess I will sit with the space and try to figure out where my little ball of resistance resides and what it can tell me. (it’s possible I will find out I am jealous at how confidently the état d’urgence takes up space and how successful it has been…)
oh…and the dream. this dream reminds me of what gadget told me: how he always dreamed of candy rock mountain when he was on the street.
left at: État D’Urgence at Place Émilie-Gamelin, Sainte Catherine corner of Saint Hubert.