Date: October 28
Time: Around 3:15 p.m.
Location: Columbus Park, walking southeast towards the eastern half of the park, entering the soccer field, traversing the basketball courts, moving towards the southern playground.
Weather: Increasingly dark, heavier clouds, frequent gusts of wind.
Background: Preparations for Hurricane Sandy amplified as we walked through the playing fields and entered the southern playground, where Parks workers had started turning over garbage cans to prevent them from blowing away.
Transcript of observed events:
Writer: “Try to get the guy who was here last time.”
Photographer: “I am.”
Artist: “Watch the snot rocket.”
Dictation: An observable, cultural phenomenon. Scratching the side of his face and it’s bleeding, old man scratching a mole to the point of bleeding. Man is aware of us, aware of us watching him. Looks down at his hand, covered in blood from scratching at the mole. Wipes blood under armpit of leather jacket and keeps scratching.
Writer: “It’s openly bleeding.”
Photographer: “Should we walk around?”
Dictation: [Proceeding out of plaza towards the eastern periphery of the park]. Pretty sweet camera, film camera, 16mm camera, lot of other people doing observation today. Did we start the trend? Or are we following the trend?
Photographer: “Harder time focusing without the sun.”
Artist: “Erhu. He’s playing the inside of the bow, made with the gourd part of it, stretched in snakeskin in china you almost only see blind people playing them.”
Writer: “We’ve recognized two people at least.”
Artist: “Yeah. That little guy took who newspapers out of the garbage can, read it for a second, and threw it away.”
Dictation: More leaves today, way way more leaves and garbage. Banana peel, discarded newspapers, Popeyes.
Photographer: “What is that?”
Writer: “A tag, someone’s business card. Both.”
Dictation: Lots of important subjects of the day happening in the newspaper. Cut off bamboo, next to fresh stalks. USA Today, Monday October 22, 2012.
Artist: “The little guy is watching us.”
Dictation: Picture of somewhere in 1937, France, Paris.
Writer: “Paris doesn’t have those piers.”
Photographer: “It doesn’t today, but maybe it did then?”
Artist: [speaking to the Little Man] “Are you curious about us? We’re not detectives.”
Writer: “If we recognize two people, we must have been recognized by some people.”
Man sitting on a bench: “You have one dollar please? Un peso? Por favor, no soy Chino. Soy Mexico, de Mexico.”
Artist: “De donde?
Mexican Man: “De Puebla.”
Dictation: Drinking Crazy Stallion for 99 cents.
Mexican Man. “Oye, Oye. Picture, no, you.”
Artist: “Of me?”
Mexican Man: “Es good?
Artist: “Very good.”
Mexican Man. “Okay, amigo.”
Artist: “Take care.”
Dictation: twenty-four ouncer of malt liquor for 99 cents.
Writer: “I kept waiting for him to run off with the phone.”
Dictation: Mustard packets, basketball court in the dimensions of a handball court, an inner courtyard, like a prison yard. M & Ms, more garbage, cup of noodles, old basketball pump, broken spork, Gatorade bottle cap, Snapple bottle, discarded cigarette butts, Mango Madness, no net in the hoop, Lipton tea bag. Why not Chinese tea? Kids playing basketball, boy takes a shot, misses, made it on second try. Hispanic boys playing some kind of board game.
Artist: “That was an interesting dude. From Puebla.”
Writer: “Why did he assume we would speak Spanish?”
Artist: “Jovial fellow, with a Chinese mustache. He looked Chinese.”
Dictation: United Rentals, 1-800 UR rents, diesel only, magnum. Wind’s picking up, onto the soccer field. Hollyhock deep red, iris, pasta. Wind noticeably picking up. Strawberry daiquiri.
Writer: “Goal is a piece of shit.”
Artist: “Lot more leaves all over the place.”
Photographer: “You can see the pavilion from most parts.”
Dictation: From the soccer field, you can see tai chi, men paying games, Sun Yat Sen, church steeple, parking garage, water tower, more apartment buildings, only one modern building which is a hotel, rooftop graffiti, satellite dish, old antennae, will they come down tonight? Next week we should see if they’re still there. Artificial turf, got a rip in the carpet, loved playing soccer on fields like this, no mud, a single silver sequin.
Photographer: “That has a story behind it. Why would someone with sequins ever be on the soccer field?
Dictation: Less garbage on this side, wind must blow north to the south, or the people who hang out over here pick up their garbage.
Artist: “Looks like a nest, wondering if there are birds’ nests in these trees?”
Writer: [reading a text] “Just cracked my first beer and ordered 20 wings from Blondies.”
Writer: [reading his own response to text] “We’re still in Chinatown.”
Dictation: No lamps in the lamps. Two kids wrestling in the field, interlocked, Asian kid and an African American kid, wrestling very symbolically and heavily.
Photographer: “Would it be creepy to take a picture of them?”
Writer: “Just do it.”
Dictation: Sounds of kids screaming and wrestling.
Writer: “Whoa! He’s bending his leg back–”
Artist: “When I was in India, I went by myself across the country, like a 20 hour train ride to where the Buddha gained enlightenment under the tree, a sapling that was replanted by this community of pilgrims and tourists, in a temple where the tree is the middle of the courtyard. I got into town had lunch and literally sat there for six hours, in one place, watching people. The pilgrims, the Tibetans, loads of Chinese tourists, relaxing, people-watching day. I’ll stay for ten minutes, watch, have to catch the last train ride out, right before I was going to leave, I see a grey cloud coming towards me, all these people running towards me, a swarm of bees coming through the temple, and I’m allergic to bees, and I had all my shit with me, my backpack, my Epinephrine pen. Supposedly I have to stab myself in the leg. I took off and was running away from the bees. It was total chaos, this old Tibetan woman, whose face was covered with bees and she was screaming.
Writer: “Look at these petals.”
Artist: “They must be from a funeral.”
Writer: “So the woman was screaming?
Photographer: “You’d think it would kill you.”
Artist: “If you’re allergic it definitely would. I had some bees on my arms, my hands, running. I came to a fence and dropped my bag, cut my hand open, and got my hands cut on the fence, my pants, too.”
Writer: “Sounds horrible.”
Photographer: “What’s happening?
Writer: “I’m overstimulated.”
Photographer: “So did you have to use your epi pen?”
Artist: “Well, I dropped my bag–” [drops out of audio range; sound of firetrucks pick up]; “–vestigial apparatus. . .I took five minutes to assess . . .”
Dictation: Lots of kids playing in the park
Photographer: “Not your throat swelling shut?”
Writer: “Let’s sit for a second.”
(This is Part 5 of a nine-part series. To read the Sixth Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Chinatown click here).