Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Drawing Board, August Fourth, 2013: Something Happened

    In Tapawingo Park, Aaron Bumgarner, Paul Baldwin, Drew Gruber and I were questioned by a West Lafayette police officer about what we were doing in the park. As we approached the police officer and he approached us, Paul asked if we should just bolt.
    Aaron Laughed and sighed slightly and said he did not want to get mad about what was about to happen.
    Drew remained quiet.
    I intended to engage in conversation with the police officer.
    "What are you guys doing here?" The police officer asked.
    "We run an art club that meets every Sunday to work on various projects." One of us said. "We are attempting to make land art, sculptures from the materials you find around you. What you can find in Tapawingo Park in this instance."
    "Were you digging holes in the sand?"
    I felt a heat in my chest and in the back of my neck, a by product of repressed instinct. He was a short man with a buzzed haircut in a full body black police jump suit. His utility belt was littered with tools of law and order and justice and torture and death. Police officers do not submit assailants with their hands and arms and feet and legs anymore. They use taser guns. They use pepper spray. They shock, submit, and pepper spray American students occasionally. When they do so, the media eats it up for a week or so and then it fades away to the fringes where few continue to obsess about it.
    Without the death belt and even though I was a foot taller than him, I would have probably not won in a fair fight. I am not a natural fighter,and I assume it is Police Department policy to have their officers submit themselves to the actions they are allowed to wield.
    Growing up, my father was a police officer who use to wrestle in high school.
    I tried to be a wrestler, but was too much of a fat slug in junior high school. I didn't yet understand there was muscle I could build under my baby fat. It lingered on and on, defying standard childhood development.
    I only won one bout. It was my blonde and less self-conscious twin from an opposing school.He was all smiles while I was all frustrated pathos. I had resigned myself to the role of guaranteed failure and was not particularly happy about it. My twin had embraced being a beautiful loser free of existential pain and anxiety. Two fat white kids wrestled to pin each other down to the mat. I won.
    Eighth grade year, I quit wrestling halfway through the season. During a wrestling match, I threw up bile in the boys restroom and told Jordan Banks, a fellow wrestling team member, I didn't want to wrestle anymore. He told me how I could throw up bile again because he did it occasionally in order to get out of going to school. I forget his recommendation. I would never choose to throw up bile in order to get what I want. The pain is not worth it, but I know it is inevitable sometimes.
    "They're sculptures in the style of the artist Andy Goldsworthy." I said.
    "Show him the book." Paul told me.
    "I have a book of his art in my bag." I said to the police officer. "Would you like to see it?"
    "No" the police officer said. "Did you guys dig holes?"
    Later, Paul mentioned that I should have told the police officer that the book was mostly pictures. I found that hilarious and I still do.
    "We dug holes in the sand to mount logs in them." One of us said. "We filled sand in around them so they would stand erect."
    "You dug holes on public property."The police officer said. "The city is responsible for it's citizens. If they fall into a hole you guys dug, they are responsible."
    "We filled in the holes like you fill in a fence post." one of us said.
    "You were all digging holes." The police officer said again. "You can move leaves around all you want, but you cannot dig holes." He had a strange fixation in the concept of digging holes.
    "Paul said. "We filled in the holes. There are no holes."
    "The point of the sculptures, besides what they mean to whoever may stop and visually and intellectually engage them, is that they are made from the environment they reside in. And eventually, that environment will changed them, They are temporary, but the material is permanent and always changing." Is what I would have said if I were giving a speech about the structures instead of being questioned by a police officer.
    The police officer had no interest in what we were making. He was only interested in what we were doing. We were building. We were teaching ourselves how to build. We were learning from our peers and from what we did, what we saw, how to work with the materials we were provided in the tract of land that is Tapawingo Park. We were learning to understand the material we were working with better. We were making the material into temporary, but hopefully visionary objects. Some were better than others. Some could have been improved upon.
    Here are some pictures:

    The police officer did not look at them. What he saw was four adult males with shovels and rakes, all of which could be used as weapons, in a public place. If he'd have arrived earlier he would have seen two more adult males, one with a male child, his son,and an adult female. All of them building and altering various sculptures in the sand and dirt. Occasionally, some of them threw a frisbee around. Occasionally some of them climbed on the trees and walked around in the park. Most of them arrived by bike. Many of them were winding themselves down through joyful manual labors of love after the rough week or rough month or rough season they had or were still having.
    "If somebody gets hurt in a public park, the city is responsible for it," The police officer said.
    I looked towards the north at the massive trees on the shore. Beyond the trees the river flowed towards me. A light breeze. Shadows from the trees farther west of the river. The sun was close to setting. It was the most beautiful time of the day. I turned around and pointed to the large collapsed tree that hung over the river. A rudimentary wood diving board. An awesome living jungle gym pushed over by forces of nature more awesome than it. "If someone falls off that tree and breaks a bone, is the city responsible?" I asked the police officer.
    "Yeah, they could be responsible." The police officer responded after he adjusted his hands on his death and submission belt.
    "The city should probably do something about that tree." I said.
    "I'm not responsible for the maintenance of this place." The police officer said. "I'm responsible for what happens here. You guys were digging holes. You can't dig holes in a public park." A broken record.
    "We filled them in." Paul said once again. "We filled them in with dirt and sand like a post."
    "And those posts are temporary. Nature will eventually take them down." I said,
    "I got an idea." the police officer said. "How 'bout you take 'em down instead."
    I slumped my shoulders. All four of us shuffled around for a moment.
    "Alright" I said. "Never mind" is what I wish I had said. I also wish I had asked for his name and badge number. An asshole with a badge and nothing better to do other than go tell someone to stop doing something because wasn't exactly the same as what always happens in West Lafayette.
   The police officer soon meandered off while we stood there for a moment.
   "I'll go to jail for it." Paul said.
   "You know what, I'd go to jail for it too. Just to see the reaction." I said laughing
   Aaron laughed while Drew rubbed the back of his neck. Of course we didn't take down the sculptures. Instead, we went to a Mexican restaurant, drank Margaritas, ate chips and salsa, and made fun of the police officer.
    We will be building again next Sunday

Aaron C. Molden

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