I was pretty psyched to find out that, completely randomly, I booked a getaway for me and Jeff that overlooks a lake where supposedly this guy lives:
It’s awesome. Here I thought the four days were going to be about sitting in a chair and reading books, occasionally rowing in the lake, and instead it’s turning out to be a cryptozoological event. Yay!
But all this reminded me of a story…
When I was a kid, I went to a summer camp in New Jersey. I went there for years as a camper, and then eventually as I became older, I became a counselor, and then finally director of a section of the camp. I knew that place like the back of my hand, and can still picture it in incredible detail whenever I think about it.
From the time I was a camper, there were these persistent rumors that there were snakes in the murky lake we’d all swim in. You’d wade in, swim for a bit, and then about one time out of ten, feel this weird sensation coming up against your shin and inevitably run screaming out of the lake. As a counselor, it was about once a week that I would see a group of little kids (and it was usually the little ones, not the older kids) running out from the lake yelling, “Snakes! Snakes!”
We were instructed over and over (and I remember staff meetings with various Executive Directors emphatically telling us this) that there were no snakes, period. It was just a rumor, and one that wouldn’t die. The weird things in the lake were simply the foot of another kid swimming by, or a leaf of an underwater plant, or perhaps a fish. No snakes. In fact, snakes didn’t even live in lakes, not freshwater lakes, not ones in this part of NJ that are manmade, and so forth.
I had no reason to doubt that this was true. Kids believe that there are creatures around every corner, and all it takes is for one kid to “see” something and pass it on to the others, and soon you have a full-scale riot on your hands. It’s human nature. No snakes.
One day (is it coincidence that this would wind up to be my last there ever? probably not), I was taking a walk around the lake. My group of kids were off safely participating in some activity, and I was able to get a much needed 5 minute break kid-free, and just take a walk by myself. I crossed the little bridge near the side of the lake, and came across a lifeguard who I had known for years and had been a former camper, now employee, just like I was. As I was rounding the corner, I watched him very expertly use an oar to a canoe to pull out a gigantic snake from the lake, throw it to the ground, and hack it to bits with the oar.
I remember screaming, and the lifeguard frantically motioning to me to shut the hell up.
Once I calmed down, we spoke, and the gist of the conversation was: Amy, of course the snakes are real. The lake is filled with them. What, you think that hundreds, if not thousands, of kids over many, many years have reported seeing/feeling snakes in the lake, and they’re all delusional? Didn’t you, yourself, feel the snakes when you would go swimming?
As it winds up, the whole snake thing was just a huge PR disaster for the camp – there were in fact dozens, if not more, snakes swimming around in there, which the camp had tried to eradicate for many years with no luck. Of course, you can’t actually tell children and their parents, Hey! It’s just a bunch of snakes! They’re perfectly fine! They won’t bother you! or you will have hysteria on your hands. So the only reasonable thing to do is to chalk it up to a rumor, and go on trying to slowly knock down the snake population. (Or else, you know, close the camp til you get the snake thing under control, but for whatever reason, that wasn’t an option.)
This whole story has stood as a metaphor for me ever since then. The initial read I had on it was Grownups lie, and not only about cute things like Santa Claus, but also scary things, too. But it was more than that. As a kid, I experienced tons of things that, as an adult, I believed could never have existed. I had, for instance, a man who lived under my bed. I was ok with it; we would talk a lot, and hang out. Of course, when I got older, I was sure he didn’t exist. But… the snakes did? I mean, I only felt the snakes brushing up against my feet… I saw the man and talked with him at length for years; surely he was more real than the things living in the lake.
And the creatures in my closet? What about them?
Anyway, it’s the experience of this time at camp that leaves me to not easily brush away the stories of conspiracy theorists or UFO fans, people who believe in ghosts or strange creatures, or the stories and fears of children. What the hell does it mean for something to really exist, anyway?
I have no idea. I’m still quite bitter I fell for the “the snakes aren’t real” thing for years, though.
I’ve been working like crazy over here, so here are just a few. These are very small, 5 x 7 inches.
I haven’t been the best contributor to 365 Days of Print, having fallen behind by quite a few days, but an article in yesterday’s Times really pushed me to come up with something. Titled “Need Therapy? A Good Man is Hard to Find,” the article is filled with all sorts of jaw-droppingly stupid quotes and assumptions about therapists, patients, and pretty much the world in general.
Male therapists are a minority. I can verify this, because my therapist is a guy, and I particularly sought out a male therapist when I was first looking and I ran into this shortage first hand. Of course the article never mentions that there might be actual female patients who, for whatever reason, want to have a male therapist, but this didn’t surprise me. (For the record: my first therapist ever who was chosen for me by my parents and physician when I was 16, happened to be male. We hit it off and got along really well. So when it came time for me to start therapy again six years ago, I had the vague sense that maybe I would want to find a male therapist to speak to. I wasn’t dead-set on this, and actually tried to book appointments with several women, only to find they weren’t accepting patients at that time. So as things wound up, my therapist ever since has been a man, and I’ve been extremely happy with him and the level of care I’ve gotten.)
The article focuses solely on men who want to see male therapists, which I suppose is fair enough. Ok, it’s a little weird that they’re focusing only on men who want to see, I assume, white therapists, because while we’re talking about minorities in the therapy world, it might be nice to mention that while a good man is hard to find, a black/Latino/Asian/etc therapist of either gender is even harder… but hey, bygones. Let’s pretend the article didn’t do that.
But it’s impossible to pretend that the article didn’t include this quote:
“There’s a way in which a guy grows up that he knows some things that women don’t know, and vice versa,” said David Moultrup, a psychotherapist in Belmont, Mass. “But that male viewpoint has been so devalued in the course of empowering little girls for the past 40 or 50 years that it is now all but lost in talk therapy. Society needs to have the choice, and the choice is being taken away.”
Which leads me back to the 365 Days of Print project, because I did this for it:
A day later and I’m still really pissed at this article. Seriously, this therapist needs to be ashamed of himself for saying stuff like this. It’s unbelievable. (But at least it gave me good fodder for 365dop. Cold comfort, but something.)
My Kickstarter campaign has been languishing, smothered under a gazillion other projects I’ve gotten caught up in, but tonight I started to turn things around. I started making these tiny cut paper collages for the $25 pledges (they take FOREVER… you have to realize how tiny the paper has to be cut, and then carefully applied with tweezers).
Anyway, I have about a week to go to raise a remaining $200 and I swear I will… now I have some time to give this some attention.
Making these collages was way beyond fun. But if you sneeze before it’s all glued down? Forget about it. Say goodbye to hours of work.
Here’s my latest 365DOP contribution:
It’s actually a bit of a mashup from several days worth of images… hope it counts as an entry for today.
Oh, and in case you think all I’ve been doing with my days off is reading (and cutting things out of) the NY Times… you would be wrong. I’ve started on making the huge pile of handmade artist’s books for my BravinLee show. My goal is to make 250. I have made… 5. But still! Five in two days is pretty good! I’m pretty psyched for it as a project. Many pics to come. Until then, a musical tribute to books, or at least to one book. It’s the best I could do:
I was invited to take part in this project called 365 Days of Print, in which a group of artists is selected every month, given a free subscription to the NY Times, and told to make art in reaction to it.
I thought it would be super easy, but first with the biggest story ever breaking the night before I had 6 hours of back-to-back critiques, and then sitting down to stare at papers recounting the enormity of the event a day later… well, it was biting off more than I thought I could chew.
I’m trying to figure out how to show books on the site – there’s a book I want to make based on a May 1st NY Times front page article on the bombing of a building in Syria, but I haven’t figured that out yet. My contribution so far is maybe a little obvious, but I sort of had to do it and get it out of the way to clear room for anything else that might come down the pike.
So, here it is… click to link to the post:
My memory of 9/11 is this:
I’m standing on the corner of 6th Ave and Houston, watching the World Trade Center buildings. Or, rather, one of them. The other is gone, there is a gigantic plume of smoke coming out of the other, and I can’t believe my eyes. It’s maybe 9:30am, I was just in the building the night before. I want to vomit, but I’m too scared to. People around me are screaming. I have this deep sense that I’d better go and scurry off to work. I walk off, completely numb.
My memory then cuts to a few days later, walking up 6th Avenue and being surrounded by “missing” posters. I can remember what happens in the meantime with just the tiniest of prodding; actually, I can probably remember every second of those two or three days. But for some reason, this is where my mind naturally leads: just to walking and being surrounded by pictures of people who I know are dead, and feeling like I was probably dead, too.
So tonight it’s announced that bin Laden is dead. I’m not happy or relieved or anything like that. I’m fucking petrified that here we go again.
I just mentioned to one of my students last week that I can finally talk about 9/11 without wanting to puke or breaking out into goosebumps. That sensation of there being some break between me and the events is now gone. It’s all coming back.