That Light Condom Thing Was Pretty Brilliant

…so said A4 last night as he watched me coil the last of the rope, the extension cords, and triple-check the number of edison pig tails to be returned to the rental yard.

Last year we started closing streets and showing movies with live music soundtracks. The chief enemy of film projection is… light, meaning light from places not strictly coming from the projector. So we find ways of suppressing it: polite requests to shut it off, commandeering of utility boxes and altering of timers with needle-nose pliers, training of flashlights on electric eyes, and scaling of lamp posts armed with butterfly nets made of 55-gallon trash bags.

For this last friday, one lamppost threatened to ruin the show: 35 feet tall, 8 foot cantilever over the street, sodium. I begged the hosts to permit me to cover it with an air rifle. Verboten.

So I avoided it. I spoke with the VW mechanics about dousing their sign. I plied the saturn dealership with certificates of additional insured and hip, zen security dressed like black panthers in order to get them to switch off the lights on a couple three four million dollars of inventory. And, periodically, I would look up at that light, then look at the sky, which was going to darken in an hour, then back at the light– D and I threaded several poles onto the butterfly net and attempted to walk over the streetlight. We were off by a good 10 feet. So I suggested standing on top of the van and driving toward the light. D pointed out all the wiring springing from the lamp post’s transformer, kindly not mentioning how stupid it is to stand on top of a moving van with a 25 foot pole with a garbage bag butterfly net on it.

The 24 foot extension latter went up against the pole, meeting the foot pegs and we chit chatted about what it would be like to climb up to the light and attempt to sheath it’s eight foot tumescence. Neither of us went up the ladder during the chat. Artist M arrived and we chatted some more. He said he would go up and if he felt uncertain he would just come back down. Artist M put his super 8 movie projector down, shed his back pack and started to climb, and I wordlessly handed him a 50 foot rope end which he put in his teeth.

At the 35 foot mark he embraced the pole and fed the rope over the cantilever. I grabbed it at the 20 foot mark, my limit, I do believe, and climbed down. Artist M followed. We tugged and dragged and angled. The net wouldn’t go onto light. We chit chatted some more.

Artist M went back up the ladder with our extension poles, made, sadly, of metal. He hugged again and threaded the pole between the transformer, the lines, the rope, the bag. Below, we moved like butoh dancers, a post-modern three-dimensional wallenda family, ushering the bag onto the lamp with deliberate, delicate steps. No breathing. No talking. Once it slid on a westerly wind inflated it into a dark phallus. I just stared.

I held the ladder for Artist M until he was quite down on the ground and I could look right in his eyes to thank him. What I saw there stirred me a bit and, um, I was delighted to be called from somewhere on my right so I could change my focus. It wasn’t just being an easy mark for someone unafraid of heights (who knew? and who can blame?). There was something in the well-timed arrival, self-possession, and success of Artist M that made me wonder if he was, well, special. Like. Maybe he could also fly and wasn’t going to brag about it. Maybe he visualized the differential equation while he was embracing the lamp post, like a frisbee dog from another planet. Maybe D and I were hallucinating that Artist M was present, the collective hero drawn from our personal shortcomings. I mean. Could he actually be a celestial walking this earth?

The night went on. Illuminated. Another story.

And then back to the studio 36 hours later:

You can’t really be calling it a light condom, attempting to chastise A4’s semiotic selection and beat down my own sensational recollection. What else was it? he said, moving onto other things.

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