Amidst the poorly-veiled disgruntled mumblings and vigorously squirming behinds, the evening’s speaker announced the lecture was now concluded and it was time for questions: “This is a Q and R, not a Q and A. I will do my best to respond to all questions directed at me, but answers I will not promise,” she said. While this statement may have sounded quaint, perhaps even smug coming from a less candid presenter, her unpretentious approach dissembled my cynicism. Starkly shadowed by bright stage lights, the speaker traversed the stage’s width back and forth, back and forth. Her purpose for the evening was to invite our denominational tribes to a mediation concerning a hotly controversial topic.
The days that I write start like this: I drop my girls off at school, and as I drive away I turn on the song, “Time” by the Abstract Giants. I know a few of the guys in band. I grew up with them. I know Andy Lempera, the drummer, from junior high band where our director promised that if we worked hard, Andy could free style while we cleaned up our clarinets and oboes, trumpets and trombones during the last five minutes of the period. I never had so much fun cleaning the spit out of my flute than when Andy played.
In 1969, California-based artist John Baldessari and his friend George Nicolaidis took a stroll through the city. While walking, Baldessari shot photographs of Nicolaidis pointing at things. On the surface the objects seemed random and rather ordinary, but they were items both the photographer and the one pointing found interesting. The film was developed and 35mm slides were distributed to fourteen amateur painters whose work Baldessari had seen at regional art fairs. The painters were instructed to faithfully copy the photographs. Baldessari then added captions identifying the painters’ names. The fourteen works were exhibited in Los Angeles and New York under a series titled The Commissioned Paintings (1970).
There were only a handful of parents at our daughter’s ballet recital. We were all dressed in jeans and jackets and shoes, our phones recording, sitting in the corner of the YMCA studio, our backs to the full-length mirrors. After the recital had begun, one mother began crawling across the wood floor, from one end of the studio to the other. Her scramble immediately struck me as unnecessary and annoying. Get up and walk.