Wednesday, 11 August 2010

I always thought it would be time to move on when I stop wondering about something. I've stopped wondering about people before, cast them off as solved and useless puzzles but I'm beginning to suspect I might never stop wondering about some places. This afternoon when I was walking home from the thankfully part-time job of corporate doom and oppression I noticed an artist's interpretation of a planned upgrade at the Devonshire St entrance to the tunnel at Central. The artist signed his work and this started me wondering. Who is this man? I know his name is Robert Stewartson or Stewart Robertson or something like that but what kind of artist proudly signs their name to a painting of a planned staircase upgrade? I was going to find out and then I remembered the time I wrote a letter to an architect and the whole thing backfired. This time I'm going to hold back my wonderings, just a little.

I remember standing in the architecture section in the second hand part of Berkelouw Books, in Newtown, some time last year. I saw the same name written in at least fifty books,  I had an idea, did some research and sent the following letter. In an ideal world such letters would not be considered harassment but something else entirely.

Dear Robert Tuckwell,

I first imagined the idea of you upstairs in Berkelouw’s, Newtown. There were so many of your books that I thought you must be dead. You wrote your name in capital letters, deliberate marks more prominent on the downstroke, you did this in every single volume. I sat in a wooden chair and imagined your grey-haired children packing your books into boxes. One of them occasionally ran a finger down a familiar spine, the others repressed their conflicting emotions and pretended it was 3d tetris and thought of mostly of defrosting the freezers in their own crowded houses. One of them decided to stop trying IVF and leaked a single tear on to the front cover of an architectural magazine.

I piled as many volumes into my arms as I could before the weight of them toppled me into an elderly woman in search of engineering books on the subject of home-poured concrete. There are three known reasons for shedding so many beautiful books, death, late onset minimalism or the removal of oneself to a tiny flat in New York with nothing but a double bass, and the burning desire to become a backing bassist for a coffeehouse beat poet. Dear Robert Tuckwell that form of poetry has never captured my heart and this is why I have hoped, for three hours, that you were dead.

I bought one book, consigning the others to an uncertain fate. The engineer peered over the top of her book on music concrète as I returned the last volume to the top shelf without needing to stand on my toes.  My deceased and imagined Robert Tuckwell ghosted me down the warehouse stairs and the length of old King St. Do not suspect that I was not growing fond of him. He crooked his elbow and bid me hold steady his ancient arm as I stepped around the banjo busker who was masquerading today as an elderly homeless man. He raised his arm in greeting before remembering that he was in disguise.
Dear Robert Tuckwell I have inadvertently made a dent in the pristine cover of one of your former books and for this I am sorry. I suppose it would be more accurate to say that I have inadvertently made a dent in a book that was formerly yours. The endpages are elephant grey, inside there are pictures of white grand pianos in Uruguay, hammocks hung from trees in the British West Indies, and a bookcase on Providenciales Island. It is possible that you live on a street named after toothpaste or a formerly more popular word for noble wolf but I have not sent this letter to alarm you. It seems that you are alive. I hope that you are well and do not spend your afternoons as I do gazing at pictures of grand pianos and googling the imaginary dead.

It is best if I tell you immediately that Baudrillard has nothing to do with anything.

There seemed to be hundreds of books in the bookshop bearing the forthright blue felt-tip marks of your name. The man behind the cash register says that your books filled the entire back room of the bookshop when they first came in. I told him my theory that you had died or moved to New York but he was more in favour of a retirement story, I think that he forgot to tell me that he imagined you making room in your shelves for books about landmines and sailing. I am not quite sure what retired men do.

I found your work on the Internet. It would be better if I used words for this part.

An art museum made out of pink, white and yellow paper run through with shadows cast by a miniature artificial sun. I walked the walls and ceilings until I understood the gravity of the imagined. If I mapped and reduced the trails I leave as I cross and cross this city their bleached and condensed shape might resemble the museum as seen from above. I have maps that will answer your questions. I am not known for my ability to imagine architects or the possibility of confining and redefining matter into space. You have forced mastery over things such as bricks, sand and sunlight. I understand this is something they teach in universities. My desk lies in artificial shadow, light blocked by a drawing and the direction to lay bricks, uproot trees and lock panes of glass in channels made of wood. I might once have thought the word homemaker was something of an insult or a self-remedy for failure. This has revealed more than it should.

Dear Robert Tuckwell I am sorry if a report of your imagined death has disturbed you. It was my intention to convey more joy at the discovery of your life and to compliment your skills in wielding pens and folding paper. Such things should be more than ephemera. I imagine that your hands are steady as a surgeon’s and that you have one room dedicated to thinking only about light.

Yours sincerely,



Geoff said...

That's freaking awesome.

Did Robert Tuckwell freak out? I presume the last part is a second letter following his response, but his response isn't there.

Dale Slamma said...

I have no idea if he freaked out or not, he did not ever respond. I am assuming that he did freak out, just a little at least.