Monroe and State
January 21, 2011 8:10-9:10 am
I have a very hard time getting out of bed. It’s still dark outside and I’m warm underneath my covers. I do get out of bed, eventually, but it’s freezing in my house. It’s the coldest day of the year. On the radio there are extreme temperature warnings. Keep extra blankets in your car in case of emergency, the announcer advices. What about standing still on a street corner, I wonder. How do I protect myself from an emergency in that situation? The temperature is 2 degrees when I leave my house with a windchill of -20. The moon is still out, shining brightly in the western sky. I am nervous about our hug. I wonder if it is dangerous to be out, exposing ourselves to the harsh conditions. I don’t want Sara to think I am a wimp, so I proceed with forced confidence.
We hang on tight to one another at the corner of Monroe and State, right outside the American Apparel. We certainly don’t fit the American Apparel aesthetic, but that’s fine by us. Our hand and foot warmers heat up, adding extra coziness. We are very chatty, but we allow it because it’s so damn cold. When I face east powerful gusts of wind blow from the lake and make my skin sting. “Just bury your face in my jacket,” Sara tells me.
I meditate on extremism. A recent episode of This American Life comes to mind called “Last Man Standing”, http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/421/last-man-standing. The story that strikes me in particular is about Duke Fightmaster, an average guy whose dream is to replace Conan O’Brian. He decides to produce his own tv show and proceeds to become so obsessed that he quits his job. His wife, a yoga teacher, is left with the burden of supporting him and their two kids. In the end Fightmaster goes totally broke and his family loses their home. On top of everything, the show is a total failure! There’s a great quote when his wife is interviewed. She says something about the fine line between positivism and denial.
I think about Duke Fightmaster as we stand on the corner of Monroe and State outside the American Apparel. I wonder if we are as crazy as he is. I guess I know we are not, but it’s kind of fun to think about an alternate episode called “Last Girls Hugging,” about two performance artists in Chicago who hug once a week outside, even in below freezing temperatures. I would listen to that.
But we are not like Duke Fightmaster. Our hug is not about extremism, nor is it motivated by obsession. At this point, we hug because it’s our practice. No matter what respective stresses, obstacles, frustrations we encounter during the week, we still meet and stand for an hour with our arms around each other. Why? Yes, because we support loving affection and healing touch. Yes, because it’s a social experiment to see how people react. Yes, because we want to surprise people and disrupt everyday routine. But the hugs keep happening because it’s our practice. We are accountable to one another and to our friends, family members, blog-readers, and passersby on the street. And I am beginning to realize that developing a practice and being held accountable are two of the most important parts of artmaking.