Monday, July 18, 2011

"The Secret Jew" and the dreamer who installed the new windows in my house

                                                   Detail of "The Secret Jew" by Chris Dingwell.

One of the men loading windows into our house was paused in the front room. He was reading the panel posted next to a painting. The painting was The Secret Jew by Chris Dingwell of Portland, Maine. The panel was the text of Murat Nemet-Nejat's translation of "The Secret Jew," a prose poem from Ece Ayhan's prose poetic sequence Blind Cat Black.

It's not everybody that enters our house who stops at the painting. It's not everyone who stops at that painting who reads the poem printed on the panel. I'd say it's not every guy working a window replacement job you'd expect to stop at the Turkish prose poem posted next to the florid painting of the Secret Jew, but half my artist friends in St. Louis work one menial job or another. I figured this guy was one of us.

I stepped up to him.

I explained that I co-founded an arts organization named Poetry Scores that translates poetry into other media. I told him we printed the poem he was reading for the Poetry Scores Art Invitational to Blind Cat Black, held in 2006 at Mad Art Gallery. I said the painter, my old friend Chris Dingwell, made this magnificent painting for that invitational as a response to the poem he was reading.

The guy was following me, but really he was just floored by Dingwell's painting.
                                           Detail of "The Secret Jew" by Chris Dingwell.
I ran to the Poetry Scores inventory in my basement and got him a copy of the CD we produced of our poetry score to Blind Cat Black. I told him we had since gone on to make a silent movie to that score -- a silent zombie movie -- a silent conceptual zombie movie -- but there was no DVD of the movie so he'd have to catch a screening.

By now I had taken him to my garage to show him a pile of props for the zombie uranium miner scene we are shooting this weekend inside a sand mine in Crystal City, and suddenly I found myself in full-blown zombie recruitment mode.

The CD had to go out to his truck, I had to get my daughter to camp and myself to work, he had to help install the new windows in my house, but the zombie schmooze was on. Now he was telling the other guys on the crew and everyone was interested. I was talking up our zombie uranium miner shoot this Saturday and thinking I had new talent.

"You're working Saturday," the boss said to the dreamer who had gotten lost in the painting.

His boss then volunteered the information that they had installed the windows of the guy who invented the drive-in movie, Mr. Swank. He said the Swanks were from Ohio and ended up in Indianapolis, where they had the bright idea of stringing up a sheet in a town square, projecting home movies and seeing if people would pay to watch them.

They paid. Before Mr. Swank passed away (the boss was saying, as he handled my new windows), the old man owned five homes on Oahu. He needed five homes on Oahu because Mrs. Swank was ill, and as they traveled around the island to see friends, she needed to stop and rest often, so they bought their own resting homes along the way.

I explained that the one movie we had finished, Blind Cat Black, had been shown drive-in movie style at a tavern in downtown St. Louis. I said we had just lost an opportunity to show our movie projected on a sheet in town -- original Swank drive-in movie style -- due to the movie's disturbing adult content.

"For that movie, the big zombie scene was a zombie orgy," I said.

"Why didn't we replace your windows before you made that movie?" the boss asked, sadly.

The crew. The boss is inside the house, the dreamer is to the right.

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