Artist: William Hooker, Christian Marclay and Lee Ranaldo
Title: Bouquet: Live @ the KnittingFactoy 4.24.99
In the Park (for William, Lee, and Christian) © Thomas Stanley, July, 2001 She had backed herself into a little niche formed where two of the gray buildings towering around the grassy space and its trees and concrete chess tables met. The man named Castle she had dragged with her as she scrambled crab-like out of the park across the street and sidewalk to press her shoulder blades hard against one of those dense granite buildings. He was heavier than she would let herself realize. The street had clawed at her bottom and the palms of her hands, unforgiving like coarse sandpaper. The rest of the crowd it seemed had vanished on the far side of the park. She could still hear shooting and screaming, the breathy poohp of tear gas shells being launched and then rattling onto the pavement or the muted sound of them hitting grass or people. But at this distance the roaring confusion that had just enveloped her seemed ancient and foreign, like a drama on a stage or the meticulously pruned footage they would air on the evening news.

The vague shape of the building, elusive in the thick fog of crowd control, was a refreshing sanctuary. Its skin was cool and breathed with an anti-life that stood unmoved by the turmoil. The north side of the park -- wasn't this a bank? She tried to get her bearings through her tortured eyes and the punishing haze. The polished granite monument was pockmarked with countless cells of efficient and iniquitous toil. Come Monday morning it would swirl with ordered activity like a beehive, perhaps aware, but unperturbed by what had happened today in the park.

Castle's lifeless face had forgotten everything. His eyes looked up past her and the towering office buildings to focus on a point past the billowing fumes of tear gas and CS and seemed to lock onto a point in heaven where he had found something dear that had been lost. His beard and thick mustache framed a mouth that had been widened, stretched, ripped into a million dreary Mondays. His future had ended in the park; his career had begun there. Whatever the police had done in the short while that he was behind their lines had appointed him to the seat of historical change. The balance point, the hour in which futures and pasts cease to grind into each other with the smell of kissing flints. Where the sparks are leaking out, change can happen. Right then and right there, the march toward common destiny pivots on the balls of its feet and turns towards something that has not yet been. Always that point of decisive friction is lubricated by blood offerings. Our Christs, our Ghandis, and our Martins, none have changed that. Even though we really need to believe that they have. Even though each is perfect proof that they cannot.

With one hand and a wet bandanna she tried in vain to separate air from gas and wiped the mucous that flowed from her eyes and nose. The soggy rag was damp with injury. She didn't notice the blood or that it was both hers and her fallen friend's. The other hand she held in front of the crumpled man's torn mouth. She needed to believe that she was protecting him too. The wind is a captive and unpredictable thing in that part of town. Pinned in place, but not silenced in the channels between towering monuments to Commerce and the American Way, it bursts around corners, spilling from narrow streets into wide avenues like floodwater in a canyon, remembering its way to the sea and back.

It was the wind that chose the direction her comrades had followed as they fled the cops with their generous gas and limber clubs. Maybe they had hit him in the mouth, she thought, and it caught him just the right way to tear it apart like that, to make him smile wide like the street and just as empty as a city block that had become a place for war. He had left her sight for just a moment as she turned to find a clear path away from the cops who had gathered out of nowhere like yellowjackets crawling up out of the ground to show who really controls the streets. That's what they were going to do, they announced as they slapped the business ends of their truncheons into leather-gloved palms.

Castle didn't like anybody talking to him like that and it didn't matter whether they were wearing badges or riot gear. He hadn't put his bulky WWII-surplus mask on yet. It was still in his knapsack and she thinks she remembers him leaping over the yellow and black barricade to take a swing with it at one of the cops. He really hated those fuckers. When she turned back around, his deflating body was flying over the barricade like a sack of old fruit. He landed hard on his back (so that's not what shredded his face, but it might have been what killed him). And skidded to rest on a patch of bare ground that any other day would have been the 50-yard line of the football field at the center of the park.

The gas and the pepper spray came as he was falling. And the wasps came shortly after that, overrunning their own barricades as they surged towards the demonstrators like football players falling on the guy with the ball. She was close enough to see the look on their faces and it was that look. Not fear, not anger, but a calculated testosterone-inflated game-face -- a look that wants to win, real bad. She hadn't followed the panicked crowd, because she had to drag this 185-pound bag of spoiled fruit to where it might be safe too. The beaters and gassers had -- like those mean black and yellow wasps -- followed the bulk of the offenders who had instinctively bolted in the direction where air might still be found. She was left alone, the fickle wind driving the poisons into her face as it choked her and pushed its foul taste further down her throat. The massive building at her back and the body in her arms were the only things keeping her from moving further away from the worst day of her life.

But the capricious wind suddenly found its way to where it really wanted to go and pulled the weighty vapors along with it. Clearing the street in front of her, the stifling cloud of nonlethal deterrence decided that it had been left out of the fun and rolled resolutely towards the distant conflict. The woman heaved for breath and sanity.

As her eyes cleared she could make out the littered street and emptied park in front of her. It was strewn with water bottles and colorful pieces of costumes and puppets. It looked like the remains of a carnival or street party, not the terrible debris of Saturday afternoon war. What a mess she thought as she scanned the scene. Then she thought of the mess in her arms and as she did, the street and the park tilted away from her, like someone had abruptly lowered the horizon and left the world it supported to roll away towards oblivion. The color changed too. Everything became a purple velour, soft and unspoiled without details or features. She had, she was sure, been blinded by the gas or spritied into delerium by inhaling so much of it.

In another time she had made a trip to Mexico chasing the same ideals that had brought her to the park that morning with a friend called Castle, some leaflets, a little pot, and a couple of liters of water. Down in Oaxaca, she had startled an old Mayan camposina with the color of the shirt she was wearing. It was a bright techno-fluorescent orange. It didn't frighten her, she said through an interpreter as she shielded her eyes with her hand, but it must be remembered, she chided, that some colors are medicine. Only now did she know exactly what the old woman meant. The full deep shimmering purple that had gobbled up her sight was definitely medicine. She stared into it and the tranquillity and calm that radiated back washed the sting from her eyes, the chemical taste from her mouth and the ache from her lungs. A monochrome sea without waves. Above it nothing, below it something wonderful, maybe God. This wonderful color that had taken away the street, its dirt and its death was, she deduced, the color that babies see in the womb, a rosy midnight darkness full of hope and love. She could see her mother there and she could see Castle, whole and at peace, his smile unbroken.

She looked down into her arms, and instead of Castle's violated flesh, she was now holding a stout bundle of wild flowers, flowers that she had never seen before. Their colors were both illuminated and shaded by the throbbing purple carpet that had replaced the street and park. Their smell was like honeysuckle, and cedar shavings and freshly turned soil all mixed together. She couldn't tell if the flowers were still Castle, but they were beautiful and this was what it was all about. Who would have thought that the third world war would begin in the boulevards and plazas of the globe's most wealthy nation-states or that it would be fought between those countries' children and high-tech wasps financed by studious bees in shiny granite hives. Useless bees that can make no honey, nothing sweet. With Castle's execution, history had stumbled in a most wonderful way and a deep change had begun for the sake of something no more complicated than a fragrant armful of wild flowers.

The wind changed its mind again and made a swift turn uptown. The noise had subsided. The gas had lifted. Her other vision had returned the street and its litter to their proper place. The riot was already a footnote to be interpreted. The wasps were scouring the streets, arresting anyone foolish enough to still offer resistance, offering medical attention to the ones that they had hurt. The woman looked down into her lap. The blood had dried around the mouth of her bouquet. His eyes were closed. He was o.k. and so was she. But the granite wall that braced her back had been cracked. Soon it would be broken.

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