While I knew that I committed to a 12-hour day, I banished my morning anxieties with "last week was a breeze, it's going to be fun." Relaxed, I forgot TJ's number and wandered around what I learned to be the wrong part (and neighborhood) of Meserole Street, effectively setting the schedule a half hour late. My role had shifted from project creator to being a driver within someone else's project, and it took me a while to adjust.
When I reached TJ's Williamsburg apartment, a sleep-deprived TJ and aproned 0H10M1KE immediately loaded in their supplies to the Iron Maiden. In went several coolers, a Hello Kitty toaster, a portable battery (discovered to be dead), and cases of Capri Sun. The menu for the day was a choice of Curried Chicken Salad, Tuna Salad, and Hummus sandwiches served with pickles and potato chips and chocolate chip cookies for dessert. TJ had been testing the recipes all week, and their final night's preparation explained his lack of sleep. TJ took the role of Picnic Facilitator/Manager, and 0H10M1KE became the Maitre D'. Earlier versions of their "Plus One Dinner Theatre" collaboration involved inviting successive degrees of friends to dinners that they might not have known were happening. TJ told me he saw this version as an exercise or composition, a departure from their structure, carried out in nine parts, each part variations on a picnic. From what I've known of him, he's been excited to work with food and strangers. He's in his first year at Brooklyn College's Performance and Interactive Media Arts (PIMA) graduate program, and several of the guests/diners through out the day were his fellow students.
The weekend was a particularly chaotic one for the MTA, with numerous track work projects throwing most train schedules into an unpredictable mess. This played a role in consistent revisions of our schedule, as pick up and drop off locations depended heavily on people showing up or being able to travel from where we dropped them.
Part One: "Bring the Picnic to You/Picnic on the Side of the Road": Newkirk and New York Avenue, Flatbush, Brooklyn. We picked up Jean Ann and Grace at the subway, where the Picnic Facilitator and Maitre D' served coffee from the sidewalk. Jean Ann was enroute to a nine-hour Robert Lepage performance at BAM and appreciated the preparatory cup. We chatted about Providence and art gatherings while the sandwiches were being prepared, then set off for an impromptu dessert at a small church graveyard at Church Ave and Flatbush. I stayed in the bustop-parked car.
The Maitre D' became dispatch and arranged the next pick up. We dropped both guests off at Grand Army Plaza, who were left to their own devices to get to their personal destinations.
Enroute to Greenpoint, the Maitre D' took a smoke break.
Part Two: "Take You to the Picnic": Manhattan Ave, Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Laura and Gary piled in, giggling and psyched. The Maitre D' entertained them while the Picnic Facilitator gave me excellent pointers on how to enter the Queensboro Bridge without losing my mind. Soon we were in Harlem at 103rd Street and First Avenue in the parking lot of a White Castle. The staff availed themselves of White Castle foodstuffs and the bathroom. The La Mega 97.9 DJ stationed by the entrance door proved friendly and willing to power the Hello Kitty toaster, and construction at the intersection provided a dusty atmosphere and filled in acoustically once La Mega DJ packed up. After we did the same, we found a subway to drop off the guests and headed for 110th Street.
I started to realize I wasn't getting to talk that much with the guests. But I was relieved I didn't have to entertain people I didn't know while driving. It was a further reminder that this wasn't my project while simultaneously being so. I was hungry but didn't want to deplete the tuna supplies.
Part Three: "Take You to the Picinic": 110th Street and Lenox Ave, Harlem. Deborah distinguished herself at her pick up location by gyrating to the music that several teens were enjoying across the street. She's a dancer I know from a previous job and was happy to see her newly shorn head. We decamped at the steps of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Deborah was served a fine vintage of Capri Sun, and we caught up on recent personal events in the sun. I have no clue where they came from, but two tuxedoed men were suddenly part of our photo shoot.
Deborah had some time to kill before attending a William Forsythe workshop, so the Iron Maiden ambled down Manhattan until the wind made a headlight cover flap into my line of vision at Lincoln Center. The Picnic Facilitator jumped out to inspect and secure it, but it came completely off and was crushed under the Iron Maiden's tires by Columbus Circle. I guess it's a non-essential piece of the car, but I couldn't help but feel like the Maiden was crumbling before my eyes, willingly giving in to my future intentions. Oh, car anthropomorphisms.
We waved goodbye to Deborah at East 30th and Second Ave, and I headed for a vegetarian/vegan pizza joint at East 12th before I got completely snippy. The crew debated scheduling possibilities and changes.
Part Four: "Bring the Picnic to You/Rockstar Picnic": Beaver Street and Locust, Bushwick, Brooklyn. We brought the picnic to a music video shoot for the Brooklyn band Black Taxi, where my friend Katy was hanging out and taking pictures. Set in the courtyard of a loft building, the video crew lent a perfect context for a Rockstar Picnic, with actual rockstars joining us for conversation and hipster cred.
Finally negotiating the next appointment, we took a breather at TJ's house before returning to Manhattan.
Part Five: "Picnic in Transit on Canal Street": 14th Street and Seventh Avenue, Manhattan. I started to feel a little fagged and demanded hot chocolate. This was becoming a test of endurance for me; the Picnic Facilitator and Maitre D' weren't showing signs of wear. Uma bounded out of the subway, fresh from performing at the Bronx Zoo, ready for an audition in half an hour. She gleefully ate her Curried Chicken sandwich with Hummus on the Side (new term: HOTS) as we inched along Canal Street. A short picnic, she was handed her dessert upon exit. The Maitre D' almost coaxed in two tourists before the light changed.
Part Six: "Picnic in Transit/ Homework Picnic": DUMBO and Gowanus, Brooklyn. Ridiculous diversions by the police, traffic, and further subway shenanigans made the next appointment difficult to coordinate, but we successfully found Jessie in DUMBO and Leda in Gowanus, PIMA classmates ready to eat and do homework with the Picnic Facilitator. Revisiting traffic on Canal Street yielded this photo.
I'm not sure but I think the homework meeting proved fruitful. Jessie and Leda were exchanged at Columbus Circle for a new set of PIMA students.
Part Seven: "Picnic in Transit/Tudor City/Mews": Columbus Circle, Manhattan. Lisa and Phil, long limbed and willing, joined us from helping Emily Mast with an art installation. The Picnic Facilitator directed me to Tudor City, an East Side "city within a city" apartment complex, where he was in search of the location of The Doors's "Strange Days" cover. Instead, we found a woman at a corner who was perturbed by our long pause at the stop sign. Our indecision was invading her private space? Intrigued, we circled around to catch another glimpse (unsuccessful), and instead parked to demonstrate the spirit of the famed album cover.
What we were looking for was a mew that was located a few blocks away. Almost there, the Picnic Facilitator tested the flash out at a traffic light and elicited the wrath of a Caribbean cab driver. He shouted that he was calling 911 with our license plate number, to which the Picnic Facilitator replied we were reporting his number. I was completely confused on what charge he was bringing against us and worried briefly that the Iron Maiden would receive a citation in the mail for some obscure code against representation. But then there was the mew and the location for a dessert picnic. We dropped off Lisa and Phil at the next appointment.
Part Eight: "Picnic in Transit": West 34th Street and Broadway, Manhattan. The Maitre D' disappeared into the crowd for a while before emerging with Kiko, a Japanese artist who has collaborated with TJ and 0H10M1KE in the past. Her accent was thick and I was looking forward to the advent of the last appointment, so I missed much of the conversation. I got us to Crown Heights without a problem, but shuttered once outside Kiko's party destination and demanded the Maitre D' accompany her inside. Which he did and punched out for the night.
Part Nine: "Picnic in Transit/Picnic at Art Exhibit": Bergen and Franklin, Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The Picnic Facilitator became the Maitre D' (with a bit of grumbling) and ushered well-dressed Chloë and Gabriel into the vehicle. Chloë is also a PIMA student, and I know her from an art project this summer. The picnic began in transit, but transitioned into an apartment gallery in Bushwick called Homestead. Leah, co-founder and an artist in "Get My Flash On," toured us around, including the rooftop installations. Many things glittered. Dessert was served on the way to 3rd Ward's big party, where our guests disembarked. The Picnic Facilitator and I dutifully unpacked the Iron Maiden, changed to our dancing clothes, and punched out on the way to a birthday party in Greenpoint.
Here's a rough Google map of our driving day. Note: if you go beyond the letter Q in your list of destinations on Google, everything disappears and you get this text: We could not calculate driving directions because your query had too many addresses. We exceeded Google's capacity for a continuous trip. Successful (if utterly exhausting) driving day, I'd say!