Night falls, the ladder comes out, buckets brought, brushes bound for adventure. The wall was perfect, rebellion assured, the message will be perfect, understood, and the heavens will sing my praises; the certainty of those who should have none. The ladder was set on the dumpster, wobbled as was its nature, and corrected with duct tape and harsh words. Then the leap of faith, from father’s ladder to Father’s ladder, metal safety steps, their own ladder extended out of reach of the undesired. The legacy of a fire in the Garment District ages ago, burning Triangles… singed children and dresses, we must have an escape! the city cried. I made my way up the fire escape, heading to the wall, the perfect wall, where my greatness will shine through, and even a passing lawman wouldn’t be able to stop me.
A stranger’s roof, or more accurately, a roof belonging to many strangers is an interesting place to be. The detritus of other lives lived in the city, lawn chairs, flower pots deadened by winter, a grill for the aspiring chef; signs of lives lived well, weller than mine certainly. The wall looms ahead of me, perfect, with a light low and pointing up, perfectly lighted like a gallery, or a proper installation. All signs that the owner sent to me, unknowing maybe, but signs sent me nonetheless. A quick twist of a screw, and the light was deadened as well, joining the flower pots in decrepitude, there mustn’t be a sign to those below what was to occur above.
The work starts slow, you must prep the surface, or your work will be fleeting at best, and worst would be unforgiveable, a loss of face, a ruining of the name, the untouchable thing called cred, a currency un-spendable. Use sandpaper first, rough and cheap like a day laborer or a thug for hire, prepping the ground, smoothing the edges, and cleaning the dirt. A dirty surface holds no message, at least not a clear one. For my exit interview with the city I selected a large space, 20 feet high, 20 feet across, lit from below by a single bulb that may once have illuminated a billboard, some crap advert for foot powder or Katherine Heigl the strangers below wisely removed. Only the bulb and its housing remained, still radiating light like Edison intended, even though its purpose had long since ceased.
Sanding completed, the medium needs to be taught to hold a message, and nothing helps better than the hooves of a horse, or glue, whichever is easier to get up a ladder in the dead of night. Personally I use glue, but I could be made to understand the old ways as well. The glue bucket is large and white, once containing paint, now transformed, many bottles of glue poured by hand inside, watching the glue glop toward its new home. Forever glop towards Bethlehem, there lies destiny, the completion, the message, the purpose. Two metal poles are screwed together once roofside, easier that way, a paint roller joining them, and a machine is born. I like to paint a big square for my projects, paint a target on the world and drop the message, bomb-like. A field of glue, large like a farmer’s crop, hanging gently to the perfect wall, now awaiting its transformation.
For a large project like my farewell, one layer of adhesive will not suffice. The strips of paper I’ve brought with me are adorned with a second adhesive, this one applied like hair spray, or Krylon, or Pam, you pick that which makes you comfortable. The strips were made days earlier at Staples, and were meticulously arranged and joined, scissors and glue as important as mortar and pestle, as air and water. The strips measure 15 feet in height, 2 feet in width, and require 5 strips laid in a row to form the message.
Glue applied to all surfaces, the strips are hung slowly and carefully. The paint roller is removed from the machine, and replaced with a device similar to a grabber used by the physically challenged. The strips hang next to each other in such a way that a picture forms, one piece at a time, like a puzzle, slowly forming four stories in the air. The application must be perfect or the picture won’t take, won’t coalesce, won’t make sense… and the picture must be honored before I leave Brooklyn. The first strip laid flat, suspended in midair by glue and love, the machine must change to accomplish the task it has been set on. The grabber removes, the paint roller reattaches, but this time without roll, as a simple surface which provides pressure, which smooth the paper against the wall, against the glue.
The process is repeated five times, once for each strip. Grabber to place, roller without roll to smooth, and repeat. Once the five become one, the roller is used over the entire field, to ensure the message holds. I know it’s evidence against me, but I take a multitude of pictures. The life of such things is short, the strangers below won’t stand for it, and eventually my work will fill a trash bag, and eventually be forgotten. Pictures will need to tell the story of what happened here tonight. Before I make my escape, I repair the damage done to the light bulb, ensuring my subject will be surrounded by the light he never was in life. I leave the tools behind, knowing I won’t have a chance to use them again, not where I’m going.
Back down the fire escape, and I leap from their ladder to mine, hoping the duct tape holds fast. When I touch the ground, I know I’ve survived another night, and another adventure. I pack up my ladder and head home. When I finally happen upon another person, it’s a police officer, enquiring as to my use of the ladder. I’m far enough from the scene of my crime to tell a tale, so I do.
“I was working a paint job, sir. Just finished up for the evening.”
“Bit late for paint, ain’t it?”
“You can search me if you want, I’m clean, there’s no call for lying, sir.”
I’m not sure what the protocol is for finding a child out after 2 a.m. carrying a ladder that would make home invasions a breeze, but there was no search that evening. Home appeared in my view easily after that, the ladder was replaced quietly, and I stole away to my bed for the last time. I dreamed of walls, and making a god of a dead friend.