Monday, September 6, 2010

Hippie Lady, I'm from Bedrock

 Paintbrush in hand, back to the street, I heard someone politely ask if I would move my bicycle out of the way so that she could sit down on the concrete wall that doubled as a bench at the front end of the shelter.  I hadn't heard the young woman approach and felt rather sheepish that I'd blocked the entry and the best place to sit down and wait for the bus. I was about twenty minutes into what turned out to be an interesting hour of hanging out there scraping and repainting the outlines to the figures on the mural. A few people asked me if I'd designed it. No, I didn't, and I'm not sure who did, but I suspect it had something to do with the health center across the street. Or, maybe there was a day care center there at some point.

After she sat down, I asked if I could take her picture. I told her my friend had designed the shelter and wanted some pictures of people using it. She agreed to sit for the picture even before I offered to bring her a copy of the print.

While I was talking to her and taking her picture an older gentleman started asking me what I was doing taking pictures. He was shouting out to me from the street corner, "Hey what are you doing? I'm from Bedrock. Hey Hippie Lady, why are you taking pictures? I don't like it." The young woman thought he was being rude. He then walked up to me and asked again and wasn't satisfied that I was just taking a picture of this young woman to give to her.  He walked back to the corner and shouted again, "Hey Hippie Lady! I'm from Bedrock." After the third time. I put down my brush, walked over to him and the two other men he was standing with and looked him in the face. "Hi, I'm Sarah Averill, I'm a photographer and a physician. I'm here painting this mural and taking pictures of people who are using the shelter. I'm not working with the police or with the city. I'm here on my own working with friends on this project. I'm happy to take your picture if you would like." He shook my hand. I then turned and introduced myself to the two other men sitting on the wall by the street corner, just outside the boundaries of the bus shelter. They put their cigarettes aside and shook my hand too. I then went back to painting the wall. There were a few more comments from them and Bedrock. I asked what was Bedrock, and eventually learned he was a marine in Vietnam. There seemed to be something he wanted to tell me about where he was from, but I just couldn't understand through the innuendo. We didn't have enough of the same reference points. 

Then someone related to the woman stopped and started asking questions about the painting.
This man said what I was doing was good. He said he wouldn't have any time to do something like paint a public mural. When I explained that I didn't know how far I'd get, but that I believed in starting.  Just pick up a brush and begin, I said. I have an extra one if you want to help. He thought about that for a little while and said he had a book in his car that said things like that. Maybe, he said, I could learn something from you.   I asked how he was related to the woman, and now I forget, but he was her uncle or something. I asked what he thought of the bus shelter. He said, he had a car and didn't know what to think really.

Maybe you can give her a ride, I said. So he asked her where she was going, she got in and they both left me there with my black enamel paint, still just beginning to cover the lines that had turned more gray than black int he weather. 
I thought maybe I could learn something from just being there and taking the challenges to what I was doing.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Sarah, we miss you so much in Albany! I'm glad you are doing such great stuff in Syracuse. I just stumbled across this blog because my gmail told me about it.

    Thanks for the inspiration!