Sunday, September 28, 2008

Boys on Building

I just watched the wonderful story of Man on Wire. I was floored by the sense of inspiration that moved Phillippe Petit to step well beyond boundaries in order to accomplish something incredibly special and singular, and ultimately for the force of good.

It made me think of my friend Sam Fleischner...he's someone that I associate with a more elastic sense of law when it comes to his pursuits.   He once told me that when he was a baby, his dad snuck through a construction site, with lil sam all bjorned up on his chest, in order to climb a gigantic crane that stood towering over the Providence River in Rhode Island just because he wanted to share that experience with his child.  Well, I think it's safe to say that helped shape sam into a feisty and thoughtful art explorer.  It's a quality that we share in different shades and when we get to hang we like to bring each other along on different adventures (Sam was the friend who came out west to help frank and I film our TreeVD, climbing all together into different trees to record songs across the bay).

When I was most recently in NY, sam brought me along for a ripe one...He wanted to explore the Grain Terminal in Red Hook, whose giant silos have been abandoned for over 4 decades.  This required a good deal of boundary-elasticity with respect to the 17 foot concrete wall that surrounded it.... here's some of sam's photos of our tour

these photos were all taken leading up to the moment when we were at the very top of the roof and looked down to see two NYPD cars rolling up to the site.  this certainly did not bode well for our nerves, and we had to make some snappy decisions.  the overriding feeling was that we knew we shouldn't be there, but we also knew that we were acting on ultimately curious and harmless impulses, so nothing tooo terrible would happen.  but i was still pretty scared (unlike sam, the laws I tend to bend are pretty, should I go to that part of the forest that says area closed?).   Anway, there were two stair case that climbed up either side of the building and we started down one, hoping that perhaps we could make it out and away without a police run in.  the stairs were grated so you could see down through the dozens of flights.  the  whole time we padded down the steps I had my eagle eyes peeled for any sign of movement or color.  we made it to the bottom floor which had no wall and a huge hole in the floor with a 10 foot drop down to rubble and the rocks bordering the nearby water channel.  we peered around the piece of wall that was still there and saw two policemen with a foreman stationed at the bottom of the other staircase, while other police were beginning to head up into the building.  As we were facing the hard facts and trying to decide whether to hide out or to run, we looked across to the factory on the other side of the channel and saw an Hasidic jewish man having a cigarette, seeming to be watching this whole situation.  We couldn't tell if he had seen us or not but as we hid sam thought he saw him point at us.  Sam started to wave slowly at him and give him the thumbs up or thumbs down sign, I guess to see if he was with us or against us.  He was against us.  The next thing I know Sam drops down through the hole in the floor, and I follow as I look up to see our Hasidic friend pointing and gesturing wildly towards us. Betrayed!  We sprinted for the 17 foot concrete wall surrounding the lot (you can see it in the last picture above) and sam gives me a boost up, tosses me his bag, somehow gets up by himself (17 feet of adrenaline), and we drop down to the neighboring soccer field, take off our shirts and proceed as "joggers" over to the ice cream truck parked by the field.  We got two soft serves, and then realized that there was a community pool across the street so we went in and went swimming in our underpants while our stomachs returned to their proper place.

I know this is story is not a good thing, and I'm not trying to condone or encourage any recklessness (sorry if you're reading this parents)- it most certainly would have been awful to have gotten arrested-but I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy exploring that building.  I'm not sure what the lesson is...when do you dance the reckless-dance and when do you bow out?  I guess the question is, do you stand behind what are you being reckless for?  Phillippe Petit certainly did.


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