15 October 2007
we took to the streets of downtown portland, loads of little paper fortunes in hand. we were hoping to leave them in a hundred different places, we were hoping all kinds of people would find them. and smile or laugh or stop for a second and look around. or something, anything. who knows how much of that actually happened but it doesn't really matter. as it turns out, the act of doing was enough.
inspired by keri smith's guerilla art kit, I cut paper into teeny tiny slips and set out a mess of colored pencils. the crew was hungry for a project and didn't need a lot of extra prompting from me. the crew (aka guerilla art army) at hand: ava and friends abby and millie, plus kind of/sort of ezra.
there really weren't any rules except, you know, to write something nice. what I told them was to write something they might like to find and read. interesting, the slight variations in interpretation: for example, abby felt strongly about dating each of her fortunes while millie's messages were more succinct and abstract, decorated with hearts and stars and exclamation points. mine were in the vein of hey, your hair looks good today or go on, play hooky from work and ava's were so heartbreakingly sweet I could barely stand to read them. messages like don't listen to the mean things people say and you will always look pretty. I saved that last one, by the way. tucked it away someplace special. sort of makes me want to cry when I look at it. but also, it makes me feel pretty.
after lunch we set out for downtown. on our way to catch the street car, millie hid the first secret fortune in a small, rectangular nook close to the ground. abby said only a kid would find that one because adults are mostly too busy looking ahead and walking fast. uh, she's probably right. no wait, she is absolutely right.
it didn't take long before the whole thing turned into the best game ever. where to hide the fortunes? where could they be effectively hidden but still be found? how will they keep from blowing away? what if we'd thought to bring tape? millie wins the prize for most brilliant hiding place: in the coils of the springs of a bicycle seat. so wishing I'd thought of that one.
a few other hiding places:
in the basket of a bicycle parked outside the library. personally, I think anyone who takes the time to decorate their bicycle basket with flowers deserves a secret fortune.
underneath some leaves on a concrete bench outside the downtown public library.
in the crack of yet another concrete bench and again with the downtown library. we hit the inside pretty hard too.
and speaking of the library, as we were walking by, we passed a homeless woman who'd set up camp on one of the concrete benches and was surrounded by several bags stuffed with what looked to be all her earthly possessions. and before I could stop it (or even have time to think about whether or not I should stop it), ava carefully placed one of her secret fortunes in the one small spot that wasn't occupied by the woman's bags. I was too busy chasing after ezra to react but once I caught up with him, I turned to see if the woman had noticed the fortune. and then I saw her pick up that tiny piece of paper and look in our direction. I turned away just then, hastily put my camera down. felt something akin to shame. actually, I wasn't sure how I felt because I wasn't sure how she felt. I wasn't sure if she was crazy or if maybe she thought I was crazy or if it was even okay that we had done what we'd done. but I couldn't help myself, I turned to look at her once more and dang it if she wasn't smiling.
more hiding places:
for the next person who picks up a copy of the jewish review.
for the next person who goes to feed the meter.
for the person roaming the western philosophy aisle at powell's.
for the next person who needs to make a call. wait, is there anyone left in the world who still uses the pay phone? I hope so.
I can't wait to do this again. I absolutely cannot wait. should you feel the need to try this out yourself, please do. and report back. we could all use a little bit more of the shiny happy, yes? precisely the point.