Saturday, June 18, 2011
The Westerly Hauntings
A couple of years ago the word "westerly" began chanting itself in my head. Like a random song, it got stuck there. (Though when those "random" songs get stuck, pay attention to the lyrics and you'll often find a reason why it stayed with you. Of course it might just be the insidious hooks of ABBA.) When I would write anything it would jump to the front of the line. "Westerly," it said. "Westerly westerly westerly! Westerly." I didn't think too much of it. My mind is of the monkey variety and is on an endless Wonka boat ride; in a perpetual state of shuffling cards and whirling compasses. It's a windstorm of words and images and ideas in a sort of maniacal spin-art that occasionally comes together at just the right moment and allows me to utter something practical like "hold the mayo" or "Happy Birthday!" I am also able to do my own taxes and laundry. Beyond that sometimes I think it's a miracle I've made it this far. Maybe I haven't.
I curated a poetry reading at Forbes Library a few years ago and created a limited edition chap book with a selection of the five poets' poems and, indulgently, some of my collages. I made 26 of them out of road maps I'd picked up at a tag sale,"numbering" each with a letter of the alphabet on a field of red Holden Trading Stamps (not as popular as the S & H Green Stamps many of us may recall our moms collecting in that endless lick-and-affix-a-thon with visions of toasters and food processors dancing in their eyes). As I folded the very last map into the pocket shape and affixed the letter Z and the tape to the edges, the town's name staring up at me from my work table on the map was Westerly, Rhode Island. I am trying to figure out who actually owns that particular copy but here is edition # J from the series, just to give you an idea of what the design was:
My friend Dave and I joked about taking a trip to Westerly to see what would befall me, but we didn't, laughing it off as folly; me secretly terrified.
Last night at the William Baczek Gallery in Northampton while waiting for Godot (aka an order from Local Burger where they might want to rethink their slogan: "It's not fast food... It's good food fast!" or maybe just change the name to "Rip Van Winkleburger") I was drawn to a piece by Connecticut painter Joshua Smith in the corner. As I stared at it, something emerged that I hadn't seen for a while. Have a look.
No, look more closely.
When I got home I GOOGLED: "Jim Neill Westerly" on my partner's computer and it returned this ominous top result: James Neill (Deceased).
Now on my OWN computer as I attempt to recreate the result for this post, it comes up with something about Intrauterine Insemination. I know that Google searches will yield different results on different accounts based on search histories etc., all the better for Google to market to you for their advertisers. Hers comes up with me dead. Mine with making babies, if in an indirect fashion.