Blueprint of skeleton homes,
Tangled in cords, telephones
ringing into nights and into souls.
"So when you’re 17 and stuck on a snowed-in hill
you’ll know not to hitchhike” is this poem’s outcome
as projected by my mother.
And there was that hitcher in Mississippi
who torched the car with the driver still in it,
a signal flare in the southern air.
But “don’t talk to strangers” is a fitting maxim
for the friendless.
Oregon won’t see such snowfall again,
and I will never again stick my thumb out like a thin pink flag,
run to the stopped car, hop in, and introduce myself.
He was an airline pilot from Chicago.
She was a vet’s assistant.
They were cold, bored, and in love.
He was interviewing for a job at the airport.
Compact, closer than lovers, we shared
the general gist of our lives, the details foggy,
as though we were recounting a movie
hidden in the depths of a barely believed childhood.
He got the call. He got the job.
We celebrated with doughnuts and coffee
before they dropped me in front of the gym.
It was January 14th, 2008.
Befriending strangers is a reoccurring theme in my life.
I glory in their triumphs, the little truths
couched between their eyebrows, their laugh like a motor catching.
Soon I will be leaving this place
a stranger to myself — and yes, mother,
I talk to myself all the time. Soon I will arrive
in a clean white airport, see his face pass
like mirrored glass, only to move on and melt through memory
until it is picked up, again and again.
Seaside 02: Giclee Fine Art Print 13X19
Tweenbots by Kacie Kinzer:
Given their extreme vulnerability, the vastness of city space, the dangers posed by traffic, suspicion of terrorism, and the possibility that no one would be interested in helping a lost little robot, I initially conceived the Tweenbots as disposable creatures which were more likely to struggle and die in the city than to reach their destination. Because I built them with minimal technology, I had no way of tracking the Tweenbot’s progress, and so I set out on the first test with a video camera hidden in my purse. I placed the Tweenbot down on the sidewalk, and walked far enough away that I would not be observed as the Tweenbot––a smiling 10-inch tall cardboard missionary––bumped along towards his inevitable fate.
The results were unexpected. Over the course of the following months, throughout numerous missions, the Tweenbots were successful in rolling from their start point to their far-away destination assisted only by strangers. Every time the robot got caught under a park bench, ground futilely against a curb, or became trapped in a pothole, some passerby would always rescue it and send it toward its goal. Never once was a Tweenbot lost or damaged. Often, people would ignore the instructions to aim the Tweenbot in the “right” direction, if that direction meant sending the robot into a perilous situation. One man turned the robot back in the direction from which it had just come, saying out loud to the Tweenbot, “You can’t go that way, it’s toward the road.”
The Tweenbot’s unexpected presence in the city created an unfolding narrative that spoke not simply to the vastness of city space and to the journey of a human-assisted robot, but also to the power of a simple technological object to create a complex network powered by human intelligence and asynchronous interactions. But of more interest to me, was the fact that this ad-hoc crowdsourcing was driven primarily by human empathy for an anthropomorphized object. The journey the Tweenbots take each time they are released in the city becomes a story of people’s willingness to engage with a creature that mirrors human characteristics of vulnerability, of being lost, and of having intention without the means of achieving its goal alone. As each encounter with a helpful pedestrian takes the robot one step closer to attaining it’s destination, the significance of our random discoveries and individual actions accumulates into a story about a vast space made small by an even smaller robot.
Vintage Street Fighter (circa 1910)