Should auld acquaintance be forgot?

No, they should not.

Do you remember my story last year about the book I published for Nick Hornby and Bruce Springsteen? It had a happy/sad conclusion. After several years of fits and starts, it was finally printed, bound and sold. The end result was very satisfactory little letterpress chapbook and a check for nearly $16,000 for a school for autistic children in London. The sad part was that it annihilated the great friendship between myself and the printer.

Flash to now. We had reconciled via email at the beginning of 2011. This week, he visited New York. It was the first time we’d met face-to-face since the Thunder Road kerfuffle. Miraculously, (or, perhaps, not so miraculously) it’s as if nothing bad ever happened between us. There were no aftershocks. Nothing! We picked up our conversation right where we left off and spent the day yammering like two old hens. What a relief. What a gift!

I put on my tour guide chapeau and we spent the day scouring the museums, art galleries and rare bookstores of Manhattan. I don’t know anyone who has a deeper knowledge or greater passion for printing than this guy. His enthusiasm is infectious. We visited the Morgan Library where there are printing samples ranging from Egyptian stone scrolls through to a Gutenberg bible, a Shakespeare first folio, to handwritten letters by Hemingway where he liberally drops the “F” bomb and concertos penned by Mozart.

We saw the Weegee exhibit at the International Center for Photography and after a walk on the Highline we ducked in and out of a dozen art galleries in Chelsea. I was wondering how I could parlay a day like that into a lucrative career. Here’s a small sampling of what we stumbled across in the art world. [Sorry, iPhone users. You’ll miss out on some terrific film clips.]

This piece of brilliance is BIT.FALL by German artist Julius Popp. A stream of water is released in once second intervals. As that “section” of water falls, a word is projected onto it. The text is generated by a statistical algorithm that randomly pulls words from the current stream of news on the internet. The illusion is that solid words dissolve into nothing.

There’s some deeper meaning about the impermanence of cultural information but, honestly, I don’t care about that stuff. This is simply a very clever, fun piece.

This summer’s outdoor public art exhibit at Madison Square Park is Pet Sounds by California-based artist Charles Long.


The candy-colored sculptures look like great globs of silly putty that drip off rails, tables and benches. They also have a very effective interactive feature.

Each sculpture makes its own, unique, sound. You might have to turn the volume up a bit but I was able to capture the “pet sound” as I caressed it. It also vibrated as I ran my hand down its back. Probably not the most sanitary exhibit I’ve ever seen but if you’re frightened by germs, then this city probably isn’t the place for you, anyway.

11 thoughts on “Should auld acquaintance be forgot?

  1. Cities like NYC, London, maybe Berlin … Where you can go and go and go without plans and end up with full and fantastic days. Other urban environments also offer, but not as rich, not as easy. Love it.

  2. Scarlet: That is so true. Some chemistries never die. It was pretty amazing.Ellie: We had a very loose agenda and actually kind of bumped into all these fabulous events. It makes it worth putting up with the noise, dirt, expense, overcrowding, etc., etc., etc.

  3. It would have been very sad had such a project not ended in a reconciliation. 4000 USD for that. Hmmm—might have a rummage in the compost bin and see what I could do.

  4. -delighted that you were able to re-connect with your friend. i like it when you can just pick up and move on after a squabble. less drama that way than hashing and rehashing until blue in the face.- BIT.FALL? BRILLIANT and fun! How long will it be there?- Same for Pet Sounds! i am always drawn to touch smooth, shiny things. If they wiggle and make funky noises? Even better… i’d try to play it like an instrument. How long will they be there? i need to get back to visit soon…

  5. looby: I had always hoped for a reconciliation. I mourn for all the lost years but am thankful for what we have now.daisy: I think the Palestinians and Israelis can learn a thing or two from us. The vibration in the Pet Sound pieces is quite strong. I was wondering what would happen if someone, say, a girl for instance, sat on one.

  6. You’re much better than I. I tend to drift away from friends and never re-connect.Not too sure about the water/graphic sculpture. Clever idea I grant you, but would you want one in your living room?Give me a Pissarro or a Monet or even a Grahame Sydney.You’re a very brave man, rubbing a vibrating blob, I’m impressed.

  7. I want to meet the doofus who’ll pay $4000 for that carrot thing – I’ve got a turd on a grapefruit piece I’d like him to look at. I think I’d rather sit on those coloured sculptures than stroke them.

  8. Pat: If you can’t accept the flaws, you’ll not have any friends! I’m glad it’s over.TSB: I don’t reconnect much either, but this was an extraordinary circumstance. It was well worth the effort. And I’m not so sure the water sculpture is intended for home use. Thanks for the Sydney link. Am not familiar. But I am now.GB: Sitting on the sculptures might produce a pleasurable effect, but you’ll look ridiculous in public. Don’t you care about your image?

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