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Viggo Mortensen Book Signing in New York
Monthly Column
March 2006

In the inside cover of Viggo Mortensen’s book, Linger, the following Goethe quote is shown:  “among coloured reflections is our life.”

In the spirit of these words, this month’s column will include my trip to New York from time I landed at the airport to the end of the day of Viggo’s book signing.


The table was set up in front of a wall mural of Che Guevara at the International Center of Photography on Friday, February 17, 2006.  The picture below shows Viggo Mortensen on the right (new book is Linger) and Lindsay Brice on the left (book is Supernatural).  


Landing In Newark

At the Newark Liberty International Airport, as I make my way down to the lower level to get a taxi, a calm-faced man approaches me and asks, “Taxi?”  Because I have been warned about “gypsy taxis,” a flag goes up in my mind.  I question quietly that taxis are supposed to wait outside.  Why is the driver approaching me?  Still, I answer, “Yes,” and the man kindly takes my bag and I am thankful that the man lightens the load.

Outside he crosses past the line of taxis and leads me toward the parking garage.  Another flag goes up in my mind.

I ask him, “Why the parking garage?  Aren’t taxis supposed to be out here?”  Because he senses my abrupt stop where I refuse to follow him, he takes out from his pocket a business card, as if to reassure me he is a legitimate taxi operator.

I say, “No, I’m sorry, I want to take the taxis here,” and I point to the long line of taxis at the curb.

He flashes the business card at me again, as if the card would make things official and that he is a legitimate taxi operator. 

I take my bag from him and wish him a good day.  He kindly points and tells me to go to the front of the taxi line and proceeds back to the terminal.

The man at the front of the taxi line asks where I’m going and I tell him, “Avenue of the Americas.”  He hands me a yellow flyer after scribbling on it and gets me the first taxi in line.  I look over the yellow flyer, which states, “Only use taxis at authorized taxi stands.  Refuse offers for transportation from helpful strangers.  They could be illegal operators.”  

I wonder why this warning isn’t posted on the walls or outside the terminal doors.  Or add a variation to the repeated announcement in the PA system that says, “For security reasons do not accept bags or packages that do not belong to you…For security reasons, do not accept offers from illegal taxi operators.”  As I sit in the cab looking at Newark, I get a sense that the man who approached me fits the “wild east” look of his environment. 

Arriving at the International Center of Photography

I thank quietly the elderly man who is driving the cab.  He confirms what I already know--have him do the driving.  The streets seem to get narrower as the driver inches his way.  Even with the close calls, I still feel safe.

At this point, there should be some “hook” to keep your interest regarding my trip to New York, but like in real-life, arriving at the International Center of Photography goes smoothly.  The driver stops right at the front door.  It is almost too smooth and I am thankful I make it.

I enter through revolving doors and the place is near empty.  The large, dark and red mural on the wall catches my attention and gives me a sense of the place.  It is still very early, around 12:30, so I check out the gift shop, pay the fee to view the gallery, and check-in my heavy bag of books and coat.  I wait a moment, hoping to find Randee, a Viggo fan who has kept in contact with me and who has kindly given her testimonial for my Viggo Mortensen ebook.  I ask a few people who roam in and who fit Randee’s description of herself and unfortunately they’re not her.  (Randee and I missed each other.  However, Randee and I contacted each other afterwards and she has sent in this account of her meeting with Viggo).

So I start my walk through the gallery, not knowing what to expect, and leave myself open.

The gallery begins with pictures of Che Guevara and variations of his photo in different formats and revered interpretations.  I leave the section feeling the passion of that time.  I make a mental note to make sure I watch Motorcycle Diaries at next opportunity.

Next is a room of Americans of African descent.  They are beautiful pictures, of well-groomed women, children and young men who have graduated from college.  However, in another set of exhibits, poverty in the South is shown—a family living in a cabin shack with lots of children.

Downstairs are powerful pictures of child laborers.  I choke down my sudden need to cry.  Had I seen these pictures before I had my two sons, I would have been affected, but not as strongly.

At the other side of a wall are pictures of a woman in the South who helped deliver babies and who trained midwives.  The fact she is a black woman who has only meager instruments makes her work even more amazing.  Reminder that no matter what, there are miracles like her.

Next are pictures from an Emergency Room that show blood, violence, and death.

Another room shows pictures of the poor in the South—many from West Virginia and the hazards of mining livelihoods and the environmental sludges that result.  There is a picture of a handmade, very humble sign asking that the sludges be cleaned up.

I look for more displays and find there are no more.  I see a café but I return upstairs wondering what else to do with the time that is left.  At the lobby, I wonder if I’ll meet Randee.  Again, no signs of her.  As I wait at the bench, I people-watch at least three class field trips that arrive.  They are given the instructions about touring the Center.  I wonder how the Center will affect their young minds.

I get back up and go back to read closer about Che and read the motivation behind the Center.  After reading what the founders intended, the Center successfully continues the reason the Center was started in the first place.  The thoughts, ideas and issues presented show how this country’s government has done good things (such as passing child labor laws), but lately it has lacked in focusing on the important basic needs of its citizens. 

Would the current White House fund a place like the Center?  Or instead place it in the middle of a ranch somewhere and use it as a shooting target for hunting practice?  (running with it like the media for dark humor’s sake).

Applying the Center to today--if the thought process of leaders came from what the Center shows—we would end up with someone like Former President, Jimmy Carter.

As I return to the lobby and look out the front doors to the sunny street, I wonder if I should go out and find some place to eat.  I feel comfortable in the Center and feel I’d be safer to stay than venture out.  I’m here for the book signing and should remain. 

So I go down to the café to have a leisurely snack.  Nothing looks good, but the man at the counter, the good salesman that he is, mentions the wonderful soup that comes with bread.  It’s his lucky day.  It does sound good and I place the order.  Had I said, “no, thanks,” he may have proceeded to the next, powerful sales tool—a free sample.  I place a dollar in his tip cup and he kindly makes me a glass of iced water without my asking.  I thank him and take my tray to find a table.  He is right.  The soup and bread are just right.  I go back upstairs and ask the ticket person if the Viggo signing was still happening.  He says a line has already formed outside.

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Go to page 3.

Picture of front of International Center of Photography:







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