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.
TRIP TO NEW YORK FOR VIGGO MORTENSEN
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Go to page
to page 3.
Picture of front of
International Center of Photography: