I started publishing a small sixteen-page periodical called The Duplex Planet in 1979. For the first fifty issues, it was filled with my conversations with residents of a nursing home in Boston. Once I’d moved out of Massachusetts it then expanded to other locales and sources. This continued until 2010, when I stopped printing new editions because the ideas that I was following had found more effective artistic outlets for me. It wasn’t easy to let go after 189 issues, as I’d come to think that I’d continue making new ones for the rest of my life. The routines in creating each new issue had become a part of monthly thoughts and efforts, so it was not without a degree of confusion and regret that I realized it was time to stop and fully embrace the other avenues into which I was pouring these ideas.
I traffic in ideas. They need to take some form, be it musical, visual, or word-based, but they start as an idea. If an idea isn’t working I let it go, as another one will soon come along or spring forth from the ashes of an earlier one. For me, ideas are a dime a dozen. It’s getting them to some sort of fruition where I can trip myself up. I’ve embarked on a new project with gusto only to grew weary of it, sometimes after months or even years, other times within weeks or less.
At the shortest end of the spectrum was something I started and dropped all with in twenty-four hours. On my morning walk to the local cafe, I reached the center of town and there was a car at the stoplight. I could hear music, even with the windows rolled up. Later that day, on the same walk (this time to the post office) there was another car waiting at the light and again I could hear music emanating. Both songs had been by the Beatles, or Beatle-related, and that is how the idea came to me: I’d start a small notebook in which I’d write down the music I heard broadcast from cars. The next day, I couldn’t identify the music I heard from a car, so my enthusiasm for the project ground to a halt. But I felt I had to salvage the idea – instead I dedicated myself to writing down whatever song was playing on the radio when I entered Lynn’s Country Cafe, the place I go each morning. I grew weary of this within a few weeks, but having made a vow to myself, I continued until the journal was filled. I felt an incredible sense of relief when I finished the book, which made it almost worth the tedium I’d put myself through to reach the release that accompanied that last page.
In the eighties, I started a project I called the “Postal Dare.” I made and mailed a few hundred postcards, on which I had printed a message addressed, “Dear Postal Worker.” What followed, in large print, was an offer of an unspecified reward if they failed to deliver the card as addressed, and furnish me with proof that this occurred (or, more accurately, had not). The only response I received was from a friend in Ohio, consisting a photo of the mailman handing the card to him. This documentation did not follow my request, but since it was the only one I received I decided to put the matter before a team of judges. I sent a rather elaborate portfolio with all the pertinent documentation to several dozen friends, soliciting their opinion on how to proceed.
I collected responses, dutifully copying everything so that each participant – judges, postal employee, and my friend the recipient – could receive a folder with the final decision. I had a rubber stamp made for labeling the front of each of the planned dossiers. This was around the time I moved from Boston to New York state. All of these papers were in boxes from the copy center. Settling into the new home, the boxes ended up in the basement. Some years went by. I felt bad about not bringing this thing to a close but as it reached a decade of inaction, I accepted that finishing it would now be absurd, since I’d lost track of many of the participants and certainly everyone would have forgotten about it. So, with a degree of sadness and a sense of failure, I assuaged my loss a little by repurposing the paper, using the blank side for whatever needs were at hand.
Artist David Greenberger lives in Greenwich, NY. His latest CD of monologues & music is My Thoughts Approximately. www.davidgreenberger.com @davidbg