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the raspberry lamppost

A project by David Colosi, 1991
Installation title: The Raspberry Lamppost
Text title: The Rasperry Lamppost
Exhibition & Performance: California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA
Photo credits: David Colosi

David Colosi - Raspberry Lamppost

*THE RASPBERRY LAMPPOST:  A lamppost wrapped by raspberry bushes stood in a vacant lot.  The elementary school kids on the block had come to an agreement – sometime – that whenever they had time they would run to the lamppost, pull a raspberry, and poke it in their mouths.  It turned into a game.  Sometimes there would be only one person there.  Other times two or three would touch base at the same time.  The objective was for as many as possible to arrive at the lamppost at the same moment – a point of consciousness, an instant to see who had made it.  Then they would scatter at different intervals and whir about, little juiced bottle rockets, until the next time.

THE RASPBERRY LAMPPOST

Tuesdays we would hang out and sing sitting on felled telephone poles, jugs of rum on the ground sucked dry then blown into like jug band players.David Colosi - Raspberry Lamppost

Under staircases to smoke, in basements to get alcohol, in train tunnels to plan escape routes, whispering under a rock by the river, to meet, and meet again later, to tell more, in a cave, by a tree marked HERE, in the back of a burned out car, behind the grocery store, the deserted house at the end of the road or the one being built at the other end, at night, usually always at night, but the farther ones, the more secluded ones, during the day, before dinner, after dinner, after school, after work, after the kids are asleep, to find an excuse to go out, anyway to finish off with a “be back before dinner,” or “in a little while,” and then out David Colosi - Raspberry Lamppostinto the car or on foot or on a bike or skateboard. And you tried to make it seem like you were only gone long enough to do what you said you had to do and that you have everything you said you’d get, and then there is the occasional thing you forgot and the wondering if they know what you’ve been up to, or if it really matters, if they would kill you or put you in jail or scold you or ground you or walk out on you or mock you for having your own ideas.

Ollie held his broken cast in the air, and we told him, now he had really done it.  “Horsing around,” they told him in the hospital, like he was some fifth grade bully in a playground.  But Ollie’s cast didn’t come from any kootie chasing.  Actually that’s exactly what it came from – gave the wall a right cross and the wall didn’t fall, all in all a pathetic brawl, one we all saw, vented from some shaking metal grid blowing hot air that tends to burn its own metal.  Then a toot into the jug and Ollie asks us how do we like our wars.  I tell him sunny-side up.  They always get scrambled.  Something about a jiggling, glowing, yellow nucleus makes a person know what they’re ingesting.  David Colosi - Raspberry LamppostOllie with split lip and blue knit cap rocks the log beneath him laughing and waving his arms, but the momentum pulls too hard, and he’s over on his back rolling, and then he’s wrapped under it like an Oak tree under a sub-division home steam roller.  And there’s a ravine at the bottom of the hill, and Ollie’s going into it.  He’s drifting out of sight, taken down by the undertow.

But it’s not my face on that rock, eyes closed and skin blue.  It’s his.  When I first got to him his eyes were blinking, and he was wheezing to say something.  But I told him, “You’re better off, stay dead.  They already think you’re dead.  Consider your position.  Did you like it here anyway?  What could you do dead you couldn’t do otherwise?”  And his eyes shut.  David Colosi - Raspberry LamppostAnd they were his eyes, not mine.  I could have taken it, and I could have justified it, and I know he’d been prepared his whole life, but he was laughing and rocking a log.  And the others run down the hill and all of us look down at Ollie, seeing mortality at the same time, as if we’d all touched his body at once then scattered and spiraled back up the hill.  But I’m the only one who turns to see that Ollie’s body isn’t where we left it.

And when they find you the next day lying face down by a parked car, your skateboard wheels spinning from the wind, they knew it would happen to one of them and some of them thought it would be you.  But they kept it to themselves.  It’s all for a cause they supposed.  But the only cause worth dying for is your own.  So they hope it was yours that you died for.  And they try to figure out what theirs is and which would be worth that asphalt to take the soggy nap on.  And when they’d meet in your house and talk about ideas you didn’t want a part in, you tried to talk them out of them and tried to defend your right to relinquish responsibility for whatever happens, and you wouldn’t stand behind them if this one failed because it wasn’t for what you thought you all wanted.  And you felt guilty when they got one of you, but if it were you, you would have felt cheated out of your right to die for your cause.  David Colosi - Raspberry LamppostSo you try your best not to say, “I told you so,” when you did, but you worship their freedom to learn from their mistakes.

And Ollie wasn’t part of an organization or affiliated with the tract-home night-time re-classification of homes or the division of families split in droves or with finding a book club or bridge partner to complain to.

But me, every Tuesday I started at my house and adjusted my bowling shirt, polished my shoes, put my ball in my bag, and went off to meet Garret, Annie, and Karen at Lou’s lanes.

We’d been playing for five months.  Met for the first time at the alley, sick of dilly dallying with people we knew, one night a week to get out, away from that life we’d become so accustomed to, just a mild interest in bowling, a few lucky shots when we were kids, enough to spark the idea we might be able to improve the skill.  It was more about time to ourselves than bowling, the performance of some ritual where we could tell the world to fuck off and clear our heads of all the shit we hear on TV, at work, in church, at home, the sort of going-to-bed of being awake where tomorrow we’ll make it different. But the thing is, rarely anyone does: the leave-it-at-the-bowling-alley-mountain-top-in-a-boat theory of responsibility release, makes it tough to materialize an idea.  But now the people we’d never met before became the people we knew too well. David Colosi - Raspberry Lamppost

Annie drank two pitchers of Michelob, I ate a Hostess cupcake every fifth frame, Garrett late from the nursing home, and Karen a near perfect game.

“How am I supposed to concentrate with you scribbling in my ear?”

“Just bowl ‘em, huh.”  I lifted the pencil off the score sheet and gestured for Karen to go ahead.  The ball behind her midway in the air, red hair tucked over her left shoulder, I mark an “X” before she releases.

“Did you see? I twisted it,” she says and twists her hand at the wrist.  “It was too much.”  Never satisfied with a good shot.  Garrett sat behind us, ball in his lap.  His shot after mine.  I could feel him staring at the pins watching the machine set...David Colosi - Raspberry Lamppost

Me, marching toward the foul line, Garrett, the pins.

“Fuck!” Only the four pins on the right.  Garrett, a quick...look...a scuff mark on my shoe.  Wasn’t there my last shot.

“Wasn’t there his last shot,” Garrett points out to Annie who is sitting behind him at a round table in the carpeted section where drinking is allowed.  I overhear, lick a finger and wipe the smudge.  Garrett stares.  Next shot - spare.

Nods all around.  The pins set for Garrett. He holds his ball in both hands like it’s crystal, steps up to the polished wood floor and waits, studies the pins.  His right fingers in the holes, his left hand on the outside, he lifts the ball just under his eyes.  His chest inflates and deflates.  One, two, three, four, slow steps to the foul line and releases...

The alley was full.  The sound of all the pins crashing had become constant and disappeared, and we didn’t notice until Garret shot his first ball.  Then by some accident of etiquette each bowler in every lane shot at the same time.  A roar of thirty-two balls rolling then one crash and a barrage of exclamations.  One mass deja vu, and everyone looked at each other sensing his actions were carefully placed or had happened before.  Slow motion and every facial expression recognized.  David Colosi - Raspberry LamppostBut this never happened before.  All the balls came out of the machines at the same time. The bowlers watched each other pick up their balls like they were standing between two mirrors, tried to sync their next shots to make it last longer, but some shot first, some later:  deja vu ended.  Everyone tucked back thinking, “Uup, it’s gone,” and “Wasn’t that weird?”  And the constant blur of noise soaked back into a take-it-for-granted condition.

And we had hoped Garrett would have a good last game before his two-week vacation.  He and his wife were off to Vegas the next morning.  He would retire in two years.  We could see he was getting sicker, not physically, but stress from the competition was draining his udder.  The milkman from the next neighborhood, a young kid with displaced corporate ladder climber ambition kept delivering bottles of milk to houses on Garrett’s route.  Garrett talked to him the first time and the kid apologized, said he had extra cartons and figured he’d David Colosi - Raspberry Lamppostlighten Garrett’s load, save him a trip.  Garrett didn’t need a lighter load.  “I’m fine,” he told him.  And the kid agreed not to do it again.  But he did and took more houses and snuck around like a commission dictated him.  He wanted the best for his family.  Them first, then time to deal with other people.  Garrett’s life took second priority.  A young scared American trying to put himself as well off as his parents would definitely shoot someone if he got too close to what his family needs – the “Let-me-get-myself-established-then-I’ll-be more-prepared-to-help-you” philosophy.

So Garrett shot a fairly lousy game.  But said the “eclipse” was enough for one day, and it made up for it.  The team tells he and his wife to have a great time, and we’ll see them in two weeks.  And they walk out the door and Garrett switches to Salem lights, David Colosi - Raspberry Lamppostbut it’s too late, and he feels, as he walks out the glass doors with his bowling ball bag hanging from the bottom of his stretched arm, that he doesn’t know why he’s leaving or what he’s going to or what the difference is or if it matters, and it’ll all be the same anyway.  He may as well enjoy himself, but it’s not like he wasn’t enjoying himself or that it’ll be any better.

And Annie quit first and joined a garden club.  And it was her garden club.  She decided to affiliate herself with these people because “Gee, we seem to have some similar interests,” as if it were gardening she wanted to talk about.  “Here we could talk politics, philosophy, religion.  We could create our own identities.  We don’t have any expectations." Soon, all of her ideas became generalized into a group idea because of her conviction, and they made some of the greatest posters.   But after a while the ideas got watered down and washed aside, and making posters took precedence over graphically communicating ideas.  So now they’re infesting her living room – her mistake – talking and sipping tea, and she’s in the David Colosi - Raspberry Lamppostmiddle of the floor rambling as they stop talking struck by, “What’s with her?”

"God doesn’t sort it out, passive garbage sport.  Put it away for God to take care of, out of sight, magic flight.  The plastic bag, the trash can, dumpster, garbage truck.  But then the junkyard is your backyard and there were no authorities where you sent it, just empty space, floating with responsibilities.  And this weak turn the other cheek crap - make sure the next one doesn’t hit you.  Burn bibles on the front steps of schools - reactionary action.  And all the tombstones you scattered and, by the protection of fear, bulldozed them over so they’d be forgotten.  Walk with the bible wreathed around your head far enough away so you can’t reach it.  There’s no honor in wearing a crown of thorns.  David Colosi - Raspberry LamppostShakespeare dragged back and forth across the stage for five centuries - a ship with its anchor down can only go the length of its rope.  Archeology for the sake of history.  What does Vaclav Havel to say?  And shouldn’t we fear a leader who says, “If the playing field is level we can beat David Colosi - Raspberry Lamppostanyone, anytime, anywhere?”  His level is tipped vertical, and he’s reading the horizontal.  A nation lost in cardiovascular resuscitation from a politician with over-ripe nationalism.  Ideas and feelings based on majority party position.  Naive people take on politician position, applauding and reclapping the military butt-kicking imposed on a nation.  Disciplinary action from a self-made moral enforcer’s reaction.  A Sunday psychologist with a diagnosis of insanity.  Media embalming games of name calling:  I’m a Hitler, you’re a Hitler, wouldn’t you like to be a Hitler, too.  Economic war, competition ambition.  Regurgitate position from TV rendition, and the US can’t have a revolution because we wrote the constitution.  While the rest of the world must be like us, our front of control a must.  Set the precedent.  Our system works with our standards.  On other countries - a foot in a glove.  Most in opposition are naive, some intelligent.  Most in support are naive, some intelligent.  Most don’t have facts, most base their feelings on someone else’s position.”

And her garden club comrades pause eyeball gawking, what the hell is she talking, commie calling, and offer tea sipping solutions.  And Annie runs from the room and instead of going to bed, turns on all of the appliances, and hears the bowling alley while they go back to gabbing.
David Colosi - Raspberry Lamppost
“If the playing field is level, we can beat anyone, anytime, anywhere.  We’re Americans”
“If you see someone who’s hungry, give them your food; see someone who’s cold, your coat; someone poor, your last dime.  Money to your church and to organizations that fight for peace and a better world.”
“I fired him.”
“He kicked him out of the game.”
“Loser, Idiot, Asshole.” 
“You’d make love to me if you loved me.”
"The Carnegie Mellon Fellowship was given to her?!”
“Who’s Vaclav Havel?”
“This is for your own good:  You’re a slut.”
“Okay.”
“He’s obviously wrong, but let him go.  God won’t let him get away with it.”
“Things have a way of working out in the end.”
“You dress that way to tease people.”David Colosi - Raspberry Lamppost
“You owe me three dollars.”
“We’re gonna win.”
“I’ve got two dollars for the rest of the week.”
“You’re wrong.”
“The dishes have to be finished before they go outside.”
“`Cut his hair,’ I told him.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Would you like to sign a petition to save the world and stop babies from dying?”
“How much will you take for that?”
“I know I could fire a gun.”
“They don’t fight the war on Sunday.”
“I asked you if I could go to the bathroom, and you said to wait.”
“How are things going?  Did you get your computer fixed?”
“Acid?”
“Trust me.”

But she couldn’t take the mess in her house or the people making it, so she kicked them out.  And it was the first time anyone had materialized an idea.David Colosi - Raspberry Lamppost

When it turns into gossip and sympathy from an understanding of why you said what you said, when it’s supposed to be a group to break through those conventions of established institutions, when yours has ceased to be anything but another institution, and the first time you realize, “This isn’t the place,” you catch yourself sneaking away just as you did a few hours ago.  The only organization you can belong to where there is total purity and consistency is the one that only includes yourself, where you only disagree with yourself and ask if it’s worth sacrificing your better judgment for someone else’s inclination. 

Your bed is the only place where thoughts are private.

And Ollie has a crown on his head – and we have pictures of him in our bedrooms – but we keep bumping it off because jewels belong buried in rock.  The only good things that come from following David Colosi - Raspberry Lampposta leader is understanding how he’s playing with your naiveté and appreciating the creativity of his insult.

Disillusion confusion dies.  Drivers shake when they bump the back end of a car.  Broken space.  It’s not about how fast they go or if they buy premium gas.  There's a point on the road where all the cars meet, on the street.  Collision cohesion incision dashed on a bashed crashboard.  Insider stabilized, room for irregular caramelizer.  This song about a space for smashing, blasting, and remasking, housed in craniology, non-chart or graphable, destroys the ones that annoy – ideas of superiority and leadership self-made authority-glory floored.

Passion for an idea-new-born and – mental block – “What can I do?” torn... One possibility, within capability, is rehitting and repeating beating until the old is not just worn but gone.

David Colosi - Raspberry Lamppost

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