What is Art?

This is Art.

No, seriously, I think that's his name. He sat down on the bus seat right in front of me, while I was trying to read about how each of us individually creates meaning from the complex tapestry of the American city. I was sitting there with my nose in the book when all of a sudden this young kid (there was a whole, loud group of them in the back of the bus, where the cool kids sit) ... this kid plunks down next to me on the seat.

The bus was not even close to full, so that was kind of weird. But, being a non-confrontational Minnesotan, I ignored my new neighbor.

Soon he left, but not long after that another, different kid sat down next to me. Was this some sort of practical joke, I asked myself, and I wondered ignoringly until the kid turned back to her friends and shouted, "It's Real!" A sea of giggles bubbled up from the audience.

That got me thinking, and noticing. What's real? What's so funny?

Then I noticed the guy in front of me. He had a mousetrap on his ear.

Now, granted, this was no punk making a point. This was a typical working-class, mesh-hat octogenerian, sitting and riding the bus because he was too old or too poor to drive. He was your everyday bus companion --- except that he had a mousetrap on his ear.

I took some invasive pictures, and the kids kept giggling, but either the old man didn't notice, or he was too proud to acknowledge us. And, as I sat there in wonder, I just had to start laughing. I busted a gut -- it was so utterly foreign, so abnormal, so crazy.

A while later a lady who apparently was acquainted with the guy boarded the bus, saw him, and sat down next to him. "Art. How've you been?"

Art mumbled something.

"Say, Art. You've got a mousetrap on your ear," the lady stated, her jaw hitting the dirty bus floor. "You know you've got a mousetrap on your ear?"

Again, Art mumbled... something about the mousetrap. I couldn't make it out. The only thing I heard was the word "yesterday."

"You're crazy," the lady said, and she quickly moved to another seat.

Maybe he was crazy. Though, apart from the mousetrap, he didn't seem particularly loony to me. But this guy has been making me laugh for going on eight hours now. It's made me think about all the ways in which the world don't move to the beat of just one drum. And that, to me, is Art.


cuz said...


Anonymous said...

In the future, everyone will wear a mousetrap on his or her ear for 15 minutes.

That's a variation on the most famous Warholism.

Andy was also known for replying, when asked what art is, that it's a man's name. Then the Guerilla Girls -- a feminist artist group dedicated to overthrowing the male-dominated canon -- complained that Warhol's statement is all too telling -- yes Art is a MAN's name.

The End

Anonymous said...

I have seen this guy on the street twice over the last few months.

Norwothern said...

Wow. I am going to be thinking about Art, pondering for weeks...
I have a relative that is in his 70's and has dimensia. He suffers from what we describe as "short attention span theatre" as he cannot sit for very long, watch more than 30 seconds of tv and only sleeps 4 hours a night.
But Art, it is almost as if Art has been riding that bus for a while...and maybe he has encountered those "rowdy boy types" before and is merely exercising his right to make people hesitant to approach him.

I know a friend who was reduced to riding public transportation (her words not mine-if pt was available in our small berg, man I would be all over that!) because her liscense was suspended for 6 months would use a similar method to frighten off "trouble-makers".

When approached she would tap her index finger thoughfully on her chin, look upwards and mumble "wait a minute...I can't remember...did I load the gun before or after I took one too many Prozac? Hmmmmmm...."