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Surfing is Surfing:
an essay on Grant Shilling
by Clayton Webb
Don't Care What You Say
in the Woods
off Main Street
& Play & Adults
People, Vulture Culture & Cars
of the Fittest
Travel & the Dead
& Roll Road Kill, Kill, Kill!
by Grant Shilling
A. got me the storage locker. She figured it was the one thing I “needed.”
And the thing I could remember her by.
A. got me the locker when I was away in the Middle East, Greece and
Italy over a two year period. I came back to her and it. A. was living
in the Marble Arch then (she used to strip there and felt safe there,
hiding from yet another abusive man) ,and I moved in first to her room
– and then when one became available- my own. We’d spent
most of the mornings in bed reading to each other . Outside the window
they were constructing something or other. I read the Frank O’Hara:
City Poet biography to her. O’Hara is one of my favourite poets
and his mid ‘50-‘60s era and its mix of abstract expressionism,
pop, and New York , New York school of…-was all beatnik, bohemian,
suave dream land for me.
I love, love, love O’Hara’s poetry: “Grace to be born
and live as variously as possible.” “Life equals attention.”
“I don’t trust a blade of grass unless a subway runs underneath
it.” All statements of the New York, New York human nature is
enough nature for us.
A. and I would read beside each other and , inspired by the poetry,
the slant of the sun, whatever – fuck, bathe ( the Marble Arch
has big, two-person tubs ) and go to work or wherever.
Kempton, my amigo, had sublet my studio while I was gone and he helped
A. move my stuff into the locker.
Odd items went in there: 22 football helmets rescued from a Britiania
Secondary School dumpster (the school’s football program was literally
trashed ), my customized shopping carts: wild goose cart ( goose feathers
hung on fishing line wrapped around the cart), crow cart ( corw feathers
on fishing line…) and Barnacle Bill rescued from four feet of
water, (watch out for syringes!) at the Gold Seal plant there at the
foot of Main; props and shit from film work, some pots and pans, a hot
plate, wood from Tofino days with words I carved into them: "Salmon
Charter: Big Deal."
The items formed a narrative. Objects of memories, the dead and forgotten.
Old love letters (Stacks! Holy Cow I used to be in love!)
The storage locker became my attic without a house. In the rainy winter
months after I’d come back to Canada and Vancouver, I’d
go up there to organize, remember, pull out, fill in the blanks: complete
I moved a lot of the stuff into the new studio I rented. I pushed the
stuff over in my shopping carts. Ah, art, life, life, art, smirk, smile
get these carts up the flights of stairs. Once inside the studio I was
greeted by a big smile by my new studio mate who was making mini-clay
habitats shaped like wheels. Shared interests! Passion, rent, art –
bud? Got any bud? Ya do. Me, too! Passion, rent, art…
One day I went to my storage locker and there was this guy sitting outside
his locker with his legs swung over the second floor platform –
like he was sitting on a dock with his legs dangling over the water.
Lined up beside him were some of the items that make up his life. The
guy was in a trance, his being moving through the dance of time.
I began to think of all these little rooms, with their little locks
and their stencilled numbers on plywood doors. The two story steel ladders
on wheels that lead up to them and the horrible sound they make if you
drag them. Little rooms, lives lived, boxes, transience, and an odd
macabre feeling: barracks?
I pictured myself sleeping in my little box. Living there for a while.
Could I do it? Who is?
I thought of A., how clever and caring she was. How she knew me better
than I’ll ever know things in boxes. “The stuff’.
Dream space of being. A space a lover leaves behind.
August 29 – September 4, 1996