How are you?
Gosh it's been a long time!
Did you get married?
Are you a grandmother?
Are you alive?
Do you still remember that one day, somewhere in the vicinity of 1976, you and I turned one of those spare rooms at the UCLA Co-op's Hardman Hansen Hall into a photo studio, and I painted you blue, and we took this picture!?
OMG so much blue paint!
You were such a great sport.
In retrospect I feel like kind of a nut. What was I thinking? I'd like to at least say that I was channeling Yves Klein, but honestly, back in '76 I didn't even know about Yves Klein or his work.
Speaking of things I didn't know, I didn't, until 5 minutes ago when I looked it up to see if I actually remembered the name of the building we lived in, Hardman Hansen Hall - amazingly I remembered! - that one of the other UCLA Coop buildings, Robison Hall, had been designed by architectural legend, Richard Neutra. Actually, like Yves Klein, I didn't know who Richard Neutra was back in 1976.
In the past 40 years I've managed to learn a little about Yves Klein, Richard Neutra, and a few other interesting peeps. Also a pretty cool type foundry, House Industries, created one of my favorite fonts, Neutraface, based on the architectural lettering of Richard Neutra. Also some pretty cool Portland designers who apparently like Neutraface at least as much as I do made a pretty cool video celebrating it:
I don't think you actually minded all the blue paint. Even though it was sort of a massive project to get it all off. It was a pretty fun day. As best as I recall anyway. Still, looking at this picture and thinking about it now I feel compelled to apologize for all that blue paint. Did I mention what a great sport you were?
I don't know if I can express how bizarre it is to look at this picture of you and try to understand that we created it about 40 years ago. 14,600 days. More or less.
Is such a span of time even possible?
I teach Art at Long Beach State these days. When I show pictures of the paintings in Chauvet Cave, and say that they were painted 30,000 years ago, I sometimes find myself speechless. Or when I show that red jasperite pebble that's about 3 million years old, before humans even existed, from the time of Australopithecus, I always ask myself, and sometimes ask the students too, what such a beyond-human span of time even means. I kind of think it is indistinguishable from fiction. Has this planet we call home really been going in circles or ellipses or whatever they are, around the sun, for four-and-a-half billion years? What does that even mean?
14,600 days is not a "beyond human span of time". But it's still pretty bizarre to look at you, with your eyes peering over that blue paint brush, and wonder what have I done with the last 14,000 days!? What have you done with all those days, Christy?
The weirdest thought of all is that while we once shared an awful lot of blue paint, IDK if we walked past each other on the street today, if we'd even recognize each other.
Your grandkids, whether they want to or not, will probably never lose touch with the peeps they go to college with. Facebook or some other platform will keep them connected forever. That's both good and bad. But probably more good.
Human memory often fades gracefully. In digital space things tend to be preserved forever, or occasionally be abruptly lost.
The digital part, and the networked part, are extras. Things like books, and photography have always been our offline memory. I haven't the slightest idea where the original film of this image of you is. Of where or when or how it met its demise. But last week, sifting through a big stack of old prints I found this print of you.
I knew my mom's parents for a lot of my life. But my dad's parents passed away when I was very young. I don't honestly remember them in a direct, physical way. My memory of them is because of my dad's photography.
At the park: me with mom and grandpa and a lot of ducks. Unless they're geese.
When peeps from places I used to work, like Disneyland, reached out across time to "friend" me on Facebook, it was a little weird. Kind of nice. But also kind of like the past was running faster than I was.
If my dad hadn't taken this picture of me and grandpa, would I remember him at all?
If I hadn't found this print of you, would I ever have thought about you? Would I even remember gallons of blue paint!?
Are these moments "real"?
Sam Zucmanski has been gone a long time now. I haven't seen you, Christy, in a long time. And now I am writing a letter to you that you will almost certainly never read.
Although I can't really know if you are still alive, I imagine that you are. And that you are doing well. And that you've had a good life.
The fact that you are not now reading this letter can't matter much. Can it?
Even if you somehow knew that this letter that you are not reading existed, it wouldn't matter much so many years later, would it?
I don't expect I'll ever see you again.
I certainly don't expect that I'll ever paint anyone blue again!
But it's been wonderful finding this 14,600-day-old photograph and remembering you. And our times at the Coop.
Were we ever really that young?
Or is it fiction?