Archive for the ‘loneliness’ Category


May 19, 2007


Four-story Flatland habitat (courtesy of

Although the Flatlanders are emerging from their two-dimensional world tomorrow, my e-mail chess with one of the artists will happily continue.  Four of the six artists have already abandoned their two-dimensional transparent habitat, and my e-pal is one of those MIA.  It’s still not too late to visit the Flatland Project at the Sculpture Center in Long Island City. 

You can attend the exit party on Sunday from 4:00-6:00 PM, when the remaining two flatigued inhabitants will rejoin the three-dimensional world.  At times like this, I wish I had a doppelgänger: I can’t participate in the exit bash because I’ll be upstate at a birthday party.

Annals of Luddism, I

May 16, 2007

I like to imagine that Woodstock has more manual typewriters per capita than any other place in the country.  After all, these earth-friendly machines don’t consume electricity. 

I can’t get television in my Woodstock home.  Time Warner won’t string a cable down my long dirt road, and the neighbors’ pines and oaks rule out DirectTV.  Cell-phone reception is awful or nonexistent in the town because the manual-typewriter crowd has blocked the construction of cell towers. 

I need a cell phone that works in the Catskills, and so for years I was reduced to a no-frills, drab Nokia where the whole phone is effectively the antenna, maximizing the chances of reception.  Every few months or so I’d try a friend’s flip phone in Woodstock but it wouldn’t get a signal.  Because I am fidgety, the Nokia in my pocket, with its buttons exposed, would occasionally decide to call people on its own.  (Yes, I could use the number lock, but I’m afraid of forgetting the code.) 

A short time ago my pocket embarrassed me by making an early-morning call to a client who had been delinquent in paying me.  Usually I’d call the client’s office number during work hours to prod him for the money, but my pocket apparently had had enough and decided to call his cell—at 7:00 A.M.  I didn’t know what my pocket had done until I received a call at 7:01 A.M. from the miffed client, whom I had evidently disturbed while he was taking his sick pet to the vet.  I told him I hadn’t phoned him; later I reviewed the outgoing call log and saw that my phone had indeed called him. 

Nokia finally introduced a flip phone that works in Woodstock.  My pocket’s calling days are thankfully over, but, now for reasons unknown to me, other people’s pockets are calling me more than ever before. 


The pocket of a guy I know in the musical toy business has called me four times recently; I answered and heard muted voices or, in the evening, happy bar talk.  Actually I’m not sure I’ve ever had a two-way phone conversation with Mr. Toyman.  I’ve just listened to myself jabbering into the phone—like the tree that falls in the forest with no one around to hear it. 


May 15, 2007


Four-story Flatland habitat (courtesy of

Through Sunday at the Sculpture Center in Long Island City is a fascinating installation, the Flatland Project, which I’ve been visiting regularly since it first went up. Ward Shelly has created a very narrow, four-story-high, transparent (except for the bathroom), beautifully pristine structure that six artists were scheduled to live in for 20 days. I say “scheduled” because three have already slipped out, with everyone set to leave in five days.

Now this is not deprivation living, a la my friend David Blaine, who lived on fortified water for 44 days in a transparent box suspended from a crane over the Thames. The Flatlanders have their laptops, WiFi, and cell phones, and food delivered by Fresh Direct. Okay, sleeping may not be much fun, if you’re a tosser and turner. And exercise is difficult unless you care to climb up and down on the movable ladders that link the floors.

One of my friends said the artists wouldn’t last three days; all of them have done better than that. I think the place looks cozy and peaceful. I wish I had known about it in advance and had volunteered. I would have used the time to try to bang out a novel on my laptop.

Early in my visits I noticed a folded chessboard on one of the higher floors. I wrote my e-mail address on a piece of paper and invited the Flatlanders to play chess with me on the Internet (on a cool chess server called Red Hot Pawn).  I taped the invitation to the first floor of Flatland.

Now I’m engaged in two chess games, but it’s a bit frustrating because my opponent(s) is not  chatty and doesn’t respond to my questions about life in two dimensions.

When I visit the transparent habitat, the six residents don’t seem to be doing anything exciting: they drink Bustelo coffee (can’t Fresh Direct do better?), they type on their laptops, they climb ladders to reach the bathroom.  One or two Flatlanders smile at me and acknowledge my presence.  Often I’m the only visitor there—which seems strange given how great Flatland is. 

The twenty-something dude who mans the door at the Sculpture Center calls me Chess Guy, as in, “You were here yesterday, Chess Guy.” 

Who is in more need of a life, someone who can afford to live in an art project for 20 days and not do much of anything or someone who comes day after day to watch people who are not doing much of anything?  I wish I could change my status from Flatland groupie to Flatland inhabitant.

Well, here’s the position from one of my chess games. I’m White and have a forced checkmate (oh goody, goody!) in two moves.

Flatland Project Game

Do you see the mate?

[May 16th update: my opponent, who has prematurely rejoined the three-dimensional world,  now cheerfully chats with me when we exchange moves online.  He says he is experiencing “flatlag.”]