What do you lose your breath for?

Friday, February 1st, 2008

Today I lost my breath for art. Really. Art made my heart pound. Literally and quite physically, that is. Because I was given a mission: to deliver a grant proposal to some civic building in downtown Madison, and I was given a deadline. It was exciting. But, now, if you know anything about being six-months young in Madison, you know that nothing makes sense downtown. None of the streets are two-way and there is not even a sensible grid-pattern but something like this:

It is a very nice layout, aesthetically, as it allows not one, not two, but eight incredible driving views of the Capitol, (and I thought Milwaukee’s view of the Art Museum/Starburst was cool from Wisconsin Ave) but when you don’t know quite where you’re going it can be a real trick.

I reach the downtown with about fifteen minutes left on the clock. I have a vague idea of where I am going. I have a street name, an address, a wrinkled printout of awfully cryptic driving directions from Yahoo Maps. I’m looking for Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and feel I’m close, so I pull my car into an available parking space. I have two dimes on my person which buys me 11 minutes at the meter. Fortunately it is Casual Day at work, so in my jeans and Chuck Taylor knockoffs I start down the sidewalk in a quick jog, but where am I going? I won’t have enough time at the meter, I realize, and jog back to my car. I stop in a hair salon and ask for four quarters for my dollar. Kindly the receptionist obliges me, and I ask her where I might find Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. She tells me it is the next street over, parallel to this one. “Parallel to this one?” I ask, gesturing to the street on the corner. “Yes, parallel to that one,” she agrees with another smile. We are not gesturing to the same street, though neither of us are aware of it at the time. I thank her and jog back out of doors and plug the meter with a hefty 36 minutes. I’ve lost time, and now, instead, I run. I run down a block, I run left a block. I see a woman standing on the corner and ask her where I’m going. She says to turn left and I’ll be there. I thank her and I run to the left and I am not there (perhaps she thought I asked for King Street). I run to the men waiting at the curb for the bus, and they direct me three blocks in the other direction. I thank them and I run off, and now my shoes are untied and I’m gasping for breath because I haven’t run like this since 8th grade basketball. But I’m running out of time. The art depends on me! I run from corner to corner, the grant proposal tucked under my arm. I run with abandon, dashing in front of cars and leaping over those who have gone before me and not made it; I’m crashing through hurdles of budget cuts and dashed dreams and an artless future. I am the runner of Marathon! And when I reach the Department of Cultural Affairs I will die, having exclaimed with the last of my strength, “Here! A grant! And all of the beautiful things in life must go on!”

The woman at the desk is pleasant, smiles when I burst through the door and say between gasps, “I have a (gasp) grant proposal to (gasp) deliver!”

“You are just in time,” she says, and she seems proud of me. It is 4:28. I, too, am a little proud of myself. Pieces of satisfaction break off of me and drift upward, lodging themselves into the ceiling where they will hang forever. I have been leaving pieces of satisfaction behind me ever since this happened. I enjoy a mission. And I can certainly use the exercise.


  1. Posted February 2, 2008 at 2:58 pm | Permalink