A few weeks back we hosted Lisa Schonberg and Anthony Brisson – who perform together as Coordination – for a performance on the Midtown Greenway under the Bloomington Ave. bridge. We didn’t have permission to do so, but we did it because it felt right. It felt like sharing, not taking. Sharing should be encouraged.
Lisa is someone I’ve known for a long time. We lived around the corner from one another back in Portland, and she helped take care of Esme and Honora in the six months between the time they were born and we moved from Portland to Minneapolis. Lisa and Anthony were in town visiting Anthony’s family and since they’d be around we decided to do some work together. This turned out to be them creating a graphic score – a semi-sequential drawing to be played along to – which we printed at the shop, to be handed out on the Greenway as Coordination performed.
I was really interested in not simply setting up a show with Lisa but finding a space within the neighborhood which, however briefly, we could slightly, creatively disrupt and then, through our packing up and going home, leave the way we found it. Nonetheless, leaving the traces and residue of our convergence and trespassing, our reconfiguring of the space around us by altering its possibilities; bike lane, sunset stroll, weirdo setting up a generator and playing abstract compositions under a bridge. Yeah, why not? This sort of action was something, as kids in our early twenties, Lisa and I learned to adapt to, and find agency from in the pre-hipster Pacific Northwest.
Anthony and Lisa brought some equipment with them and borrowed a few items from Anthony’s father, an electrician out in White Bear Lake who also makes time to play music. Derek Maxwell, Beyond Repair’s current “public-maker in residence” helped source a drum set and a generator.
As we lugged the generator down the steps off Bloomington a small crowd began to gather. People asked us what we were up to as Lisa set up the kit. The sun, slowly began to set, lowering under each bridge, getting closer, and darker, one by one until all that was left was the light of the nearby buildings and the halogen lamps dotting the Greenway landscape.
To lessen the noise of the generator from interfering with the music, Derek and I moved it down the Greenway a bit, which shut it off with our jostling it back and forth. When I tried to start it again, the rope broke off in my hand. This led to our delaying the performance about an hour as, one by one, we went to one another’s houses looking for the right socket to unbolt the housing that would allow us into the start to re-spool the rope. The trouble didn’t end once we found the right socket. The generator didn’t fire up right away, and subsequent attempts broke the rope on multiple occasions. In the middle of this I had an idea. Our neighbor Jess had skateboarded down with her husband Tom and their kids. Jess was wearing running shoes with nylon laces, which to my estimation, were unlikely to break. In due time, tying Jess’s shoelace to the remaining rope and handle we got the generator back up and running and soon the performance began.
The crowd had dwindled a bit, but it didn’t really matter. It was the experience between us – all the folks who decided to take part in creating this convergence – that interested me most; a convening of intent and a question shared between us – “Well, what do we do after this?”
About three quarters into the performance a police cruiser rolled up. Both Lisa and I, from those days back when – in parks, basements, warehouses – figured we were packing it up. But Lisa and Anthony kept playing. The cop got out of his car, and walked over to the other side of the Greenway to watch and listen. I walked over to say hello. He asked what was going on, and I told him. We began to talk and he seemed interested in what we were up to. This looped into a long conversation about public space, performance, and simply folks getting together in the neighborhood to convene and make use of the vast, yet all too ofter underused, social and environmental landscape around us. Just as the cop was about to walk away I notice his badge – “Thunder.”
“Oh, wait a moment,” I said, “Officer Thunder, you’re our new beat cop, aren’t you?”
He grimaced for a moment, “Oh, yikes. What have you heard about me?”
I mentioned how I’d seen news about his new post, and that I was happy to see him out and about in the neighborhood, saying hello, checking up on things, and frankly, doing what a beat cop should be doing, in my mind: making their presence known and looking out for how to help and how they can be a part of the neighborhood.
I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to Officer Thunder. With all the tumult of late, it was kind of amazing to have an unguarded and thoughtful conversation in public with a cop.
I wondered that night, and in the days following, what could be learned from that interaction, so different than any I have had in a long time. When was the last time I saw a cop smile at me, or anyone else for that matter? Not immediate become defensive, or keep their hands close to their weapons? Maybe I’m in the wrong company, but this often seems to be the case.
Officer Thunder opened up another idea of what police in our neighborhood could look like.