"Signlanguage"
Robert Mann Gallery
July 12 - August 23, 2002
Viggo in New York City (thanks Lynn)

Viggo and Lynn
(this was taken the morning of the 11th at Robert Mann Gallery)

Viggo, Lynn and Mark
(at the Used Book Cafe, after the reading on the 12th)

Viggo, Pilar and Lynn
(taken the morning of the 11th, at the RMG)

Viggo Reading
(the Poetry Reading at the Used Book Cafe, reading from Recent Forgeries)

Viggo Reading
(the Poetry Reading at the Used Book Cafe, reading from Rene Ricard's book)

Viggo and Rene
(Viggo and Rene Ricard dancing to "Sweet Caroline" at the Used Book Cafe)

Lynn, Sotnos and Germany
(at the Private Opening, July 11, at the Robert Mann Gallery)
(NOTE: clicking on the pictures will open another window, and it will take a moment for the image to load. You'll need javascript turned on for this to work)

Disclaimer:  some facts have been slightly altered to protect the guilty (mainly myself) and some facts are missing entirely (you can ask but I won't tell) but here is a New York story for your enjoyment.

Cast of Characters
Lynn (me!!)
Mark (long-suffering husband of Lynn)
Germany
Sotnos
Viggo Mortensen
Pilar Perez
With brief appearances by a cast of hundreds

This all started way back in the spring when I first got wind that Viggo was going to have a showing in New York City in July, 2002. I printed the info off of the computer and gingerly put it into Mark's hands. (this is where the "I-owe-Mark-big-time" clock starts ticking.)  We discussed it - then discussed it some more.  We were originally planning to go to NYC in October, 2002, on the off-chance of meeting Gabriel Byrne (obviously, I'm a playa!) and to meet on-line friends from the Gabriel board.   Mark said, "make your choice because I doubt if we can pull off two trips to New York  that close together."

I thought about it all right. At this point, my choices were - wait for October on the remote possibility of meeting Mr. Byrne OR go in July for the very real probability of meeting Viggo.   So, feeling somewhat sad that I had to make a choice, I took the plunge. The plan was to go to, what was at the time, the public opening of Viggo's show at the Robert Mann Gallery, go to the book signing and then go to the poetry reading.

Later, I learned that the public opening party had to be changed to a private party because of concerns about space at the gallery. Well, I wasn't born Southern and full of charm for nothing.   My invitation to the private party arrived the week before we were to make the trip.  The President of the United States does not have the security that that piece of paper had while traveling to New York City!! I believed I developed OCD while on the trip because of how many times I checked to make sure the invitation was with me!!

Meanwhile, as we were getting ready for our trip, Mark had an encounter with a pesky poison ivy plant.  His whole right arm looked like...well, I don't even want to think about it anymore.  I spent a great deal of time in New York standing between his arm and an unsuspecting populace.  Trust me, if you need extra space on the subway, poison ivy is the way to go.

Now, for a few non-Viggo related stories about our trip. We took Amtrak from Florence, SC to NYC.  I'm not much on flying and really wasn't ready for it yet (after 9/11) so we thought we'd see how the train worked out.  Not a bad trip, I'm happy to report.  We arrived safe and sound in the Big Apple on Tuesday morning.   We headed up to Time's Square, bought tickets for "The Full Monty", went to eat (at a restaurant that Mr. Byrne had had a birthday party in once - didn't know that when I went in so got a small thrill of perhaps sitting where his Irish butt had sat - this is where I can see that the Looney Tunes theme song is beginning to run through Mark's head on endless loop), went to Madame Tussaud's, then saw the show (hysterical - highly recommended).

The next day we went to Ground Zero.  It was a very emotional visit for both of us.   We stayed there for quite awhile and I left a poem pinned to the fence that surrounds St. Paul's Chapel (the church that withstood everything that day and had no damage despite being directly across from the WTC).    That afternoon, I was able to meet one of my Gabriel Byrne Internet friends who lives on Staten Island.  It was a great pleasure to meet her - felt that I knew her already. Mark was the perfect gentleman.  I owe him big-time.

That night, we went to see "Into the Woods" starring Vanessa Williams.  Very enjoyable.   Meanwhile, I am already running over to Duane Reade (THE pharmacy in NYC) to buy band-aids for all the blisters that I already have on my feet from walking so much (and this is only day two!!).  My feet look ridiculous but it's either bandage them up or don't walk, so I bandage - heavily.  I am the walking wounded.  But, will someone please tell me how you get blisters on the TOP of your toes when you have been wearing open-toed shoes the whole time?

On Thursday morning, I talk to Germany and Sotnos who arrived the night before and we decide to meet for lunch in Chinatown.    Before we head out to meet them, however, Mark and I decide to walk over to the Robert Mann Gallery just so we can figure out where it is.  The party is that night and we certainly don't want to get lost then!!   We are staying at a bed and breakfast in Chelsea - we had stayed there before and it was a no-brainer deciding to stay there again...especially when we learned that the Gallery was literally right around the corner. So, we walked over to the gallery, found it and just sort of stood on the outside, trying to decide what to do next. Finally, we decided that we might as well go on up and make sure that we knew EXACTLY where the gallery was (you can't have TOO much information, can you?!!).   So, up we went, to the 10th floor of the building.   There was a sign that said "Robert Mann Gallery" and, on the closed and locked doors, another sign that had the info about Viggo's exhibit and another sign that said "closed for installation".    There was a doorbell, also, but somehow I restrained myself and didn't ring it.

We headed back to the elevator and waited for it to come up. The doors opened.  And, there and then, stood Mark and Lynn face to face with Viggo and Pilar.  Later, Mark said he wondered if I was going to say anything at all or just stand there like the grinning idiot I have become.  I really hate to have my picture taken (and you can see why) but I wish that, at the moment the elevator opened, there could have been a snapshot of my face! It would have been the perfect picture of a woman losing all her marbles.  Finally (well, maybe 2 seconds went by), I said, not "Viggo?" as you might have guessed but instead "Pilar?" (I had bought a photograph back in February and Pilar and I had kept up a slight correspondence - I'm sure she thinks I'm the goofiest person on earth!).   Pilar said, "Lynn"?   We chatted for a moment about being in NYC, about the fact that we had been able to find the gallery with no problems, etc.  Meanwhile, Viggo and Mark are just standing there - both thinking, I'm sure, why am I even in this picture?  Then, Pilar introduced Viggo to us.  He shook Mark's hand, then mine.   Mark said, "nice to meet you" and I said something really inane like, "how are you doing?"   I think he said the same back to me...I have no idea.  My mind is a sieve at this point.

Then, Pilar said something about seeing us later that night and we said we'd be there.  Then I got bold and asked if there was anyway we could walk into the gallery right then and get a preview.  Pilar said that they weren't finished installing the photos and paintings yet and that it probably wasn't a good time.  I said that that was fine but also said that I had something I wanted to give to her and Viggo (and, remember, Viggo is standing there the whole time this conversation is going on) and could I just go ahead and give it to them now instead of having to lug the gifts around from venue to venue.   Then Pilar told us we could come on into the gallery. So, there we went. - all in a line - Pilar, Viggo, me, then Mark.    We walked into the gallery.  The all white walls were nearly blinding - many photos were already on the wall and I recognized many of them immediately.  Pilar told us to look around.  She needed to go put something up in the back room and she and Viggo disappeared for a few minutes.    Mark and I walked around the room, me whispering to him about things I knew about the photos and paintings.  Mark saying nothing because, at this point, the "I-owe-him" clock is ticking very loudly and we can't hear over the sound of it.

The big version of "Chetwood Forest #3" was on the floor and we stood and looked at it awhile (I purchased a smaller one). Then, we went to the other wall.  The man who was installing the photos and paintings (sorry I don't know his name) turned on the lights so that we could see better.  I was immediately drawn to a photo of pigeons, their wings flapping.   Pilar came back out and I told her that I really liked that one and she said that it was one of her favorites and that Viggo had taken the photo during the trip to NYC in April (the photo is called "April, NYC, 2000).  Meanwhile, during this whole time, Viggo is walking in and out of the room and I am trying my best to remain as cool as a cucumber (or in my case, a watermelon).   I asked Pilar then if we might take a photo with Viggo and she said that it would probably be better to wait until the party that night and I said, because I am SO easy to get along with (ask Mark), "okay, that's fine."   I opened the bag I was carrying and pulled out a book called "Guenevere" (by Rosalind Miles) and asked Pilar if she had ever read it - she had not and I said that it was a gift for her but I wanted to sign it so I sat down on a bench and inscribed it to her.  By this time, Mark is telling me that they are busy and we really need to leave (maybe 10 minutes have passed).  So, I get up, give him a dirty look and we walk back to the desk and door.   Viggo is standing there and he pulls a pack of gum out of his pocket and offers Mark some, and then me.  We both decline.   Viggo asks us what we have been doing while in NYC - and did we go to any museums.  We told him that we went to see Madame Tussaud's (does that really count as a museum?!! I don't think it does in Viggo's world! And, by the way, it has to be one of the creepiest places on earth)  and that we had gone to see the Broadway shows "The Full Monty" and "Into the Woods".  He asks us if they were good and I tell him that "The Full Monty" was hysterical and that the singing was great.   He knew that the show didn't take place in England (where the movie was set) and asked us where it took place in this show.  I told him "Buffalo".  He asked if the guys in the show were factory workers and we said yes.  Mark told him how one particular actor had stolen the show for us - Viggo asks us his name but, alas, I didn't remember it (it's Daniel Stewart Sherman, for the record).  He also asked us about "Into the Woods" and we just said we enjoyed it.    At this point, I see Viggo's new books on shelves behind the desk.  I blurt out, "It's so little!" (mostly talking about "Hole in the Sun" but "Coincidence of Memory" is not a  large book either).  "Oh, well," I say, "they'll be easy to get home!".  I got a smile out of both Pilar and Viggo for my outburst. Then, I get the book of poetry out that I brought for Viggo.  I tell him that I know he gets a lot of books but these are poems by Southern authors ("Old Wounds, New Words") and I wanted to give him something that was from the south because that is where we are from..  He thanks me, says he's never read that one and asks me where we are from and I tell him Georgia.   We talk a little about Sarah, our Irish visitor, that we have this summer through Project Children.  I said I couldn't believe that I had left her and my own children to come to NYC.  At some point during all of this, Viggo hands me several of the postcards that have his portraits on them.  He said, "here you go" and I took them and just said, "oh, thank you."

By this time, Mark is really giving me the look that said "we need to leave them to their business" and I know that we need to go.  But, suddenly, Pilar asks Viggo if he would mind taking some photos with us.  Viggo said, no, he didn't mind.   I am thinking about the roll of film in the camera...we had taken a lot of panoramic shots of Ground Zero and we really didn't know how many shots we had left.  I am thinking that one photo is just not going to be enough...I am shaking inside...I am crazed....

Anyway, while all of this is going through my head, we are still discussing the Irish and how a lot of Irish people settled in Georgia, etc.  I am inching toward Viggo for the picture (I was only a couple of feet away as it was).  I didn't  know what to do.  Just stand there? What?  The dilemma is solved when Viggo puts his arm around me...and what's a girl to do but return the favor?!!   Mark takes the picture....and the film immediately begins rewinding. I hear myself blurting out again, "reload the camera!  Reload!" Mark is saying,  "we need to go...".   I turn to Viggo and say,  "can we reload?"  He says, bless his heart, yes.

So, we reload - I have no memory of conversation during this point but I'm sure I was babbling.   Then, I say to Pilar, "I want a picture of you, too.".  Viggo says, "oh, okay" and starts to move away.   I said,  "no, no, you, too" and motioned for him to come back and he did.  Mark took a couple more pictures and, finally (tick, tick, tick) we say goodbye, see you tonight and we actually leave.

I make it to the elevator before I have to grab the wall. "Did I make an idiot of myself" I ask Mark.  No. "Is my face red?"  Yes.   "Wasn't that great?"  Uh-huh.

We then go back to the B&B to await a call from Sotnos and Germany.  They call and I am just about beside myself.  I tell them I will tell them everything when we get to Chinatown.   How we find each other is beyond me but finally we meet and what a joy to meet these two who I have shared so much with on the Internet!! We don't have to bond because we have already done it.  Our conversation is as easy as it can be.  Mark thinks we are all crazy.  We decide to take a cab together to the opening party.  We want to arrive together because we are all a little nervous (well, all but Mark - he is beginning to wonder if he should open an escort service).

Invitations in hand, we arrive at the party and are waved through the door.   We see Pilar very quickly and she greets us all warmly and says that she is glad that we are there.  (Oh, Pilar, not nearly as glad as we are!!)  There are already a lot of people there but I don't see anyone famous (or anyone I recognize). We start wandering around the room, looking at the photos and paintings.   The room begins to fill and the noise level is deafening.  And it's hot.  I am so glad that I didn't wear my original outfit.   I would have fainted. Which might have not have been a bad thing, now that I think about it...

Viggo comes in and people immediately surround him.  We see that Henry is here, too.   Henry is taller than I expected and looks very much like Exene.  Viggo is wearing the same thing he was wearing that morning...dark pants and a grayish t-shirt.  It looks like it is turned inside out.  Maybe that side was cleaner.

Pilar is beside him and motions to him that Sotnos and Germany are there.  They move in to talk to him and Mark and I move away to give them some space.  I have already had my time that morning and, while I hope to speak to him again, it is okay with me if I don't.

But I do get my time.  I have jokingly said that, after calculating the number of guests with the length of time of the party, that each person gets "one minute and twelve seconds" of Viggo face time.  Mark has told me (oh, generous man!) that I may have his alloted time but he ends up talking to Viggo just as much I as I do (grrrr...get out of my way...you...you...husband!!).   Viggo obviously recognizes us and asks us what we did the rest of the day.  I tell him that we met Sotnos and Germany for lunch and he tells me how nice they both are. I agree with him.  Mark says something about how I met them on the Internet and how you have to be careful whom you are meeting.   Viggo tells me that he read some of the book I gave him that afternoon and that many of the poems are funny (I had read some of them before I gave it to him but not all).  He told me about one in particular that concerned a Southerner writing about what a "Southerner was supposed to be like" but at the end it said "but I'm not those things".  I have to go order the book for myself now so that I can read that one (I am nodding all the while he is telling me this, like I know what he is talking about).   He also said that he often reads works by other authors when he does a reading and that he might read something out of that book.  I am thrilled that he would even consider it (so that you don't have to wait...he did not...but it was a thrill anyway!!).  I then told him that I wanted to thank him for "Chetwood Forest #3".   I told him that I knew that he had planned to keep that particular photo for himself but had let me have it when I requested a LOTR photograph in that price range (the photo is an "artist's proof").  He just gave me an "aw shucks" kind of look and I told him I really loved it.   Then, it was time for him to move on to the next person but before he walked away he said, "make sure you get some chocolate - they're very good". (this, I think, was the line he used to indicate that he needed to move on to the next person)  But, by the time we got down to the table, the chocolate was already gone!!   I think people were just picking up the chocolate for souvenirs.  And, to think, I could've had a piece of gum.

We continued to cruise the room.  The only person I saw that I recognized was Steve Buscemi. I didn't talk to him but saw him up close.   The room thinned out as the night went on.  The party was supposed to last only 2 hours but it went over.   Sotnos, Germany and I wondered if we should leave - we didn't want to look like groupies (too late!!) .  We hung around, though, and Pilar brought Lola Schnabel and Henry over to meet us (Mark, Germany and myself - Sotnos was talking to someone else at the time).  Lola asked us if we were "adamant" about art or just about Viggo.  We were honest and said it was Viggo but we were learning about other art through him.   She shook our hands and was very nice.  Germany brought up the subject of Lola's t-shirts and told her that they were just a wee bit too expensive for her. Lola told us that she only made about $60 a shirt - and that she couldn't afford to buy her own t-shirts either! Lola was interested in where we had seen her shirts and Germany told her that we had seen them on the Internet.   We told her that we couldn't remember the exact site - that someone had put a link up once. Henry said something about "was it on Perceval?" and we (myself, Germany and Lola) said no. We told her that Pilar had let us see her book and that it was very nice.   I reached out to Henry and shook his hand.  I said, "hey, Henry" and he said hello.  I asked him if he was 15 and he said, "no 14".  I told him that I had a son who has just turned 15 and that he loved the computer.  I asked him if got on the computer a lot and he said, "not really."  Mark told him that he "sure was in a lot of the photos on the wall".  And Henry just grinned and said, "yeah".  Germany asked Henry to be honest and tell us if he was bored yet - don't tell anyone but he said yes.   Both he and Lola were very nice, very quiet and it was a pleasure to meet them.  It must be weird for Henry to have total strangers greet him as if they know him. Finally, we left - it was hard to leave although we all had had just about all the excitement we could bear.   Afterward, Mark, Sotnos, Germany and I went out to eat at an Irish pub - it was the best food we had while in NYC!  Or maybe, at that point, anything would have been good!!  The "I owe him" clock is really loud but I choose to ignore it.

I can hardly sleep that night.  I wonder why?

We decide to skip the book signing because I bought both books at the opening and have already had them signed.  And, I also bought the photo of the pigeons.  I am a sucker for Viggo.   We learn later that the book signing, which was supposed to last from 11 - 2 lasted until 5 PM.  I am feeling bad for Viggo and Pilar but Mark points out that this is the life that they have chosen and I shouldn't worry.  But that is my nature.  I am exhausted and I know they must be, too.

There will be 10 reserved seats at the reading and four of them are for us.  I breathe a sigh of relief because I know that the one thing that Mark would have balked at would be sitting outside in the heat, waiting in a line.   We arrive at the Used Book Café at 6 PM.  There is no line outside.  Many people are already seated inside.  I don't see Pilar and am not willing to just go take a seat up front before I talk to her.  We go up on a balcony to watch from above.  Mark finally has enough and goes to an employee and tells her that we have reserved seats and asks if we can sit down.  The woman takes our word for it and says yes.  On each of the ten seats there is a piece of paper marked "reserved" - we go and sit in the second row.  We are told that we can sit on the first row but that doesn't seem right.   I keep my "reserved" paper and almost ask Viggo to sign it later but some sort of latent dignity makes me stop. We meet  Toni and Daz - it was nice to put faces to names. As show time approaches, Lola, Henry, Rene Ricard , Pilar and another young woman take the first row.  I am glad that we didn't.  I would have been totally embarrassed.

The band "OneRingZero" play first.   They do a couple of songs and are quite good. Not what I expected but I don't know what I was expecting anyway.  Then two poets read some of their work. The first poet, Ben Greenman, read several poems then Laurence Krauser read one (a very long one!).  He scared me when he first started reading - I think our whole row jumped!!  Both were quite different in look and appeal.  But that is what poetry is all about as far as I'm concerned.

Then Viggo came out to a long round of applause.  He looked pretty fresh considering the day he had had.  He had a plastic sack with him and pulled out several books.  He showed us his notes (on paper and written on his hands) and said that that was how organized he was (I don't think anyone but Viggo could have read those notes!!).  He then read several of his own poems including "Edit" and "Fossils". Someone shouted for him to read something in Spanish and he read "Chaco".  Someone asked for "Communion" but he didn't read that.  He dedicated "Ontario" to Lola (but said that he had written it before he met her) and "First Light" to Henry.  He read a couple of pieces by Rene Ricard (who was sitting in front of us and had been at the party the night before).  Viggo was quite animated and seemed to be enjoying himself.  Then, he finished and left the stage and OneRingZero played a few more songs.

When they finished, Viggo came out and said that he thought they should play "Sweet Caroline" (for those of you who don't know, "Sweet Caroline" is an old Neil Diamond song).  Everyone started laughing and some shouted that Viggo should come sing the song.  He beat a hasty retreat from the stage then the band starting trying to figure out the song - they did and began to play it.  It turned into an audience sing-along then Viggo came out, forced Rene Ricard out of his seat and starting dancing with him.  Poor Rene!!  He struggled mightily to stay in his seat!!  It was one of the most hysterical things I have ever seen - Viggo was laughing and all of us (especially those of us who were sitting RIGHT THERE) were giggling uncontrollably.  They were dancing so fast that I thought Viggo was going to topple the poor guy right over into our laps! 

When all was over, everyone began to line up for a photo with Viggo or to get an autograph.  We stayed in our seats - figuring that we'd wait until the end of the line. The I-owe clock was ticking so loudly by this time that I think everyone heard it.  Fortunately, since we were in a bookstore, Mark was able to get up and go look at books (and he bought one).   Sotnos, Germany, and I ended up in line - all of us feeling a bit odd that, once again, we were taking up Viggo's time.   As I got closer to the front of the line, I motioned for Mark to join me - during the photo taking the day before, I had not gotten one with Mark in the picture.  Scowling, he joined me and I told him what I wanted.  We had a mini-argument about whether he needed to be in a picture with Viggo and me.  I won.

The moment I walked up to Viggo, I told him that I was sorry to be asking him for another picture but I wanted to get one with Mark in it.  Viggo was so tired that he looked at me a bit blankly but then I could see that he recognized us and he said, "oh, hey, guys".  So, we posed again.  Mark shook his hand and thanked him (for what?  I'm not sure!! Thank you for giving my wife a thrill?!! For making her OWE me forever?!). I also reached out my hand to him and he took it and I told him how much fun I'd had and how nice it was to meet him.  He thanked us for coming.  We walked away then stopped to talk to Pilar for a moment.  We thanked her profusely and she said that she was glad that we came.   Then, finally, it was all over and we walked out onto Crosby St. and into another New York night.   We put Sotnos and Germany into a cab then Mark and I got on the subway.

"Are you happy now?"  Mark asked me as we jostled along on the subway.

"Yeah," I said and we left it at that.

I owe... I owe... so off to pay Mark I go.  Can't give you any details on that...but you get the picture...

Tick...tock...tick...tock.....