at the denton, texas greyhound bus station....again. this
time with a bus ticket to providence, rhode island. this
time another forty hours and two thousand miles. this time
november 2, 2001
friday at 7:00 am
new york city, port authority bus station.
there is a big difference between west coast bus drivers
and east coast bus drivers. east coast bus drivers have
a certain finesse. a certain finesse of brute force. a certain
finesse with the creed of "if it don't fit, force it."
at least the one that got me from washington d.c. to new
york. honking like a madman roaring through every intersection.
while we were departing the bus at the port authority
bus station he stood by the doorway and meekly told everyone
to "have a safe trip."
i noticed the irony in his smile.
i only had about four hours before i had to continue on
to providence. i really had no desire to go to ground zero
of the world trade center sight, so i started drifting toward
times square then up to central park where i bought an apple
off a cart. sat on a park bench for awhile and just listened
november 2, 2001
about 10:30 am
new york city, at the corner of 8th avenue and west 44th
my big backpack was weighing me down. expecting cold weather
i had packed more clothing. i dropped my pack on the ground
and sat on it for a rest.
moments later a bum stumbled up to me. he was about forty
years old with dark weather beaten skin. he was wearing
a leather jacket.
"excuse me," he said, "but have you seen my wife? i've
lost her again."
"no," i said.
"she's wearing a leather jacket, just like mine," he said
while patting his jacket.
with that, he began telling me about how hard it was to
keep up with a woman, that ever since him and his wife moved
from out west seven years ago to new york, she keeps getting
after he finished his alcohol soaked soliloquy, looking
up and realizing that i was still there, he asked "hey buddy,
can i buy you a beer? really, it'll be on me."
i told him thanks, but that within a few minutes i would
be leaving the city.
later i wondered if the bums in new york were all that
friendly and generous. or maybe, as i looked down at my
bus crumpled clothes and backpack, he thought i was a fellow
november 3, 2001
sometime saturday morning
somewhere on a street in providence, rhode island.
in texas, there are no dramatic season changes. from summer
to winter we skip autumn. we wake up one morning and the
leaves have suddenly turned brown and fallen to the ground.
from winter to summer, with a flick of a switch, someone
turns the green back on. but only for a short time because
someone else cranks up the heat scorching everything back
so i was really digging the post halloween autumn streets
of providence as i continued my zig zag method of drifting.
reds. yellows. oranges.
blowing my texas mind.
november 3, 2001
sometime saturday afternoon
rhode island museum of art.
my drift led me up to the steps of the rhode island museum
of art. a cool discovery since i had no idea that it existed.
like my san francisco trip, i started out with no plan.
no idea what i would be doing and no idea what i would be
giving myself over to providence.
in turn, providence offered me up a gift. inside the museum
was a show by adrian piper, a performance and multi-media
artist that i had studied back in my college art school
days. the piece that i was most familiar with was from 1974
called "the mythic being: i / you (her).
the show inside the museum was called adrian piper: food
for the spirit. it was a series of about twenty black and
white photographs arranged in a room that was square in
shape. the photos circled the entire room with no obvious
starting point or ending point. the lighting in the room
was very low. very mystical.
the images were all self-portraits, very typical of her
style. each photo was taken in the same setting, a room
that was dimly lit. the method was simple. adrian would
hold a camera at about navel level, point to her image that
was in a mirror, and snap the picture.
same pose. same picture.
yet i found something very extraordinary in her work.
i kept circling around the room, from photo to photo, looking
intently at the slightest of changes. sometimes she was
completely nude, other times she was partially nude. there
were slight variations in lighting, bouncing from dark to
dim back to dark. never any bright lights except for an
occasional splash from a random reflection. some of the
images were so dark i could barely make out the outline
of her figure.
like the greek sea god proteus, prophetic, yet not willing
to give up secrets easily. like proteus, changing shape
right before my eyes as i grapple to reveal her secret.
so i continue to circle the room, first one direction,
then another, sometimes crisscrossing the room back and
forth choosing works in random order. i did this for about
she never gave up her secret.
after i walked out of the museum, i realized that i had
been the only one in the room for the hour or so that i
and strangely i felt like i knew myself a little better.
i realized that i've always been the protean type, very
guarded in what i reveal about myself, even to my own self
which is probably why i've always been drawn to artists
like adrian piper, laurie anderson, and cindy sherman. always
changing shapes, defying anyone to define them.
november 3, 2001
a few minutes later
around the corner from the museum of art.
i discovered a weird sort of apocalyptic array of jack-o-lanterns
in front of a house. there were five in all. four jack-o-lanterns
and one jill-o-lantern. jill was all alone out front with
edvard munch-like scream carved and drawn as a face. the
four jacks were huddled several feet behind, cowering against
a wall. their faces melted, black with rot. unrecognizable.
so i asked jill, "what did you see that was so horrible?"
she just looked at me and silently screamed.
november 3, 2001
a few more minutes later
down the street from the four jacks and one jill.
i discovered another strange jack-o-lantern scene. this
one a loner jack, staring out behind some iron bars.
so i asked jack, "what evil deed did you do to land you
in the pumpkin slammer?"
he just stared back at me with a silent toothy grin.
"protean too, eh?" i said.
Chris Oller was born in Alexandria, Louisiana on May
18, 1959 and grew up in Tyler, Texas. Moved to Denton, Texas
in 1977 and graduated from North Texas State University
in 1982 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting and Drawing.
Made his gallery debut at the Hadler-Rodriguez Gallery in
Houston during the Summer of 1982 at a show called "New
Talent". His favorite painter is Francis Bacon. He minored
in English and was first exposed to Beat Literature while
taking the class called "The Songs of Bob Dylan". Other
works that influenced him during this time was the book
of poetry by Patti Smith called "Babel" and the book by
Richard Brautigan called "In Watermelon Sugar". It was in
the Summer of 1996 that he got fully hooked on Kerouac and
the Beats when he read the book "Dharma Bums". During the
summer of 2001, he travelled to San Francisco to particpate
as a reader in the marathon reading of Kerouacīs "Big Sur".
He currently lives in Denton, Texas. His email address is: