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Playing Hide and Go Seek In the Dark

Hoppmann01aFor those of you who know my work, this book is different from my past books, and yet, this book is about nothing but the past.   The barbed wire serves a purpose, which I will get to eventually. The book contains ten codices, each comprised of three sheets of rustic acid free paper made from scraps from past book projects and generous inclusions of paypyrus and raffia. I used my father’s 1946 portable Smith Corona manual typewriter for the text, and papyrus on which to type because the typewritten characters reminded me of the hieroglyphs used on the papyri of ancient Egypt. I should probably point out, the spell check feature was not always working properly. Maybe someday, some archaeologist will pore over my texts in the hopes they can translate the strange characters. Papyrus survives better almost anywhere other than Puget Sound, so to ensure my writings would be better preserved, I mounted the papyri onto the sheets of rustic hand moulded paper which make up the codices.

On the front piece of each codice is a small India ink illustration relative to either a story within, or the theme of the codice itself, each codice having its own theme which is often literary in nature. For example, one is titled Crime and Punishment, another is Animal Farm. The codices lie loose within a Coptic style cover made of repurposed wood which once served to make the forms for pouring my patio. Manila hemp binds the covers together, while weathered gate latches hold the book closed, and allow the codices to be held tightly in place when the book is placed in an upright position. As a final note, a buffer sheet on the inside of each cover helps protect the leaves of the codices from residual acids and lignins within the wood.

The project began as a search for provenance. Who am I? Where have I been? Why do I do what I do? The quest for memories that might explain or even answer these questions led to the realization, I might as well begin a conversation with a brick wall about what is art?   What I learned, however, was while most memories become blurred by time or for whatever reason, many remained as sharp as the line of India ink I had just made on a sheet of paper.   As I jotted and typed, a common thread began to emerge.   The memories my brain had chosen to embrace, contained elements of the unexpected. Those moments make up the context of this book.

Which, brings us to the barbed wire. Those rusty barbs are a reminder of one of those moments. As we run through life groping blindly in front of us, we are in fact, often playing hide and go seek in the dark.   No matter how well we think we plot and plan, nothing is ever certain.   The barbed wire is meant to serve only as a reminder of that fact and not as a deterrent to playing the game. Always be curious. Embrace the unexpected.     As a footnote, the inverted Ω on the front piece of each codex is a personal symbol representing  nothing is forever, but nothing truly ends.

Christmas in Paris

I have decided to title my blogs, Playing Hide and Go Seek in the Dark, after a collection of stories mentioned under the tab,  Art of the Book.    From time to time the stories and observations from the book will find their way into this blog page amongst my other musings, announcements, or events of note. There will be no need to make an announcement when I do so. I think you will be able to tell the difference.   Because it is so close to Christmas, I have decided my first blog should be a Christmas Story.  And yes, it is one of those stories.Line

Christmas in Paris IIWhat is Christmas without a surprise or two?  Sitting at Gare du Nord on Christmas Day, a shadow crosses my open journal.  I look up and lock eyes with an old man wearing a black beret.  We quickly learn our repertoire in the others language is limited to just a few words.  Nevertheless, in a few minutes, using mostly gestures, we establish a rapport in which he learns I am on my way to Amsterdam and he in turn, lives alone in Paris, a short distance away. 

More gestures and I learn he would like me to enjoy a cup of coffee with him.  Tentatively, I accept the invitation and we walk out of the train station, his hand on my arm into the cold greyness that is Paris in winter.  Over more like a bowl than a cup of coffee, I receive my first lesson in French while he in turn, receives perhaps his first lesson in Anglais.  Pointing to my watch, I indicate I have a train to catch, and escorting me back to the station he points to a later departure time and beckons for me to follow.  I throw caution to the winds and walk with him through the doors of the station, leaving the warmth and safety of Gare du Nord behind. 

It had never been my plan to share Christmas with a stranger, but I suddenly realize how far away I am from home.  We walk a short distance to a nondescript building near Notre Dame and climb a narrow staircase to his simple garret apartment.  Motioning to a chair, he begins to pull a feast from his small refrigerator.  Frommage, un petit jambon, and fruit; all that he has, soon fills a small table along with two bottles of vin and a baguette.  It is indeed a feast as only could be enjoyed between two lifelong friends.  Many a toast is proffered as I receive a second lesson in french, learning the word for everything on the table and writing them down in my journal.  We toast our good fortune with a cordial of pungent green liqueur which we drink through a sugar cube.  Was it absinthe?  He writes in my journal, Chartreuse. 

A hand shakes my shoulder and I open my eyes. I do not remember following asleep in the chair.  Panic strikes  briefly as I quickly check my inside pockets for passport, wallet and ID; all still there.  He points to his watch and indicates it is 5am and time to return to the station and continue my journey to Amsterdam. I take a deep breath in relief and stand, reaching for my backpack, eager to leave. 

At the train station, he holds both of my arms in an embrace and kisses me on each cheek.  Then he is gone, the snow swirling around me on the platform.  I turn to look at the empty track.  My train had left five minutes before our arrival.  I don’t care.  Amsterdam would have to wait one more day as I set off to explore Paris.



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