02 May 2011

Diary of a Billsticker – Trenton, New Jersey, USA

02 May 2011

This was yet another poster run in the Phantom Billstickers poetry poster series. It was a beautiful spring morning as we headed off to Trenton, the state capital of New Jersey. I buy ‘The Trentonian’ newspaper every day and I’m not sure why. I think it’s the horror, the horror. There is something appealing about horror.

The banner headlines from the day before screamed out “Killed For Pills” and told the story of a pharmacist being “gunned down” by “an eighteen or nineteen-year-old black man with dreadlocks.” So I kind of knew I had to put up some posters whilst keeping my hair short and not swaggering. The Trentonian reminds me of the dim and dark ages in New Zealand journalism. This was back when all newspapers focused on dawn raids to find Polynesian overstayers hiding under peoples’ beds. When no Polynesians were “playing up,” they’d find similar items to shock and divide and destroy. Thank God all that’s over and most thinking Kiwis appreciate the value of other cultures living in our country and bringing their magic. New Zealand is very rich on this score.

But, now we’ve all found a common enemy in Libya or Afghanistan – so far away as to be meaningless to most people. It’s like we have to find something to dislike. We know we’re right as well, as we’ve been told it and we believe it. We’re keen to buy this new line of journalistic merchandise. Yet, we all know that any war is a wasted enterprise, but it’s good that it’s all so far away and a drone takes care of most things. No need to get our hands dirty. We can stand on the sidelines and scream as the horror grows.

In Trenton, I was carrying poetry posters by Frankie McMillan, Lawrence Arabia, Sandra Bell, Jody Lloyd, Sam Hunt, Chris Knox, and Robert Creeley. The first six are Kiwis, the last an American. All are tremendously good poets who deserve to be heard. Hey, everyone deserves to be heard, but I just wish the voices were as sweet as these poets’ voices.

I enjoy a good poster run and particularly in the morning when the sun is first coming up. I have a mate who tells me that suicide rates are highest in the spring. I’d think this would be because some people are more afraid of the good things in life than of the bad. Nelson Mandela might have said something (he borrowed it I think) about more people being afraid of the light than of the dark. I think there are a lot of people in this life who like to trumpet out the bad as if this makes them better human beings. They scream and moan and try to alert us to all kinds of shit. In the end, often, their screaming and moaning is way worse than the shit they are trying to alert us to the dangers of. I’d rather shoot aspartame in the mainline than be around most of these people for too long.

On a good day and given a good poster run, I always have music in my head. On this particular day, I was moving to the rhythm of ‘Going to California’ by Led Zeppelin. This is a lovely, soft, acoustic track, and yet it really moves. I was also thinking through the bass playing from the Pretenders ‘Stop Sobbing’ and it too was altering my footsteps. It was a lucky day and this is a good way to be. Powerful music (and good expression) can be such a good force in peoples’ lives. Beauty doesn’t sell as well as horror and repulsion, but to move in that direction might be a good thing.

The sun was getting bright overhead and I was stapling posters to poles in a Spanish area of the city. I knew this because I couldn’t understand a single word people were saying and I kept (unconsciously I’m sure) thinking about the Spanish Armada.

“The patient is not cured because of free association, the patient is cured because he can free associate.” – Sigmund Freud

Well, it’s all better than thinking about newspaper headlines, and death and destruction, and political viewpoints and other things that glug up people and stops them moving. Political viewpoints kill people and they’re all about as bad (all of them) as newspaper headlines that screech and holler.  I’d rather put up posters, Jack. I’m not resigned and depressed in life either, far from it. I see good things in the very worst areas. I’ll never like Donald Trump, though. There’s no upside there. And, sometimes, I agree you’ve got to have a good band (or writer) that seems to screech and scream and yet cuts through all the crap and says things at a subconscious level that’ll add more value to society than Bill Clinton ever did or could. Sometimes such a band screams (in a good way). One such band was The Ramones. ‘Gabba Gabba Hey’ was the appropriate response to “I did not have sex with that woman.” It’s also, probably, the appropriate response to the war in Afghanistan.

So this was a good poster run full of joy and promise and sunlight.

“Hey, Gabba Gabba Hey…..”

 

Keep the Faith,

 

Jim Wilson

44a  44b

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