A small ode to Ai Weiwei
November 2, 2020

Gesture

One more day until the election. My head is garbled with stories about yard signs booby-trapped with razor blades and news that the White House is barricading itself behind a non-scalable fence in case the president’s craving for bedlam comes true. These final hours feel like pacing the halls of a hospital, waiting and bargaining. So I’m going to focus on something small and stupid tonight. It’s a juvenile ritual and I’m not proud, but it’s an undeniable feature of my year, and I might as well mark it down.

A few years ago, I started jogging to ward off the entropy of middle age. What began as a lousy replacement for cigarettes slowly became an aestheticized way to empty my head of thoughts—dusk, doom metal, and rain. By the time I round the southwest corner of Central Park, I’m about five miles into my run and my thoughts are a distant hum. Then I glimpse the gilded name of our president on his obnoxious tower and I’m forced to think about him again, this braying mouth that has swallowed a nation’s attention. So I give the president’s name the finger each time I lumber past it, a satisfying if feeble echo of Ai Weiwei’s Study of Perspective series.

A grown man flipping the bird at a building. At first, I was mortified by just how childish I’d become, that I would allow any man to crank my lizard-brain into full swing, blotting out dignity and common sense. I’ve never made this gesture in any other situation. Yet it gradually became ritualistic and almost superstitious, something I had to do each time I rounded that corner. An old woman joined me the other day, and it was a beautiful moment of connection. Tomorrow I’ll wake up at four o’clock in the morning to help work the polls, and hopefully, the desire to delete this man’s name from our heads will carry us to more dignified times.


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Each night in 2020 I'm writing a short post for a series called Notes From the End of a World because I want to etch these days into my memory before I forget them. Before the world changes completely.
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