I thought nothing of the chair when I first saw it. It was just a normal reading chair: weathered armrests, pale yellow cushions. It should have grabbed my attention, though. It was right next to the road, after all. And it was ceramic. And six feet tall.
The chair stood by a road leading to the Route 1 bridge across the Piscataqua River, which leads from Kittery, Maine (where I live) to Portsmouth, New Hampshire (where I work and play). Both towns are beautiful. Kittery has all the charm of the New England countryside, while Portsmouth is a gorgeous port city, a labyrinth of colonial brick and eclectic shops and restaurants.
All that to say, there ain't nobody here in their twenties.
Okay, that's an exaggeration, but my brother Joel laments it every day. As for me, I'm a cartoonist. I have enough characters rattling around in my head to supplant years of actual social interaction, thank you very much. Joel, however, is an extravert extraordinaire and craves more dialogue than what can be stuffed into black-and-white speech bubbles. To each his own, I guess.
Still, even the most hermitic of introverts likes a little conversation now and again, let alone people his age who share his passions.
One night, Joel and I were driving over the bridge from Portsmouth. We saw a few twenty-somethings walking away from Kittery. "That's unusual," I thought.
The following night, we saw more. A few nights later, even more twenty-somethings.
"I keep seeing people our age, and I have no idea where the hell they hang out," said Joel.
I blurted out, "There's an arts collective."
"I don't know."
My gut said there was, though. All these fucking 20-year-old hipsters with their pseudo-vagrant clothes and cigarettes, walking back and forth between some rift in time and space, disappearing the minute they hit either side of the Piscataqua. They were in on something, and it was driving me nuts.
"Follow them," I told Joel.
So we did. We followed the intermittent trail of ants from the bridge, up a lane of trees, to the corner of Gold Harvest produce market and beyond. In fact, we were headed towards our own apartment.
And where did the trail of ants lead but to the pale yellow chair?
Friends, there is an arts collective in Kittery, Maine. It occupies a rundown brick loft building, so much like the base of the Traveling Neighborhood in Los Angeles. Granted, it's much smaller, but you'd swear they picked up a chunk of Vignes Ave. and hauled it to the East Coast. And it's a two minute walk from my home.
I must know what goes on in that building. I must infiltrate their ranks.
The militant wing of the Traveling Neighborhood marches on!