How are you?
Gosh, it’s been a long time!
Did you get married?
Are you a grandmother?
Are you alive?
Do you remember one day around 1976 when you and I turned one of those spare rooms at the UCLA Co-op’s Hardman Hansen Hall into a photo studio, and I painted you blue, and we took this picture?
So much blue paint.
You were a great sport.
What was I thinking? Was I channeling Yves Klein?
As I recall, you didn’t mind all the blue paint.
Or maybe you did and were just really polite about it.
Getting it all off was kind of a project. It was a fun day. Looking at this picture now I feel compelled to apologize for all the blue paint.
We created this picture about 40 years ago. About 14,600 days ago.
If you can believe that’s possible.
I teach Art at Long Beach State these days. When I show paintings in Chauvet Cave and say that they were painted 30,000 years ago I find myself speechless. When I show that red jasperite pebble that’s about 3 million years old, before humans even existed, from the time of Australopithecus, I have to ask myself what such a beyond-human span of time even means. Is it even real? Or fiction?
14,600 days is not a beyond human span of time. But it’s strange to look at you, with your eyes peering over that blue paintbrush, and wonder what I’ve done with the last 14,000 days? What have you done with the days, Christy?
While we once shared a lot of blue paint, IDK if we walked past each other today if I’d recognize you?
Your grandkids will probably never lose touch with college peeps. Some social platform will keep them connected forever.
Human memory fades gracefully.
Digital memory is forever.
Unless it’s abruptly lost.
Things like books and photography have always been our offline memory. I have no idea where the original film of this image of you is. But last week, sifting through a big stack of old prints, I found this print of you.
My dad’s parents passed away when I was very young. I don’t remember them in a direct, physical way. My memory of them is because of my dad’s photography.
When peeps from your past find you on some social media platform is it weird? Or nice? Both? Or like the past is running faster than you are?
If my dad hadn’t taken this picture of me and grandpa, would I remember him at all?
If I hadn’t found this print of you, would I ever have thought about you? Would I even remember all that blue paint?
Are these moments real?
Picture Message in a Bottle
Sam Zucmanski has been gone a long time now. I haven’t seen you, Christy, in a long time. And now I am writing a letter to you that you will almost certainly never read.
Although I can’t really know if you are still alive, I imagine that you are. And that you are doing well. And that you’ve had a good life.
I’m pretty sure I’ll never paint anyone blue again. Nor see you again.
But it’s been wonderful finding this 14,600-day-old photograph and remembering you. And our times at the Coop.
Were we really there? Were we really that young?
Or is it fiction?