I grew up with Keith Haring’s Radiant Baby. I watched a lot of Nickelodeon growing up. My childhood was full of visions of green slime, Ren & Stimpy, and orange, red and blue colored people. Faceless people, brightly-colored, with thin black lines emanating from their heads. I had no idea who conceived of them, nor did I ever interpret those thin lines as being symbolic of radiance. Growing up on a steady diet of Herge’s Tintin comics, I saw those lines as signs of shock or surprise, the universal pictorial language of “WTF?!”. So for years I was haunted by those shocked, panicked faceless rainbow people. Who were they? Were they living in mortal terror of being slimed?
I almost watched a man die last week.
It was on a Sunday night inside Space55, and in the middle of a playwriting workshop, as I was sitting with folks discussing something we just read, I saw a man in a wheelchair roll himself into traffic on 7th St. He didn’t even look to see if there was oncoming traffic, he just rolled off the edge and wheeled leisurely down the middle of the street. The fact that oncoming traffic wasn’t slowing down and didn’t seem to notice his existence wasn’t slowing down his momentum. All I said as I witnessed this: “it’s like watching a game of Frogger”. One of the other workshop participants actually had enough humanity and presence of mind to run out there and push the man to the other side. But I did nothing. I didn’t even think of getting out of my chair and helping him. I just made a joke about how this potentially lethal situation was just like an old video game. Sometimes I wonder if a car had hit him, if I would have made a “Game Over, Insert Coin” joke afterwards. I’d like to think I’m not that heartless. But I also used to think I was the kind of person who WOULD help push a handicapped man in his hour of need across the street, so what do I know?