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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Camp Marshfield Goes Mobile, Part I

Well, it's interesting how Camp Marshfield seems to be evolving this summer to fit two key changing circumstances: the new car and the impending baby. The new car means I do more road trips. On Tuesday I took Picasso, Joey, Jay-Z and Peter Pan's brother to Pros Arts Studio in Dvorak Park in Pilsen for their street art class. I've only been talking about this since February, but hey, we finally got there.

We were late. I had the time wrong, and then Peter Pan's brother was getting a haircut from some guy down the block. Bro got a Nike swoosh shaved into the back of his head. Jay-Z got a cool, abstract kind of design shaved into his head recently, by somebody over on Ashland Avenue.

"The first one is free. Next time it's five bucks," Mr. Shaver told me while we were all standing around watching him put the finishing touches on Bro's swoosh. Peter Pan's older sister went by and so did one of the older Brady Girls--the boys were teasing them about did they want a haircut. "Oh, no, I worked too hard to grow my hair this long," said the relevant Brady Girl. Peter Pan's sister just squealed in disgust at the idea.

When the swoosh was done, we all got in the car and drove to Dvorak Park. When we got there I had no idea where in the park the class was. At first I thought it might be over by the pool because that building is painted over with youth art. But no, that was the locker rooms. One girl peeked out and didn't say anything when I asked, "Is the art class in here?" But then she saw all the boys and suddenly there were a couple of girls screaming at them to come over. We all laughed and walked to the field house. The guy at the desk wasn't very clear about where the room was, so we spent some time wandering in a maze of locked rooms before we got down to the basement and saw the little room on one end where a bunch of kids were at a table, drawing.

"Hi, can we join you?" I asked the young Latina teacher.

"Sure," she said. "Come on in." I came in and hung out with them--normally I wouldn't be such a helicopter mom-figure but I really didn't know if Jay-Z and Bro had the stamina for an hour of an art project. I also didn't know if there would be any trouble since the guys weren't from the neighborhood, so I thought it was worth hanging out on the sidelines. I passed some wet wipes around and asked Jay-Z and Bro how it was going once or twice, but mostly I just let them alone. The vibe in the room was good--with our guys it was 14 young people and they were all concentrating hard on their projects. The teacher gave some kids suggestions here and there but mostly just let them go at it and made sure they all had the materials they needed.

The teacher got the guys set up at the table (they split up except for Joey and Jay-Z) and gave them pieces of paper and pastels. The task was to pick a word--your name, some other relevant word--write it out big in whatever style you preferred (block letters, bubble letters, Olde English, the really hard to read graffiti style, or whatever) then work on a color scheme using blended pastels. Once you were done you could take it outside and spray it with fixative. Picasso jumped in right away and Joey was not far behind. Jay-Z and Bro took a lot longer to decide what they were doing, as I expected. Eventually Jay-Z got bored and went outside to watch basketball. Bro surprised me--he hung in there and actually had something I thought looked cool by the end. The teacher gave Picasso and Joey registration forms to take home, get filled out and bring back next week if they go back. Bro didn't get one, but when we got home he said, "I want to go next week." I promised we'd get him a paper then.

Picasso said it was "not bad" and was noncommital about going again, but if it's raining or he's bored I bet he would go. I think Joey would go--I get the feeling he is pretty bored hanging out here this summer. I wish I had more to offer him.

Just as we were turning on to Marshfield Avenue, the New Boyz song "You're a jerk" came on the radio. I had never heard it before and started making fun of it instantly. "You're a jerk," I said, real nasally, and all the guys cracked up.

"They get paid to do that," Picasso said in semi-mock amazement.

"Yeah, I know," I said. "I could do that. I could put it on YouTube." We were all laughing.

I double-parked in front of my house to let them out and run in to grab something for a meeting. Picasso and Joey's moms were on the other side of the street, so I went to talk to them. "I think they liked it," I said in Spanish. "They have papers that need your signature to register. It's free but they have to take the papers back next week."

"Is it far?" Joey's mom asked.

"No, it's in Pilsen, at a park," I said. "I can help drive."

They each said they could drive sometimes too. So maybe this will actually happen. If Picasso actually liked it enough maybe he could get a job with them next summer. The guy I think was the paid student intern/apprentice--he asked where the timecards were--didn't strike me as the most dedicated. He did his own thing, didn't seem to interact with the other young people, and left to play basketball when his own project was done. Maybe it was an off day. I bet Picasso would be better, though.

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