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An Excerpt from The Heart is Meat, a Memoir by Michael Backus, Author


Meat Market Ghosts Adolf Kusy NYC
Meat Market Ghosts NYC

The Heart is Meat


The homeless around the burn barrel are no problem - we pass by much as the other elements of the market do, as if we occupy separate universes which only tangentially overlap. The heavy leather homosexuals, the meat market workers, the homeless, the he/shes, we are mostly specters to each other, sensations more than corporeal entities, presences that pass not just by but through, leaving nothing more than a moment’s shiver or the feeling someone is close when no one is.

Past the light from the street people’s burn barrel, the street gets dark and quiet, the maelstrom of Washington far enough away. It doesn’t have anything to do with me. The smack and the speed are perfect right now, I feel sharp and awake, yet insulated. Like I’ve fallen into a dark vast pool of warm water and I can see the regular world with its endless supply of men in long white coats streaming past the distant opening.

I finally understand the street art installation that appeared one Monday morning a couple of months before. Ghosts. Dozens of them looming over the awnings or from the tops of buildings, five feet tall, made of clear plastic, and shaped like a ‘man under a sheet’ phantom from a cartoon. They’re meant to be us! That’s how some artist sees us in our white coats moving through the dark of early morning. Ghosts.

The collective sculpture appeared sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving, spread over four blocks’ worth of metal canopies and along the old section of the High Line, a narrow elevated patch of scrub weeds, half buried steel rails and trees growing out of concrete. Meat market reaction was curious. It took some time for anyone to notice and it was a couple of weeks before every jobber who comes in managed to look up and see them. Some didn’t care, some wouldn’t deign to take a second look, a couple of guys seemed pissed, as if they suspected they were being made fun of. A surprising number liked them, feeling I’m assuming the looming plastic shrouds added a level of magic to the world, as though “we are all part of some grand performance piece, gladiators in the pit with a sparse audience made up of those who had died before us.” I spent way too much time talking like this, telling anyone who would listen about other street art like Startle Man, an ominous full-size figure painted in black on walls around Manhattan, always in action pose, as if running or about to attack. I even got defensive about negative reaction, possibly because I suspected in an ultimate us and them construction, I was more likely to be bunched with whoever put these things here opposite those I work with. Even with all that, the central “the ghosts are us” insight eluded me until just now.

Meat Market Ghosts | The Heart is Meat, an 80's Memoir by Michael Backus
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