Visual Arts








Climbing The Crane jack vero

Climbing The Crane

Written by Jack Vero
on February 6, 2008. Experienced February 5, 2008.

The following article was written for a university paper. Attached to the essay was a crinkled, beaten up sheet of paper with a hand written story inscribed. When I recover the original crinkled sheet I'll post it here but for now a description will have to do: It told of my lack of inspiration, my difficulty in finding a subject for the upcoming free writing assignment. The night before it was due, around 1 am, I went for a walk around campus. I lived at York University in Toronto at the time, and it being February, there was a blizzard outside. During my walk I passed a familiar construction site where the university was building a ten story research tower. There was a thirteen story crane beside it. I decided to sneak into the construction site (climbed a fence) and explore, recording my movements on a piece of paper as I went. Fortunately, I didn't run into any security guards and eventually made my way up to the unfinished roof of the building. Upon reaching the roof I decided I might as well go all the way, that is, to climb the construction crane. The fact that it was in the middle of a blizzard and extremely windy thirteen stories up would only add to the adventure. So I climbed up the icy ladder, and then walked along the 200 meter horizontal beam to the very tip of the crane. I looked about, recorded my latest movements, took some pictures, spit off the edge to watch it fall, and eventually returned home to write the following paper (I got an A):

And there you have it, the unedited documentation of last night's adventure. And a crude documentation at that. The grammar may be imperfect, the eloquence lacking, but its authenticity glows. Many would fail to see the value of the wrinkled page, would much rather prefer a neatly typed, technically perfect document. But there's a vital difference between the two that they're undervaluing, the difference of authenticity. This difference, often dismissed as trivial, is the one I risked my life for. It is the very same difference between reading a story, and living it.

I fail to understand why people love to read about adventures, to fantasize, to jubilantly talk about them with their friends, and then almost always pass up on the opportunity to actually experience one. I suppose it's fear, perhaps inability. But those are just excuses; fear can be conquered, ability ascertained. Regardless, though all of these barriers of adventure do apply to myself, I refuse to be barred by them. Adventure is just something too alluring, too worthwhile to pass up on. Part of it is for my career, how can I properly write an adventure if I've never lived one? Well of course it's possible, we do have imaginations after all. But it's not the same thing. It would be tremendously difficult, if not impossible, to properly portray a painting or symphony to someone who's never experienced it. What a description is always lacking is the details. It's bound to miss something, or if not, be unbearably tiresome. The crunch of your leather gloves as they wrap tightly around the icy ladder bars; the fogging of your glasses as you peer down on the campus in its entirety; the rise of your heartbeat as you see a campus security cruiser directly below your feet (fortunately few people take the time to appreciate the beauty of a crane in a blizzard). After a while your nerves start to get to you, you resist the urge to hurry back because you know slow caution is your greatest ally. The details are the essence of the experience, and a written document, even a video recording always misses something (the way you have to brush away your foot prints after stepping on the wire box, the challenge of descending a ladder with a notebook in your mouth, obscuring your view, etc, etc). The details alone are worth the effort.

But to be fair, I really should admit my probable insanity. I'm not sure if you should listen to my advice, because there's a reasonably high chance that I'm a total lunatic. After all, I did walk out to the very tip of a 13 story crane in the middle of the night, with wind and snow violently swirling all around me. A single misstep on that slippery thin plank and I would have plummeted off the edge to certain death. So I very well might be crazy, a tainted source. That is unless I can prove valid reasoning behind the event.

First I might suggest that the trek wasn't quite so dangerous as it sounds. The wind didn't swirl quite so violently as you would imagine, the slight slipperiness of the plank was more than compensated for by the railing (though the plank still was insensibly thin). Ultimately the deciding factor on whether it was safe enough was that it was actually designed to be walked upon by humans. Given the proper conditions (which were kind of lacking) and a sure footed trapeze artist (that's me, I've been a gymnast all my life, even if only officially for a year), the 200 m walk is essentially safe. Safe enough. But still, far more dangerous a situation than most people would put themselves in for a school assignment. Of course that's not really why I did it. It's okay to feel disappointed, if I were the professor I'd expect my students to risk their lives for assignments too. Or at least their hearts. Being a good writer takes some bravery; one must be willing to expose themselves and the things around them, even if (and especially when) those things are imperfect.

This sentence will act as the transition to the next otherwise too vaguely connected paragraph.

I knew for this assignment that I'd have to pick something weird. I've only been conscious for seven years, hardly enough time to witness (or recognize) a significant world event (besides 9/11 I suppose, but who still wants to write about that?). And I know that I generally find more value in the uncelebrated things (that first kiss wasn't nearly as good as the time she asked me if our shoes were still on the roof [there sure are a lot of brackets in this paragraph (I did this brackets within brackets thing in another assignment and the professor [actually a T.A.] docked marks! Bah! God forbid someone should be innovative)]). Initially I'd planned to write about a burning rose as a symbol of myself (classical beauty and delicacy mixed with a dangerous, burning light), then I considered writing about Marge Bouvier's Mr. Burns painting (a provocative insight into the character's deepest being). But neither worked out. However, being a rather sensitive person I can usually find inspiration in the most ordinary of objects, so I knew a winter night's stroll was sure to stir up something.

It stirred up a crane, to date the literally biggest source of inspiration I've ever come by. Like a great titan, a mountain to be scaled, it stared down at me, taunting me, a challenge to be overcome. Like most of my inspirations, under normal circumstances the subject is just that - normal. But highlighted by the illuminating eye of an artist/psychopath, it becomes a great deal more. Once a mere tool of physical daily labour, the crane is now a monument of adventure. Long after the building has been built and the crane comes down a tiny human will gaze up at that patch of air where he once stood and where no human is ever to stand again. The purposes of the crane have been altered, its significance enhanced. It has become a site of triumph, a symbol of the great heights to which an ordinary object can be lifted, if only there is a person crazy enough to climb it.