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This interview capped off the month-long exhibition, Maybe U R Like Me, which connects people across borders of identification by establishing the possibility of a sameness, and similarity, that was otherwise unexpected. Here, we ask Ty about anonymity, privacy in public, and intimate encounters. If we could all think, "Maybe u r like me" this year, we'd be much better off.Read More
BY BRETT RAWSON
On January 20th, a mailman tried to deliver a piece of mail to an ordinary home. It was the XFINITY envelope you see above. Urgent, we can only imagine. But when the mailman reached the property, he approached a problem: the house was guarded by squirrels. How many, we'll never know, but there were enough. That much is clear. The mailman left the premises promptly, likely by sprint, and much later, he penned the reason for, and date of, undelivery: Squirrels, 1/20. Days later, the mailman returned, the squirrels were gone, and the bill was delivered.
The story could end there, but thankfully, it doesn't. The envelope was addressed to Glenn Tachiyama, an (ultra marathon) trail runner and (adventure) photographer. Glenn's images combine these passions with symmetry, capturing bodies in motion. But he also takes tons of pictures of squirrels.
It's a hobby of his: snapping photos of these shadow-seeking, nut-lovers. We've liked every single one we've seen on Instagram: those little concrete-colored cuties frolicking through meadows, the quasi-confused fuzzy rats nibbling on round shards of asphalt, and the small puff-balls plumping up before winter. You could be thinking that all of this was just some freak accident: that a mailman who just happened to be afraid of small furry things arrived to a residence with more than a normal amount of them. But plot-twist: January 21st just so happened to be Squirrel Appreciation Day. So now, like The Usual Suspects, your mind is going back through the clues.
It was all there: the day the mail was delivered, hundreds of squirrels darting around the lawn, unable to contain their appreciation for each other, gathered together for the annual celebration around none other than the home of Glenn Tachiyama, famous photographer and lover, or should we say leader, of squirrels. Is it that far-fetched to wonder whether the squirrels were just prepping for the photo-shoot of their lifetime?
Obviously, we here at Handwritten lost our marbles. We reached out to Glenn. "Glenn, that squirrel picture is hilarious," we wrote. "What if," we said cutting to the chase, "you sent us 4 - 5 of your fave squirrel images, and we put that in the context of this story?" Glenn replied. "As long as I don't have to write much," he wrote. "Not at all," we responded, "it'll be a visual story."
And so, with permission to use Glenn's images, but without his permission to tell a completely fictional tale, we present to you, on this pseudo-gloomy Monday, the untrue story of the mailman and the squirrel, handwritten by us, of course.
THE HANGRY SQUIRREL
handwritten by Handwritten
illustrations by Glenn Tachiyama
The instagram does not exist. In it, a patch of white-gray sidewalk frames a loose circle of dead leaves. In the top left corner, the curb of the road. At the center, yellow graffiti. The graffiti is a crooked arrow pointing into open space, and next to it the words FAG PARKING. You can tell from the way that FAG is scrawled the graffiti first marked something else, that when the text was painted it wasn’t graffiti at all. There are other signs nearby: a pink flag, some white tubing. But there it is, revised: FAG PARKING.
I came across the parking space on a run. On shorter runs, anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, I perform the same loop. I run from my apartment on Ditmars Boulevard to the northernmost avenue in Astoria, then west to Astoria Park, around the park, back to the avenue, and home. I’ve run the avenue hundreds of times. And then this drab, fall day, as I near the top of the hill that marks its middle, I find the inscription. I must have been sensitive that day. The sky was clear and pale, the wind was calm; I’m full of pride, I’m well adjusted. And yet. FAG PARKING. I feel that hot and unmistakable pang: shame.
And then I think, let this be funny. I’ll capture the image and say, “If you’ve ever tried to find parking in Astoria, you know how considerate this is.” The day passes and I go for another run. As I crest the hill, I keep my eyes peeled for the graffiti. I must have missed it—I’ve passed the place I know it to be. I’m nearly in the park and there’s no sign. I make a small circle, run back up the hill, nothing. I stop at the top to catch my breath. Another sideways glance, then down.
Justin Sherwood's poems and essays have appeared in Women's Studies Quarterly (WSQ), New Criticals, H_NGM_N, and The Poetry Project Newsletter, among other places. He's also a contributor to Scout: Poetry in Review. He teaches at The New School, where he received his MFA in Creative Writing. Find him on Twitter @JustinSherwood.