The emailed instructions, addressed to Cosmonauts of Narrative, said to look for the man in the red fez, which was easy enough, but his directions were more complex. “Take a left out of the bar and click to the next slide every half block,” participants in the night’s Constellations of Ego event were told as we were handed View-Masters and sent out of Bed Stuy’s cozy Project Parlor and into the misty evening. If correctly interpreted, the retro-formatted clues led to the side entrance of a kosher supermarket. Homemade stick-and-gauze-wrapped stars were handed out to all by an eye-patched organizer in the unremarkable entryway before we were sent skyward, the journey upwards guided by a fleet of golden lamps hung in the space between the rails. On the roof, circles formed around electric campfires and the storytellers started in.
There were tales of experiencing the Donga, an African stick fight ritual, and pitbulls helped in Missoula back alleys despite a fear of dogs and losing the credit card of an incarcerated roommate at a Thai 7-Eleven ATM and overcoming childhood trauma and September 11th, 2001 and the Dutch ship which no colonists boarded and falling off the water towers of abandoned Red Hook warehouses and nighttime partridge hunting in the Middle East and psychedelic visions of the old growth forest up at the northern tip of Manhattan. Visibility only decreased as the night progressed and the sun set and the fog settled in, but the mist made for more sense of solitude. Together on this rooftop, pouring whiskey into our tea and sharing smores, our smartphones silenced, we could suspend our most worries for just one night and immerse in the art of durational storytelling.
The event was organized by Shadow Traffic, a group of experienced DIY placemakers skilled in Chaos Magic and producing the kind of events which make little sense in a capitalist culture but serve to soothe the soul. As the narratives came to an end and participants began to wander the roof, one storyteller repeatedly cracked a whip and finished his tale. And then the rain began to fall and we all took the stairs back down to the street.
Correction: This post was revised to correct the brand name of View-Masters.