Jacob Lawrence, "Boys at Play," 1966
Jacob Lawrence, Boys at Play (1966)
Can a Game Be Literature?

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September 7, 2003:

Thin boys in a '68 Chevy Nova, canary yellow. Whip around a clifftop curve, windows down, breathing sea breeze and warm night air.

Boy in the driver's seat. Tall. Messy hair, jet-black, fine like baby hair, long. Thin as an insect, impossibly energetic. Cheap Trick on the radio. Likes that song from Budokan, "Clock Strikes Ten".

Boy in the passenger's seat. Tall. Neat hair, auburn, well-combed, short with trimmed sideburns. Impossibly thick black glasses, clean, with minute vertical lines etched in both lenses to correct his slight crosseye. In his lap is Nadja by Andre Breton. He smiles a smile edged with practiced irony, slapping time against it with his own sardonic brand of enthusiasm. He likes that song too.

Politics and art. Auburn-haired boy is a college student. He's discovered anarchism, Surrealism, coffee, and the campus' radical newspaper collective.

Rock and roll. Black-haired boy is between academic sinecures, having recently been informed by the local high school authorities that his services as a student are no longer required. Lately he's discovered the MC5, King Curtis, and Monty Python. Music is his politics. The only truths he feels confident in are found within etched vinyl grooves.

That's where they meet: the impulse to freedom vibrating inside those wax and plastic grooves. The black-haired boy's anarchism is emotive, his friend's is intellectual. It's the same insight.

Auburn-haired boy rolls down the passenger-side window. Well-do-do ocean-front neighborhood with expensive houses kept clean and cosey by hired help, brown-skinned mostly. People who set the table, but don't eat there.

"There are no innocent bourgeoisie!", he shouts.

He rolls the window up with a satisfied, sardonic smile. His friend grins and nods approval. They turn up the radio.

Gonna get down
Gonna get on down
Gonna get down
Gonna get on down

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