The ZineBlack Cap Project
I’ve always been a scavenger. I learned this from my “shanty Irish” mom who worked hard to keep a roof over our heads, food in our bellies – and fashion on our bodies!
Mostly I rifle through thrift shops. But I also glean treasures such as a table here, a teeshirt there, off the streets of San Francisco.
I scavenge because I am broke but also because I’m an artist (and a writer) who likes shiny strange (and in my mind) irresistible objects, including clothes and odd bits of material.
About 15+ years ago I got sick both physically and mentally: fibromyalgia, massive exhaustion aka Chronic Fatigue, polyneuropathy, periodic limb movement/restless leg (I like to call it Dr. Strangelove malady). My illnesses kept me mostly housebound if not bedridden; my creative capacity came to a dead halt, not helped by debilitating writer’s block. No joke that.
For 15 years my closest, now-deceased friend Robin Hill gently suggested I apply for disability. Then enter my current trans boy “husband.” A self defined pushy Jew, he wasn’t having my current way of living. “It doesn’t have to be this way,” he insisted. Finally, after having of course brought him to tears with my intractability, I decided to take action.
This decision led me deeper into what my spiritual ally, healer Wendi Raw, calls the “Big Magic” of Western medicine. I added in the world of neurology and Jungian/non-Jungian psychiatry to my foundation of alternative medicine and esoteric spiritual practices.
Then I got Mr. Stringer Bell. He’s a goofy Chinese Crested dog. I was able to get him because my shrink wrote a letter to my landlord saying I was disabled, which I was. My partner was concerned about whether or not I’d be able to help walk Stringer, given my physical limitations and the fact that I live in a fourth-floor walk up.
But walk I did. First a couple of blocks then lots of blocks. Stringer and I roamed from Valencia Street by Market Street through the Mission as far as 17th St. – a very good day!
Throughout this time and for the past 30 years I’ve tried to show up for some kind of creativity. I started out as a writer of journalism, other nonfiction, fiction. 60 hours a week had nothing on me! But I was arrogant, clinging only to fancy bourgeois ideas of what art and literature are. I owe much to the clean and sober San Francisco queer/straight/alternative punk scene. Their art n music showed me something I’d never seen before. They broke in to my mind, trampled on all my patriarchal imperialist furnishings, dragged ‘em out into the street, shot ‘em, and hurled in a whole new way of seeing and being.
Once I got sick, even doing five minutes of creative work was a brutal struggle. One day, I stepped back from my despair and self-pity, which allowed some room for an intuitive thought: all kinds of things could be art. Afflicted by writer’s block, I began drawing my stories instead. When my partner got me an iPhone I started taking pictures on my walks…
It’s around this time that I came across my first black wool cap laying in the streets of San Francisco. I live in a neighborhood of punks, other freaks, and – I dislike the word hipsters but young, more moneyed people — all of whom like to wear black caps. Once you start paying attention, you see them everywhere, like a plague: abandoned black caps in the gutters and sidewalks. So I decided to snap a picture of the hat, and post it on Instagram with a date, place and time. I immediately named it the “black cap project,” and kept going. I used Stringer’s (empty!) poop bags to scoop up the hats and take them home.
Everybody I know accuses everybody else I know of being “hipsters.” For me, in the rapidly changing world of San Francisco, I cannot risk cultivating resentment. It takes me, as an addict, back toward relapse. Although it goes against my grain as a recovering Prince of Darkness, I moment by moment practice simply being a good neighbor. So, coming from an inclusive place, I picked up SF Giants caps and even a couple of caps that clearly only someone with money could afford. I aimed not to discriminate, except against things that weren’t black or weren’t caps. I hereby present to you the black cap project.