The Prisoner

When I got up yesterday morning, Lydia cried out and I jumped out of bed to see what was the matter. She had startled awake from a nightmare. I calmed her down and headed back to my room. As I walked through the library I noticed something lying in the middle of the floor. Obeying my tidy-impulses, I bent over to pick it up. Yikes, it was a thumb! I tossed it across the room. Then I realized, it was the rubber thumb that's a part of Lydia's magic set. 

She's been practicing her magic quite a bit, though not always enough to get the rhythm of the illusion down perfectly.  Later that morning, Lydia was constantly interrupting me to show me another magic trick...while I was making coffee, while I was trying to water the plants, while I was putting together breakfast, while I was washing the dishes;  everytime I turned around, she had another trick.

One of the tricks she called The Prisoner. It's a variation on the three-locking-rings trick. The first time she showed me, she couldn't get the rings to lock up, and when she did, I could see the split in two of the rings. I told her that she need to practice some more, that what she needed to do was practice until she could fool herself. I said that if you can fool yourself, you can fool anyone. I also suggested that she practice in front of a mirror. Our bathroom has a 7 x 4 foot mirror on one wall, so it is the ideal practice room.  She did; and this left me some time to get things organized, so we could get out of the house.  I was just about ready when she said she was ready to show me her trick again. She did The Prisoner. She had tied both ends of a rope to her wrists. She held one ring in her hand, which she handed to me to examine; it was solid.  She told a short story and then turned her back to me, and when she turned around, the ring was hanging from the rope. 

We needed to head out to pick up transparency film so that I can make overheads for Joachim to use in his lecture to the Biophysical group this evening. It will be his first formal lecture about findings concerning the structure, and by implication, the function of the ribosome. 

The ribosome is an RNA-rich cytoplasmic granule where protein synthesis takes place. The cytoplasm is the protoplasm of the cell outside the nuclear membrane; and the protoplasm, according to Webster, is the organized complex of organic and inorganic substances (such as proteins and water) that constitute the living components of the cell; and is regarded as the only form of matter in which the vital phenomena are manifested. In other words, just as the mitochondria is the power-plant of the cell, the ribosome is, according to Joachim, the automotive-plant of the cell. The ribosome manufactures protein following the instructions in the RNA. As he explains it, the ribosome is like an assembly-line robot used in automobile manufacturing. A robot can make anything, given the raw materials and instructions on how to assemble them. Before he can give his presentation on the ribosome structure, Lydia and I have to get overhead transparency material to make color copies of Joachim's computer-generated ribosome pictures. 

That leaves Lydia and I in the car headed to Electronic Business Products, located west of Albany beyond the airport, at the end of Albany-Shaker road. The office we're looking for is in the British-American Industrial Park, built by Bernard Kornfeld, industrialist, mystery author, and friend of George Plimpton, of the Paris Review. The person we are looking for is Prudence. She is waiting to swap transparency material for me, since the stuff they shipped the first time was not the right material for the copy machine; it jammed every time. "No problem," said Prudence, "you drive just out here and I'll replace those dead-soldiers for you right away." We do. She does. 

As we're driving south down the Northway Lydia is reading more of the Nancy Drew Double Jinx Mystery to herself, and the roadsigns are starting to talk to me again. I see a billboard which says: "What was Einstein's Theory of Health Care?"  I think for a moment. Then I know the answer. It's the General Theory of Relativity...everyone should take care of their relatives, or everyone should have a relative in the business.

 Lydia and I show up just in time for the lecture. We give Joachim his overheads, and sit down to listen to the presentation. We sit near the back in case Lydia gets antsy. I asked Montserrat the other day if she knew what antsy meant. No, she said, she'd never heard that expression. I explained that it came from the idea of having ants in your pants. She'd never heard that either, but after a quick discussion of hormigas and pantalones, she got the picture. She said the spanish have a word, ansia, which means anxious, that was close enough.

Lydia has a great time interpreting the 3-D images Joachim is showing on the screen. To her, the ribosomes look like fortune cookies, hams, chewing gum, popcorn, body parts, and finally guts.  As the lecture progresses I am having a hard time suppressing a laugh out-loud. I am struck by how similar this circumstance is to the WorkSpace meetings we used to have. Joachim was the first person I met when I moved to Albany and he was a founding member of WorkSpace, a not-for-profit artist's collective. In Madison, I had a non-profit artspace which I called the Wisconin Video Theatre Annex. I showed otherwise unexhibitable artworks in my small gallery space. WorkSpace was involved in the same kind of activity in Albany, so I took to it immediately. We would meet a few times each week to work on projects and plan our events. Joachim was often at the front of the room leading the discussion, rambling on in his german-english, following his own double-stranded logic. 

 I take some notes while Joachim talks, and Lydia invents a game of adding letters instead of adding numbers. In this case, once you add up all the letters, you get a word. For instance R+I+B+O+S+O+M+E = ribosome. You get the idea. Next she draws a picture of a man with his arms in the air saying "WaHo!". Now she's drawing a picture of a woman with curly hair on her head, as high as she is tall. The woman is holding a little baby in her arms. The baby has a halo of spiky hair. I figure Lydia is getting antsy. Joachim has just shown a slide of a scatter diagram depicting the distribution of the ribosome particles in the protoplasm. It's a circle, inscribed in a square, divided into four equal quadrants by a plus sign. It looks exactly like a diagram for the four cardinal points of the compass. It also looks just like one of Sol Lewitt's drawings, especially the ones he used to diagram Trisha Brown's dances. 

 With that, Lydia and I leave. She turns in her badge. I use my electronic i.d. to unlock the door so we can leave the building and head back downtown.

Copyright: 1995
Jan Galligan Jan Galligan c/o Sprynet
All Rights Reserved
Last modified July 15, 2001