We* are two perfectly respectable people who you might like if you met us. We used to be boyfriend/girlfriend so you know that, at minimum, we both have that surface-level appeal. Anyway, it was a long distance relationship, which is only important for you to know because a lot of goodbye hugs took place at curbside at the San Francisco and New York airports.** One time, just after Greg had dropped Sloane off at the airport, he took a photo of this and sent it to her phone before takeoff:
This was the beginning of a habit, and what follows below is an overly-long and highly self-indulgent backstory for how it happened.
*Let us say right up front that it’s awkward to write “we” and “us” as if we are simultaneously writing these words together. In fact, Sloane wrote this sentence. Greg wrote other sentences below. It’s not like the two of us are sitting side-by-side in front of a keyboard, taking turns typing out every other word like annoying children on an answering machine. So, after this first section, the “we” business will stop and we’ll just talk like normal people starting a weblog. As normal as that can possibly be.
** Kidding. Greg awesomely met Sloane at the SFO airport on multiple occasions but Sloane never once dropped Greg off or picked him up from any airport in New York City. This is because Greg is not an asshole and Sloane is not out of her mind.
One thing to note before we begin: Sloane and I are not sad people in general. And these photos, they do not make us sad. In fact, they do the opposite. Finding a truly sad thing on the street is like discovering a small treasure. And so you want to share it with somebody. I’m not a particularly good gift-giver—but with Sloane, I knew I could always send her a picture of some sad thing on a sidewalk, and she’d love it.
In that case we should also get this little nugget out of the way: Greg is a pretty awesome photographer and I am a pathetically passive participant in all this, the humble recipient of jpgs. Anyway, in the months that followed the photo of the heart on the pavement, two things happened: 1) Greg continued to take pictures of Sad Stuff on the Street until one day I noted this was a theme for him, and 2) we broke up. It was via phone so what you had was two people, both logically sad and both coincidentally on the street. Now, I don’t want to put too much pressure on the Sad Stuff on the Street because, well, if you’ve seen some of this shit you know it’s been through a lot already. It can’t handle “metaphor” and “symbolism.” But rather than the photos becoming visual punctuation for a long-distance romance gone awry, something we could point to and say “you see? how telling!,” they had the exact opposite effect. They were, dare I say, the bridge that took us straight into friendship. Because they were just funny. And everywhere. And they led to some heated and hilarious debates on what constitutes Sad Stuff on the Street.
Take a drawer, for instance. Not so sad, you say? Well, let’s see about that. Remove the drawer from its dresser. Empty it. Carry the drawer outside. Now, put it on the sidewalk. Take a look. What just happened?
…Not so fast. Wait for a guy to walk by with a banana. Not just any banana, but a half-rotten banana. A banana so far gone that the guy won’t even eat it. He’s disgusted with his own banana! Its peel is busted open, it’s all wet and black inside. Point to your drawer and tell the guy: “Throw your rotten banana in that drawer.” Now walk away. See? See what you’ve done? That drawer is now really, really sad.
It’s true, I can barely stand to look at that drawer it’s so sad. I’m typing now with one hand and covering the top half of my computer monitor with the other so I don’t have to look at it.
The irony here is that Greg is definitely an optimist and yet he taught me to look down more than I look up. Let that sink in. Actually, don’t. All I’m saying is there’s simply less sad stuff in trees and hanging out windows. I mean, sure, you’ll get the occasional birthday balloon waylaid by a branch or a single sock on a clothesline, but that’s pretty much the extent of it and those are kind of on-the-nose anyway. But the streets! The streets are littered with melancholy cultural commentary and random bouts of object depression. When Greg sent me a wet green feather boa after a rainstorm, I knew that there was no end of possibilities for sadness on our streets.
I started looking forward to finding sad things on streets. I’d glance down alleyways and walk completely out of my way to investigate a promising lead. You think to yourself: Man, I hope the stuff on that distant street-corner is really, really sad. And if it is, there’ll be this swirl of excitement as you realize, suddenly, that you’ve unearthed yet another awesomely sad thing.
Sometimes things are Interesting or Funny but not sad as well. This seems obvious but keep it in mind as ground rule. A sad thing on the street should make you want to look around and say: Is anyone else seeing this? It should make you want to rescue it but obviously you wouldn’t because you don’t know where it’s been. Rather, it’s been right here on the street. Don’t touch that, it’s gross. Who raised you? Basically, a sad thing on the street should make you want to smile and frown simultaneously. It should tear your face apart.
It’s like the word that fancy arts people use when first laying eyes on a great painting. Frisson! You just found a beautiful sad thing on the street!! There’s a shock of impression, a little shudder in your chest, and suddenly all that matters is taking out your iPhone and snapping a picture so you can send it to someone who will be glad to see it. (Speaking of which.)
One time Sloane and I found a piece of Sad Stuff together. Until then the whole endeavor had been a cross-country transaction. But there we were, walking the streets of San Francisco and passing all sorts of depressing curbside detritus. Many items caught our attention, but after brief consideration we’d shake our heads and move on. A pair of sneakers in a planter, a bunch of soiled t-shirts in a trashcan… Not sad enough. But: that wicker chair with the busted leg? Lying prostrate and lopsided before us, on the pavement in front of a bus stop?
Sloane nearly exploded with happiness when she saw that sad-ass chair.
Ultimately, it seemed unfair that Greg and I should experience all this alone. Who are we to exclude people from participating in Sad Stuff on the Street just because they happened not to have participated in our relationship?
Aren’t blogs kind of like long-distance relationships? They both survive on little rituals of communication to buoy the connection and soften the distance. Isn’t it like the blogosphere is just one massive global polyamorous long-distance relationship? Umm, sort of. Anyway: we want to see your sad shit. We’re dying for you to show it to us. Give us the saddest of your streets!
Man, that really sums it up, doesn’t it? 7 little words. We want to see your sad shit. Rather, other people’s sad shit. Greg can correct me if I’m wrong here but if you have, like, a dead kitten in the house and you put it out on the street and take a picture of it, that’s wrong on so many levels… but for our purposes, it’s wrong because it was your dead kitten to begin with. Umm… Anyway, please, come on in, welcome, how are you?
Send us your photos of Sad Stuff on The Street! Stop looking up and start looking down! Just don’t smack your head on anything.