One by Johnny American
written by S. Raoufi
A big one. The whole time I’ve been doing this project
I’ve wondered what happens after collecting 100 opinions
in a day. There have been times I’d unintentionally
passed that benchmark, but like all young men on the cusp
of greatness, I finally started thinking bigger. 1,000 opinions
– now there was a challenge. Seeking one-thousand
opinions allowed me to attempt to poke and prod some giant,
unknowable beast non-existent in only one hundred collected
opinions. And what better place for this test of endurance
and sanity than Central Park?
My assumption was that the stomping ground for millions of
camera-touting tourists, kitsch vendors, erudite artisans,
jockstrap cyclists, purse-housed doggies, briefcase beefcakes,
brazen buskers, libertarian libertines, divorced debutants,
and the vogueing vanguards of taste and decency could somehow
yield one thousand “yes” or “no” answers.
The truth of the matter was that after having asked 1,031
people about my body, only 500 actually responded. I was ignored
531 times, 176 people gave “yes” answers and 324
bodies visiting the historic location stamped me with “no’s.”
After eight hours of soliciting, I cut my goal in half and
stuffed myself back into my clothes. I did not consider the
concession to five hundred opinions to be a defeat –
just a realization that to get one thousand opinions I would
have had to beseech 2,000 souls, and I am a man, not a machine.
Notable stories: During my sixth hour accumulating, I meet
a man named Jorge. Jorge, an older man, who English was his
second, if not third language responded with one of my favorite
answers. After being asked the question more than once he
replied slowly “yes.” After another moment he
placed his hand on my arm and told me in a heavy accent that
life was all around us, beams from everywhere and that is
what made it perfect. As he spoke, every time he said “body,”
it sounded more and more like “party.” I wanted
to ask him in Spanish to clarify, but I decided that us having
the perfect party was just as good.
One of the last people I asked as I closed up for the day
was a kid right out of a Larry Clark movie. Spiked hair, leather
jacket, skateboard, Mexican flag shirt and chain leading to
his wallet; all signs to me that his reaction would be predictable.
I ran up to him and his skating entourage, and as they dismounted
their boards I popped them my question. Not getting an answer
right away I pleaded with the bunch of them for a “yes,”
or “no,” and finally the kid wearing the flag
answered, “Shit, man, that stuff is all in your head.
It doesn’t matter.” This project would not interest
me if I had been getting that answer more often, but I always
enjoy being surprised.
Process: On the streets and in a variety of public
places I will approach people asking them the question, "Do
I have a Perfect Body?"