The first weekend of every month Judi and Wendi left New York City, drove straight and fast for some struggling east coast downtown buoyed by a tourist trap. They parked in the free lot provided by the main attraction, an aquarium, say, and then traveled by foot, immediately bypassed the cobblestone street with its bright, flapping pennants, its stretch of souvenir shops crammed with busloads of elderly and students. They beat it for five or six blocks away, where the shout of rejuvenation had been heard but had not landed, where the cool, the cutting edge waited to take off. Friends admired them for taking means available to them to go beyond the available. They were a kind of last Lewis and Clark, mapmakers of what adventure still remained in America. But ask either Judi or Wendi and they said it was just like something two friends could do, you know. And then, they might also tell about the time that they stumbled upon ultimate cool, the Museum of Failed Museums. It was soon to open, a sign said, in the first story window of a defunct three-story department store. They peeked inside one of its dusty display windows, at the displays left behind, the racks and strewn hangers, the fallen ceiling tiles. The young curator and owner, Will, opened the door. “Not up and running, but you’re welcome to come inside and take a look,” he said. “I’ll even show you our first acquisition.” That was The Modern Cardboard Box Museum. “But it’s just a photograph,” Wendi said. “What would you expect?” Will said. “It never got off the ground.” “This isn’t going to make it,” Judi said. “But that’s the whole idea,” Will said. Yes, Judi and Wendi might tell all of this, if they were still here. They took off with Will. We do, however, from time to time, hear from them – through invitations to The Museum of Failed Museums, wherever it moves. They read: Don’t bother. By the time you get this, we’re gone.
Scott Withiam is the author of Arson & Prophets, a collection of poems published by The Ashland Poetry Press in 2003. His poems have appeared in AGNI, Beloit Poetry Journal, Drunken Boat, Green Mountains Review, Cimarron Review, Poetry East, and Poetry International. Poems are forthcoming in Ploughshares and Tar River Poetry. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (updated 3/2010)