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A tall man phoned me yesterday, and told me he was working on the flamethrowers for the giant six-armed monkey effigy. I dropped what I was doing to go and help out. It didn’t take long for me to drop what I was doing, as it was essentially a whole heap of nothing. I rushed over to Dave’s house.

Dave lives on the East side of town. In the olden days, the city planners guide of Austin had different zones clearly marked – a zone for white people, a zone for black people and a zone for hispanic people. The city planners don’t have maps like this any more, but the East side is still considered a black and hispanic neighbourhood. Around where Dave lives, there are many black people.

Dave’s landlady and housemate are very understanding. For several months there has been a 30 foot tall wooden monkey in their garden. Its arms hover over the trees and bushes, and one hangs over the sidewalk. Attendant on the monkey are a number of people who come to help in its building, and the associated beer and music which such a task requires.

Arriving at the monkey, I helped truss the arms – an amusing task which allowed me to use a power saw, some glue, and a screw-gun. It also allowed me to balance on scaffolding and ladders while we worked. As always happens when you are up high on the monkey, some passers-by started to yell out questions. Sometimes the passers by ask if you were smoking crack when you started the project. The stock answer is, “No.” Sometimes the passers-by then ask you if you want to buy some crack. The same answer applies. A man in a truck stopped to ask what we were doing.

“Building a giant monkey.”

A puzzled look came back my way.

“With six arms.” I thought this might clear things up a little.

“Like a sculpture?”

“Exactly. A big wooden sculpture.” This was going to be easy. He had twigged quickly. But then a co-trusser added,

“And then we’re going to burn it in the Hill Country at the end of the month.”

“What are you going to burn all that wood for?”

“Fun.”

It probably seems strange to see so much work and materials going into something that is going to be burned in two weeks time. I’m not sure I can explain it. I know I’m going to miss climbing around in its structure – it’s like being an overgrown kid in a giant tree house. Only this time the kid has powertools and a set of wires and propane lines to install to get the flamethrowers working.

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