Monday, September 01, 2003

Jim Harms - Morgantown WV

I leave Beltsville around 5:30 am, making my way west through the early and sluggish dewy morning. Out of the Maryland panhandle, into West Virginia, out again, then in Pennsylvania for 6 minutes, then into West Virginia again. By 7 the sun is behind me, diffuse, but lighting my way. By 9:30 I'm in Morgantown, too early for my interview. I hit Wal-Mart and buy a cheapo watch - always buy something, always buy something. I wait out the last hour or so at White Park, tapping on my laptop, listening to whatever kind of bird is going to town on the trees there. A late 20s mother comes by my truck window with a blue-barretted blonde baby and a surging black Lab, and says, "Do you know where the trails are around here?" I tell her I've just arrived here myself this morning, but maybe she could look over behind us by the softball fields. "I've been here a month and this is the first time I've gotten off my butt." The dog barks for the eleventh time, and she says, "Looks like we better go," and then they do.

Jim Harms couldn't be a more amiable fellow. He lets me in the front door of his little white and neat bungalow. I step over his sneakers on the front porch, but leave mine on. We sit across a small coffee table and I see he's a music fan, the Elvis Costello box set gives that away. A Dell laptop rests between us, as if any moment it might be needed. The warm breeze comes in the open windows, mixing with the downward draft of a single, lazy ceiling fan. Harms wears a t-shirt and shorts, loose white socks. He moves his hands around when he talks, but it's all relaxed. No rush, but he's got much terrific stuff to say about place. He tells me that his own "default" landscape is that of California, where he grew up, but that now he's ten years into his life in West Virginia, that these places all sort of mix together.

We talk for about an hour, and then go out to the grass of the front lawn to shoot some photos. I make him move a couple of chairs and a garbage can, and he sits on a brown wicker number while I shoot. He doesn't smile, but he doesn't not smile. He's just taking a day off at the bungalow. I shake his hand, we talk about staying in touch about the project, and I get on the highway to Columbus.