Art Polanski was difficult to ignore. I was all about diversity and even I had difficulty with his acting out and belligerence. But he was a poet, a sensitive soul, and a fucking brilliant programmer. And this is a tribute to him.
Art smelled bad and looked bizarre. He wore zebra-striped pajama pants, printed tee-shirts over his barrel chest, and sandals. His hair was long and flowing, reminiscent of Sunday school pictures of Jesus, except Art’s hair was usually damp and probably greasy.
Art couldn’t sit still, especially in conversation, and would make grunting noises and seemingly uncontrollable editorial blurts.
I was told that after his first meeting with management, the deputy director erupted out of his office red faced,”Who the hell hired that guy?!?” Art had been hired, over the phone, by the chief scientist; Art was a graduate of MIT and knew the material.
His biggest crime was that he was gay. He wasn’t flamboyant; that would have been more acceptable. Art was just authentically Art. I never saw him more blissful and content than when he returned to work after the rainbow festival. But when that euphoria wore off he was back to acting out.
Art was lonely. The only family I heard him speak of was his sister; he said she suffered the same illness but hers was worse. Later, when he was arrested, the marshals found him living in squalor with cat feces on the floor.
But Art was also very intelligent. His disorder, or the medication for it, made him hot. When they screwed his window shut, he wedged a seed under the head of the screw and watered the seed. The judge at Art’s hearing, nearly a year later, said he would have done the same thing had he been smart enough to think up the seed trick.
Ultimately, Art was arrested for “endangering the lives of others;” he had a nose bleed and wiped blood onto the window in front of the exercise bike in the fitness room and he was gay. That made his bloody snot a ‘lethal weapon.’
Art was first put on administrative leave. I was given his project to finish. He called me late one day and he was quiet and subdued and said he didn’t blame the director; Art admitted that he had brought it on himself. Later that week, FBI agents entered his home and took him to prison…in shackles.
They held Art in federal prison for six months before giving him a hearing. He was charged with a misdemeanor and ‘time served.’ It was months later that he was found dead in his home.
While Art was in prison, he sent me a poem. I wish I still had it. It was about him standing at the window of his cell every day, looking out at the green field outside. One day, after a rain, yellow flowers appeared. Soon, a man on a mower appeared and Art watched as the flowers were mowed down.
I took these photos of the draft climate report. My favorite photo is the one above. I first made the graph on the left in November 1997 when I finished the coding that was started by Art. My name then was Catherine S. Godfrey.
Art Polansky, this is for you.
Addendum: As a sworn civil servant, I took an oath, and because of that oath I feel bound by it to not “copy, cite, or distribute”. But I am also a photographer and writer. The draft says nothing about those activities. This is me, sticking it to the man.