Yesterday, a man dressed as a tree, with evergreen branches tied tightly around his body, held up traffic on Congress Street, Portland’s busiest thoroughfare, until the cops showed up, escorted him onto the sidewalk and promptly arrested him.
This guy’s a hero. Just watch the video:
Police have arrested a man dressed as tree for blocking traffic on Congress Street…as God is my witness. pic.twitter.com/VUFQY6Vyv0
— TVTEDDY (@TVTEDDY) October 24, 2016
Although anonymous at the time of his arrest, in the hours since, we’ve learned the man’s identity.
From what I can piece together, Woodworth’s been an intensely free spirit for quite a while.
He appears to be around 30, having graduated from Bennington College in Vermont in 2009 with a BA in Dance and Philosophy.
His first full time job out of college was at the Buxton School, the small “progressive” boarding school in Williamstown, MA that he attended as a teenager.
A true kid at heart, Woodworth spent the next three years living in the boys’ dormitory, teaching theater and video production to the high school kids there.
It looks like he moved to Maine around 2013 and has spent the years since working on a mix of food security and alternative energy projects for groups like the Sunrise County Economic Council in Machias and Thermal Efficiency: Eastport, where he appears to currently be employed as a “Research Associate.”
Throughout this time, Woodworth has continued actively pursuing his craft as an artist and dancer, performing last spring at the Boston Center for the Arts and continuing to dance professionally under the leadership of acclaimed modern dancer Dean Moss.
Whatever else may be true about the guy, clearly he’s intelligent, creative and industrious.
At a time when so much around us seems frighteningly serious and the balance of power for our entire nation, perhaps our entire civilization, seems to have been left in the lurch, it’s become so easy to get caught up in all the terror and anxiety.
Today, Americans are more scared of clowns than we’ve ever been.
It’s not just the small number of pedestrians across the country who have caught alarming glimpses of menacing figures in polka dots and red noses mysteriously lurking in the shadows. It’s all of us.
These days, silliness in general has come to feel like a luxury a lot of us can’t afford.
We desperately need people like Woodworth who are fearless.
We need people who are neither gritting their teeth and stifling the bile in their throats as they summon the self-restraint to swallow unpalatable compromises, nor blindly raging against the system, absorbed in their own self-righteous anger.
We need people who see the world for what it is, a cruel, yet potentially hilarious, absurdity. We need people who believe in disruption and humor.
Now more than ever, we need to laugh.
And Woodworth is helping us do that.
You don’t exactly stumble out into the world one day and find yourself dressed like a tree, standing in the middle of Congress Street. Doing so takes planning, vision, and above all, a willingness to risk both arrest and widespread public mockery.
As the images of Woodworth’s action went viral across Facebook yesterday, I was struck by how many people posted news of the event with comments about how much they love Portland.
And I agree. Portland’s awesome.
I’m proud to live in a city where, every now and then, a crazy hooligan like Woodworth causes a little mischief.
I think a lot of us are.
It’s liberating to feel that our lives aren’t completely padlocked into run of the mill ordinariness.
Portland’s a place where people still celebrate the goofy and the irreverent. Poetry and theater still matter here.
Our city might have some very real problems, but the artificial machinations of capitalism don’t have a monopoly on determining what happens in our city. We can still have adventures in the public square.
Trees can dance.
Nothing builds community like a good humored spectacle.