Wander, Walker, Tourist, Flâneur ?

June 9th, 2008 § 0 comments

“Americans are particularly ill-suited to be flâneurs…they are always driven by the urge towards self-improvement.”


This line, from one of my recent reads, seemed to underline the contradictions I feel as a wandering artist, and I found in writing my thesis that I always seem to come out somewhere in the middle of tourist and wanderer. Despite the title of the book (The Flâneur) I am still not sure about the rules of flânerie; not that it was the books intent to point them out. Since the author calls Atget a scientific flâneur, saying “a contradiction in terms, since flânerie is supposed to be purposeless”, perhaps contradictions are allowed. The Flâneur seemed like a collection of obscurities from a place that is overly scrutinized, stories intermixed with stories, bringing the marginalized to the forefront.

In my head I have the makings of a great tourist, another contradiction in terms. When I think about traveling the word that comes to mind is greedy, I want to see everything and go everywhere. I am annoyed that I can visit a country and not see the one right next to it. Perhaps what I desire most is some kind of endless vacation, moving from place to place after a few years, growing old and dying in a new place. This often sounds more interesting than confronting life, and life might look different in different parts of the world. When exploring a new city I want to see the famous things first, for the same reason everyone else does, so you can say you did.

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November on Broadway

March 27th, 2008 § 1 comment


Going to the Barrymore Theater to see a play was rather similar to going to the Dorothy Chandler to see a ballet. The LA audience at the music center is usually made up of a post-retired crowd of performing arts lovers, awaiting to be moved not by the passion of the story, but by the latest pair of pretty feet. The last time I was there there, J and I saw ABT perform an impressive version of Swan Lake, during an intermission I overheard some older ladies talking about the leading dancer, who I was not familiar with, in a derogatory manner because they did not happen to like her legs and feet. Silly women who I am sure never stuffed their flat feet into pointe shoes to execute some forty fouette turns. Still, at such events I never felt totally out of place, there are always the dreamy little girls with their mothers and grandmothers, and of course the determined teenage dancers aspiring to be in ABT themselves someday soon if ever, I can pick them out by their duck walk, and yes, I used to be one of them.

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Ten Steps & Counting

January 3rd, 2008 § 3 comments

“…Silence is un-American…”


It was perhaps a month ago that I was talking to my Dad, or listening rather, as he ranted about the latest book he had read on oil, global warming, torture, US supported dictators in South America, and into my mind popped memories of Germany. Images and words from that trip ran through my head as though they had something to do with the conversation on the other end of the line: the camps, the ovens, the museums, the monuments-standing on Hitler’s speakers stand at Zeppelin Field-the rally grounds in Nuremberg, the wasps at Sachsenhausen. I remembered the historians who came to speak with us, the Germans who tried to give us a sense of how they see their own history, and the things we muttered to ourselves. And, for whatever reason, as I came back to the conversation at hand, I thought this is why they didn’t leave. Movies, books, and Americans have often judged the Germans for not leaving their country in time, for “not seeing what was coming”, they ignored what seems to us in hindsight as obviously clear signs saying GO! As I listened to the unpleasant truths my Dad is just discovering that the Fossil comments upon everyday, I pictured Americans doing the same thing, not leaving because it seems impossible, because things will get better, the “pendulum will swing back”. We are “ignoring” just as obvious-possibly- signs that show many things that might be coming. Later that day, J sent me a link to an interview with Naomi Wolf about her new book on Democracy Now. She began the interview by mentioning the conversation that inspired her research, telling how one of her friends, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, kept saying to her, “this is what happened in Germany” which she thought at the time was, as she put it, “extreme language”, until she began investigating the “blueprint” she would illustrate in her recently published book.
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December’s Anecdotes

December 30th, 2007 § 0 comments

Determinedly milling about the book store, vainly hoping to find the fictitious book that combines the scattered and random countries I currently feel interested in, my attention was caught by secretive voices to my right. In an obviously less traversed aisle, perhaps it was manuals, two young girls, dressed in preteen fashion, were sprawled out upon the floor, sweetened drinks beside them, with the confident air that no one would want, wish, even could for that matter, venture down their aisle. While a vertical walkway divided the shelves, they eyed me suspiciously and distastefully, for bringing near them what I sensed was an adult reality-I was there because of what the books contained and was shopping them according to little signs telling me divined by country then city, while they were creating a private space for themselves amongst miscellaneous other meanings. They reminded me of the girls from Bye Bye Birdie, sitting in their bedroom chatting about boys, leg hair, and 15-year-old notions of love. I was suddenly aware of my intrusion, and while I tried very hard to give the impression that I really needed the books near the end of aisle, which of course I did, my concentration became focused on their words. I could see from the corner of my eye that they had Seventeen, or some other teen marketed magazine, spread in front of them, and were reading from it in tones that might suggest they were reading the Bible, or at least a good piece of fiction. I suddenly had a flashback of a “quiz” my older cousin forced my mother to take from perhaps the same magazine a long time ago. I remember my mother’s consistent answer of, “but I wouldn’t do any of those things”, my cousins exasperated insistence “you have to pick one”, and my own anger at watching her waste the last of our time together on, what seemed to be, a completely vile magazine. On the floor next to me the more authoritative of the two girls was saying, “would you rather be pretty or…” I could not catch the end, “because of you are like, pretty, like hot guys just come to you.” The remains of my teenager mind laughed, recalling that very fiction that used to be the reason why you needed to be pretty at all, and my current sensibility knows the viciousness of that lie and what it leads to. Little girls should not worry about hot guys, they should be doing, I don’t know, whatever it is that little girls do, but even so my pop culture references tell me that this is what little girls do; a sad and discouraging notion. I had heard more than enough, grabbed my books from the shelf and wandered to the cafe, for the first time annoyed at the infectious stupidity we allow. What is it they say in Ferris Bueller, “I weep for the future”? Weep, no, because I can’t yet make myself blame them, as seems most popular right now in American self-criticism, but I do worry.


I Carried Che

March 19th, 2007 § 0 comments

protest DC

My first American protest and the coldest day to be outside dawn to dusk. I consider it a large personal sacrifice for the cause. When I got home I felt completely exhausted, bruised rather than sore, and my arms were limp from trying to keep the wind from smashing my sign down upon the heads of the marchers in front of me. The march illuminated the dirty side of America, the counter protest made me think of Jill and her famous saying of agreeing to disagree peacefully. Verbal abuse, I find, is physically abusive. It seemed surreal that a whole group of men could be looking at me and without knowing me at all shout such filth.

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