Going Soft

July 12th, 2008 § 0 comments

Levon Helm said of coming to new york from Canada:

A dream come true. Fascinating, scary. Kind of hard to take the first time. You have to go there about two or three times before you can fall in love with it. But that happens eventually. New York, it was an adult portion, an adult dose. So, it took a couple of trips you know, to get into it. You just go in there the first time, and get your ass kicked, and take off. As soon as it heals up, you come back and you try it again. Eventually, you fall right in love with it.

After a few days of wandering the length of Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs, I thought about his drawling little speech made thirty years ago. At a high point in the day, after food, water, and a brief rest I laughed at its relevance. New York is an uncompromising city. A friend told to me it doesn’t matter if you have 2,000 or 20,000, you will never find a place for the price you want. Discouragement ran high by the end of everyday, and when it did I felt disgusted by anyone who would fight hard enough to live in such a place. For such a small packed place, Manhattan’s diversity is incredible. The city is torn apart by unwanted gentrification and poverty. The rich, high above the streets in door-maned buildings, don’t seem to notice their own reflection in the eyes of those around them. Spoiled students run rampant through the streets of the village spouting nonsense into their iPhone. Because everything is so difficult and expensive, discontent in general is high. Flying out of jfk last night the flight was delayed 20 or 30 minutes, which caused such an outbreak of anger and violent verbal abuse I was startled—do these people never fly? I wondered, as on time flights have become a thing of the past. 

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Moving Mancha

July 6th, 2008 § 2 comments

Do objects belong to people or places? I think they belong to places until they are moved, in which case they are forced to become ‘personal’ objects. Maybe it has to do with the amount of time objects have belonged in a certain place. When M first moved away from our childhood home she took what she took, and the first time I saw her place I was disconcerted—the objects were familiar but the place was not. The longer she has been on her own the more new things she has gathered, and the old seem like watered down versions of the childhood memories connected with them. I have grown used to her moving about, and am no longer surprised by new locations or objects. Old furnishings don’t remind me of Castaic, they remind me of her. They are her objects and they belong wherever she lives, rather like servants. By contrast I like D‘s apartment because everything is so new, so clean, and so removed. The objects are what they are for, and are not holders of something sentimental.


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“a Prisoner of the White Lines”

July 1st, 2008 § 4 comments

Road culture, as I understand it, was a subversive kind of travel, an inexpensive and interesting way to meet people and get somewhere at the same time. The blue collar workers nomadically wandering the country tied poverty and hitchhiking together with the road. For Kerouac’s intellectuals it was a kind of uncensored way of seeing the country. There seems to be whole generations that took buses, trains, and cars before commercial airlines. An elderly lady without teeth I met recently told me about taking her children on a bus from New York to Washington D.C., and it seemed instantly odd—they took a bus? Hitchhiking is the predominant activity in On The Road, and the novel seems more about who was met on the way than about the act of traveling from the east coast to the west and back again. Jumping into (and probably out of) freight cars was a practiced art and an acceptable mode of transportation. Neal Cassady stole and dumped cars to make his way across the U.S. And yet I have no idea how true any of these myths, for lack of a better word, are. What I know of “the road” has been passed down from movies, books, songs, various elderly people, and even images. There is something very mythic in the idea of driving great distances. Perhaps because of where I am from, the road is wrapped up in the notion of the west, expansive landscapes of nothingness, winding through farms into cities.

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New York City (a first visit)

September 1st, 2007 § 3 comments


Getting into the city mid afternoon I decided to take a wander by myself. My destination was that of the Museums but I really had no clear plan of going directly to them, and so I found myself strolling aimlessly through central park. I was struck by how vast, green, and beautiful it was, not the dirty trash filled place I somehow had in my mind. I wondered as I thought these things, why did I have that preconceived notion and where did I get it from? In my rational and thinking mind I have only ever heard good things about New York, and outside from my mothers fear of me not being picked up from the airport, I really had no reason at all to think ill of the city. It is a place surrounded by myth, a place I have heard a lot about in my art classes and from my friends who lived there, but I could not drudge up any real reason why I should, on some level or another, think of central park (using this example in a specific but general way) as a dirty place. It was this contradiction of expectations I hardly even knew I had that took me by surprise, and caused me to enjoy the architecture and neighborhoods perhaps even more than I would have normally.

Doing “things” (sightseeing) seemed obligatory as it was a first visit, but I know that what I will enjoy more in return visits is just walking and looking, taking in finer details each time I go. Caught in conversation with an overly gregarious New Yorker and dragged about to look at some things near our meeting point, I also realized how many stereotypes of character we associate with that place. Jon’s dad’s gestures and voices were mimicked in front of me by this man, as he described personalities of the city. He sounded like a movie character, or at the very least an actor, but acted unabashedly honest and proud of the place he is from. I could never show or speak of LA to a stranger in that way, the best they could get out of me might be “it is kinda fun” as flashes of Annie Hall’s LA scenes play silently in my mind.

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A Disoriented Mover

August 1st, 2007 § 3 comments

Moving is a very strange process, packing everything in one place, moving it to another, and unpacking it all again, it reminds me of closing down Express at night, folding everything perfectly, sizing all the piles, so that tomorrows shoppers could mess them up all over again. There is something that seems counter-productive about it all. It also seems that no matter what you have, how little or how much needs to be moved, there is always too much for however one is moving it. In France I had next to nothing, the apt. being so small, but taking what little I had back in two suitcases that together had to weigh under 50 pounds, was next to impossible; the same can be applied to moving vehicles. Moving also messes with your mind. My body is confused when I walk into the wrong room automatically thinking it should be the bathroom when it is now a bedroom. Everything seems to take twice as much effort, I waste energy going into the wrong part of the house looking for something, and then have to actually think as I go into the right part. Where did I put ____? is a question I usually avoid asking myself by being very systematic about where things get put in the first place. Then there is the conflict of feelings I get when I leave a place that has become familiar and homelike, a place that has taken a lot of time to make just the way I wanted it. I get excited about the new place, there is something nice about having this place instead of that one, but the differences play against my better judgment. What was annoying in the old place suddenly becomes nostalgic. I therefore spend several weeks going back and forth between being very happy with the new and unpleasantly over the loss of the old.

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