Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Snow in East Court Cambridge

Kleines Requiem

Chanson d'installation: Waterdeep, On a Night that Felt Outdated

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Melancholy of the Unrequitted Will

Weaving and unweaving the hostility of submergence

Returning home to a community-less shell, I became convinced yet again--just in case I still could have been making it before--that Northeasterners have no capacity for environmental awareness. Standing in the bookstore this evening, seven or eight people passed in front of me while I was searching for books without any utterance even close to "excuse me" or "pardon." Out on the street, I dodged them walking in the other direction, and halted my step when they merged in front of me. Of course, I'm a victim too. I don't really know where I am; only that I stepped from a plane sometime around three desensitized by the last four weeks and the last four hours. It was through a blanket of clouds that the midwestern landscape faded into white and greyness, just as it was through a blanket of clouds that it emerged back in December. That was four weeks ago. Four hours before I worked my way through a jetway maze and into the low-slung concourse at Logan, a story six years long was still unwinding in a web of obscure plot mutations, hop-scotch settings like in dreams, tangential contrails of subject matter that emerge and disipate and re-emerge, and the intangible gut-wrenches of memory. I wrote four hours before that we were in a time that moved like tectonic plates, inches by inches. This referred to a community that existed when the great storyteller of human tragicomedy began to weave this tall-tale. All that is left is to nod and offer stupified congratulations--hallow, without both sentiment and comprehension. This is not a gesture of dwelling on and on or suddenly snuffed-out hopes; instead it is the flash of green that lore claims is emitted with the last of the sun when it ducks under the horizon; or the subtle and temporary slip of a major seventh that renders a chord ambiguous and solidly unsure; or the long exhaulation after holding your breath. In other words, the end of the story isn't about the antagonist (towards whom the epic turns to make her the protagonist), nor is it about the retrieval of dead hopes or haunting nostalgia. Instead, it is simply about the passage of time, and the recognition that it has run out for this story. All stories require testament; they require the witnessing of their treads; they require vigil, and they require the passing of the last drip of wax that falls onto the landscape, and the terazzo floor, and the microscopic drip of ink that pen upon a pad the last words of the story: "what was it that made you hold on in the face of such despising?" This is what I have come to call the melancholy of the unrequitted will. In the end, nobody can be sure it's anything more than just the weaving and unweaving of two opposing, stubborn fictions.

Chanson d'installation: Red House Painters, Revelation Big Sur, and Grandaddy, Underneath the Weeping Willow

Monday, January 02, 2006

On the Renewal of Cities

Revival is not Re-creation

There is talk in cities all around Michigan today of renewal. It is a product of 90's oil and tech-boom optimism, when the society was invigorated by the end of the Cold War and could now think about cultural diversity, social issues, the environment (remember how enpassioned Earth Day celebrations were in the 90's), and other things that came with the ease of a blossoming globalism. In these years, people and the business world realized that our cities were embarassingly decrepit and that it might be nice (or profitable) to do something about it. Of course, now that globalism has had its way with us, the socio-economics of the 90's optimism of renewal is coming into being. Today, "renewal" of our cities is about shipping in a whole new population--one that can afford manicures, organic foods, cashmere cardigans, season tickets to the opera, and those cute demi-SUVs that perkily dodge the real issue. The vocabulary of plans--plans for renewal, plans for the downtown, plans for the economy--is one built on phrases like "luxury condos," "lifestyle center," "town plaza," "lofts," "urban residences," "cosmopolitan," and "upscale." The worst and most telling of these is 'upscale.' The reality is, no developer or city leader has any faith in a development that is /not/ 'upscale.' There is talk in Lansing of a new condo development that is supposed to "revive the downtown," according to an article. Aside from the obvious daydream absurdity that a single development can fix a city's central core (which will make the /whole/ city a shiny happy place again, right?), the most glaringly what-wha moment of this charade is the question of renewal for whom? If a city banks on 'upscale' condo developments with 'upscale' galleries and 'upscale' boutiques and 'upscale' restaurants and 'upscale' markets and 'upscale' cafes for renewal, how can renewal occur for a city of 130,000 people? Or is it renewal for the 58 people who manage to buy a 200,000 dollar condo and happen to occassion the new day spa every so often on the weekends? What could does a day spa or a fine clothier do for the GM factory workers laid off last month when GM closed an entire plant in Lansing? The problem is that governments and developers now talk about renewal in terms of kinds of spaces, in terms of building appearance (a cartoony sort of pseudo-quaint converted warehouse chic), and in terms of 'upscale' activities and perks. But this isn't renewal, this is re-creation. This is the totem black speaker at the Republican National Convention, the awnings installed on abandoned hotels in downtown Detroit for that convention in 1980, the yellow ribbon decal on the soccer mom's SUV that says "Support Our Troops," the suburban west-Michigan Christian family's Adopt-An-African boy, the Harvard Athletics sweatshirt. It's a charade, a totem; but not reality, not the tangible meat of the dilemma, not even a near conception of the crisis that it mockingly only passively refers to. Cities cannot be revived by importing archetype characters. Hipsters in the cafe do not fix failing schools, and Bougies in the day spa do not fix landlord slums or the street lights. Renewal isn't about importing court jesters, it's about repairing the existing.