The human mind, hovering perpetually between the two planes of experience and imagination, seeks to fathom the ideal life of the peole it knows and to know the people whose life it has had to imagine.
sometimes the day, the night is like nothing, like one would rather have no mind, sit around blowing up bots in unreal tournament or slowly read a book to an uneeded second coffee, or wander around the city travelling exactly where one always travels looking for nothing special (like andy warhol's 'nothing special'). like when i was in saint louis i'd always go to burger king on friday and get their grilled chicken special with a mild dill sauce near a highway interchange that i could watch for hours after a long week seeing the interior of my architecture studio, the living embodiment of what i was making in those studios, this particular interchange also the site, in my mind, of Pynchon's crying of lot 49, standing above it all watching commerce and cars make their way in an urban circuit board mind. this is non-activity as metalanguage, the backstory for future writing.
or, sometimes the day, the night is writing itself, to the point that time is strained because of an inability to get it all down at once, which also involves a trip to a fast-food location to maximize cost and convenience. it's where physical reality is only an apparition, something that merely prefigures the future writings that brings it into being. it's where the day, the night is the unseen source for multiple stories.
today is like both of these.
after seeing a sleepy show opening at the met, L surprise took me to brooklyn to hang at the anchorage for the music and the artworks. this one in particular was captivating, the only one that really engaged the magnificent space.
the crowd was the kind that goes to p.s.1 for their summer soundcheck series: hip, averaging 5 years younger (only need to be 18 to get into this event), many brooklynites, mostly straightish, and hot in that brooklyn-catch-all way, a sensibility akin to my ohioan life-is-like-that-so-deal mindset. L and his other friend were by far the oldest cats there.
the last time i was in the anchorage it wasn't being used for anything, it was the middle of the day, and there were no lights down there. huge masonry vaults, like a cathedral, with no windows, the huge side altars dark and damp like caves, and equally enormous, hidden caverns of brooklyn. light so dim one needs to stand still for a while and let eyes adjust to the nothingness, until you can smell the air movements and "see" the contours of the space. the effect of sense-dislocation is heighted by the latent agoraphobia always present in these situations: the fact that very few people are with you in all this space, and you are in the middle of the city.
i updated my archives to circumvent the fact that blogger had lost my october and december 2000 entries on their end.
i am very tempted to say something about the trajectory of the writing here so far, having just reviewed it, but i'm resisting that impulse because first, the observations would only reflect what i've been thinking about these last couple of weeks, and second it's really the reader's business to find meaning in what someone else has written. in fact, i'd love to know your thoughts.
as jocko suggests, is also true for me: i'm in a particular making mode, as i have been for a little while now, and there's not much to say except that it's happening.
or perhaps i'll write some more about that. in one form or another, i've written essays, email, or aborted blog entries entirely in the conditional. "there are many ways to write this article..." i almost did a blog entry, but i got sick of the tense. despite the fact that i believe it's true that once you begin writing, you should never stop, i've felt like my 'writing' is happening in the architecture realm: i'm designing a lot of spaces, cabinets, glass bathrooms, handrails, screen walls, integrated dining tables/screens. i'm thinking forward about another museum competition coming through the office, and working with olafur on two more projects. i've touched on how my creative juices shift, that when i put myself into the model shop at work, next to the interns, and come out with a wonderful cabinet/wall unlike any made before, i'm almost autistic. the words get excised by my hand making.
to that end, i'm going to begin working on content on littleminx.com, keeping blog entries in parallel with the other stuff on this site. some of the architectural projects are very old, and there is so much to show about what i've done since then. the unposted projects are real time and energy expended, and my other primary occupation.
sometimes, the day, the night are just filled up, and distinctions in time entirely congeal. i'm thinking in particular of my weekend in cleveland, at my aunt's second wedding. she and her husband are nudists/naturalists (social mores joyously leveled), married in a short ceremony on the shore of lake erie, the weather perfect (no temperature variation day to night), family all open and tolerant if not accepting about everyone's sex and love life (country folk do their own take on urban unconventionality), copious consumption of alcohol by all every day (cheap drinks and home-made grain alcohol concoctions lead to time-swirling inebriatedness), me being in late twenties and early thirties mode (i'll stay this age forever), my straight cousins the same and us dancing on the chairs to 'YMCA'.
and this effect was accentuated by the fact that i was hanging out with several homo natives of the city (as if i knew people already). oh, i met someone...
But the moment comes when the avant-garde (the modern) can go no further, because it has produced a metalanguage that speaks of its impossible texts (conceptual art). The postmodern reply to the modern consists of recognizing that past, since it cannot really be destroyed, because its destruction leads to silence, must be revisited: but with irony, not innocently. I think of the postmodern attitude as that of a man who loves a very cultivated woman and knows he cannot say to her, "I love you madly," because he knows that she knows (and that she knows he knows) that these words have already been written by Barbara Cartland. Still, there is a solution. He can say, "As Barbara Cartland would put it, I love you madly." At this point, having avoided false innocence, having said clearly that it is no longer possible to speak innocently, he will nevertheless have said what he wanted to say to the woman: that he loves her, but he loves her in an age of lost innocence. If the woman goes along with this, she will have received a declaration of love all the same. Neither of the two speakers will feel innocent, both will have accepted the challenge of the past, of the already said, which cannot be eliminated; both will consciously and with pleasure play the game of irony...But both will have succeeded, once again, in speaking of love.
Umberto Eco, Postscript to The Name of the Rose
my old friend saharat and i went to see moulin rouge monday. we were stunned to say the least. the film is at times a painting, or a hand colored photograph, or a hundred-year-old film, or really, a time-painting, whose sole purpose, fast or slow, surreal or banal, exciting or boring, accomplished or boorish, is to ravish the eyes.
tolouse-lautrec (fabulously midgeted john leguizamo) consoles christian (ewan mcgregor) late in the film by saying "everything is not what it seems". christian retorts as the director would, that "everything is exactly what it seems". the film, like so many i adore, is reality. it's version of color-blended-sonic-unreal is what i see every time an A train pulls into the station at rush hour.
eyes and ears. we didn't share some criticism, including that of the times, which said that the lyrics fell flat because they were decontextualized. many are songs that sah and i would be sad to in our dorm room sophomore year in college, both of different sexualities but the same melancholic streak. it's true that it bordered on embarrassment to hear ewan mcgregor say "all you need is love", but it's part of a fast string of now-cliches that, through their sheer number, and through the actor's ironic earnestness, that for that moment de-cliched them for us. and further, to criticize the music in this film is to place it in the category of musical, which i believe is to misplace it.
the film, structurally, is the very soul of cabaret: variety, raw emotion done up in artifice, talented actors looking to make a better name for themselves, wild swings from earnestness to surreal silliness (i'm thinking of the like a virgin number, must be seen to be believed), that and the kitchen sink. all in a world artificially constructed, yet complete and perfect. if you've ever seen a cabaret somewhere, even a bad one, you are familiar with this. if you've ever seen the kiki and herb show, you are familiar it's post-modern incarnation.
and post-modern it is. in my college studies of the topic, i could only identify with critics like eco who explored how to put ideas of revisiting history to productive ends (don't get me started on 'post-ironic,' whatever that means). critics who were also authors who intended to find new ways of making works enjoyable, without resorting to escapism. not a category or a period in time, but a 'way of operating' that can be found throughout time.
the number i referred to above, where mcgregor attempts to speak of love to nicole kidman, encapsulates this idea in a giant melody that spans a great deal of pop songwriting from the 70s to now. songs are quoted ironically, earnestly, desparately, coldly, shockingly, and meanly. yet it's impossible not to be seduced by the end of the swinging scales, where the two find level in bowie's "heros", then followed by mcgregor's singing of "your song". what gay man can resist him singing an elton john tune? the point is that at the end of this number, they have put a lot of love song emotions on the table, none presented in an especially appealing manner, and the constellation they describe traced one in my head, our heads: that this cacaphony of emotions (don't bother buying the soundtrack), taken together, exposes their constructedness, and leaves me emotionless. yet the presentation of this multitude of love-perspectives was itself love-inducing, because the subject it fails to describe is precisely what it wants to speak of. furthermore, the number is not the end of the scene. in fact, there are about two more musical numbers in this scene, including a second show-stopper (it's about the "spectacular spectacular"). it's terrifyingly dizzy, but the fact that it goes on and on only proves my point: the point of the film is this structure of boundless spectacularness, and excess is it's technique. to end the scene at the end of the love-tune would be to uphold sentiment and not love.
considering this film in relation to romeo and juliet--which i believe from whence most criticism stems--for me is dangerous because this film is closer to the director's sensibilities, in my opinion. he has a looser history to work with, which frees him to take advantage of unexpected turns: the shakespearean text is what it is, no matter how you edit it, unless you discard it. in fact, reading his career in reverse, it's the text of romeo and juliet that now appears ironically played in his last film, intended to be scenery around which his mexico-city-meets-verona world can be put into motion.
today's holiday is easy to remember: it's the day my mother's father died. i was near their farm, the farm, when it happened, because i was participating in the week-long boy's state at BGSU.
the boy's state event was a defining moment for me. it encapsulated two disparate impulses that i still hone and play against each other. one, to be recognized for personal/career achievement: a form of respect for character and discipline. the second tendency was that of using that position as a way to do bring to light flaws in the system of recognition and achievement: a way of doing transformative work on a larger scale. specifically, i went to boy's state mock-government political playoff, played with the guys who would later run for office, then ending up being part of the newspaper reporting crowd and writing pieces about the nature of politics and the absurdity of learning politicking at such a young age (juniors in high school) and in such a closed setting.
once when i was eight, after spending hours on end sifting through the gray sandy dirt at an edge of a field that had been a small garbage dump generations previous, now filled with shards of 19th century glass, shards of cheap porcelain, and some bits of wood, i came across something different than my usual rocks and colored glass with bubbles. it was a small arm, no longer than an inch or two, made of some whitish porcelain material. i had no idea what it was for. i took it into grandpa, who looked at it and smiled. he was never very happy or smiley with not-athletic me, but he said, as a person who has had their vocal chords removed due to lung cancer says, that it was "very valuable". grandma elucidated that it was a doll's arm, and that it was rare. it was my greatest treasure at that age, and if i look in the bottle of rocks and glass and chips of blue-painted china and arrowheads on the window sill behind me, i will no doubt find it.
i was on my own on the bgsu campus. literally because i had forgone the driving pass for a helicopter pass (my perogative as a member of the press) which meant i didn't have to walk only on the paved paths like some kind of tool soldier, but could walk anywhere (fly) simply by twirling my finger, avoiding the buzz-headed 'cops'. second because i'd been to soccer camp on this campus, in these dorms, for a summer or two before this, and i knew well the terrain. i made friends, some fellow writers who remind me much of my friends martin and steven. and i made new friends quickly; two of the sexiest junior-high-school guys seemed to take a liking to this skinny kid who liked to write. and i wrote. words flowed, as i could never really make them flow before.
the one thing that set me apart from my grandfather was my clumsiness, that even though he was lame on one half of his body (stoke), he could drive, operate farm equipment, and use his woodshop with a fair amount of skill, more than i could master at 12 or 14. my younger brother was the one who picked it up. but he left it, and i kept going back to the shop with grandpa, the wood stove keeping us warm (woodshop is not a summer activity for a farmer), old tools, florescent bulbs, old plastic radio, and although i was never given free reign, i was given the seeds for a facile future: today i make very detailed, yet quickly done, study models in the woodshop in our office using nothing but solid mahogany.
he had been bedridden for a long time, the result of many types of cancer, his life for over a year being the bed, in the den. it was the result of many years of smoking and alcoholism. yes, i think about him every time i order a whiskey on the rocks, even though i drink better whiskey, and yes, everytime i light a cigarette, even though i smoke so rarely that it's hardly worth mentioning. but i still drink and have that occasional cigarette, because i'm young and i can. having to leave boy's state for the funeral, and volunteering to write the part of the funeral mass where gifts are presented to god, was the first time i put my emotions into action, non-academic, poetic, action. the gifts were seeds of corn, a crafted piece of wood from the wood shop, dirt from the field, the body and blood of christ. i wrote long passages about what each gift meant. do you know what it means to offer dirt in a rural catholic church? my family was astounded, my grandmother skeptical, when they found out why i was bringing these ordinary things to the church. but that changed during the presentation. i could barely speak my own words, and my family was not dry eyed.
having the rest of the week be one of mild isolation on the campus, lots of letter writing to my nascent crushes, sitting in green fields, thinking, put me on my own again. words in letters flowed so much that i could not put them all down. one of the sexy ones returned with a note i'm certain still exists in one of my boxes: "whatever, wherever, whenever, your pal".
grandpa was someone i loved but wasn't really close to. for instance, i really don't understand why he was alcoholic, although i might take educated guesses, and i never saw emotion, except in the distant or rarely glimpsed episodes (a habit that my mother's generation and mine too have fought to banish). yet his life meant something very important to me, linked to the farm and the buildings, and the fields and the wind, and his death allowed those relationships to be freed up, let those fields travel with me, let them be part of my hand, permanent portable energy source sprung again because of a red note in my date book 1988.
there was a time in my youth when i could not imagine writing a diary. it seemed like such work. this is not a diary, because if it were, i'd really only be talking to myself. i'd be able to put everything down, thoughts that were composed, true, but many more of the details fleshed out. the subject of the entry would not become part of a larger topic in so conscious a manner. for instance, i am unable to write certain aspects of this entry's subject because they are composed of private conversations with friends, good advice, innermost thoughts regarding others, and personal observations.
i called everyone i knew thursday who would want to join david j for cocktails at bouche bar friday. it was in celebration of his arrival to new york for the summer. it's always wonderful to see the gang, and see them all together. (missing party was of course jonno and richard, but that's a given, hyperlinks that are understood.) david and i have become friends, as in not seeing each other. i can't and don't want to write a play-by-play recap on what happened, if only to not expose my own unique clumsiness. but i can and do want to write about the fact that when i wasn't near david, working on a relationship, it seemed fraught with all the tenuous emotional connections one builds with people online in general.
there's a core uncertainty because of physical distance. and i'm not talking about trust issues. it's just that because intimacy in the form of physical contact is impossible, either it's frustrated or avoided, lose/lose, and even with my years of experience getting to know people online, i still just as often fall into the trap of mistaking frustrated desire for postponed disappointment. this is compounded by the fact that, as in the case of david, there is often time on the other end a clear signal that would be correctly interpreted if the two of you were having a drink in a small bar on 5th street, but is mistaken because the peripheral areas between lines of letters, or the days between telephone calls, are empty, and they beg to be filled in. would you let yourself down?
the suddenness of the disembodied voice, its montage effect on my life, is something that affords an expanded emotional self, a self i could not be without telecommuncations. i continue to believe that i have benefited from this condition, even though at times it gets me into unique trouble.
david and i went bar hopping, with a successively smaller group of pals. we missed him at phoenix (although by that point i was so drunk i wouldn't have recognized myself in a mirror), and eventually david and i were just the two of us at FC, friends out cruising. it was clearly visible from the moment i hugged david on 5th street that we were 'just friends', but it wasn't until i was hesitating about following through with someone at the bar that i realized that conflicting signals, caused entirely by myself, by my ability to project into and read out of the media, were still pulling me in many directions at once.
musing under the blue sky, strips of cirrus clouds creating a diagonally curved swath behind the world trade center tower, my angle showing two towers as one, with the clouds giving a sense of the shape of our atmosphere, with a glowing shade of green in the periphery of the bowl coming from the treetops. lunch in a tribeca park. my gaze was fixed on this tableau while i was on my back, getting seasonably warm from the intense sun, the intense blue, my intense fixation. my focus was so thick, it felt like it had merged with the scene itself. nothing could break it, except me, although things soundlessly entered and left it as the clouds slowly drifted east.
it can be worrisome, this focus, this ability to internalize the material world, its relations, and let everything else drift around you, simply because the older i get, the better (or more practiced?) of a designer i get, the more complete my hold on this internal reality becomes. at times, i feel like my book is what connects me to outside reality, not the other way around.
worrisome when crossing varick street at the no-man's land intersection at canal or hubert streets, one of the most deadly intersections in manhattan, several architects have been killed there, i cross them twice a day because of the location of my office. tuesday i woke up in the middle of traffic flowing around me, cars coming from the tunnel with their lights still fuckin on, not using a turn signal, you can't turn right on red in new york fuckin new jersey scum driver tailgating my calf with creeping fender, the badly dressed people coming from the travellers building cutting me off so they can walk slower than me, the intensely shifted geometry of the buildings and the new ones being built: all of this that usually causes me so much occasional anxiety was not even in my vision, so captured was i about friends, designs, colors for designs, materials for designs, plans, muscles, words, bills, checks, apartments, sex partners, more words, and the properties of glass. the internal density of my thoughts was symmetrical to the external density of the city. i had crossed, and the sign said walk.
wendesday i rode the new #6 trains during the day. the cold, blue light from the full-spectrum T8 lamps, combined with a periwinkle on the seats so slightly purple it was not, and a wonderful cleverness and efficiency to the construction and assembly of the car having a symmetrical effect of being cheap to build (good use of tax dollars) and easy to maintain (even better use of tax dollars), that the car felt like a solid brick of light, no play, no shadows (light level dictated by ADA standards), and everything awash in anewness, noticable again. when the doors opened, with no internal reflection from the stainless steel, too much even light, the decrepit stations along the 6 route--astor place, 23rd street, 28th street, 34th street--seemed dark caves, inhabited by ghosts unable to even board the only train that would be stopping at this station, and this unfamiliarity with the subway platform, usually so contiguous with the interior of the cars, was also new. nothing would move on the inside, from the comfortably shaped benches and the chevroned guard bars, and nothing could enter from the swimming exterior, no matter how much it needed to get somewhere, but the contrast was creating a scene. the relationship felt perfect, not because it was fixed, but because it was without malice, quietly mutable, and productive.
fortune wisdom du jour:
1. Be gracious and let others lead (22, 27, 43, 41, 8, 50).
2. Doubt can be paralyzing (13, 26, 33, 21, 27, 50).
3. Don't let history control you (13, 31, 28, 22, 18, 51).
4. You can always find a way out (19, 6, 43, 38, 27, 44).
"it's funny how you divide things so neatly into urban/country, intellectual/not-intellectual, north/south...everyone i know in and around this city are suburban, quasi-intellectual, and, well, whatever..."
how to put into words that i've no major blog entries brewing? that i'm still working banker's hours (9 to 6) with a vengance, because, well, i want to? that my role in the office has been that of giving advice or designing the details of the loft and the other work being delegated? that i've really been more interested in getting home for simpsons at 7:30 (off day) or mostly just pumping some good iron at the gym (on day)? or i like taking lazy sex-kitten pictures as opposed to artfully composing the louisiana highway pictures i took? or that my resolve to save money and just watch a movie at home tonight is rapidly being dissolved by listening to "all 4 U"?
"if anything, my trip to jackson [Mississippi] confirmed my status as a New Yorker"
my conversations with David J and Martin were specifically talking about the nature of living in the city, it's value to creative life, because of its value to the rest of your life. the rest of my life, the rest of our lives. there are periods here that are about intertia, momentum, and not something to be ruined by talking about, except perhaps to say it's happening. where an optimism about your friends, rapidly emerging as an inspiring milieu, David J, Martin P, Steven K, Eric P and Dan, David R, Dudley, Kyan, some more i've probably forgotten, and super-especially someone really close to me i'm not sure i'm allowed to mention here, is giving us all a momentum to continue. we all are in various stages of artistic poverty, we all enjoy the same things, we're all homo, we're all creative and have bodies of work, we all want to change our fields (or at least make an indelible impression), we all want to own a home someday, and we are beginning to inspire each other with our works and being.
ps all work in this domain is copyright chad the minx.