"Professor Eskridge said that 'much of this is symbolic politics, and it appears Bush is trying to situate himself as tolerant, which he defines as not persecuting people, but not anything more.'"
today in the New York Times
"True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice."
he's the only man in manhattan who can keep me from speaking cogently. but when he started talking about why he didn't like bernini's version of the baroque, he was totally on my turf.
as of july 27, the espresso bar will be no more.
up to now i have referred to this place as "my favorite coffee shop". i did not want to meet uninvited readers there. i did not want an undue crowd taking a precious seat from the shotgun-like alley of 5 two-tops and one 4-top.
i knew about this place long before blogging: it was to be the site of me and jonno's second meeting, in august 1996. they were closed for a week in august 1996, postponing our delight. but he had suggested it, and because i lived ridiculously uptown in morningside heights at the time, in just-out bliss, i had to look up on the map what part of christopher lay between bleeker and seventh avenue south. who would have guessed that that block would become so familiar seven years later.
the music: for the longest time, there was a series of dykes and homos who would play the latest and greatest, a brilliant mix tape, something that had been released abroad and wasn't available here yet, something that was nameless yet wonderful. the music was singular yet part of the whole, making it even more brilliant.
i can name so many things. jonno's birthday party in october 1996. some very formative conversations with jennie. countless rendez-vous with internet dating prospects, of whom i would always note whether they knew the shop or not, always props for knowing it, until i decided that i'd really better like someone before bringing them there. countless rendez-vous with sah. with dan'l. with aaron. with troy. with dudley (and sometimes the gang). with my parents. with the guy who would always ask me how i liked proust. with the life of christopher street.
the reading: i cannot tell you how many books i have read there, but most of proust's pages were consumed there. it was the perfect place to read, in public. even crowded, the noise was distant, because of the narrowness of the space. the decoration was soothing and impeccable, even if it the metal rivets at the coffee bar had a slight industrial edge that dated it squarely in the mid-nineties. the lighting was perfect for reading and conversing: one perfectly positioned wall sconce at each table. the tables were tall, with travertine tops (my favorite stone) and they could only be sat at with a tall wooden bar stool, with a back. when i lowered a book, taking a break, the stools were a perch, putting me at eye level with other visitors, a touch that is found almost no where in any other coffee shop.
they were open late. you could smoke there. you could order beer or wine. they had their own brand of sparkling water. they had a three-season back porch that was contemplative and connected to byzantine village areaways.
it. was. gay.
the routine: before i could afford summer vacation, i would go there first. iced coffee to stay, read proust, then become restless because the weather would beacon, so walk down christopher street to the piers, and lie out on the lawns or construction sites. and read/write.
it was the perfect rendez-vous. not too easy to find, but centrally located to homo downtown weekends. my friends from the east village eagerly came to visit me there. my friends knew that when i said i was "going for coffee" on a weekend or after work, it would be there, and they would simply inquire as to which time they should meet me. sometimes i would tell them an hour later than i would arrive, so i'd have time to read and write. as a place, it was the understood-you, its name so generic is almost disappeared into the urban landscape. the espresso bar. like "the street" or "the building" or "the woman".
the writing: it barely needs saying that i have filled dozens of blank books there. the environment gelled many thoughts, and was reliable in delivering that serendipitous event that would explain it all, deliver the correct word, or make the connection that would weld all my silly, disparate ideas. like this one, from 1999, the day after i'd had my heart abruptly broken by a guy who had convinced me, against my better judgment, to read marquez, which i was forced to finish, painfully, even as i continued to think about walter benjamin: each relationship dreams the next. i knew this would happen. the place made my pencil write, and i never questioned what it had to say.
there are places we visit occasionally, haphazardly, and cinematically in this town; streets, blocks, buildings that are monumental or significant, but for which we care little. and then there are places, like this one, that we visit regularly, more than from habit, where we live, which sustain us, from which the entire city seems to emanate, from which the entire city makes sense.
and: they had the best fucking coffee in the whole damned city.
i am late to the afternoon: the new summer sidewalks has already taken a hold of the day. my little kitchen awoke before me. waiters recite brunch specials to queens and their tricks from the night before. i cannot even say my own name: i have had no coffee. but more than that. i squint through my cheap h&m sunglasses. my eyes are not really shaded by them, and the queens are good-looking, and my inner pre-coffee adolescent takes charge with do i look good in this shirt? as it walks a ten minute mile, and so i try to catch my reflection in shop windows. the speed of my gait makes the reflections clip by, blurred flashes against cheap glass storefronts, so that a fold in my shirt, eddied in the wind, or a distortion in the glass, distorts my image, which is already disfigured by the products in the window and the tragically cheap sunglasses on my face.
the flashing effect is powerful because i have managed to talk my way out of having sex for three weeks now, each time with people i am sexually interested in. needless to say, i'm in some need. yet i needed to avoid kissing anyone too heavily. i was facing an uncontrollable rage against almost everyone i know, including myself, when really only the sunglasses are deserving of this lack of patience. i squint. i realize. the situation is a perfect crescendo of opposites.
my friends are as numerous as my reflections on ninth avenue, yet at the same time they feel as disconnected from each other as those little flashes, the blurry smells of vision that all seem to know only me, only function when i am happy in the sunshine. and i have not been happy in the sun. but my irritation at my inability to focus, my inability to see anything in the glass or on the sidewalk, grows into a realization that this sense of disconnection between friends is, of course, not the case at all, and in fact, it is very much the opposite of the case, because i know people because they all know each other.
so i squint.
the idea is not 'sand-struck mold-made brick'; the idea is that the brick has a gorgeous texture and is otherwise completely mute.
dammit, that banana is interfering with minxatron's pocket drop.
my equipment-whore chakra is getting all lit.
since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world
my blood approves,
and kisses are a far better fate
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
--the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says
we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph
And death i think is no parenthesis
i am sitting around thinking why i always fuck everything up. i told L to fuck off and here i am wondering why i feel like shit about it when all i had to do was just be nice and deal. why can't the writing make it better, why can't i talk to people correctly, why do people fall out of love, why can't we all be in a big house or on one long telephone call or in an open electronic mail message that we just keep adding to. and yo, how dare i think i'm always in love.
in the back seat of my parents' car. how many of my entries begin like this?
speeding into this virginia night's blackness, looking through the open window at a crescent moon, the rushing humid air scented by fields of hay, manure, and fragrant weeds. i breathe it in: this is one of the places where i can think my thoughts.
earlier we walked four blocks to the center of the little virginian town they moved to. a band of fifes and drums was playing on the steps of the little federalist courthouse. children's bikes were encrusted in little flags, streamers, red white and blue sparkle garlands, and tinfoil. folk were laughing as the pipey percussion filled the morning air with tunes from our revolution. morning had broken into noon. i had a small flag in my shirt pocket. i smiled in the sun. my dirty grin: even the mass of kids running around seemed okay today.
mom, dad, and i then walked to the town's cemetery to look at some very old tombstones. many dated from the end of the nineteeth century, but many were also much older. there were many confederates. for us, there is a palpable sense of Something To Be Respected in places like these that my family automatically recognizes. after all, we were all nurtured in a part of ohio that was settled after montana had been populated. anything older than the 1890s is ancient; anything approaching the revolution is sacred. so we poked and examined some confederate tombstones, swatted bugs in the humid shade, pointed out peculiar dates or writing, reconstructed families, and then made our way back to the house. and the car.
we quickly left the country and hit the outer edges of the DC suburbs. i am astonished at how anyone can live in such a clean, un-urban condition as a subdivision, especially because it offers neither the pleasures of the density of their houses nor do they capitalize on the beauty of the virginian farmland they so indifferently replace. some are so huge they encapsulate tens of thousands of homes into one singularity, and they enclose new schools (which look like after-thought developer Facilities), and their own shopping centers. i had to ask whether the name of the place was the subdivision name or the name of the town. people were referring to the subdivision as a 'place' and i didn't get it.
and i cannot help but be bored and grated by the fact that in these places mass marketing rules every single corner of the environment, including that of the home. the shops are boring. you'd think someone would demand something unique, either in products or environment, from town to town. but nobody does. it's even fair to say that the word environment isn't even appropriate: there is an utter lack of spatial definition in every living room, every wannabe cul-de-sac, every stripmall, every-every.
(i would say 'everywhere', but that would use 'where' as a locator. there is no location. it's as if all the post-deleuzian theory about smoothspace and shoppingspace that i mocked and ignored in graduate school was actually true. a terrifying thought in and of itself, that contemporary architectural theory actually named something that existed in the world.)
because of the removal of depth perception, it is no wonder that there is no culture of design here: all opportunities for expressive individuality have been erased, entirely. cities afford settings for both revolution and its repression. non-spaces brilliantly remove the problem by allowing for neither.
as difficult as it may be to believe, dear reader, i do not believe in the practice of nostalgia; i only let memories and their triggers roll around and multiply in my head so that i may elucidate all the threads. and i do not automatically assume that dumb things are antagonistic: in fact, as an architect i am forced to assume a healthy indifference to things in order to get anything done. our night drive home reminded me of the fact that dumb means mute, not malicious.
yes, i've been looking at the moon from the back seat of my parents' car since i can remember being in cars. but the air always smells new, and i cannot speak while the sensation washes over me. it also removes thought, while creating the setting for new ones. like the supposition that it may be wrong of me to despise this quasi-urban goo that covers northern virginia (or, more precisely, i should focus on what i want, not what i dislike). it is who many of us are at the moment, it is what our society is in much of our nation. true, it is also not hermetic (no matter how smoothly it enables consumerism and constant soft entertainment), and yes, it can be resisted by the prescence of other conditions (such as the urban human messiness of the little town i call my home). but it is a part of our nation, and my family lives there, and i need to acknowlege that it is real.
yet i felt really relieved to be driving in a quiet, dark, dank, and shopless country again.
ps all work in this domain is copyright chad the minx.