Saturday, December 31, 2011

New, and New, and just as natural.

Happy new year, everybody. Our vanity says this is the big one. If we could only be so lucky. Instead let's get together and solder on through another year of Doing the Right Thing©, with some time now and again to reflect on the implausibility of the universe in general. In New York, someone's dancing across the city, and someone else is walking every street of it. Be sure to participate or give these people their required approbations or encouragements. The latter journeyer, I hear, likes cookies.

The last, say, 6 months for me have gone by in a bit of a haze, involving dozens of places with at least a dozen states of activation, learning, fuzziness, out-of-sorts, inspiration, and connection for each. I have emerged from this dream-like state and find myself in a space of my own for the first time since about fall of 2010. I've been realizing that Brooklyn is my new home and it's a comfortable feeling, I like what I've made for myself here and wherever it's heading.

I've been writing up a storm, stacking up shale-like fragments with the hope that a structure emerges, eventually, Meeting the city, inventing myself in relationship to it, and tinkering with my new apartment, in which my roommates and I have already introduced a hundred imperceptible changes to make the place our own. I like my room tremendously and will probably never leave it. I built my desk out of free wood that I carted from a loft on Bedford, lashed to my bicycle. My radio is yellowed and silly, a frumpy little cube that blares WNYC constantly, giving me a window to the world and only occasionally asking for member contributions. My bed is a bunch of bookshelves turned on their side, I took my mattress on the cross-town B38 Bus and engaged in a battle of wits with the bus driver to secure passage.
"What'll you do if it falls on someone? They'll sue the MTA!"
"Dude, have you been in a pillow fight? It's like a giant pillow. They'll love it."
My dresser is a pathetic little thing, which wobbles and sways, I truncated its legs off to cover for a missing drawer and to allow my shirts to hang. Little changes. I stand before the bicycle map of the city, two sides stitched together, and wonder where I'll end up next. My books, bicycles, milk-crates, clothes, and pantry all bear the mark of communication-as-currency, things acquired through conversation, craigslist, and currents more inscrutable. There is always someone to talk to, and everyone's a stranger.

I came here in a fury of action, my schedule booked. I was riding down to Occupy Wall Street every day, working on a project for Digital Democracy, consuming literature about the movement, writing a little and being -just- too slow to contribute to the literature. I was sending out ten bids for freelance jobs a day, and hearing back from very few, jobs with pay tallying a pathetic count which I'm willfully vague about. New York is the city of the intern, the volunteer, the start-up, the deferred until distributed 3-ring circus. Now, with a lease, 2 bikes, and a (purported) heating system, I find myself taking a breath, and realizing that the hermetic, bopping, productive lifestyle that I pursued in Salt Lake it possible here, with the addition of an insane, buzzing, ever-present little creature that reminds you constantly of the flowing honey of events, ideas, projects, productions waiting for you to get involved with them.

The buzzing thing (I think it has fur) won't leave me be, but I appreciate its motivation. Input=Output, castle building. All the better to navigate this unsleeping world.
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Monday, December 26, 2011

Beautiful Masquerade Behind Glass

Divas. The window displays at Bergoff Goodman blew the rest of the storied 5th avenue box-displays away. Rich opulence crammed with nostalgia, victorian finery, and cabinet of curiosity relics.

One entirely of wrought brasswork, another of paper and books contorted into magnificent shapes, another semi-precious stones.

The high fashion works fit seamlessly in. Prada, Tom Ford, etc. The fragile, intense worksmanship of each window a crushing antidote to the slick marketing of the rest of the moneyed world, and the lazy, half-baked expression of many galleries.
I've never heard of the store before, but when I'm rich they'll get my money as a result. Just kidding. I'll still shop at thrift stores, just more pretentious ones.

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Wiki-Geeking out: These streets have stories.

I just procured, with a number of friends, a 2nd story apartment on Marcus Garvey Boulevard and Greene Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York. I'm currently undereducated about the history of the neighborhood, but the street names stood out to me. As the child of a nameless grid, walking down streets descended from specific characters or sites in our national history is a pleasant change of pace. Greene is a bit of an incidental, named I believe after Nathanael Greene, a boringly noteworthy Revolutionary war General who probably partied hard but whose exploits have been dulled by the heavy hand of history.

Next up is Marcus Garvey, whom I'm also woefully undereducated about, but who is a total badass. Not only was Garvey from Jamaica, the coolest of islands to originate from, but by the time he was my age he was editing two newspapers. Not to be content with island living, he hoofed it to New York, and got a job as a lowly printer, earning his public speaking chops by lecturing anyone who would stop and listen on street corners. Oh but can I ever relate! That didn't last long, because Garvey was a hustler, he soon was representing and running black community and political interest groups and touring the US as a speaker, garnering support and striking fear into the hearts of white folk everywhere. He struck so much fear into the status quo that the assistant DA, Edward Kilroe, investigated Garvey's group for terroristic activities. When that resulted in an editorial harranguing by Garvey, Kilroe sued for libel, and then some assassin dude showed up and shot at Garvey 4 times, failing to kill him. The assassin killed him self a bit later, and Garvey kept on trucking. Garvey is known for being the father of Black Nationalism and Zionism, seeking a homeland for African Americans. He also ruffled the feathers of W.E.B. Debois and pretty much everybody by consorting with the KKK, with the attitude that, while they were hateful racists, at least they were honest about it.

Our final candiate for wiki-study is Charles Sumner. Marcus Garvey Blvd has an identity crisis: Though it runs through Bed-Stuy and only through Bed-Stuy, it pretends to have another name, like it's the continuation of some other street. Maybe it was renamed, recently, maybe the street just enjoys being deceptive. Whatever the case, Sumner is an appropriate predecessor to Garvey, as an abolitionist and as the receptor of angry anti-black violence. Sumner was a Congressman preceding the Civil War, but a rad one, lyrical and idealistic, his writing style both fluid and biblical. It comes as no surprise, then, when arguing against the Southern opposition to slave freedom he exercised a little literary licence, likening his opponents to Pimps and Lechers, he derided them for supporting an immoral practice, orating: "Of course he has chosen a mistress to whom he has made his vows, and who, though ugly to others, is always lovely to him; though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his sight. I mean the harlot Slavery."

This sat none too well with southern Congressman Preston Brooks, who decided to take matters into his own hands and beat Sumner within an inch of death with his cane. On the Senate Floor. In front of dozens of clerks and witnesses. That didn't do a lot for the reputation of southern intellectual prowess. So Sumner got whacked, Garvey got shot, and both had streets named after them. History wasn't as kind to Kilroe and Brooks, though I hear Preston and his brother Elisha did rather well with a line of mens suits...(n't).

Which brings me back to Bed-Stuy. Bed-Stuy, the place of legend. Bed-Stuy, the gap in the subway maps. The vanguard of gentrification (oh, hey folks, sorry about that...). The place, according to rap songs, where people get beat up and shot. How fitting, then, that ol' Garvey and Sumner hang out around here.
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