Posts tagged ‘consumerism’

An Oasis of Horror in a Desert of Boredom


But cities today are well known for popping up in the middle of nowhere, history-less and incomprehensible. […] Today’s cities are made up, viral, fungal, unexpected. Like well-lit film sets in the distance, staged amidst mudflats, reflecting themselves in the still waters of inland reservoirs, today’s cities simply arrive, without reservations; they are not so much invited as they are impossible to turn away. Cities now erupt and linger; they are both too early and far too late. Cities move in, take root and expand, whole neighborhoods throwing themselves together in convulsions of glass and steel.

– Geoff Manaugh @ BLDGBLG (pic from Cedric Delsaux’s “Dark Lens” series)

Years ago, on a road trip across America that maybe I’ll write about at some point, my friend Eli and I pulled into San Francisco in our oversized 1985 Ford van (complete with a bedframe built into the back – it was the classic, Kerouac-inspired trip). It was my first time visiting the city, and the first few hours were spent viewing it from the passenger side window as we drove around and around in ever-widening circles, looking for a place to park.

In the end we found a streetside space in the dilapidated slums south of Market. (For those with some knowledge of the city, I believe it was on 6th Street, and well below Mission.) It did not look like the best of neighborhoods, and my unease was only increased when, stepping out of the van, a man idling against a nearby building suggested we give him five (or was it ten?) dollars to “watch our car.”

Walking north in (what we hoped was) the direction of Union Square, we passed through what I can only describe as a gauntlet of street people. Time paints our memory in exaggerated strokes (and perhaps what I think of as truth is only a nightmare of history) but what I remember is rows and rows of entreating faces and endless hands – hands thrusting, demanding, pleading; hands shaking in anger or like they were strung out on drugs or in remission; hands grasping at shirts and coat pockets. This sounds unbelievable, and it was: a scene more surreal (precisely because it was real) than any Dali painting. (more…)


January 27, 2010 at 2:33 pm Leave a comment


Bennett Carpenter
Leiden, Netherlands

Random musings about literature, art, politics and (occasionally) my life as a graduate student in sunny Holland. Click on the pic for more about me.


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