Thursday, 3 December 2009

Threaded (day seventy three and seventy four)

My knowledge of American television schedules has improved beyond even my wildest expectations. Nickelodeon shows iCarly, everywhere shows Frasier, HBO shows movies and pornography. Throw out the TV Guide, there's a new cowboy in town. These three sentences show that the thousands of debt are all worth it.

Post watermelon slices we drag our weary carcasses onto the T, away from the cathode ray tube and its million entertainments. They all head to college or work, reading books as personality notations - it best be battered and vintage to show you love it hard - or in the splendid isolation of headphones pincering your skull, eyes closed and away from the meetings/business lunches/tests/seminars/dates and the yatter yatter yatter of daily grind you escape for just one moment in the underground cocoon tunnel air conditioned chill, dressed for success. The only similarity between the Cheers Bar and the Cheers TV show is they share a trademarked logo. The pubs themselves don't even look similar - a moose head hangs in here, and the clientele all snap photos swinging beer, too early in the day for bear. Norm only ever visited as a cardboard cutout.

We all follow the red brick road, looking at historical markers that don't mean anything anymore. Graveyards filled with bodies, the tombstones in ordered rows, marked with flying skulls, the soul is leaving the body, shallow carved into granite. Crossing battle lines, past massacres, winding through the endless intersections of red brick houses, to the markets, where the black guys dance for us all, contorting and straining muscles to make a buck - "Come forward. Black guys dancing. No weapons. Giving us money keeps us out of two places - the courthouse, and your house" - this is how to patter your way to $2, all taking turns to spin and headstand to raise cheers and applause; from there to the downtown panorama, steel glass turrets tower to other towers, clear, with six million numbers etched in, tiny digits, inconsequential, that represent a human life, a Jewish life ended, affecting and horribly poignant, and on, to the North End, with I-talian men and all the restaurants, and on to the waterfront at last, our freedom trail ended - where a vagrant shades herself by a tree, trolley parked a way off, buried under a hundred carrier bags of every hue, Joseph's technicolour junkbag - who knows what's inside the vintage boutique yardsale. Downriver lie boats, and water spills into the sea turning saline and tidal. All the bridges take the traffic crossways in pulsing waves with the lights redgreenred. We're already underneath, with the commuters and the tourists and the students, riding home on curved tracks, second guessing it all.

I see you, you're walking across the campus, cruel professors studying romances. Harvard lacks the charm of Cambridge or Oxford. No Cam to punt on, no cobbled street spires. Red brick elegance is all they have, Georgian symmetry round a shaded tree covered lawn, chair sprinkled and student scattered. America's finest are networking, not working, coffee drinkers. Harvard Natural History Museum is keeping taxidermists and formaldehyde manufacturers in business. Hides are worn, some rips showing the straw and wood beneath. The fish look plastic. The jars have bleached the colour out of the insects, but the pinned butterflies still shimmer. Fossils line all the walls, skeletons frozen in a moment in time when the asteroid smashed down and covered it all in a layer of dust. These are the Navajo plunder - Henry is seething over his herbal tea. A chiseled out dinosaur egg behind glass, next to a thousand other natural marvels - a dodo, an extinct duck and ancient sea monsters. This gallery is curating a fish phobia, mouths wide open, exposing teeth. Fumes are tripping me out, hummingbirds swarm out of the case, in size order spiralling around my head, flapping wings beyond visible frequency. Under an Aztec mural I lie, triangles pecked from my flesh.

A crowd is gathered beneath the painted monument atop Bunker Hill, watching the shielded activities behind black shreds. A famous looking man swings his arms to syke himself up, looking taller and thinner than he does on camera. It is Ben Affleck. All the famous people I see are ones I don't like. Extras are timed to walk across the shot at the same point - women, men, children running, man, man. The clapboards clap and take after take fills the camera. The screens move to block the light. Nothing can be done to enliven the process. In the future, in the cinema, we will see this second scene and proclaim "we were there". We have nothing to be proud of. No one knows why they stay to watch, they just do. In hushed awe of a boring silver screen star. All the glitter got blown away in the wind.

Rock n' roll lifestyles have blurred it all together. These cities are all the same. Museums and cafes and restaurants and hotels and galleries and shops and cinemas, a business district with skyscrapers quiet suburbs, tree lined, ghettos a way away but close... run together, the edges smeared. Suitcase living is bringing me down. None of them are any different. Harvard bristles like an upmarket Portland which was a less developed Seattle which was a less bohemian San Francisco which was a less Mexican Albuquerque... it goes on. Students hustle on a Friday night, in finery and shirts to carouse, around the cafes and bars on the square, or riding the T across the city, spirits firing. Jealousy is written in green ink on my wrinkled forehead. In my shins, and in my mind, I am old at 22.

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