clap clap blog: we have moved

Monday, November 01, 2004
It was a lovely day here in New York on Sunday, suddenly warm and quite clear, in contrast to Saturday's fog which covered pretty much everything about the seventh story. I took a walk to the park that runs between Amsterdam and whatever the hell the road is that goes along the river, stretching from the weird tower thing at the back of the rec center on 174th-ish to the cross-Manhattan xpressway at 178th. (This is vague, but I am lazy.)

Once there, I walked past the basketball courts where some were playing basketball and others were hitting tennis balls with a stick and to the odd pile of rocks that lies at the park's northern edge, which you can climb and look out over pretty much everything that isn't blocked by building, which includes I-95, the bridge buildings, the river, and the Bronx.

The story we tell in the city ("we" being "people I know"--lord knows I don't want to speak for anyone) is that you can barely even tell it's fall because you don't see the leaves change color, this being particularly striking if, like me, you come from somewhere in the vicinity of leaf-peeping country and are used to a real natureboy rave-up of tones just from walking to school. But there are trees, and the leaves do change color, if you're able to look for them, if you're able to see them; the problem, it seems, is that the trees are scattered so much that you just don't notice.

But here, standing on this outcropping of rock once near a British fort and once blasted and sheered to a miniature cliff face, I see the opposite bank in the fading light and there is the aforementioned color-based rave-up, trees springing forth from the buildings and the roads to bloom into orange and yellow and something I can't quite place. Fall. It is very pretty, as is the light as it glints off the windows of housing projects, as are the cars winding their way below.

In the city, it seems to me, we lack or intentionally avoid the big picture; faced with so incredibly many people and so mind-bogglingly many places, we narrow our gaze and focus on what is right in front of us or what is brought to our intention. This is not a bad thing, really, and it is certainly necessary to get through your day without stopping short every few steps, as is the practice of common routes to and from common places, the same steps taken day after day to the places where we've settled in to one degree or another. But at the same time we don't even really have the opportunity to take in the sweep of our particular place that you do from, say, a car; perhaps if you're taking the D train in from Brooklyn or the R from Queens, you go over a bridge and get a brief glimpse of one particular small arc of the city's strangely huge horizon. But even here, or from the FDR or Riverside Drive, because of the particular shape of Manhattan, you don't get the view you do when driving into Chicago, say, or Cleveland, or Washington, or Los Angeles, I'd imagine. You do get it if you drive in along I-95 from Jersey, but then again, in Jersey they get to see the leaves change.

And then I opened up my copy of the Sunday Times and saw, well, this.

It stopped me short, it did. It was a bit like opening Newsweek and finding an article about the inside joke you and your friends share. "Rockism"? In the Times? Yikes. I guess this is simply a reflection of the fact that our particular wee li'l subculture (and I am actually a part of it? Well, let's pretend like I am) is so very isolated, so very focused on minutae, that it felt a bit like someone opening a door on activities meant to fumblingly take place in the dark, like a report issued on something you had quite consciously created just for yourself.

Some would read this as a criticism, that it's precisely the problem with what we do: it's dealing with something broad-based and maximal in very self-contained ways, trying to Leninist vanguard the pop-culture proletariat--and, worse, that this particular refusal to address the big picture, to climb the rocks and look out at the opposite shore for what we hadn't been seeing before, is horrendously limiting.

But no. This is how we're doing it. This is how people experience pop culture, and this is how people experience their lives, moment to moment, banally, with a tangental but distant relation between their own existance and the "big picture," the huge events that are happening elsewhere, always elsewhere, even when they are ostensibly happening to you, and this is precisely what makes it important, not the things themselves, which are generally pretty meaningless, but the way you experience them. It is in the day-to-day progression of narrative and controversy, in the moment-to-moment slippage of influence anxieties that we find not only comfort but understanding and structure, something to make sense of, not the broad view. It is in this way that small groups of people willfully misinterpreting what already exists can change what is about to happen. It is in this way that not only meaning is made but things are made to happen.

It is the banal and everyday that ultimately matters, and I think we don't want to accept that, but even in our striving and Nietzschean urges to overcome, our need to do the dishes or go out and buy the things you need to create 'n' stuff is ultimately paramount, the cockblocker in the mix that we end up focusing on, not only because we have to, but because it's significant. We place little importance on this for reasons I don't entirely grasp; maybe it's simply an acknowledgement of the weight they already carry. But it is the little and pointless, the stupid and everyday, that ultimately rule our lives, and that's for the good. Therein lies endless possibility and infinite power; it is in these little nooks and crannies that our lives are lived. And I like that. And I'm interested to see where it goes.