Site Meter Peculiar Susceptibility: August 2008

Saturday, August 30, 2008

wandering the narrows

I feel as though I have been wandering the Narrows for some time.

It was a weekend filled with seemingly obvious conjunctions of Nature and the mechanical.

It was hot and I felt as though I was adrift in the belly of some mechanical whale. Me, some little modern Pinocchio, some Jonah.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

"a feeling as infinite as an open accordion"

Rosario, 2004. By Margarida Correia

During my last several conversations with my mother, she has remarked that I must be feeling nostalgic lately. I've been asking her to tell me stories from when I was a child - whether it's a story of some friend who fell and got a concussion, or whether she remembers my brother and I ever fighting (she doesn't). I've been wanting to know those little particular histories.

I spent yesterday by myself, doing a variety of things that would seem to support her charge (although she wouldn't call it an accusation, I find that I respond to it with a degree of defensiveness).

I opened up and dusted off my clarinet for the first time in 13 years. I played for hours.

I went to the ArtSpace tag sale, where I discussed Nancy Drew with a small girl and her mother. The girl, in a manner entirely reminiscent of my own experiences of family tag sales, demanded of her mother "You're not selling those, are you?! You said that they were ours!"

I opened one of the books to find a scene I remember from when I was a child in which Nancy disguises herself by coloring her trademark blonde hair with mascara (successfully, if you can imagine such a thing!).

I went to Integrity 'n Music, one of my favorite places to visit, where I was treated to the always-impressive Jackie McLean Youth Jazz Orchestra. I found there, among other things, Court and Spark - an album that was woven firmly through the entirety of my first two decades. I sang it through twice - I've always liked the way my voice bends around those songs. It was a sweet and pleasant hour-and-a-half.

And yet, I'm not sure it's exactly nostalgia that spurns these activities. It's true that I'm seeking to solidify my experience in the present and I know I'm concerned (me with my imperfect memory) with having some kind of document of my days. But I think there is something more to my impulse than the desperate grasping for proof of existence.

In Svetlana Boym's formidable The Future of Nostalgia, she traces a history of the malady. Nostalgia came into existence during a paradigmatic shift that effected much of the world. In the 18th century - that period of constant exploration, rapid colonization, and concerted nation-building - people responded to the universalization of experience, of space, and of time (think of the popularization of clocks, of the systematization of map-making) with a keen longing for the particular. As Boym suggests, "Nostalgia, as a historical emotion, is a longing for that shrinking 'space of experience' that no longer fits the new horizon of expectations" (10).

Perhaps what I'm feeling is not nostalgia alone, but something akin to Kant's ideal melancholy - that which enables one to be particularly attuned to the dilemmas of life.

Then again, maybe I do just want another chance to be seven, to thumb my way through a card catalogue, and to be aware of those moments through which I pass.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"as the flames rose to her Roman nose"

Well, it's nothing like that summer I was 14 and we piled into some boy's car to watch So I Married an Axe Murderer at the Mansfield Drive-In.  That summer it was The Smiths and cut off jean shorts and little kids' tee-shirts and Manic Panic.  It was deciding to screw being tan for the first time.  It was cars filled with older friends and it was singing arias in the back seat.  It was mix tapes and humidity.

When you're 14 the colors that fill out your experiences are deeply saturated. When you're 14 this saturation is extended by a general oblivion to the world around you, so that, for instance, not knowing that you were going to the drive-in during the Perseid meteor shower and then seeing dozens of stars raining down, would probably result in you deeming the night to be among those that were your most magical.

But then, what's 14 for if not self-centered magic?

But tonight was good, too, in its own quasi-adult way. I worked late - till around 9; I went to the gym; I showered; I did the dishes. And then I packed up The Bear and walked down the block to the law school's soccer field. My block has an odd sort of mix of housing - there are longtime West End residents; there are wealthy, newly-arrived homeowners; there are the residents of the assisted living facility; there are people on Section 8; and there are renters (most of them law students). As I walked down the block, I noted one television, one unidentified ultraviolet liquid, four used mattresses, one stove, three adolescents getting the most out of the days before the curfew takes effect, two cats (not counting The Bear), and one couple sitting on their porch. I walked past the sublime Hartford Seminary and tromped out into the middle of the field. The grass was wet. I put The Bear down and stretched out, long on the wet earth.

And I waited.

And just when I had determined that there is probably too much light pollution in Hartford to watch a meteor shower, there it was - one perfect slash of the razor against the sky. And I loved it. And it made me gasp. And The Bear switched from purring to the little sound she makes when she's taking stock of her surroundings.