Every move you make

25 05 2013

I know I don’t speak for everyone, but for me, the freedoms enjoyed by artists and journalists are worth possible breaches of privacy.
Kathy Ryan

So said the journalist (or artist), not the person whose privacy is breached.

Given my rants against Google Glass and Facebook and the general hoovering-up of every last bit of ourselves in the name of Big Data, it is no surprise that I consider someone taking a photograph of me in my home an offense against all that is Good and Holy.

I draw lines between private and public, lines which, in practice, can be difficult to maintain. I want to reveal what I want to reveal and nothing more, but, of course, in the writing of this (now-less-than-) pseudonymous blog I say things about myself of which I am completely unaware.

I know that, but I choose—I choose—to do it anyway.

But sitting in my apartment on a cool spring day, drinking coffee and doing crosswords, no, I do not choose to have you record me, take something from me.

When I enter a public space I am aware of myself as being “in public”. I’m not much concerned I’ll be recorded—I am unremarkable in appearance—but I recognize, however gruffly, that if someone snaps a pic of me there’s little I can do about it. And even if you do grab me with your camera, I’ll almost certainly remain anonymous, in the background or a (drab) bit of the local scenery.

And, in any case, if I am in public so too are you: there is a symmetry of risk in our interactions.

(This is among the reasons I am leery of CCTV and apparatuses like Google Glass: the asymmetry of risk, which makes the person watched vulnerable to the person watching. And no, telling me I can even the score by recording back is not a sufficient answer, not least because such a response would force me deeper into a regime to which existence I object.)

In my apartment, however, I am not “in public”, windows be damned. That you can see me and I can see you is, of course, where the blur comes in, but part of living in a city means you maintain a set of manners in which the blur serves to protect privacy. I might see you playing your guitar and you might see me dancing, but we each let it go, unmentioned.

That we leave our curtains open as we strum or dance or eat or play with the dog or tickle the baby doesn’t mean we’re putting ourselves on display; it just means we want some light.

Yes, some people do put themselves on display, and within (generous) limits, that’s fine; that one person is an exhibitionist, however, does not mean the person next to her is.

This is, for me, theoretical. I live in an un-hip section of Brooklyn where few people would be so foolish as to think they could point a camera in someone’s window without consequence. I certainly wouldn’t advocate violence against that fool, but if the camera were, ah, rendered inoperable, well, them’s the risks you take.

Advertisements




Feeling groovy

24 02 2012

How long does it take to carve oneself into a place?

I’ve been in New York for over 5 years, and only very recently has it begun—begun—in some small way to feel like mine.

This wasn’t something to which I paid much attention in my early wanderings. Madison was the first stop out of SmallTown and I loved it unreservedly, threw my whole self into what seemed the far shore of previous life.

Minneapolis? I did not love, less for its Minneapolisness than for the fact that a) it was not Madison (where my friends were having fun in their fifth year of school) and b) it was the location of graduate school, where I was not having fun.

Albuquerque was so brief—11 months—that it felt more like an interlude to life than life itself. I wasn’t particularly happy to trek back to Minneapolis, but I knew the place, had friends there, had more-or-less (mostly less) of a life there.

The 2 bus down Franklin to campus, the 52 back to Lyndale, or maybe a bus to downtown, then the 15 up Nicollet. The bike route past the convention center, through downtown, sneaking up to the West Bank from behind, then over the river and over the bridge to the gym. Or hopping into my car and on to the interstate to get to campus, scoping out the few all-day spots scattered around Riverside or at least trying for a 4-hour spot.

The diners at Cedar-Riverside, the bars at Seven Corners, Electric Fetus for cds and the 3 used bookstores in Uptown, this one good for memoir, that one for fiction and philosophy, the other one for history of science. Walks through Loring Park and over the bridge to the Sculpture Garden. Swimming in Cedar Lake. All of my friends, oh, all of my friends.

I never adored Minneapolis, but at some point I wore a groove into to the place, a path which became my life.

I did adore Montreal, had my routes and habits, but Montreal was so easy that I wonder if I ever really took my life there seriously at all. I could make my impressions—feet on sand, boots in snow—but a wave or a wind and I was gone.

Then again, with my departure built into my arrival, I was free to swim its surfaces, to rove over the island trying to soak in every last bit of its sublime beauty; I passed through Montreal and let Montreal pass through me.

Somerville and Boston? No, no chance, not for me.

And then, Brooklyn. Unprepared and upside down but determined to make this place stick, to make myself stick. I told a friend last night that it might have been a terrible decision to move here but it wasn’t a mistake. I had to know, I told her.

Still, while a part me locked into the city, there were many more parts which were just. . . alienated? uncomfortable? suppressed? I tried consciously to create habits of living, but that felt fake; I acted as if this were already home, but that was a lie.

I wanted New York to be home, and it wasn’t. It still isn’t.

Recently, however, I’ve noticed that my path is, in some places, noticeably smoother. There are places I know, places I count on without knowing I count on them, friends who are true friends.

Another friend told me, before I moved here, that New York is a hard place, and she was right, it is a hard place. But I can run my hand over this ground and feel, for the first time, the ground begin to give.





Update: kitty-boy

1 11 2011

He’s home, three of his legs are shaved below the joint (paws unshaven: legs of an off-kilter coiffed poodle), he’s eating, he’s drinking, he’s eliminating what he’s eating and drinking, and he’s fighting me when I try to give him his three medications—all good signs.

Staff at VERG-South were very nice, not snitty about my fiscal inability to keep him in the hospital any longer, and quite complimentary to Mr. Jasper.

We’re both breathing easier tonight.





Where never is heard a discouraging word

16 08 2011

So I went away for awhile.

Surprised my mom for her 70th birthday. Made her happy.

And I saw old friends, of course, which meant I drank and ate (cheese curds!) and laughed and drank and ate and laughed. That was good. Made me happy.

I walked all over town, down past the dime store and up and around the old elementary school and junior high (now just a middle school) and over to the athletic field.

It seemed so big, back then. Now, it was just quiet.

And T. and I walked amongst the sand dunes  at a park we call Terry-Andrae but the state calls Kohler-Andrae:

When I was a kid my family regularly camped at Terry-Andrae, along with a group of my parents’ friends. (I smoked my first cigarette at 9 with B., who was 11. Coughed. A lot.) We’d tear around on bikes or go tromping along the dunes or thread our way through the trees—anything where we could pretend we were completely on our own.

Anyway, I remember the dunes as more sand than green, and there were no wooden pathways through the ups-and-downs, but, y’know, folks nowadays are much more concerned about preservation than anyone was back in the ’70s.

We used to launch ourselves off the tops of the dunes, counting on the sand below to give and slide down with us. That lower part of the dune, looking out over Lake Michigan, is still sandy (didn’t take a shot of that), so it could still be done.

You might get yelled at by park rangers, though.

No ranger in sight at the park below the falls in town:

The river is brown and muddy; it’s been brown and muddy for as long as I can remember.

My mom, who grew up in town, remembers when the dyes of the woolen factory (pictured below; now converted into apartments) would turn the river green or red or blue.

That rusted-brown bridge in the back? That was an active railroad bridge back in the day (since decommissioned, although there is talk of bringing it back), one which we would cross as kids.

Weren’t supposed to, of course, and you had to screw up your courage to do it the first time, but after awhile it was second nature to skip across the ties rather than take the sidewalk on the “regular” bridge.

Yeah, that’s all closed off now, too, though I bet kids are still finding their ways across that bridge.





There’s nothing you can’t do

23 05 2010

New York City is a pain in my ass.

For example, late last night AND earlier today, a local island combo was playing their version of ‘Dancing Queen.’ Great: take two irritants (steel drums and ABBA) and put them together and what do you get?

Closed windows on a warm day, that’s what you get.

Did I mention that the only other tune they seemed to know was ‘Amazing Grace’?

Ex-cel-lent.

But this is also my city, full stop. I was watching the Jay-Z/Alicia Keys (honey, what’s going on with that hair?)  vid ‘Empire State of Mind’ for the first time (!) last night, and even though the only really good thing about that song is the refrain, honest-to-god, I welled up.

I gave myself over to the song, to the city.

This is it.

Which is not to say that this is all there is. I read a piece in the Times today about a woman who opened a series of hotels in Austin, and the accompanying slide show offered glimpses of local shops and local characters and I thought, Oh, they don’t have that here. And I was wistful, because I knew that as much as I like those local shops and local characters and ways of life which are decidedly not available in New York, I wouldn’t leave New York to live in those other places.

I was wistful because for the first time in my life I knew I would stay.

SmallTown? Great place to be a kid, but once I hit double-digits I knew I was on my out. Madison—loved it. A quarter of a million people and it felt like a big city to me. My world opened up in ways I hadn’t even thought to expect, so what else was there for me to do but go through that opening?

Minneapolis, mm, not so much, but that was largely due to my displeasure with grad school. There actually are charming neighborhoods and funky shops and I still miss my troika of used book stores near Hennepin and Lake, but: No.

Albuquerque is charming in a charmless sort of way, a bit ramshackle and easy and full of the western wide open blue,  but too hot, too sunny, and not enough water. (Still, ABQ, like Madison, is one of the major settings of my second novel.)

Montreal was wonderful, and the only other city which gives, for me, New York a run for its money. If it weren’t for New York, in fact, I might have emigrated just to live in that city.

Somerville? Great apartment, great upstairs and downstairs neighbors. That’s it.

All of this is my belated response to a series of recent posts in the blogosphere about the the absolute and relative worth of New York. Eh, I think, it’s not for everyone—and that’s not a criticism of those not-fors, but a recognition that no place is the absolute Best Place: it’s all relative to who and how each of us is.

I didn’t know that New York would take when I moved here, and, frankly, my first year here sucked: money, work, money, apartment, money money money. I still worry about money, still don’t have enough of it in a city which feeds on it.

Do you need the litany of problems with this joint? The dirt and the crowds and the cutbacks and the roaches and rats and no charm, no quiet, no ease, no let up to the hustle. Nothing is as good as it was and nothing will change the ceaseless changes. This city does not care about me, does not need me, will not notice when I am gone.

But it allows me to be. I have been restless for over thirty years, and will be restless evermore, but in this city my restlessness can roam and I can remain