Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Myth and the City, pt. 1

I've put on a long shirt for the evening. For August 24, feels odd doing so. I have this urge to go into detail about the shirt, but I won't except to say that it's pretty light but captures heat well.

I took a nap instead of riding my bike today. Feeling groggy and have a grumpy feeling in the belly. Not a bad thing except that my taste buds want food.

The Girl's brother comes in on a plane much later in the evening. She will have to go get him alone because I need to wake up at quarter of six in the morning, like any other morning, to make the trek to work. I probably won't even talk to him until I get out of work tomorrow, but I really look forward to it. I met him two years ago, but he's a good guy. Have to admit, I'm also pretty excited about the delivery of Magic cards, three full sets to be exact, that he has for me.

Since I still have to wake up fully, I just consulted my handy dandy Palm Pilot to see what I intended to write. I t hought that I had intended to write about two topics, but I guess I forgot to write down the second one. Oh well. . .the topic for tonight has its merits.

Tonight, I will meander about the social myths of big cities. A little more than a year ago, I took an expository writing class at Emerson College, think it could help me learn more about writing and get me going on a thesis paper that I've started over again for the nth time just the other day. For our first homework assignment, the teacher had us read an essay called "Goodbye to All That" by Joan Didion. To summarize: she writes about her experience of moving into New York at a young age after living on the West Coast for her whole life and the disillusionment brought on by living there for long. The newness has fallen away, she sees all the same people at all the same parties, her job that doesn't pay all that well has lost its novelty, her too small apartment has lost its charm, and she has failed to realize personal dreams that she had, having chased after an end goal supposedly promised by mystical New York City.

I've visited NYC a couple times and intend on visiting there again in October. I've encountered some of the myths about NYC through TV, movies and other media (silly as it may sound, my most distinctive image and feeling of the myth in media comes from Growing Pains -- the one where Mike Seaver packs all his stuff into his car and moves to NYC where he wants to start a serious acting career then Carol Seaver follows along after him because she wants her independence, too, and gets a job by showing someone how to fix their computer that has decided to misbehave -- I just remember seeing one of them driving a car, you're facing them as they drive toward you then the camera shows them driving into the city then later in the show, the same scene but with a different character). Harlan Ellison wrote a short story about the evil in NYC and how, if you don't accept it in your life, it will eat you. In some sense, I think the whole world has some amount of indoctrination into the myth of New York City, even if it that mythology comes in the form of the American Babylon or the biggest den of whores in the eyes of Muslim extremists.

Los Angeles probably has a mythology to it, too, but we see it more in films, like Swingers or something. In my youth, I didn't really put together a myth for LA except for the whole of a myth that I had for the West or California. . .or maybe San Francisco, which Jack Kerouac and hippie publications helped to create for me.

Visited both LA and San Francisco. From what I saw of LA, it felt like a rat hole except for Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and Hollywood at night. Even those parts, they had this element of plasticity and distance. I don't know if maybe I only had a limited view of the city. . .but it just struck me as a good place to lose your self or for demons to settle down and live there to feed on humans or something, like in that TV show, Angel. Only a few months ago, listening to the radio in the car, when the Red Hot Chili Pepper's Under the Bridge came onto the radio did I begin to understand that song. . .which ostensibly has the theme of drug addiction but after hearing it with new ears, I understood it about the relationship this one guy has with the mythology of LA, and he just so happens to have had a drug addiction at the time, but getting lost in that drug addiction and having LA, as a home with all that it is, always there and remaining the same, even though he has changed, all that time after surviving through the addiction but always changing in its sameness. . .that's LA. I don't know if the vaguness comes from the sleepiness, the mythical side of things or if I just need to hear the song again to get the idea.

I really can't say much about San Francisco. Went there awhile ago and enjoyed it as a totally new experience, immersing myself into a totally different place. I had never been to the West coast before. I saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time. The Ocean had something of a different feeling. . .something of a calmer and older feeling to it. The experience of San Francisco, though, it had a lot more hills but otherwise. . .it felt foreign but familiar at the same time. I almost felt bored, in a way. It kind of reminded me of, say, Cambridge, MA. I guess it might have had something to do with the traditional architecture and such. Davis, CA, though, a small suburb of Sacramento. . .that felt exotic and new and almost emanated its own mythology that didn't need to have people expand on it. Sacramento had an interesting touch to it. . .but it still felt a little homogenous. The palm trees and vegetation and architecture and such felt exotic, but as for the resonance and emanation from everything. . .I guess I expected more from it.

I have a theory that my not FEELING these myths resonate has to do with how I approached the cities, as a tourist, not as a member of the communities or as someone to involve myself with them, in a way. At the same time, though, I also feel like it has something to do with the West. . .that distance touch that I mentioned a couple times. I remember just getting this feeling that when I went into stores, the clerk didn't want to bother me so didn't even say anything until I left. . .it felt a little rude. . .uninvolved. . .like they didn't care what I did. That whole thing feels different in the Northeast, at least. Sure, salespeople can pester a little much, can talk too much and sometimes it can feel like they're watching the whole time and ready to jump at you, whether they want to sell something or stop you from stealing something. . .but. . .there's that feeling of having a presence and feeling involved.

The buildings in the Northeast also seem to have a little more resonance, somewhat. . .like they radiate a life rather than just a lifeless place that looks icky where people sleep and such.

I will have to write more on the topic later, though. . .I have to address some projects.

2 comments:

John...+ thoughts of Seattle... said...

Interesting...more about cities. I think the thing I didn't like about East Coast cities is the pat acceptance. Things are what they are and you can't do anything about it. I don't find that as much in the West Coast cities.

The_Lex said...

Interesting comparison. Not so sure I totally understand since I've come under the impression that East Coasters have motivation and the drive to change their situation and try to make it the way they want while West Coasters really just kind of go with the flow.