Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hotel Lawrence

Stoke Newington, London, Foul Year of Our Lord, 2007.

It’s hard to keep a place in perspective when you’re freebooting your way through it; you loose all analytical rigor, and until you can manage to escape, all proper reason is spiked with terminal hysterics. It takes time and distance to reform the necessary gaze to capture the place, but even then, it is never possible to fully understand and comprehend the subtle nuances that make the place alive and thereby do justice to it. Deadlines creep up, and selling out the rotten bastards who made up a significant and important part of your life seems like less of a problem when the Man desperately grabs your throat and squeezes your eyeballs. Time, as the cliché reads, heals all wounds, but more importantly it ferments a healthy sense of righteous vengeance: no quarter asked, and none given.

Lawrence, Kansas was a special place in the late 90’s when her energy focused the perpetual myth of the American dream into her own consequence free movement. Her atavism even hemorrhaged into the first part of this decade before the awful realities of the Unelected took hold and a rotting corpse behind the white picket fence finally bled out into the awful muck we find ourselves standing in. A queer grocer runs the council, but it is mob rule in the streets. Students descend from the Hill to pour 2-dollar liters of Bud Light all over their bodies and compete at sexual Olympics in the bathrooms. Driving drunk is a hobby, and the worst thing about passing out in the street is that someone else takes responsibility. At this time, Lawrence is one of the few places in American where the 3-Stooges is not only an acceptable PhD topic, but also noble, as is the reward of a part-time barista job upon completion. 10-year undergraduates bask in the eternal bliss of cheap tuition and a hand-to-mouth lifestyle that is unquestionable as long as there is a bar with a band for a 1-dollar cover, and dollar-fifty long-island ice teas until 2 am. Couches on sagging porches and window-unit air-conditioners are the only plausible stipulations of tenancy contract that force denizens into binding legal agreements. Even then, a lost deposit is only a few hundred dollars while the image of rolling an empty beer-keg down the stairs and through the locked front door will enrapture a lifetime of audiences as they gather to share war stories and reminisce about the glory of their college days.

It is hard to say when Lawrence changed. Perhaps the lifestyle got too big too quickly, and the coke-heads that owned the place, and preached its irresponsible decadence, started losing their grip and felt the pressures of bigger interest creeping into their slumbering village to package and sell its inherent lifestyle. Perhaps it’s the soft realization that the kind of existence of a college town is only meant for the privileged youths of America and that its glory fades. A sociological perspective yields that a shifting demographic along with a transient population has no intrinsic stability, while others of the same bent argue that, citing ancient Rome and all other great world empires, growth itself leads to its own decline. Yet another angle is that individual perspective changes, and the place itself looses luster only to the individual whose perspective has changed. A pluralist says it’s a combination of all of the above. Realistically, however, the decline of Lawrence comes out of the undeniable fact that aging hipsters who perpetuate their own mythology are pathetic and that their lifestyle was doomed from the beginning, and those who don’t get out are doomed to the life cycle of the big suck, a vacuous existence in the Heart of America.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Dog Days

It's a been a long time since I posted survival rules for London. Hell, it's been a long time since I posted anything--though the last one about tossing Don Mitchell out of the 47th floor of the San Francisco Hilton looked pretty funny. I hate fascists. Any how, on to the survival rules: an updated list.

1. Don't ever leave London!!

I can't stress this one enough. Except for the odd foray to the seaside, or other closely selected locales, do not, under any circumstances leave the M25--preferably it's best just to stay within Zone 2. Everything you need is there. Cinemas, pubs, bars, restaurants, probably the best wine shop in the world. Why leave? On each occasion I've left London, lured by a the thought of a quiet weekend in the countryside, I've only encountered weird village folk and returned the next day with a headache and fatigue that still rears its head a week later. Again, don't ever fucking leave London. It's not worth it.

2. Mind your shoes. I've mentioned this one before I think, but it was really in a more literal reference to you shoes. This time it's metaphorical and can be translated as watch your ass; this is a big (BIG) city.

Last Tuesday evening, after having settled down to some nice braised pork chops and a James Bond movie, we were distracted by a noise outside. Shouting, gibberish, more shouting. Typical for the Hackney slum I now call home. Believe me, there is an edgy romance to taking part in the cutting wave of gentrification. My fourth floor flat, locked away behind numerous double bolted garages, entryways, video phone lock mechanisms, over looks the former Kings Crescent Estate. My windows over look 4 other stories of blocked in windows of derilect flats, that hide one of the larger populated council estates in Greater London. It's notorious for drugs and prostitution. I dodge used condoms on the way home (a literal take on minding your shoes), that despite the disturbing social relations that underlie condoms on the ground near Brownswood road, is a testament to the safer sex campaigns of the 90's. Now, if only the prostitutes and pimps would not use the alley way... But I digress. One of the off shoots of living at the cutting edge of trendiness is that the great, modernist project of social housing, that is housing the poor in massive tenement blocks, is that the problem that would normally be isolated to the estates often spill out, meaning that the rules of geographic autocorrelation dictate that their problems soon become my problems.

Back to Tuesday. After the shouting and gibberish had ended, we were treated to a police investigation. I mean there were cops, cop tape, bobbies, tit heads, the whole force seemed to have descended onto the niegborhood streets. Missing were the hoards of normal street dwellers, deciding that it was probably best not to have to talk to the coppers. More and more arrived, and the streets got quieter and quieter. I didn't have anything to wing at them since the last eggs were consumed at lunch, but I did have the opportunity to watch the proceedings. I even, almost felt bad once the sky started to fuck down an uncanny amount water--almost. But I still hate cops. I've read enough social theory to know that the difference between coppers and the quarry is generally about 70 years of discourse. Pigs. Anyway. The amusing part of the night was the second after the filth packed up the tape, the cars, and the mobile police lab, disguise and fingerprint kit. The night air was filled with whistling, and within a few more minutes, the streets were filled with the usuals as if nothing had happened. It was like the kids in the favellas had started flying kites again.

Fortunately, in London, most the violence is isolated to social networks. Drug dealers usually only kill other drug dealers or their associates. There is little actual random violence except at the hands of the marauding gangs of youths that the daily mail would have me believe roam the streets outside of Mayfair. Even so, it's best to walk fast and stare at the ground 10meters in front of you. There is really no reason to know what your nieghbors are up to.

Stay tuned. I know i promise more soon and leave it, but I am writing heavily right now so you'll probably find me posting again, late tonight as the the empty house, and probably more accurately empty bottle take hold and force me to spout words that won't quite fit into the 100,000 word thesis i'm tackling at the moment.