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.


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