Tuesday, February 8, 2005

City Notes for the Would-be Traveller

1. To walk through the ruined, fragmented cities of the dreamscape, is to bear witness to the very rebirth of the New City - an era of anonymity, sameness, and repetition. Here we will live our lives in the safety of the boring, the unremarkable, the monotonous. Sadness.

2. We have dreamt of every city that ever existed, and every city that ever will exist, and dreamt, too, of the magnificence of being a city, for cities have all the desirable strong characteristics - stoicism, indifference, austerity, rigidity - while we're left to merely simulate these same characteristics in our relatively short lives, for we are not rock and metal, plastic and glass.

3. Myths build up around cities, and we convince ourselves to believe them. We tell ourselves that each city is the symbol of some great idea, we attribute to each city a sex, and we try desperately to believe that one city is better than the next. We are wrong; all cities are all cities. From Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities: "...each city takes to resembling all cities, places exchange their form, order, distances, a shapeless dust cloud invades the continents." We find comfort in our beliefs that one city is different from the next, we take trips to find ourselves, and we move away to start anew. But how can we start anew when we come full circle, arriving right back where we began, as though we had never left? In Cool Memories, Jean Baudrillard writes: "The cities of the world are concentric, isomorphic, synchronic. Only one exists and you are always in the same one. It's the effect of their permanent revolution, their intense circulation, their instantaneous magnetism."

4. Who hasn't walked down a block in a new city, and been consumed by familiarity, led astray by presumption? It's the curse of a traveller to be forever disoriented by the diversity of his or her adventures. You have seen to much? No, you have seen too much of the same. In the weary traveller, knowledgeableness breeds bewilderment.

5. What you have to do while arriving in the falsehood of a new city is to arrive in the city as a falsehood. Envelope yourself in the myth of the storyline, become steeped in the lie of the culture, wrap yourself in the fictional history - it's the only way to retain your sanity. It's the only way to convince yourself that you are somewhere new, doing something you haven't done already, and living a life that you couldn't live anywhere else on Earth.

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