26 July 2011

An American Fable

[1] He hailed from the city that is, everyone says, home to the worst drivers in the nation. Yes, the city that was the cradle of liberty (so deemed), original and Old World and colonial—reminder of how the nation itself began, an echo of that cradle rocked out of, a capitol of once-wasness. A good and historic "walking city," but always a fucking nightmare to drive in. That city with the illogic of its narrow streets that were not meant to harbor such traffic, not designed to aid vehicular progress. Successful navigation requires quick and aggressive reflexes, the sort that often frighten and confound non-natives. It's what's required if you're going to get where you want to go.

[2] And where did it eventually go? It all went west, as he himself eventually did, to the land's nether shore. West over the land once traversed by horse and wagontrain, and by railroad and telegraph, all of it part and parcel of progress, of expansion, of a fated and manifest destiny. All of it now much more easily flown over. To where—they said—it was now "at," the whereall to which everything led, the telos of pioneering and frontiering. To the ascendant domain of the now, the new seat of powers having shifted (and now able to boast that one of its own native sons was currently presiding over all). Modernity itself, its final destination: built for such things as cars and traffic, to fully accommodate its flow and—the theory had it—avoid the snarls and tangles and perpetual arterial clusterfuckage. Its skies and sun waiting all those ages to be finally tinted peripherally pink by a brume of ozone. Arrival.

[3] This culture—how unlike home, that place left behind, he realized. Maybe it was for this reason that he chose to play in traffic—to be a part of it, to disrupt it, highlighting its precarity and ontologic insecurity. Laying down on the blacktop amidst flares, only to have the cops arrive; or creating a lurid distraction in a shopwindow for passersby along a main drag. Having been volutarily shot and tortured and dangled and a number of other things, it was time he inserted himself into the city's bloodstream.

[4] And finally to an elevated and narrow stretch of coastal highway. There placing twin monuments—soaked in the very stuff that makes society go, what makes it all possible—in the paths of its to and fro, seeing to it none shall pass, neither comers nor goers, eastbound nor west. Ignite and vacate, leaving behind a pair of pyric glyphs—a blazing totem or emblem for the name and number of the century in which all of this, this modernity, came to be. Dual sentinels, their limbs splayed by way of alert or warning or reckoning, left there for the lonely latenight traveler who—finding his route obstructed and double crossed—could only stand in the torchlit road and wonder what on earth it their signaling could possibly mean.

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{ after Chris Burden's Dos Equis, Laguna Canyon Road, Los Angeles, 1972 }

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