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Posts Tagged ‘Walking’

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I walk at night.
You can keep mornings, with the aftershave of salesmen, rush hour…with the Starbucks lines and hair perfectly
well done.

(Mafalda says that everything good in life messes up your hair)

You can have the morning with its blinding light, its lack of nuances…leave the night to blur lines, to hide and to reveal.

The morning of road warriors, weekend warriors, commute warriors, checkers of life’s milestones – I lost count, and it is not my race.

Leave me the profound night, let me walk at hours of my choosing, when empty streets whispher poetry lines, if you just listen.

This is my queendom, let me patrol my land of empty office buildings, of Mexican night workers, of quiet and shadows.

The night of orange streetlights, of vacant lots and sleeping churches.

Of red windows, where the artists burn.

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It has been ten long days since my last post, ten days of travels, of letters written and not sent, of (re) search.

In the middle of it all, I experienced the ‘biggest blackout in the history of San Diego county’. Thursday, September 8th, 2011, power went off for millions of people in Southern California, Baja California and Arizona. No ATM’s , shuttered stores, nowhere to buy food or water in a world where, when the machines stop, the city stops. The blackout lasted for almost nine hours, from 3.30 Pm till just before Midnight, and it was all it took to plunge my two neighborhoods in an atmosphere that was at times apocalyptic, at others, surreal, magical, “european”. Beyond the novelty, even excitement, felt by some there were people trapped in high-rise elevators, in trolley cars over canyons, in mid-rise buildings without water. It was a time where everything stopped and a battery radio and candles (my only emergency preparedness) help whiled away the hours. It was a movie. And a dream.

Before I share what I have been working on in the past few days, here is my dispatch from the Blackout and some urban moments caught on camera.

PS: From http://www.nakedtranslations.com/en/2004/entre-chien-et-loup  nakedtranslations.com:

Entre chien et loup is a multi-layered expression. It is used to describe a specific time of day, just before night, when the light is so dim you can’t distinguish a dog from a wolf. However, it’s not all about levels of light. It also expresses that limit between the familiar, the comfortable versus the unknown and the dangerous (or between the domestic and the wild). It is an uncertain threshold between hope and fear.

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The night we saw the stars.

Full moon, venus, motherlight.

Flaws and flames

Not multiplied

It is so quiet

we can hear ourselves

If the end of the world comes

I want you to know

We are fine.

By Moon Light.

 

Read ”La Noche que Volvimos a Ser Gente”or “The Night We Became People Again” by José Luis González, a short story on the big blackout in New York City.

If you are left with a battery powered CD player when the world ends- and speak italian- you could do worse than listen to Caffe’ Letterario.

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The Flâneur: A Radical-Chic Icon

The Flâneur. Ink on trace paper. February 26, 2011

The Flâneur and his turtle in the streets of Paris. Digital collage. February 26, 2011. Background photo from San Francisco’s artist David Blumin. Click for his website.



Then I heard the phrase ‘Walk with a turtle’ on NPR, during an interview with Council of Dads’ author Bruce Feiler–and had an epiphany: I, too, had been a flâneuse in my early years. When I was 9 years old I used to tie a red ribbon to the shell of my turtle Stefania/Stefano (we are still not sure) and take her for ‘walks’ around my building and in the field of olive trees nearby. This cannot just be explained by mere coincidence or a sense of equanimity (i would take my giant schnautzer Zorro for walks- or rather, he would take me- and treated Stefania/Stefano to the same). By walking the city (ok , in my case the field of olive trees) at the pace of a tortoise, we are bound to pay attention to life around us, to read the city–not just skim it from the wheel of our car or glancing up from smartphones while we traverse sidewalks. Having a turtle as a guide nudges us to stop rushing. I am reminded of the buddhist monk in the documentary ‘Baraka’, slowly pacing the street with small steps , at the sound of a bell–in the midst of a hyperactive Japanese metropolis. The realization of possible multi-layered readings on the figure of the flaneur prompted a small research.

Historical evidence of The Flâneur? Or just man waiting for his wife? Undated image from: storify.com/virtualdavis/flaneur

The  Flâneur

The term comes from ‘flâner’, which means to stroll in French. From this verb Baudelaire coined the word  flâneur, a person who walks the city in order to experience it.  The flâneur is driven  by an  insatiable  hunger  for  passion; he  seeks  the  streets and  the  city  life  for they  provide  inspiration  and  cure him of the malaise and loneliness  of  being human. He practices mindfulness, or conscious dilly-dallying. In US they would call him a ‘loiterer’, surely shoo him away…or perhaps fine or even jail him (I always tell my students there is no such thing as the word ‘loitering’ in Italian….what else would we do in Piazzas!?). My friend Bruce and I were discussing the flâneur few days ago and he reminded me of  the symbology of the turtle and this quote from Rumi:

The soul needs as much time to wander as the feet.

Rumi

 

Baudelaire writes of the flâneur:

 The  crowd  is  his  element,  as  the  air  is  that  of  birds  and  water  of  fishes.

 His  passion  and passionate  spectator,  it  is  an  immense  joy  to  set  up  house  in  the  heart  of  the  multitude, amid  the  ebb  and  flow  of  movement,  in  the  midst  of  the  fugitive  and  the  infinite.

To  be away  from  home  and  yet  to  feel  oneself  everywhere  at  home;  to  see  the  world,  to  be  at the  centre  of  the  world,  and  yet  to  remain  hidden  from  the  world

impartial  natures which  the  tongue  can  but  clumsily  define.  The  spectator  is  a  prince  who  everywhere  rejoices  in  his  incognito.  The  lover  of  life  makes  the  whole  world  his  family,  just  like  the lover  of  the  fair  sex  who  builds  up  his  family  from  all  the  beautiful  women  that  he  has ever  found,  or  that  are  or  are  not  -­‐  to  be  found;  or  the  lover  of  pictures  who  lives  in  a magical  society  of  dreams  painted  on  canvas.

 

A Process of Navigating Erudition

From Wikipedia: Flâneur is not limited to someone committing the physical act of peripatetic stroll in the Baudelairian sense, but can also include a “complete philosophical way of living and thinking”, and a process of navigating erudition as described by Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s essay on “Why I Walk” in the second edition of The Black Swan (2010).  A Sunday Time review called The Black Swan  one of the twelve most influential books since WWII.

Benjamin  in his Arcades further describes the flâneur utilizes the city,  which becomes an  extension of  his residence:

The   street   becomes   a   dwelling   for   the   flâneur;   he   is   as   much   at   home   among   the facades  of  houses  as  a  citizen  is  in  his  four  walls.  To  him  the  shiny,  enameled  signs  of businesses  are  at  least  as  good  a  wall  ornament  as  an  oil  painting  is  to  the  bourgeois  in his  salon.  The  walls  are  the  desk  against  which  he  presses  his  notebooks;  news-­‐stands are  his  libraries  and  the  terraces  of  cafés  are  the  balconies  from  which  he  looks  down on  his  household  after  his  work  is  done.


Some of the questions I have been thinking about are : Can the flâneur be a flâneuse? Must he or she always haunt the city aloof and alone, or is ‘Flâneurie’ an activity that can be enjoyed in small groups, maybe of separate actors, each with his or her own turtle?

The flâneur is enjoying immense popularity on the Internet and blogosphere, among the hipster and (pseudo)intellectual crowd.  He is radical chic, a gentleman stroller whose eccentricity is afforded to him by indipendent wealth. He is a man of leisure who can make a statement about the bondage of work and busyiness: he is above it and does not need it.
On the other side of the coin, we might re-evaluate the ‘homeless’ people, the figure of the clochard (sounds better in French doesn’t it) as flâneurs without means, but with the same intellect and intent.  They also make the city their living room and library.

In “American Flaneur: The Cosmic Physiognomy of Edgar Allan Poe“, James V. Werner describes how ‘ highly self-aware, and to a certain degree flamboyant and theatrical, dandies of the mid-nineteenth century created scenes through outrageous acts like walking turtles on leashes down the streets of Paris. Such acts exemplify a flâneur’s active participation in and fascination with street life while displaying a critical attitude towards the uniformity, speed, and anonymity of modern life in the city.’

Hmm…Sounds like The Situationists.

A new interpretation of the activities of the flâneur appear in the writings of Guy Debord, the dérive also being a protest against the processes of consumption and capitalism:

One of the basic situationist practices is the dérive [literally: “drifting”], a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances. Dérives involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll.

In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there. Chance is a less important factor in this activity than one might think: from a dérive point of view cities have psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones.

–Guy Debord

While the flaneurs practiced ‘aimless wandering’, the Situationists devised processes to purposefully get lost.

There is no English equivalent for the French word flâneur. Cassell’s dictionary defines flâneur as a stroller, saunterer, drifter but none of these terms seems quite accurate. There is no English equivalent for the term, just as there is no Anglo-Saxon counterpart of that essentially Gallic individual, the deliberately aimless pedestrian, unencumbered by any obligation or sense of urgency, who, being French and therefore frugal, wastes nothinincluding his time which he spends with the leisurely discrimination of a gourmet, savoring the multiple flavors of his city.

Cornelia Otis Skinner.

Elegant Wits and Grand Horizontals, 1962

Watching is the chosen pleasure of flâneur. He is an ‘urban stalker’, as Susan Sontag defines him in her 1977 essay On Photography.  Modern flâneurs, let’s arm ourselves with cameras or a moleskine . Let’s pretend we are all ‘The Sartorialist’ and many, many other envoys on particular missions. Would you enjoy the streets of your city if you thought you were spying on someone, an urban detective, privy to secrets no-one else can know? What would the intelligence gathered from today? What stories could you tell(or draw)? What stories would the city reveal to you. There is so much life out there. And buildings are lessons.

Let the urban voyeurism begin.
Here are some useful links:

And, finally, my very own books for Parisian flanerie.

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” I have to more or less trip over work before i touch it”

John Wesley

(thankyou Karen for giving me The Times Magazine every month, full of literary/art pearls-see pg.147)

It has been a rainy, blustery weekend–albeit mentally invigorating.
I noticed my posts come after some sort of revelation, or rumination, or happenstance. It is almost as though I cannot wait to have ephiphanies, or discover new things and share them here. But one needs to live life before commenting on it, thus the days of silence. When I am not here, I am charging, like a battery, and keeping my eyes and ears open for interesting stories, art, individuals.

Friday night I meet an oceanographer/historian of Maltese origins with a penchant for adventure, who shared a video from his version of ‘Motorcycle Diaries’.  In 2001 (or 2002, I do not remember exactly, there was wine involved) he and few companions rode from San Diego to the end of Baja California, crossing a stretch of land, called Punta San Carlo, which has never been crossed before, by literally asking some fishermen to load their bikes on their little boats. The fishermen in the boat proceeded to wear lifesaver jackets and I thought about what my father’s reaction would be if someone asked to load a motorbike on his fishing boat. Even though he has a Suzuki street bike, I chuckle at his reaction. He would take on the challenge for sure. We discussed how the oceanographer (now living in La Spezia, Italy, with his gracious wife) should put the video online: if he indeed went ‘where no man rode before’ I am sure hundreds of fellow bikers would be interested. His video was titled ‘Lawrence of Baja’ (from the oceanographer’s love of Lawrence of Arabia) and set to some pretty interesting music. Through him I also learned about Malta, the Knights, the Crusades and a book that Lawrence of Arabia wrote for his thesis ‘ The Influence of the Crusades on European Military Architecture‘ (see, architecture follows me everywhere, no rest for the weary, along with discussions about Arab architecture, civilization in Spain etc.).  I had the occasion to meet some other Maltese citizens here in San Diego and I always love to discuss how Malta is so close to Italy, yet the language contains lots of Arabic words. A land truly between two worlds.

Something to ponder upon : Gibraltar (in Italian made into the latin-sounding Ghibilterra) actually comes from the Arab word Gib’ Al- Tareq, or Mountain of Tareq, who was a condottiero, or conqueror, responsible of the ‘Opening of Spain’, or the cultural invasion of Spain which lasted for 800 years and left us some of the most beautiful Moorish architecture in the world, such as Grenada and Alhambra.

SO you might think that a motorcycle journeythrough the deserts of Baja, in a completely self-sustaining fashion (and I am talking about plastic bottles containing gasoline strapped on bikes), inspired by Lawrence of Arabia (who himself died in a motorcycle accident) is pretty adventurous, right? Well on the very same night I also met a visiting British comedian who decided to move back to England from Australia, with his girlfriend, by biking (as in bicycle) across this land, camping (as in tent) on RV camps and refilling on fuel for the gas stove by asking RV’s to share their gas —since it was sold in five-gallon canisters and impossible to carry on bikes. I do meet the most interesting people and now officially feel the need for some adventures of my own.

My own brush with Motorcycle Diaries (my long dreamed-of trip to Cuba) did not happen this Spring, due to creative accounting on the part of the IRS– apparently I made just enough money to pay more and not receive a refund, call my tax bracket a financial Bermuda Triangle…So I have been pondering how it would be to walk throughout California, from San Diego to San Francisco…and what would be my cause?

These are the thoughts that go through my head as I walk home from school, usually in the evening, usually a 45-minute quiet, starry  walk, full of dreams, prayers and stories.

These days we are fed imagination  through the media. We are not really given a lot of opportunity in our day-to-day lives to exercise our imagination– most of us aren’t–and dreams are purer imagination, pure creation: it’s as if we are producing a movie every single night, all of our own, it is completely self-created and instantly created..

Groks Science Show

Dr. Veronica Tonay

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