370Now that we've given up hope we feel much better: a tinkering pilgrim + man a machine swapping odyssey for home

Dear Internet,

Chilling here in Ithaca ... New York, haha. Not Greece. In the SSES/Odyssey scheme of things it'll still be a spell til Ulysses makes it back home to Ithaca. In the meantime we're looking out over a pond w/ frogs + lily pads + rabbits hopping around it. The frogs were going off all last night w/ their orchestrated grunts + gulps ... lulling us to sleep. W/ dawn, birds were thrown into the mix.

Part-way to Ithaca, J had to hop on a conference call so we stopped + took a walk along the Otsiningo river.

Arrived, then went hiking in Robert H. Treman state park ... lots of water cascading down sculpted cliffs, etc. ... we'd say in a «natural setting» but most of the time we were on a paved trail w/ an ugly cyclone fence keeping us from falling down the hill.



Missed the Brazil Germany game but sorta glad we did ... can't bear to watch any more. Tried to go to Moosewood for dinner just cuz it's «famous» + we have fond memories of the recipes in their cookbook (the original of which they don't even sell anymore, tho they sell loads of other commercialized 1s) ... but we were disgusted by all the families + kids + old people ... + vegetarian food is for the most part boring unless u spice it up like Asians do (we usually added lots of peppers + spice to their recipes). So instead we got a massive porterhouse steak at the John Thomas steakhouse, ha ha.

Been reading Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Anne Dillard ... a book we 1st heard about we think in an article in Numéro Cinq. In the vein of Thoreau, Dillard spent a year on this Tinker creek in Virginia documenting her thoughts, etc. ... keeping a «meteorological journal of the mind». And here we are documenting our thoughts on reading Dillard + exploring around Ithaca, NY ... which is probly 1 step toward worse.

We share a similar obsession ... to document or chronicle in words. Not sure we'd go as far as to say that we are «like a blind man at the ball game [that] needs a radio», but often we find a «running description of the present» running thru our head when we are observing ... specially in regards to what we will write here on 5cense. We've been trained to always keep a lab notebook (+ never rip out the pages!) + it's stuck w/ us ever since ... long before bloggers anonymous.

Like Dillard, we also strive for this other «kind of seeing that involves a letting go.» And that the «difference between the two ways of seeing is the difference between walking with and without a camera.» We've gone thru periods of our lives where we didn't have a camera or intentionally left them home on trips ... this not being 1 of them.

When we see the peregrine fly by our window our 1st reaction is to run for the camera ... but we don't want to miss anything running for the camera ... so needless to say we have yet to get any good shots of the peregrine except what resides in our head.

Like peregrines swooping by or making a kill, lightning happens so quick u often don't have time to appreciate in real-time ... but w/ digital cameras lightning is easy to capture now (just leave the video running while u observe a storm + later clip out + slow down what u need).

Peregrines + pilgrims share a common etymology. Does etymology + entomology share a common etymology? What is the etymology of etymology anyway? At what point do we reach an original meaning?

Dillard talks about insects + their behaviorisms a lot + ok her observations are keen. She talks about the animals she sees + certainly she says some interesting things ... but more often than not we'd rather observe it for ourselves ... or at least look at photos or video footage. This is where a picture is definitely worth 1000 words.

If u want to know what Ithaca, NY is like don't read this ... go see it for yerself.

Dillard goes on about starlings, a bird we were obsessed with during our tenure in Rome ... to the extent we published a wordless book authored by sturnus vulgaris.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is ambient + descriptive as u'd expect ... on the surface not much story or structure to keep u engaged ... unless u look deeper, like Anna Maria Johnson (the author of the above-mentioned Numéro Cinq piece) + map out all the connections.

Dillard says some interesting things about consciousness in regards to living in the present + the natural world. Then she says «self-consciousness is the curse of the city and all the sophistication it implies.» W/ this we whole-heartedly disagree ... at least in a city the size of New York ... personally we feel like just a drop in the bucket here ... hardly a frog in the pond. Dillard says cities are for novelists + nature is for poets ... it's this kind of shit makes us want to vomit on nature + poetry. Not that this distinction applies to us as we consider ourself neither poet nor novelist. It just reveals her ignorance, for making such stupid stereotypes. Worse is that of course she has to qualify her statement by saying she lived in a city, she knows. Reminds me of people that justify remarks by saying they have black friends or gay friends ... + if she claims to lack self-consciousness, why does virtually every 1 of her sentences start w/ «I» ... I saw this. I saw that ... there's even a 6 page epilogue at the end about how great Annie Dillard is.

We've always thought living in rural settings is decadent (unless u are a farmer or someone that needs to live remotely by necessity). Living in the city is the albatross we bear ... our penance for ever being born. If every1 lived in «nature» there'd be no true nature left. It's nice to know that 1 can drive 15 minutes outside of NYC + still find «nature» ... somewhat. Growing up on the West coast it's hard to get excited about it ... there's nothing at all resembling «a mountain» east of the Rockies. Nor is the coastline remotely comparable. Chalk it up to differences, but in regards to natural beauty the west is the best in our opinion. These little creeks + waterfalls are nice + «quaint» + there's lots of trees + «cute» farmer's markets + «rustic» covered bridges but there is nowhere to truly get away on the east coast.

We say all this as we grow weary of some 14+ years in the city + are contemplating getting a 2nd home away from the city. Yes, on the drive back we couldn't help looking at the real estate porn in Woodstock + imagined + are tempted. So a lot of this is us playing devil's advocate w/ ourself, remembering all the reasons why until now we've resisted getting a getaway cabin outside the city. Just like we had to recently remind ourselves why we've never had a dog ... why do people that love animals or nature always feel like they have to own 1 or that they are the 1s entitled to live in it?

The other night we saw Blackfish ... tho 'saw' is not the correct word, more like sickened. Humans are a disgrace + it disgusts us to be human. We've never been to Seaworld, but it sickens us that our parents ever took us to Marine World (the Bay Area equivalent) as kids. That's really the driver of why such an evil empire as Seaworld exists ... a convenient place for parents to appease the boredom of their kids. Why this is legal + taking your kids to, say, a porn film is not is beyond us ... surely your kids are gonna get more fucked up watching whales in captivity then they are seeing a piece of ass. Even seeing whales in the wild can't be for every1 cuz if every1 had to see it for themselves there'd be no more «wild» or maybe not even whales. Can't we all just watch it on DVD or YouTube? Antarctica is no longer Antarctica cuz suddenly every1 wants to go. We are far from innocent in all this ... we've been to Tierra del Fuego, we've seen gorillas in their «natural setting», we've been to Timbuktu, we've been up in the Arctic circle ... granted some of these trips were «for work» + not as tourists ... but still. When will we have seen enough before we realize the act of seeing corrupts the very thing we are trying to observe? Before we realize u can't capture something w/out killing it's true nature?

Anyway, back to Ithaca ... the next morning we went hiking in Watkins Glen state park. Tons of waterfalls, in a dark gorgeous gorge (etymology of gorgeous is «something adorning the throat», moss + water dripping everywhere. The stone-paved path is blasted thru tunnels + sculpted into the sides of the canyon, w/ lots of stairs + railings ... guess it gets crowded, but luckily we went early.


(beneath the falls looking down)



Drove around Seneca lake thru Geneva + Seneca Falls, then down towards the Finger Lakes «wine country» . Stopped at the Thirsty owl for lunch, sampled some wines + got a few bottles just cuz. Saw another waterfall, the largest 1 east of the Rockies, forget the name of it, then tried to go swimming in Cayuga lake but u could only swim in designated areas w/ tons of screaming kids (+ in the waterfall swimming holes there was no swimming at all (cuz of some big storm the day before)). Why not just let people swim at their own risk wherever the fuck they want?

Besides there being an Ithaca, there is also a town of Ulysses in the Finger Lakes region. Not that we have any relevant experiences to feed to our current SSES state of mind. There's also an Ovid ... guess the people who named towns in these parts were well-read.

Then to Buttermilk Falls ... hiked a few miles miles up another goregous gorge then back along the rim.




Also read Man a Machine + Man a Plant by Julien Offray de La Mettrie ... whose basic premise as the title would imply is that we (+ all animals) are soulless robots whose thoughts + actions can be reduced to mechanical programming ... a hypothesis so brazen for its time (1748) that it was published anonymously.

... not that La Mettrie's brand of materialism is lifeless + gray + austere as often portrayed. To the contrary he (as it says in the intro by Justin Leiber) «eroticizes nature as a world of color and joy, a blooming and budding kaleidoscopic biosphere.» In fact, La Mettrie is rather perverse (w/ a particular penchant for spinning semen into every paragraph), equating everything to pleasure principles whose ultimate goal is death ... («sensual pleasure has only one climax, which is the tomb.»)

Dillard is not squeamish when it comes to the birds + bees—she ruminates on such things as the sexual practices of praying mantis (talk about the ultimate climax!)—but w/ La Mettrie u sense he's not just thinking his thoughts but living them ... unabashedly self-aware + introspective. «The virtuous man has nothing to fear from self-knowledge except the dangerous thrill of self-love.» La Mettrie is a mad man for sure ... not always coherent ... + nowhere near the controlled lunacy of Nietzsche or Deleuze, but for it's time ...

Language + the self-indulgent «pleasure of authorship» is the only thing that separates us from animals ... he speculated that gorillas could be taught sign-language long before any1 tried.

La Mettrie was a trained physician ... back in the time when it was anything goes (in regards to ethics). He giddily talks of experiments where they'd remove a frog heart + put it in the sun + watch it tick + twitch for hours after ... or even cut open a man (convicted of treason) + throw his still beating heart into a fire to see what would happen (it «jumped up to a height of a foot and a half, then less high as it lost its strength in each new jump, for seven or eight minutes». All the while rubbing his hands together like the mad scientist ... another time he talks about observing a live fetus ... «which i have had the pleasure of observing in a woman who died a moment before delivery» [italics ours]. Yes, he is 1 sick fuck.

+ he was his own subject to indulge + experiment on or self-medicate (all in the name of science) ... «Opium transports a man into a state of happiness like that in a tomb, for it is the image of death. What sweet lethargy!»

Also included in the book is the essay Man a Plant ... essentially the same premise as Man a Machine, but even more heartless + brainless. The aspiration to be more plant-like was the topic of 1 of our very 1st posts here on 5cense: a reflection on vegetating. We continue to contemplate the virtues of taking root in 1 place + the curse of having a brain.

In an interview that David Ohle did w/ J.A. Tyler for BOMB a few days ago—when asked about the frustrations of making a living as a writer—Ohle said he used to have a bumper sticker that said: NOW THAT I'VE GIVEN UP HOPE I FEEL MUCH BETTER. We want that bumper sticker ... not that we have a car to put it on.

Oh + Ohle's The Blast has officially hit the streets.

Yesterday (July 12) we continued w/ our Maphattan Project ... systematically flâneuring our way south ... street by street ... essentially 121st down to 112th (21 miles in all according to j's iPhone gizmo) ... mostly SOHA (South Of HArlem) ...

+ here is what we saw along the way ...

triangulating west on 121st at Riverside Church, which we can also see from our home looking south

The above stretch of 121st street was recently named George Carlin Way cuz evidently he grew up on this street ... + guess there's some controversy cuz the church (not Riverside but the Corpus Christi) that was the butt of his jokes is on this street so now has this address.

another church further down 121st


towards the east end of 121st


looping back on 120th ...


not keen on graffiti on 120th (speaking of Man a Plant)


along 120th



the new Columbia student union (or «cheese grater» as they call it) on 120th + Bdwy

(We're putting the photos in order by street, but technically we didn't do the western Morningside streets until later as Morningside park presents an obstacle.

on 119th street


get your swine on 118th


church on 118th that looks more like a synagogue
(seems there are a # of these in Harlem)


looping back on 117th east


on 117th (now definitely in the barrio)


the virgen watches over u on 117th


«hope is like animal crackers ... it's worth nothing unless u carry it inside»
(... whatever the fuck that means)


also on 117th


116th on east side

116th is the main drag thru the barrio (Spanish Harlem) ... definitely a world apart from Harlem. At this point we stopped (per established ritual of eating something representaive along the route ... preferrably street meat) at Quesadillas Maty ... a little stand on the street. We got 1 quesadilla w/ flor de calabaza + another of huitlacoche. When j (the nutritionist) googled huitlacoche, we discovered the english translation is «corn smut» ... think Americans need to give it a better name if they are gonna market it ... + if u've never tried it before don't google-image huitlacoche or u never will. We're hit or miss w/ huitlacoche ... w/ Quesadillas Maty it was a hit ... as was the squash blossom 1.

pressing on down 116th


another synagogue-cum-church


on the westside, 116th runs thru the heart of Columbia
(this guy was ok, but a few blocks later some dude right behind us blacked out + fell flat on his face on the sidewalk, his hands twitching like he was having a seizure (also ok ... just a bit stoned))


back on 115th (east of Morningside park ... Ginsberg, Burroughs, et al lived on west 115th)


1 of many barber shops


block party on 115th


whole block on 114th under renovation


stopping for water at our favorite fountain in all of NYC (the bear + pan boy) in Morningside park at 114th


side of St. Johns as seen from 113th


our namesake laundromat on 113th


tree on 112th that decided to just fold confining fence into its flesh

 > 371 > Horror of deformity: Woolfish grin sirens stickballing + girdling grids + capes to spin plates of quahog all the Great White way to ride Woods Holey Waves


[  (ɔ)om.Posted 2014  derek white  |  calamari press   ]