385 Ever on the fringe benefits of ivy-leaf change in the backwoods princely otherness of The Other City
In Princeton, NJ ... in some dark mildewy hotel room w/ massive clumsy furniture. Started to read The Other City by Michal Ajvaz on the train here ... an intresting odyssey thru the ghostworld of Prague ... a city we've never been to. The Borgesian writing style made it seem like a South American city + being that we also hadn't been to Princeton til now we started to project Ajvaz's surreal vision of Prague onto it ... not that Princeton is a city, it's a little town. Very Ivy league, far more than our Columbia environs back home.
Reality morphs within The Other City + is not necessarily contained w/in 1 narrator's perspektive but shifts collectively + drills down w/ each sentence handed down ... from a purple book in an unknown language to a priest's nonsensical sermon to a haunted green street car to the very mechanics of language + writing on a typewriter.
... the book itself reflexively becoming what it purports to describe w/ language:
Nothing is necessarily what it appears to be on the surface. If u relax your mind then new meaning takes hold. New wormholes open up between parallel universes.
The Maphattan Project has been sidelined this week ... but went for a long walk today around Princeton ... around the University + beyond ... down to Carnegie lake + along the Delaware + Raritan canal ... thru some wildlife refuge (all we saw (besides birds) was a woodchuck ... but mostly we were just happy to not see people ... hardly a soul to be seen anywhere. Nice change from NYC. We did see 2 black kids playing in a sandbox in a park who stopped what they were doing + ran up to us + asked if we had any kids for them to play with ... they seemed sad when we said no, then asked if we wanted to play. Tempted as we were, seemed a bit awkward + perhaps creepy if the parents happened along.
It's late October ... in case u couldn't tell.
Also taking a break from our 'SSES" 'SSES" "SSEY' ... tho even The Other City references The Odyssey:
... + it goes on (the notes in the margin) ... in the margins where Ajvaz dwells, where elsewhere he says: «the places we call the fringes are the secret center on whose fringes we dwell. Nevertheless, Felix the reciter bird, who has sat on the shoulders of shiny robots that wandered the galleries, declares that this secret center is itself only the fringes of a more distant center. The last center gleams in a dream beyond a thousand frontiers and you'll never reach it ...»
... yet we continue to pursue it + why not, what's the other option?
Ventured back into «town» + ate a sandwich then ventured north up thru the Mountain Lakes nature preserve. Nice that Princeton has all this w/in easy walking distance from town.
Ended up eating in the Yankee Doodle Tap Room. It's downright scary trying to find food to sustain our spoiled palate outside of NYC. Panic often ensues when we read thru Yelp or TripAdvisor, specially if u read the 1-star reviews. We walk into places + are usually horrified by the smell or what we see on other diner's plates, or spilling out of open mouths. Or the kids running around. Not sure we'd ever be able to survive in the «real» world. Tho the night before we had a decent meal at Bluepoint Grill (hard to go wrong w/ oysters as long as they are fresh) ... tho the jalapeño-lime shrimps were disgusting. Why is it Americans feel a need to glaze everything in corn syrup or whatever sweet so u can't even taste what's beneath the glazing?
+ what's up w/ all the BYOB places in Jersey? Nearly every restaurant ... got to have the foresight to stop at the liquor store before going out to eat. If u live in Jersey guess u get used to it + bring it from home + probly appreciate it costs ½ as much. Yankee Doodle Tap Room is like the only place in this princely town that isn't BYOB ... maybe cuz it's the original pub, grandfathered in.
+ what's up w/ «Yankee Doodle» anyway? ... a rhyme the Brits used to sing to mock the backwoods backwardassness of Americans ... yet we continue to sing it as kids?
Next day woke up + went for a run in the other direction along the canal ... not sure whether the other direction is east or west, north or south. We've been avoiding looking at maps so don't know how we are oriented in the relation to the rest of the world, only in relation to our yankee doodling hotel. Lots more people out on the trail today ... these Princeton kids are so young they look like high school students + a good majority seem like they are of Asian or Middle-eastern descent (ends up there was some sort of debate w/ all these high school kids ... the types of over-achievers that would join a «debate club» in their spare time). Walking thru the "student parking" lot we were laughing at all the fancy sports cars + SUVs ... BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, etc... students! The road in the other direction gets narrower + narrower til it becomes as wide as the little strip of land between the D+R canal + Carnegie lake. Rowers cruising along the lake.
The way back found another less crowded way along the other shore ... + up thru campus. Our better ½ was done w/ her meetings by then so ventured back out to the Institute Woods, a patch of land behind the Institute for Advance Studies (a sort of think tank where the likes of Einstein, Kurt Gödel + Hermann Weyl chewed their cud + likely strolled on the very trails we were treading on).
On googlemap we'd coud see we were close to the D+R canal, but there wasn't really a trail leading there ... there was a semblance of an overgrown path, but it petered out into a boggy creek. But we had faith in googlemap + took off our shoes + waded across + sure enough we ended up back along the trail along D+R canal (which our better ½ hadn't seen yet).
Eventually (back in The Other City) we find ourselves in a library that morphs into a jungle. It all seams natural + fluid. «Covers were falling apart and leaves prolapsed from them, lolling out of the books like tired tongues, falling on the ground and mixing with leaves from other books, putrefying and forming a soaring pile of oozing, phosphorescent, malodorous compost, through which I had to force my way waist-deep at times.»
Then he meets a hermit who refutes what we quoted Felix the reciter bird as saying above. «Oh, Felix. Felix is an old chatter-box. [...] The curious secret is that there exists no final center, that no face is hidden behind the masks, there is no original word in the game of whispers, no original of the translations. All there is is a constantly turning string of transformations, giving rise to further transformations.»
... + the world turns ... seasons change ... we turn another page, another chapter, another book.
All in all have walked or ran the equivalent of a marathon in the last 36 hours or less. Had chirashi at the basement dive of Ajihei, which must admit was definitely palatable. Or at least satisfied our sushi fix for the week.
Also read The Tranquilized Tongue by Eric Baus somewhere along the way ... nice language, but felt sort of detached from it. Like something u admire from a distance or that's up on a pedestal. Felt far removed from any meaning ... which is not such a bad thing + perhaps the intent.
Next morning caught the Dinky to the main line, back to The City ... to the subway til it goes above ground at 125th.
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