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New Orleans back to New York ever searching to certify the act of searching


mardi gras bead tree

mardi gras beaded tree

.... after two days in the Big Easy, dear Internet, we stopped keeping track of the day by day. Not that we were there long enough for the days to blur into one another .. we just unleashed ourselves from the yoke of play-by-play chronicling .. just as we liberated ourselves on the first of this year of our daily quotidian. As we touched upon in the last post, we wonder about the affects of compulsive chronicling on our real lives (perhaps also why we are not on the likes of Twitter).

The last post was written under the influence of Michael Zell, who we've been hanging out with some since writing the last post .. at Crescent City books (where he works) or over Negra Modelos. He has since informed me that the 22 chapters in Errata can be read in any order. Catherine Malabou also says the same thing in the preface to Counterpath .. the book we read before Zell & New Orleans. A lot of authors say this .. that you can read their book in whatever order you want .. or even backwards .. but we have to admit we've never taken this liberty .. at least not on the first reading.

corner room

corner room decomposition

Such a nonlinear approach is also our intent in the writing of The Becoming .. or actually it is more of a cumulative, piece-meal approach in the vein of The Sound and the Fury .. wherein likely in the beginning the reader will be lost but as things progress, things are revealed that will make what you read before make sense .. perhaps. Not that it's a who-dun-it mystery, but it has more to do with voice .. like in The Sound and the Fury you might be asking why is this guy such a retard & by the middle or towards the end, you will be like oh .... & oh, The Becoming, like Ark Codex before it, starts with chapter 0 .... though the mongrel beings only count as far as 4 (which is 0-3 in their counting system). Come to think of it, The Sound and the Fury also has 4 chapters. One of these days we will write a post on the number 4.

We also wonder what toll compulsive blogging has on our sense of order & time .. not just in our never-ending chroniclers quest to have our blogging life catch up with reality, but wherein our online timeline has become reverse chronological for the reader. We suppose we get used to such things .. just like now, typing on this old Macbook that is still on Leopard, we have gotten re-used to swiping/scrolling the way we used to before switching to Lion on our main computer (where they reversed the convention). Even if you wear glasses that flip everything upside down, eventually your brain will just rewire what you see to be flipped 'right' side up (& then if you take the glasses off, everything becomes upside down) .. a phenomena known as perceptual adaptation. But is there an analog for temporal adaptation for those living on the Internet?

walker Percy: the Moviegoer

The book we are reading now, that will likely shift & drive the perspective of the writing of this post, is The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. As mentioned, we picked it up by suggestion of the Brothers Goat .. as a book that captures New Orleans. Of course there's the Confederacy of Dunces .. but we've already read it twice. We did pick up a copy for j though & we couldn't help sneak a peek at the opening chapter to remind ourselves how good it was.

Ignatius T. Reilly

statue of Ignatius T on Canal street

The Moviegoer is fairly linear & conventional, at least by today's standards. But in 1961 (when it was published) it was probably somewhat radical. So far (halfway into it) the snarky vibe reminds me some of Catcher in the Rye .. though it's not coming of age so much as a post-graduation what-to-do-now kind of novel .... Catcher in the Rye part II meets The Graduate, set in New Orleans .. with a bit of beatnik existentialism thrown in for good measure. The narrator, Binx, wanders aimlessly in the Big Easy .. in a post-graduation/post-war funk  .. so as such, a good book to frame our own flâneurings.

One day we walked solo all the way from the French Quarter uptown to Loyola university, zigzagging between St. Charles & Magazine .. where we met CC for a po' boy sandwich at Domilise's. Another day went with j & F back to Magazine street & around the Garden district & ate at some bar named after Ignatius T. Reilly. Also flâneured around the Marigny neighborhood over to Bywater. And of course around the French Quarter as much as we could stand.

At the core of what drives the Moviegoer, is Binx's endless searching .. for what, he doesn't know .. but that's the point. Searching for the sake of searching .. a wistful wanderlust wherein he goes nowhere.

«The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life. This morning for example, I felt as if I had come to myself on a strange island. And what does such a castaway to? Why, he pokes around the neighborhood and he doesn't miss a trick.»

This pretty much sums up our existence. Though certainly we're missing tricks. Fifty years later we still engage in such existential flâneuring .. or at least we try to in what's left uncorrupted of reality.

beaded tree

fake plastic goat beads

And what of search engines & their affects on our notion of 'the search' (in the sense Percy means)? Wherein we get instant gratification .. all questions answered? Where you can find somewhere to eat or navigate yourself along thru unknown neighborhoods where previously you might get 'lost'? Should we tag things herein for the benefit for those searching for the same things we are searching for, or should we purposely confuse so people have to figure shit out for themselves? Instead of labeling the above photo 'mardi gras beads in trees,' perhaps i should label it 'goats in trees' & instead of New Orleans say this takes place in Morocco? And then go back to our post from Morocco about goats in trees & switch the words to be about mardi gras beads in trees in New Orleans?

At the end of the day, what are we looking for? Walker Percy was searching back in 1961 & we are still searching now. Has anyone found anything?

picket fence

post-Twain picket fence

There's a certain disgruntled angst to Percy's tone, at times refreshingly seething.

«This is another thing about the world which is upsideown: all the friendly and likeable people seem dead to me, only the haters seem alive.»

It seems now there is even less room for us haters .. people have glamoured themselves to happiness with mood-enhancing drugs & take any such criticism as negative. Take the mardi gras beads, for example .. we think they are hideous & unsightly (but yes there's something to admire in this grotesque hideousness). Pretty much the entire New Orleans aesthetic rubs us the wrong way .. the purple & yellow color scheme, checkered joker tights, the brass bands, the porcelain masks & boa feathers, the minstrel bamboozling, the partying & carnival cheer, the commercialized kitschiness of it all, epitomized in those damn beads .. what bred such a disgusting aesthetic? It's the same aesthetic that turned us off about Venice.

But if you criticize such sensibilities, you are deemed a party-pooper, a grinch. If you ask people why they throw mardi gras beads in the trees, the answer is because it's fun. But is it, really? Doesn't seem like much fun for the trees, or the guys in cranes that have to surgically remove all the necklaces from the trees. There was a time when they were glass beads, but now they are toxic plastic beads made in China (the Chinese are laughing all the way to the bank at our mindless, commercialized stupidity).  Someone told me 90 billion tons of beads are wasted .. it seems this number is more like 25 million pounds .. but a lot of beads no matter how you slice them, or toss them. But like coach K yesterday complaining about students rushing the court every time a team beats Duke .. rituals will be rituals & you'll never be able to stop the flood. Idiots will be idiots. And it's not our backyard. We suppose there needs to be such places sanctioned & Disneyfied for such idiots .. at least it keeps them from our backyard.

tree-beaded steeple

the Magic mushroom Kingdom

The book is called The Moviegoer because Binx is a compulsive cinephile. Movies become the acid test for his own reality. Not that he talks much about specific movies .. for Binx it's more about certification .... though we think validation might be a more apt term, at the risk of projecting our own thinking.

«Nowadays when a person lives somewhere, in a neighborhood, the place is not certified for him. More than likely he will live there sadly and the emptiness which is inside him will expand until it evacuates the entire neighborhood. But if he sees as movie which shows his very neighborhood, it becomes possible for him to live, for a time at least, as a person who is Somewhere and not Anywhere.»

This thinking made even more powerful by the passage of half a century since Percy wrote this. The certification stands .. & here we are, on Percy's turf, certifying for ourselves the absurdity of it all ....

antique store

reflection in an antique lighting store

Actually, now we are on a plane bound to DC. We shared a cab to the airport with j & F, but then all three of us got on different planes. F's destination is Montpellier, France. J destination is also La Guardia, but we couldn't get a seat on the same flight .. her flight left 30 minutes before mine, from the neighboring gate, through Charlotte. Feels strange to be flying in the same airspace but not in the same plane. Even though my flight left a half an hour after hers, supposedly i'll get there just before her.

cakes mackenzie

Oops, we said «i». We broke our self-imposed constraint of writing in first-person plural, which we imposed on ourself to get into character for the writing of The Becoming. Or just generally to feel more self-inclusive.

no grid

Walker Percy's wanderlust is not necessarily to leave New Orleans. He travels to Chicago once, but it is with some reluctance. There is a danger of alienation that travel brings (per Percy).

«Me, it is my fortune and misfortune to know the spirit-presence of a strange place can enrich a man or rob a man but never leave him alone, how, if a man travels lightly to a hundred strange cities and cares nothing for the risk he takes, he may find himself No one and Nowhere.»

oak house

dendritic tree (to match the backdrop of the page)

But at the same time Percy/Binx is no hermit. His endless searching takes him out of his house but not outside of his neighborhood.

«There I lay in my hotel room with my search over yet still obliged to draw one breath and then the next. But now I have undertaken a different kind of search, a horizontal search. As a consequence, what takes place in my room is less important. What is important is what I shall find when I leave my room and wander in the neighborhood. Before I wandered as a diversion. Now I wander seriously and sit and read as a diversion.»

Call it a sign of the times (or our own aging times), but more & more we'd just assume read .. there's less & less places worthy of wandering in this day & age.

palm jank

At the end of the day, what is the point of all this wistful searching?

"Really it is very simple; at least for a fellow like me. So simple that it is easily overlooked. The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life."

root branches

everyday people live here

It is dark now & we are descending into the everydayness of DC ....

trolley tree

.... & now back in NYC. Quick switch in DC & then landed at Laguardia. A minute later at the neighboring gate, j pulled up in her bird from Charlotte so we were reunited. What timing. & here we are ....

  >> NEXT: AWP i: Ray Carver-ing the U. Eco-logy of books in Back Bay

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