A Travellerspoint blog

USA

On Leaving


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It is late June. Puffy white clouds perch motionless in the sky. Kali has come back from Africa. We've said goodbye to nearly everybody and then said it again. On Wednesday we leave for North Carolina, which I see as the true beginning of our trip.

I wonder how it will go. Is it even adventurous? Everyone knows someone who's done it before. And yet, for us, it is difficult and unprecedented.

(Once, I cared less. But then I became more well-adjusted, calmer, some might say happier. And somehow society forced its way inside, and here it is in my head, intoning intoning intoning. How now can I access that uncut, fragile, glittering youth who had plunged her fists deep into the world's muck? Thoughtlessly discarded, she stands forlorn, watching me, half a decade of dust between us.)

* * * * *

Three birds on our patio waiting, wondering where the plants have gone. Two take off but one remains in baffled wonderment. And then she too on the wing, away.

Posted by chschen 00:17 Archived in USA Comments (0)

L.A. (U.S.A.)

Strange to be back in the U.S., even if just for 8 hours. There are so many machines here. Machines to help you climb, to help you walk. Machines that flush the toilet for you and turn on the perfectly temperature-controlled water. Machines you maneuver to glide you to far away destinations over liquid smooth roads and in an orderly fashion. Machines also wash your dishes and reheat your food. As a consequence, I can walk in a daze and barely have to communicate with anyone I don't already know. I see when strangers do have to talk to each other here the outcome is often unpleasant, ending in frowns or, worse, an altercation. How odd that we choose to live this way.

There's so much room. It's all so clean and quiet. That's strange, too.

Posted by chschen 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (3)

Artist's Life


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I've always wanted to have one of those neurotic New York artistic families like Lena Dunham's. How does someone become an artist? Do you read Nietzsche and smoke too much pot? Then do you have children who you treat as adults at too young an age?

We went to some free artists' talk at the Bronx Museum today. It was just to be out somewhere and eat free food. It reminded me of college, and then I thought, But this is real. She's some kind of small-time artist, but she somehow makes a living from it, and here's a (albeit scanty) collection of people who appreciate what she does. It's not good to have too many choices.

I wanted to like her work more than I did. I thought that maybe if I liked it, it would mean that I understood something about visual art, that it would be some sort of initiation for me. Instead it just occurred to me that Jess should have been an artist. Even if she were a hack, or just mediocre... No, I guess it's better not to be a hack. I wonder why she thinks I can "make it" when she's so grateful her parents made her see she couldn't. Is it something to do with my flavor of angst?

Posted by chschen 05:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Bronx Museum


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We ate our way through the Bronx today. Not really, we hadn't the stomach for it. We ate at two places and declared ourselves full. Then we shuffled around the Bronx Museum for a bit, staring at pictures. I felt inspired and cowed as I always do in the face of people who are doing something. Even if they're old or dead by now.

I think I just want to know. Knowing and finding out excite me. Why can't we just be excited about life? Why must we also be doing something? Yesterday I was on the phone with my dad, and he told me about this 39-year-old Taiwanese guy who had gotten two masters, a Ph.D., and had traveled to 43 states visiting all the country's national parks. He had a minivan, which he slept in on his roadtrips, and he planned never to work. He sounded like the definite, albeit possibly unlikable, eccentric I'd always aspired to become. I'd do it, too, I'd just flat out do it, I don't think I'm afraid anymore, but how can I ever know? It would be lonely. I don't know if I could stand the loneliness.

Posted by chschen 05:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

The Strand


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I can't seem to write about New York right now. I seem to be somewhere else--in my head maybe. We crawl from one corner of the city to the other, searching out food and, occasionally, enthusiastically, those little temples to literature I find in the form of libraries and bookstores. We browsed the Strand today, for as long as Chris could stand it. Difficult to explain my love of bookstores since I never buy anything. Maybe it's just comforting to be in the company of so many friends, gently beaming their familiar titles at me. The Strand boasts 18 (8?) miles of bookshelves, which I found difficult to contemplate. (Certainly each shelf in a bookcase must be counted separately?). I thought: a dustier, more historic version of Keplar's in Menlo Park. Still, it was no Powell's. I know with these careless words I must be stomping on some old and sacred ghosts, but that's all gone now, isn't it, and it's not coming back. That's what all of New York feels like to me, pasting over all the character and tradition, all the grime and humanity, with anything that is bland and chic and new. Sometimes I turn away with an excess of helpless disgust, but then I always look back, oddly fascinated.

Posted by chschen 05:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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