Readings

In de Certeau’s work, a quote brought to mind a Flickr visualization of photography traffic of tourists and New Yorkers that illuminate the city lines. “Their story begins on ground level, with footsteps…Their swarming mass is an innumerable collection of singularities. Their intertwined paths give their shape to spaces. They weave places together…They are not localized; it is rather they that spatialize”. It begins with the idea that spaces are somewhat meaningless without people. It is the inhabitants that make up the space and the footwork that make what the city is and is not.

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Certeau writes, “It is striking here that the places people live in are like the presences of diverse absences”. If a lifelong friend used to be a neighbor, your memory inhabits that space no matter who moves into it. A place that once was is still a space for you because it was once a part of your life. For instance, the Ave is always changing but I’ll remember exactly how I experienced it and where I went with who.

In the Situationist Manifesto, I see connections with the Crack the Surface episode and the placehacking website. It’s about bridging the gap between life and art and seeing things for their true beauty. These guys who run on their adrenaline to these forbidden spots and “unseen” locations are attempting to make the invisible, visible through photography. I like how the manifesto says “everyone will become an artist” because it means the expression and media output of our world will be mediated by an inflation of interpretation and ideas. What was particularly interesting about the writing of Smithson was how it read so dramatically. “Since it was Saturday, many machines were not working, and this caused them to resemble prehistoric creatures trapped in the mud, or better, extinct machines – mechanical dinosaurs stripped of their skin.” Like the aforementioned, their was a sense of artistry in the landscape or a story that he was portraying. However, Passaic was described from the perspective of an outsider. In Place in Place Of, their was interaction and collaboration with the people of Alexandria which made the movements more meaningful. The people who participated were actively shaping their idea of their own space and challenging its history, policies and character.

Down in the Dumps

Feeling the stress from school really affected my observation today. I can’t seem to concentrate or get outside myself because I have so much personal stuff going on and my academic life is out of control. Coming to the College Inn, I realized there were so many people around and I just wanted to be alone. Plus I thought it was weird for everyone to be here on a Monday night (thrown off by President’s Day so it’s actually Tuesday). I decided to order the special for Monday (haha wrong day) and got a Sauza Margarita. Unfortunately, I didn’t like it at all and felt obligated to finish it before doing anything else. It made me wonder, as a Mexican aren’t I supposed to like tequila and margaritas? For whatever reason it doesn’t sit well and I desperately wished for the salt on the rim to magically turn into sugar and the limes to turn into strawberries. I wandered around the bar finding empty places but I felt weird everywhere I went because it seemed like people noticed I was alone. I suppose my mood was emanating outward from within me and transmitting messages to everyone in the bar. Additionally, I was just staring everywhere so people must have been creeped out.

Thinking about my final project, I began to wonder if taking portraits would really be a good idea. Right now I couldn’t even approach people let alone awkwardly ask for their picture. Instead of my hefty DSLR I brought my point-and-shoot to make it more “party scene” but it still doesn’t resonate. Maybe I should have friends take pictures of each other? Either way it feels short-lived and intrusive so I need to find a way to make it more intuitive and fun. As I was thinking this, my eyes scanned for friendly people and landed on a young asian couple. They seem polite and nice, studying with their laptops, sharing food. Before I could pounce, they bolted and I felt the need to look again. Moving again, I sat myself on a lone stool on the “regulars” side but off on the edge so you’re separated from the others. For a good hour I was completely ignored and neither of the waitresses asked if I needed anything which was strange because they usually ask frequently. It wasn’t until Barry came in (a new bartender I met) that I was able to pay tribute to Howard and order “Howard’s Special” on the menu. It was a bagel dog with a side of mustard along with a pint of PBR. Chugging the beer, I became very self aware that I was with a race with myself. I have this habit of rewarding my taste buds with a good last taste so I forced myself to chug down the beer before finishing my dinner. However, I felt ridiculous because I also have this habit of pouring my drinks into my cheeks and then swallowing which probably made me look like a deranged chipmunk. A regular called Mike was from time to time, looking over at me wearily and I pretended not to notice. Gawd, I just can’t get out of this slump. I don’t want to meet anyone and I don’t really feel like talking so here I am in a public space just keeping my distance. I even saw a friend of my brother’s come in but I didn’t have the nerve to wave him down or say hi. To make matters more awkward, I recognized a girl from freshman year who I never forgot. In one of my first classes we went around and said something interesting about ourselves and this girl decided she would show her talent of barking like a dog. She was damn good and it was frightening.

Since my last observation by blog post is seemingly self-reflexive, I guess I can comment on how everything has changed for me. Like the first night I was here reflecting, I was able to sit back and people-watch; I was comfortable. Here I am again, sitting here moping, not caring that everyone is here enjoying Mardi Gras (the epiphany came when the bartender said it to a departing customer. When the hell did it become Tuesday?). While it seems I have taken a step back, I actually see it as a step forward. There are very few places where I feel comfortable to go alone (refer to “how to be alone video”) and it revolves around space and societal expectations. This pub has become a sort of living room for me, a place to sit and chat, have a drink and sit idly by. You can have guests but you can also be alone. I have ingratiated myself with the fellow barnacles and watched the transient groups of workers, students and alcohol-enthusiasts come through. I feel I know the place so much better now and it has become my own. I’ve met Robert, Steve, Gary, Ben, Nicolette, Nicole, Howard, Barry and Anders. Whether they like it or not I’m here to stay and I’ll continue to show my face to mark myself here. It’s such a wonderful place to be because the music is never the same, people are always moving and there’s plenty to keep yourself occupied by. I don’t consider myself a shy person but I am a victim of the Seattle freeze and I never go out of my way to meet people. This time, I pursued conversations and timidly asked for rounds of pool which turned out great and everyone welcomed me with open arms. Now, I feel more inspired to meet others and get to know them because I think everyone forgets why it’s so exciting to make a new friend. It’s interesting to think of how as an American society we’ve turned public places into private modular spaces. At Starbucks, you’re not welcoming your neighbor to share their latest blog entry with you while you’re doing your homework. At parks you might be taking your dog for a walk but don’t want the advances of another dog-lover when you’re out getting exercise. Everyone seems to have their worldly bubbly surrounding them all the time. I’m guilty too, sitting here with my arms crossed doing basically nothing for three hours. Nonetheless, it was peaceful.