Thursday, October 29, 2009
The Naked City
A while back I had a kinda corporate job. After a time, they made me a manager, and a while after that, they made me the managers' manager. I had to travel from office to office, firing people, mostly. It made me a kind of tethered vagabond, expected to see everything in an instant and to be mean without malice. I found out that to be really lonely in this world, you have to be included but feared; and I was certainly that. A city is like that, writ large. In a city everyone is included, but feared. It's not lonesome in the woods. It's lonesome hanging on a strap in a tube full of people trying not to look at one another much.
The company was based in New York, and I had to start going to their... my... the office out on the island from time to time. When they canceled the plane from Providence to Lawn Guyland, I had to drive it a lot. I remember the first time I drove into The City as part of my job. I'd driven through it before, but to be a part of it, a participant in its affairs, is an entirely different thing. I was accordioning into one of its many tunnels, the cars jostling and pushing their way into the maw of the underpass, and I can still recall the feeling of immense power invested in the place. When London was the center of the world, they called that feeling The Hum. I'd read that, but until The City digested me and I passed into its bloodstream instead of passing right through, I didn't really understand The Hum.
If you don't have a skin in the game, and visit it as a tourist, you might miss that. If you're a denizen, you might become inured to it and miss it too. But someone that's in it, but used to observing his surroundings with a bit of a detached eye, now that's a valuable guy to have around. My friend Gerard of American Digest is such a man. Bookmark the Tumblr stream of photos of the city he called home, taken right after the foundations of that city were rocked to the granite ledge beneath them. He left it after that, but he was smart enough to make an impression of the key to the city in the wax of his camera before he made his escape. Feel The Hum.