New update on my 1000 MILES MOCAtv project blog!
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Looking out into the vast mirror of sky that the Los Angeles river affords one: soft inlets of light and reflected refraction bead in and out from each bowl of ripple slowly flowing and making their way down the concrete artery. What a perfect sculpture to represent a city: a concrete river of water whose contents range from being as vast and disparate as trash: paper, plastic, metallic and other cruder ruder forms, to various types of waste: bile, urine, feces, saliva, sweat, to those desiccated and worn out wonders of nature: fallen fronds of palm, bark from a tree eroded away in a fast water’s movement, those thin strips of grass (zoysia, bermuda root, rhizome, rye, fescue, saw and other varietals) which break root and flow down in changing currents, and finally, to those small pebbles both rusticated and whittled down into sand, polished like rocks moving against each other in a tumbler, doing away with the denser volumes and characters of their character; each pebble, each grain of sand, each speck of silt flowing deeper and deeper and further and farther down this concrete river, water like fingers, index and thumb, parsing the objects into further diminution, like every inhabitant here on every street on every corner in every car in every cortège.
Writing these words I can only be brought back to previous moments in my mind, as though each consonant and line of punctuation were somehow a step further backwards memorially and all I’m seeing with each letter, each word, each sentence are images from a previous day, a previous week, month, year, decade. Friends blur by with each adjective, family with each noun; similes, multiples of metaphor and verbs each push back emotions: Los Feliz Boulevard, in her car and leaving; the moment I turned and saw her face for one final time before walking down that hill, jumping off that bridge and into that aforementioned river, this really happened ; South Gramercy Place, coming to a version of home that felt nothing like the word and seeing all my friends, all those people I had grown to love so much - Dave, Joe, Harry - and realizing that this life with them was of some other ether not fit for me ; Channing Street, waking up in a room with no windows, coming down a metallic volley of stairs in 18,000+ square feet of space and to be so alone as to feel the very space between my clothing and flesh and to hear my thoughts echo out onto Alameda as the trucks rolled by shaking the earth while the planes of this past passed by above; I’m on the roof now and can see them, I can fit them into the small spaces between my fingers and recognize the deep plumes of space between me and them: winged ships floating in a sky torn with sun, cloud, and an echo of a sunset I heard and saw reverberated throughout in colors so magnificent they made one understand why we have more than just one eye to take things in and remember them.
Sometimes this city can feel like a country within itself. Los Angeles is and has become known to me to be the most ungraspable, unknowable and entirely solitary place I’ve ever been to. Never have I felt more foreign than in this place. These sentences are not negatives though. Within its ungraspable, unknowable entity is a city of discovery, a place whose very structure invites obstacles to entertain if one is open to see them as entertainments. Example: traffic. The very idea of people stuck in metal boxes on rubber wheels which were designed to make our travel more efficient in both time and space- is it not comical? The large and vast globules of these metal cores colliding and/or stopping along these huge and immense concrete veins- the irony and the beauty of such a moment. Everyone so close to each other yet spread apart evenly in lanes divided by lines of white paint. The contradiction is an entertainment. At times I think we should change these highways, bi-ways and freeways into stadiums or perhaps some giant stage, an arena where we can watch this vast river of entertainment eternally. There should be seats along the highway that form themselves from four post meridiem to seven. Each person in this theater having the same three faces: surprise whence the lanes are moving, disappointment when they stop and that daydream wonderment that is so inherent here. A beautiful thing to be able to dream while surrounded by others in daylight or sunset. There must be a reason why the majority of traffic takes place during the time commonly referred to by the cinema as “magic hour.” While I’m sure there have been persons previous who have thought of, explained and expounded upon this concept much more eloquently, for me it begins with that particular and peculiar Frenchman, Jacques Tati, whose magnificent film Playtime did so much to show me the wonderment of the mundane, the dance that is boredom and the carnival that is the carnal distance between two people who are next to each other but are unable acknowledge it. Through intricate webs and ribbons of interaction, he was able to show, in that one film, the unseen strings and lines which somehow connect people- that everything and every moment had in it a kind of humor, a bit of melancholy, but above all, a warming gravitas- that things were real even when they are not seen. That happiness is a smile, love an embrace, and warmth the glow of a flame.
Since the beginning of this project I have wanted, humbly, to show in various forms, the comminuted substances of the intangible. The dust of nothing, the silt and specks of time, memory, thought, emotion and information which float around us and define and divide each and every one of us invisibly. This is the reason for the round and straight numbers which have defined the project: 10 miles a day for 100 days for a cumulative 1,000 miles. The 1‘s and 0‘s acting as a mirror to those atoms of the intangible we currently surround ourselves with: binary. Love (to take one example of an intangible)- is it not the one thing that everyone has a reaction to, either positive or negative? What is it that strains and pulls us toward these places within our person, like needles on pressed plastic who, through various forms of vibration, scream melody? Aren’t we all the comminuted substances of our own humanity? Isn’t that what the individual is, each person an atom in this vast global inhabitance of multi-valence and multi, macro and micro-culture? How beautifully naive to think that that thought, another intangible, could sway the current current.
New update on my MOCAtv project blog!
For regular updates please follow along: here.
I couldn’t sleep. Too excited for the road in front of me, I sat up from the floor, turning on a light before shutting it off, having realized the sun had already risen.
I pull a book from beside my bedside, open to a page at random, and begin to read for a few minutes. A few minutes flows into a few hours and soon I’m nearly finished with the book. A slim volume, and one which I’ve read countless times, Robert Walser’s Selected Stories is one of those books whose layers only reveal themselves to someone upon a second glance. And on this Nth time of reading the book, after a time and awhile, I began to further realize and comprehend all the succinct proportions of his prose; how, in describing Cézanne, he was describing himself and all those other, fluttering, machinations of divination that the world and nature so nonchalantly exude and throw at us- like the petals of a flower, spheres of dew, drops of rain, or those smallest and still most unique spindles of snow whose name we have whittled down into two two-syllable compound words: snowfall & snowflake. The morse code of a season undulating within that most burdensome yet intangible object: time.
And I think of time;
6:26AM in Los Angeles as I write this,
9:26AM in New York as people are waking,
3:26PM in Paris as someone is dying,
2:26PM in London, someone has just found love,
3:26PM in Berlin someone is walking,
9:26PM in Beijing someone is working,
4:26PM in Ankara someone is praying,
4:26PM someone falls asleep in Helsinki,
6:26PM in San Francisco someone is bleeding,
10:26PM in Tokyo someone is laughing,
In San Diego: 6:26AM where my mother and sister are sleeping, and in San Ysidro, my hometown, the same: 6:26AM, countless people dreaming. Everything happening together like a mass choral fugue of simultaneously occurring moments, actions and consequences.
A circle, the same shape that adorns the face of a common clock, a circle that brings me back to the beginning.
To sort through the debris of thoughts collected over the past ten miles completed as the sky outside my window rises, hued rose and blue. And in those thoughts I think of Angela Hewitt, of François Couperin- his Les Barricades Mystérieuses, and I sit here in Los Angeles, listening to Angela’s hands and wonder of the wonder that I once had and have been trying to walk back to.
Traditionally, the act of walking is classified in the European sense as an act of recovery, whereas in America, walking is seen more as an act of discovery. When I walked in Germany or in France, the question normally posed immediately afterward by either strangers or friends was: how do you feel? Here, in Los Angeles, the question has changed to the much more curious and less caring: what did you see? And with that question, a memory: Alexandra Stewart’s voice reading the letters of Chris Marker’s alias Sandor Krasna in Sans Soleil where he muses, “I wonder how people remember things who don’t film, don’t photograph, don’t tape.” He then likens his images as a substitution of his memory before outlining them in absolute: “They are my memory,” Stewart reads, while on screen an old women finishes an act that three other younger women behind her begin: a prayer. With this remembrance the original question changes from “what did you see?” to the more poignant “what do you remember?”
To remember, I must go back- flipping through the images and photographs created during the day; a small rolodex of memories, each image a small rectangle, either captured through code or silver, they remain memories and moments no longer held by time but rather by that immutable non-time that a photograph has, that space between reality and memory- time stopped. Leafing through the numerous printouts, negatives and images I can’t help but remember a moment from years ago:
I had just landed in Fort Lauderdale. 80 degrees in December. Stepping out onto the curb, I awaited the moment when I could see those people that, although we had given the name of friendship for our relationship, it was and is much more- love isn’t even an adjective apt enough for what we all seem to share.
Several hugs, forty minutes and a few dances later and we’re all in a car, driving down the I-95 parallel to the Atlantic Ocean… and I wished that that short drive would never come to an end, that we could just go on forever, down an unmade nameless road stretching onward towards a horizon endless and as far reaching as those intangible quantities of memory I have in me, and above all the emotion- love, longing and that forever feeling one has when staring out a window with a landscape moving by in a blur of several miles per hour in combined multiples of ten.
And I think of those small glimpses of land, houses stretching far off into the distance creating their own horizon of roofs, chimneys, glass and the small squares and openings in which people enter, exit or stare out of in order to wonder, and I too begin to wonder- staring off into those drifting plumes of vapor which my friend once wrote a book about, those pustules of rain and air looking like and having a similar syllable to the objects they remind me of- a shroud, covering that endless valley of blue billowing behind that we liken into a small word of three letters: sky.
I put down my pen. Lines of light are cast on the paper in front of me as the sun no longer rises but stays steady. The Walser book rests calmly on my desk as people in my building start to wake and move themselves around their rooms. The sound of far off automobiles can be heard on the street as well as the sprinklers from behind the house next door. Beyond everything I can hear a muffled sound which becomes more decipherable and discernible as it approaches my ear- the vibration of moving feet: footsteps: a person walking.
Just posted a new update on my MOCAtv project blog!
For regular updates please follow along: here.
I must not have been more than 10 years old.
She is standing by the window in that particular vermicular light that seems to happen only when the sun suffuses through glass during an autumn afternoon.
She’s by the window fifteen years ago covered in an autumn sun coming through. She turns, and in her hands I see a rivulet of blood, a small line moving slow and thick down her wrist. I begin to panic and soon see her face turn from the contemplative wonder of looking out the window to a now nervous fugue of emotion, beginning with her worried eyes and continuing throughout her face and lips’ quiver.
My dad is upstairs. I can hear his shuffle coming down in a rush; her face begins to lighten, doing away with much of the worry. How the mere presence of a person can calm another. A bandage is procured and soon the wound is covered as she is brought from the kitchen to the living room. I get off my stool, and through a slow dawdle, make my way to the sink and its contents: glass, shards large and small, in various odd forms and phrases of geometry and the flecks and lakes of blood combining with those smaller droplets of sink water on the surface of its aluminum- an image which I would use to characterize much of my thought later down the line.
I am walking through Los Angeles, the line having been lengthened fifteen years from that memory. Dates are irrelevant, but it is March 31st, 2013. March 31st, 2013 that I remember that moment of the autumn afternoon: the light, her wrist, her look, my father’s calming presence and the sink with its image of a shattered whole. It is fifteen years later and for whatever reasons, walking through LA at this specific moment in time, I have stumbled back upon that memory. Everything seems so simultaneously fogged and clear that I have begun to wonder whether it is real or not. __________ And what are those great intangibles, those lost aloft forgotten things- time, memory, the moment and its denouement- where do they come together/converge to form something real, something true, and at what point will their intangibility be felt as widely as everything else?
It has been over 500 miles since I last wrote in here. Using images instead of words or letters. Days pass like drops from some vast rain coming through and over, in rivers and beyond specks and flecks of time that have transpired and transposed their small rivulets of memory upon and over me. Every day walking- those small fleeting glances, those looks, and the encounters which make up the entirety of everything: a delta of memory.
I look outside my window, sky black, thinking of things that can and cannot move any further. What river is there here with me within me that seems to push and pull each moment? What shards of memory have there been that have moved on in and over to other ether? Color, like so many things, is an apparition- much like time. And time, that small wilting flower of an object intangible, the one constant in everyone’s life- how it can seem to move so slow sometimes at its same second by second pace. Is there any measurement for the dead weight of time, for a slow second, a slow minute?
To see the world move by at < four miles per hour, to walk through it. Is it possible to no longer use the properly prescribed measurements we have been given for time (seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades) and instead use just distance? I saw her 60,000 miles ago instead of 3 years ago. Hold on for just a foot instead of a minute. Give me an inch instead of a second.
I am in my house now, 10 miles later, 10 miles since this morning, 500 miles since when I first started, and an unmeasured distance of time since that memory of fifteen years ago with the light, the window, my mother’s wonder and the glass shattered in the sink.
A record turns in the background of my present moment, the simultaneously stunning and stuttering vibration of Glenn Gould’s interpretation of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 23 Andante con moto, the last two words translated to “with motion” and the first a conjugated version of the present participle of Italian’s andare, the verb one uses to describe the act of my continued and continuing motion: to go ; to walk.
__________ All of these thoughts occupying my mind as I look out the window in the same light my mother did years ago (although now in a different season), gripping her hand, looking through glass and cut by another sculpted form of it, blood running down her side, my father there, her face calming and my younger self staring into the sink so long ago, while the I that is I now puts on shoes, laces already tied, dressed in white, opening and closing the same door before leaving per andare, per camminare.
To go, to walk: each step moving forward like some second on a clock, its hands turning round and round, and my feet - their steps - moving forward further farther.
The day ended and I kept thinking of things to say, things to tell you, but all I could think of were things that had already happened. The past as a person and my mind running its fingers through her hair. While cars move through distances once moved through by others ; while streets get repaved and worked upon like the faces of so many beautiful people searching for what Gaddis called “that Youth who could do anything” ; while rivers wither in weather without season ; while friends continue to move here and the deep melancholy feeling I feel knowing that I must leave them ; while children cough and fight one another ; while I walk streets already photographed entirely in books that are no longer read but kept behind glass-
and while the sun sets on Sunset and I think back to days previous when, without money, I walked to the airport in Brooklyn, watching planes fly overhead while kids threw rocks far and away in Far Rockaway and the A train stirred through its tunneled corridor, passing me with its steel music while passengers and people waited to enter and exit its structure and I have to stop writing now and just lay here, thinking of that moment and memory, sleeping under a tree, where, without anything I felt everything.
It was, what my grandfather would call, the hourglass time of day: majority of sun gone, but enough hours to keep working till the sand burns down.
I was walking down Hill Street, passing the several paths of freeway underneath me. From where I was standing I could make out the smallest forms of a face through each windshield in every car: people yawning, laughing, singing, staring, screaming and the occasional person with finger poked into their nose. Traffic moved slowly: an old woman’s hands reaching across a table.
I continued down Hill, eventually reaching Chinatown. No matter what city I’m in, I always seem to inevitably be drawn to its Chinatown. There is always the same lack of spectacular that I seem to crave- the small corridors and alleyways, the windows massaged by hanging clothes drying on a line, the particular odor created only when one has woven enough fish, garbage and soot together, the obligatory stares and the men, cigarette in mouth and hands held behind their backs, leaning in and over to investigate each and every thing that happens to enter their purview.
I wandered and ambled on, moving through different swaths and sections of stores, down side-streets and above and down staircases. After an extended movement through a small market I came out of a doorway and was somehow on the second floor balcony of a building. A grid of small and large pieces of tarpaulin blue, gray, white and black was my ceiling. I studied its intricacy for a moment and admired its web-like pattern; something that could only have come from a constant reuse and re-appropriation of various colors of string, tape and wire. A calm moment without anyone around and no sound but that of the cars passing by below and the gates from several shops and stores closing. A neon sign pulsed red in the distance; my metronome for the moment to pass the minutes.
I turned back and entered through the same door I came out of, eventually reaching the ground floor and pushing back on, heading towards downtown, moving down Alpine and turning right onto Alameda; I passed the cabs and their drivers, all lined up on the east and west sides of the street- engines and voices murmuring under a huddle of stray lamppost light. Down Main- passing the Police Station, the restaurants, bars and other odd buildings with either LEASE, RENT, OPEN or CLOSED signs out. Going on further, past 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, to where the street meets Spring and down to 11th where I found a bench and sat down, waiting for the bus.
I stretched my legs for a moment. Across the street, on a bench just like mine: a lone woman. We exchanged smiles from a distance. Minutes go by and eventually she is greeted by her children. A normal woman made extraordinary to me, for is there such a thing as a woman who is not extraordinary? Every mother who cares for her children, a hero.
The bus arrived, blurring all vision in front of me, an automated voice dictating: Line 92 Burbank. I got on, greeted the driver with a nod and moved to the back, keeping eye contact with her until it was no longer possible, her person shrinking, getting smaller and smaller as the lights blinked in the bus and other passengers boarded several blocks down- my last glimpse of her being her hand raised to a wave.
The bus pulled on, more people entering and less leaving. I stared forward. No longer looking out the window, but directly ahead, watching all the people sway side to side with the bus’ movement, each person a flame moving in their own random patterns of wind. And I thought of that woman, I thought of her over and over. Her face- as if she’s done everything everyday that was ever asked of her, as if all she had seen were the night, as if the sun were its own particular luxury. And I sat there, thinking of her and inventing an entirely different story for her than the one she is probably living.
The bus pulled on. I got off a few stops before mine and walked the fifteen hundred or so feet it took to get back home- not a cloud in the sky and no star to stare at.
I left just as the sun was falling. Sky golden just as the hour, and every cloud coughing out its small part in the pastel that seemed to glimmer before me.
By the time I reached the start of my route the sun was gone completely. The color in the sky changed to a deep navy blue, so close to black that it took awhile to catch the pigment. I headed down Vermont, straddling the sidewalk and smiling at every person on every corner as eyes met with mine and a wandering step pushed me forward.
A few miles further and I was down on 3rd Street passing by old haunts and buildings of memory. The unseen triangle of movement we would always perform from Monte Carlo, to the taco truck and eventually the donut shop. “Whatever just came out” were always the words to use at that final window. I see their faces now, Bobby with his hot dog croissant and Dave with his medley of various forms of dough and sugar. And with each step I thought of every other person close to me, rippling out small poems of performance on their own.
Pearls of dew started to form on the leaves on Normandie. I traced a shape on one, and with the damp air caught on my finger, pushed it further around and into my skin. There is something about finding nature on a city street- to encounter its whisper. A curious complexity: small portions of green reaching out through corners of sidewalk or walls of concrete, their shape having the form of a child’s scrawl or drawing where even the smallest breath or breeze can cause their stems to dance.
After a repeated undulation of movement, I stopped on a bridge overlooking the 101 Freeway, watching all the cars slowly wade around and pass each other. How many stories are there, within each person, slowly moving through these metal objects on wheels, passing by at a near or exceeded 70 miles per hour? I couldn’t help but smile at the minutiae of profundity in front of me. It was like getting out of a bath in a hotel room alone and staring up at the ceiling - this happened to me in Atlanta - and hearing every voice from every room make its way through the small walls and popcorn stubble ceiling. And now, on a bridge above a freeway, I was trying to hear those voices again. Strangers talking: A mother waiting with her child at a bus-stop / Two women coming up the stairs to the left of me laughing / A kaleidoscopic group of adolescents flying down the street on their bikes, lights flashing and each formation of their group another shape and symbol to be seen from above as they change from rhombus to rectangle at a stoplight / A man sitting underneath a lamppost, his face covered and coughing / Two planes flying overhead, one landing and another heading to some further, farther destination.
Sometimes I feel as though my mind is a large sheet of glass that has been dropped from a great height- shattered and recollected. The fragmentary nature of my associations with persons, emotion, feeling and every other sort of sort is something I’ve learned is not unique, though not entirely normal either. Thoughts and feeling overlap one another so much that it is hard to decipher and discern between what any other can be or mean- as if my thoughts, vision, memory and feeling were woven together in some unseen intricacy. A blessing to feel and see so many things at once, but a blessing which holds in it a deep melancholy as well. I am like a dog, being pushed on from moment to moment through my unbridled excitement to experience the same street on the same walk, to mark something here and to smell whatever fragrances that any strangers may leave behind. The melancholy comes from that impermanence of being; that my state is always one of wanting to discover, and never to settle down. It is the unattainable glass of water, for there is no liquid to assuage the thirst for wander, wonder and leaving. And what life is there to be left behind when it is a life lived leaving? For the near impossibility to have and hold each and every other moment forever- for there are always other corners, other intersections and other streets with their own magic and murmur.
I continued to cross the bridge, eventually joining the other side of the street, and continuing to walk, foot by foot, while meandering through the corridors of city around me, passing other intersections where strangers talk with friends, mothers wait with their children and men cough alone underneath lampposts while planes fly overhead to places their passengers have yet to arrive at.
It began slowly at first, a breath here / a foot forward there, and all of a sudden I was walking- further and farther away from that small one-bedroom apartment I happened to happen upon nearly a year ago and for so long have been reluctant to call my home.
After the first few thousand steps a soft poignancy began to kick in, my mind wandering with every step as scenery new and old pushed by beside me at a slow dance’s pace.
My eyes turned upward, catching the sky and its many clouds: different hues of blue and gray in far off corners and distances too far to reach but near enough to see; just last night I was under the same sky, colorless though blinking back its many eyes and lights. We were near a beach, some ocean. And overheard overhead, through sounds of laughter and “would you rather” were those waves rippling off their soft minuets ashore while other waves crashed solos through baritone liquid hitting cliffs with such a force that no hands and no cymbal can replicate or replace their current current. Leaves fell in the background, the slowest form of rain, and we pulled in closer, smiles linking up like a long line of string pulled round the lips of each person. Shadows passed by along with cars and their passengers, clocks and their hours.
We walked through conversation with laughter.
I returned home that night to find her sleeping. Curled up in that way she gets when waiting up for me. All I could do was think how lucky I was- how lucky I am.
The greatest people around me and so many more to meet and be near.
People say love is something that can only happen within the core of a person, that it is too much and too heavy an emotion to feel constantly, that it is crushing to be under its wings and drift for so often. I couldn’t disagree more: I feel it is a muscle, one that is constantly flexed and forever growing, sometimes strained and tired, but never broken like a bone.
To think this thought while walking. To see that sky, blue and gray, and to think of that other colorless one from several hours previous. To move from moment to memory and to inhabit the space of that place where that woman in that room can make the smallest movements while sleeping and cause me to smile like no other- what is it?
Steps : moving forward : onward : on.
My thoughts are like that- small feet moving across dirt or pavement, through mud or other forms of earth. Each thought forgotten for a moment, much like each step. But to look back, whence remembered: cherished. Like being back home with your mother and she saying to you all those things you don’t want to hear, though you smile at her anyway.
looking into your eyes,
she always smiles back.
* * *
A meditation and inspiration for so many from Jean-Jacques Rousseau to Robert Walser to W.G. Sebald, walking has in it a contradictory complexity, in that it is one of the easiest and most simple forms of movement, yet it allows for a near unequaled depth and sense of feeling from an environment.
From here on forward, for 100 days, I will be dedicating myself to that form of motion and to my working mediums of environment, time, place, thought and memory- walking 10 miles a day, for 100 days, for a cumulative 1,000 miles.
Routes are loose, but will adhere softly to the pre-planned shapes, symbols and portions of whatever sacred geometry I have been able to find while studying the maps and streets of Los Angeles for the past year.
This is one of the largest performance projects to be initiated within the city of Los Angeles as well as the State of California and I am proud to say it will be documented and distilled down into a short video work for MOCAtv. Numerous other works will be created and presented here before being exhibited at a future date.
New Shit : 1000 : 1
So excited to finish the first day of my largest performance project yet and one of the largest in Los Angeles’ history! More details coming soon…
Thanks Uncle Tony (@anthonybourdain) and Uncle Dave (@davidchoe1) for the amazing treats and night :)