Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Circles, Shoes, Revolution

People frequently lament the perils of driving in DC. I don't know why, as it is perhaps the simplest of cities in the world to navigate. It is a grid, letters North to South, numbers East to West, a planned city, planned by an apparent obsessive-compulsive, a Frenchman, offended and repulsed by the organic, fractal cities of Europe, the disorder, forcing a conformity of purpose on the inhabitants, a funneling of the masses toward the Capitol, the buildings squat and muscular. Many visitors complain about the Circles, however, in tones usually reserved for something unwholesome, unnatural, an abomination before God, those Circles, they force me to drive around them, it should not be, we could be here forever, hypnotized, hamsters on a wheel, passed by taxi drivers with bemused smiles, bike-messengers with dreadlocks, and civil servants. No matter how precisely I direct them, non-natives seem to always get lost, stopping at a convenient pay phone to ring for rescue, come down here, we have abandoned the car, it may still be ringing around DuPont Circle, we are frightened, screw our belongings, just get us to the safety of your strange, basement apartments, you Colombian hobbits, living underground, we know what you Godless heathens have done, we saw that you have sacrificed J St., gave it over to some alternate dimension, some sort of Druidic ritual, it has vanished, not even Dan Brown can find it, HELP US, all is lost, you fuckers, why would you do this to us.

In the late 50s in DC, when my Dad was in high school, he worked for a shoe store, which, as any Washingtonian knows, meant that he worked on F St., as by official decree of the City Officials, all shoe stores must be crammed into two blocks of said street. You could not throw an alpaca on F St. without hitting (and seriously annoying) three shoe salesmen. Thirty years later, I would find myself on that same block with a couple of dozen others, milling about a small, unassuming door compressed between two storefronts, a few dollars in my pocket, boots on, examining the decoupage of fliers on the lamp posts, a constancy of perception, sounds and smells from the gathered leather-and-denim around me, unfiltered, unexamined, nearly thirty more years before it all comes into focus. We were all skinny then, but wiry, full of frustrations, "...Face front, you got the future, shining like a a piece of gold, but I swear as we get closer, it looks more like a lump of coal...", our self-made troubles like prophecy, passers-by have all read the book, give wide berth, our speech is clipped, nearly accent-less, but the words are foreign, the language of those who have seen through the high school cliques, through the dirty panes to the electronic future, William Gibson's bastards, every science-nerd I knew had a Dead Kennedys record or Minor Threat, we will be the Information Age's seed, impregnating the future with the same screw-the-system-we-can-do-it-all-ourselves that begat the indy labels, hackers, pirates, Information Libertarians, self-educated crafters of an unintentional revolution.

More to follow.

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