Saturday, January 08, 2005

The Veneer'd World

What I like about walking around old cities like Philadelphia (or especially, Detroit) is the age and reality of the streets of buildings. There are blocks of businesses which look exactly as they must have in the 40s or 50s. There are some in Philly which appear much older. One gets a sense of the many generations of people who lived here. I used to walk through Detroit's Cass Corridor and see old carriage house garages like the ones in which, in the same neighborhood, Ford and Dodge had built from bicycle parts their first automobiles. Who knows-- maybe the same ones. I could breathe in the air of human history and the tragedy contained therein-- tragedy because each generation passed away as it must inevitably quickly pass away, as so must we. The idea being to leave some quick mark on this world while we're here. To understand history is to know the deepest tragedy, because the most fascinating wonderful beautiful people have all left-- Caesar to Cleopatra to Shakespeare to George Washington to F Scott and Hemingway, Pound and Plath, every one of them.

I loathe new exurban business streets which are so new, clean, falsely quaint, yuppified and pink and green fake-- like a Bennigan's monopoly chain restaurant. Veneered.

I love zeens for their simple reality, these handmade products of love and affection, expressing such individuality; done by "grubby pamphleteers," as someone once characterized myself and my friends. I like underground prose produced by the likes of Blackolive because there's no pose, no veneer to it-- it's direct and real.

The reason I have such instinctive antipathy-- revulsion, really-- to products like McSweeney's and The Believer-- is because they so well represent everything I hate about the falseness of our contemporary world. They show the same con-artist fake-sincerity pose as do the just-put-up veneered yuppie buildings on an exurban street. In the same way as when you get to know these people (McSweeneyites) you realize they're the same way; friendly to your face yet catty the instant you turn your back. It's the only way they know how to be. It's why they skulk around in the shadows under "Anonymous" names. Facades are all there is to them-- as with the cute but empty facades of their writing.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

King, it's Jonah Crassus -- just wanted to say that I thought that was a lovely, intelligent, and incisive little bit of writing, an example of the type of thing I read this blog for. Good job.

Anonymous said...

King,

you know anything about the Lawncrest area in Philadelphia? (I think that's what it's called.)It's supposed to be an Irish neighborhood. I'm a young, poor, struggling writer looking to move to an Irish neighborhood somewhere that isn't fucking Columbus, Ohio.

King said...

I've been here only a few years, am not yet a native. I do know that the yearly Mummers parade (good reason in itself to move to Philly) is a strongly Irish event. Completely D-I-Y; no help from city government; no sponsorship from Budweiser. There are a host of "clubs" (glorified neighborhood taverns) throughout Philly-- many in South Philly-- which make the focal point of their existence the annual parade. In my first days here I ran into a red-headed young woman who was telling me all about "the Mummers, you have to see the Mummers!" So I went, New Year's Day, and was blown away. An all-day party. Her costume transformed her from a simple shopgirl to a Vegas-style star.

There are many white-ethnic groups here; mainly Italian and Irish, some Jewish (I didn't knew many Jewish people where I grew up, but I find Jewish women to be gorgeously snobby; very sexy). Then there are the WASPs and the wannabe-WASPS, centered around the faux-Ivy League school of Penn. When I was here early I was told there are two kinds of poeple in Philly: Penn Grads, and everyone else. I worked in a calling room here and the Penn grads actually segregated themselves from everyone else, they were too genteel for us, though I found they weren't very bright. For some people, all they have is their snobbery, so I guess one has to understand.