Wednesday, June 27, 2007

It Only Looks Quiet from the Outside

"If only all the contradictory voices shouting inside my head would calm down and sing a song in unison, whatever it was I wouldn't care as long as they sang without dissonance; yes, and avoided the uncertain extremes of the scale."

-Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."

-Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Needless to say, one's window into individual selfhood is muddled enough without supposing any insight into the lives of others. Thoreau, however, was a pompous ass, and therefore pretty damned cocksure that he new precisely what was going on in the lives of the "mass of men." Easy for a pretty boy on a faux-sabbatical to a pond just outside of Boston to say.

No, Ellison (not to be mistaken with the the other Ralph E. of American letters who was bosom buddies with this ersatz-recluse) seems to describe any experience of the human condition with which I am personally familiar. Needless to say, on account of my interiority complex (and general solipsism) I take my mental and emotional temperature with a fairly nauseating regularity. That notwithstanding I must say this: Hank, this shit only looks quiet from the outside. When you live inside this head, the desperation's pretty goddamn loud.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Metropolitan Chauvinism: An Open Letter to New York

Dear New York:

You're better than this. You're smart, you're sophisticated, you're pretty (if a bit dirty), you're always up for a party, you're cultured. Why must you take cheap shots at everyone else?

I almost wouldn't mind your discussion of your supremacy. I'd chalk it up to narcissism. I wouldn't always agree, but I'd forgive you for having a high opinion of yourself. You're pretty sexy and smart, and you have a rapier wit, I'll grant you. Sometimes the truly talented and beautiful get a bit of an ego, and it's understandable.

But, WHY-OH-WHY, adoptive city with whom I find myself falling more and more in love, must you take cheap shots at everywhere else? Baby, it makes you look insecure. It makes you look like you're afraid you maybe don't match up to Chicago or Philly or Boston. Look, I know you and I haven't been together too long. I know I was with Chicago for a long time before you. I know it makes you insecure, how beautiful she is with that huge, natural lakefront and those skyscrapers. But, baby, you've got the Met and the MoMA and the Lower East Side. Guys who think you need a straw and bag for every beverage purchase including coffee. You've got falafel from a cart at five am while still drunk on a Wednesday. Baby, you've got a lot of things that Chicago doesn't. Look, I know, Chicago and I are still friends...and I'd be lying if I said I didn't still understand why I loved Chicago...but I'm with you now. So could you please stop with the unfounded cheap shots?

You always say Chicago's a rube, but baby, you've had Republican mayors for well over a decade. You say Chicago's uncultured, but that's not fair, you're three times as big. No, no, no! I'm not saying you're getting fat! Are you even listening to me?! All I'm saying is, every time you take a cheap shot at the Midwest, it makes you look cheap and jealous.

Except Indianapolis. She's ugly and boring. And Cleveland. And Milwaukee. And you can say whatever you want about the West Coast...'cause San Fran, LA, and Seattle....all total sluts. Not classy like you, baby.