Friday, October 22, 2010

my america

So, I'm sitting here typing and listening to Another Day in America by Laurie Anderson. The mid-term elections are 2 weeks away and I'm finding it easier and easier to disconnect from the whole insanity. Postmodernism has completely consumed US politics. Christine O'Donnell makes Sarah Palin look sane. Religious fanatics control the dialogue. DADT was off, and now on again.

I'm now listening to tracks off of the Koyaanisquatsi soundtrack, sipping a martini and wondering if America will survive its latest drama du jour? Though not a popular thing to say, the terrorists did win on 9/11...Glen Beck is proof of that. The country is trapped in a loop, somewhere between self denial and inaction.

When I think of America, I think of the Bay and New York, of the wide open spaces in between you can drive for hours and hours. I think of Jazz, House, and Blue Grass. I think of every shade of skin colour. I think of Spanish and I think of Hillbilly slang. I think of Kentucky bourbon. I think of leather and I think of men holding hands with each other. I think of women who don't need the door held open for them.

Those things are my America; the rest can piss off.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

ego and city planning

So, it was Labour Day weekend this past weekend. After work on Friday, I went out with some people from work, which turned into an all nighter (better living through alcohol and chemicals!). I think we hit every pub on Oxford Street. It was one of those evenings where the music from place to place varied very little, and sadly, it was all shit. I still had fun, but I must admit I do get bored with the Sydney gay scene very easily - perhaps I’ve been doing this going out thing far too long for too many years? Now that’s a dreadful thought...

 On Saturday I took it easy and was in bed by 9pm, but was back out on Sunday to do the whole bloody ritual all over again. Many of the gay bars here remind me of the ones I ‘grew up’ in...i.e. retro kitsch (read: glitter and bad hair). I sort of feel bad, seems like anymore I’m always taking a piss on Sydney gay life. In one of my drunken text messages to my best friend in San Francisco, I wrote: I. Can. Not. Wait. To. Move. Back. ! But I’m having fun in the meantime! I realise my posts on this site are focusing more and more on wanting to move back, which is probably creating a mistaken impression that I’m very unhappy here. This is not true. But I do have this feeling more and more that (to borrow the title of that Milan Kundera novel) life is elsewhere. I wonder if this is a common expat condition/phenomenon, or if it is just me? It’s that feeling where you think you’re missing out on your life, except this is your life.

I remember when days and months would go by without ever thinking about my relationship to the world. Now, a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about it. Perhaps it’s ego validation or the lack thereof? Strange as it may seem (provided my background), I never really thought about culture as being an agent of ego validation. I’ve always thought about culture as being something to react against, not as a means to general wellbeing. I’m certainly not saying that I think people of a certain culture can only find happiness within their own culture. What I am saying is that within situations there are cultural signifiers that massage the egos of a particular group who share and agree what those signifiers are. I’m not thinking so much about the cultures of different countries as I am of subcultures within any particular culture. The expat factor is simply an ingredient that intensifies the condition; rather, it makes the condition more self aware. Let’s say if I were to move back to Knoxville, would I feel the same way as I do in Sydney? The answer would be, yes. In fact, I’m sure I would find myself in a worse predicament than I do now. However, the difference is that I would know how to react against the culture in Knoxville when it sent me over the edge. In other words, when the culture was not massaging my ego, I would know how to correct that problem by reacting in a certain way, thus protecting my identity. I’m sure there’s ample theory written around this very idea (culture as ego validation), in fact I know there is – I’ve read plenty of it. It’s just interesting to experience it firsthand.

There’s an important element that I’ve failed to mention, which is way finding. Within the social codes of behaviour, there is the way in which we spatially relate to one another. Sydney is spread out, and the streets meander and swirl around. Within the chaos of city planning and design, there is order in the way people interact with each other - even though I fail many times to see or understand the structure, it is there. It’s the opposite of what I find comfortable. If you asked me to reduce my thoughts in this post to one sentence, then it would be: I miss the grid.