18 June 2009

These warm days in Seattle, this waking of a city

These warm days in Seattle, they always roll in slowly by the morning hours in a heavy haze. There are always sounds of grounds maintenance. There are always sounds of car wheels gripping warm pavement, punctuated by an accelerating motorcycle. The hum of the waking city like the drone of a heater, readying the vast room for a peoples bright-eyed presence, directed undirected wandering and lax lounging on needled grass, studded with last night’s spirited dalliances in drink.

 Move the can and see who notices. See if they forget, those who moved it to begin with.

 Another dip into worded wells. Another magazine to “catch up” with. Another way to feel in the world without being of it. Though as I read one G.C.’s letter of welcome, I began to think about personality, about business, about lives on the stage and behind the scenes. Most of the articles attempting to make sense of the economic plight—in and out of the U.S.—explore this backstage world that so many people seem to think is unrelated or completely divided from the scripted, spotlighted performance. The choices we make behind the curtain are the foundation for the ensuing performance. They are critically connected, indistinguishable. If not at first, than during times of perceived eminent rise and downfall. Because she is like this, because he is like that—with friends, lover, mother, children, home, loisir, partner. 

Even where you choose to sit on a warm day, in the city. 

Which leads me to a genius of a man who made a genius of a film about this very subject: sitting.

He pulled me from my tired lethargy with nothing more than the honesty of his voice and the images of people sitting alone and together, standing at corners, moving to a beat viewers can’t hear. Image quality circa 1980 New York City, the year it was released and the place—with style and manner and social behavior to follow.


People sit where there are places to sit” –William H Whyte


As a sociologist, Whyte studied New York’s public plazas and so produced a book and a short film about his findings. I’ve tried in vain to find a screen shot of his aforequoted finding. Applied to public places, the sentence might seem obvious—one of those simple statements met with no more than a nod or a shrug. Yet the moment the white letters appeared upon the scratchy black pull-down screen of that heavy-aired classroom, staring so many pairs of eyes head on with a subdued and unchallenging force, I thought not of the physical space represented by benches, chairs, trees and stairs. I thought of people. Of the spaces we leave in our selves and in our lives for others to occupy; of the spaces between our ideas; of the spaces in which lovers, friends, family and strangers might feel on levels both conscious and subconscious; on the times we allow for our own chairs to be moved, for our trees to provide the sought after shade on a stifling day, or the longed for protection from a windy concrete passage.

People sit where there are places to sit. Someday, little by little, I’ll amass a cacophony of voices—silent and strong— at home in the space I have to offer, refined over years of the prevailing sociological study, that is, life.

1 comment:

KC said...

Too true, V. I miss you so much! How are things? I'm in Pullman. I texted you a few days ago, but just realized that it might not have sent... So know that! And also that I miss you. I can't wait to hear about Italy! xo

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