ADVENTURES O F T H E C O N T E M P O R A RY S P I R I T This is a call for unrealised relations, a call to realise these relations, those contemporary and of the future, before and after us, to come and to arrive at.
This is a call for unrealised relations, a call to realise these relations, those contemporary and of the future, before and after us, to come and to arrive at. JOURNEY is the monthly, writerly manifestation to a series of nomadic, free-school seminars that are not delimited and are entirely open. SCHOOL is a space created by the sum of its parts and so is only sustained by that which it supports. It is a space of total experimentation and exists nowhere.
v. america WORDS BY martha mcguinn jacob davis casey lange elizabeth goetz susannah e. haslam
With thanks to Nick, Luis, Joe, Jae Slim, all at 88 Starr Street - Liz, Casey, Louis, Carl, Mason and Jake, Matt, Dory, Megha, Julia, Ingrid, Susan and Paul, Adam, Mike, Basil, Alexa, Don, Bianca and Isla.
MARTHA The first time I saw Manhattan I saw it curled and asleep In the foetal position. Its limbs were contained in a Neat arrangement In the water. It breathed heavily And it showed signs of life But I sat safely On the other side of the water. The more time I spend with Manhattan, The more I come to realise that it Is not asleep at all. Its tight shell is ever changing, Shrinking and growing And its breath is now a muffled voice That becomes clearer as I Listen and begin to understand it. It talks to me And I to it And as we are acquainted, Its slender arms reach out to me over the river As they do to countless others Who inhabit its shell Everyday.
M C JACOB
Now that I’m not gonna see you I feel a little stupid not wearing underwear, Camille texted. Her sister was sitting across the plastic orange table talking about some auction that she was doing at Christie’s. The halogen lights stung Camille’s eyes and her dress kept riding up. She was wearing her aquamarine dress, but she always forgot how short it was. Daphne saw her playing with her dress and interrupted herself: people are looking at you. Daphne finished her cheeseburger, half of Camille’s sat on her tray. Let’s go, there are weird people here, Daphne said. Taking their trays to the garbage, some tall African guy looked at Camille in a way that made her want to stab him. Daphne asked her how her thesis was going. Everything that I write is unforgivable, Camille looked at her. They walked out the front doors into the air. Where are we going? I am going to stay at Mamen and Papa’s, you know, I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow, Camille toed the sidewalk. They started towards the center. Camille had a place in the the 17me, but for the past week she had found herself sneaking in through the back corridor and falling asleep in her old room in her parent’s apartment. They passed an old theater that was having a series on American film from the 1970s. Daphne went over to the schedule. A movie was getting out and all of the people poured into the street locking arms to gab about the flick. Daphne stared up at the small printed sheets of paper, I haven’t seen any of these. I think that Papa took us here once when first moved to Paris, Camille said to herself. After the first few nights, Maman has asked her if something was wrong. No, Camille answered, it’s just quieter here. She would come in late at night mostly, after work when her parents were already asleep. It didn’t bother anyone. She slept in what had once been her room and was now filled with dusty Soviet posters and frames. One afternoon, she had come into the living room when Papa was on the sofa. You should probably go back to your apartment, he said staring at the TV, what does Mason think. Daphne and Camille passed an Orthodox church with a large on-
ion dome. There was a small park around the side surrounded by a fence. Late one night, Camille and Mason had been walking home and saw the park. They hopped the fence, him first and then her; they were surrounded by bushes. There was a small playground and a bench. He started kissing her neck. He sat on the bench, and she sat on top of him with her back to him and he kissed her on the back of the neck, running his hands up her side. Then, she pulled him into the dirt. The next day she woke up with a rash all over her back and legs. Daphne was getting ahead of her. She wondered why he wasn’t answering her texts. Camille’s legs were cold and she felt tired. She wonder how much longer it would take to get home. She was always bad at telling how long it took to walk places. Daphne was talking about how she had basically planned her friend Alexandra’s wedding and now she had just found out that her ex was going to be one of the best men and about how she was going to tell Alexandra that it was her or him. Camille tried not to yawn. She had been up until five in the morning last night looking at plane tickets. Maybe to Moscow or Mexico, maybe Morocco. The tickets were all so expensive, probably because they all started with M. She had felt that she should be rewarded for her spontaneity. For the past few months, Camille had been working in a Greek restaurant in the 7me. It was covered in fake ivy and there were even small fake windows with little scenes painted into them. Her boss was a self-assured older Greek guy who would rollerblade to the restaurant everyday, and then go to the cafe next door and sit outside getting drunk and chain smoking. Sometimes girls would come and sit with him. He would let the waiters drink wine from the back. Camille tried to imagine him sitting on the toilet taking a shit, or at home on his sofa reading. Both seemed equally impossible. An Arab guy with greasy curls had come in yesterday. He sat at the bar, which was made of fake stone and drank the sweet wine. He sat there alone for hours. When she went to the register, he told her that he worked in a supermarket off the Champs Élysées, stocking and unloading and working the cash register. When he was three, he told her, had moved from Morocco with his father. He had only been back once, to the countryside where his fam-
ily lived. It’s different there, he said, people still die of hunger. When she was at a table, he left a big tip without saying goodbye. Camille and Daphne had grown up in the countryside with their mother. Father was gone most of the time because he was in the Navy. Once, he wrote to them, he had got trapped out on a raft and almost died of dehydration. But since had gotten back he biked and ran mostly and gone into business with some friends in Russia. They had been comfortable since. After they moved into the city, and gotten a big place in the 6me filled with cream-colored furniture and a big tapestry of a unicorn on the wall. Camille never felt like it was home. Sometimes she would imagine coming back to find that he bed had been transformed into a sofa. But it never happened. When she and Daphne were around the corner from the apartment Mason texted her. I’m already home, sorry, maybe next time. She did not know if she believed him. She thought about texting him back, but then couldn’t think of what to say. She could never tell if he was being passive aggressive in texts. She read it again and then put her phone in her purse. When they got to the apartment, Daphne kissed Camille and then turned to her and asked if she was alright. Oui, ca va. Daphne left. Camille sat outside on the stoop for a while longer looking at the text. In the summer, she and Mason had decided to go to Versailles. It was not far from her country house, which was once her real house. She told him that when she was a kid she would go into town to see movies with her mother and sister. By the time they got there, the castle was closed and it was raining slightly. They wandered around the garden and there was almost no one there except for a few joggers. They found some horses and sheep; one of them looked at her hungrily. Mary Antoinette had wanted to become a shepherdess, so she kept lots of sheep. But everyone else would do all the work; she would just show up and drink a glass of warm milk. People started getting angry about this, she told him. As they walked through the garden Camille had told Mason about the different types of trees and plants. Then they were hungry so they drove around looking for something to eat. There was a McDonalds, but couldn’t find anywhere to park. So they drove back to Paris.
Camille closed her phone and opened the large blue doors and walked through the dark corridor. She passed the main entrance and entered the internal garden. She made her way to the right, and found the second set of doors. Going in, she passed the first apartment in the darkened hall and found the stairwell. Starting to climb, her hand avoided the glowing switch on each floor. She liked walking up in the dark better. When she got the the fifth floor, she went to the door, fit her key into it, and opened quietly. It was dark. She felt her way to the back bathroom and turned on the light. Looking in the mirror, she could not even recognize herself. She looked like she was a hundred years old. She had such deep bags under her eyes that it looked like there were two fried eggs on her face. She touched her face, but it was not her own. Mason had been in some class with her at univeristy on the Russian imaginary. One day after class he had asked her to go to a exhibit at the Jeu de Paume where there was a show by this Hungarian feminist photographer. They walked around the exhibit; she would get a bit ahead of him, then he would catch up. Camille really liked one photograph of a small gypsy boy carrying a cello. It was shot from behind and the cello was even bigger than they boy. He liked it too. Then they had gone out for a drink at a cafe. He had looked at her hands. Everyone always said that her hands were old. You have the hands of a sorceresses, he said, can you see the future? Not the future, the present, which is more than most. He paid for their drinks. Camille turned off the bathroom light and tiptoed toward her room. It was already past two, but she could hear something in the living room. She crept over. The lights were off and the room was illuminated by the blue-green light of the TV. He father was sitting on the sofa. What are you watching? she whispered. Casablanca, he turned towards her. She went over and sat down. She had not seen the movie in years, but she remembered it perfectly. It was the part where Renault is going to sleep with the young girl and Rick helps her win money for an exit visa.
Annina Oh, Monsieur, you are a man. If someone loved you very much, so that your happiness was the only thing that she wanted in the whole world, but she did a bad thing to make certain of it. Could you forgive her? Rick stares into space. Annina And he never knew, and this girl kept this bad thing locked away in her heart? That would be all right wouldnâ€™t it? Rick You want my advice? Annina
Oh, yes, please.
Rick Go back to Bulgaria.
GETTING CASEY (cf.: us;
thinking being like
of everyone as a everyone else and happy
TRUTH LANGE for
I used to strenuously avoid any sort of emotional or life-philosophical message in what I called pop-culture -- all songs, books, movies, etc., except for those I was exposed to thorough a VERY narrow circle of those I felt I could “trust”.1 This morning Cat sang a Sheryl Crow song that I had heard on the radio lots of times when I was a kid and teenager, the one with the chorus “Every day is a winding road. (…Get a little bit closer.)” Like with lot of songs on the radio when I was a kid/teenager, I didn’t really listen to it, and only caught that part of the chorus, which I dismissed as sort of a sappy cliché. But the problem with clichés, of course, is not that they are necessarily false (sometimes they are); it’s that you can’t trust them. That’s because they are so well-known, so close-to-hand, that you can’t ever be sure that the person uttering them means them. They might just be using the phrase to achieve a certain effect. They might even be basically trying to speak sincerely, to simply describe a feeling or experience, but because the cliché is so close-by and says something roughly like what they want to express, they use the cliché instead of actually expressing themselves. So when you hear someone use a cliché you think that either they’re lying, or that they’ve misrepresented, maybe even misunderstood their own experience, so either way you know you can’t take them at their word. That’s still true for clichés, but the thing was that I extended that skeptical reasoning to pretty much all statements about feelings and psychology and what life is like. *
Now assuming that I’ve really turned around and become more openminded, there are some practical impplcations on both the productive and receptive ends: 1) On the receptive end: Again, this is probably fairly clear already. Now, at least when I’m not feeling especially grim or bitter or inse-
cure, things more often strike me as containing potential truth, etc. 2) On the Productive end: Write as if everything you write will be understood, will be understandable, will be relatable. Instead of “I noticed this marvelous change happen in me!” which can be kind of alienating. But I’m only saying that, really, based on my experiences of reading OTHER people’s writing -- like some friends of mine’s, or stuff on Thought Catalog (and a lot of that stuff, even if it’s written in the second person it’s so transparently about the author from a standpoint of exclusionary self-fascination). Back when I was greedy about truth, I would read something like that and think “Hey wait a minute, you’re not so special, where do you get off thinking you’re so special? I’ve had that experience/ thought/feeling, or if not I am surely just about to.” And there would be some not-necessarily-consistent motivations behind this. 1. Disappointment and resentment at learning that I wasn’t special for having this experience. This is obviously the worst one. 2. Feeling rather that anyone meeting a certain quota of cleverness, observantness, and reflectiveness would come to that experience, so it is misleading and vain or something to act special for it. 3. Feeling that I was on the verge of finding that experience on my own, first-hand, and don’t want to have any preconceptions about it, and don’t my experience to be shaped by someone else’s. I’m a hypocrite though of course: even when I’d be writing some experience like that, wouldn’t I be actually hoping for someone to say “Yes, I know that, that’s what life is like! But I’ve never been able to really think about it or appreciate it or think of it as part of myself, because I couldn’t put it into words.” That or “Now I feel like I’m not alone! That is, I know that I wasn’t just imagining it because I wanted it to be true, I don’t need to be embarrassed to talk about it without laughing it off as fancy.” There was also a time when I’d be pretty polemically in favor of people thinking they are different and special and unique, including, better than other people. And I would have a hard time explaining exacty why, I distinctly remember, aside from explana-
tions like “Well, you need to” or “All great things come out of that.” And like, in a Nietzschean or Randian sense I’m still not opposed to that way of thinking. Like I don’t condemn it at all for its own sake or think there’s anything immoral or despicable about it. What I’m against is being wrong, getting things wrong. *
Things I have mentioned: How I used to think that I had, so to speak, some sort of privileged access to emotional/lifephilosophical truths. How therefore, and which reinforced this belief, I would pass over items in pop culture, and really just in most of culture, if we take a moment to understand that culture at its most basic is just the people around you saying stuff – I would pass over any emotional or lifephilosophical expressions/claims/observations as cliché or shallow ��� either not applicable to me whether or not it was true for the expresser, because I am different (deeper or something) than them; or, not even applicable to the expresser her/himself, because they are not very observant or reflective, and so they were just mouthing phrases that they had behavioristically learned to say about certain situations, or expressing an emotion because it was commonly though that one would feel that emotion in that situation. (That last alternative goes to a deeper concern: that even if the expressions were sincere, the feelings were not at all necessary, necessitated: the thought that if the subject had thought harder or more clearly about their situation, they would have realized it was not a good reason to be e.g. sad/jealous/angry. This is another way of saying that (I thought that) the thoughts and feelings were too shallow – or: too animal, too instinctive – for me to really relate to. What else have I mentioned? Well something I was getting to anyway is how (not only that, but how, somehow) I have becoming more open to such expressions. This has to do both with a general shift toward openness and humility, but also has to do with acknowledging that there are a lot of experiences I have not yet had—and a lot of positions in life from which to experience that I have not occupied— and importantly, experiences and positions that I now acknowledge that I very well could and may soon have/occupy—this awareness brought on in particular by having a few of those experiences that
I thought only happened to people different (howsoever) from me— and sometimes the reason that I think I can’t relate to someone’s reaction to an experience is just that I haven’t yet been in their shoes. 1
This circle wasn’t entirely arbitrary, even though it was largely taken on authority from people
close around me: I had some sort of criterion, I guess, by which something could persuade me that it was trustworthy.
That is, there were things that simply spoke to me when I found them independently.
In Chicago, you drink at a bar called Jimmy’s. It is the city where everything important that has ever happened to you has happened. Regarding Chicago, you know its reality is better than the mythology surrounding it, but with Boston you can never decide. Your ancestors are from there; most of your friends and relations have gone to school there at some point or another, and learned enough to report back. It’s an Olympus whose panoply ranges from Mother Goose to David Foster Wallace. Its Chinatown is far superior to the one along Canal Street in Manhattan. When you take the Fung Wah or one of the other Chinatown buses from Canal Street in New York to South Station in Boston, the return trip is accompanied by superior Chinese pastries--buns with the meats of multiple animals inside, baked in the shade of Tufts Medical Center. Last year when I rode the Fung Wah north with Cat, we scurried across the aisle once the moon rose and we realized the lefthand side would have a better view of it. Cat sang me “Blue Moon,” which made me think of the time she and Austin sang me “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” at Spuyten Duyvil. Then we changed the words to “My Favorite Things” to be about all of our friends (these are a few things that don’t rhyme with Sam). My flask leaked whiskey on my best plaid shirt inside my backpack and we decided that pastries topped with pork shavings were sort of a bad deal: they turned out to be filled with mayonnaise. We got to Somerville and drank green Portuguese wine. The next day I strung Cat a crown of dandelions while she and Lucas and I laid on the grass in Cambridge Common waiting for Kate to show up. On Tuesday evening, Casey and I realized we ought to go to Boston soon, since we are reading Infinite Jest and DFW keeps talking about Comm. Ave. and Boylston St. and we’ve probably been on Boylston at some point in our lives because all our friends are always in Boston (is Bo’ston just a contraction for Boylston? Casey asks me and Kate) when they’re not in Brooklyn or Chicago, but who was actually aware of its importance at the time? Not I. And then on Wednesday afternoon, Kate told Casey and me she was going to go to Guatemala next week, so if we wanted to see her in Boston this summer, now was the time. We reneged on our appointment to
make rhubarb crumble or maybe it was going to be minty rhubarb soup with Brandon and Marcel, and Casey writes me from work a list of things I should pack for him. He wants his “toothbrush from the ugly bathroom (the one with the gelly tonguecleaner surface on back the brush),” his phone charger, his pajama pants, and his glasses case. I also pack us rainbow salad made with every vegetable left in the fridge, minus the rhubarb and radishes and plus some chickpeas, and slice us some bread from the loaf our roommate Louis made last night. I pack my flask, though it’s empty, my Swiss Army knife, and my Nalgene, though my mother worries it will give me cancer. Lucas calls me; he just got my e-mail--I’d forwarded my Fung Wah receipt; typing a new message seemed like it would take too much time--had I really reserved tickets on the Chinatown bus? Yeah, I know that’s antithetical to the nature of the Fung Wah, but we kind of needed to do this. Is he in town? Yeah, but he has two guests over right now, so we can’t stay with him. That’s okay; we already figured out we could stay with Kate; she’s already told her mother we’ll be coming over for dinner tomorrow for her little sister’s college graduation party. I call Mike and Hannah from the elevated train on my way into Manhattan; will they be around? Yeah, maybe we’ll hang on Friday. I get off the J train at Canal. Casey is calling me; he is already at the bus station, which is really more of a strip of sidewalk. We don’t have a printer, so I have to insist to the ticket-taker that we actually are the order listed under Elizabeth Goetz. He writes us out a makeshift ticket in blue ballpoint Chinese characters that I can’t read. Casey wriggles his bike into the luggage compartment under the bus, because this seems wiser than leaving it locked to a No Parking sign on the Bowery, and we give our ticket to the lady by the door. There are no pairs of seats left, and I have to approach multiple other passengers to ask whether we might be able to trade seats with them so we can sit next to each other before I find one who speaks English.
LESS THAN SUSANNAH
We taxied from Chicago to New York City after nearly speeding to our deaths in a small car one the week previous, on our way to Chicago. When I couldn’t sleep, it was because I thought I was going to die; I was frightened into this recurring climactical mess of feeling my own and our collective deaths, via the inescapable crushing that a freight train passing incurs. The magnetic battle of exhileration for air, between the two trains seemed to unerve me in a similar way to the heavy repeatition and simplistic layering of beats in a Kraftwerk song; I am on a train, I am listening to John Talabot. I have been here for twelve hours. It’s New York in the summertime; I made the summertime. Wideeyed and bushy-tailed, jaded by another city’s weight, still trying to find things to do. I wanted to feel as though I was a man of the world, but I still can’t shake the dusty, waxy and gloopy overcoat of (a) winter’s past/passed. Do you all feel like this too? You are welcoming, but I am not. I want to feel welcome without feeling as though I don’t want to appear welcome. I take the coat with me even though it’s about 32 degrees hotter with it about me. What’s good, is that you can see nature doing stuff, you’re not blinkered, like I guess I am somewhere else, not here though, maybe. I am crushed, but then i’m not. We traversed a countryside that was not disimilar to that which I was born into; that was breathtaking, how can everything exist in duplicate? It’s difficult enough coming to a new place with a critical hat on, the size of two cities atop of one another, reflected; but to leave the city and see that the whole world is just an endless comic strip of the same jokes and characters, differenced only by those speaking in and with different tongues, that really is too much when all you need is to see a new colour for a small crystal of sanctuary. There must be new colours; I maintain that there exists an endless pallette of colours, colour is not exhaustive, colour is born in birth
and birthing and is in constant becoming. Sacrifice and the city; we all do it, but some believe in it more, some enjoy it more, some can take it more. I take it more, we’re taking it more. Many believe they enjoy it more, can take it and are better at it, when in actual fact, they’re not. No one deserves to die, to be killed by a policeman. Law is fucking weird. And an anger the size of the boiling sun surfaces and waxes over everything before cooling, by the blue of rationale hardening over it. Of course though, no body should be killed without trial? Anyway, holidays are a thing of the past; I don’t exist there anymore. I’m really trying to only exist in the future. It’s been quite a transformation, I will tell you. Anyway, globalisation has ruined holidays - how can I even prove that i’ve been away? To america - what is it to america? If I am London, do I London? You were a sight for sore eyes, I was in ruins and you presented a comfortable blanket; Joseph Beuys presented fonds of felt, and my blanket was seeing humanity and feeling the warmth of the sun as it rose and fell - a profound system of intense tedium, pulsing beauty and life. Life is beauty. A pedagogical programme outside of the framework of institution; something that was free and not essentially liberated, but free because the only currency in place was through the exchange of immateriality, that which stems from inside and not from within a purse. In only one place, someone is blinkered, in another and in others, inclusive of that initial one place, someone is not blinkered. Do not blink.
This is a call for interest. If you are interested in writing or speaking on the adventures of the contemporary spirit, please go here: www.thecontemporar yspirit.tumblr.com JOURNEY / SCHOOL & AOTCS PRESS