Thursday, August 7, 2008

Roasted to a turn...

After days of economical beach exposure I overdid it yesterday and burned myself to a crisp. All week I've tried to gradually introduce my pale skin to this thing called sun, and then wasted everything with one gluttonous afternoon. But it was beautiful Wednesday! The water was blue and clear and cold and the sun was shining (obviously) and my sister and cousin had just arrived the night previous and I discovered those blue umbrellas and reclining beach chairs were complementary and given all that stayed out all day and now cannot even shrug.

So here, to help pass the hours until the sun goes down enough for me to venture out, are some notes on topics of conversation and other beach happenings.

1. Ah Mobile. Ah Coastal Strip between Mobile and the Next Place

First of all, driving along in the dusk of the day and into the evening is convincing that the South could be the garden of the world if anyone cared to make it so. What if landscape architecture was the world's most celebrated profession? The South is made for them. So green and lush, with vegetation so eager to bloom that even the ugliest plants try to flower and at the drop of a hat will reclaim what is left untended. We clear cut, throw some asphalt down, throw some pre-fab up and call it a day. And I still love the drive. We'd have to nuke the landscape to kill its appeal. So why not integrate garden and structure. The hanging gardens of Babylon brought landscape into the heart of a (opinion) brutal culture. We're pretty nice. Why not highlight our virtues with a little urban planning? Is there an urban planning office around that still has independent power? Of course, Babylon had absolute centralized power for its plans. More recently, Communist centralization hardly produced the happiest urban design. How does a democracy urban plan better short of putting in minimal standards and waiting for a change in taste? Depressing realization that attempts to beautify ones surroundings might be short road to manic quest for Supreme Power. The world's next super villain might be a landscape architect or urban planner whose spirit was crushed by one too many strip malls. E says that she has seen some semi-unscrupulous acts in the name of better design, fooling a client to get around their taste etc. The seeds of evil?

2. Beach Reading Crisis Resolved

If your job has you in TEXTS on occasion, so that your personal reading is mainly light, then why vacation with light stuff? Light is all I have time for most all the year. Now I'm on the beach. I can read slow if I want to, read one word at a time if I want to. So I went with Suite Francaise, which I started over a year ago but never finished. So I'm reading French slowly, with a dictionary just because I have the time. There's a luxury in reading slowly, even dwelling on a word like a piece of poetry, a word for which there is no translation and whose precise thing or feeling would be unknown to you otherwise. Obviously there is an indulgence in enjoying something on those terms. Tack that on to the indulgence of having time to read it at all and it's a positive two for one. It's even better than I remember.

3. Wither Henry Miller

The Air Conditioned Nightmare by Henry Miller is E's beach reading. You might not think that a beach is the best context for a nightmare whose hallmark is air-conditioning. Apparently he travels the US and re-acquaints himself with its charms or, as the case may be, deceits. E describes a scene where he sees a parking lot full of workers cars outside a factory. What a dream this would represent for the workers of any other nation, he thinks, and what an illusion it would represent. Why illusion? I haven't read it so I'm not sure where he goes with it, but the story stands out for it seems to still reflect the concerns of modern utopianists in its chagrin over the car. Long pegged as a catalyst for urban sprawl, the obvious villain in every purposefully pedestrian development, not to the mention a major cause of current USA oil gluttony, the car in the abstract, on Miller's look-what-it-represents-under-the-surface level, is unloved. Just don't pretend that's the reality for any family beach vacation.

No comments:

About Me

Little Rock, Arkansas
I work at a local museum, date a lovely boy, and with my free time procrastinate on things like blogs.