The universe is the Cosmic Joke, and the human race is the punchline.
Wednesday, 29 September 2010
I know cities. There is a difference between cities and monsters. London and New York an Los Angeles are monsters. They have no character, they have too many disparate entities within them. How can something have character if the things it is made up of contradict each other? The Lower East Side has character. Piccadilly Circus has character. But not London and New York.
But old hands know this. They don't pretend to know the whole city, merely the parts of it they like. The twenty year old party boy knows a very different London to the sixty year old librarian. In Philadelphia, in Delhi, everyone has an idea. You know it exists, the shadow and the light, in other cities. In the monsters, all that is there is the districts.
I feel the street under my feet. A city-walker knows how to walk in one. There is an easy rhythm, one that people like me know, one that lets you walk for hours without tiring. This is when they speak to you. They speak to you through the soles of your feet, and when the story reaches you, you've already walked past the ghost that inspired it. But it's worth it nonetheless.
City-walker. That's how I've thought of myself. And I know there must be others like me. But would I ever know it, if I met one? Do the others listen like I do? Are they impartial observers like me, or do they go out and affect the city they're in? Do they sing their songs, the ones that I'm too afraid to voice, the ones that I try to drown by listening to cities? Surely mine is the only way to do it, really. I think about it logically, and I can come to no other conclusion. How can you learn a city if you're trying to make it learn you?
But then, cities don't operate on logic, do they? Their songs aren't cold and rational, they're passionate, fiery, sometimes vindictive and sometimes melancholic, and often indecipherable.
So how, then? How?
If you listen, the city will tell you her secrets, her mysteries, her guilty pleasures. But no one listens, to the ghosts and the phantoms of centuries past. If you tried hard enough, you'd probably even hear, faintly, the roar of a sabre-toothed tiger, the crash of a triceratops' tail, the trumpeting of a woolly mammoth. But I don't know how to, and I'll never meet anyone who does. And I am stuck with the question.