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I’ve reached the end of nearly a month in motion at the end of a year spent here and there with no easy center. I’ve visited with family, chosen and born, seen comrades and friends, and even managed to get some work done. And now I’m finally back in Toronto. I’m exhausted.

I’m not sure––never am––that I’ve collected all the baggage that I toted with me throughout border crossings, bag searches, administrative declarations, and weather delays. How does the baggage survive all that time traveling? How do I? Speaking different languages, coming to my senses, numbing my senses, checking-in on crises of one shape or another as if my role in them matters, peppering the blandness of in-betweens with gossip or an uneasy smile, reveling in stolen sweetnesses when someone remembers who you are trying to become, recalling long dormant shared jokes, playing games, feeling like a ghost, being reminded that I am both loved in this space and an orphan of it.

What I’m left with is a question: What keeps me consistent throughout all of this movement?

Languages and architecture and ways of being in these places seem untranslatably different. Yet, in the quotidian-ness of all that crossing, they are somehow threaded together. Or maybe its the weather? How it doesn’t make sense anywhere? (Except the thick fog, as B told me, which lets you pretend that you are anywhere/nowhere.) Or maybe just the basics? Getting the laundry done in every different kind of machine, this or that surface to clean, thing to put back in its place, remembering that each place has this or that logic of where how and when to replace the thing so it can be found, moved, lost again.

Toronto-Bologna-Cleveland-Toronto is a strange itinerary. Not the Sunday Travel section’s first choice. Multiculti boomtown built over top of resplendent ancient meeting place where the trees stood in water and this would be storytelling season to medieval university town still floating on the slowly cooling magma layer of hot Augusts of decades past petty politics at war with real politics to putatively post-industrial American Great Lakes once unified (but now different) whose begged for renaissance gives those who survive the depression or the violence a specific kind of chip on their shoulder. Daytime television and a stream of oil company and pro-fracking commercials. ExxonMobil does help me.

Is home an exhaustible resource? It’s a real question. On what exchanges is home traded? How is it extracted from the peat of experience, barely compacted? Who’s gaining commission? Is being ‘at home’ a fact? A feeling? A mode? A delusion. Must it be striated through everyday life thinly, like rare earth? What work is required to be ‘at home’ here? And then here. And then, finally for now, here.

If mobility is a privilege––and my body is not always or even usually convinced of this anymore––I could say that I am in need of its opposite for a while. And I get what we need sometimes. To think that, when I was a young teenager, I was convinced that I’d never be able to see the world beyond my hometown. Stuck like every queer felt stuck and feels stuck going back. But slowly, being unstuck becomes a kind of compulsion. Adaptability a life requirement. Must keep things going. Must go. Must do without stillness or else risk stiffness.

Bodies become rigid and brittle for other reasons too. And then we are called to new effort to hold on to any consistent element, to keep at least one particle the same across all that numbing confirmation of identity. Are you who you say you are? Nationality. Do the contours of your face match the contours of the face in this document, the image of someone unwearied by so many mandatory crossings? Place of origin. Has this expired? What’s your status. They add up: Document check, document check, document check, document check. Questions: Why are you here, why were you there, what did you do, who are you carrying with you, what are you leaving behind, what is the total value of your experience? The lucky pass through the fortress, I’m told it makes me lucky. And so I try to remember that when the experience serves up the unluckiest of feelings.

No matter where I go, I carry more books than I can possibly read on any one journey across every border. Their completeness is comforting, consistent. The weight is substantial. It keeps me on the edge of frustration, which is sometimes the only way to survive travel. Books feel like dangerous travel accessories, they might say too much about you.

One book that has crossed every border with me this month is Dionne Brand’s “A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging” I’ve read it little by little and I’m still trying to understand how and why, despite the differences in the reasons for our movement and displacement and return/s, this book has helped me more than anything when I am feeling weary, uncertain, lost for words, lost in cartography, in our out of love, in or out of place; jetlagged, dreadful, devoid of thoughts, or simply too full of them, a fool.

She writes:

There are ways of constructing the world –– that is, of putting it together each morning, what it should look like piece by piece –– and I don’t feel that I share this with the people in my small town. Each morning I think we wake up and open our eyes and set the particles of forms together –– we make solidity with our eyes and with the matter in our brains. How a room looks, how a leg looks, how a clock looks. How a thread, how a speck of sand. We collect each molecule, summing them up into flesh or leaf or water or air. Before that everything is liquid, ubiquitous and mute. We accumulate information over our lives which bring various things into solidity, into view. What I am afraid of is that waking up in another room, minutes away by car, the mechanic walks up and takes my face for a target, my arm for something to bite, my car for a bear. He cannot see me when I come into the gas station; he sees something else and he might say, “No gas,’ or he might simply grunt and leave me there. As if I do not exist, as if I am not at the gas station at all. Or as if something he cannot understand has arrived –– as if something he despises has arrived. A think he does not recognize. Some days when I go to the gas station I have not put him together either. His face a mobile mass, I cannot make out his eyes, his hair is straw, dried grass stumbling toward me. Out the window now behind him the scrub pine on the other side of the road, leaves gone, or what I call leaves, the sun white against a wash of grey sky, he is streaking toward me like a cloud. Frayed with air. The cloud of him arrives, hovers at the window. I read his face coming apart with something –– a word I think. I ask for gas; I cannot know what his response is. I pass money out the window. I assume we have got the gist of each other and I drive away from the constant uncertainty of encounters. I drive through the possibility of losing solidity at any moment.

Today is not a day that beings with the luxury of feeling together.

There are conditions for my presence here in this troubled space of possibilities. I ride into this ring on a horse made of debts. My mind is mortgaged, sectioned by the speculative economy, promised to five different banks and one Federal Government, divided and subdivided, securitized and resold. Somewhere a man is ordering offal. Foreclosure is a failure of the imagination. Poverty, if not yet, is always about to be. Precarity is a tinnitating torment, a financial tattoo.

One of my loans, originated by a now bankrupt company called My Rich Uncle, claimed to determine the interest rate based on academic potential through a program called PrePrime™, funded by a German bank. The bank used a proprietary algorithm to determine intellectual value. This is the loan that carries the highest rate, a bigger cliff than the rest. It has doubled in size. And I am there, singing a smart tune, a fool dancing at the edge with a little flower, a tiny dog nipping at my heels. My bottom line is a looming fiction of red ink and proliferating zeros. My ability to survive is directly related to my ability to materialize thought. I am forestalling crisis. Deferment is a weak tactic, but a necessary one. I’m trying not to let this house of promissory paper implode under the weight of external pressure. I’d rather burn it from the inside. 

Better yet, I hope that the ground itself is moving. Movement portends an earthquake, tectonic tactics. In the wake of a disaster of the ‘real economy,’ the speculative economy of my mental activities might be freed from the burden of all this financial history. All this paper. All these fictions. I’d never make the same mistake twice. Of course, I can still wish for Jubilee, but I don’t hold my breath. We, the lost generation of debtors demand the right to bankruptcy! Or else, We Refuse To Pay! As it stands, we simply can’t.

The speculation I name is distinct from the speculation of philosophical detachment. Instead, it is wrought by real conditions in which the object called my mind is claimed by speculative capital. My resistance often feels like feeling more than it looks like action. Speculation is what would force me to take possession of my mind, to intensify my relationship to my mind beyond the point where it is clear what belongs to whom. My mind to me or me to my mind? What’s the difference anyway? I can never forget the body that aches, that grabs my mind at the root, pulls it down my spine, returning it to the ground, upside down, stood on its head––or––right way around again. 

The body loves, even if the mind is slow to figure out the cost of proliferating zeros.

Instead of possessing my mind, I try to make and remake it without forgetting where I am from and without presuming where I am going. I carry my house on my back. I dig and dig an dig into the floor beneath, seeking a different geology and geography, one of shifting grounds and antipodean alliances. My dwelling is not a house of cards, but a tent, a collapsable shell, wind whipped, held down only by my laying weight. As I dream it onto the page, this tent not a dwelling at all, but a conveyance to other worlds.

My challenge, at least in this context, is to turn the foolishness of messianic hopes––the hope for a freedom to be bankrupted, to demon-etize work such that the art and joy of living and loving is enough, not just for me, but for all––into a different kind of (non)work.

 A work of justice and imagination, a work of collaboration and transformation. I need this space as much as I want it. It is already here and yet to come. Each book in the stack is another contribution to a library of dreams: a vast hallucinatory apparatus made of paper and ink and imagination. Not enough, but sufficient to muddle through, good enough for now.

My readings are preludes and postscripts. Preludes to the worldly work to come, postscripts to eight years of trying to locate myself intellectually in and through urban studies, geography, anthropology, and sociology. (There was work before as well. And locations after.) Eight years of failing to locate myself definitively and seeking to make this failure a virtue. Nomadism, yes. But more queer than nomad; wandering with a weedy sensibility, taking root around, growing fast, moving on, returning in a season, or else when the ground is disturbed. I’m tough to get rid of! I move as a means to survive and strive. In movement I find multiple relationships (family friendspartnerslovers) which serve as loving landmarks in an otherwise harsh landscape. Response-ability to these lands is a longer term geographic and emotional struggle en route to becoming more fully political and ethical.

My readings are also smokescreens for the work I do everyday, work beyond and beholden to value. They are attempts at inhabiting texts; at finding, in texts, a habit. They are not final destinations. They are not conclusive statements. They are renderings, wrestings, and recapitulations. 

Even though I have spent considerable time reading, I have spent a less considerable amount of time writing. I was distracted by doing, organizing, feeling like I was making space for something yet unknown. I was responding to the ‘fierce urgency of now.’ I needed those spaces and times to find the courage to share readings that I know are incomplete, inevitably imperfect, and, at times, in/appropriations of the work of others. They are a product and a process. A project of the univers(e/ity), that most complicated social location for particular kinds of imperfect dreams. That place for dreaming amidst real and ruined lives. Is it expanding or contracting? Either way, it is not yet a free space, it is not yet what it needs to be.

I suspect that I appear to be very comfortable with abstraction, or at least fond of it. And, while there is a fondness (a groundedness, fond) in abstraction, it is not on account of comfort. That ground is more about testing a limit, testing how uncomfortable I can remain. If I can make this discomfort a virtue. That is where I feel most ready to change. I am ready for new kinds of discomfort, new kinds of uprooting and overturning, new kinds of action, reading, writing, and doing. 

But discomfort cuts both ways. It can be a high summer day with no air conditioning, a discomfort that makes you want to be suspended in the middle of a block of ice, no clothes to cloy the skin, every rhythm slowed down, barely a heartbeat. Comatose until the rush of fall, the Academic New Year (of the Horse), wakes you again. Or it can be the warm discomfort of a room where you know you belong, a room where your presence alone is a good indication of your willingness to let presuppositions die. “I don’t know who I am here and I’m going to fuck this up.” I never find it easy to know which rooms these are and I am never certain who will mistake my fallen body for another stone on the broken road.

I follow weeds (whether I write them or not) because they lead to disturbed grounds. They push through pavement. We work together. Borne on wind, dropped in shit, cast away from the intended crops, we land in places where we just may grow. No less striving for hoping to remain unnoticed. No less interior for needing to be recognized in our unfolding.

Mine is a history of unlikely alliances. Queer marriages stretching across oceans despite apparently irreconcilable differences. So, my writing is always in and through queerness as my lived specific, but generalizing, difference. Writing difference in a philosophical––conceptual, practical, political––mode is, for me, always already writing queerness, which is what brings me here in any case and in all actual cases.

My readings are also always ‘about queerness’ in some sense, if queerness is my wandering, my constant attempt at turning over old ground, never settling in one place for too long. I move even if I wish I never had to get out of bed, that soft paradise of immobilities, belonging to another time, the sweet oblivions of sleep. I never know for sure who I am, never know for sure whom I will encounter. What responsibilities will be born in that encounter? Such openness may be foolish, but I don’t care or I can’t help it or both. It is just this world. I find it necessary to start with love and deal later with the consequences. 

Lately, my strategy has been too small or the world has felt too big. Love, the beginning, is stretched too thinly across oceans, enfleshed worlds stretched by late liberalism. These memories require enormous energy to stay afloat, to keep from sinking to a soft landing on the abyssal plains of the Ocean of Betweenness. A flight is lost at sea. I’ve killed so many dinosaurs back and forth back and forth back and forth. I cannot afford it, but there’s always credit. Symptom of my generation. Fake money supports emotional globalization. We put it to use creating different, better fictions. Our little G8 summits, just you and me, leaders of our free world. Autonomous states of feeling. Calling into being new collectives. Making new rituals. Taking care of her.

In some sense, these readings are personal, they are a live struggle, even as they are trying to avoid solipsism. They are part of a long attempt to be and become otherwise, to grow and die seasonally. They are uncertain in that I have never been sure if the academy is best for me, even if I have also never been sure that I can live without it. Intelligence is not enough at this point, survival needs more than intelligence. Thriving even more. Courage is hard to come by. These readings are not courageous enough for me, but they are a start.

Still, I’m ready for scrutiny. Please push. I know I don’t need to invite you to push, that is why I am here, dancing on the edge of the cliff. I’m ready! But it feels more honest if we name what we are doing and if we know what it is we are being invited to do. Especially when our positions are not equal and may never be, differentiated by age and titles, money and origin, sensibility and experience. Yet we are joined by the tender threads of shared interest and a commitment to knowledge and to each other, to a world ‘other than what?’ We do not know. To a world folded out of the that one we do. At least I think so. Maybe I should ask. Maybe I don’t yet know what binds us to each other other than these words and the room we’ll share to discuss them, the institution and its spaces, its archives and ways of knowing. In both moments, I deeply appreciate that what we are doing is an unfolding, a getting-to-know-you, full of excitements and unspoken joys, full of fears and strange mysteries, not without abundances and privations, oriented toward precarious and actual professionalization.

My readings are a place to start, again. They are a hinge between the thinking and the doing and the thinking again. They are a roll of the dice, an old game, a rare privilege, a necessary passage, a wrestling with giants, a glamorous flip of my hair on the edge of a broken heel, a handful of glitter thrown out a window on a grey winter day.

They are not finished but it is time to move on. To shuffle again.

Reference

Lefebvre, H. 2008 [1981]. Critique of Everyday Life: From Modernity to Modernism (Toward a Metaphilosophy of Daily Life). London, UK: Verso.

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