for some reason, lou reed dies, and I feel very sad, even though the velvet underground was not that crucial, that groundbreaking, life altering for me.
or perhaps it is exactly because it was so that I feel sad, because I understand these referents to belong to a history that is not mine, never was, because there was no older brother with cassette tapes, no cool uncle from motorcycle trips, no older connections who lived this counterculture, nothing like that. this is not a lament, but an observation, and an understanding of a history that I understand and I tap into but never was mine, nor will be, nor do I pretend that I want it to be.
there was only the internet, korean schoolyard gates, computers, a subway crossing 한강, haggling journeys to 테크노마트 buying up bootleg cds of 만화, that kind of thing. endless planes. midwestern supermarkets. the smell of kimchi in strange, suburban dwellings. carpets. books with stereoscopic images of proteins. the specific half-always-home and half-always-displaced momentum of the oscillating non-visitor. my texture of 'hometown' being as indescribably amorphous as 'family', which is to say, universally encountered, infinitely varied, and impossibly unsharable, incommensurable.
the other day I talked with someone about these things, and I realized I had forgotten how much these things meant, how everpresent and massive these questions had been to me, to the point that I was constituted out of these questions, and that I could never remember a time in which I did not think and agonize about where I was, how I was situated.. culture, race, nationality, language. but somehow questions that turned into statements, or were postponed to a legitimate degree of resolution in this city, because in this city the question of 'where are you from?' becomes inevitable, everpresent, to a degree that tolerance is born out of exposure. the casual warmth of a tired commuter sinking into a subway stop on the A C E 1 2 3 B D F M 4 5 6 N Q R J M Z L S 7 G, in which the race of the person next to them is not even the last thing on their mind, but not even within the realm of conscious consideration entirely, because the city swallows people and prejudices and assumptions whole, meets your gaze as a looming This that you are also already inside. you are already those multitudes. or so it seemed.
more on that sometime later. back to lou reed. oh nyc in those days, I hear, oh nyc. the factory, warhol, the downtown 100, max's kansas city, george macunias's fluxus soho loft cooperatives, a bronx that is burning, gordon matta-clark cutting open a warehouse in chelsea. voguing. the chelsea hotel. patti smith and robert mapplethorpe, dancing about somewhere. the rosy memories of others, not entirely justified.
this is not my history, I know, nor is it the history that I want, and nor will I or do I want to inherit that and continue it forward. and so I meet these phenomena as found, created, real, anthropological almost, in which I read these worlds as texts. you grew up with the velvet underground? and I gaze from an anthropological standpoint, and when I bike around this city I can't help but try to trace the remnants of this one kind of history that is told, that holds such mythic value, for you, and not for me. and so I will partake a little, I will taste a little bit of your food, and in fact, I will join you partially, maybe even be able to cook it myself, say a few words in your language. I become part in the way that the ethnographer and anthropologist becomes a member of the community, distanced but connected, observing and participating.
and so the passing of lou reed makes me feel this warmth, because I looked at you, and examined that world with curiosity, specifically because it was not mine, and because I never really wanted it to be mine (and knew it never would be) I was perhaps more affectionate towards it, so a loss hits harder, or means more. I am sorry for your, our loss. are we already not already together? I know I am an anthropologist, but here are my sympathies, and being the embedded partial biased observer has forever changed my life, also.
-- perhaps that is too vague, but it seems adequate. now.
nostalgia for the present, in that things are moving so fast, or changing so fast, that I can look upon this now as a blip. very quick. things operating at the pace of a year. here we go. there it went.