thirty-five. blogging the burbs.
anticipating reverse culture shock in San Francisco (roofscape above) i found none; i had to wait until arrival in the Northern Virginia outskirts of DC to feel the unease of the unurban . . . which is not the rural, but the suburban. the two times i attempted to write about this land of disconnected ‘stims,’ i found myself imagining a conversation between Lars Lerup and Michel de Certeau – a conversation about how spatial and verbal structures might relate, or, more specifically for this project, how the structure of a place's written description might describe something of its built composition.
in trying to describe NoVa i was confronted with lists, disconnected impressions, strong, but not tied by narrative, unrelatable by proposition, footstep, or rail-line. the mid-Atlantic highway is an exercise in erasure, a manifestation of the linear void – an attempt to nullify the SUV-encapsulated tedium between strip malls, housing developments, and office parks. all roadside forests blend into one impression of summer-soaked luxuriant green, occasionally broken by the sporadic imposition of genetically cloned condos and McMansions organized around a maze of cul-de-sacs. there are, surprisingly, many roadside biketrails which extend unceremoniously alongside the high-speed roads from which they are meant to divert bicyclists. veering suddenly into a thicket of trees, the trails often emerge into the asphalted fringe of a residential development. (these were the sweaty linear playgrounds where i tried to remember the act of jogging).
empty space, green space, built-from-nothing highway car-space (space-car),
space-in-the-way-space or a hidrance to the errands, this quiet, unmoving space of
airplane-airspace above the safeway-space,
so tidily replicated with cheap-drywall
space for waiting-non-dating space,
don’t-be-outdoors & don’t-walk space or i'd
lose-myself, just-lost-my-place space,
this unending air-hum of audible-nothingness space.
i realize this disjointed vagueness is partly a product of being more automobile bound than i have been all spring, but nonetheless the contrast between the verbal documentation of the urban trail and the auto-bound suburban hop-scotch is of interest, and begs the question of what might be the grammatical structure to describe a place where spatial structure seems to dissipate, unsupported by the ands-ons-unders-betweens? here i recorded only the ‘thes’; the narrative fell apart, the story lost cohesion.
strangely though, for all of its potential antiseptism, NoVa is definitely still a place with an evocative feeling -- oh so different from the crowding pulsing shopping swirls of the cities i've seen -- but still palpable, describable, and for some of us, saturated with an odd nostalgia for things we don't quite miss, but once knew too well.