Friday, March 12, 2010

A Conflict with Geography (Natural and Man Made)

So malleable am I to the height of the skies and mountains, to the proximity of seas and buildings splayed out like a handful of jacks, that my attention seems to linger on maps, physical, more than maps, otherwise (cultural?). I knew, for example, that Valparaiso would be the Queen – Chris Marker showed me steps looking out to sea, neighborhoods melted over hillsides. And I knew Iruya would be the Gem – its white washed church pierces the sky as a culmination of the winding Route 9 after it has led you past Purmamarca, and Maimara, Tilcara, its mountainside cemetery, and my favorite, Humahuaca, which sounds like wisps of smoke when you say it out loud. New York, too, and Buenos Aires, flat, by water, lit up eternally in the dark – tiny lights like bioluminescent Dinoflagellates in the city sea. Scraggly Maine, salt-crusted, Cusco sunk in eucalyptus trees, Chimgan, snow-capped with icy streams in teal, Pittsburgh stitched together with iron bridges and smoothed by vines running down its hills.

What’s it like here? then is a superfluous question. I see the river, the bridges, the slanted layers of sedimentary beds jutting out in lines only to crumble before they get too far, the buildings dusty and not tall enough, the mounts somehow unspectacular, streets like threads weltering steeply; I get lost and am afraid of driving on them but keep pressing the gas so I don’t sink backwards. It’s un-extraordinary, which is not unusual, but years here would be ___________.

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