Saturday, June 14, 2008

elsewhere, pt 2

so on this roadtrip we drove a bright yellow car, a bright yellow chevy aveo, which we were all a little embarrassed about. i bore the brunt of my companions’ complaints, as i was the one who picked up the car from hertz. we speculated what people in passing cars were thinking once we got south. in asheville it was no big deal, since asheville, as you might know, is a kind of liberal free-spirit town, described by the manager of our hostel in charlottesville, virginia as “crunchy,” which i interpreted as “place of bare feet, dirty hippies.” asheville’s fire hydrants looked like this:

and so we were comfortable enough there with our yellow car. but as i may’ve suggested in part one (see previous post below), asheville seemed modester than i’d expected. certainly it was no san francisco. it didn’t appear to take pride in its weirdness, as say portland, oregon does. we stayed in a hostel run by a not-too-crunchy guy named BJ (if you want a cheap clean place to stay in asheville, go there) and found good, affordable food and drink. to be fair we weren’t there very long – and the local paper’s police log indicated that violence does take place on a regular basis.

we themed our trip “nothing is necessary.” we drove up to the raleigh-durham area w/out itinerary, w/out having researched a thing. problem was the temperature was over a hundred degrees, which made certain things necessary. durham was a scorching hot ghost town. new signs directed you which way to which district – however there was nothing to be found in these districts. there was nothing even i'd call a district. we drank a lot of water and took no pictures. which undermines my first, feeble attempt at a photo-essay, doesn’t it.

so imagine us then in an air conditioned room in a red roof inn off the highway watching the penguins lose the cup finally to detroit. the volume was fixed more or less, as any button you pushed on the remote or tv either turned the volume down or turned the tv off.

in raleigh there were some people on the street, and we stopped for lunch in a pizza place and asked its waitress what should we see. she said y’all aren’t thinkin a movin here, are ya?

we wound up bowling in an old bowling alley called “western lanes” on hillsborough st, i believe, where you had to keep your own score. we bowled lane 2, whose corner-left pin would not fall down. we guessed they gave us this defective lane on purpose. anyway i improved w/ each can of beer and won two of three, scoring a 125 in the final game, thanks in part to theresa the bartender who’s famous, apparently, for her “sidearm sling” – she slides (or bowls) the beers you ordered down the bar to you. i cannot yet express the satisfaction i got from catching her slings.

and chapel hill of course, the oft-hyped chapel hill: a college town that looked like any other college town you’ve ever seen, except maybe a little richer. it bored us, but they had a good used bookstore and we were able to crash one night w/ my mother’s friend patti and her family who treated us with some locally brewed beer and were extremely kind. we were lucky to meet them.

we finished up in greensboro, where i caught a train (with my camera) emerging from between these two old southern railroad buildings i couldn’t stop looking at:

down the street from those tracks was a place called elsewhere. elsewhere is a thrift store-turned-living art museum run by an artist collective that continually rearranges, if you will, the decades’ worth of inventory the store had amassed until its closing in 1997. old fabrics, furniture, books, toys—masters of the universe figures, for example, and those little plastic baseball helmets you’d get ice cream in from friendly’s, jumbles of childhood objects that may trigger long forgotten memories, the endless (but possibly emotional) junk of our consumer culture—as well as the histories lodged in these things, including the mysteriousness of the old store itself, contributed to the overwhelming experience of the place, the “sensory overload” you might say. i’ve seen nothing like it—my grandmothers’ basements, maybe, but to the 10th power, with much of its material (if not all, arguably) made into temporary art installations. that elsewhere preserves the original space and contents—that elsewhere actually exists as a consequence and extension of the building, albeit a self-conscious one, one that’s curious far beyond the simple values of commerce (nothing’s literally for sale there, tho it stands in the middle of a traditional commercial district) and perhaps beyond common rationales for art, is what makes it great. i understand that some of the artists even live there. i took some pictures of the place but they pale in comparison to the ones on their website. it’s a place worth seeing.

greensboro was a real good time. we hung out w/ our friend ken rumble who took us to a farmer’s market and set up a poetry reading in his beautiful apartment for me and riverbottum and local poet matt mullins. it was a pleasure to read w/ these guys amid an intimate yet skeptical, interactive audience of which i was happy to be a part, however fleetingly. that last wknd w/ ken was all too brief, which is to say of course that it was a great time, and that i still, a week later, retain bits of the good feeling i had there, a feeling specific to the place and time that gave it to me and which is therefore inexplicable, a small feeling that's the tip of an iceberg, the possibility of a moment you will never see, never feel exactly again.

ken, late the last night of our trip - thanks ken!