Sunday, February 7, 2010

Aimless Reading: The F's, Part 25.7 (Sigmund Freud)

Freud, Sigmund
Civilization and its Discontents

Purchased for a dollar, most likely at Rust Belt Books.

Back to the summer of '99. As I said, I mostly spent my days sleeping late, going to the gym, taking walks to the park, and reading Freud and Nietszche.

At the time I belonged to the Buffalo Athletic Club (BAC) downtown. My usual walk took me south on College to Virginia St., then left at what is now Betty's Restaurant (then I think it was "Sherwood Florist"), then south again on Elmwood Avenue.

A brick structure of some kind, probably a house, had at some point been torn down on the southeast corner of Johnson Park and Elmwood, behind what is now the 31 Club (then it was Buddy's, a gay bar). It left an empty lot on the corner. After it was gone, I kept trying to remember what was there. I'd been passing it every day for months and hadn't noticed. Something about the fact that I hadn't noticed really bothered me. I eventually memorialized this sentiment in a section of my poem, The Tower


what stood here
to imagine
what part of it

this brick shard
have fallen from

The BAC is a large downtown gym, with a pool and steam room. I think it had once been a very old school kind of place until it was turned into a chain of gyms. It's across the street from a the county courthouse and jail, a massive brutalist monument whose concrete, windowless exterior walls used to frighten me to the point of anger.

One day I recall seeing the whole building from the highway and realizing how beautiful it was as a structure. My feeling now is that it should be emptied of people and turned into a large urban sculpture. It is beautiful as a work of art, horrific as a structure inhabited by human beings.

My typical workout would last two or three hours and would include cardio, weights and a steam. Man, I had a lot of time on my hands. My typical work out now lasts forty minutes and includes either weights or cardio, no steam (different gym, alas). I can't think of the last time I was at the gym for more than an hour, including shower!

I keep thinking of all the buildings in that neighborhood, all the ones that have gone up, all the ones that have come down, all the ones that have changed over the years.

Behind city hall stood a large stone facade, just the facade, no building behind it, propped up in front of a huge vacant lot next to the highway. The facade was preserved for and placed awkwardly in front of a massive new glass office building for some insurance company. On Elmwood, that same summer, they demolished a building behind what is now the Hampton Inn. I remember being woken in the morning by the explosion. Sometime around then there was also a mild earthquake in Buffalo. I remember the windows in bedroom on college shaking and that I didn't realize what it was until someone identified it as an earthquake later that night at a poetry reading.

Next to that was a hideous federal building that housed the FBI, among other agencies. It has since been re-faced and turned into a hotel and condos with a big sign on the top that says, "AVANT." Several new, bland, brick office buildings went up and replaced the office space a little further south on Elmwood.

A little Vietnamese Restaurant, PHO 99, which occupied a small building next to an abandoned Victorian home on Niagara Square, just across from city hall. Sadly, they chose that site for a massive federal courthouse and tore down the only human scale structure on the main traffic circle downtown. They also moved the only Vietnamese fast food restaurant in Buffalo to the edge of the city -- almost to the suburbs!

I mostly remember feeling lonely and depressed and that going to the gym, in addition to keeping me from smoking, helped stave off the loneliness for a few hours.

from Civilization and its Discontents

The fateful question for the human species seems to me to be whether and to what extent their cultural development will succeed in mastering the disturbance of their communal life by the human instinct of aggression and self-destruction. It may be that in this respect precisely the present time deserves a special interest. Men have gained control over the forces of nature to such an extent that with their help they would have no difficulty exterminating one another to the last man. They know this, and hence comes a large part of their current unrest, their unhappiness and their mood of anxiety. And now it is to be expected that the of of the two 'Heavenly Powers,'... eternal Eros will make an effort to assert himself in the struggle with his equally immortal adversary. But who can foresee with what success and what result?

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