Sunday, May 16, 2010
The Watchable Book
Given to me by the author when I visited Detroit in. I met James through Ted Pearson, who was still living in Detroit at the time. I wrote to Ted about the possibility of doing a reading in the Motor City and he passed my name along to James, who had been running a series at the Zeitgeist Gallery for several years. I read there in, I think, the fall of '05.
I arrived at James father's house in the afternoon on the day of the reading. James met me at the door, offered me a drink, and we started to talk. He asked if I would like to see his letter from Derrida. I said yes. He took me down to the basement, where he had a bedroom, piled high with clothes and books and various other items. He reached deep into one of the piles and pulled out a little cigar box full of letters, from which removed two small folded sheets of paper and handed them to me like a sacred object. Sure, enough, it was a letter from old Jacques, and a very sweet one at that.
I remember the apartment I stayed in with James' young artist/vegan friends, whose names I can't remember. They were very sweet and cooked me a vegan dinner one night. The apartment was on the third floor of a dark old victorian with so many add-ons that you really couldn't figure until you found the front door which side of the house was the front – you might guess it was the side that faced the street, but you wouldn't be sure. The house was the only house left standing on what was once a block of large victorian homes. Another house stood across the street and it, too, was the only house standing on its block. On the next block stood three homes, two of which were boarded up, and so on.
I was born in Detroit, and my mother was born in Detroit, and my parents met in Detroit, but beyond that I have no other connection with the place. We left when I was two. But having lived in Buffalo now for quite a long time, I felt an immediate affinity with Motown. The two cities share that same kind of entropy that seems to threaten the whole rust belt, that sense that not only is the energy being drained away from the place, but that with each measure that disappears a corresponding amount of energy available to renew the system also disappears , making it harder and harder to fight the process of decay.
James and I roamed around downtown. He took me to see the abandoned train station, which is as astonishing, if not more so, than the abandoned train station in Buffalo–probably more so because the Buffalo station is fairly well-hidden over on the east side, whereas the Detroit station is down the street from the old Tiger Stadium and a hop-skip-jump from the downtown core. It's right in the hear of the city! The entropic feel of the two places differs only in scale–Detroit at its peak was almost four times the size of Buffalo, and remains so today–both have lost more than half-their populations since WWII.
The reading took place in a little gallery slash bar called Zeitgeist, on Michigan Avenue. I think there was an exhibition of Cartoon art going on in the gallery. I am trying to remember who I read with, but it slips my mind -- I've read there three times now, so they are all jumbled in my head. I think James came to read in Buffalo the following year, then I returned in 2007 and then again in 2009. The last time I read at The Scarab club -- I guess the Zeitgeist had closed.
from The Watchable Book
who wassaw Billy? billy was and saw
Gravitychair was part of him, grave it
he his grave. allhe mirrorly small
washesaw electrictime, precise yet
inate, commercial quirk longwhenshort.
allhe sawwas his owed reflection
beehive and hind the glitterglow.