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This Horrible City

1981—Á viajar

Jetting from San Francisco to London, encapsulated in the airport—total alienation, apprehension, a point of no return, no control.  Boarding the plane—further, more intense encapsulation and dependency.  Lifting off—a mechanical miracle.  The earth becomes unreal—we’re denying space and time—what an absurdity!  Man’s denial of all important relationships.  Squeezed and cramped.  A movie—life reduced to two dimensions.  What is one doing here?  An inner voyage of memories, half-dreams.  Who are the others?  Fantasies of the One?  Outside—the stars, unattached, floating above and below.  The night begins and ends rapidly—here there are no transitions.

The plane is British, the passengers are British—a range of accents, dialects, rosy cheeks.  We land at Heathrow airport—and there are miles to walk with luggage weighing one down.  Separations after brief encounters.  A bus goes to Southampton.  We go west along a super highway.  Is this England?  It looks like the eastern U.S.  So disappointing.  But an occasional old farmhouse.  Then, a narrow tree-lined road and the bus travels to the past.  Southampton.  An old station and then the problem of excess baggage.  The street lined with East Indian cafes.  One staggers into a restaurant—cheap, ugly.  The cakes look unappetizing.  One has tea and looks at the customers.  Stiff, jerky looking boys run to the jukebox.  Old men order chips.  The waitresses are Indian?  A taxi to the boat.  Mobs in the waiting room, milling around looking at one another, all English.  One sees all the characters of British cinema:  Alistair Sims, Margaret Rutherford, Terry Thomas, ad inf. et al.  Mostly middle-aged and old.  We press towards the gate—onto the docks—up the gangplank.

Later—Reading Missing Links by John Reader—about paleo-anthropology, 19th century scientists interpreting early skeletal discoveries (Neanderthal).  Incredible how speculative and tentative so-called “science” is!  In the university anthropology classes were taught “Laws,” “Facts”—and  yet nothing remains that is not constantly challenged (only by those who dare).  The masculine scientific logical mind is obstinate and limited.  The great ideas are poetic, intuitive.  Understanding must come from within as well as without. Gide is right.  One must unlearn as well as learn.  Sometimes I think “education” is completely off-track—all nonsense—a waste of time.  Look where we are!  Destroying our planet with our “science”.

The Homo-centric view of the universe—also ridiculous.  Man’s so-called uniqueness is supposedly based upon his ability to speak.  All animals have forms of communication.  Moreover, in some societies—and perhaps many in the past—communication was through whistles, clicks, grunts.  We have evolved a specialized lingual communication, but perhaps animals (and other forms of life) have also evolved specialized and subtle forms of communication—through gestures, or even intuition.  Being on this ship one is aware of the inevitable future of this civilization.  The waste of time, energies and materials—a waste that yields nothing creative or productive.  Total consumption.  This in contrast to Istanbul.  Automobiles, pollution, frenzied traffic—energies spent in scavenging a living.  The top heap on a pile of vanished civilizations—a layer of rusting automobile parts.  Where are the roses of yesteryear?  Tattered remnants struggling among the weeds in struggling gardens.  This ship is a floating anachronism already.  The planet can no longer afford this.  The absurdity of programmed leisure so alienated from the natural environment.  I feel removed from both sea and sky.  Difficult to feel the adventure of early mariners.  The horizon has vanished.

Gibraltar—Spain is yards away. I am pulled towards it but cannot pass “La Linea.”  A long walk up the pier into town.  One of those heterogeneous mixtures—faithful to nothing.  Veiled women.  Spanish women in high heels and tight tops pushing baby carts.  Arab, Indian, Spanish, British and mixtures of these.  Tourists on shopping sprees.  This is the finale?  Endless shopping sprees?  Who has died to achieve this?  Neanderthal man’s ghost roams the caves-32 miles of them, someone says.

Gibraltar
Gibraltar, September 1981

The Straits of Messina—Myth and history mingle here but I cannot reach it.  Scylla and Charybis.  I am already shipwrecked.  I saw a whirlpool—a small one in the relatively calm waters—but one can imagine it growing in the troubled seas under a tensing sky.  Richard Coeur de Lion’s fort.  Forts everywhere.  Has man always been so savage?  No sign of sea life.  On one side the coast of Italy—the other Sicily.  The ship churns into its own distance and the sea swallows its trail.  At night lights hover in the blackness.  Land is always near in the Mediterranean.

DubrovnikThe harbor as beautiful as its pictures.  Here people inhabit their past.  Cynical and blasé about tourists.  A mad dash through the town for the waiting tour buses.  No chance to examine anything.

London—In one framework sequences are important.  Here (which is everywhere) and Now (which is forever) for me (who is everyone) they are not.

Being in London, above all, is watching an end of a civilization—rotten, unhealthy.  Above all, everywhere, are the machines—destroying man, the city, the countryside.  Men are damaged by their cheap (intrinsically) pleasures.

The energies are somewhere.  The energies of the future—giving a new direction to a new civilization.

Oxford—no time to feel the centuries.  Many ghosts are here—but I am drowned in the movement and noise.  Bit by bit it will catch up with me.

Nothing is missed.  The body is a tuning machine—more or less sensitive.  It vibrates at different wavelengths—slowly or more rapidly.  It vibrates at a more subtle level in dreams.  (Surrounded by plants in a restaurant near Soho.  The plants are alive—fighting for life—I can sense their breathing).

Words of a Beatles’ song—“Look at all the lonely people”.

Canterbury—The way of  the Pilgrims.  Was it God they encountered-or man?  From London to Canterbury—through a maze, dilapidation, refuse, jumbles of bricks, gradually thinning out—newer neater homes spaced into green meadows, rolling inclines, hedges—the road (superhighway) to Canterbury.  From a distance the Cathedral—standing for more than six centuries—why closed?  Why vaulted?  What powers?  What energies?  From a hill—immense silence.

The British Museum—must we come here to see our past?  Review these decapitations, these quasi-obliterations?  The statues belong to a place—situated in space and time.  What do they say to us now?  And of the people then?

Athens—the reality of 5th century Greece.  Only yesterday—humans as we are now and will be.

Juxtaposition against the London streets—Oxford and Charing Cross.  Stream of traffic—stream of consciousness.  The police attempt to impose order—on increasing disorder.  Is the world divided into those for violence and those for peace?  How soon will this moment be lost?  This moment in The Happy Eater, with London passing by the window.

Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square, London

…To be alone means—time to think, and Blankness.  Hot chocolate.  Yesterday—already more than a week—in cabin G234 of the P&O Oriana.  Four bunks, three roommates:  Nina, Marjory, Maureen.  What remains of that journey?  What did it mean?  A repetition that already diminished the past.  But I saw Ephesus, Izmir, Istanbul, Athens, Dubrovnik, Mostar.  Not the pyramids.  The Tarot cards said “Disaster,” but the word is very strong.

Along Charing Cross—endless Video Cities, Video Shops, paraphernalia to blast the eardrums.  Everywhere more and more Americanized—and when the world becomes America what will happen?

Cette voyage m’a donné une nouvelle perspective.  Il faut payer pour tout dans la vie.  Je cri—comme Dostoevsky—“Qu’est-ce que je peux faire?”  J’ai payée beaucoup.  Pourtant, je n’ai pas changé ma vie.  Il faut changer lorsque je retourne.

The National Gallery—I thought that it wouldn’t mean anything more to me.  I was wrong.  Turner, Goya, Van Gogh.  I cannot bear those dark views of life—only the clouds, the storm, the sea.  Life has always been cruel, narrow, selfish.  Humanity is not enough—to embrace the whole universe—to understand all with one’s heart as well as one’s mind.   The beauty of Celtic poetry—the feeling for nature…

London, this horrible city.  Hi Fi Cave, The Video Shop, Hi-Fi Disposal, International Sex Shop, Sex Store, Fish and Chips, Sex Shops ad infinitum.  Double-decker buses, taxis, cars—red, white, yellow, green , blue glaring lights.  People—students, bums, tourists.  Where are you going, all of you?

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