15 05 2000

turbulent sea
clouds and rain
strong winds
11:40 am

bricks and mortar

i love old neighborhoods, with solid square homes, large porches, and tall, stately elms lining the streets. to hell with the electrical wires, i love trees that are 80 feet tall and 100 years old. i want to amble through parks and gardens flooded with asters and cleomes and roses as old as my mother, with walkways that meander alongside still ponds and a small white gazebo hidden behind mounds of flowers.

i am weary of shopping malls and wal-mart stores the size of a city block. i want to wander around a small dimly-lit shop, with narrow aisles and shelves stacked floor to ceiling with dusty merchandise . i want to inhale the aromas of a true marketplace, grimy and raw, like the mercado central in downtown santiago. i want to talk with a shopkeeper who knows almost everything about the wares he sales, and nothing about e-commerce and brand strategy.

i want to go into old buildings made of red brick and stone, and sit at an old-fashioned wood desk, in an office with four solid walls, a door, and a window that lets actual sunlight, and real fresh air, stream in.

i want to read ancient words in forgotten books written by men and women long dead, words of pure wisdom, gleaned from a life well-lived, words that sing:

O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound,
That breathes upon a bank of violets,

i want to work out in an old gymnasium, housed in an old brick warehouse, with boxers who sweat buckets. i am tired of all-glass and steel re-made singles bars with names like “x-cel”, where people go more to see and be seen than to actually sweat and hurt. i want to work on the heavy bag, throwing punches in combinations until my knuckles bleed beneath the tape and gloves. there are no electricfied exercise machines in this gym, no treadmills or stairmatsers, or spin bikes. every bit of exercise is pure muscle and grit, the only machine is the muscle and bone you bring in with you.

finally, i want to listen to old songs by dean martin, louis prima, and frank sinatra. i long for the sound of a single violin crying while a cello sighs quietly in the background. i thirst for the resonance of edith piaf singing truly singing la via en rose, accompanied by a lone musette. certain, real music has the power to stream the magic that is paris into the bleakest urban sprawl.

i have become spellbound by old things. i wonder, aloud, if this is just a natural reaction to being surrounded by an ever increasing deluge of new things. volumes of digital information wash over me, daily, like huge blue waves, flooding and then receding, giving me barely enough time to catch my breath before the next set rush in. it is this seemingly never-ending torrent of technology that creates a longing, in me, for firm ground, for oldness, for the wisdom in what was.