Psychological Travel Notes, Marseille

The thing is, everybody wears very good sneakers: With tight fitting sweatpants, peaking below striped djellabas and dashikis, combined with dresses, tracksuits and leggings are the chunky, the limited and the collaborative, gleaming white or radiating volt, pink and, sometimes, a multitude of iridescent. Intermediate-level Vapormaxes (Utility, Flyknit, Plus) seem to be stakes to play dans la rue, one-upped by 720s, Kiko Kostadinov’s Gel-Delvas and the bulbous sculptural offerings Han Kjøbenhavn and Puma have been putting out lately. The general selection slants soccer and running, mediterranean street kid and La Haine. Athletic footwear choices speak of discernment and respect for the urban space: look good when stepping outside, you owe the streets of Marseille.

Marseille is an impressive, varied assembly of architecture. Both the elevated and the mundane are housed in thoughtful (or at least, deceisive) structures that weave into a gritty, dense fabric that presents its scars as proudly as its triumphs.

A young man passes, his architecturally sculpted upper body squaring Rue d’Aubagne. Grey technical fabric spans voluminius chest muscles, disproportionally slim legs stick out from boxer’s shorts in shiny leggings, their panelling suggesting a martial future for everybody. His hair is cropped into a precise fade. Above the left ear, a succession of shaven vertical lines combine with a longer horizontal one: a thick barbell, the straightest possible, most elegant commitment to his sport, to be renewed daily, during morning routine.

Marseille: a landscape overrun by infrastructure, flowing, abruptly ending on geologic barriers. Inhabited caves and machines, steep cliffs of built limestone, a sea of lives lived extending into the horizon, up and under bridges, weaving foot traffic through houses and below kitchens and gardens. A drawn city, a pastiche on paper, all colorful dust and complex views. A decidedly non-urban urban space, a grown stone organism, a Moebian landscape, a Cité Obscure.

Psychological Bar Reviews (5)

Everything at Winsome, Los Angeles, radiates comfort. Woods and leathers are light, the space is airy and, at this time of day, mostly empty. Everything about layout, menu and personnel suggests American diner, albeit re-colored, re-tooled and re-cast to fit the Silver Lake set. A backdrop against which meaningful glances may be exchanged, plans made, and, most importantly, intents are declared as loudly and clearly as possible.

Two tables over, masculine drawls discuss cast and casting for an upcoming project. It is repeatedly referred to as a „feel good movie“, a group of words that seem purposefully assembled to enable maximum vocal fry. The granola is served with strawberrys, and it is excellent, as every granola in California tends to be. Ice teas are ordered before, after and with everything.

„Martinis are better in daylight“, another declaration, made over the faint clinks of clear ice cubes in thin-walled glasses, as another day, and another power brunch passes on the patio, in bright sunlight and stark shadow.

Winsome, Silver Lake, Los Angeles.

Psychological Transit Notes, Kyoto

Four days in September, I lived in the refurbished remains of a 1970s apartment building, constructured for a long-gone working class in Kyoto. I laundered my clothes in its cellar, I slept beneath its raw concrete ceilings. I witnessed the strongest taifun through its latticed windows, the rain slashing around Hōkanji, which stood unimpressed, as it has forever. Within the howl, all fell silent. I remember overlooking Higashiyama, its houses made from aging wood (noticing how its particular gradient is determined by age and exposure), the trees and rocks – as if all this was my home. As if it had years of my life to emblazon itself into my brain. A concrete box in a taifun, my love and me inside, and our clothes hanging to dry on an extendable fishing rod across the room. A day to itself, in this year of change and momentum (at RC Hotel, Kyoto).

One of the most significant things about the urban fabric of Japanese metroplexes is the number and cultural integration of 7-11, Family Mart and other convenience stores: Multi-purpose hubs, more or less 24 hours per day, for all kinds of social strada. They provide grocery shopping assistance to the elderly, free Wi-Fi to tourists, wastebins and agreeable cheap food to everyone. The Famima entrance jingle is one of my strongest and most present memories from my times spent in Tokyo and other japanese cities. These stores cry for ethnographic inquiry beyond William Gibson’s inquisive modelling of the Lucky Dragon franchise in All Tomorrow’s Parties.

Die Kieswege und der Geruch nach Zeder, moosgrüne Steinlaternen, gewundenes Holz, glimmendes Licht in ausgehöhlten Bambusrohren, überhaupt: Bambus. Rinzai-Rot-Orange. Wetteiferndende Zikarden an den Ufern jedes Rinnsals. Das dichte, schweigende Moos entlang sorgsam angelegter, gleichsam planvoll gewachsener Blickachsen.

Walking the streets of Osaka by myself after nightfall, immersed in neon light and concrete, the 1980s endlessly reflected long since their time has ended. I have no purpose here, other than keeping momentum, researching myself in alley corners. 2015 seems a long time ago, I think, as I head back to Dōtonbori to meet a woman under battered Ezaki Glico, research unfinished and thoughts unthought.

Psychological Transit Notes, Across Japan

There was one of the perfect silences in the 100-Meter Gallery of Odawara Art Foundation. You know, the considered kind that includes a faint hum of air condition running at its lowest setting. There was no movement of air. This is what can be learned from the Japanese: Silence. The silence of deferring to the dao of all things, while doing what has to be done by playing one’s part, elegantly. The silence of recognizing each thing’s and each being’s part. The silence of doing nothing when all is done.

Watching the slim, immaculate fingers of the JR East clerk fly over a landscape of unlabeled, but color-coded hardware keys, each press producing the kind of satisfying mechanical click keyboard afficionados have been paying substantial sums for, I wonder whether his fingertips have already flipped open to reveal a set of spidery steel rods, inputting data with superhuman speed and precision. The clerk is wearing a short-sleeved grey button down, embroidered with the vaguely brutalist JR logo. His physiogonomy, attention and complete being could not be more focused. Around him, an assortment of laminated scraps of paper, highlighted katakana phrases, flyers and maps is taped into a Monet-esque array of tranquil color. The dynamic silence of faint office sounds surrounds us.

Everything is permanently going down. The only thing left for us to care about is how we and every thing goes down. This is why leaving small stone mounds along the hiking trail matters. This is why making good rice bowls matters. This is why optimizing your CSS grid matters. Matters of grace are actually this: matter. It’s in defiance of the universe that we apply attention and care to small things. It’s a gesture, and gestures are all we have. Put care and love into every move, in defiance of your insignificance. Create matter by claiming it emphatically and carefully. (On mossy rocks halfway between Hongu-Taisha and Yunomine-Onsen)

You look so grim, Craig said.

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