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Gasoline Zen

It’s remarkably silent as we slowly cross Beethoven Street. I ponder the gradually passing shadows and whether they are the most real thing I’ve seen today. Dry-clean smell permeates this black Kia Optima. We keep inching along Culver. Finally, the freeway sprawl, in front of us. I servo down a window in anticipation – only to find the freeway packed with the afternoon jam, and myself in stasis again.

Jon said that Uber has put a layer on top of the city, opened it up. It provides no freedom, replacing one rigged system with another. New economics, but no new access (economics newer create new things). Nothing improved, it’s a stall, sideways momentum. My driver is a quiet, chinese man, entirely clad in beige. He puts a Muji tray of caramel sweets on the handrest. I take one and never eat it.

Under the street lights, a Volkswagen Passat stops to pick me up. Its interior smells of industrial strawberries, the stereo playing progressive sidechain arpeggios. There is a moody iridiscent sliver in me that enjoys how well this music matches the ride, the nighttime tunnel flow. We are traversing the dark city in an almost meditative state. Gasoline Zen, I post to Twitter.

The music selection is an integral part of every ride, in a very different way than during Berlin Taxi rides. American radio stations somehow seem to have access to a deeper archive of 1980s rock classics, inacceptable music that seems strangely adequate in Californian air. Toto, Stones, The Wings, they all seem to complete a cliché that may be more real than the actual city.

Thomas is driving me. He is in a palm tree-patterned daishiki. He is listening to The Wave radio at full volume, some black-eyed R’n’B, and keeps humming along. The ever-present industrial strawberry smell mixes with his vanilla perfume. All of this is highly pleasant.

This one blasts trap beats, the stereo’s volume perfectly tuned. As the sun casts soft shadows onto my ankles, I notice yet another variant of the faint dry clean/dried fruit scent that I am unable to place (this country’s olfactory industry has long since emancipated itself from the limited selection of fruit available on earth, I scrawl into my notebook). The car is en route to Los Feliz, where I’d like to visit Ennis House, and stare at the cityscape in dusk and sun. On Glendower Avenue, the door closes and the Prius hums away. I remain by myself on a steep road, next to a vaguely Aztec structure.

In my life, in moments of clarity, in moments of being close to myself, the world has felt abstracted, foreign and incompatible. In these moments, I have felt akin to the patterns of eroded signage paint on tar, to the shapes of the clouds, to insects resting on a sun-basked leaf. I have felt disconnected, yet at home in the cracks and ends, at home inscribed into the patterns, nowhere to be found but somehow. (010717)

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I am not sure on which mental or metaphysical level this kind of disassociation occurs. It may be beyond the biological firmware, in the sense that systems of perception are recording everything with ultimate precision, in a kind of sensory equivalent to raw sensor output. It is not fully processed, as the cognitive system occupies itself elsewhere, with more pressing (and de-pressing) matters. But the data of every moment exists, and we exist in it.

Now, the thing to be learned is to re-associate again, to solely be in the moment. To let the sensory data wash through all of our being, and fill everything with the wonder of the phrase I am Here. To understand and negotiate being there (implying the ontological separation from the world) and being here (implying oneness of perceiving and existing).

Psychological Bar Reviews (7)

The coordination between hues of orange of about 24 vintage Polyside Chairs arranged around square plastic tables, four oversized umbrellas advertising SION KÖLSCH and the swooping letterforms so tastefully deployed to the menu headers of Café Hallmackenreuther is ever so slightly off, and thus achieves a kind of perfection any Pantone folder would ruin. The palette is positively exciting, reframing the scenery as an episode of quintessential 1973ish West-Germanness.

A table over, one of the quarter’s apparent doyens is holding court. With white-bearded smiles, patrons, strangers and acquaintances passing the square are waved over – while multiple magazines, tiny glasses of white wine and an eager young labrador keep being miraculously juggled. „Flat white, in a cup“ is the order, which is swiftly downed upon arrival.

Beyond the leafy courtyard, the café itself has opened its glass front, providing ample space to bustle about for a pair of stewards that tends to the crowd reclined in polyethylene. One is green-eyed, lanky and bumbling, a shoddy bowler hat hiding strands of streaky blonde hair and yesterday’s night out. His partner – all sagging thrashed denim and big-haired, nose-pierced, crop-topped street cred – is doing a considerably more professional job, inserting some urban eroticism into an otherwise almost pastoral scene. French, Italian and Kölsch are spoken among maple trees, all softly blending in the most pleasant summer air.

Hallmackenreuther, Belgisches Viertel, Cologne.

I grew up in a small town at the end of a country. There were few people like me. I learned to live inside my head for long weekends and days that failed to make a connection. I left the town the first chance I got. I don’t think about it much, but I still carry the worlds I made there. In a way, I have been casted from that place: its entire opposite, its negative form, but sharing every wrinkle in great detail1.

  1. Ich schrieb diesen Text für Craig Mod’s Ridgeline-Newsletter, der sich mit dem psychologischen Zustand des Gehens auseinandersetzt. Er ist ein Beitrag zur Sektion Fellow Walkers, zu der Craig fragte: What shell have you been torn from?. Er erschien in #38.
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