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Koyaanisqatsi, VA November 30, 2010

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
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McLean Virginia is an angry anthill of cars and conspicuous consumption, a dystopia of orange cones, the metallic skeletons of construction at rest for the night, car lights strung like animated pearls and rubies wriggling in disquieting, hallucinogenic frenzy through a Mobious strip of roads. I once lived not to far from here, in the District and later in close-in Arlington for a decade. My daughter was born at George Washington Hospital, on a snowy night when the car would not start and I learned you do not tell the cab company your wife is in labor if you expect them to show up. In day light there is a certain familiarity: I know this road, drove it many times on my way to Chain Bridge or if I had some errand in the neighborhood but the dark and the rain and almost two decades of unrelenting progress have transformed the once familiar roads into a suburban version of Tokyo, or the mythical city of Blade Runner.

I have been away so long from metropolis that I felt like an aboriginal confronted by a television playing Koyaanisqatsi, found myself dreaming of the almost deserted roads of North Dakota, the vastness of landscape punctuated by farmsteads with tree belts, the weathered remains of some barn washed brown by the sun and leaning precariously away from the unceasing winds, a water tower rising in the distance beneath which huddled a small town: grain elevators along the tracks, small frame houses with paint blistered by the roaring heat inside and the arctic cold without, a truck stop filled with an Odd mix of traveler kitsch and rural necessities inside which you could eat transcendent pie.

Humans are as social and predictable as a pack of dogs but I wonder what strange scent lead so many people to crowd themselves into these boxes surrounding the alpha males of the Central Government, to chose a landscape in which the highway is the dominant feature, how we came and conformed ourselves to its physical extremes like the inhabitants of Nunavut or Kalahari. We took all this land from people dazzled by glass beads and bright steel axes and we laugh at the thought at first but to people living with stone tools and with a millennium old practice of beading their clothes with animal quills these were not pointless things. We ourselves surrender to the dazzle of the mall, the gleaming trading cities of our crossroads, adorn ourselves with the pretty tags that make a pair of denim pants precious as Medieval silk and equip ourselves with impractical iPhones and gleaming espresso machines, and I wonder what and to whom we are surrendering in the exchange.