Sunday, July 24, 2016


Well, when you find out different
things you realize distinctions
are between places : Content
versus form. Part of the life
is reaching a place or an
agreement with oneself over
this. You want House of Cupcakes,
or you want Small World Coffee?
Directly across the street from
Small World  -  speaking of which  -
there's a house that long, long ago
was lifted off its foundation and
raised up one story, so that a retail
operation  -  last I knew it was
a Mabel's Dress Shoppe sort of
place  -  could be put on the new
ground floor. There are those
historic Princeton photo books,
Americana Series and such, which
tell of this, with a photo or two.
Literally, they just lifted the
small colonial house up and
placed a new lower story
beneath it, so that  -  if you
really study the place  -  you
can grasp where the original
front doorway was and the
lower windows at street level
and all. It's a strange concept
to see in physical form, and
instantly it's somehow a very
understandable narrative of
place and time. I used to often
sit there, in early mornings,
on the outdoor bench at the
coffee shop, and watch it  -
the sun would be rising to
its east and the slow drag of
shadow and light would play
itself out along the side wall.
It was all in silence, the light
would move along, the creep
of the shade-line dissecting
various things, and the varying
intensities of the light, in the
same way, changeably illumining
other thing; but because it was
'east' there was never anything
direct happening  -  thus no glare
or window shine or that sort of
thing. You can learn a lot about
light and movement, place and
form, by such moments. It's all
about placement too  -  I could
have sat anywhere else, and
the entire apt scene would have
been played out in a completely
different way. The complexity
of the actual simplicity, as well,
was compounded each day by
the repetitive recognition of
the slight seasonal changes
which are always underway,
week by week as the days
accumulate and the story
changes. Probably 30,000
people over the years have
sat there and stared in much
the same fashion as I did, day
after day, but seen it differently,
and totally as part of another
Content and form, content and
form. It seems you do have to
pick one or another to find your
point. In Art, (this has nothing
to do with Princeton, hallelujah!)
the Dadaists tried disseminating
a different notion of that idea by
fragmenting that difference,
shredding the space between them,
in that all of a sudden the 'content'
became the 'form'  -  exclamatory
words and declarative notions,
marks, found papers, debris,
notational items, each and all
went into the subversive notion of
'Art' as ridicule, statement,
declaration, irony or anarchic
breakdown. So, in its way, the
 'content' became the 'form'. In the 
same way, literature-wise, to keep it
simple, Holden Caulfield became
the voice of J. D. Salinger, even
though the 'persona' constructed
was not him at all  -  all that
sidling, adolescent language. It
became necessary, at some point,
for him (Salinger) then to have
to continue that, even though it
was NOT necessarily him  -  the 
snickering (I don't know, is it
snickering, or snide?) tone of voice,
the adjunct words, the breakaway
notions, the talking to oneself,
in a way, went right on, through
all the Glass Family episodes
 and the rest. It's a choice, one
made once, and kept. Unlike,
say, the story-choice of that
little house  -  which narrative
and voice was fiercely interrupted
at some point when the house,
it was decided, would be
transformed. Other people
would not know it, or know it
only through that newer 'voice',
that Mabel Dress Shoppe thing,
while, perhaps, others as myself
would still view it in the other
voice and terminology, which
required the rational alternate
of old, solid street living, doors
and the ground and the commerce
aspect be damned. 'Reality' is a
determinant factor, selected by
the viewer, or reader. You 'react'
to that which you select. Content,
or form. One covers for the other,
if you have the agenda.
There's also the very soft, personal
Nazism of control, underway at all
times. You do not seek to have the
voice of another speak up. Speak
out. In order to stop that, you
disallow the progress of the
narrative, seeking to claim it
back. Again, it's 'House of
Cupcakes' versus 'Small
World Coffee' stuff. You do
it right, it works; you press too
hard, it's a disaster. At Small World,
the hundred people I got to know
included everyone  -  the Boro
garbage worker who I'd see
nearly day after day, trudging
Witherspoon in all weathers,
seen and acknowledged, talked
to and notions exchanged. He
retires, then I see him still,
nearly each day, walking his
Labrador each morning along
Witherspoon and up along
Nassau. He kept the same
hours and the same habits.
Some days he'd sit, we'd talk,
I'd find out about him, and he
me; the wonderful woman I
got to know with her expensive
cars. Almost each day, over 7
years or so, she had three or four
different ones. E class Mercedes,  
some fancy Mini Cooper, 
Countryman, a Tesla. She was
great, would sit out front
there sometimes and we'd
talk. 'Yeah, I love my good
cars. I should have been
born a boy. This car's great.' She
was a wonderful woman, and I
always wished I'd had the guts to
tell her I was glad she wasn't born
a boy. Wet, morning hair, stunning
tops, a happy face, all good things.
Her enthusiasm for her moments
was infectious. Automotively
unstoppable. A cupcake, or a
coffee. Who knows? The house
on the ground, or raised in
the air? Who knows? For each
of them, to myself, the form?
Or the content? I never knew,
but I never nit-picked either,
just accepted. You make your
own storyboard, but you can't
stop others, either.
When I was in NYCity, back when,
there were two hotels, the Albert,
and the Marlton  - yes, I've made
mention of each before, and they
both have my story lines  -  but they
came to represent something more
than what they were, because of
the story lines attached, or even
manufactured, to fit the narrative
being sought. Everyone came
through them at some point, the
weirdos, the beatniks, the unsettled,
the hip, and the hippie too; or maybe
more just the hippie merchandisers;
the sorts who made the narrative,
and made money from it too.
Rocksters and schlocksters, both
the drug and the druggie together
in one individual, each. All those
on-the-go rock manager types,
making money, and fortunes, off
the careers and tales of the people
making the music. Goldstein, Klein,
Epstein  -  get the picture? The
journalist Al Aronowitz types. 
They'd all come waltzing through, 
like sponges to soak up the wet 
spread of the acts that were 
taking off while that tide was in.
What did they want? What were
they after? Form? Or content? 
Neither, or both? No, really they
were after money. It all came 
down to that. The real cultural 
determinant of our time, and
the individual ruination of
everything else it touches.
The ground floor, or the
elevated heights, what's it
going to be, and what are
you going to do with your
freedom? Sell it?

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