16 September 2009

Streets of Crocodiles

Wearily I crawl from my bed at around 7:30 each weekday morning to hastily and haphazardly have my coffee before running out to Elysian Fields Avenue where I catch the bus to UNO. No matter how brief the previous night's rest were, I find that this occasion, of boarding the bus, joyous, wondrous, a pleasure taken almost to the point of extravagance. It is, perhaps, that I have spent so many of my days in the country, where I would have to drive myself an hour in either direction to come upon any semblance of civilization, that public transportation has come to enchant me so. I find it almost magical to pay my $1.25, locate my seat, and be shuttled in seconds through the time and weather worn streets of this entropic or, I should say, post-apocalyptic, city. Since I own a car, I could drive, but when I forfeit the stress of having to dodge traffic and find convenient parking, I gain wonderment. It is as if paying a fair to the circus, for what strange sites these city streets are filled with. I'm mesmerized by the city and its people, every decrepit alley, every dank, weed and wildflower choked lot, every face lined by time and ravaged by circumstance.

Lately, on my journeys to and from the university I've been reading Bruno Schulz's The Street of Crocodiles (Sklepy Cynamonowe). My eyes turn from the Schulz's fantasia of words and images in pre-war Poland to the streets of post-Katrina New Orleans--universes vastly different, yet remarkably similar. I find myself searching for similar mythical spaces, where time and matter momentary breach its stagnant canals, and briefly swallow surrounding real space in its dazzling flood. As you can imagine, New Orleans is chock full of such spaces. . . like worlds inside books, streets nestling other streets:

"Deep inside the town there open up, so to speak, double streets, doppelganger streets, mendacious and delusive streets. Enchanted and misled, one’s imagination will produce false maps of the ostensibly long known and familiar town where those streets have their places and names, while the night, in its inexhaustible fecundity, will find nothing better to do than produce continually new and fictitious configurations?"

There is no lack of such strange figures, only less elegant, more ragged (especially in this park of town).

Schulz was also an artist, as you can see--perhaps more well known as such in his own time. A jew, he was granted protection under the nazis by an official who was taken by his artistic ability. However, this didn't grant that he would forever survive the war. He had been commissioned to paint a mural in a child's nursury--an artistic feat that later resurfaced, painted over, decades later on the other side of the war, on the other side of the Polish-Ukraine border, and has since been transported to the jewish state of Jerusalem--was shot dead while venturing to work outside of the ghetto alloted the jews.

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