Vernacular

Question of the Day: How far from the edge of a road can you be before you become just regular vernacular architecture, as opposed to roadside vernacular architecture?

Related anecdote: As a wee little kiddie, I used to go to Story Book Land on Route 1 near Woodbridge Virginia . . . very roadside, very vernacular, very architecture. Drove by it, oh, I dunno, five years ago or so I guess, and the little concrete scultptures and statues were still visible under the weeds and trash and graffiti and decay and whatnot, and it made me really goddamn sad–not from the passing of a piece of kitsch culture, but for the lost innocence or whatever it is that makes it possible to kids to be so pleased by something(s) so simple and stupid, and for a simple and stupid place like that to have had such meaning for me and my sister as a kid.

When and why do our adult tastes get so specialized and specific that we become hard to please? When you’re three years old, a plaster animal–any plaster animal–is endlessly fascinating, and fills you with joy. At forty-three, you need certain brands, certain things, delivered certain ways, by certain people, who work in certain stores, in certain industries, and if you pay more than a certain amount, then there’s a certain amount of resentment that poisons your transaction, which never really moves you into the joy realm anyway, since you tend to get stuck instead as the distracted, or vaguely amused phase, at which point you look for something else to bring the joy, where once it came to you, unannounced, unexpected, and thrilling for it.

Just Passing By

On the way back home from Annapolis two weeks ago, I got off the Jersey Turnpike in Newark to step out of my car and look at the Manhattan skyline for the first time since September 11. I was struck by how tall the Empire State Building looked now without the towers to balance it out on the south end of the island, and with Chrysler behind it from that angle. There was still smoke in the air, although it was more of a blurry hazy cloud than a single plume from the pile. Disturbing, even from that far away. I have no desire to visit ground zero . . . I’d feel like a ghoul, and can’t imagine getting any closure from such a visit, since I didn’t lose anyone in the pile. I think it would just open up sores that I don’t need to have exposed. Seeing it from Jersey was enough.

Take Two

So I looked at this thing after a whole year away, and it struck me: hey . . . this is actually some pretty nifty stuff in here, if I say so myself, and with the distance of 12 months between composition and digestion to temper it all a bit. So I figger I’ll pick it up again, when I feel like it, but not on an every day basis, since that got to be a chore and was why I stopped doing this in the first place. I’ll probably hate myself for doing it again soon, but, hey, self-loathing can be a powerful, fun emotion, great for getting you motivated to do really productive stuff, instead of writing for the wind and the ether.