“The space that homogenizes thus has nothing homogenous about it. After its fashion, which is polyscopic and plural, it subsumes and unites scattered fragments or elements by force.”
My home is scattered across three disparate communities. Fortunately, I am able to spend time in all of them on a regular basis. Traversing these spaces has underscored for me their commonalities and departures. In the photos that follow I have tried to capture some of the distinctive elements that are relevant to my own life. Click the images to see larger photos.
I spent half my life in Austin. Although my intuition tells me that Austin’s heyday was probably in the 1970s, it was as good a place as any to live. During my recent trips to Austin I have noticed a deep ambivalence among my closest friends regarding the recent transformations of the city. Change is inevitable but change is also marked by multi-directionality. Built environments are arenas of class struggle. There is an unmistakeable flow of composition-decompositiom-recomposition in urban landscapes. The fixed spatial systems created by capital in the past must be overcome by capital today. The first time I noticed these dynamics was when Austin decided to shutter Liberty Lunch to make way for Silicon Laboratories. The process of overdevelopment has only accelerated since then. Thus, Keep Austin Weird has an air of desperation about it. If Austin really is the Live Music Capital of the World then it’s quickly become a colonial capital. Austin’s acclaimed music festivals seem to confirm the city’s open embrace of neoliberal values, of self-serve all-you-can-stand buffets of hyper-commercialized non-local music. Nevertheless, Austin is still home to some of the very best people in the world as far as I’m concerned. As long as my friends and favorite haunts survive part of me will always remain in Austin.
I enjoyed growing up in sleepy Wharton. Over the years I’ve met many people who speak disdainfully of their hometowns and their high school years. This was never the case with me. I relish every opportunity to return home for a visit. In some respects Wharton is on the opposite pole of the same pattern of accumulation mentioned previously. With stores like Wal-Mart and Buc-ee’s outside the gates and Houston looming ever closer, there’s not much left in the way of economic opportunity. The process is visible to the naked eye, even at Gulf Coast Medical Center—an institution so near and dear to my own family. In another sense this town seems to stand still for me. Stillness hangs in the air. Somehow the downward economic slide and the anachronistic are reconcilable in small towns like Wharton. The courthouse itself seems to personify this contradiction with its nostalgically beautiful exterior and its inoperative interior. Whatever. I never really left this place either.
When you move to a new city there is sometimes a temptation to disparage the place you came from. You build a narrative for yourself to validate current circumstances. As I have settled into Toronto the urge has gradually subsided. The past is past and Toronto demands my immediate attention. I’ve never lived in a large city like this before. My life here is something like a perpetual adventure. So many people. So many differences. So many corners. On the weekends I try to see something new. I am nowhere near exhausting this place. However, the same flow of composition-decomposition-recomposition is unfolding here as elsewhere. I’m just not as emotionally invested in Toronto yet. I’m not bothered by the immanent demise of Honest Ed’s or the shifting waterfront landscape. But I recognize the struggle. In the mean time I’ll just keep exploring.