Thursday, May 05, 2005

Distance from Here

There's an obvious progression to the stages of cultural adjustment. Some Lonely Planet's rubric would say it goes:

1. Euphoria
2. Anxiety
3. Depression
4. Assimilation

Yes, these are also the side effects listed for Xanax.* But if you're a traveling actor, I think the phases of adjustment should be adjusted:

1. Euphoria (higher extremeties)
2. Anxiety
3. Inebriation
4. Euphoria (lower extremeties)
5. Depression
6. Assimilation
7. Misanthropy
8. Deconstruction
9. Ennui
10. Euphoria (upon leaving)

Yes, these are also the side-effects listed on the back of any David Rabe play.** But I don't really care to map it out any further. On Monday, I was roaming around downtown when I came across a rare books and maps store. It's run by a lovely old woman named De who, like the rest of the city, has a faithful dog in her employ capable of performing marginally human jobs like paper-stapling and middle management. Anyway, De and her dog listen to Alaska Public Radio (this week's feature was about "the most credible Sasquatch sighting to date" -- no lie) and catalog old books and maps for whomever might want them. The store is located well outside the Tourist Green Zone, where you can buy things that are at least 72% Kitch-Free.

So I was fishing through their second-hand vanity editions of Thomas Hardy (these stores are always good sources of Trollope, Proust, Faulkner, Joyce ... and any other author that people were compelled to read out of good canon coverage but then promptly unloaded out of sheer frustration) ... when De told me all about, well, maps. It's a subject that few outside the antiquarian's circle dare indulge, but then I remembered that I'm in a state where vast sections of the countryside have remained untouched since the days of captain Cook. And I was absolutely fascinated.

***

VOICE-OVER: Buster's recent academic pursuits had centered around cartography: the charting of unknown territories.

MICHAEL BLUTH: Hey, Buster. Hasn't everything sort of already been found? You know, by, like, Magellan, Columbus? NASA?

BUSTER BLUTH: Oh. Yeah. Yeah, they did a pretty good job.

MOTHER BLUTH: It never hurts to double-check.

***

That snippet, from the much-maligned writing staff of Arrested Development, also went through my head. Like most brilliant TV shows, it's being canned after two seasons to make way for "Trippin' with Cameron Diaz." Point is: there are still parts of the planet that are uncharted. So chart away, Buster. I learned how to tell if a page was printed with copper press or wood. How to determine if the coloring was authentic or replicated. I learned that the Italians didn't care about topography and made maps that were devoted to charting the world in units of days-at-sea. The Italian map of the world is a cluster of rigid, geometric puzzle-pieces were everything is an arc or a straight line away from everything else. I saw hastily detailed maps of the non-existent Northwest Passage -- the only seaway charted by the imaginative pocket-books of European kings.

And I saw a massive two-volume first folio printing of the complete works of Shakespeare, printed in 1873, complete with gorgeous engravings for each story. Thinking about taking a second job to buy it.

For now, special thanks to Marybeth Fritsky for introducing me to Bright Eyes. Digital Ash in a Digital Urn spins underneath this post. Good stuff.

FOOTNOTES -- in an effort to wrangle the digression, certain rants have been pushed to the end of the post. The management has made this change to preserve the otherwise air-tight prose you've come to enjoy at Tundratastic.

*Xanax. Never took the stuff myself, but I've had to drive with people who have. Eish! Fifty side-effects and they all contradict each other. Causes anorexia AND weight-gain. Euphoria AND depression. Agitation AND paralysis. Impotence AND prolonged erections. Insomia AND somnolescence. Diarrea AND constipation. I'm not kidding. Go to your local shrink, tell them you're not too happy, and you'll walk out with a script for some of this crap that day. Go get some now just to read the bottle. How can the pharma companies get away with that? Can I start selling bottles of cow shit on the street as long as I say it may taste delicious AND god-awful? All the SSRI's are going to be laughed out of the history books at the 21st century's version of leaching. Mark my words!

**David Rabe. Can burn in some version of his own loquacious, sollipsitic hell for all I care.

6 comments:

SadProfessor said...

Such a good post. I'm so glad you're documenting this experience for us to read.

I don't think they're canning Arrested Development, are they? Just an end of season "whoops we ran out of episodes," I thought. Like the West Wing ending its season a couple weeks ago to make way for an incomprehensible sap to the vast untapped fundamentalists-who-haven't-yet-sold-their-TVs-to-buy-more-copies-of-Left-Behind-books demographic. I may be wrong, but I hope I'm not.

Again, this is some good readin'. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Graphic thought – communicating without words. I’ve always been drawn to the aesthetic beauty of maps, but feared their power - political power specifically. They navigate space and all space is inherently political. At first glance they seem reflective, but then you know that someone had to decide where to draw the lines and make the active god-like decision as to what truth and lies to include in the design; what lies and truths to repress. How many layers of ideology are represented in those undulating lines and hand colored tints? How many imperialistic wars launched, inspired by a copper press? How many sea captains tamed by the prospect of a flat earth? How many Galileo’s imprisoned for charting the stars? How many possibilities closed off because a cartographer feared the miasma of too much detail? But maps are our daily totems. Don’t know that we could exist without them. And they are so seductively beautiful.

a thought by Friel “…it can happen that a civilization can be imprisoned in a linguistic contour which no longer matches the landscape of fact.” -

-Trillum

RennyRu said...

Exactly how much does the first- folio cost? Cause there's a little sis out here in DC who would be willing to chip in a few bucks toward it... with the understanding of course that she had borrowing rights when you get back. ;)
BTW-- mom's talkin' all crazy about sending you a Chipotle Burrito in the mail. What's that about?

Rana said...

I wanted to add something intelligent and thought-provoking about maps or Shakespeare or the compelling works of Trollope...but all I can think of is Sasquatch. I saw it on Current Affair the other day! (Woe is me...I just fessed up to that) Keep your eyes and ears open for him...or the 6'8" guy toting a garbage bag full of brown furry jackets.
-rana

Q: What did Delaware?
A: Idaho. Alaska...(A leaves the room. Moments later...)
A: A New Jersey.

Karl's dad said...

Am willing to go in with Renny Ru on that Shakespeare purchase, so long as I don't need to take a third job to help.

tickledspirit said...

it seems like "inebriation" should appear more often on your Traveling Actor's list...

love,
a former travelling actor