City Reviews

San Francisco, California...

San Francisco is a good town. The architecture, for California, is often old and the clean air, when the fog is not covering much or all of the city, is delightful and moving. However the place is overrated generally.

The problem with San Francisco is the decline of muscular industries. Shipbuilding, warehousing, the production of middle class furniture, the production of anything resembling a midwestern commodity, is fast disappearing. We are left here with the remnants of this past. The buildings are now filled with post industrial people who do not measure reality by the ancient methods once needed to survive. This is a generalization applicable to all large American coastal cities. It produces the most disappointment here if only because this city produces the greatest love of a city, and here you do not want to find fault or flaw. San Francisco is like that girl in college, among others you tried to bed, that you actually fell in love with.

Minot, North Dakota.........

Minot lies in the northwestern quadrant of North Dakota. North Dakota is sparse and open. I have only seen it once in the early Spring, and I lived there - in Minot - for what equaled a month in late September to early November, 1990. The element of sparsity intensifies in the autumn, and becomes unbearable in Winter, but unbearable to people who are unbearable to their peers in any circumstance. North Dakota simply gives back to you what you do in the world.

Surprisingly, Minot has a zoo - not a happy place in October, although it makes one think that summer in Minot must be a pleasant if not pleasurable place in which to walk around. Raising children here would be difficult if they had ever previously experienced trees beyond the city limits. But like the rest of North Dakota, no one should arrive unless they are ready to settle. In that sense Minot today still resembles most closely the experience of the American pioneers. Imagine going outside to inspect hail damage after a storm. Perhaps on a road with other houses which are nearly exactly alike, except that beyond the area of your houses lie the endless expanse of the American prairie. In this sense, Minot represents the most desirable of women - reliable. Like a healthy Norwegian woman, fresh from the European tundra, drunk on buffalo steaks and wheat soup, Minot stands forth, defying the constant plains wind, the fat of her body protective and full. She endures, and with her, you.

Madrid, Spain ...................

This is a city worth knowing. The King's palace, the King's gardens, the King's promise, the nation's capital, the seat of the government, the divided avenues, the shaded sidewalk cafes of these avenues and the women. Madrid is especially worth knowing because of its women.

When you ride the subway there, walk the lengthy hallways beneath the city and speed through its underground tunnels, you are always accompanied by the comfortable presence of women who want to be looked at and adored from a safe distance. Women in Madrid dress to be looked at. In fact, to not look would be an offense.

To look at women in Madrid is a particularly healthy thing to do. Madrid is not like other cities where women are treated as museum pieces, to be spoken of in intelligent whispers but not touched. Madrid is a more interactive setting. Women in Madrid dress to be looked at not in order to be spoken about but to be spoken to, complimented verbally. "You look about as delicious as a chocolate tart", is not an insult but a pleasantry.

Such pleasantries are necessary in Madrid. Women require them as much as men do. A happy woman in Madrid is a woman who has been complimented on her looks. A happy man in Madrid is one who has been able to tell a woman he covets just how he would like to do her in one poetic form or another. Sexual tension is made explicitly public in this way and therefore more binding to mores.

The advantages of such outward expressions of sexual tension are numerous. Men are the victims in this city and not the women. The women are too beautiful and the men too much in pain over this feminine beauty to translate into the ridiculously puritan forms of sexual contact among people in U.S. cities.

Men, for instance, in Madrid are more likely to touch one another than men in other cities, not only in the U.S. but throughout the world. They grab each other by the ears, they slap the back of each other's necks, look each other in the eyes when they speak, and offer cigs to others first whenever they are about to smoke. Men are convivial with one another and the women who feed their eyes and stomachs.

Santa Fe, New Mexico......

Indians from nearby reservations: San Juan, Taos, San Ildefonso, Acoma: come to the Plaza and sit under the awnings of the Colonial Governor's Mansion, now a museum, where they sell their jewelry, pottery, weavings and sculptures. Art is their industry, the industry of tourism. If you go to Santa Fe for art you will never know the city, always be a tourist.

Most of the people who live or work near the Canyon Road area, Santa Fe's answer to New York's SOHO, fit this description: they call themselves artists, which means most of these people living and working there are tourists, or local whores who pander to outsider's money and whims. Some, of course, are very talented.

The Hispanics, like the Indians and artists, are very proud of their heritage and culture. Many claim to be direct descendants of Spanish conquistadores. Certainly their culture of bandannas, low-riders, knives, guns and cruising is based upon similar heroic values.

The Rotunda is New Mexico's state capital building. So there are politicians in Santa Fe as well. There is also a small community college and a small private liberal arts college. About three decades ago the people of Santa Fe were given a choice between having the University of New Mexico's main campus (actually in Albuquerque) or a State Prison on the outskirts of town. The people chose the prison. Local humor has it that this decision was taken so people wouldn't have to travel great distances when visiting imprisoned relatives.

In addition to these unique cultural characteristics, Santa Fe is a city located in a valley some 7,000 feet above sea-level. The mountains to the north of the valley reach up to nearly 12,500 feet. There is snow for almost the entire year up on Baldy Peak.

In the mountains you swim in rivers, walk trails, climb rocks, build fires, drink beers, sleep under the stars, soak in hot springs and listen to the wind. The desert is to the south. If you know where to go, you can get away from everyone in twenty minutes and not see even the most remote sign of their existence.

The architecture in the city has been changing in accordance with other changes. It's become cheesy. But you can learn to close your eyes to all that glitter and still catch someone's back yard unscenically piled high with "trash": old cars, old furniture, many unused tools. And that's partly the spirit of the place right there in this local's ugly back yard: its still his. So Santa Fe is a city that thrives on tourism but which nevertheless remains extremely jealous about its real jewels none of which have the slightest bit to do with art and its fashions.

Rockland, Maine...............

Rockland offers at best only a few of the most anonymous and tokenly commercial gestures of picturesque coastal tourism. Apart from the chance to buy a postcard, eat a lobster or lick an ice-cream cone, the town essentially exists only as a place through which the traveler passes impatiently and bored. To the tourist, Rockland's position is both that of a threshold and a hurdle. Holidays are stalled in Main Street traffic. It is here that you ask for directions: "How far is Camden?" "Which way to the lighthouse?" "How do you get from Route 1 to Port Clyde?" Here you sit in a parking lot waiting for the ferry that will carry you to the islands.

Although it rests on the Atlantic and its mercantile and industrial heart is wet and salty with the business of fishing and of processing fish, the boredom of Rockland is the tiredness of all American commerce that is tied to place and the geography of economic traffic. Beneath a half-hearted display of glossy scenic enchantment made all the more shabby by the more glorious styles of surrounding destinations, Rockland could be anywhere in America, anywhere that lives self-centeredly in its own body, its economic and cultural landscape bent like a dog leg from the picturesque pursuits of travelers passing through. Rockland's mouth is near to its bowels. It is its own body, breeding and dying, sweating and swimming at the edge of a cold and disdainfully-productive sea.

Rockland is everything one fears will entrap a person in hopeless nostalgia, its fabricated consummation, a dream one whirls to keep apart from desires that still have hope - railway spurs and my wrong, broken toys. A tourist of love should force oneself to linger in Rockland, to be disenchanted with a liaison with the body of Rockland. Rockland is a high school reunion. Drink rum and coke at the Navigator Lounge on the docks. Here is your high school sweetheart, grown huge with macaroni and childbirth. "I know you, you bought a class ring, you loser," the tone will whisper at your armpit.

Manhattan, New York.....

New York City is likely to be destroyed in the next ten years. Certainly more likely than San Francisco. It is like San Francisco and Los Angeles combined. Earthquakes, riots, nuclear terrorism are all possible here. It has by far the widest selection of pornography in America. Architecturally it is beautiful to look at, particularly from the bridges when you are approaching from the airport, or when flying overhead.

Nighttime is superior to daytime, particularly when it is warm if you're from the West, if from the East then Fall and Spring when it is moderate. People are very striking there, probably more than any other U.S. city. You can walk in Manhattan, having a car is a hindrance, you have to worry about it being stolen, and you always have to get up early to move your car so it won't be towed, and being towed is very expensive: $250.00.

Central Park is beautiful. Every day is like Easter there; it looks like an Easter egg hunt. But you're always concerned about sitting on the grass for fear of killing it. The grass in Manhattan strikes one as something that is finite, or unlikely to continue indefinitely.

It is a nervous city, dirty. It is really filthy. In New York you worry about your shoes. Because you know that when you walk in your house, it will get on the floor. And when you walk barefoot in your house, it will get on your feet. When you go to bed, it will get in your sheets.

Chinatown is the best place to go shopping. There are fresh vegetables, fish, and it is cheap. It's cheap, but you may live with a fear of the Chinese. They don't speak English, and that is upsetting if you do not speak Chinese. You must suspect the fish was caught illegally in the Harbor, and is likely toxic or wrong in some way.

Living in New York does offer the feeling that you are in an historical place. People there want to be excellent, which is an essential component of being an excellent person. You're there, right where it's "at". Yet, as with most cities, your survival as an individual consists in exceeding what it is.

Art is the city's biggest problem. The Museums are overwhelming. New York hordes the nation's art. The American tennis player John McEnroe has just opened a gallery there, which is not yet open to the public. The best idea for the revitalization of New York City would be to reallocate its art to other cities and towns throughout the rural United States.

Scottsdale, Arizona...........

On June 19, 1994, when the outdoor temperature had reached 118 , a child fell on an asphalt driveway. He stuck. His mother heard the screaming, and peeled her son from the pavement, leaving behind 40% of his skin. He was rushed to the hospital.

Arriving in Scottsdale is like landing on a planet that is much closer to the sun. A planet of naturally occurring golf courses and strip malls, irrigated by overhead misters. Buildings are erected out of nothingness. No one ever works on them, they just get finished. Empty construction trucks are everywhere, no drivers, no building materials: just signs that someone ate a sandwich there a few minutes ago.

Teenagers in Scottsdale are bronzed. A Friday night consists of six ripe young girls hanging out at the 7-11 waiting for some dumpy old guy to show up so they can woo him into buying them 6 40s of Mickeys, while their boyfriends wait around the corner drooling over the prospect of sleeping well that night. Shakespeare would have envied this romanticism, it is so incredibly basic.

The desert is only romantic at night. An erection is difficult to suppress if you stare long enough at the oranges and reds of the sunset. The giant mesas and rock formations gleam, like a woman's breast fresh from the shower.