Be generous: unfurl word-scripts into trusting patterns. Travel the life-world as a sunlight sunbright Sunshine Superman. Practice breathwork on the streets. No need to feel lost there on the sidewalks. Wander for a bit with a gray wooden wand pilfered from a mound of twigs. Ahead of me: Small Batch. Behind me: the looming edifice of the First Baptist Church. On the ground beside me, near a tree where I stand: a plate of uneaten beans. And beside the beans, a board game: The Game of Life. Turning left, I relax into a park bench to absorb the implications of an allegory: an emblematic architecture. In the left panel of the landscape-as-triptych: a glass office tower capped with the number 5. And in the air above it: a rocket ship. In the middle panel, a smaller rocket ship, there too in the sky, though this time above the church. And on the right, in the third of our panels, local high-rise housing project, the Crystal Towers. ‘Tis past the latter that we go en route to Dada’s House. Let us find our path and walk it.
It is the discussion of aesthetics in Jun’ichirō Tanizaki’s In Praise of Shadows to which I am drawn as I contemplate objects that have “come into appearance” at the level of the trash stratum. The book is one I gleaned just this morning from a bin at Goodwill. It begins with an appreciation for traditional Japanese architecture. Tanizaki mourns this architecture’s defeat by the trappings of modernity: electricity, lightbulbs, flush toilets. “A man who has a family and lives in the city cannot turn his back,” he writes, on these “necessities of modern life” (1). Places of beauty and meaning undergo “improvement.” Homes of paper shoji give way to homes of glass. This change provides the occasion for Tanizaki to reflect on “how different everything would be if we in the Orient had developed our own science” (7). “The facts we are now taught concerning the nature and function of light, electricity, and atoms,” he writes, “might well have presented themselves in different form” (7). ‘Tis a delicious thought. Tanizaki’s thought experiment supplies the premise for an alternate history. Tweak the premise a bit and you get Sesshu Foster’s novel Atomik Aztex. Or better yet, Foster’s latest book, ELADATL: A History of the East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines, co-written with Arturo Ernesto Romo.
Huxley’s “reducing valve” metaphor renders the self or the Ego porous through a kind of sense-awakening, like the opening of a third eye. Growth of a new organ, as the Marxist literary theorist Fredric Jameson said, “to expand our sensorium and our body to some new, as yet unimaginable, perhaps ultimately impossible dimensions” (Postmodernism, p. 80). Jameson’s visit to the Bonaventure Hotel reads like a trip report — an account of an anabasis, with its ascent up the Portman building’s remarkable elevators. These elevators grant their riders the ability to cross realms, as Jameson does. After traveling up from the building’s interior atrium, one is launched out, in a glass-windowed capsule, up the building’s exterior shell. The ride allegorizes space flight. Riders shoot upward and land safely upon return into a dizzying postmodern hyperspace connected only by way of ascending escalators to the streets of Los Angeles. The pools at the base of the elevators simulate NASA’s trademark “splash landing.”
I sit on a chair and think about karmic cycles as seasons for healing. Days have rhythms, bracketed blocks of time given to care, work, and play. By the latter I mean hermetic time of inner listening, when days allow. Books about “space” turn up on shelves across from me. Books on art and architecture: Topologies, Delirious New York, The Situationist City. Further off, a book called Spaced Out. What am I seeking, up there on those shelves? Am I seeking a teacher — one who I hope will appear in my life when I’m ready? Gary Snyder studied the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism with a teacher in Japan. Of course Snyder himself is a teacher as well. I find myself reading about American Zen pioneer Ruth Fuller Sasaki. Snyder worked for Sasaki during his time in Kyoto in the late 1950s. She’s the one who sponsored his first trip to Japan.
A friend puts his house up for sale — a beautiful old craftsman, sizeable enough for a small family. We schedule a viewing and prepare ourselves in case we wish to make an offer. A bin full of discarded library architecture books turns up earlier in the day at Goodwill, including books from the 60s and 70s by Lawrence Halprin and Paolo Soleri.