October 13, 2009

Love is like a bottle of gin
But a bottle of gin is not like love

Keizo Kitajima, Studio 54, 1981

* Tent City USA, by George Saunders:

"A field study, in these Hard Times, of the Homeless (as observed in the H Street Encampment, Fresno, California). Being an examination of who they are, how they think, and what they do. "

"Description of Study Area

"It is difficult to convey the sobering effect of entering the Study Area for the first time.

"On occasions during the Study, when use of a notebook seemed problematic, the PR [Principal Researcher] would switch on a portable tape recorder. On the tape from day one, as the PR enters the Study Area, there may be heard: a long silence, an audible exhalation, a whispered profanity.

"The PR had previous experience in the ghettos, slums, and shantytowns of various Third World cities, including Jakarta, Nuevo Laredo, Peshawar, Bangkok, and Kathmandu. It was observed, however, that the PR was feeling more fear here in Fresno than he had felt in any of those foreign locales. Wild shouts could be heard; the air smelled of wood fire and dust; dogs roamed the Study Area; mysterious figures stared out from asymmetrical doorways; in the distance, under a highway overpass, a cramped, smoky, Stygian neighborhood seemed to exude menace.

"At first glance, the Study Area presented as a junkyard, but one in which people were living. Tents of various vintage were observed. In addition, the following materials had been used to construct dwellings within the Study Area: Plyboard. Blue plastic tarp material. Tree limbs. Lengths of string, wire, and rope. Large wooden cable spools. Shopping carts. Construction pallets. A piece of inverted signage reading: lt. governor bustamante, working for families. Rocks, bags of dirt, and an office chair had been used to secure a tin roof. The yard of one house boasted a number of well-tended houseplants, including several cacti. This house also had a white metal screen door neatly mounted into its frame and an American flag flying above it on a tilted pole. At a nearby house, dozens of branches from an artificial Christmas tree had been inserted at regular intervals into the siding, decoratively.

"In short the Study Area did not conform to the PR’s expectations. Based on a pre-Study survey of existing media information, the PR had expected the tent city to be populated by middle-class individuals recently made homeless by the economic downturn, beaten but not destroyed, a kindly Steinbeckian gathering of stoic types, possibly playing guitars, who would welcome the PR, gratified that someone had come to document their plight."

* "Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists, unless laughter can be said to remedy anything." -- Kurt Vonnegut


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