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The Sidewalks & Trees

August 31, 2012

I accomplished my modest goals today; I ate at the vegan place and found the National Museum.

I took the long way. Mapping it out afterwards, I’m quite sure I walked a minimum of 8 miles, not counting walking around the museum, which is huge.

I missed a turn on the way to the museum, and, rather than go back, I figured I’d just head a bit out of the way and see the Vistula. It’s not a particularly impressive river; it looks very shallow. There were no canoers or kayakers, no watercraft of any kind.

The huge avenue that the museum is on, (Jerozolimskie), vaults over the river on concrete girders that begin to rise well before crossing the river, so, since I was approaching it from the riverbank, I had to clamber up through places where people don’t usually walk.

I love the forgotten-looking places, the odd corners where no-one ever stops, except the pigeons. I thought of these lines by David Bowie:

All the corners of the buildings
Who but we remember these?
The sidewalks and trees?

Of course, I didn’t take any pictures of the wide boulevard or the museum, because those huge, picturesque cityscapes just don’t seem to be within the grasp of my limited skills and my cheap camera. I prefer to take pictures of graffiti, pigeons, manhole covers. But trust me, google it; you can find all the pictures you want of the big stuff.

I do wish I had asked if I could take pictures in the museum, though, because DAMN. I looked at several hundred paintings by old masters. The ones that really made my head spin were the portraits from the 1700s-1900s. The faces, the bodies, their postures and expressions, the clothes, the light… it was almost too much. There’s a hallucinatory intensity to those paintings that I find almost unbearable. I was more exhausted by looking at those than I was by climbing up from the riverbank.

And then, after you’ve seen them, you head back into the street and it doesn’t stop. The faces that swim up at you out of the crowded sidewalks are so vivid and alive, so poignant, flawed, and beautiful, that you want to crawl into the earth and hide from the crashing waves of pity you feel for fleeting, suffering, writhing, fluttering, dreaming, humanity.

It was a long walk home. I stopped and ate at the vegan place again. I find that eating a meal has a narcotic effect, making the world seem tame and predictable.

So I’m pretty tuckered out. I have no desire to experience the nightlife. I stopped at a bookstore and picked up a copy of The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco, which, sprawling as it promises to across central European history, seems like exactly the book I need to read right now. I’m keen to sip a beer and lose myself in the baroque amusements of the great master.  Just let me catch my rest.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. August 31, 2012 8:26 pm

    Comments at LJ.

  2. david jewell permalink
    August 31, 2012 8:47 pm

    beautiful. all of it. the photos. the thoughts. the miles you walked. lovely. dreamlike. the museum. the humanity after. man. you are in the flow.
    so good to see. so nice of you to share all that with us.

    • September 1, 2012 3:09 pm

      It does me a world of good to have my friends along with me, via this journal. It would be very lonely without my virtual community. Not that anything can take the place of breakfast with a friend, but it’s way better than nothing.

  3. August 31, 2012 9:28 pm

    You should go to Numbers in Poland.

  4. Norbert Bævyr permalink
    September 1, 2012 12:45 pm

    On his best day, Camus would have struggled to write something as astounding as the post-museum crowd experience. My flabber is gasted.

    • September 1, 2012 2:55 pm

      Well, I certainly didn’t have to think twice before clicking “approve” on this comment. Most honored.

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