Seawalls, Burms, and Pleasure Piers

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The road to Galveston from Houston is a verdant landscape were all the tall poles with signs atop advertising everything from KentacoHut to Days8InnSuiteBridge trees and not indeed metal poles reaching out in the hopes of distracting drivers speeding at top miles-per-liter down the eleven to fourteen lane highway depending on how one counts crash lanes and turn offs ramps.
The evidence that there are indeed a spirited number of distracted drivers can be seen in the bent guard rails, skid marks, and parts of cars that litter the highway. Frequently traffic is backed up as we witness some crash. The best one to day substantiated by ocular confirmation by this writer was an SUV that plowed through one of those large light up signs that exclaim that a lane is closed or road work will be done between the hours of 7AM-10AM and 4PM-7PM to coincide with the “rush hours.” Yes, all those hours the design team met, the daily SCRUMs the blueprints sent back by various agencies upon review, all those late night calls – “Marty, I think I know how to make this signal seen by others!” the orange paint… all of it for naught. The one function that this device serves is to be seen. And… this perhaps now demised – by the look of the car – person or persons did not see it. Darwin works in strange and magical ways.

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If you keep the oil refineries and NASA on the left and the creeping crud of modernity to the right, it is a straight shot to the beach.
“I wanted to buy them all” the lady with the lapdog told me on the plane to Chicago. She was from Harlem parts of Gothem and had relocated to Houston with her German husband after The [last one with Iraq] War. An older lady with a dog named Carlos, a terrier of some sort who wanted to nest under me for some reason. For the price of one apartment, one could have ten homes in Galveston, all of them within walking distance to the beach. “We paid $400,000, for a place in Fucking Valley Stream [Long Island... don't go there it sucks] and we could have had four houses down there.” We discussed the topic in detail, having little to do but ride out the turbulence and calm down Carlos. It is funny, the things we have in common with people when all else does not line up. We came from very different backgrounds, there was an age difference, perhaps even a few political differences, but we agreed on one thing. That is the need to be close to water. “I am ready to go from Houston. Ready!” Our conversation grew unintentionally loud and we laughed at cruel jokes and some other passengers turned about or huffed loudly to protest which considering it was 6AM I understood. We switched to whispers but like two children reprimanded on the play yard, these whispers again grew into louder than socially appropriate laughter. “Fuck that noise,” she exclaimed. “I was like, you are not for real… Wait… you are for real, he told me ‘you people from New York are infiltrating down here trying to change our ways and mess with our children.’ Yes, I leave my house, I walk my dogs, I keep them on a leash, I talk to people I don’t know, if that is strange then I certainly don’t belong here.” I had to agree that things were different that I had seen dogs in the street and assumed they were wild. “I found this little dog just wandering in the street, I thought he was lost, so I stopped my car to pick him up to take him to a shelter or something… I just picked him up and someone from a house yelled, WHAT YOU DOING TAKING MY DOG LADY?!!” I was glad that the small dog I almost ran over, that I had not attempted similar rescue. “People just let their dogs out and go to work. I see dogs on the porches, but never people. I never see people.” This was indeed a strange land.
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Perhaps it is an East Coast thing, we both agreed. We were unsettled about life in Houston. Neither of us understood it, we did not like the downtown and felt the suburbs to be strange patchworks of unfriendly fortresses, the many gated communities. However, we both enjoyed Galveston even though parts of it look just like Houston in the torturous and convoluted roads and strips of commercial loathsome businesses and abandoned or foreclosed malls. It was, we agreed, perhaps because it was on the water and we needed that smell of salt and proximity of seagulls and knowledge that we could if we wanted to, spend time on the beach, not that either of us ever had time to do such an activity.
The reason that she had settled in Houston rather than Galveston was not just the long commute. Unlike other metropolitan areas, Houston is bereft of any meaningful commuter rail services. The impact of the light rail system seems little in crowded Boston or Philadelphia or New York but in Houston there is no way to get from point A to point B without a car. While on a map it may be but an hour from the beach to a gated parking lot downtown, in reality it takes much, much, much longer on any given day and at any given time. “Traffic is getting worse,” another lady told me. “I think it’s the gas and oil boom that’s doing it. Accidents every hour. I think it’s the fly-by-night trucking companies, just the other day a lady was crushed by a semi.” Indeed driving in the Houston area is like something out of Max Max, even had the Ford Bronco with a cow skull on the front almost rear-end me. I never feel safe on the roads about and in Houston. Not when the locals have proven in my mind they cannot or will not see things invented for them to see. “The trucks are not inspected, they don’t background check the drivers, I don’t want to say anything about people I don’t know, but I think there is a criminal element that just flocks to any quick easy money and they don’t care how they get it.” Indeed I had seen the tyres she spoke about littering the highway and little bits of trucks and cars all along the way. The car bumper at the foot of a pylon of an overpass gave me some nightmare food as this large car bit must have dropped down from above since unless carted there I could not see any trajectory it would have flown there from ground level. I imagined the lady crushed by a rig falling from the sky as I drove under the many flyovers that seem to have been built by competing companies or following the plans drawn by the same guy who tied the Gordian Knot. Again, I am a stranger in a strange land but each one of my cultural informants had more experience than I.

The road to Galveston turns at once from a large highway to a surface road with traffic lights and then empties onto a street where here and there some old grand palaces remind the motorists that this once had been the largest city in Texas, if not the wealthiest. The history of Galveston can be summed up by one of the historic markers for a building on the Strand District. It went something like this: The city was not here. Then we built it. Then the top floor was removed by storm A. Then a storm damaged the fourth floor so we stopped using it and it fell into ruin and we took it down in 1961. Then, later in 1961, more shit fell off from another storm. So we took off a lot of the decorative shit and modernized the structure. Then there was an oil boom in the 1980s and the folks who used this building took off and build a huge one on the outside of town. Then the oil boom ended and this, and the other building, were left to rot. Then we are taking down the other building, but this one we painted and it has a teeshirt shop inside with teeshirts that look like they’re form the early 1990s. The store, as do the others, also sells beer. You can drink beer on the streets here.
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We could say the downtown has “good bones” but inexplicably, considering cruse ships, boats of pleasure that people pay money to get on, stop here on purpose to let those people off to wander about a city with houses on the verge of collapse. Not just in one “neighborhood” but all over there are dilapidated houses both grand and modest littering not just the downtown area, but the entire beachfront. Right in walking distance of a fine sand beach, houses are shut up, for sale, slanting into the soil or melting into nothing. On other other side of the island from the Strand District there is a seawall. Funny story about that. In 1900 there was a city full of rich partying people playing on the playa to celebrate the end of summer and return to managing the [formerly enslaved] people who worked for them. A beach-side row of resorts and grand residences lined the beach. Then, all of a sudden, without warning, except for the warnings given by people sending telegraphs warning of impending doom, the sea swept in and drowned between 6000-12000 people (I am wondering if this large range is not some inner dispute among the local historians about the 3/5th rule). When the area dried out, the much maligned Federal Government came in and in the manner of Big Government back then acted as one would expect Big Government back then to act. This was no New Orleans, after all, this was not an issue of the Twenty-First Century with our Modern ways Dear Reader, these were primitive times. There was no FEMA back then. No security with armored trucks to sweep in and shoot looters. No computers to crunch numbers to determine if salvaging a city could be paid for or if it would increase the national debt. Back in the olden days no 24/7 with hard-hitting journalism by journalists from journalism schools with degrees in reporting to shame the government into action as well as report the on the human interest stories from 6000-12000 people drowning.
There was only what was really 19th century technology and 19th century America. The sort of nation that just finished digging the Panama Canal and building the largest railway system in the world.
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Shovels, horses, wagons, maybe a steam shovel or two came to the beach. And the Army Corp of Engineers. Big Government manged, in but a few years, to raise much of Galveston by 17 feet. They also built a sea wall that runs for ten miles. Started this in 1904 and finished much of it by 1911 a few large blocks of stone commemorate the effort.
Again, after The Storm, houses were built and sprung up. Some large palaces, others nothing but shotgun shacks but all behind the sea wall and all in walking distance of the ocean.
“It wasn’t the cost of the house, it was the cost of the insurance, I did research and you had to have three different insurances… it added up to more than the house payment! And, you had to have all three…” She looked up thinking and started counting on her fingers. “There was fire and flood of course, and flood was really expensive, but there was another one…” Carlos, the little dog jumped about and she could not recall this third cost associated. Houses it seemed were being abandoned and left to rot since of late the insurance companies had refused coverage or otherwise raised the price to cover an eventual payout. This explained the Sheriff Had Power of Attorney signs posted on many of the buildings. The beach would go to waste since there was no way for average people to pay that cost and the location had become less attractive to today’s wealthy who can vacation anywhere they goddamn please thankyouvermuch and don’t have to in an area close to where they usually live. Between the lack of connectivity to Houston and the insurance companies, she and her husband settled in Houston in a suburb neither of them care for much in a place where the dogs roam free and the neighbors hide indoors.
Were there another path, were there an other spirit to the city, there may be considerations to cut down on the cost of insurance in some manner in order to allow full use of the city. In the meantime the houses will remain in the Power of Attorney of the sheriff and remain standing until the roofing materials finally give out. Another storm has overtaken the island, one that our current Big Government is powerless to repair. This condition seems not to change, no matter how many secret agents New York sends down there to propagandize the youth.
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Editor’s Note: The writer of this forum received information by reading a few historical markers about town. Please learn more about Galveston on your own and if you have a chance, visit.

Dead Mall Society

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There are some sects that believe – actually entire religions if the writer is not mistaken – that we are not born with a soul, or perhaps believe we come to life with an imperfect soul and it is life and the tests and how we rise to the occasion, handle the challenge, and even how we deal with victory and success that bring us to become “more human” to create for ourselves a soul, or perfect that immature spirit we were first provided with.
Whether this is true or not is a matter for the theologians and reader of certain Gnostic texts.
It is a belief of this author that a city develops a soul and does so over time. This takes place over decades. Often centuries. Once this pathway is set, the way of this soul the character or nature of this soul cannot be changed outside of an enormous effort by man, or nature, or both.
It is fitting that one of the fist zombie films took place in a shopping mall. Early on, one of the characters had to actually explain it to the others at what they were seeing, this huge warehouse, that this was one of those “new covered shopping centers” or some such expression. This was The Mall, and the covered shopping center was a new development before I was born and is the only fixture of civic life my contemporaries and antecedents know. The mall has been an expression of the Modern Landscape for more than a generation, the vast territory of nowhere that we have frantically been building for decades is in just about every town of any note. We have parking lots capping former fields, we have blasted hills to make room for commercial strips to house nail salons, bail bonds, and the TottosUnoPesoUnMas store. Those early strip malls were built on the outside of town or the city and were the ancestor of the Mall. They were meant for those people who could afford cars. Those places we see today used to house the most contemporary and refined stores. As the mall grew from strip to the enclosed zombie-space we all grew up, the strip malls became dull and vacant, as the Main Streets that they worked hard to replace.
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My first memory of a mall was being bit by a goat in the petting zoo on the middle space the mall used for events. This was a sunken pit surrounded by large steps that served as bleachers in the center of the mall where the two wings like a transept intersected. This space was used for performances and I assume the steps down created a natural barrier so us kids did not rush Santa or so small children could fall and hurt themselves since this was an age where no one yet had 1-800 Lawyers to sue for trips and falls. To me the mall was a special place to go and we never knew what circus may be in town, such as the pit served as as close to a town center as we knew then. It formed the center axis to the transepts of the mall’s sacred space hummed to sleep by gentle muzak(tm).
As a kid, I loved going to the mall. But kids also love fire, the yummy blue bottle of poison under the sink, sharp objects that seem made to run and jump with, eating too much powdered pudding and worming medication, biting the kid you are playing with and sundry other little monkey behaviors. There was a store that sold discount stuff. Also had a lunch counter. Perhaps it was a Woolworths perhaps not. Of the two toy stores, we could afford toys in the discount bin of one. It also sold models, parts of space ships and such that you glued to your fingers or sometimes together to the corresponding part as intended in the directions. The other toy store specialized in plush very expensive stuffed animals. Or maybe I am remembering some other place. I know there was a place that sold candles. Boring, unless they were giving a special demonstration of those multiple layer candles popular at the time. Just thinking of that candle shop fills me with boredom and self-loathing. I remember a frightening den of teenagers that sold black light posters, jokes and novelties, and things like Pet Rocks(tm) and Wacky Wall Walkers(sm). It was full of teenagers and as a child I had a healthy mistrust of these beings in Kiss teeshirts. I believe we once went in. I don’t know why but this was the tail end of the sexual revolution and some rather adult toys were on display proudly behind the counter. Not that I remember exactly what they were. Probably something tame like a sexy nurse costume… or batman thong…
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A few little shops that sprung up in the hall, this was a new an exciting addition. A small glass shop in the center of the large enclosed shopping space but apart from the other stores lined up next to one another. It contained Smurfs, Hello Kitty (or whatever the hell she is), and other figures the name and brand of which have been lost to history and found only on the endmost and most distant corners of Ebay or alleyway comic book stores open only at certain nerd equinoxes in the calendar of Thor. We kids would often split a conoli we bought from the bakery. Sometimes this was the only thing we would buy for the entire trip.
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The mall was built on top of potato fields. We knew this since our mother used to ride her horses through those fields on the way to take them to the beach. The Long Island of pastures, beach houses of simple construction, and men fighting for space on the LIRR to get to their offices in New York were a thing of the past long before my arrival on this earth.
The mall has, since, in my lifetime, started to die and in many places is is dead. A better blog (deadmalls.com) documents this transformation of food courts and keystone stores into the new American slum needing revitalization and a new form of urban renewal, which I can only imagine is to take down these ugly structures and spread their ashes over the ocean, or New Jersey or wherever they dump toxic shit. I have been to the Mall of America. I have been to the Edmonton Mall. They are yet too big to fail. The others are starting to fill with zombies. In the city I have been to of late there is a great many malls, and it appears most of them dead or dying. Some are boarded up and grass grows in the cracks of the parking lot. Even in ruin they are ugly and dismal. This demise of the mall, however, does not mean that Main Street or the strip malls are back. No, those too are forever dead. For the most part outside of museum-quality wealthy enclave Main Street USAs and ironic re-purposing of 1950s roadside crap-o-la the way that some motels, diners, and drive-ins have found new life, the center of Amerikan cities and towns are still rotting away as ever.
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The mall seems a doomed affair too. The mall I wandered about in Sparta was dismal. A few zombies wandered by as I walked the halls. Of the keystone stores, both had vacated. One pretended to be “temporarily closed” but it read like the story that “oh, the dog ran away and he’s living with a new family now, dear…” Nope. It was dead. I remember when my first large store died. A place called Grants went out of business. The child me could not imagine such a huge place going out of business, forever. It was frightening. My first taste of the concept of death and mortality. The interior of the mall contained silent halls. Most shops were gone or the sort of places you may see in slums the nation over. Towards the far end, a man was yelling at another who stood behind the counter. The fight echoed throughout the calls and like a small village, the other shop keepers came to the “street” to view. We have reinvented the dead Main Street yet as climate controlled. I moved away from the yelling man. There were carts and little counters in the halls like before, but these were strange offerings and small men and women from distant shores were stationed about as if some agent had tricked them to tending shop in such a silent place. I could not imagine a space being busy. The food court was worse. Each shop, the few still operational, each had a bored individual on their iDevice or starting into space as the oil boiled needlessly. Two young men, both with face tattoos wandered by. A rather large family, and mean volume not numbers, sat at a table. Silently as if the tacos had been filled with some paralyzing agent or made from poison dart frog meat.
The other keystone store had left and in its place a huge Antique mall – supposedly the largest in the state. This huge space was filled with all manner of items from the ages, from collectible to disposable. While this collection was indeed interesting, perhaps more so than whatever former store had been there, there was something indeed strange… not like a museum. Not like an attic one had discovered. But a tomb, as if through the sliding electronic doors I had entered a strange world of pharaoh except pharaoh collected qupee dolls and depression glass.
I left the mall. Yes I bought something. A movie poster from 1971. From Italy, to be exact. I made my purchase from an old woman at what had once been perhaps the service desk for the former store. The other tenders, the keepers of the tomb were also elderly and spoke of how quiet the place had become since as one put it, “the young aren’t into antiques.” Face tattoo guys were nowhere to be seen.
I thought back to the mall of my youth. I wondered what stores yet remained. Was Wicks-n-Sticks, the candle shop still active. Shit, I hope not.
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The City That Wasn’t There

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Most of the cities of the world are ghosts of their former selves. For some there is good reason. Riot. War. General and undefined years of mayhem and wanton murder both individual and mass. I was in Stalingrad long ago, now as was then Volgograd, but for us students of history who can dismiss the million men who perished, the half million more Germans, the unknown quantity of civilians who were told, no ordered, actually, to remain in the fight least they give up a sacred inch of SOVIET soil. I am thinking of those blocks flattened by the war when I think of the city that has ceased to exist. I think of vast cement monuments to the dead. I think of places where people had to quickly fill in. That was a city that survived the worst part, of the worst world and in that city I walked from the ferry terminal to the hotel, to the monument garden, to the cafe, to the restaurant. Albeit, it wasn’t the most picturesque city.
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These cities were reconstructed according to a Modern plan, rational post-war planning central SOVIET or planned Capitalism. Both systems in their extreme produced structures that can only be seen as some extension of fascism as the winner of the last world war. Bucharest was mostly cement avenues and ruined dreams, actually the nightmares of any sane individual. I am thinking of Harbin, People’s Republic of China a former SOVIET city state of Stalin gifted to Chairman Mou but not before having hundreds of cement boxes built for the People and this city was built upon with less and less ideology (fewer?) by the Capitalists with Chinese Faces (their term not mine) using ever more cement and glass and making the city a Blade Runner distopia, minus the hot sexbots. The streets of Frankfort. The lanes of Munich. The not so quaint parts of Europe where the dagger hand of death set down an hundred incendiary bombs.

War flattened the great cities of Europe and in their place bland concept structures at a loss to understand classical society replaced them the bastard children of Buckminster Fuller and Le Corbusier fucked until dawn in the back seat of a Le Car and gave birth to most of London and the fucktarded cement palaces of the Sudetenland and Greater Germany let along the lesser suburbs. There is a reason for each and every one of these disasters of the reinvented cityscape, the abandonment of all those squirrely curry cues that amassed over a few hundred years before being pummeled to dust by modernity and the eternal strife of us Man Apes.
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Even the Third World… ahem.. Developing World has reason to be ugly… Build cement houses or face revolution. However, there is no apparent reason I can find for the condition of the cities of This Great American Land. I am thinking of Albany, New York where the state capital stands as a huge fuck you to the citizens and democracy itself. Same with Boston’s City Hall or Hall of Socialists or Central Police Command, or whatever it may actually be used for. The torn down avenues of Omaha where one could get a full night sleep in the middle of a main road and not worry about being run over by traffic. I am thinking of Birmingham a city that for the cost of unifying a bridge and desegregating a rail station, abandoned the entire endeavour. Just fuck it, limestone and all.
I am thinking of the eternal Detroit, a city rotting away to the point of desiccation. I am not aware of any plague, even London recovered from the Black Death, Civil War, Cholera, Maggie Thatcher, and WWII and here it is that Detroit appears as a mongrel dog starving and shivering in the cold wet dank corner of our nation. Downtown Tampa does no longer exist. It seems that life and good times is a thin veil describing as far as one can get from sniffing blow off of a hooker’s ass on a boat and wandering outside of the dock before needing to return to said boat, to perhaps said hooker, before another bump makes one right. The centers of our cities are lost, the outer rings usually crunching poverty and crime, and it takes some time to reach the areas you want to be… but you are not welcome there.
There is no city here. This could be any place. The rotten core of any middle American city turned to drugs any Southern Bell well past her prime but still slathering on the eyeshadow like a 14 year old girl, any part of the rusty dusty Bible Belt, the inner workings of a Sun Belt City, or just a few miles from where you live.
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There is no city here. Walking about there is a series of parking garages. This is not a city at a human scale. Where most buildings are made for those small people, us little folks, to stand under and gawk, these buildings are meant to be seen from afar. The are the skyline of corporations and you will never interact with them but they will touch your life. If you work here you come in your car, get into an elevator, work, get in the elevator, and go home to hide behind a gate and yell at the TeeVee.

Outside is sweltering hot in the summertide. The homeless, the lost causes, the dead souls wander about. No one looks up. The cars leaving the parking garages each trigger a warning alarm for the scant few pedestrians and one can hear these bells all over. It is a city of bells and cars. Everyone escapes at once and the only sound is from the yucking-it-up junkies and far off police cars rushing to this or that emergency or terrorist plot as they do in all Amerikan cities, but here they are distinct sounds. When they pass, it is again quiet here. One can hear the birds. An acorn falling to the broken pavement is a distinct sound that I can hear. There is no city here. The eateries are closed or never where.
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The sticky icky hot muggy uggy was overwhelming. I knew that outside of this collection of cement monuments to success there were comfortable parts of town, the outer rings. I had also seen places this morning where the wild dogs wandered, where houses collapsed about their occupants and mountains of trash piled up in the streets, with any luck for some future collection. An endless mile of dismal churches and unique sufferings. An elderly woman lay on a rotting plush chair that was clearly in the rain for some time. She stared endlessly, beyond me, beyond the day itself. The Food Store, named “Food Store” had bars on the doors and few windows and it was hard to know if it was open, a store, or a lock up. I stopped short not to hit a dog with blisters on its back.

In the city some of the people had a similar look. A woman wearing just socks walked past muttering to herself, but she still managed a “good day.” Another man, strangely also in socks, also greeted me in an aggressively friendly manner “Howyadoingtodayman?” I sputtered out a hullo, perhaps. The street with the trolly attracted all manner of similar beings, a collection of the lost who were clustered about. It seemed to hot to mug me, I was too hot to be afraid.
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I dipped finally into a complex of some sort. There are complexes all over. Airodomehallcentershotels. This one I fell in to was about sports or such and there were several chain restaurants in the complex, fine establishments above Uncle Parrot’s Taco Monday and just below The Hard Rock Cafe of 1986 before it blew out its New York location and moved to LA and Moscow and the airport you catch your connection. The air conditioner was on hard and fast and I pulled up a stool to get some Corn Syrup with Grain Alcohol and Spun Suite con Monsanto or at least free crazy bread. The establishment was populated by the guys you see on sports TeeVee. They looked at sports TeeVees as they ate. I am sure a few of them are on sports TeeVees as I write this. Outside it sweltered and festered. The cameras hummed. A bird confused by the orange-yellow mercury lights made a call. The security guard watched one of the plasma screens in the window by the Sports Center recording studio. A man with just socks on walked down the street smoking a clipped cigarette that may or may not have been illegal drugs, or just something he found on the street. Is this socks only thing a thing?

There is little reason, given our wealth, that our cities should resemble what they are today, but I guess there are deep reasons, perhaps in a way we too have suffered a war of some sort that has wasted all that stone, all that polished marble, baked terracotta and finely tooled stone. The hardwood floors from thousand year old trees, the iron spikes, the Portland Cement, the brick baked from the finest sand tossed aside due to our war. All of that we have traded away and it is hard to know why. I walk back to the dismal hotel I am currently calling home and wonder at the history the series of choices that led to this and understand that I bring my own culture to this place and my eye, my love of a certain style, and that this place, looks the way it does for one simple reason. Because the people here want it to look this way.

There is no city here, because the people of this place want it that way. Apparently, we have our own way of conducting war. We keep taxes low, so businesses can grow.
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Luxcon Williamsburg

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When I first moved in to Williamsburg, Brooklyn I actually could not afford to move into Williamsburg proper but had to stake my claim with five other room mates on the far edge of this vast territory then currently unknown to so many Manhattenites to which the East Village was the cut off point of no return and served as the place to slum, when one wished to go slumming. I first found a loft in a place called Greenpoint that soon became East Wlliamsburg on Craigslist before just being tossed into the mix and seen as the same condos, bars, venues, and sundry other playgrounds of the young at heart known collectively as Williamsburg. It was a neighborhood with a butcher, the kind with saw dust on the floor. A guy sold Christmas trees in the winter on the corner by the White Castle. There was a sports bar by the subway station. From early spring to late summer random processions sprung up. Men carrying statues. Women doing the rosary. There was a little grotto and a few times I bought a candle and put it in place just in case these old people were on to something. I liked my neighborhood and seeing the same people on the street just about every day. When I needed to go out, however, I would take the train in to the city. When the sun went down, the streets by me were dead. Also, everyone I knew lived in Manhattan. And those who lived on that blessed island would not considering hopping over the ocean between us, that old East River. Many of them would rather hop the pond to London or Paris before going to Brooklyn.
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Today that place is unrecognizable. Gone the small social clubs of various Italian-American factions, shuttered are so many of the old Catholic churches, those complexes of medieval origin where in one city block school, convent, rectory, church and sepulcher were all pushed together as part of a network of parishes that made Brooklyn, New York for a time known as the City of Churches. The streets I grew up on, those that I learned to replace the mistakes and misadventures of youth with harder lessons of adulthood are today serving a new generation and as so many areas of the city these newcomers all seem about the same age. Yes, there remain families and some even keep vigil on their saint’s day as before, but the streets are much younger now than then as twenty-somethings flush with cash push in and have their Firstapartment in this new trendy spot. There are now miles of bars where there was once one or two. An entire economy built on people not having time or interest in cooking. There are now new restaurants opening up each more fusion than the last one, new clever cafes that can do your portrait in milk foam if need be. Vintage stores that sell shit that reminds me how old I am and how vintage my belongings have become since when I bought them new – oh how I should have saved the packaging, this stuff is so much more valuable with the label on it, what was I thinking? The city is ever reinventing itself, as I guess does The Nation. Change blah blah blah is the blah blah blah constant. But who can help but wish one could just hang on to something for a while. Must everything change so fast? I blink, and a storied edifice is torn down to make way for yet another set of Luxury Condos (call 555-328-7748 to reserve yours today the signs beckon with images of spas and pools and parking and a happy couple yet we know the man in the shot is gay and the woman has 15 eating disorders so she can look like that). Where do all these people come from who can afford the Luxury? Right by what used to be my loft several buildings were torn down and replaced with similar-looking cement Glamorous Boxes, Glamboxes(tm) across the street from what I know is a Superfund site, a place where they used to wash out 55 Gallon drums of toxic sludge, pink slime, and Ebola juice so they could be reused for tomato soup or whatever. The old tree is gone. The man with the dog with all those tumors is gone. The gate that was off the fence because a cow on the way to the slaughterhouse (today the site of a McDonnalds) took it off leading a farm boy to meet a girl who lived there, marry her, and make that their home, never to replace the gate as a reminder of that day they met, is gone. A blank row of buildings as perhaps found in Berlin, Houston, Atlanta, Beijing now consume the street. Each one has a small postage stamp balcony (a terrace in the promotional materials), sliding doors, and fixtures right out of either a) The Home Depot b) Lowes Home Improvement Store.
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There is a flattening to the cityscape as there also exists higher and higher concentrations of wealth in certain neighborhoods.
The waterfront of Williamsburg has taken the Luxury Condo business and escalated it to Defcon 5 status. They have really outdone themselves this time. The places I could not afford when I lived in Greempointeastwilliamsburgregularwilliamsburg I can not afford today on a scale far greater than the $900 rent I could ill afford. Today is it 1.5 million property and $3500 rent for a studio apartment (for those not in Gothem a “studio” is a room where your kitchen starts at the end of your bed). I cannot afford these new places as the spread between my income and those apartments grows ever greater and I’m not priced out by a mere hundred or two dollars, but thousands in rent an millions to own. I remember when there were these old wooden warehouses and dead end roads in a state of decay decorated by stripped cars and junk. There was this fantastic factory, a huge space up in Greenpoint and all along the waterfront others like it down to the sugar refinery. Trucks filled with trash or chicken fat or that banging noise rolled up and down the streets. These streets used to be totally vacant back in The Day and I remember walking my dog fearing both Foxy and I would be mugged or eaten alive by zombies. There was a single cafe and I either had to take the subway two stops or walk there (took about ½ hour) to sit there pretending to write, drinking iced coffee until my brain dilated.
Those streets no longer know my name. There was a hiccup in construction in 2008. I remember these buildings standing vacent and unfinished. For a time it was a strange city of the future, halfway between the silents roads I knew and the soon-to-be hotspot it is today. When the change came, it changed fast and hard. They reinvigorated the ruling classes with stimulation money and the machines were restarted and before anyone could say “I got evicted because my landlord sold the building to a developer,” the old Williamsburg was swept away. Snaps I took with friends just a few years ago seem precious historic documents of a lost city not foolish ephemeral evidence of pranking and day drinking of our mid-youth crisis. “Well you kids don’t know what this used to be” I fear saying at any moment. Now, late on any given night there are piles and piles of beautiful people plowing their way through top shelf liquor and going stumblie-bumblie back to their condo that was tossed up by half-assed builders who may or may not have glued the building together correctly so the swipe key may or may not work. But today it looks Luxury and there is indeed a dishwasher built in along with other stainless steel appliances. Their little shoe box Luxury Condo, or Luxcon for short. Trendy Willy-B or WB for short. Whattheshit happened to my old neighborhood? I should have expected to go back so many years later taping the sidewalk with my cane and pointing out all the landmarks. These landmarks are already gone. Vanished into container boxes to be dumped in New Jersey.
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The Williamsburg I knew wasn’t going to last anyway. Living in converted warehouses that were as cold in the winter as they were hot in the summer is not fun for adults. As we grew up some of us got real jobs and moved out of the city or moved to more adult parts of the city, some in Brooklyn where the temperature was controlled by a thermostat and one did not need to have 8 room mates. The creatives who broke the sod in Williamsburg were pushed into Bushwick as was I for a time my the more affluent classes now “discovering” our neighborhood we had rightfully discovered first. This should have lasted for another decade, but it was not to be. The ever expanding bubble of Luxury and amenities-seeking denizens of the Glamboxes made inroads into Bushwick and in time I, and many others, were pushed out as cafes and bars and trendy tacos sprouted up through the cracks in the cement and flooded the ugly industrial streets until all but a few poor people succumbed to the waters of rising rents and cost-of-living. In order for the rising tide to lift all boats one must first be in a boat. So now, too, Bushwick is changing fast and the creatives are pushing ever out, until they will perhaps be suburban bound. Which will be an ironic day when the “burbs” are where all the artists are, having abandoned the supposed “creative juices” of the city for the dull routine of being able to afford being creative and buying juice.
Williamsburg today is a fun place to visit. They closed the sugar refinery and are knocking 16 shits out of it. One day the sugar factory will have condos I cannot afford.
These formerly industrial parts of the city had not always been so. Mixed in with the ugly utility I had come to know were remnants of grand institutions. Once the City of Williamsburg, prior to the incorporation in to New York City, was as wealthy as American cities got. So, perhaps the new wealth is a return to the actual Olden Dayes of which the ensuing decades of poverty pigs slopping about in factories and slaughterhouses were but an aberration. Those families who had held on are now able to cash our and move anywhere they wish, taking their stories, saint vigils, and history with them. The newcomers bring with them internet startups, optimism, and enough small dogs that if you stomped on one a day for the rest of your life you would never, ever, ever run out of small dogs to stomp. They are the next wave of immigrants to invade. I wouldn’t mind. This. I guess. Were I able to afford a condo preferably one with a view.
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When September Ends

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Summer is made for that final weekend, that last chance at the beach the cooling air the still-warm waters. So may endings liven the light, make that campfire on the beach that much more meaningful. To the young, they rise up and pretend at nostalgia in the glimmering last light of a shortening day wistful and wilding for that time so-long-ago when they were innocent, way back in July. For the old they pretend that nothing has changed, that tomorrow will be like today, that they just didn’t blink and lose another year.
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All that went wrong before is ok this weekend. The sand in the tacos, the lost blanket, the dog who ran away, all now just a laugh, just something funny that we know we will all be laughing about when we’re older. That last weekend at the beach, in the tree house, in the Iron Fort, in all those places we hide away in order to enjoy a few long weekends to pretend that the world can be escaped. We rushed before to the beach. We fought with our manager for an early release on Friday. We were stuck in traffic with the sun beating down and the air conditioner broken. We rushed to get sun. We hurried to have fun before going to bed. Now. Now we are in no hurry and it is all we have. That pealing skin and the new lines in our faces, cut by reflecting light and too much chlorine in the pool.
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There were several gift shops still open, which seemed ever strange. It lent an even more abandoned cast to the empty sidewalks. Could these places even make up the cost of electric by selling a single key chain for the entire day? Most places seemed in a state of suspension. Everything in its place, the mugs, the dumb gifts, the depressing bags of shells from China and Mexico branded with the local beach logo, the accoutrements of vacationers set up and lonely looking mute and pastel in their shelves and displays. What shit, I thought as I picked up a few post cards. Where does this shit go in people’s houses and how long between purchase and discard? There must be a pile somewhere of beach crap that grows ever more with each passing summer. But, this is what summer’s end is for. Reflection.
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You can work in the chicken houses, you can fish, or you can work here, said the bartender. The other patrons were far and few and I had walked to the hotel in order to find some small nibble and of course, a stiff drink or ten. The collection in the bar were for the most part locals, that is, other bartenders still stranded on the beachfront. The noise in the other room was that of the conventioneers. Off-season conventions, certified accountants specializing in foster care child tax credits, dog trainer assistants who work with blind hounds, convection oven sales people, or the current group, people interested in learning about how to bid to large city and small state contracts according to the bids and proposal guidelines of respective laws. The man who came in to inform the bartender that the party room needed some more ice worked in blacktopping parking lots and was there with his lovely wife to learn how to bid on a few Atlanta contracts coming up. You can work in the chicken houses, you can fish, or you can work here… I thought.
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There is indeed something quite magical about the twilight on the beach as summer comes to a close. The slant of the light, the crashing of the waves, the call of the birds, and that one or two other melancholy figures wandering the beach.
The man who sold blacktop parking lots and sold them to county court houses and DMVs talked a bit about the last year, about the last convention. It was in Nashville and he had enjoyed it more. We are one of the last places to close up here, the bartender told me, so we get all the meetings all the groups who are totally random. But apparently not Star Wars funny haha LARPer random but ZZZZZzzzzz blah blah blah paragraph three section D of the code of blah blah blah random. I took my final drink and exited to the now darken beach lit by the security lights of the hotels, condos, and closed beach houses.
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I wondered if there was but a little more life in another hotel. I stopped by one that in summer was perhaps trendy now the large objects and beach theme contemporary just seemed silly. We’re closing soon, the girl behind by a small stand that perhaps took names when there was a line to get in said as I entered. I assured her I needed to rise with the sun the next day and I would not be staying long. At the end of summer, everything closes with the sun. The drink tasted like plastic, as if the little umbrella had melted into it. However, the ice didn’t melt fast so the fine delicate mixture of wood alcohol and GMO corn syrup and red dye #9 were distinct and tasty.
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And before I knew it, it was dark. The chairs were stacked, the doors locked, and I left to walk back on the beach, the small path beside the dune back to my quiet hotel. Off out in the inky ocean were the small constellations, the stars of the sea, commercial fishers and trawlers where the brothers of bartenders worked, the super tankers and shipping container vessels, and as the wind died down I imagined that I had the faint ordure of chickens from all those chicken houses where lights still burned and in so many rows birds confused and doped up on Blue Crystal Meth pooped out eggs and grew wondrous breasts and thighs.
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You could work in the chicken houses picking up dead hens and blasting Metalica. You could work out there pulling fish from the ocean and sorting through them for eatable parts. Or you could work here and enjoy that moment before it all shuts down, when you can be alone with your thoughts and the sounds of the waves and think back to summer, a now distant memory.
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In Burgess

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There is no center to the universe, only a multitude of active locations from which light and other matter emits and to which some particles owe their allegiance and remain the dust particulates hanging in the magnetic void suspended over a cold and dark blue green sky. Every city operates in a similar manner. From afar it seems it is but one singular entity as in “have you ever been to Jackson?” or “do you go to New York?” but up close these are but a multitude of entities pushed together to appear as whole. To most places and in many cities there are several centers, each one spanning out and often overlapping the other. To Richmond, Virginia, this is no different yet the center is not that of the rail station, close to having been obliterated by the highway system, the interchange of which comes a fuckyou of an inch to the grand edifice that is the rail station, nor the historic center of the old Confederate “White House” that came but a hunts care from being flattened and is encompassed by a hospital complex and parking garages, hotels, and radiation in-patient screening rooms to make the entire experience to say the least, unpleasant. We mistake our own bodies as singular. They are but a collection of beings in unison, they are the city from afar and we build a replication of this body everywhere we go, seeing in it our soul, which we mistake for a unity.

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If there is a umbra to Richmond it is like a hundred other rotten and molten centers to a hundred other failed states, decaying cities, it is the University that has sprouted in some corner – as festering of intellectualism that has metastisized – and by dint of the tuition and increased fees students willingly paid by the young, the institution grows over the failed city as a welcome and warm ivy, an elderly man rich enough to finally pay for whatever sex he wants, a growth that has increased in spread like a plague infecting old estates and moving classrooms into the former palaces of the Fathers of the City and towers of the former Rand Corporation. The University is the Castle. It is the ever watching eye, provider of emergency phones, cameras and student swipe cards and meal plans, rape whistles, and an ambulance waiting ever waiting, idling on the corner to haul off some kid who OD’ed on [ADHD prescription so it is a medical condition and he needs further insurance covered treatment for] drugs. A veil of safety for emerging adults or whatever it is these morons are called. No one wants to waste mummy and dadda’s money so they feed one end and wipe the other for the past 17-18 years and then little Cloe/Zoe is struck by a Pizza delivery man on an electronic bike as S/H/e/it crossed the street t class because S/H/e/it didn’t look both ways before crossing as S/H/e/it was taught since pre-K and there was not a cross walk guard, lights and flashing strobes, sounds, and someone to take her by the hand so she can keep texting. We told her, we reinforced it every day by so many family meetings and sessions at the therapist, daddie rails as he waves one fist to the air and dials a lawyer with the other.

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This region of the city has well preserved houses of the former ruling class hermetically sealed and outfitted with security features like fire sprinkler systems and cameras and cameras watching the cameras. The university ring had the usual KenTacoHuts of Mallifited Amerika so that little Kenny’s college experience is not too foreign or challenging and he can drunkenly find his Cinabon just like at the food court and as the food court grown men on motorized scooters watch his every move, every bit of the buttery sugary Sinabon(tm) he stuffs into his face and as it fills his mouth and slides down his throat it makes him just gag a bit and spew just a little cinabutter(c) on to his Trogdore Tee Shirt before finishing it off in one final sweaty gulp. Walking about this area it is as if all members of society are called to some strange underground lair in order to be consumed by some savages as Jules Verne imagined. Each block is the same person, the same parade of those emerging adults clutching books, in their sports gear or goth wear, their rape whistles and/or Xtreem energy drink bottles, or whatever free sports drink bottles given out by student loan companies. iDevices and Smartsomethings plugging up their fanny packs and cargo pants. These rhythmic masses of cherubim move with optimism and aplomb to and fro from the university housing in tower blocks that would fit in Gaza or Lebanon or Omsk, to mini institutes and departments each one in a house fit with a name of whatever benefactor had bequeathed enough cash to stabilize the edifice and endow such-n-such as Chair. The streets are not unpredictable nor are the shops, they are scripted according to the needs of the institution. The classes start and finish and the sidewalks swell and fade as the new factory produces nice quiet citizens who if nothing else were taught not to rock the boat least they cannot pay down the $100K they owe.

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On the outside of the last safe crosswalk, the Penumbra exists. This is the part of the city that is yet to be owned by the University or fully controlled by the Urban Planners. It is a transitional space that both includes the rich spots, those institutions that survived various urban renewals and economic bubble bursts and the artistic spaces that inhabit a thin veil of civilization just outside of the university’s reach. This is both the kingdom of the swank hotel, in the cast of Richmond it is the Jefferson Hotel, lodging, such as the Linden Row, and the various cafes, art galleries, and strange revolutionary book stores that bring a certain artistic edge to the area. It is here that the art galleries of starving artists come in to contact with those donors still willing to brave the black parts to get to the trendy parts. It is this part of the city that ebbs and moves about the most. Ever expanding, ever collapsing, it is the flux of the city and in Richmond it is but a thin waxy cover – a membrane of someone with wet brain, it ever shifts about and makes no sense. One month Trevor street is trending, raising in rents and gentrifying, the next week it is in decline, and some other alley of import is rising. It is a border-town in the city itself – and this location exists in every city of note, and a few that are forgettable across this Great Land.

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The man coming down B- Street seemed about to ask for “spare change” and yet… he seemed too tired for the effort as if a man resigned to drowning just looking balefully back at the living, just mourning his own demise yet welcoming the release from suffering as he sunk ever ever ever out of sight. It was an evil hour and the sun beat down on me as it once had in Moscow about Patriarch’s Pond and the humidity surrounded my voice on all sides, and I wondered if as in Moscow, if this sun, if this indolent summer’s end would turn up an apparition with a swollen leg begging as some Jesus in the cloth and I was to reject him… But he did not say a word. He passed by in the heat as the Ancient Mariner on his way to crash a wedding for greater and higher calling. His eyes were already dim and distant and the rotting and cracked skin had turned a powdery white… He was not alone. In this section of town the forces that protect the University Castle keep our these wanderers, and if they venture too far into the next circle of town, as the burn lawns and lost highways, they too will desiccate and become lost in the listening winds. Wandering amongst the churches and between campus security, is the dead souls of our Ameirka. They are positioned at all towns great and small.

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The last circle of the city is that of the antumbra. This is the void of the city. A ring of chunks of cement, the terracotta in the landfill, the resting place of Ozymandias lost out by where all the crisp bags are caught in the wire fence. It is the places that the highways cut off and made dead. The roundabouts encircled to make Wastelandgardens. A place the urban planners killed in their classroom discussions. The neighborhood where riots burned down the last public toilets right to the ground, toilet paper and all. Factories soon or now to be torn down float about here and sometimes crash into one another. The former gentle suburbs that once welcomed the toiling workers from the city are now have become but forts. Chained doors waiting demolition and clusters of development that mean little and provide nothing. Sad hold outs, citizens of the city now become too elderly to start over elsewhere, are now Conestoga settlers in a wild and hostile land. This is the circle of hell but cast outside. The outer ring. In this ring there is little to wander, there is much to be discovered but the ground covered requires some form of private transportation. In this ring hides a few areas that seem to be attempting a re-discovery. The Trolley tracks of old lead to the old houses and on that side of the river some life is here and there. However, for the most part, like most cities, there is brambles and the thorns as if Eden were protected by this voracious branches of rot and final decay, cement boxes housing poverty and strip malls of no intelligent design.

And this last ring indeed protects that which is Eden. The new strip malls with manicured lawns, the perfection of multinational banks with their trimmed bushes, the flyovers and turning lanes for cars of all make protected by cameras, painted lines, and lamps that turn green to yellow to amber. It is to this ring of which I have not traveled as it was too far and so much had settled in the way.

I spent my nights playing in the penumbra of the city, enjoying the rich ruins and the down-to-earth cafes still with a few people of my age, still with a smattering of creatives enough to give me company of sort, even if that was but to view these people from afar… detached. And as I sipped my little drink at the hotel, the marble carvings stared at me, still the same as when first polished. I wondered about the city. The quiet and still downtown streets of Richmond. The loud insects called the end of summer. Just as they had then, in the long gone antebellum past.
Somewhere out there the man with the swollen leg knocked on ivy covered doors that opened only from the inside.
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Boardwalk Empire

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Inexplicably tucked into a corner of Texas is the Kemah Boardwalk. This is a relatively recent edition to the Nation’s strategic boardwalk stock, and a compact operation. Kemah is something like Rehoboth Beach, I can’t stand it, my cultural informant told me. She did not care for the “sort of people” one finds down there. Having worked in Rehoboth (Delaware) as well as vacationed in Lewis, a charming beach town of historic vintage where as soon as the settlers stopped dying from starvation, disease, and being massacred by Indians [feathers], a pleasant little village was constructed to which the middling classes continue to visit on hot summer days, I had to visit this Kemah Boardwalk if only to confirm the “sort of people” I would find.

The road to Kemah was determined by the guidance system that came with the rental car so I cannot speak of this in any detail as to other potential scenic routes or some turn the locals would know in order to avoid the traffic since for the most part I was stuck in traffic crawling along to the coast. The summer heat had made a tea of the air and while I pride myself on being one of those people who “don;t use air conditioning” (nor can afford the electricals bill), the car had the windows tight and the cold stale Legionnaire’s Disease air was filling the car in order to bring some relief.

The high lit towers of the fun park were visible before the remainder of the complex which included a roller coaster of some grand magnitude. Being a weekday and the end of summer, the establishment was not full however being a Tuesday, there were a great number of people milling about and the rides were churning away to make young and old scream, squeal, and have their spines knocked out of whack for pleasure.

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I wondered what it was about waters, about the sight of the open ocean that leads to people creating boardwalks and that fun parks spring up here as part of the package deal. I considered some others I had been to. Long ago, before I was even an adult, I had traveled to Blackpool, England. This boardwalk was build on one of the rare stretches of sand found in the British Isles and had all manner of exactly what you would expect to find in and English+English Weather+English Food resort. Plunk in the middle of this – and this location exists in my memory and not fixed in any actual coordinates found on the Googles Maps – was a replication of the Eiffel Tower. There were also carnival rides, and plenty of toss the brick at the bulls-eye in order to win a Teddy stuffed with toxic rags or some slab of plastic carved into a frightening happy face on a stick. The air was filled with the aroma of the carnival refineries rendering grease and sugar and starch into chunky cellulite, artery plaque, varicose veins, and bad teeth. In the distance blind pit ponies gave rides on the beach to sad crying orphans dressed in rags with shoes woven from birch bark and smelling like coal tar and molestation. At least that’s how I remember Blackpool.

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In the unlikely reaches of the East (not that carnal directions exist in this age of airships) of Vladivostok, Russia there is a small boardwalk that has the requisite rides and attractions and some structure to walk on by what is considered a beach. The first time I had ever seen the pacific ocean was from Russia. I was in the moment and the beaches could have been broken glass I would have still loved my experience. I was surprised at the cluster of development on the water not yet taking shape as a full boardwalk yet one may exist there today. The rides then were simple affairs that would perhaps be those sort rented for family parties in Amerika but here were the carnival rides. The Russian love of grease was there but the primary form of sea side delight was “Snacs” and ice cream (Мороженое). This ice cream is indeed memorable since it may have been left over from the SOVIET strategic reserve of ice cream. The ice cream was something pushed hard into a cone made of perhaps paper and some sugar enough to make the cardboard coalesce into a “cone” form as well as encourage the buyer to consume this fiber since it may have then counted as 30% of an average Russian’s intake. Then this unsightly mess rather than being wrapped in some hermetically sealed package was just plopped on to a slip of wax paper in order to prevent it – for the most part – from sticking to its comrades in the ice cream storage unit. The ice cream was then, I can only assume, was shipped across the tundra and stored in a vault since 1978 somewhere in the Omsk region – we cannot yet have those documents declassified- before being brought to a small stand and then sold at the beach by a young girl board out of her mind (this was before iDevices) doing a crossword puzzle. At the time this author was so inclined to travel and eat SOVIET ice cream, conversion of the degraded Ruble just having collapsed under the weight of the benefits of capitalism and the free market (this is when Russians were selling their pets for meat in the streets of Moscow) fetched about 27 Rubles for one Amerikan dollar and at 10 Kopeks (with 100 to the Ruble) the ice cream was costing me somewhere between .0003 – .003 cents. Cardboard or not, I loved this crap and since for a dollar I could get 250 or more, I bought my friends and random people a few and for a moment felt like a very, very, very rich philanthropist if not with a very, very, very limited charitable mandate. The “board”walk at the time, as I remember, was more a series of cement chunks tossed into the angry sea upon which some scattered boards existed to cover the soft spots. Vladivostok had been until a few years prior a closed city and yet caught up with Starbucki and McDonaldi let alone manicured vacation centers. The train return to city center was empty except for me and my Russian friends and I imagined that this rail car had been in service since Stalin first closed the gates on this jewel city of the SOVIET Far East.

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In contrast Atlantic City does not have any rides to speak about, but I am tossing it into the mix nevertheless since the casinos are themselves some form or excitement that for many leads to the same broken spine even if this is not from being tossed about a tea cup ride. It is also the famous boardwalk that has, for at least fifty years, been under a revitalization, the same way Grannie Witherspoon has been improving upon her shattered hip since she turned 89 and now at 92 is fully healed even though her mind is totally gone and she had to eat through a tube in her nose. Atlantic city is eating through a tube in its nose. When this gambling fool was last there the casinos had yet to start shuttering down in bankruptcy but were in full operation if by operation one means having half the people they had in years prior since more Americans avoid gambling…. avoid gambling other than at the liqueur store scratch-off counter, gas station Lotto(tm) machine, Native American Reservation blackjack tables, online poker games, and Uncle Walter who still runs a numbers syndicate in Boca even if now its just between he and a few friends. Even back then – 2009 – there was a sense that these huge tacky emporiums of one-lungers skidding about drunkenly on Jazzy scooters was about to start tottering into the ocean. I had little experience with these palaces where time is excluded and the slots and drinks are 24/7 or as the Europeans used to say, Nonstop. Again, miles of trees had been set down as boards upon which to walk. In the setting sun the sky lit up, and the lights of the various hotels and rides were illuminated and the beach goers returned to their hotels – may of them perhaps there as I, on some deeply discounted trip subsidized by the Gambino Crime Family or whomever owns the casinos which considering today’s impersonal world is perhaps a conglomerate of Chinese investors who bought the Gambino Crime Family in 2002 and switched its name to GaMeLy when it merged with its Hungarian counterpart that handled Canadian human trafficking.

No survey of boardwalks could dismiss the Mother of them all, Coney Island. There has been enough ink spilled, enough selfies taken, and several authors with more craft and skill that this blogger have dissected Coney Island, discussed the changes as gentrification retakes the Island, or mused on the “sort of people” who have gone and continue to go to Coney Island. My family has a history with the Island as my grandparent’s generation used to play there in the early 1920s and we have many pictures of them in various antics about the boardwalk and what was then a stupendous assortment of rides and attractions before they were 1. burnt 2. torn 3. rotted down.

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I have been to Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade, been on the beach lifted on various intoxicants at a concert, journeyed there with friends and along to think and try to get there at least once a year (while now that I am older this is very difficult to keep up). It is to Coney Island where my mind went as I wandered about the Kemah Boardwalk enjoying the little chaos and listening to the sea birds. Like Coney Island, Kemah boasts a wooden roller coaster and while the footprint is one of the smallest in the nation, the ride delivers some great thrills to rival that of the Cyclone and were it just this one ride (The Bullet), a visit to Kemah would still top my list of attractions and should make this small park a part of anyone’s list of “to dos.” I did not have time to attempt additional rides nor the wallet to sample the other eateries nor the walking distance hotel I would need had I attempted to view the night life, which the bar tender told me was quite substantial even on Tuesday which was “their busy day” in the summer for some strange reason (Monday was often quiet the rest of the week was more families, so I was told).

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After eating my allotment of grease and taking a few drops on The Bullet to see if I could evacuate the contents of my stomach, I had to return to the non-boardwalk world and to continue to ponder why we build boardwalks. As a child screamed on a swing and some young guy won an inflatable space alien he immediately presented to his female companion to squeaking laughter, a grown man handed a pimple-faced youth a wad of cash in exchange for tickets to rides, another man with a group consisting of a woman and three children yelled at the kids “sticktogetherimnotrunningafteryouall,” and the sun set ever down making the whole world glow strange. My mind tried to turn over some clever finding, some unique lesson I could text a friend but I had still nothing other than this respite from the work-a-day world and that I was the sort of people who come to these places. I stared into the strange logic of the boardwalk and came back will little but a slight whiplash. What is it that makes us feel that no ocean experience is complete without the clack clack clack of a roller coaster or the grinding of gears of some ride of questionable safety or the stale smoke lifting off corn dogs roasting since June or a $15 Miller Lite served in a plastic cup or games of chance that we all know are fixed but play anyway or that sunburn on the face feeling even after applying lotion or stepping about trash to lay on the beach or walking along the water safely lifted from the sand on boards, numerous trees set down in an endless road for us to walk upon with bare-feet still stinging from stepping on that bottle top back there by the deep fried butter stand…

What is it about this experience that were we not able to do it at least once for the year, it just wouldn’t feel like summer?

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