Friday, March 26, 2010
I've been thinking about maps and memory, specifically, how Google maps and digital documenting are affecting nostalgia. Nostos: homecoming + pain. That's about it. When before we relied on imagination and conjuring to re-walk the streets and along the suburban fenced yards of our past, we can abet that now with hyper-accurate rendering—photographs—of those places, without having to (literally) visit. Internet maps now offer 3D imaging; when I look at aerial shots of the neighborhood in which I was raised (in Wheaton, Maryland) and drag the image a block this way, a block that, the image's perspective will change subtly (sometimes not so subtly) and so will the date at which the image was taken—and leaves suddenly are in bloom on trees that were brown and barren a moment ago; a scraggly field when clicked is now dug out and given the foundations for future town homes. All very surreal, and nearly poetic.
And if your neighborhood or farm or city block hasn't changed all that much over the years, digital mapping gives you the sometimes heartbreaking opportunity to reclaim territory whose sole province had been memory and imagination, and the loving ways they recreate and burnish the past. Look: your town is so...ordinary. Myth is made of all this? But then Melville says, "It is not down in any map; true places never are," and he's right, of course, somewhere between cartography and the thought of a place.
And try this: find Billboard magazines from when you were 13, 14, and page through the Top 100 charts. That might map your adolescence.