My dad was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York; my mom in a small farm town in western Ohio; I was born and raised in suburban Washington D.C.; I’ve lived in northern Illinois for a decade and a half. I’m a blend of east coast Italian and midwest German, and I’ve felt that merger keenly my entire life, mostly geographically. The east coast is in my marrow. I’ve visited, lived and worked in New York for months-long stretches during the last decade, mostly while writing Sweat: The Story of the Fleshtones, America's Garage Band. From my past I recall day-long Italian Thanksgiving dinners at my uncles’ homes in Brooklyn and Queens, and visits with my family into Manhattan, and because my attachment to the city is personal and familial, my stays there feel oddly like home. In "Reflections on Subletting," New Yorker Phillip Lopate writes of a curious homesickness he would experience when visiting his native town: "I am homesick precisely because I have come home, but not to any house of mine." I’m not home here in a literal sense, though in a figurative way, it feels as if I am. I bring the solace and quiet and space of my midwest college town with me, and they bump up against NYC’s noise and chaos.
During our stay we visited Christian Boltanski’s No Man’s Land installation at the Wade Thompson Drill Hall in the Park Avenue Armory. (Unfortunately I missed him talking with Luc Sante, a couple of weeks earlier.) Boltanski’s piece features a giant mound of used, donated, and discarded clothing centered in the hall amidst squares of laid-flat clothing; an enormous, man-operated crane methodically lifts random clawfulls of clothes to the ceiling, only to drop them back down. This continues all day, as a soundtrack of human heartbeats plays over cranked-up loudspeakers. (Earlier, Amy and I had our own heartbeats recorded and donated to a permanent exhibit on an island in the Sea of Japan.)
This camera video that I took hints at the scope and size of the exhibit.
The boundary between home and where one visits might blur, but it's always there, keeping us rooted and wandering at once. William Hazlitt: “I would like to spend my whole life traveling, if I could borrow another life to spend at home."