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it’s also pretty hard to remember life’s marvelous
but there it is guttering choking then soaring
in the mirrored room of this consciousness
it’s practically a blaze of pure sensibility
and however exaggerated at least something’s going on
It happens every year: intense heat slows everything (and everyone) down and feeds the illusion that in summer, time is at a premium. Suddenly warm days dissolve into a memory as windy days rustle the trees along Edgecombe Avenue. How swift the season goes, they whisper, as summer gets shoved aside for fall.
From the vantage of the current Manhattan monsoon, all my summer getaways seem to have happened in another lifetime. No matter the town, one thing was certain—tourism is alive and well, and just when my scorn for the shiny hords reached its zenith I remembered I was one of them. In Washington DC for the Memorial Day weekend, they (excuse me, we) were comprised of patriots and families there for a summer history lesson. My partner and I had gone for the change of scenery—but instead of quaint Americana, we were treated to an armada of Vietnam vets roaring down Pennsylvania Avenue and the devastating sight of a distraught leather-clad man with a bandana wrapped around his head, being held up by a friend against that black ribbon of granite known as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. A picture is worth a thousand words; this one made me shiver with the realization that our current lovely war guarantees we’ll see such scenes repeated again and again.
In July I made it to Rome—more tourists, eerily identical to the screaming droves of spatially challenged Midwesterners that make a simple walk in midtown hell on earth. Fortunately such people obstacles fail to mar the beauty of that ancient city. The light is unbelievable; as the sun beats down like a death ray, you sense that somehow you’ll never feel more alive (or produce more sweat). Such intense illumination suits a town humming with all that travertine, old pensiones and the yellowing splashes of colors that greet with every turn of a corner. Viva Italia (and the gelato—Breyers, take a hike!)
Any child who grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio can recite the parallels between that midwestern town and Caesar’s old stomping grounds; the Queen City also has seven hills, and was named for Cincinnatus, a Roman dictator who flourished around 458BC. I returned to my hometown last weekend to celebrate my mother’s birthday (it was a surprise—and yep, she seemed genuinely stunned) and observed its descent into a shadow of its former self. I’m thinking of my old neighborhood, Corryville, where the streets of my youth are but shadows of what they were. Lingering images fueled by nostalgia are perhaps too specific to be contested by time and progress, but then change is my bete noire. Still, the glories of Zaya Hadid’s Contemporary Art Center are irrefutable, as are Frank Gehry’s luscious structures for the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design. The Showboat Majestic–the floating theater on the Ohio River where I cut my teeth as a baby actor–has lost none of its allure; in Clifton, Skyline Chili on Ludlow Ave. still serves a mean chilidog. Old and new stand side by side in the Queen City, but the scale is tipping; the past is losing in my little town on the Ohio River.