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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Astray in the City: No Sex Please, We're Brightish


The theme was 'Astray' and into this mêlée strolled a colourful array of tropes and personas and archetypes that begged our attention, that fired our imagination. It was just another Thursday evening in the city and the usual crowd had assembled: philosopher queens, all, and brave too; making their way through the darkening streets, navigating snow banks and Tory think tanks and jay-walking fines and no-trespassing  signs and all the other trappings of the striated urban landscape, of the readable metropolis, so as to salonize, sororitize, prioritize tactics over didactics, orthotics over robotics, and asking where, when, how, what, and why no female figures of pedestrian rhetoric out there roaming free through 19th Century Gay Paree, Home of Modernity, save those who're turning tricks and even they, though Making Do, don't get a pass into coyote school, trickster cool, and - like their hobo sisters this side of the ocean, cookin' and hookin' in the jungle, ridin' the rails in their spare time just to make a dime - end up slipping between the cracks of history, on their backs which means no heroics for these stoics, no leisurely amble into perambulatory folklore, just stuck out there on the sidewalk as their flâneur and hobo brethren snuck their way into enlightened parlour talk.

A meeting of the furtively purposeful and the defiantly purposeless, this third in our series revolving around The Traveller. A clash of migratory imperative and impervious meandering, this exploration of going astray in more ways than one. If our locomotive focus shifted between walking the city and taking the train, our communal task for the evening lay in reclaiming the streets and railway tracks (and all ports of call in-between) for the loitering female traveller. In part, this called for a delinking: foregrounding astray's adventuresome 13th Century etymological origins of "wandering far from home" and underplaying the moralizing overtones the word had picked up by the 14th Century, so that to take a risk, to stray off the beaten path, could be just that...Not some deviation from the path of rectitude. In part, this called for some sensible footwear: to quote a cross-dressing George Sand circa 1831, "With those little iron-shod heels I was solid on the pavement…I flew from one end of Paris to the other."; to quote Nancy Sinatra circa 1966, "These boots are made for walking." For the most part, though, what it called for was a cascade of what Walter Benjamin terms "thought fragments," and a group of hard-thinking women to pick their way through them. Here, then, a mapping of last Thursday's terrain. As Nancy would say to those boots of hers, "Start walkin’!"

Port Bou…The Pearl Diver…Walter Benjamin (1892-1940)…Le Flâneur...Idler…Purposeful… Aimless…Whimsy…Drilling…Excavating…Bibliomania…Thought Fragments…Marcel Proust…The Arcades Project…Baron Haussmann’s Paris… Michel de Certeau (1925-1986) ...The Practice of Everyday Life…Places versus Spaces…Strategies vs Tactics…”Making Do”…”The true picture of the past flits by, and only the flâneur who idly strolls by receives the message” (Hannah Arendt)…Strollology…The Hobo…”Migration is mortality by another name, the itch we can’t scratch” (Emma Donoghue)…Nomads…Loitering…Margins… Stowaways …Runaways… “All we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah, 53:6)…Vagabonds …Vagrants …Drifters…The Journey of Natty Gan…Tourist Union #63…Mulligan Stew…Docandoberry …Modernity…Flânerie…Stream of Consciousness…Lounger…Loafer…Man of Leisure…The Urban Explorer…The Lonely Crowd…Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)…”We will never arrive anywhere if we identify as a starting point” (Rosi Braidotti)…Janet Wolff’s Invisible Flâneuse…Fugitive…Transient…The Dandy…The Tramp…The Bum… “Botanizing on the Asphalt”…Constantin Guys…The Stranger…The Potential Wanderer…George Sand in 1831: “My clothes feared nothing!”…Subjects of the Gaze…The Passing Encounter…Fleeting … Ephemeral…City-dweller…SHOCK!...Public Sphere…Private Sphere…The Songlines…”Let continents do their worst – they split, they clash – but the birds’ flight path is what it always was. Every heartbeat, every contracting muscle, is a chronicle” (Ruth Padel)…Zugunruhe…The Anonymous Encounter…Ridin’ the Rods…Fringes…Jungles…Spatializing Place…Practiced Place…Proper…Poaching from the Dominant Culture… “But what it wins it cannot keep”… homo-bonisMigratory Workers…Restless Times… “To walk is to lack a place” (Michel de Certeau)To walk: Old English wealcan: “to toss, roll”…and wealcian: : “to roll up, curl, muffle up” from Old Norse valka: “to drag about” and Old High German walchan, “to knead”…