“I’ve never been too good with names / But I remember faces”

Just got back from two weeks in El Salvador for work, staying in a rural village outside the city of Metapán not too far from the Guatemalan border. While there, I awoke one morning with these lines from the Lemonheads ringing in my head, after a dream about an acquaintance from college whose name I forgot but who in my dream represented that time period and the dozens of people I now recall from the apartments, classrooms, bars, clubs and landscapes of the early 90s.

When “It’s a Shame About Ray” came out I dismissed it as being too pop, but I’ve been listening to the album obsessively over the last month, admiring its beautiful melodies and acoustic punk: “I’m too much with myself, I wanna be someone else.” I’m pretty sure I saw the Lemonheads play on campus at USF probably around 1991 or 1992, though the image I have of the event is blurry. Just over half an hour long, the album encapsulates an energy I appreciate a lot now, unpretentious and simple, unworldly. Juliana Hatfield’s minimalist backing melodies are sublime, adding the type of sweetness that make the Blake Babies so appealing to me. The reissue of the album includes acoustic demo versions of most of the album’s songs, recorded in my old Boston neighborhood of Allston.

Today I went to a clinic to check on a wound on my leg from the trip that’s healing slowly. In the waiting room I read David Buuck’s pamphlet Site Cite City (Oakland: BARGE, 2008), a fantastic collection of texts based on several site-specific writing exercises he worked on recently. Buuck read from the pamphlet here in Durham a few weeks ago at the Minor American reading series (part of what makes Durham such a fantastic place for me), and he briefly explained some of the historical context of the pieces, in relation to protests in the Bay Area against the Iraq War in 2003. The chapbook opens with a beautiful series of prose blocks, “Market Street Detours,” that allude to the French May of 1968, the war in Iraq, a personal mapping of urban space and the bleeding of history into our daily maneuvers through the postmodern city. You can pick any of the paragraphs at random and find stunning moments such as this one:

“Meanwhile, I had an experience, and it lasted about this long. This is the transcript of it, except that it can’t be that, this. So I texted “I’m writing this now,” but that was in the past tense, and I had no future address to send it to. Typologies that think atypically will have been what’s not-yet, yet writing that now, as pre-enactment, new scripts for counter-stagings. Writing back is not going back but being here, as sentences tend to move one forward.”

In the third section of the Site Cite City, entitled “Report,” Buuck offers an excerpt from a transcript compiled by a private investigator he hired to survey his activities “...in order to construct a self-portrait through the tecnics of surveillance... ” (as he writes in a brief explanatory note). The dull, choppy prose of this section all of a sudden comes to life when the notes register the detective’s view of the author outside a coffee shop:

“1:52 pm – Subject exits (REDACTED) alone and scans area in all directions. He is observed milling on the sidewalk at the corner with his hands in pants pocket to protect against chill wind. He pulls small (REDACTED) from his pocket and places in his mouth. He is looking down at sidewalk as he walks, again with hands in pants pockets. No discernible purpose of this activity is noted.”

The endnotes for Site Cite City refer the reader to a Flickr page that includes images from some of these writing “activities & tours,” as well as accompanying films at a YouTube page.

Another recent reading pleasure is three new poems by Michael Hofmann in this month’s issue of Poetry: “The Years,” “Night” and “For Adam”:

“The night—yours to decide,
Among drink, or books, or lying there.
On your back, or curled up.

An embarrassment of poverty.”

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