Sunday, August 21, 2005

"His Dreams Walk About The City Where He Persists Incognito"


title excerpted from W.C. Williams' "Paterson"

North UTBT 3mi


I think that I needed the two days off to rest my legs a bit, and the weekend was pretty hectic anyhow. I’m thinking of swapping my Saturday and Sunday routines so that I run on Sunday. This makes it easier to crosstrain because the gym is always open on Saturday. I think a lot of other training programs have the day off following the long run, and I think this might be more to my liking as well.
Today I was back to work and my training schedule called for crosstraining, but I was feeling a little guilty about skipping the last few days and I felt like I should get some running in. I ran the UTBT three-mile out-and-back route at a nice 11:00 pace. My legs felt tight the whole way, but they never got truly painful.
Cardiovascularly, I am definitely improving, even if musculoskeletally I can’t keep up. My pace this morning felt very comfortable and my heart rate at the split was still only 140. I see more and more how the temperature affects my heart rate, and I would guess that for every degree increase in temperature, my heart rate increases by about two beats per minute. I’m working on developing a formula that shows improved efficiency through training. This would be a measure of heart rate as compared to running pace.
Today I read some of Denis Wood’s writing online, as well as a short story by Barry Lopez titled “The Mappist”. I was struck by the similarities between these real and fictional characters (Denis Wood and Corlis Benefideo), and I began thinking more about what it is that is driving this project of mine. I realize that I still don’t have a distinct focus. I see more and more that my runs function more as reconnaissance than as research. For me to form a truly detailed and comprehensive map, I must read the histories of this city in its books, as well as in its streets and in the mouths and imaginations of its people. As Lopez writes in “The Mappist”, Benefideo’s book is based on the idea that the city is “the living idea of its inhabitants”.
InIra Glass’s interview with Denis Wood he says that Wood’s maps “make the neighborhood seem like a living organism”, to which Wood responds, “It is a living organism!”
Carlo said to me “your aerial maps look like pictures of Hiroshima,” and I saw the brutality in these images. It was not my intent to lay this city to waste. Today I’m thinking of softer representations of this city. I’m imagining a 3-D model on the brick floor of Flight 19 made of Cuban coffee and tobacco leaves. I’m thinking of hand-drawn maps on rag paper, I’m thinking about water; where it moves, collects, rises and falls. And I’m wondering why every city calls itself the “Lightning Capital of the World”.

6 Comments:

Blogger Rachel* said...

This is beautiful writing. Seriously, I would have thought this blog would be boring as sh*t, an exercise log or some such crap, but it's very compelling.

I only found it because of wholinkstome, so thanks!

1:37 PM  
Anonymous gonzobaby said...

Is Tampa not the "lightning capital of the world"? Were we told this as kids to scare us into going inside during storms?

I agree that the aerial maps do not reveal the true character of our city, however, I have learned a little about our city from viewing the maps.

10:02 AM  
Blogger Devon said...

We were lied to. Tampa is not the lightning capital of anything. The STATE of Florida is considered the lightning capital of the US, and the highest number of cloud to ground lightning strikes occurs in the area between Tampa and Titusville. Florida receives about twice as many cloud to ground strikes as any other state, but the casualty rate is three times as high. Hooray for golfers!
By the way, Rwanda is the lightning capital of the world with three times as many thunderstorms per year as Florida.

11:09 AM  
Anonymous Jan said...

There is something very sad about "The Mappist". When Mr. Benefideo talks about his maps and the relevance of the history that they contain, I think about all the nuances of life that are taken for granted and forgotten. What was once a house containing the memories of a family is now an abandoned field, or a Trump tower. If you think about it, we are constantly shedding things that 100 years ago we would have thought that we could never do without. In a way it is sad, but change is progress. Like Mr. Benefideo, I want to know the terms. I had a discussion with one of the senior archivists at my job today about the future. He said that it is conceivable that in the future, fifty or a hundred years from now, we may no longer need to expend any effort to research the information that we need. By that time, we may all be connected cerebrally to some super highway of central knowledge. This kind of forecast seems frightening to me because it would mean the elimination of discovery and wonder. The process of map making for Mr. Benefideo is about discovery as well as recording the history of a place at a specific period in time. If we were to lose the ability or need to seek answers, then a huge part of our humaneness would disappear, would it not?

8:16 PM  
Blogger Matt_NC said...

Working in cultural resource management, I was recently given project that was made up of a 300 acre area in a small town near Charlotte. Target has bought this land and hoped to skirt around the usual archaeological survey requirements by sending one person - me - on a reconnaissance. In other words, my boss said to dig and screen a few holes in startegic areas that look like they might contain cultural materials (broad range of 100 years old to 10,000 years old) and inspect the standing and remnant structures. Otherwise my instructions were rather vague. No previously known sites were in the area. I arrived equipped with an aerial photo from Googlemaps and a 1:24,000 topo map. There were structures plotted on the map, but the only two that knew for sure were not historic were two long chicken houses.

I was given two days for this little solo effort.

It was eerily calming to walk through these meadows, old agricultural fields, and forested areas by myself. On a one man's hired quest to find remnants of what humans had been in this area and hopefully what for. Problem is these bigger picture questions are nearly impossible to answer in two days and one person's efforts.

There were soil samplers there with big machines, but we exchanged only a few words and then ignored one another the rest of the time. Their "thumper" machines rang out in the background like a bad hangover that I couldn't shake. The area in which they were working had little potential for finding a site anyway.

I frantically walked around my project area looking for signs of a good prehistoric campsite. Came across several throughout and dug, but found nothing. I dug about 60 of these holes in those two days and didn't find a damn thing. Maybe the landforms that make good sites in coastal NC and Florida are not the same as in the Western Piedmont. That or I was extrememly unlucky.

The most interesting part of the project turned out to be the little black squares and red/purple outlines on the Topo map (1970) that define standing structures (houses and barns and sheds). The houses were all abandoned, but I still felt like an intruder on someone's property. The area was overripe with its past hard country living. There were a couple of shotgun houses (likely sharecroppers').

One main farmstead was still in pretty good shape. The house looked as if it may have been added on two over several generations. There was an old brick chimney on one side of the house and a cinder block chimney on the side that appeared added on. It was originally brick, but someone in the 50s-70s decided it would be much more attractive with white aluminum siding. The amazing thing about this farmstead was the outbuildings. A buzzard flew out of one barn right at my head and I thought I might need to go back to the motel and change. A whole bunch of good lumber and other building supplies were stored in these barns and sheds. All still in good condition. An entire tool assemblage was present in a shed adjacent to the house. It was like these people had just disappeared and left all their belongings behind. I expected to peak into the windows of the house and find it fully furnished, but it was empty aside from the animal scat on the hardwood floors.

A central database that would allow me to visualize the activities around these homesteads would be amazing, but having a job that allows me to photograph and ponder such things isn't so bad, either.

3:57 PM  
Blogger Devon said...

Sounds like a great job.
I've been thinking about mapping campsites at bluegrass festivals for awhile. Each year the same festival grounds are used, but the camp configurations are always changing. There are certain elements that remain unchanged (shade trees, water, outbuildings, etc.) and others that are created anew each year (not only the individual camps, but the paths between them, the parking areas, and even the location of the port-o-lets). An aerial study of these mutations could provide some insight into the identification of likely sites as well as creating a set of guidelines for the planning of future developments.

8:19 PM  

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