A fun exercise about place

>We are supposed to _want_ to see the great places of the world. But what if, in fact, we would much, much rather get home and for once get on top and _stay_ on top of the dandelion situation in the lawn?… Describe some place where great or infamous history was made that means very, very little to you
–Carol Bly, “Beyond the Writer’s Workshop: New Ways to Write Creative Nonfiction”, p284


7 Responses

  1. The day was postcard-sunny. How? Pretend a five-year old had taken a highlighter and rubbed it all over the wooden picket fence which lined the Barbie-green lawn that padded the ruby-red, sea-salt white, motionless Motionless MOTIONLESS windmill. Each MOTIONLESS spoke stuck stolidly into the air, too substantial for even a tornado to wrestle with, much less Don Quixote. I reached up and touched the lowest one–it was rough in spite of its lazy habits. A line hinted at a door just around the base’s curve, coaxing me away from the giants arm. A tilted, curved rectangle was indeed scored into the cement? stone? iron? base, as pure as a blank domino: no door handle. I ran back to the wooden fence and read the plaque: first on the Cape, constructed 17-something. Historically significant, therefore restricted to history, therefore no longer in action. I’d have to write my autobiography somewhere else.

  2. A place of distinction and lovingly reenacted, a southern front clashed with northern soldiers. Men cried, fought and died. Brandishing their ideals or duties, in the civil war, on this grassy run-of-the-hill, civil liberties clashed. Now, they clash again, the South could win. There is pride in this united front, trampling the regenerated grass and firing on healed flowers. Wallowing in the mud and pain once more, glory is restored. Forced to die, and relived, where does the sickening grief and tortured slaves get rehashed? I see cannons, flags ringing true, and heightened history. Scarlet agony, twisted lives in battle disassemble for act II, the picnic.

  3. I am here. Here where the Native Americans gave up their secrets, gave up the ghost. Where oil poured from the land, or, when it wouldn’t flow, they forced it. And the drills ticked against the sky. And industry gushed away from the center. It still seeps into all of our land, stretching like an oil spill, rebelliously reflecting rainbows and refusing to be returned to its source.
    On the bank of the beginning, the bit is striking at the bottom of the well and the pipes are shifting. But this isn’t my history. I’m more concerned with the ups and downs of catch and release, i.e. whether or not a trout will take my bait.

    ~After writing the above exercise, I realized I might actually care about that historical place (Drake Well), so I decided to try again.~

    On this time-hollowed ground, I am standing near a railing he might have leaned against, holding a flier where he might have held a book, and watching a bird flap at a window he might have installed. And the name-tag around my neck feels heavy. And my clothes feel sweaty. And the tacky keychain I bought at the gift-shop is jabbing at my thigh through my shorts. The guide is explaining something important about a Mr. So-and-So and his connection to the family and the valiant covering of some scandal. And everyone nods their heads and looks intrigued and appreciative.
    A velvet rope is the only thing holding me back from returning to the unadulterated world where everything can be touched and experienced. Where objects aren’t condemned to a life of loneliness just because one “important” man happened to have added them to his collection.

  4. 100 words version

    The Tower of London, where all those queens lost their heads, where all those traitors were thrown, meant nothing to me, just more lines, people, waiting. Silly men in silly costumes. Then my brother enumerated for me all the castle crooks who threw people to the rats, the stocks, the rope , and all the crooks who crossed the Irish Sea to kill and pillage and plunder there. By the time I donned my school uniform with its silk crest that next week, I was determined to do my bit of resisting. After all, these girls represented the aristocracy. Prince Charles was a student at the university. And so I stomped loudly up the Prefects’ staircase, and got caught in the act, pulled along by my collar. No stocks for me, but no lunch, either.

  5. Europe.

  6. It’s fucking hot on this boat.

    On either side the craggy walls of the canyon erupt from the river, looking desolate and lost, a few trees clinging to their wrinkled faces. The water is blue-green, reflecting the cloudless sky. The tour guide says something about Lewis and Clark.

    Why are there so many mosquitoes?

    Years ago, Lewis and Clark paddled against the current of this river, searching in vain for a northwest passage. The same waters, the same canyon. They called it the Gates of the Mountains.

    I can’t see any mountains.

    The tour guide points, says you can see mountain goats if you look to the left. They are nowhere to be seen. Later, if you look at that rocky promontory over there just right, it looks like a face. Lewis wrote about it in his diary. The rocks are featureless, just another part of the landscape, and the tour doesn’t seem like it will end.

    It’s fucking hot on this boat.

  7. Viollet de Luc

    They said they played football in the Coliseum. I promptly put that on a sacred piece of paper of things to do before I die. I had a football with me at the time, a Nike tiempo with a Paris St. Germaine logo on it, which I carried ceremoniously down the nave. I remember my father made me read the book and shortly afterwards Disney made a movie about it. There was stained glass, like in movies, religious old people, and menacing gargoyles. It made me wish I saw the movie. I was ten, maybe eleven and I walked around the ambulatory with envious Jesus’ all around me. There were two high candles on either side of the altar that looked like goal posts from a close distance. I could have but my father gave me a stern look. He didn’t know I had a decent shot, even back then, even though I felt he knew what I was thinking. My friends played football with their dads in the Coliseum, a sacred pitch where glory met death, freedom met slavery and where citizens paid homage to debauched authority. I was in the Notre Dame de Paris, a similar place, but I had to keep silent.

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