Still streets

posted: 03 April, 2009
I’ve been enjoying the Felt albums that were recently posted on Map Ref 41’ 93W, and during some web-based procrastination I read that Lawrence named the band after the word specifically as it is emoted by Tom Verlaine in ’Venus’.  Television stirs in me a whirlwind of adolescent feelings, managing to catapult me back to the late 90s every time I listen to them.  ’Venus’ in particular conjures visions of roaming the streets at night, though for me I perhaps mis-associate it with empty, late-night solitary experiences rather than something alive that ’flap[s] / like little pages’.

I just tried to attack my weird sleeping patterns (not insomnia, as I’m getting my full quotient, but in randomly-spaced chunks) by going for a 4 AM bike ride.   I forgot how much I love doing this.  I didn’t think to bring my good camera and turn this into a sappy blog post so the usual shitty mobile phone pics are presented here, but without apologies.


One night when i was nineteen, I rode my bike around Pittsburgh for a few hours in the middle of the night with this guy Chuck.  He is one of those acquaintances from college that I haven’t thought about in years until right now; and now I would love to find out what happened to him, though I don’t remember his surname.  I’m not sure how the ride started but it ended up being one of those simple experiences that continues to resonate with me, a decade later. 


That ride felt like some missing jump into adulthood.  Although I had been living on my own for awhile I never really felt the power, or rather the freedom, of living in a city.  Moving, silently, quickly, through sleeping urban areas has a magical effect on me.  Without having to worry about running into people or cars, it’s like being invisible.  Rows of darkened houses and apartments suggest a million individual narratives, all paused, while the occasional lighted window indicates a secret companion.

I had a dream once a few years ago where i was with several random people and we were competing to invade the private residences of strangers.  Or something like that; of course it’s vague - but in the dream I broke into a strangers’ house at night while they were in their living room watching TV and silently crawled behind them, lying on my stomach in the shadows of the room, undetected.  This concept has stayed with me for years.  I don’t have any interest in voyeurism or ever actually doing this, but I’ve since thought it would be good to exploit the idea of pointless, conceptual privacy invasions in some literary/art context.


Tonight was a shadow of the great 1999 bike excursion.  Perhaps another part of that was how I saw my city in a new way, venturing into neighborhoods I had never been in before, and other places that were familiar but not at 3:30 AM.  It certainly has stuck with me more than all subsequent late-night rides, though there have been few (until tonight) that were rides just for the sake of it.  I still have a lot to explore about my new surroundings; there’s no better time to do it than the middle of the night, where I can take my time and find parts of the city I might not notice otherwise. 

This already-sleepy city is like a glacier at 4 AM on a Thursday night.  Though I did pass a few cars, there were no pedestrians.  All of the traffic signals were switched off, even at the most confusing intersection of Nordenskiöldinkatu/Topeliuksenkatu/Mechelininkatu/Linnankoskenkatu (pictured).  I rode down to the edge of Kesäranta and looked at the bay, still frozen, and thought about how insane it is that I live a block away from the Prime Minister and I can just ride up to the edge of his property.  I can feel sleep coming on, where perhaps I will dream again of silent, meaningless espionage.
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