For many people, the thought of traveling on two four-and-a-half hour bus rides in as many days to play a twenty-minute set at a punk show sounds like a veritable hell on Earth. But, this is what I do now and again, and try to get into the trip itself as much as possible. Luckily, different locales offer different takes on the esoteric, each city having its own mystic flavor worth a lick or two.
I used to think about this most when traveling to Philadelphia where the bus lets you out into a sort of mini-Harlem (though it’s actually Chinatown). Muslims and Moors selling Marcus Garvey shirts, Elijah Muhammad pins, and occult books shuffle among lost bus riders shipped in to ogle over the historic district’s Liberty Bell and Benjamin Franklin stand-ins…
…or to just visit their punk rock girlfriend or boyfriend. It’s a curious intermingling of white tourism, literary black rebellions against white supremacy, and wayfarers wanting to know why you’re carrying a guitar.
“You play in a band?”
“What kind of music?”
“Listen…I’m trying to get home, and I need….”
When I had the time I enhanced my experience by slipping into the Reading Terminal Market…
…to hang around the Miscillanea Libri book store while perusing reads on Moorish explorations of the Americas pre-Columbus and the TOCs of masonic pamphlets. The entire experience was wild, and to say that I relished the access to, and abundance of, Philly mysticism would be a hyperbolic understatement.
Arriving in Washington, DC, however, is different. Good, but definitely odd. The drop off in DC reads like a post-apocalyptic short had the obliterated world been rebuilt by an urban developer.
In parts of the nation’s capital there’s a sense that the marginalia has been swept under the rug. There are lots of new (looking) buildings with new (looking) restaurants built upon new (looking) concrete, which force the staggering homeless who appear more like remnants of some previous zombie apocalypse against this backdrop of “progress” to stick out like a sore gangrenous thumb. And, while The Black Hebrews can be very much out, they seem to be more out of place, as pub crawlers in green screen-printed pub crawling T-shirts ignore the valuable (if conveniently interpreted) lessons of the biblical Esau and Jacob being hurled at them by a group of original Israelites in flashy red tunics, or in DC’s case, fatigues.
Cities can be wonderfully insane places, in many ways, no less wild than when they were actually wild.
Categories: ART & CULTURE