Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Nob Hill Slide Show

Birdland. The name evokes the tinkle, jingle and rhythm of jazz itself. Charlie Parker. The late 1940’s New York jazz club made a name for itself, headlining for decades the greats of jazz in what became a cultural mecca. Fast-forward decades and several thousand miles later, to Albuquerque’s Nob Hill district and we find Birdland a neo-hippie-generation clothing boutique, with an eclectic, ever-changing storefront window display, featuring center stage a VW microbus painted in 60’s wild colors. An obvious and repetitive photographic target, repeatedly captured in color by Yours Truly, now sports the subtle tones of black on white, garishly lit by the blaring late-autumn desert sun.

Signs. Words and phrases intended for public display, some informational, others more sophisticated. Words have their overt, dictionary meanings; and then upon closer examination we find them to possess subtler, underhanded meanings, double entendres. Like this sign, affixed to the side of a storage building adjoining an alley in Albuquerque’s UNM area, intended to keep out intruders upon the threat of some non-specific micro-organic contamination, its implication being an underlying chronic problem of vandalism and other crimes. We ponder the ineffectualness of City Hall, and how decrepit must the infrastructure become before renewed attention is paid.

Guerrilla. The word implies some jungle-based insurgency; grenade attacks by night, covert infiltrations, and an underlying political cause. Perhaps the crux of the biscuit is conceptual rather than political. The melding of capitalist marketing principles with Marxist philosophy; an oxymoron, the pedaling of snappy-slogan-encrusted tee shirts and bumper stickers, adjacent to a Tibetan-themed chai house. Only in the University District would such diversity reign, simultaneously biting the hand that feeds it.

Vehicles become vehicles by which we manage our living, while simultaneously others take advantage of our need for vehicles by manufactured lending, a vehicle for debt. Even when wrecked, we find their empty, broken carcasses both an aid of comfort and bear us down with burdens almost unbearable. They become symbolic of the broken shells of our own bodies, surrogate corpses.

Yet simultaneously vehicles become marvelous, makeshift devices of necessity, which we stuff and burden with the detritus of our personal lives, each a unique signature of ownership, these petroleum-powered personas.

Movie and music posters, mini-billboards of popular culture, crafted on a scale in keeping with one’s personal oeuvre, intended to decorate one’s bedroom or living space, combining the best of the graphic and photographic arts with the discomfort of Hollywood kitsch.

Yet there resides the temerity of the open road, the Wild West, the yet-to-be-tamed, in many of the best of these posters, as if they are mini-celebrations of the country’s settling that has yet to be totally settled, a tinge of the wilderness that is wildness itself.

Amidst the colorful storefront displays and boutique shops of Nob Hill, and the upper-scale restaurants, there remains an undercurrent of the seediness of hedonism and the unbridled philosophies of the avant-garde. In counter to this comes the Mars Hill Church, on the site of the former Lobo Theatre, an outreach of the excessively middle-class Calvary Chapel of Albuquerque, a 15,000-member mega-church from across town. Mars Hill Church, Seattle.

One wonders if their message is lost amongst the cacophony of competing philosophies masquerading as middle-class affluence.

Growing up amidst this confusion of culture and philosophy, my Grandson has fared remarkably well, exhibiting a level of discernment, keenness of observation about the culture around him, and inner maturity that I entirely lacked at his age. He is remarkably well adjusted, considering what he has lived through.

And yet he is at heart a lovable, playful young boy, a true free spirit, bringing a breath of fresh air to whomever he graces. As we close the year that was 2009, we worry for the future that such wonderful young people will have to face; yet somehow we know they have been prepared and equipped with graces that we ourselves lack, as if the future is preparing them in advance. They are simultaneously living talismans of our future, while we remain totems of their past.

Epilog: As we come near the end of the first decade of the 21st century, it seems both ironic and fitting that a plastic toy film camera would come to be used to capture fleeting glimpses of that which is easily all too ephemeral, yet which will in little time at all become solidly etched into stone as a young person’s past history.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mars Hill Church Albuquerque is a campus church of Mars Hill Church Seattle, which is completely unaffiliated with Calvary Chapel.


6:27 AM  
Blogger Joe V said...

Thank you for the clarification, Mike. Bad research on my part, obviously.


10:44 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home