Friday, February 21, 2014

The Common on the Long Wall

There's a journal called The Common, as in the commons of a town, and they are concerned with place. As in shared place. Harmonics. They are concerned with "Finding the extraordinary in the moment..."  

Tourist places are commons. Take the Great Wall. Use the literal translation and it would be called the Long Wall. But it feels exactly like Mount Rushmore with its unending preface of shops selling tourist concessions and imitation antiques, overpriced water. A Common. 

Our tour guide said, “President Obama took eighteen minutes to the top. Bush walked up it, too,” and left us mercifully on our own. When we got back, he asked us if we’d been heroes.

(No, we didn’t want to go to the jade factory. No, we didn’t want to stop for the traditional lunch. No, we are not interested in your cousin’s special museum. Never take a guide. Never break that rule, we told ourselves, ever again.)

No Americans up there on the wall, although I imagined the summer to come, our diabetic sweat on those slick steps. We saw the cardiac unit at the bottom, and even that seemed like a cliché for the camera, all of it as over-photographed as a Disney theme park. The commons of kitsch. 

Except for this instant. This red bride’s pose. We stopped to watch from a dozen nations. We all took our snapshots of this woman to bring home. She was a dissonance of color in all this grey, grey, grey. Clothed in those reconstructed moments there was beauty beneath that archway, under all the satin and makeup. Some smile recognizing some future from a past that seemed for a moment more than simply illusion. Everyone saw the same strange wolf tone—common to us all. And you can't fake that young person's perfect hope.

(Yes, we told the tour guide, we understand the traffic was bad. Yes, it would be fine to finish early. Extra time for your family and won't you take some extra money for them, too? Of course we will recommend you to others.)

We were finding The Common in the extraordinary, weren't we? 

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