Sunday, 9 September 2007

Mad dogs, Englishmen, me

I slept late today and took a stroll down Main St, soaking in its dubious charms. I bought some all-American junk food at a drug store (brownies, cherry pie, peanut-butter cheese squares) and wandered up to catch the #20 bus.
A black guy asked if I had a dollar for four quarters. I gave him a dollar; he gave me four silver coins. As I walked away, I glanced at the coins. Three were nickels, which are about the same size as quarters. Ah yes, I had been buffaloed.

While waiting for the bus, I was reminded how germane cell phones are to Americans. The poorer the citizen, the longer the conversation. A woman talked for fifteen minutes, continuing on the bus, about what she was planning on eating that night. I was convinced a guy was muttering to himself until I saw his wireless earpiece. Again and again, I saw -- and overheard -- people twittering in perpetuity. They were walking, or listening to music in the other ear, or cycling one-handed, or sitting in trees, or lying on park benches. The only thing they weren't doing was driving, something they may have been able to afford had their money not flown out their mouths and into the digital ether.
I rode the bus up to the Albright-Knox gallery. I picked up the local paper on the seat next to me and noticed that the previous night, just a few streets up from where the bus was currently travelling, a store had been raked in gunfire, killing two people and leaving more than 50 shell casings in the street. One of the wanted cars was an Oldsmobile Cutlass. Around here, gangstas do it old school.

The gallery had an incredible collection: David, Miro, Delacroix, Magritte, van Gogh, Cezanne, Warhol, Lichtenstein, Pollock. There was a Renoir which generated a breathtaking emotional reaction. A collection of pop art and post-pop pop art ran in conjunction with a series of photographs of the artists at work, at ease, at lunch.
The gallery was smaller than I had expected, though it was still large enough to look out of place. The exterior was classical Greek (there was a replica of the Caryatids, for gods' sake) and looked cool to the touch; meanwhile it was eighty degrees in the shade.
I made the silly decision to walk to the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Martin Complex. (I'm really going to town with the web links.) I sauntered casually along the parkway.
A parkway is a four-lane road.
I sauntered because walking with any sort of deliberation in this heat is a great way to collapse and have your prone form ignored for hours, eventually waking with no possessions and a fascinatingly idiosyncratic sunburn.
I opened my cherry pie. It cost fifty cents, and came in a cardboard box about the size of a PDA. It was liberally sprinkled in sugar and internally congealed in a vibrant red. The ingredient list boasted at least four ingredients that were 'partially hydrogenated' and one ingredient had Reduced Iron. I guess Americans get enough iron from their drinking water.
I soon tired of the parkway and, looking both ways several times, crossed the road into what turned out to be the largest cemetery in the goddamn world. There were crosses, spires, spired crosses, crossing spires, catacombs, grotesques, and one tombstone which was designed to appear upside-down, like a 'U'.
Americans are even weird when they're dead.
Eventually I gained the top of a hill and saw some roadsigns. Checking my map I realised that I had walked for twenty minutes and was no closer to my goal; I had somehow gone sideways and slightly backwards. At last I felt that I could identify with Buffalo.
I took the #20 back, stopping short of the hostel to peruse a Dollar store. I bought a can of Campbell's Soup (I felt I owed it to Warhol) for 89c, a pack of Kool-Aid Jell-O for $1.07, one pound (20 pieces) of fig bars for 99c, and two liters of Diet Coke for 79c. I was in America, dammit, and I was going to die like a patriot: obese, diabetic, and always, always shopping.


Laura said...

Crazy!! it all sounds so crazy and different and weird, are you scared? I don't think you should have more buffalo wings they sound like they might kill you. When are you back in Canada?

Laura said...

Ps I put a pic of our house on my blog, go see it when you have time!