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Friday, May 07, 2004
Invisible Cities

Describing a place and knowing it.

Realtors pretend to know a place better than their clients (or anyone else) because they have bought and sold the entire city. They can describe every property in an entire city with a crappy photograph, a one page list of features, the name of a neighborhood or a location, and a price. But for them to talk of location only reveals their biases and prejudices, and in the end is still about economics.

Really knowing a place is to experience what makes it IT. This is an entirely personal process. Smelling the tobacco drying in warehouses on the edge of a small town as a summer night breeze drifts across a porch. Hearing trains, planes, ships, cars, and people walking all at the same time while laying in bed and feeling connected to the world. The way your street looks after it rains in the summer and the sun briefly comes out one last time before it goes down.

Knowing a place is so much more than memorizing an address. It is knowing who lived in your neighbors houses years ago. It's more than property values and school districts and how many bathrooms you have. It is about the melancholy of watching a thin curl of smoke puffing out of a neighbors chimney outside your attic window on a winter day.

Deeply knowing a place is to notice the things about a place that only happen there and mean something to you alone.

My purpose is not to trash realtors, but to open the idea that any one place can be described many ways. Each method of description brings with it an new perspective or narrative which can be political, economic, personal, spiritual, or any number of other things. These are the Invisible Cities.

Posted at 09:23 pm by invisiblecity
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