Archive for June 25th, 2006

Planes, trains, automobiles and dissonance, or, The Complicity Polka

June 25th, 2006

I’ve gotten kind of addicted to blogging all my daily activities. I’ll stop now that I’m home and have no life again, but first I wanted to say a few things about what it was like ending my book tour yesterday.

I began this trip on airplanes, flying to the west coast and back. Then I switched to trains on the east coast. Then yesterday in Boston I rented a car for the last leg. It turned out to be a big honkin’ SUV. And it was really fun to drive. At last I understand.

My objective was Northampton, MA, where I had to give a reading at 4pm. But I decided to take a slight detour to the new Ikea in a suburb south of Boston. I needed to get some plates and silverware, and I knew that was sort of crazy since I’d never been there before and I only had a half-hour to spare and Ikea is an all-day venture at best. But I was all hopped up and feeling omnipotent in my giant vehicle, so I went for it. On the way I listened to a horrific radio program about what’s going on in the Congo. Normally I just can’t compute the news from Africa, it’s so brutal and baffling. But this reporter, Johann Hari, put things into lucid context.

It’s not some kind of inexplicable tribal violence. It’s simply global corporations at work, doing what corporations do–mining resources as cheaply as they can. Hari talked in particular about the diamond trade, and the terrible violence that stems from it so that westerners can have engagement rings. “At least I don’t have any diamonds,” I thought idly to myself as I barrelled along in my SUV. I’ve never understood why people invest diamonds with so much power. They’re gaudy, ugly things.

The trick of capitalism is the way it obliterates the trail of cause and effect. The news from Africa is baffling precisely because it refuses to connect the dots. And who wants to connect them anyway, when going to Ikea is so much more pleasant? And then there I was, with thousands of other SUVs, pouring into the sprawling parking lot.

As an aside, I must say that I made perhaps the quickest and most efficient visit to an Ikea ever in the history of the world, somehow navigating the vast, unfamiliar terrain, not getting distracted by all the alluring objects but homing right in on my plates and a box of silverware, using the auto-check out system and getting back to my rig in half an hour flat.


Still, it was disconcerting to find myself so caught up in this manic consumption fest. Back on the road, I was playing with the radio in the truck. There were controls for it on the steering wheel, in case it was too much of a strain to reach out and operate it from the dashboard. All of a sudden I came upon a song which was the perfect soundtrack for the moment. I grabbed my camera and attempted to capture the insane dissonance of it all in a brief movie. I still haven’t figured out how to embed videos here, so if you want to see it you have to click here and watch it on YouTube.

Later that afternoon, after my reading in Northampton, I had dinner with my aunt and uncle. I mentioned in my last post that my Aunt Mary gave me a pair of cufflinks. It was a very thoughtful gift, an implicit reference to a scene in my book where I talk about my cross-dressing tendencies, in particular my fixation with cufflinks.

But I didn’t mention that each cufflink sports a tiny diamond.

Broadside Books, Northampton MA

June 25th, 2006

Broadside Books, Northampton MA

Yesterday I finished the first leg of my Fun Home tour with this charming crowd in Northampton. As happened in Philadelphia, I spotted more relatives in the audience just before the reading began. This time it was my mom’s sister Mary and my Uncle Ed. They were very sweet to me. Ed gave me a copy of Son of Oscar Wilde, Vyvyan Holland’s memoir of his father. And Mary gave me a handsome pair of cufflinks. Apparently I should write intimate, tell-all memoirs about my family more often.