The International Writers Magazine:Hacktreks in a New York
State Of Mind
YORK CITY, NY
culture with Clive Branson
America is a bit of a paradox. The most materialistic society whose constitution
actually enshrines the pursuit of happiness as a human right. Yet, a land
that contains more murder and psychiatry than any other.
New York City is where an hour is 40 minutes. A city with no boundaries.
Its iconoclastic raw beauty and ubiquitous magnetism have stirred the
very embodiment of all ambition, aspiration and desire, but I wouldnt
want to grow old in New York - that happens too quickly, for there is
little time to stop, no room to breathe, no excuse for innocence.
York City is a woman in transition who wears dark mascara, a beauty
spot and a grey coat concealing all truth. She buys a sterilized
hype to shoot-up a sex machine drug. We enjoy her strength and
character; her unexpected warmth, her unabashed vulgarity. Or
is it her fleshy sexuality? Shes on a diet of amphetamines
and held together by velcro. Were mesmerized by her horror
and ecstasy. Her Monroe breasts that squeeze into a limo that
turns out to be a hearse. Shes an enigma who plays with
life at high speed risk.
© Brooklyn Bridge Clive Branson 2003
Clive Branson 2003
I drove south from Tupper Lake, New York State, into an interminable
arena of pine and lakes (a region that covers an expanse of 6.1 million
acres). Now people may like pine, rock and water, but then, people like
watching lawn bowling and clothes in a dry spin. After eight hours,
its tenacity tends to lose its charm. The demography modulated radically,
like driving over a giants curled up body. The Adirondack Mountains
ascended up to 1,500 feet above sea level, then dropped dramatically
like a Canadian dollar.
Claustrophobic, oven-baked cabin colonies and Ma & Pa restaurants
dotted the side of the highway. The restaurants were generally similar
and listless. Linoleum-tiled floors, a lazy ceiling fan, neon signs
blinking or burnt out, and a checkered-patterned plastic tablecloth
that the bottom of my drinking glass got stuck to. A waitress whose
name was one of Hazel, Ruth or Marg, would serve me. What was more interesting
than the food was a couple one table over. A middle-aged man wearing
a CAT baseball cap and an adolescent girl, whom he didnt seem
to know very well but was taking her somewhere.
© Clive Branson 2003
was when I reached Lake George (noted for the largest body of water
within northern New York), that my journey of tranquility was shaken
into stark reality. Even in early September, the place was still
reeling in summer consumerism. Actually, frenzy came to mind. A
town transformed into a Jerry Springer hallucination. An ersatz
haven: souvenir shops, T-shirt vendors and fast-food grease parlours,
littered the resort. Horrid fat tourists with screaming t-shirts,
screaming kids and blaring ghettoblasters.
of enormous girth perambulating about no faster than the flow of Heinz
ketchup with this smug attitude that it is normal to be the size of
the U.S. deficit.
Teenagers and bikers smeared the scene like a bad fart, scratching their
zits, sharing bad breath, bad food, bad grammar and bad odours. It reminded
me of the cast of Married With Children, The Simpsons and Happy Days
combined. But for a kid, this was probably better (and cheaper) than
summer camp or Disneyland.
The lake would have been nice had it not been for the congested flotilla
of speedboats, jet skiers and tourist crafts. It was a bad play on water.
Even the landmark, Fort George, was a hemorrhage of rapacious commercialism:
profiteers bastardizing an historical site into Coney Island, tramped
on by the Nike-soled. On the other hand, at least people were encouraged
to take in a piece of their own history rather than remove it altogether,
even if it means re-inventing and mass-producing it. In America, they
cherish their past, particularly when you can make a buck from it.
I passed through, imagining the nightmare it must be at the height of
the season and was left with a sickened view of humanity. Getting off
the beaten track and continuing via Route 372, the scene changed to
a series of small-towns, each with a veritable charm comparable to a
carbon-copy of a Norman Rockwell painting. Most of the towns in these
parts seemed locked in a Tai-Chi, soporific life of their own. Strong,
russet-coloured brick masonry and white Georgian pillared homes, lattice-windowed
stores and the invariable square commemorating an historical figure
- its association, a frail fragment of the towns historic mark.
While large cities may personify independence, it is the small towns
that epitomize a longing for simplicity, values and innocence. Norman
Rockwell said that he painted not so much of what he saw, but of what
he wanted to see. These towns seemed to embellish his ideals. The towns
gave the impression of travelling in a time warp and I was in Mayberry
expecting to see Opie appear around the corner with his catch from a
© Clive Branson May 2004
See also The French
Clive is an Creative Director in advertsing living in Ottawa and former
Parson School of Design Photography Grad. This is first of a series
of pieces and images for Hackwriters
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