There is a city out of Italo Calvino‘s Invisible Cities. In this city there is a series of chambers that lift the pedestrian above the streets to float over the buildings, above the businesses, and to transport one from parking garage to parking garage.
There are many strange cities out there. Cities built on the clouds, cities build under the earth, built to reach the sky with indoor ski slopes and malls plenty. I have been to a great many of them. Each one is configured to the ideas, ideals, and ideologies of their respective age. There is nothing natural about a city. It does not exist in nature. True you may point to the hive of the ants or termites. You can motion towards the hive of the bees or wasps, but there is nothing in the upper Kingdoms as a city and since unlike those lower orders we do not work in union nor naively commodiously the city is as alien to our species as is any live on Mars or some other distant and stable planet.
The city is the ultimate invention of humanity. Our pinnacle of success as a species. It of all inventions set ourselves apart. It is the best, and worst of our minds.
It is strange that we perfected them so recently, and then, of a sudden abandoned them.
It was not until the 19th century that we figured the city out. It was like a puzzle. How to take care of those old biological issues. The waste. The need for water, for light, for air. And, it seems as soon as we solved that conundrum, we moved on and away from the city, at least in this country.
The Heartland is comprised of ten thousand dead and dying cities all flickering out, wasting away and only holding up as long as the roofing materials put on in the mid-1980s hold up. Like the barns of my youth now nothing but ashes, these cities and town centres are to be dust in a matter of time.
It is strange that in the attempt to save so many of them, the vast majority of the city was torn down. Often to make way for parking lots. Not because we had to, but because we stopped believing in cities. We decided to ruin them. This was not a natural occurrence since there is nothing natural in human nature.
I walked or floated above a city devoid of life. I was brought above the city so not have to interact with the streets, the sidewalk, the shopfronts, the elements. It was a quiet set of chambers as if I had been visiting a long shaft to a tomb rather than any street or alley. The chambers were quiet. Still. The one by the hotel had music. The one leading to the convention center was heated and I can only assume that because the doors had not been opened in quite some time, stifling hot.
Some chambers were carpeted. Others tile from the 1980s, some looked more 1990s – perhaps all of it was from the same period. It was hard to say one chamber opening up to another all clean, some with some attempt at art but others just blank and as if hermetically sealed perfectly clean and yet time had worn the surfaces the materials had a tinge of entropy.
Walking about I met few other people. Two children walked unaccompanied. They hurried along and tried to pass through a door before it closed. At a crossroads in the chambers a woman appeared from the direction of the transportation center, the one named after the famous minority. She was on the phone complaining about being attacked by her “stalker of 10 years.”
“No, I’ve had the same stalker… yeah… for years,” she said to her phone before unlocking a broken glass door. “I’m almost to my apartment,” she yelled, echoing in the chambers before the door shut and I was again alone. The cracked class and door hanging from a hinge balefully stared at me. There was nothing happy behind those doors. They were best left locked.
Floating above the city, removed from whatever life may have existed below, I was indeed in the sky. It is an exhibition of human endeavor – the birth and death of the American City. From the hope and firm belief of the stone edifices to the new Neo-capatalism of the glass boxes and multi-layered parking lots, the passage was a time travel, a set of cities of a strange variety, perhaps the next step in our evolution of consciousness.