I’m writing an article about drug dealers that deals with cocaine. Whenever I mention this to friends and acquaintances, they shudder and talk about how much they dislike the drug and the people who use it. Yet I’m sure if you threw a bindle down in front of many of them, they’d dash off to the bathroom and huff it up. Cocaine has a social stigma that marijuana lacks, even now when it’s undergoing a ‘renaissance’ in hip culture. It doesn’t stop it from being big business, however.
I think something about writers that most people wouldn’t realize is how it calls for so much time spent sifting through the past. Even the recent past has a charge, and a melancholy separation. Here I am writing about what happened in Pittsburgh a few weeks ago and it is so much more immediate to me than to anyone else who shared it; they’ve moved on and I’m here grubbing through the ashes. Of course, I imagine the writers would argue that the grubbing is what makes life worthwhile, or gives it an added patina of meaning, anyway.
I made one of my late-night pilgrimages to the waterfront yesterday. Down North 3rd in front of the Death Metal bar that always has a hearse parked in front of it. At 3:30 a.m. the metal nation was out in force, all black t-shirts and black leather, even though it was dank, humid night. I wonder if Motorhead was in town.
Past them I went through the gap in the fence and climbed over the heaped debris to the old wharf wall. Low tide so the the walking was easy and out on the wall Manhattan shimmering in the dark, buildings silhouetted by night. The decay of the old wharfs continued and one concrete wall, sundered from the shore, tilted toward last ruin in the river. I crossed the wall to building site which is even more active now than it was earlier in the summer. Two barges had been anchored, beached possibly, and atop them stood giant cranes, brought them to bring some monstrous new building to fruition.
It’s with architecture that you are most able to see money at work, to get a sense of its incredible power over the material world, to change the shape of shorelines. With trust fund kids you have to tease out the psychological effects, but there on the waterfront it’s naked, brutal, immensely powerful (not all-powerful though, I hope).