Children of The Grid

Manhattan is a grid of streets, and the pretentious provincialism of its chauvinistic inhabitants has been ridiculed, lovingly by many, most famously by Saul Steinberg.  I encounter the grid tribesmen occasionally, I mean those who see themselves as such, or at least a segment of that population:  white,  professional, more or less liberal.  (In Europe, perhaps they would be called bourgeois.)  Their company makes me uneasy – I feel as if I’m struggling for breath in an airless room if I’m with more than two at a time.  Bunuel makes me laugh at it.

It’s the suffocating atmosphere of caste.  I guess I am with Groucho Marx who quipped that he didn’t want to join any club that would have him as a member.   I have a bit of envy of people who can so strongly link themselves to a place and a scene, like a barnacle that’s found a home, but I also find it upleasantly restrictive. Nostalgia is not an emotion I feel very much.

It’s all very personal:  When I meet people like this, I sometimes feel as if they are checking me out unconsciously and automatically, seeking to determine if I know the secret handshake or eye movment that signifies that I am of the tribe.   Intelligent?  Went to a “good” school?  Lives in what neighborhood..?  Politics okay, check!”   “Oh hell, just tell me what you think, if you think!”

I guess I’m a wee bit oversensitive, but you see, I come from the antipodes of The Grid.  I am from The Valley.

These photos are from a high school classmate, c. 1975.  That decor, those colors, that landscape, the plush pointless comfortable mentality of it all…how I loathed it.  To move east to attend a university was my dream and my escape.  Those were the thoughts of a silly teenager – it was hardly hell on earth.  And as I learned, the urban sophisticates of the east could be equally boring and trivial, not to mention pretentious.

4 Responses to Children of The Grid

  1. zeusiswatching says:

    I feel for you. It’s even worse in the rural,and small town, small city South. I’ll blog about it one day.

  2. Cheri says:

    You might be transferring your thoughts about them onto what you think they are thinking.

    Very rarely are people thinking of others.

    Your blog post is a bit sad, in a way.

    • lichanos says:

      You might be transferring your thoughts…
      No doubt.

      Very rarely are people thinking of others.
      Also correct, but rather sad itself, in its own way…although I don’t think that’s quite what you meant.

      On rare, and laughable occasions, I have observed people doing exactly what I describe here, but they were such snobs, they were comic.

  3. troutsky says:

    I was raised in The Bay Area and struck out for the bars of Montana, which are extremely clannish in a very non-bourgeois way. They are more like kids clubs , hangouts, with small rivalries but absolutely no pretentiousness. I have had to introduce such introspective ablutions on my own!

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