On September 11, I'm riding my bicycle from Brooklyn to San Diego, along with three fellow travelers. Along the way, I'll be keeping a psychogeographic diary -- an unborn, shapeless record of the land's impact on my mind. That diary will form the basis of a travel writing book upon my return in December, provided the Southern roads don't take me.
Psychogeography is a school of thought wrought from the early days of the Parisian counterculture. The gist is that by allowing oneself to wander aimlessly through the corridors of a given town, the spirit is dislodged from the body; a Cartesian trick that can bring forth a lofty new political agenda. It finds its roots in the flaneur, Baudellaire and Poe drunk on absinthe as they shambled through uncertain territories. But also much earlier with Emerson, who as a young man journeyed to England, discovering that all the tenents of British imperialism, stiff upperliphood and finely manicured parks were the result of millions of people forcing themselves onto an impossible, craggy little island.
So these are the kinds of ideas I'm trying to apply to my bike trip. How does my perception of myself change as I pass over the land? To what extent are regionalisms influenced by the topography and the rivers? As I pedal into and out of various cities and no man's lands, how will my ideas about the future of American infrastructure and capital be reconfigured?
I think it's important to mention that the three people I'm traveling with were until recently workers at The Strand, the iconic New York bookstore, where they lead a labor struggle against their boss for the noble purpose of preserving their labor union, if not the store itself. The struggle became a major cause for the Occupy movement, but they recently lost that struggle. For them this trip is about some kind of escape and reassessment.
In that sense, we have much in common. I covered their experiences from the beginning of their campaign and became very fond of these young, radical, working class book nerds. A rare species.
At the same time, I was the first reporter (as far as I know) to be arrested during the then nascent Occupy protests, and I've since become disillusioned with my position as a news reporter and with the political situation at large. Without any further carrying on, I'll add that this trip is in many ways a hunt for the remains of hope for the American future. To complete that hunt, I still need a bit of gear and food money. Hopefully, friend, that's where you come in. Best wishes from the road.
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