Setting aside the Independence Day March
I should be writing about seeing Tadeusz Słobodzianka’s Our Class at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia (a very successful performance directed by Blanka Zizka, which was denied funding by the Polish Institute in New York). Or about the scandal surrounding Artur Żmijewski’s piece Berek, which finally burst into the mainstream following protests by the Jewish community in Germany. But I just can’t bring myself to do it.
There are so many new things in America. The country itself is like a fulfilment of Apocalyptic prophecies: “Behold, I make all things new.” Fox is airing a totally decent fairy-tale produced by Steven Spielberg, complete with Texan pro-life highlights (where do you take a girl for your first date? Why, to the harvest festival, naturally). The symbolic message of the production is enormous and its ties to pop-culture’s most significant visions of the American past (such as Dances with Wolves) are unquestionable.
The story starts in Chicago in the year 2149, when war, environmental disasters, dying vegetation, and unbreathable air have pushed life on planet Earth to the brink of extinction. Scientists discover a rift in space-time that allows people to travel 85 million years into the past, landing in the mid-Cretaceous period. Pilgrimages of pioneers head back into pre-history in hopes of a fresh start, an inherent part of the American dream. The expeditions land in dinosaur-inhabited, tropical Cretaceous jungles, where they try to take advantage of the second chance given to them without repeating the mistakes of their past. Americans dreaming of an alternative history.
How sweet it is to watch Terra Nova instead of the Independence Day March.
I see you
I try to avoid making sweeping generalisations. Driving etiquette changes from state to state, and the classic division of East Coast vs. West Coast does not apply here. I have been told that drivers in Southern California are just as likely to brake at the sight of a pedestrian as are the drivers here in Princeton. A car pulls up to the crosswalk and the pedestrian makes eye contact with the driver, guaranteeing safe passage across the street.
But take the train one hour inland and you’ll enter a whole other world. Philadelphia (simply marked “Phila” on some roadsigns) has its own set of rules. You arrive at the crosswalk, make eye contact, and rest assured that the driver won’t slow down. Being seen is considered synonymous with having the right of way. Experts even recommend not looking at the driver. Cross the road like the elderly and sadhus in India — anywhere you please, and with no regard for your surroundings.
translated by Arthur Barys