It is easy to forget that the age of mechanical reproduction is a mere speck in the eye of the age of organic reproduction. Organic reproduction is much on my mind, since I’ve come back to Atlanta in order to apply for my carte de longue sejour at the French consulate in Atlanta. Whenever I return to the Atlanta area, the landscape, the suburban streets, the lawns, the houses, and above all the particular slant of sunshine or lack of it always start up that peculiar form of organic reproduction called memory. Involuntary memory, Bergson called it – not the intentional kind, when I cast my mind back to recall exactly where I put the wallet and the keys, or the last time we changed Adam. Although I’ve been through the routine of remembering – through the medium of travelling down, say, Lavaca Road, past the I-285 exit, in the day’s mix of weather – every time I come back to Atlanta, still, it is not something I can control, nor can I predict the outcome of the mood it induces. Yesterday, we went to see my nephew Whit, and show him Adam, who, uncharacteristically, was a bit fussy there in the Java Monkey in Decatur, and needed to be fed. And then we returned to where we are staying, where we stayed the magic summer two years ago when we got married in the backyard – my brother Dan’s bungalow in Conyers. When I used to come to Atlanta from Austin, where I biked all the time, I was always impressed by the automobile induced discomfort of things – what is the deal with driving ten miles to go to a coffee shop? And now that I am coming from Paris, where two blocks in any direction will take me to a bakery, a butcher shop, a fruit market, a grocery store, a delicatessen, a museum, a Subway sandwich shop, a Lebanese sandwich shop, a Greek delicatessen, about twenty cafes – I have, even more, a sense of how exhausting it is to transport your skinny ass from A to B in America.
But casting aside those catcalls evoked by the American dream – there is another dream that comes up via organic routes deeplaid within me. This was the dream of being grown up, a dream I harbored between the third grade (in Indian Creek Elementary) up to the twelfth grade (in Clarkston High School). It was a dream nourished by pictures in story books, and movies, but most of all by – windows. Windows in classrooms. I remember little to nothing of, say, math class in the seventh grade (Jolly Elementary), but I remember looking out the window and longing to be free in that sunshine, going about my destiny in some tucked in adult life where – you could just suddenly get into your car and drive wherever you wanted to. Where you could camp out in the mountains, or at least climb Stone Mountain, preferably with a book under your arm. Perhaps one about owls. The weather in Atlanta comes to me coupled with the window – the front and rear windows of the car, the heavily draped window of the living room in the house I lived in, the windows in the metal doors leading out to the back fields where we did P.E. at Clarkston high.
To me, this is what longing is all about – it is an equation: a window + weather. And so it will ever be.