the kingdom

Isaac beneath a shady palm

my dad and baby brother [ above ] took me to orlando, that immersive capitalist dystopia where the dream that every last inch of everywhere might someday come under private ownership has been very nearly realized, where each place is carefully crafted to advance the brand identity of its steward, and where the commons (to the extent to which any space here can be called public) are beset by an equal and opposite tragedy: the insidious tyranny of commercial concern.

this tyranny depends, as we’ve always been told it would, on a merciless assault upon our language. one sees a proliferation of terms like “downtown” and “city walk” and “center” and “studios” applied to lazy, undetailed, homogeneous plastic sculptures of those things, like playmobile playsets at a scale you can walk through. but magritte is never around when you need him, and there’s no one here to remind us that the representation of a thing is not the thing itself.

the word “kingdom” stands out as a descriptor that has been aptly applied. the unadulterated marketplace, we’ve been assured, is the ultimate antidote to authoritarianism, but in orlando we see that the old friends will meet up with each other around back when no one is paying attention.

yet we know (because we’ve been watching al-jazeera) that authoritarian control is, first and foremost, the control of information, of which all other domination is a byproduct. in orlando, the role of propagandist state media is played with unnerving willingness by a dedicated corps of parents, who after all, have just exchanged a metric ton of cash for unforgettable, intimate moments with their children, and so have an investment to protect. “ooh, look,” they urge their iphone-addled progeny as cinderella’s castle appears over the tree tops, trying heroically to induce the appropriate expression of child-like wonder.*

but children, god bless their snotty little noses and jammy little hands, are not easily led to anyone else’s notion of the proper conclusion. my seven-year-old brother isaac, when asked knowingly if perhaps he’d like to go do the star wars thing!!, reminded us of the ungodly heat, and offered the far more sensible suggestion the we go find a ride that would soak us with water before returning to the hotel pool.**

lovely little bird

all around us, the happiest place on earth filled with the red faces of parents whose children simply would not comply with their directives to be innocent of the world and easily amazed. it is, far and away, the most compelling exhibit on display in any theme park. (also, there are some lovely little birds to be seen, if you don’t mind dodging projectile excrement.)

we expect our children to replicate our own childhoods for us, so that we might watch them over again, but the little fuckers just won’t stick to the script. they like their own things and develop their own neuroses and we’re told we made them but they’re not quite what we would have made if we’d had it our way.

devoted readers (all both of you) know that i’m no great cheerleader for breeders or their product. and yet i found myself, in this topsy-turvey land of wonders, thanking the stars in their vast public domain for the children, our unwitting warriors, our last line of defense, the only hope for resistance against the hegemony of homogeneity.

*[ my father, to his credit, engages in no such futility; he quietly chooses activities he expects his children to enjoy, and waits for history to justify his decisions. when, in line for the “rock-n-rollercoaster,” my frightened 7-year-old brother announced his intention to kill our dad in the event that both survived, the latter calmly advised his son to wait until after the ride to make any definite plans. ]

**[ a pool, to be certain, is itself a flimsy, over-controlled replication of a more wonderful phenomenon, but it was not, at that moment, the flimsy replication he was supposed to be excited about, and in that fact i took some small comfort. ]

fish fountain

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  1. Ribbu says:

    Oh the wisdom you speak. Not just about Disney, capitalism, etc etc, but also about kids and how awful they are. It’s a good thing (and an impossible thing) that I am programmed to love my own, in spite of their unwillingness to bend to my will.

    • boy blue says:

      i’d just like to take this opportunity, while i’m offending everyone around me, to mention that, if child-rearing were a capitalist meritocracy, you and matthew would have pretty much all the capital, and be responsible for producing the entirety of our nation’s next generation.

  2. carrie says:

    This is why I love children. They always defy our expectations, tell wonderful stories and force us to look in surprising places for fun.

    Also, my only real memory of Disney was the Epcot Center and the massive swarm of tiny toads that swarmed the place after a short rain. They were so cute and people were not even trying not to step on them. That horrified me, but also made a lot of sense, even at the time. Sigh.

    • boy blue says:

      have you ever heard those bach pieces slowed down to last a day? each chord (which, in regular-speed bach, wouldn’t last more than a couple beats) stretches on, yanni-style, for uncountable lengths of time, and the tiniest little passing notes and transitions suddenly sound like momentous tonal shifts.

      that’s the effect that mundane little bits of naturally occurring phenomena, be they frogs or baby birds or children’s lack of social grace, have on me in such a tightly controlled environment. they’re like croutons of real in a thick soup of realistic, the most exciting component to one’s palette, and i can never sift out enough of them.

  3. Tyrell says:

    Kenan,
    The new stuff you’ve been doing with brush is looking absolutely beautiful. Can’t wait to see your next book! Looks like I might run into you at APE?

    • boy blue says:

      thanks, buddy. i’m still not so confident with a brush, but i think having to cede a certain amount of control has been good for me.

      looking forward to catching up at a.p.e. and seeing what you’ve been working on.

scrawls

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