Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happenstance is Dead!

There use to be a time when you could happen upon some place and be in awe, to really feel like you had discovered a gem, that only you knew about, and you could be able to, only if you wish, share it with those that were in your life, the ones who could appreciate and cherish the place as much as you did. You could have your own little close knit community of those in the know. Today, that is gone.
Last week I received a stack of Time-Out Chicago magazines. The overwhelming amount of in the moment, what to do and where to do it information that was in these weekly magazines blew my mind. The competition between bloggers, tweeters, zines publishers, yelpers, online site barkers, and app developers to mine the city for the most events and most obscure places dwarfs the oil industry's search for new oil fields. The new peak oil worry should be one's ability to stumble upon something or someplace.
On Friday, I went to St. Paul, Mn., I brought the previous week's Time-Out, the magazine sent out four writers to live and breathe the Twin Cities for four days. What came out was an itinerary that leaves nothing in the Cities to be discovered. How cool am I going to be traveling to Minnesota, to eat Hmong food in Frogtown, St. Paul, going to a farmers market at the history museum, taking a kayak excursion to Minnehaha Falls along the Mississippi River, taking the light rail to a Twins game in their new stadium, and ending the night in the diviest bar, for Zombie night, in the Lyn-Lake area of Minneapolis, the "Wicker Park" of the Cities. I have just consumed an intentionally manufactured experience by people hired to create a false sense of happened upon.
I guess if you have the money and know how, you have the ability to capitalize on these happened uponed experiences. I am also overwhelmed by the those in Chicago that have parlayed the money for the Olympics into a full blown effort to exploit unknown or uncharted areas by tourists or local consumers of the next dive bar or cool shot for Flicker. These monied individuals have financed something called Eat, Pray, Love Chicago, and a full on army of individuals from the Department of Tourism and people that do not live in those 77 neighborhoods, have done a very superficial job of giving neighborhood history, landmarks, and cool places to visit from their limited perspective. In the past, the definition of place was gleaned from individuals that lived in that place over a period of time. We should ask ourselves, who defines meaning and history of where I live. Today, place and space is being cheapened and sanitized for the next quick fix. I can say I've been somewhere cool and edgy because the Reader or that blogger did the dirty work of finding it in the first place, I can experience a far off place, or a dangerously hip place in the ghetto without being there because it has been geo-tagged, or made virtual via Google Earth or streetview. I can miss out of visual and spiritual minutiae of a place because my hand held device augments my reality of that place, it acts as my viewmaster overlaying and mashing restaurant, accommodation, travel, historical information, and other people's You Tube, Facebook, Yelp, Twitter, Four Square feeds so that I have all the data about that place, that may have originally taken decades to define, all ready and for me to consume, without any conscience effort, in minutes' time. What do we do when every quiet, corner of this city and world has been shared? What will be left to discover?

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