Monday, January 22, 2007

a day at the park

Today, finally a day of sun. I like to get outside but for the past week or so there has been this hold on me. The cold weather was essentially ruling my life and making me live as a recluse individual confined to his quarters. I am a Texan and I hate cold weather. Waking up to the sun is how it should be. Having woken up to this dismal frozen over dreariness the last week I came to further appreciate the sun and all the warmth it brought. For the assignment I went where I naturally was drawn on a day like today. zilker park. The sun and its warmth provided a mode of liberation for me and my fellow Austinites. Writing a narrative would assume that I merely observed people and their activities and stood off from them with little interaction. And I tried this. I wanted to pull myself away from their reality and take note. But in such an environment I kept being pulled into these actors scenes and began to play a role in the story in front of me. I watched some people having a picnic and became part of their story when they asked me to take their picture. At first I felt a bit bizarre because in my mind they didn’t see me, yet I was pulled into their world. Once I had broken that barrier there was no real way to continue observing this scene because they were no longer characters but rather people who I had interacted with. So, I move on. A man with his dog. Another classic scene on a beautiful day like today. They were playing ball. He smokes a cigarette and I continue to observe, I walk by him and give him a comfortable nod. He asks me how I’m doing and the next thing I know we are engaged in a conversation. I am curious about his dog and through this conversation I can understand who he is. I have no idea what his name is but that doesn’t matter. Another observation interrupted as two realities collide. He’s a man playing with his dog and I a student interested in his every move. We had two very different motives until we began talking but once this barrier is broken we can begin to understand one another. I pet the dog and move on. A father and son flying a remote controlled airplane. A Christmas present I presume. My friend Johnny is with me. He sees the toy plane and remembers a period in his childhood. He begins to tell me a story of him as a child and flying a toy plane with his father. I begin to have a greater connection with the father and child in the distance. They are no longer characters they are people sharing an experience. This is an experience that this kid will never forget just as Johnny has never forgotten this memory with his father. I am not involved but somehow feel a connection with this father and son and the moment that they are sharing. The father and son walk by us and we begin a conversation. Johnny tells the man of his flights in the past and the kid tells us of all the new tricks he has learned. I am not an observer. I cannot watch those around me and not be drawn to this activity. The when, where, what why and how cannot be imagined for these are my people and my friends. When left in an open space such as this the nodes are bound to collide. Once the sun has set there is no one left to bump into and I go home.

6 comments:

creighton said...

It's fitting that your narrative begins and ends with the sun, which seems to be a common theme in discussions of urban use. Anyone outside or in a room with a window is under the direct and substantial influence of the sun, and it has a great deal of bearing on on our thoughts, feelings and actions.

dmy said...

I'ts interesting to note that you can't help but be part of your narrative. It's impossible to just be an observer. Even if you don't interact directly with your subject matter you can never be sure that they're acting independently of you. Most people would be conscientious of the loner studying and photographing them.

cjfranck said...

I was very struck by the way in which this narrative captures the difficulty of looking at any problem from a purely objective point of view. Interaction and personal connections are an undeniable aspect of the public realm, and this strongly reflects that.

ANE said...

When reading your story, like "dmy" and "cjfranck", I was most interested in the way you played two parts. You were an observer of the situation-"The architecture student" and you were a fellow Austinite. I think this is a good way to begin to understand life around us. We don't just play one part. Everyone interacts with their environment in a variety of ways depending on many different factors, i.e. the weather, who's around you and whether or not they feel like acknowledging you, what your intentions and activities are, etc. It strikes as very true.

Lauren B. said...

I agree that this portion of the project cannot be merely objective. An observer cannot wholly remover him or herself from an environment. Unless they are very well hidden they are going to be seen noticed, and many people will change the way they are acting if they know they are being watched. Observers have a major impact on what they are watching and become an integral part of the environment.

Kayla said...

Going back to the observation about the sun, cities definitely have lives and characters of their own based on how they are built and inhabited. The same city can have completely different "moods" based on the weather. It changes their appearance and how they function.