Saturday, December 13, 2008

What Community? #69: Thousands of feet.

Finally caught up with this BLDGBLOG post, and, well, it's everything to me right now. (Or, almost. That shower felt pretty good, too.) The gist: there's this dude, right, I mean there's always a dude, and he's living at the top of this big motherfucker cuz it takes too long to go home on the ground every day. Since I'm dumb, I bought that story right away. But Geoff Manaugh is smart. So I'm'a quote him here:
Whether or not this is even true – after all, I never think truth is the point in stories like this – 1) the idea of appropriating a construction crane as a new form of domestic space – a kind of parasitic sub-structure attached to the very thing it's helped to construct (perhaps raising the question: what is the ontology of construction cranes?) – is totally awesome; 2) further, the idea that crane operators are subject to these sorts of urban rumors and speculations brings me back to the idea that there might be a burgeoning comparative literature of mega-construction sites taking shape today, with this particular case representing a strong subgenre: mythic construction worker stories, John Henry-esque figures who single-handedly assemble whole floors of Dubai skyscrapers at midnight, with a cigarette in one hand and a hammer in the other (or so the myths go), as a kind of oral history of the global construction trade; and, finally, 3) there should be some kind of TV show – or a book, or a magazine interview series – similar to Dirty Jobs in which you go around visiting people who live in absurd places – like construction cranes atop the Burj Dubai, or extremely distant lighthouses, or remote drawbridge operation rooms on the south Chinese coast, or the janitorial supply chambers of inner London high-rises – in order to capture what could be called the new infrastructural domesticity: people who go to sleep at night, and brush their teeth, and shave, and change clothes, and shower, inside jungle radar towers for the French foreign legion, or up above the train tracks of Grand Central Station because their shift starts at 3am and they have to stay close to the job.
How do they decorate these spaces, or personalize them, or make them into recognizable homes? It's like a willful misreading of Heidegger as applied to the question of building, dwelling inside, and thinking about modern infrastructure.
I'm reminded of a line from Paul Beaty's new novel, Slumberland. Early in the book he writes, and my jaw dropped: "Sometimes just making yourself at home is revolutionary."

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