Friday, January 29, 2010

The end of bohemianism

The trip from Los Angeles to San Jose del Cabo, Mexico in an old MD-80 airplane of American Airlines.

At the self check in at Los Angeles International Airport, the screen of the computer eventually says to go and see a real person.
And no wonder.
A person with a passport from the Netherlands and a Mexican residence-ship traveling all over the world.
This is so out of the ordinary that an automated system is unable to handle and process the passenger.

The friendly American Airlines man checking in the passenger had to ask some questions.
Instructed to do so by the Homeland Security of the USA.
While the traveller was going to Mexico, he asked if there was a return ticket to go back to Europe.
And when was there a return to the USA?
Initially there was a feeling of opposition.
Why to answer questions about future travel plans when one will be in another country than the USA?
But lessons have been learned.
Better to stay docile and answer truthfully.
In the end, the USA considers itself at war and anybody is a potential enemy.
Opposition and rebelling would only lead to trouble.

This situation made an interview come back to mind that was heard on National Public Radio while driving in the morning to Los Angeles International Airport.
It was with Patti Smith, the rock singer, poet and writer.
Who had been involved with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe before he discovered he was gay.
One of the callers was an artist himself.
And he had a good way of putting it.
He said that besides being an artist, he also had to be an entrepreneur.
But that being an entrepreneur, just to make money to live, was consuming so much of his time that he hardly managed to be an artist.
He asked Patti Smith why in her days, the 70's in New York, it all was so much more easy.
And he asked what she recommended that a contemporary artist should do.

She replied that in her days of glory an apartment in New York would cost her $ 75 a month.
And that there were plenty of good jobs available like working in a library or bookshop.
Ms. Smith explained they also hardly had money but managed nevertheless to survive and be creative in New York in the 70's.
And admitted those days were over.
That New York has become too expensive and that there is no work that would suit an artist.
She recommended artists to go to cities where life was cheaper, like Detroit.

This is how life has become.
If you are somehow out of the ordinary, like an artist, society becomes suspicious.
And in fact doesn't want anybody to be different anymore.
Bohemianism has been excluded as a position people can practice in society.
It is not tolerated anymore.
You are not supposed to just travel anywhere.
And live in a big city on a shoestring.

It has become hard to live a romantic life.
And to be free.


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