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Old Ways - Aaron Lake Smith

Aaron Lake Smith aaronlakesmith@gmail.com

"Avenge Kronstadt": A Marxists vs. Anarchists Fundraiser Fight Night in Oakland-Grantland

Huey Does Dallas-VICE print-January 2015

I Spent Election Day Getting Out the Vote With These Cosmo Male Models-VICE online

Riding the Dirty Dog: A Love Song to the Greyhound Underworld-VICE print-Scammers Issue

Raising a Stink About Spreading Sewage Sludge-Al Jazeera America, in Partnership with the Nation Investigative Fund

The New Roma Ghettos: Slovakia's Ongoing Segregation Nightmare-VICE

Essay on Peter Dimock and "George Anderson: Notes for a Love Song in Imperial Time"-The American Reader

The Czechs of Montauk-VICE

Protestant Work Ethic-The American Reader

Only the Good Die Young-Vice--November 2012

Death of The American Hobo-Vice October 2012

Dispatch from the Democratic National Convention-Vice

Ryszard Kapuscinski: A Life by Artur Domoslawski-Bookforum online

Chumbawamba's Long Voyage-Jacobin Magazine

Life Cage: Some Notes On the Millennials-Vice

Meet My Grandpa: A Visit to Elkin, NC-Vice

Interview with Chris R. Morgan, publisher of Biopsy Magazine-Vice

Outdoor Bookstore-Independent Weekly

Slacker at Twenty-n + 1 Film Review

10 Best New Restaurants--Raleigh, NC Ashley Christensen Mini-Empire-GQ Magazine 2012

Peeling Oniontown-Vice

Body-Checked By a Beep-Utne Reader

Pre-Occupy--Notes on Zucotti Park -The Smart Set

What Constitutes Terrorism?-Indy Weekly (RDU)

Flower Cutter- They Magazine #3

Dispatch from a Dying Borders- Bookforum

Young People (fiction)- Elimae

The Book of Job-n + 1

The Armory Show-Idiom Magazine

Interview with Luc Sante-The Rumpus

It's Morning In Griftopia: An Interview with Matt Taibbi- GQ

Steve Albini Interview on The Future of Radio and Why He Wants GQ To Fail- GQ

TEN DAWNS(Fiction)- Evergreen Review

Sauntering Down the Tracks (Cuban Trains Travel Piece) - Newsweek

Why Christopher Hitchens Doesn't Matter- The Rumpus

Chinatown's Long Tendrils: Bargain Buses Reach the Mississippi-The New York Observer

Cometbus #52: The Spirit of St. Louis--Essay/Review-The Rumpus

Vive Le Tarnac 9! The French Tradition of Brainy Sabotage Lives On-VICE Magazine, April 2010

Corporate Court Acting in Secret, Citizens Locked Out-Alternet

One Night in Christania- N + 1

The Social Networking Job-Truthout.org

Jason Diamond reviews 'Unemployment' The Rumpus

Among the Believers - Nonfiction The Abu Dhabi Review

Postcard from Cairo, IL- TIME Magazine

Interview with Sam Mcpheeters(Born Against) on Economic Collapse- Vol 1. Brooklyn

The Maw - Fiction- Epilogue Magazine

Warm Womb-Fiction-3:AM Magazine

Kim - Fiction- Epilogue Magazine

Judith Malina and the Anarchist Provo - Evergreen Review 2009

NYU Occupation Media Round-up- Arthur Magazine 2009

Shoe Heard Round the World - Truthout December 2008

Spruced Up, but some prefer Scruffy - New York Times October 2008

Interview with Phil Elverum of Mount Eerie - Brooklyn Rail October 2008

Friday, December 23, 2011


A bird fluttering around in the belly of the polished steel girders of the Detroit Wayne Airport, trapped in the atrium of plate glass. Skies endlessly gray outside, Midwestern land spreading out in all directions. Cloud country. No hills, no distant skyscrapers, no tree cover. So you look up and watch the roiling Northern sky. The long drive from the airport into a Great American City. Over the space-pod blue bridges and past the colossal Uniroyal tire, into the crumbling afternoon of yesterdays Rome. It’s wide avenues so emptied of cars. It’s buildings and huge abandoned lots filled with stubble grass. How good it feels to have some space to breathe and think again. To be reminded that you are just a miniature little human being, roving in an alien landscape, one’s fundamental smallness finally reemphasized. To not think that the world revolves around you. To be shrunk down to appropriate human size, after coming from that great megalomaniac Eastern city, that netherworld of bars and shops and human-sized diversions, without any bigness of sky. Detroit—I don’t believe this was a city that ever coddled a person. That ever talked down to a person. A good, morally righteous city will never bend down and Entertain You. With the pride of yesterdays hero it will hold its head high, even as it crumbles, even as it is taken over by wild animals. Little Corktown with it’s faded murals and evenly spaced-out buildings in the shadow of the great, dystopian glowing MGM casino.

There is the whisper under all of it: retain your quiet dignity. Retain your iron will.

The architecture of downtown Detroit so cruel and industrial—decorative wrought-iron bars on all the windows. Decaying 1970s condo buildings. And the decorations of all the machine cogs—a little Williamsburg built by Fil Coolie. A BBQ place, a hipster coffee shop, a cocktail bar. What more could a discerning population want?

And Corktown, with your wide cobbled streets and 24-hour post office by the river! So much bigger than New York City’s 24 hour post office! And your buildings larger than New York’s great library. The scale of the monuments with their faded grandeur is enough to bring tears to my eyes. And the pride of these good people—having had so much and having watched it slip away over the years. And knowing about their indigenous territory more than any outsider ever could. And Michigan, the North Carolina of the North—these good hearted, down-to-earth people with their lakes and mountains, with their friendly demeanor. With their North Carolina-like physical distance separating each other. With their not-being-cluttered-together-so-they-can-appreciate-each-other.

Dani’s house is out in that gray country behind the airport. Cozy blankets, dark stained wooden walls, electric fireplace and the dogs who leap in your lap. And the cold beers and the pastoral vista out the back window that reminds you of Western North Carolina with it’s close trimmed grass and it’s cropland and the gray land spreading ever in the distance.

The Guardian Building—its bright 1929 mural about the honesty and dignity of financial services. Ironic given the context of the recession and Occupy, but also sweet and ridiculous given that The Guardian and the mural were built the year the Great Depression hit. The colors of the tiled mosaics and ceilings. The Guardian Building like how you would imagine the great pyramids, but brighter, more modern, more gilded--art, commerce, architecture, agriculture, all coming together. We tiptoe around and it is like the Guggenheim. The great Deco clock like something out of Paris. The dusty steps up to the promenade levels, the tomb-like mystery of the place.

And the Fisher Building. Downtown. Blocks and blocks of slate gray, like something out of old Gotham, imagining living in the thirties, when all these buildings were new and Plymouth cars were all over the road, shiny like bullets and the men wore oversized suits and top hats and scruffiness denoted not relative identity but wealth or poverty.

Inside, the cold peace of an eternal resting place—the way the blue light wobbles on the golden mosaics portraying ETERNITY and TIME. Giant orange gold falcons on the curved ceiling, marble floors, heat from the wrought-iron 1930s vents, unseen on the floor, the chandeliers great like crystal chalices, dangling down. The text lining the semicircle porticos, bold instructions, as if one had entered a magical land and time—Niki and I walking through there like ghosts, warbling in and out of view and recognition from all the others—too old to notice ourselves let alone be noticed by others now. But still possessing a spark, restless curious, that keeps us tip-toeing up and down the promenades, leaning on wrought-iron railings and inspecting the text of the still-lush mask of depression-era mosaics. We don’t talk, just indulge our curiosity until we are done and have drunk our fill and then lay about on the carpet. Niki leaves, Catman purrs on my lap, climbing up my chest and dropping on my neck like a scarf in a way that is enough to break your heart. And taking the bike and riding down to the empty wide dead boulevards—the city one post apocalyptic wasteland, the road without the warmth of human life being lived—just natural beauty and rubble coasting in silence to the river past the squatty low biker clubs and abandoned bait shop. The water is the most perfect turquoise I have ever seen, water that looks as blue as Key West. Otherwise birds starlings and seagulls and ducks. The ambassador bridge, blue spinning around with the wrong ID under your chin to lit up this night—the bridge to Canada! Time slows down and my bike ride lasts forever. Ultimate bonfire weather and smell of smoke in the air. City spreading out wide open, helicopters overhead, all of it held together by dreams!


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