The Mall Balloon-Man Moment of the Spirit
Dan Friedman

It's been a long cold winter in New York. The length of the winter seems to matter more than its coldness. It isn't the fact that it's 15 degrees fahrenheit outside that matters, it's the fact that it has been unremittingly cold since November. And who can still remember November? And not only has it been cold, but dark too. Only now that we have moved the clocks forward does the short blanket of day stretched to cover my toes at 6am and my head at 6pm.

My birthday is the last day of winter and the warm weather leading up to it suggested that spring was on its way. But that warmth provides no real respite. I used to wonder about the opening words of Eliot's The Waste-Land:

     April is the cruellest month, breeding
     Lilacs out of the dead land

but now, as my birthdays click by, I have more of a sense of the weariness of a world for whom propagation and generation is unrelenting. On and on we go, breathing, and walking, and eating and growing and working, and screwing and feeding and breathing and walking and working. Rather than Eliot, perhaps it is to Shakespeare we should look:

     Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, creeps on this petty pace
     from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time...

After having funded all three years of my English literature BA my father, an accountant and not a coy man, asked coyly,

     So, Shakespeare, was he really as good as they say?

The other aspect of life that has weighed upon us for the past few seasons or, really, since September 11th, is the specific worry about terrorist attacks and a more generalized anxiety about our respective places in the world and how our actions might come back to bite us. The decision to invade and occupy Iraq is the first lost battle in our fight against anxiety. In response to the declaration of aggression by the coalition forces, Jacqueline Rose pointed out that "War is no solution to fear." (The Guardian, March 20th, 2003) Despite our desperate desire to transfer our anxiety about Osama onto Saddam's defeat I am convinced that global injustice and inequity will not cease to threaten those of us who stand by and perpetuate it. Confusing a renegade Islamist with a post-Marxist dictator will not change that. It will become depressingly clear over the next few months and years that the car alarm of anxiety has not been shut off, but merely switched up a semi tone.

As well as the cold fire of neo-conservative global politics, we are experiencing a deep winter on a cultural level. The creeping homogeneity of mall culture has taken over even New York's Soho with Starbucks and Gaps. Even their names suggest the absence of real owners, real customers, or desirable product -- "The Gap" stresses its own manifold vacuity, and "Starbucks" sounds more like a credit scheme than a coffee shop. This further numbing of choice means that we don't get to experience any relief while exercising our right to be model consumer citizens. But I am getting sidetracked into gloom again, instead of writing about the subject of this month's piece: breaks, holidays, respites, and the Mall balloon man moment of the spirit.

1       [2]       [3]       [next->]
Image: University of Mississippi

May 2003

Zeek in Print
Spring 03 issue available here

Shtupping in the Shadow
of the Bomb

Marissa Pareles

The Mall Balloon-Man Moment of the Spirit
Dan Friedman

Beats, Rhymes & Nigguns
Matthue Roth & Juez

Fish Rain
Susan H. Case

Anti-fada Paratrooper
Michael Kuratin

Josh Gets his Checkup
Josh Ring

Plague Cookies
Mica Scalin

The Ritual of Family Photography
Amy Datsko

about zeek