On Noticing: A Found Essay

Curated By: Jeanne Cameron

THESIS I

All there is to thinking is seeing something noticeable which

makes you see something you weren’t noticing which

makes you see something that isn’t even visible.

–  Norman Maclean

 

EXCURSION

In my Baltimore it was known that when Cherry Hill rolled through you rolled the other way, that North and Pulaski was not an intersection but a hurricane, leaving only splinters and shards in its wake.

– Ta-Nehisi Coates

 

ALARM

Colin lives with his mother, Elaine; his father, Jim; his older sister, Megan; and his younger brother, Chris, in a pretty pale-blue Victorian on a bosky street in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. Glen Ridge is a serene and civilized old town twenty miles west of New York City. It does not have much of a commercial district, but it is a town of amazing lawns. Most of the houses were built around the turn of the century and are set back a gracious, green distance from the street. The rest of the town seems to consist of parks and playing fields and sidewalks and back yards.

– Susan Orlean

 

EXCURSION

To be educated in my Baltimore mostly meant always packing an extra number 2 pencil and working quietly. Educated children walked in single file on the right side of the hallway, raised their hands to use the lavatory, and carried the lavatory pass when en route….Algebra, biology, and English were not subjects so much as opportunities to better discipline the body, to practice writing between the lines, copying the directions legibly, memorizing theorems from the world they were created to represent.

– Ta-Nehisi Coates

 

ALARM

There is a fine school system in Glen Ridge, but Elaine and Jim, who are both school teachers, choose to send their children to a parents’ cooperative elementary school in Montclair, a neighboring suburb….The Coop is in a steep, old, sharp-angled brick building that had served for many years as a public school until a group of parents in the area took it over and made into a private, progressive elementary school….[T]here is a couch in the center of the classroom, which kids take turns occupying, a rocking chair, and three canaries.

– Susan Orlean

 

EXCURSION

When I was six, Ma and Dad took me to a local park. I slipped from their gaze and found a playground. When they found me, Dad did what every parent I knew would have done – he reached for his belt. I remember watching him in a kind of daze, awed at the distance between the punishment and the offense. Later, I would hear it in Dad’s voice – “Either I can beat him, or the police.” Maybe that saved me. Maybe it didn’t. All I know is, the violence rose from the fear like smoke from a fire, and I cannot say whether that violence, even administered in fear and hope, sounded the alarm or choked us at the exit.

– Ta-Nehisi Coates

 

ALARM

After school, the yard at Montclair Cooperative is filled with as many fathers as mothers – fathers who hug their kids when they come prancing out of the building and are dismayed when their sons clamor for Supersoaker water guns and war toys or take pleasure in beating up girls.

– Susan Orlean

 

EXCURSION

I was eleven years old, standing out in the parking lot in front of the 7-Eleven, watching a crew of older boys standing near the street….I focused in on a light-skinned boy with a long head and small eyes.  He was scowling at another boy, who was standing close to me.  It was just before three in the afternoon. I was in sixth grade. School had just let out….The boy with small eyes reached into his ski jacket and pulled out a gun.  I recall it in the slowest motion, as though in a dream. There the boy stood, with the gun brandished, which he slowly untucked, tucked, then untucked once more, and in his small eyes I saw a surging rage that could, in an instant, erase my body.

– Ta-Nehisi Coates

 

ALARM

Danny’s Pizzaria is a dark little shop next door to the Montclair Cooperative School….One afternoon…we went to Danny’s with Colin’s friend Japeth to play Nintendo. Danny’s has only one game, Street Fighter II Champion Edition. Some teenage boys from a nearby middle school had gotten there first and were standing in a tall, impenetrable thicket around the machine.

“Next game,” Colin said. The teenagers ignored him.

“Hey, we get next game,” Japeth said.

He stamped his foot and announced again, “Hey, we get next game.”

One of the teenagers turned around and said, “Fuck you, next game,” and then turned back to the machine.

“Whoa,” Japeth said.

He and Colin went outside, where they felt bigger.

– Susan Orlean

 

THESIS II

Everyday, night comes.

– Abé Kobo

 

EXCURSION

Each day, fully one-third of my brain was concerned with who I was walking to school with, our precise number, the manner of our walk, the number of times I smiled, who or what I smiled at, who offered a pound and who did not – all of which is to say that I practiced the culture of the streets, a culture concerned chiefly with securing the body.

– Ta-Nehisi Coates

 

ALARM

Colin thinks a lot about money….He knows the price of everything he encounters.  He knows how much college costs and what someone might earn performing different jobs…. It is as if money itself and the way it makes the world work, and the realization that almost everything can be assigned a price, has possessed him. “I just pay attention to things like that,” Colin says. “It’s really very interesting.”

– Susan Orlean

 

EXCURSION

Somewhere out there beyond the firmament, past the asteroid belt, there were other worlds where children did not regularly fear for their bodies….There were little white boys with complete collections of football cards, and their only want was a popular girlfriend and their only worry was poison oak. That other world was suburban and endless, organized around pot roasts, blueberry pies, fireworks, ice cream sundaes, immaculate bathrooms, and small toy trucks that were loosed in wooded backyards with streams and glens.

– Ta-Nehisi Coates

 

ALARM

Colin is, at the moment, very content with his backyard. For most intents and purposes, it is as big as Wyoming. One day, certainly, he will grow and it will shrink, and it will become simply a suburban backyard and it won’t be big enough for him anymore.

– Susan Orlean

 

THESIS III

the Dream rests on our backs, the bedding made from our bodies.

– Ta-Nehisi Coates

 

Curator’s note: Thesis I was found in A River Runs through It by Norman Maclean.  Thesis II was found in “The Red Cocoon” by Abé Kobo. The excursions and Thesis III were found in Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. The alarms were found in “The American Male, Age 10” by Susan Orlean. The form was found in “Alarms & Excursions,” by Rosemary Waldrop.

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