Excerpts from Crowded Local Train - collected short texts
By Toma Peiu
The Place of Interest
The genuine place of interest is not an affirmation. Most of the time it isn’t featured in tourist guides, nor is it a place that anyone particularly asks about in casual conversations. This is a place where one encounters both the past and the seeds of the future, and where the present is but an implied ghost.
My place of interest is an expression of the in between, of some alternate mode of being than those usually taught in “how to...” workshops, books and classes. Looking at it, one can unearth several layers of significance which exist pluralistically, horizontally, since there is no inherent, ready-made label which would make it vulnerable to any particular singular interpretation.
There are usually no tour bus parking facilities around it, and it is occasionally hard and complicated to get to. At times, it could be even more expensive to see it than to settle for low cost flight & hotel special offer package to a must-see landmark. But this is not its crucial feature.
The place of interest implies a multitude of non-tyrannical possibilities, rather than to point in that single direction which the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building or the amusement parks aspire to. It does not aim at imposing meaning upon itself, although it does not necessarily resist visitors – on the contrary, it welcomes exploration without imposing a certain conclusion on its guest. It is accessible, but might not have “must see” signs around.
Just as it provides shelter for the state-less, the big city hides the place of interest outside the gaze of the tourism industry, and keeps its mystery untouched. This can be a busy street corner underneath a train station in Flushing; an open mic event at a used bookstore - internet cafe in Tompkinsville; a health shop transplanted from a Polish town onto Manhattan Avenue, in Greenpoint; an outdoor seating area conquered by sea gulls on the last day of the season at Johnny’s, in City Island; or an old barbershop in Briarwood.
This place cannot be grasped in one glimpse, and the moment one makes contact with it is a beginning of a journey, rather than its end. If one pays enough attention to it, the place of interest contains countless traces of explorers, since it is often generated and transformed in response to wants and needs of the population of the city, and not as a display of an individual or group’s power, domination, or claimed superiority over others.
The place of interest constantly shifts its shape, largely according to the viewer’s point of view. Once properly seen, it can be revisited multiple times, allowing for different experiences every single time. A genuine place of interest can exist in one’s conscience independently of its actual changing physical coordinates, in a parallel sphere where, beyond a certain point or number of interpretations, it can cease to be a place at all. That way, it can reside in the quiet mind of one avoiding crowds and walked-upon avenues.