Friday, 6 March 2009

Bangkok, Thailand (3)

The other day, in Pattaya, I came across Bill. We know each from Bangkok, from years ago, where we used to talk about writing. Presently, Bill is busy with a truly interesting photo project called "The Death and Life of Great Asian Cities: Bangkok". Here's what it is about:

"Though these are photographs of a slum in Bangkok they are about a town in Arizona.

I live in a village in Arizona halfway between Cottonwood and Sedona. That is halfway between a working class town and a Bourgeois one although these terms aren’t used in America. They prefer distinctions such as Red America and Blue America, political ones, as if ones class, social standing and geography were nothing more than a bunch of opinions and notions one picked up that morning with about the same pause one gave before choosing the morning paper or what brand of coffee to drink. As if the sum of their being, their education, job, religion were an opinion, a conclusion that one came to after watching the evening news. And that none of that had any real bearing on how one’s life is lived anyhow, what it consists of, what it means. That the choice of Wall Mart over Neiman Marcus was a matter of taste, nothing more.

The two classes don’t mix. Other than on the job site. The Cottonwood people supply the trades for the Sedona people. The Cottonwood folk tell stories of how weird and strange the Sedona people are (and they are) but oddly the Sedona people rarely refer to the Cottonwood people unless it’s to talk about what kind of job they did, as an electrician say or a carpenter. The working class believe that class is determined by luck, and that there is the constant possibility that theirs may change – so please don’t reform the tax laws that favor the rich just yet, because ‘I’ma comin’. The bourgeoisie on the other hand believe that their relative wealth is a matter of intelligence, education and guile.

None of this unusual in America. What make these two towns of interest is Sedona. Specifically the spectacular beauty of the place. It’s red rock mountains and spectacular ruby Desert is probably the most photographed geography in the world. From the early photos of Ansel Adams to the movies of John Ford, the images of Sedona have been in popular culture since the beginning of popular culture. It’s interesting that for a few years just about every SUV television commercial seemed to feature one of those monstrous Detroit beauties set against the spectacular back drop of the mesas of Red Rock Country.

Sedona became associated with this thing Americans call spirituality, and it is easy to see how. Upon seeing the natural beauty of the place whether for the first time or every morning, one is overpowered with the feeling that if God ever touched earth he touched it here. A person just somehow knows, like a primordial knowledge that if one could freeze that moment spent among those chiseled red rocks set against the endless blue Arizona sky in time that everything, everything in one’s life, now and for always, would be fine. It’s just feeling one gets immersed in this impossibly intense natural beauty. There is nowhere like it on the planet.

Hence the sprawling suburbs."

Fascinating, isn't it? Want to know more? Go to

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