1 September 2007

Brochure Stand

Filed under: Reflections — ktismatics @ 6:48 am

Brochure StandFor several years now I’ve imagined a reality that’s just slightly different from the socially constructed reality in which we’re ordinarily immersed. Scattered throughout this alternate reality are individuals who trace eccentric and distant orbits. What distinguishes them isn’t their individuality but the trajectories they follow: they see something else and are drawn to it. Each one sees something different from the rest, which isolates the travelers not just from the non-travelers but from one another as well. Because no courses have been charted to these unexplored territories, the solitary voyager makes many wrong turns along the way. In pursuing this haphazard course into dark and unpopulated sectors the voyager struggles against the constant pull of gravity, the persistent temptation to turn back. Occasionally the voyager detects a signal, weak and intermittent: someone else is out here, another explorer. The conversation may be distorted by spatial and temporal distance, but the message is communicated: though I see something other than what you see, I do see something.

This metaphor of space travel isn’t quite right, because it takes this alternate reality too far away from ordinary reality. Better: the voyagers traverse the earth on their quests and pilgrimages. They may encounter one another without realizing it, because it’s difficult to distinguish the voyagers from the natives and the tourists. I imagine a place where the reality traveler can find fellowship on the road, someplace like Rick’s Cafe Americain in Casablanca, precariously placed in no-man’s land, a heterotopia within a heterotopia. But even if it’s closed down by the authorities the cafe might rematerialize next month in Brazzaville or some other obscure outpost.

When I was twenty I passed through Casablanca. Like other Moroccan cities it is really two cities: the old exotic medina and the modern French sector. Casablanca isn’t an obscure outpost: it’s the most Western of all Moroccan cities. The new town dominates the old; international business overwhelms the local trade, though some young street kid did offer to sell me some time alone with his sister for a good price. And Casablanca isn’t even in the desert; it’s on the Mediterranean.

The week before taking the trip that took me to Morocco I made myself a tent out of a big sheet of plastic. I was going to travel light and cheap, so I thought a tent might keep me dry and save me money. I’m not very mechanically adept, so the tent wasn’t pretty; it also turned out to be heavier than I expected. Still, building the thing gave me a sense of control over the uncertain fate that lay ahead. My first night abroad it rained. Having hitchhiked a short way from the Lisbon airport, I found myself pitching my plastic tent in a deserted gravel pit in a persistent drizzle. It worked; I kept dry overnight. The next morning it was still raining a little. The tent was still wet of course and gritty, and it had taken some damage from use. I left my homemade tent in the gravel pit and headed back to the road.

Just about three years ago I mailed off my first novel about this alternate reality. I sent it to a New York agent, an old friend of a Lebanese expatriate I had gotten to know in France. Anne took a photo of me as I handed the big mailing envelope across the counter to the postal employee. The main character and the narrator in this novel is a guy kind of like Rick. Earlier, before the story begins, this character happened upon a small upstairs office marked only by a three-by-five card taped beneath the door buzzer. This office served as a kind of Rick’s Cafe tucked into a side street of a fairly ordinary American town that seems a lot like Boulder. The original Rick in this story was just getting ready to leave for Lisbon; the narrator, for no apparent reason other than a lack of alternatives, decides to become the new Rick and to take proprietorship of the “cafe.” By the time the story in the novel unfolds the narrator has become disillusioned with the cafe, which has expanded to multiple outposts globally. Now he sits and drinks coffees and beers at someone else’s local cafe, waiting without much hope for something different to happen.

Yesterday I got my brochure stand ready to go. I printed off precisely twenty-seven copies of my two most recent blog posts, printing a brief description of my psychology practice at the bottom of the page. My idea was to place the brochure stand at various places around town for an hour or two at a time. Most passers-by would ignore the stand; a few, attracted by its strangeness, would stop and take a brochure. Some might go see the blog, a few might even call, but most would probably read the brochure and forget about it. But then, maybe some day a few months from now, they’d see the odd stand again, pick up another brochure, maybe tell a friend. Gradually a clientele would build itself.

So I put the stand and the brochures in the car and went off to do some errands. My first stop was the liquor store (out of beer), then the grocery. So I decided to leave the brochure stand on the sidewalk near the liquor store while I did the grocery shopping, then come back and pick it up maybe an hour later. So I’m walking toward the liquor store carrying my brochure stand through the parking lot and the gloom begins to descend. Nobody is going to want this thing standing in front of their store. I feel like an idiot carrying this thing around. After a couple minutes I find a place on the corner. I put the brochures in the receptacle and set the stand on the sidewalk. Immediately a mild breeze from behind bends the sheaf of brochures forward at the top, curling them over so that the print cannot be seen at all. I try to straighten the brochures, make them stay upright — nothing works. Two young guys stand next to a car in the lot watching me indifferently. I left the stand where it was, brochures bent forward, and went to the grocery. When I came back an hour later I picked up the stand and the brochures, put them back in the car, and drove home. I didn’t even bother counting the brochures: I knew that not one of the twenty-seven would be missing.

Sitemeter informs me that, while I’ve been writing this post in the American predawn hours, Ktismatics has had two visitors: one from Tehran, the other from some unidentified place in China. And now I’m having a deja vu experience: didn’t I write this before, at the end of some prior post, about a visitor from Tehran and another from China?



  1. I tell you, akshions have consequences, and yet there is magick!


    Comment by parodycenter — 2 September 2007 @ 9:01 am

  2. Parodycenter, that’s the sort of enigmatic message I would like to hear more often, adding its odd counterpoint to the machinic drone of the age, portending who knows what.


    Comment by ktismatics — 2 September 2007 @ 9:13 am

  3. It´s from Inland Empire, doctor, what the Gypsy woman tells Laura Dern as an introduction to the plot.


    Comment by parodycenter — 2 September 2007 @ 10:13 am

  4. Moj Bog! It’s deja vu all over again! I hope I’m not about to be plunged into labyrinthine madness, pursued by a foreign masochist, repeatedly changing my identity, inverting and reinverting the moebius strip through which my subjective subconscious and the universe dissolve into one another. Oh wait, I guess I’m already doing that. So you’re the Gypsy woman and I’m Laura Dern? I feel my wide red mouth getting ready to contort itself into a grimace that’s both grotesque and vulnerable. But is it marketable?


    Comment by ktismatics — 2 September 2007 @ 10:31 am

  5. I had already expected an analysis of the DVD extras from you, doctor.


    Comment by parodycenter — 2 September 2007 @ 11:39 am

  6. Very creative efforts.

    I tip my hat to you, sir.


    Comment by Erdman — 2 September 2007 @ 12:56 pm

  7. Thanks. Update: today I was going to have another go at it, distributing this particular post as an ironic self-referential gesture toward postmodern sensibilities. I got a small piece of clear plexiglass to slip in front of the brochures to keep them from folding forward. But then I ran into technical difficulties with the printer. So I’m regarding this latest snafu as an omen not to go out there. Maybe tomorrow?

    I intended for the brochure stand to feel at home aesthetically in the Inland Empire. Maybe I should write Axxon D or 47 on it somewhere. Oh, and by the way, did you notice my new avatar on my comments? It’s a blowup of a detail from Zampano’s motorcycle.


    Comment by ktismatics — 2 September 2007 @ 1:41 pm

  8. Your idea of marketing makes me think of “waiting for Godot” once on film and years before in a student theater.

    Is there a trainstation without drafts? Is there a swimmingpool where parents bring children and then have to wait until their children finished lessons? Where do people get bored in Boulder indoors?


    Comment by Odile — 2 September 2007 @ 4:58 pm

  9. You mean my brochure stand will wait forever and no one will ever take one of the brochures? Or is it an existentialist act to place an odd object in a meaningless world? Since Godot is indefinitely delayed, maybe someone will decide to occupy empty time by reading a brochure.

    This is America, the land of the automobile. There are no train stations, except for commuter trains and metros in large cities. But now I see your point: the brochure box will be of interest mostly to people who are bored and have nothing else to attract their attention.


    Comment by ktismatics — 2 September 2007 @ 6:07 pm

  10. One of the lessons I got from Godot, which has similarities with a mirror, is that it’s better to do some buildung while waiting for Godot. We’re all waiting for Godot. Meanwhile I want to live.
    You mean my brochure stand will wait forever and no one will ever take one of the brochures?
    The props in the play are all used, so will your brochure stand.

    Or is it an existentialist act to place an odd object in a meaningless world?
    without doubt, yes.

    Do you know who wants this therapy? I would know plenty persons here. Journalists, theatercreators, teachers, doctors,…
    Where do they get bored?

    Since Godot is indefinitely delayed, maybe someone will decide to occupy empty time by reading a brochure.
    I would.
    But I would be attracted to the picture, but I would have to have some time waiting.

    Here I bought ‘Big fish’ at the supermarket in the waiting queue.


    Comment by Odile — 3 September 2007 @ 5:01 am

  11. Klismatics, it’s Moj Boze (vocative) – Serbian, like Russian, has 7 cases.
    The motorcycle avatar has nothing to do with your practice, it does not communicate the message, some halfopen door would be better I told you.


    Comment by parodycenter — 3 September 2007 @ 9:13 pm

  12. I was trying for Polish, but maybe it’s the same in Serbian. So you don’t like the motorcycle, hein? To me it conveys the message of a voyage: mysterious, archaic, dark, perhaps dangerous, probably foreign. The open door photo you linked me too also conveys mystery and danger, with that alien-looking hand reaching out toward the viewer in the glare, though to me it has a bit of a new-age feel. I will experiment with different looks to see if either one attracts more attention.


    Comment by ktismatics — 3 September 2007 @ 9:57 pm

  13. psychologie du contraire: keep the door close, someone wants to open it. versus
    copying of behaviour: someone opens the door, inciting to copy.
    I prefer;
    something out of the ordinary attracts those who search change and exploration, craving for buildung.


    But parodiecentre is probably right regardless.


    Comment by Odile — 4 September 2007 @ 1:54 am

  14. My experience is that whatever I do is wrong and everyone else is right.


    Comment by ktismatics — 4 September 2007 @ 3:06 am

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