Sunday, April 26, 2009

Space: the Only Frontier

One of the things I've appreciated most about my last three years of graduate studies is that you always come out of it with something. Sometimes what you take from it is a larger understanding of literature as a whole, like the class on Woolfe (not to detract from the point, but I wrote Woofle the first time, and felt I needed to mention that) and modernism I sat in on last year. Sometimes what you get out of it seems mainly to be fodder for other papers--JJ Rousseau, I'm looking at you here. And sometimes you don't know what you get out of it, other than a pretty awesome set of books to read--like the cyberpunk course this term.

And all of this, of course, is the preamble to the discussion at hand. One of the main things I got out of the spatial theory and practice course I took this term (last term, almost, now) is a greater level of observation when it comes to my own interaction with space.

I used to take a perverse pride in being the sort of guy who doesn't care a lot about his personal surroundings. In a small way, that was a necessity: I went straight from three years of a one room dorm to four years with a guy who was somewhat less than open when it came to sharing models of decor (I picked the wallpaper once, and I still have not been forgiven.). But there's some truth in me just not caring: since my initial move here, I haven't contributed anything new to my apartment's furniture, and I don't really feel the need to do so. It's my space, but I personalize it through inhabiting it, and that's it.

At the same time, I think to say for any person that space isn't important to him or her rings false. It's like saying that air isn't important. You may not notice it all the time, but change it significantly enough, and suddenly it'll be the most important thing in the world. I think from this blog, my lovely readers could quickly put together a list of all the spaces important to me. There's cyberspace, the very medium we're communicating on. There's home space. But does that mean my oft-talked about home in Saskatchewan (and which home in Saskatchewan?), or my apartment in Ontario? Or just some abstract idea of home that can't be made into reality? There's the university, both the physical, concrete spaces where I take my classes and try to avoid dancing in the halls, and there's the university in the abstract sense, the institution of rules and strictures (again, not to digress, but I was almost sure I was making the word 'stricture' up) that regulate acceptable behaviour.

Then again, every space has its own set of rules of behaviour, even if it's just the rules you make up for it. Which is another way of me saying we're going to edge a little closer to the real topic. (And note the use of spatial metaphor to describe progression through a discussion that occupies space in that metaphoric sense, as well as the physical space the text takes up in the screen and the storage space the actual bits and bytes take up elsewhere.) I went out to a friend's birthday celebration last night, and, given that friend's predilections, it's no surprise that the night's plans centered heavily around dancing at a club. And the number of spatial issues just seemed to multiply. First, the weather at Blank was cats-and-dogs level raining, so it looked for a bit like it was going to be cancelled. Then there was the cab ride over to another friend's place for pre-dancing festivities. This came with its own set of perscribed social rules. Would I bring something to drink beforehand, and is this the expected social protocol? (No and Yes, as it turns out.) Then, because there was a concert at the club, we didn't bother going out until the concert was over. In other words, until that concert was over, it was a different space than the one we wanted to inhabit.

Finally, we get to club, and at this point, I make up one of my own socio-spatial rules. The appropriate behaviour for a dance club, of course, is dancing. But it's not the only appropriate behaviour. You are allowed to step outside to smoke, to the washrooms to answer nature's call, to the more secluded areas to chat up pretty young things, and to the tables to drink. Any space proximate to alcohol makes a man's washroom a place you don't want to be, so that was out. Out of all the reasons to take up smoking, most of which are fairly poor, avoiding dancing seems like a particularly bad move. And chatting up pretty young things will require the development of a skill set at least as elaborate as the dancing itself. So that lead to the formulation of my spatial rule: as long as I had a drink in front of me, I didn't have to dance.

Now, the interesting thing about a rule like that is that six long island ice teas later, all the other socio-spatial practices that one ruled out suddenly become more appealing. Chatting up pretty young things becomes simpler when you lose your inhibition not to talk about sci-fi in front of them (note I said simpler, not more productive). The washroom becomes a necessity. Even dance loses some of its horror. I still don't smoke, though. Don't see the point, frankly.

And somewhere around that last drink, your spatial awareness becomes such that it seems like a really, really good idea to show that physical environment who's boss and run home in the pouring rain. And so you do. And, despite all logical arguments you have the next day, it was a good idea.

...I'm trying to draw all these threads together here, but it seems kind of loose. Hmm. Let's try this: Spend time in spaces filled with interesting people and Long Island Ice Teas. The other details take care of themselves.
Yeah, that works.

Later Days.


Anonymous said...

You've been posting a lot lately, firstly, you should not be forgiven for the "choice" in wallpaper, it was gaudy, cheezy and by my guess 40-50 years old, and no the look wasn't due for a comeback. Secondly, the best reason to take up smoking is it makes you look and feel like the Fonze, and third, I'm tellin' ya, vodka specials are delicious and don't seem as girly as some of the other fruity drinks, give it a try.

Person of Consequence said...

Yes, it was gaudy, cheezy, and tasteless. That's what made it cool! I'll give the vodka specials a try--I'll try any drink once. And if Arrested Development has taught us anything, it's that the Fonz's lifestyle may look cool, but you'll wind up a run-down bisexual in Las Vegas turning tricks for cash.

Anonymous said...

Vodka specials are definitely the way to go for the man who likes fruity drinks but still wants to appear manly. That and tequila, though the latter is admittedly less fruity.

Smoking is a great habit to take up at bars because it gives you ins on all those other spacial dilemmas.
Need a break from dancing? Go out for a smoke.
Wanna chat up a pretty little thing? Invite her out for a smoke (even if she doesn't, she'll secretly think you're cool. It's actually better this way, cuz then you save on smokes and still have a conversation starter about the evils of smoking) so you can chat without the loud *THUMP THUMP THUMP*ing.
Stuck in a conversation you don't want to be in? Go out for a smoke.
Need to go to the bathroom? Go for a smoke and find an alley.
If alcohol is the social lubricant, then smoking is the kleenex that can clean up the mess.
Plus you're going to get a lot more drunk.