Funeral March

Poprad, Slovakia

I am looking up at the Aqua City Hotel in Poprad, Slovakia, from my standard plastic pool lounger. This was not one of my best choices in life, but I have indeed made far worse ones. I’ve turned my chair to face away from the menacing sun which has just come out from behind the Tatra mountains. It’s 10:02 am and the pool has been open for exactly two minutes. Despite not knowing one word of Slovak, I’m consumed by the dissension concerning the unavailability of chairs. To say it’s a mob-scene would be an understatement. It’s a Sunday, and also father’s day. Do they have that here? I won’t speak to my father today.

I am surveying the decay of the building as a whole. I have always had an eye for detritus, or at the very least, the efficacy to see the potential for lovely disintegration. I see an eventual J.G Ballard wasteland coming to life give twelve…maybe twenty more years. The dark ashen planks of its facade, that were no doubt added within the last couple of years during a modernization craze that infected nearly every corner of the earth, are still sodden with the winter snow despite the glaring sun. Soon the supportive concrete will spider and bulge, buckling under the weight of fat little tourist children and their bickering parents, like the ones I heard this morning through my bathroom wall. The heat of an argument is discernible in any language, and oh what a wretched voice he had.

Nature has already begun to overtake the porous industrial concrete decks next to the pool. Crevices are replacing the grout, inching wider each season with weeds, those resilient bastards of nature whose epistolary vines spin centuries-old tales that humans, in our infinite infancy, will never understand.

But what will crumble first? That is the real question. Will the numerous swimming pools return to the earth their tainted, urine drenched waters, or will they remain intact, like the algae-laden waters of the famously abandoned Borscht Belt hotels in upstate New York? I still remember a perfect scene of a diagonally placed pool whose sharp corner threatened to stab through the edge of the frame when I shot it, a plastic lounger in the shallow end holding on majestically. As much as I’d like to see the buildings tumble, I’d like it if the pools remained. The buildings do not offer exemplary views of the mountains upon which they encroach, but rather, are an ink-spot on an otherwise flawless horizon.

I once read, by way of Bohumil Hrabal’s brilliant prose, about a rotunda in Prague where pigeons and doves go to die. They’ve been doing it for centuries. They innately sense their last days approaching, and so fly their last flight they do– to the rotunda– where they lie down and free their wings from the modesty of their once plump frames. They spread their wings and breathe their last breath, leaving behind a spectral artwork of fanned-out bones and feathers. Animals possess the same unequivocal grace in death that they do in life; we could take heed.

When it is time for this monstrosity to fall, I would like to see all of the terrible man-made apparatuses that we clutter lives with and drag to these hotels– phone chargers, power converters, toothbrushes, condoms, swim-arms, rubber pool slippers, ear-buds, toasters, televisions, blue-tooth speakers (the worst thing to ever happen to this planet), tea-kettles, coffee pots, shoes for every season–file into procession for their final funeral march. I would like to see them meet at the central locker room, where tourists once hurriedly clamored for lockers, depositing their worldly junk like bees filling honeycomb. Once there, they should arrange themselves into the pile of rubbish that was always their destiny and commit self immolation, causing a great fire that will burn like that of the vestal virgins in that it will never go out (except for that one time, but they buried her alive and it never happened again). Because if that fire were to ever smolder, what would light the way to this new town attraction? How would the miscreants seeking refuge from their crimes find their way? What will become of the teenagers set off to have quick and sloppy sex that they’ll mistake for love? The rattle of spray cans will never sing their songs on half-erected walls, and trendy urbex photographers would get lost in the fully functioning nearby town, with its nicely painted porches and fresh new curtains, without the inferno’s invitation to light their way.

And for every visitor to lay their eyes upon the ashen decay of the Aqua City fire, who warm their hands with the burning memories left behind here, they should be reminded that another community is being formed– and even those which start out idyllic and free end up governed and bound. But they will do it anyway. We will do it anyway. We will repeat the reprehensible process of scarring and scorching this ground that we all stand on once again with our conveniences and with our impatience. And oh how bitter we will be when we have to erect it all over again.


>> Since my posts have strayed from the initial format of this blog, which were mostly stories of growing up in the east coast nineties punk scene, it’s not so fitting to find songs for them all now, but I’ve managed a couple for this one.

Since New Orleans is famous for their Second Line funeral marches, I’m inclined to include this link of a good example of one:

And also, writing this post made me remember screaming along with these guys, FUNERAL DRESS, at the top of my lungs when they came over from Belgium in the late nineties. Oh, happier times…


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