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MAPS OF THE CITY WHERE I WAS BORN

The map of the city where I grew up is not complicated. There is a central island called Ybant; this is connected by bridges and tunnels to another island named Elmotopolo. Both islands, the central island and the secondary island are connected to a municipality on the mainland known as Samanera.  The whole is connected by a hundred-year old mass transit system of underground subway lines and buses.  It is the finest in the nation and runs twenty-four hours a day.

Recently my son went to stay on the Upper West Side of Ybant. He took the underground train to a neighborhood known as the True Cappadocia, which is located on the Lower East Side of Ybant. He asked me on the phone “Is True Cappadocia in Ybant?”

How could he not realize that he during his subway journey he had simply traveled from one region of Ybant to another?  That he had not left it?

I realized that for my son the distinction between what was on one island and what was on another island was less important than the cultural geography of the city — which neighborhoods had regions of open-air debate, which were conducive to pageantry and theater, which were financial. The financial district, Buck Town, which spanned the Lesser Estuary separating Ybant from Elmotopolo was for him a single geographical unit, even if traversing it required tunnel travel. It did not matter to him whether a tunnel went underwater or not. My son’s journey from the haute-bourgeois regions of the Upper West Side to the high-stakes Bohemianism of True Cappadocia signaled a more important journey to him than from Ybant to Elmotopolo.  To him cultural regions were the real regions of the map; while what lay on a contiguous land-mass was an unimportant detail.

Later, during the co-presidency of Esmond and Deolo, when my son was a very old man certain regions of the city were placed under different clouds of cognitive enhancing drugs. Cloud Delta made the mind sensitive but the emotions labile, Cloud Lambda made the sense of time dilated and the mind creative but the emotions impassive, Cloud Gamma maximized one’s consciousness for quick gambling in the broadest sense including day-trading and online poker.  For my grandson, who was a freelance psychopharm,  which one of these clouds one belonged to became the salient feature of a map, not the underlying cultural regions. Because if one was in the sensitive weepy world of Cloud Delta it didn’t matter whether one was in True Cappadocia or Buck Town, at least not so much. One would make one’s pageants or deal one’s deal in a weepy hyper-sensitive state if one was in Cloud Delta, and that was more important than which one of these activities one was performing.

Still later during the last years of the True and Everlasting Intersubstantiate regions were installed in the tunnels that changed one’s body’s size without knowing it. Extremely important regions of the city were thus able to fit, as they say, in a cat’s top-hat, because traveling to them shrunk one to the size of a bacterium. Other tunnels changed one’s size randomly. One part of the city extended for light years, and as one traveled across he bridge to it each mile made one bigger and bigger, so that it seemed one was in the same place, excepting of course the effect of relativistic time delation upon the neuron’s in one’s galaxy-sized brain.

Under these conditions it would be a brave soul who attempted to limn the true cartography of my native city, although, in a dim conservative, resentful corner of my heart I couldn’t help but whisper to myself, these other maps are fine in their own place.  Until  one day when my map, dividing my city into islands and rivers separating them takes its own rightful place as the true and reliable map. The day the flood would come and the Essuary would rise high and wash away the bridges and tunnels, and whether one stood firm on the mainland of Samanera or languished across the water on an island increased in saliency, so urgently, that the other maps all washed away.

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