Senegalese Fabric bought from a street vendor in São Paulo.

Tangentially yours — Jacob Wren & Todd Lester in conversation , #3

xo, T
xo, T
Feb 2, 2015 · 4 min read

So, the Sengalese lady who sells African fabric on the sidewalk along Avenida Ipiranga (São Paulo), Adji, made me feel better today about losing my French. We spoke about the difficulty of learning Portuguese and maintaining French as I eyed some nice cloth for my apartment. These encounters are what I live for and somehow explain my love for cities that pulse, contract, absorb and accommodate the mobility and dreams of regulars and newcomers alike. Of course the underlying question is if/how one enjoys and benefits from the right to the city?

Yesterday I found out what ‘going Dutch’ really means. I learned from a Dutch funder after two years of dialogue that they will not be funding the project we are building in São Paulo; right now I have all those crazy ideas we often feel for funders, e.g. disgust, disdain, like how could they waste two years of time if they truly respected the levels of work, passion, intensity involved in building a community-based project … and the goofy idea to send them an invoice for all the time it took to fill in their forms and answer redundant questions. Bah! Humbug!

As the carnival (February 13–18) season builds steam these weeks, I start to observe a fun corollary between blocos and houses (in the ballroom tradition) … blocos are comprised of friends, colleagues, clubs, neighbors, etc. and often entail coordinated costumes and colors as well as fundraisers (pre-parties) and informal practice sessions (going in costume to other blocos before the date of a group’s bloco) … and a general atmosphere of genderfucking that simply needs to be experienced to fully appreciate.

Excuse me, Jacob … How rude of me to not say hello and thank you for your response last week in Tangentially yours, #2. I was just letting off steam and sharing the ups-and-downs of the week. Hope you are doing well. And, I enjoy your ‘weird shit’ writing.

So, you are not a queer guy? … rsrs (Brazilian hehe). Actually, my gaydar served me well on this one; I had you pegged as a queerish, straight male. Thanks for diving your relative depths into my anti-linear screed (Tangentially yours, #1). You bring up an interesting point about white folks charting the discourse on topics such as the Charlie Hebdo attack. In lefty circles, what do they call that? Oh yeah, white guilt. Well, one can follow white guilt down the rabbit hole (or up Jacob’s Ladder) to liberal thought and tolerance.

I am also a white guy. And, for me the impetus to write about the Charlie Hebdo attack was to explain why freeDimensional, a free expression organization I founded would not re-post the Hebdo cartoons. It took me about a week to write the piece and consider both the attack and the different things I was reading on social media, etc. Once I finished it, I thought ‘why not have it published so others can read?’ But, that sorta fits your point; I had the agency to do that when many do not. Let me say this unprovable thing about myself in order to make a distinction: I am the kinda guy who often (outside of Facebook) has a hard time speaking up in groups and I generally question whether my opinion will add value to a given situation. Lately, I fight against this default and encourage the impulse to speak up when I have painstakingly birthed an opinion, especially in the face of such political narratives and sugar-coated hatemongering that predominates the mainstream media as pertains to other cultures. Moreover, I appreciate the admonition about professionalized knowledge by Edward Said in his 1993 Reith Lecture for the BBC (and subsequent book), Representations of the Intellectual in which “he describes and demonstrates how the intellectual must remain a dissenter, never putting solidarity before criticism, and speak from the margins for both the people and the issues which are routinely forgotten or ignored.” While I agree with you, writing is strange, I hope that the ideas I am garbling are at least in this tradition.

Speaking of which, a buddy from my hometown of Nashville, Toby spoke up against the decision by his highschool alma mater to not admit the child of a gay couple in a most respectable fashion last week. Thanks Toby … and thank you Jacob for gathering and sharing your thoughts in this frequency, reacting to these mild flirtations.

I suspect the next time we talk I will be consumed with Vilém Flusser, the Czech-born philosopher, writer and journalist who lived in São Paulo for a long period before his death in 1991. I’ve been invited to curate the vitrine window of a local gallery in São Paulo and I’m looking at others who have come to this city to live their lives, not always with the guise of project-making such as myself. Your advice is welcome!

    xo, T

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    P.S. observing for a long time before taking note

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