Jenny Odell

‘Last week, after a meeting, I took the F streetcar from Civic Center to the Ferry Building in San Francisco. It’s a notoriously slow, crowded, and halting route, especially in the middle of the day. This pace, added to my window seat, gave me a chance to look at the many faces of the people on Market Street, with the same alienation as the slow scroll of Hockney’s Yorkshire Landscapes. Once I accepted the face that each face I looked at (and I tried to look at each of them) was associated with an entire life – of birth, of childhood, of dreams and disappointments, of a universe of anxieties, hopes, grudges, and regrets totally distinct from mine – this slow scene became almost impossibly absorbing. As Hockney said: “There’s a lot to look at.” Even though I’ve lived in a city most of my adult life, In that moment I was floored by the density of life experience folded into a single city street.’(How To Do Nothing)

Apart from our current recognition that this must have been written pre-pandemic, perhaps many of us will identify with this moment of identifying, or meeting, on a level deeper than the quotidien. This is, as I like to say these days, where our practice becomes real.

As it happens, I have photos taken from an F car as it trundled up Market Street a few years ago, though I did not share that moment of epiphany
I enjoyed taking the F any time I was not in an especial hurry.
You can see the reflection of the streetcar I was on, in the window.
A typical vintage F car downtown.

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