Somnambulist #26 - Xi'an and Portland - Two Friends Talk About Their Cities
This exchange of letters with writer TJ Acena crisscrosses the 6,000-ish miles of ocean between Portland, Oregon and Xi'an, China. When looking at their cities, they see histories of imperialism, consumerism, capitalism, and several of the other isms, all from the everyday vantage point of someone just trying to get by: for TJ, teaching English in China; for Martha, cleaning houses in Portland.
And maybe it's useful for readers of this issue that Xi'an started as a city with the closing of a wall and Portland started as a city with the opening of a port, because these conversations show us on different levels how “the city” is one of our greatest and most annoying contradictions: you can feel alone in populated places, as TJ does in the Chinese fake-Starbucks; you can see a city decay while it grows, as Martha does in “developing” Portland. These letters, back and forth, are both political and personal, intimate and informative, urgent and ageless. 40 pages.