Kat of Typographies


by Kat of Typographies

As a kid, one of my family’s most scintillating excursions out of the cracked concrete meth den of our south Kansas City neighborhood was to a lake a little ways from town called, with typical Midwestern extravagance, Smithville Lake. The drive – three little girls the color of strawberry yogurt in our swimsuits, squished shoulder to shoulder in the backseat of a Ford sedan with a broke AC and the cheap brass voice of Rush Limbaugh curdling in the damp heat – could not have lasted more than an hour. But it seemed to my summer-mad child-brain to take an eternity, an endless unfurling agony of frustrated desire. The dingy beaches and brown lake water were hardly some kingdom by the sea, but to me it was a paradise worthy of poe(try), my anticipation asphalt-hot, overwhelming.

We didn’t get to go often, there was never money or time to get away. Family vacations are among the most sacred objects of the American reliquary, but aside from a vague memory of being in the backseat of probably the same shitty sedan while my parents argued over my dad getting lost in downtown Dallas, I missed out on the whole formative experience. This has been something of a pattern with me and formative experiences, especially those involving money. I suspect my adoration of walking around well-known streets and finding minute objects of fascination under my feet has something to do with this early understanding that if you’re poor, your world can be pretty damn small. You gotta try especially hard to find the wonder, and I found it in obscenities on concrete, discarded bits of paper, traceries of spiderwebbed glass. How gorgeous is the world of broken and neglected things, when you get so close out of necessity, when it’s all you have.

So of course as a teenager I became obsessed with the idea of travel, and of course as an adult I torpedoed the opportunities I had to do it, because that’s what unhappy people do. I’ve been in Athens almost 12 years now, and trips abroad have been scarce – and by abroad I mean Bogart. I don’t have a car or someone willing to take me places, so my world is probably smaller than it ever was. It’s sort of sad, I suppose. I think of what Mick Jagger sang about losing your dreams and losing your mind, but my mind persists despite my best efforts, the ratshit bastard.

And that mind does dream sometimes of getting away for a while – maybe just to that cool cemetery in Atlanta where they shoot rap videos sometimes, or a daytrip to the aquarium where I can drop acid and stare serenely at sea creatures, but for the most part I just have to be content with wherever my aging aubergine boots can take me. It’s okay–an upshot of being as obsessed and deranged as I am is that when you truly love something, its most inconsequential minutiae can be the subject of endless fascination. So I continue to wander in the ruins, a wistful walkabout gazing at cracked paint and collapsing factories by the railroad tracks, in all their ragged rotting beauty.

Cause let’s face it, traveling kind of sucks. Airports are ghastly reservoirs of inefficiency, overpriced coffee, and unhinged bureaucratic idHartsfield-Jackson happens to be an exceptionally well-run abattoir of human dignity, but I still have to take my shoes off in public, I can’t carry my skincare products with me, and heaven help you if, driven to near insanity by the labyrinthine existential absurdity of it all, you desire to have a smoke before you turn into a giant cockroach and begin scuttling around in feckless anguish. In the otherwise woeful and unforgivably gropey Las Vegas airport, you can step inside of a plexiglass cube and stare numbly at a digital slot machine while you light a cigarette and attempt to straddle the line between feeding your pathetic dependency and throwing up from inhaling air so heavy with stale tar that your chain-smoking grandma’s ashtrays would quail in terror and nausea. Atlanta offers not even this meager mercy – if you happen to navigate the vaudevillian nightmare of our eternal security pantomime while rather drunk and exhausted from guzzling the whole day away in Little Five Points, as my traveling companion and I recently did, make sure you grab a smoke beforehand. There is no hope of relief beyond those gates, the cold cosmos of the airport is numb to the agony of your joneses.

Airports, though, are a wonderland of palatial bliss compared to a goddamned airplane. I will always be moved by the austere and lovely patchwork quilt of America from the air, the jeweled spires and whorls of cities at night, and the heart-swelling wonder of the terrain of illuminated cotton you see as the plane coasts above the clouds. But I fucking hate flying. It’s the worst. I have driven solo in one sweltering go from Kansas City, Missouri to Saint motherfucking Simons Island and I would drive all 1100 miles of that on no sleep and nothing in my guts but last night’s beer and an ungodly amount of smokes a hundred times over before I ever set foot on an airplane again, if I had the choice. I hate the dumb cramped seats and those useless little tray tables and the haughty stewardesses and the collective crayon that gets lodged in the passenger hive mind when the dirigible finally, mercifully lands and an exit that would take a few minutes if people weren’t helpless and feckless dorks instead takes a glacial epoch, as I look on and seethe in helpless misery, gazing up at the luggage compartment with the burning longing of a thousand dying suns.

But then, the beautiful thing about misery is that when it finally ends you feel an almost overwhelming wave of joyful relief, and the feeling of finally disembarking a plane – feet on solid ground as God intended, no longer squished betwixt the scattered arms and legs of others, the sweet release of a cigarette moments, mere moments, away – is so prismatically ecstatic that it almost redeems the whole sorry experience. At this moment, you are the furthest away you possibly can be from getting back on a plane, and it is something to savor. The worst is over, and all the other traveling-related horseshit – figuring out a new shower, mentally preparing to hemorrhage money all over the damn place, remembering with a unpleasant feeling that in your drunkenly packed bag you have but one pair of trousers for a 2-week trip – is all part of the adventure and the fun. As my friend told me as we stomped around Portland in late December, exhausted and drizzled upon and starving, you are a road dog. And while I don’t get to travel as much as I want to, I take pride in the fact I haven’t yet lost that sense of resiliency and wanderlust of the crackling excitement that shimmers through my ragged brain and bones when my boots hit the ground in a brand new land.

photos: Kathrine Klimt