Jack of Many Trades

The City and the City

Originally posted: 2013-07-21

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It's been more than a year since I posted about Blue Jay Walking, hasn't it? I am so bad at followup, guys, you have no idea. If I said I was going to come back to something you actually wanted to read about, and then I never did, tell me and I'll come back to it.

I suspect most people have a Place that they think of as theirs, where they default to crossing over into the otherworlds. Mine is the City, or what I sometimes call the Forgotten City. It is a patchwork of buildings and people that I've visited in my dreams as far back as I can remember, with different districts having wildly variable architecture and age. The only thing that connects them is that they have ceased to exist.

What is the City? I'm not entirely sure, to be honest. It might be "on the astral plane." I've had people suggest it's related to Faery, and people tell me it's definitely not. While I can't say I've been to all of Faery, I lean toward not. I suspect the City is a thing unto itself, a spirit of civilization or urbanization. There are parts that are old, stone and sand and brick. There are parts that are new, too, and everything in between; the important thing is that it's been around a while.

It contains, oh, everything. The Library and the Theater, the church of the Blue Lady, the river and it's school, the arcade, the park and the palace, the Alchemist's castle. It seems to go on forever, or to present you with the foothills in a moment if it's testing you.

Portland is a particularly good city to pathwalk the City in; it has a peculiar relationship with its history and doesn't like to clear the old if it doesn't have to. Lots of old buildings still exist, even if the places they used to be are gone.

I've never actually tried to explain how I do this before, so it's probably going to sound a bit ridiculous. Lots of magic does, I find, until you get up to the really impressive "then I lit the bonfire and donned my ritual bear-skull mask" levels.

I usually start at a train station, because I know how long I have to wait, and use that time to meditate and settle into where I'm going. Then, when I step on the train, it overlaps with one of the subways or streetcars in the City. Sometimes the crossover happens quite by accident and I don't realize it until it's there, but I realize that's not very helpful as a description.

The trick is just to line up where you are here with where you are in the Otherworld, whichever Otherworld that might be. The more alike, the better, but there's always malleability there. The trick is always in how well your mind can hold on to both places; the more it can hold on to the Otherworld, the less you need this world to match it.

I expect to say more about Portland in the near future, when we get to the letter P.