Formerly known as "Creepy-chusetts, Strange-chusetts".

Monday, October 17, 2011

What's "the Reversed View of Massachusetts"?

Originally posted on November 4, 2010.

 Since I lost my way in the mountain, I had been losing the sense of direction. I thought I went down to the opposite direction, but in reality, I came back to U town again. I usually go to the town center from the railway station, but this time I came from the totally different direction. I experienced another universe in the forth dimension (the reversed view) where every direction -- up, down, north, south, east, west, forward, back, right, left -- is reversed. I viewed the town with an upside-down compass, creating the opposite impression of the town. 
-- from Cat Town by Sakutaro Hagiwara, translated by Shuko K.

Cat Town (Neko machi, 猫町) is a short story written by a Japanese poet Sakutaro Hagiwara in the early 20th century. "I", a morphine addict staying in a countryside called U town, lost his way in the mountain and discovered a beautiful town. But as soon as he noticed the ethereal surface of the town, everyone turned into...cats, cats, cats !! When he realized he had wandered into U town from the opposite direction from his usual route, the town went back to normal, rather boring one again. He saw the town from a reversed view (Fuukei no uragawa, 風景の裏側) and experienced the unreal.

Was it hallucination or real ? It doesn't matter; he did see people turned into cats.

For last one year, I have been investigating various sites in Massachusetts, notably abandoned state hospitals and desolate state hospital cemeteries. Thorough the experience, I somehow developed a sense to detect significant stories behind those desolate, forgotten spaces. I began finding saddening, sometimes enraging, or even positively amazing stories thorough those pockets of space, those often surrounded by a familiar view of a myriad of new housing developments, busy highways, quaint nature trails, and cookie-cutterish strip malls. I began to see my familiar place, the state of Massachusetts, from a reversed view after having rather intense, "unreal" experiences; those pockets of forgotten spaces became an entrance to the upside down realm.

Have I ever seen people turning into "cats" after I visit those places? A good question, but no. However in a symbolic sense, yes. "I" in Cat Town viewed those cats with a sense of fear. Of course it's scary if you realize you are surrounded by people-turned-into-cats! But symbolically, he might saw a certain face of us human being that we tried to hide or confiscate from our everyday life. The stories behind abandoned state hospitals and state hospital cemeteries are filled with the history of neglect, shame, and stigma. Why did we facilitate numerous state hospital cemeteries of which gravestones were distinguished only by numbers?  Once you begin questioning so, you may find a certain dimension of human face that no one wants to confront.

But don't despair. I also witnessed countless powerful stories through my investigation. The stories of people who had experienced the neglect and indifference but overcame the burdens by demonstrating his/ her strength in their everyday lives.

So this is one of the numerous examples of the reversed view. After sharing my experience, I hope you may change the way you view the places surrounding you. And I'll assure you, no worry for people-turning-into-cats moments!

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