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The Sky's Tent

The Sky's Tent

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Published by Joe Bonomo
Hotel Amerika (V9 N1 Fall 2010)
Hotel Amerika (V9 N1 Fall 2010)

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Published by: Joe Bonomo on Jan 21, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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 N a m e
The Sky’s Tent
 Joe Bonomo
I was intrigued with my students whose dorm rooms were located in the convocation center, the largedomed building at the south end o campus that housed residence rooms and basketball games alike. Anapt metaphor or the yoking together o our daily domestic intimacies with the blared exaggerations o popular spectacle; as a culture we’re getting so very loud and I wondered i my students could actuallyhear, rom the saety o their own rooms, the boom o the PA announcer, the raucous cheers o thecrowd, the anthem o Gary Glitter’s “Rock & Roll (Pt. 2)” or the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop.”The absolute object slightly turned is a metaphor o the object. (Wallace Stevens)Or were the two environments hermetically sealed o rom one another, the students foating througha kind o surreal stillness, aware that a ew thousand people just like them were screaming dozens o eetaway while they, in the quiet o their own rooms, brushed their teeth in their pajamas, thought o their pets back home, o tomorrow’s homework. Years ago I stayed several days at the SkyDome Hotel (now Rogers Center), in Toronto. I knew that thedome housed the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team (and, at that time, the Toronto Raptors basketball team)and boasted an internationally-recognized hotel, and is recognized overall as one o the more prestigiousvenues in North America. I also knew that when Roberto Alomar was playing shortstop or the Blue Jayshe lived in SkyDome, called it “home.”
 or my parents to leave me behind at the department store so that ater closing I could pretend to sleep in any and all o the model beds and watch the dozens o television sets all at once and play house in the foor kitchens and leave thousands o industrial fuorescent lights blazing i I wanted to
When you imagine living in an undomesticated environment its intimacies slowly curl around you. Inrecent years when I’d watch the odd Blue Jays game on television I would scan just above upper-deckcentereld—in SkyDome this had metamorphosed into regal bay windows—or what I would guesswas Alomar’s room (home) and wonder on the strange realities that he must have encountered groggilywaking each morning inside a multi-sport entertainment complex.Flying above the clouds at ten thousand eet in a jumbo jet you stare into God’s blueprints. Drivingalongside the edge o a thunderstorm thirty miles away rom you,
this is something that shouldn’t be allowed.
When Amy and I arrived in our room at SkyDome I was happy to nd that it overlooked right eld.But I wasn’t prepared or how close I’d really be to the action. We peered out the window and discoveredthat the upper-deck seats ended, literally, a ew eet beneath us. (“A fy-ball could so easily land nearby!” Iexclaimed, stupidly.) We slid the windows open, stuck our heads out, inhaled the ageless aroma o peanuts:the ragrances
o buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack
can be so eciently transplanted into the climate-
controlled, sealed environment o a late-century monolithic dome structure.I dream o new-and-improved supermarket ood-products.
Home-Cooked Style. Old-Fashioned Flavor.
SkyDome’s dome opens onto “true” climate: one o the world-amous attractions o this acility is itsretractable roo. It takes twenty minutes to ully open, but eventually you’re blessed with serene Canadiansunlight where beore you’d suered industrially-damned steel girders and paint. (Under the sun, aballgame’s perume ages to Wrigley Field-vintage.) None o this mattered much in late-December atSkyDome. The baseball season had long since ended and the Raptors, disappointingly, were out Westsomewhere on a road trip. From our room, the bird’s-eye entertainment spectacle we were granted accessto was
Walt Disney’s Beauty
the Beast on Ice.
Fears that we wouldn’t actually be able to see this Disney miracle, however, were soon satised.From the vantage point o our window all we saw were the tops o colossal navy-blue curtains, drapedextravagantly and somewhat messily over an entire hal o the SkyDome arena. It looked as thoughsomething urtive and hushed was going on beneath us, something or which we hadn’t the clout nor thecash to witness. From our room the whole production looked slap-dash. I it weren’t or the lobby postersannouncing the event and or the odd, mufed roar o the pageant’s canned score (imagine hearing apiece o music rom the
o your body rst, and then out through your ears) we wouldn’t knowanything was going on beneath us that was worth the price o admission. Nothing dissolves mystery quicker—raining down disappointment, ear, dissolution—than spying theinner workings, machinations, the click-and-the-whir. This is why house-acades—the appearance o a comortable home, the likes o which one sees propped up at new housing developments, or lining“Main Street USA” at any number o amusement parks—are sad. To a child, to discover simple woodenbeams supporting an exterior that one believed was a home in all o its sae and nurturing intimacy wasshocking. And gloomy.
comes rom Latin: “very similar.” I learned the pity o adverbs prettyearly.It turns out that what I amateurishly considered “curtains” was in act “SkyTent Arena.” Lay ignorancecured by the room brochure, I soon learned that SkyTent Arena “is an acoustical system which completelyencloses one section o SkyDome creating an intimate arena. With movable sides and an adjustable roo,SkyTent allows or a fexible seating capacity rom 10,000 to 30,000.” They admire adjustable roosaround here, which is all well and good except that rom our room all we saw was the outside o a tent,not the luxurious interior housing all kind o spectacle. Obviously this made sense, as we hadn’t paidto see
Walt Disney’s Beauty
the Beast on Ice 
and didn’t honestly expect an opportunity to watch itrom the room—nonetheless the whole experience soon became odd and unsettling. The dim music,the muted applause (all while applying deodorant in your room) lent a surreal eeling to our stay atSkyDome, underscored by our view: here we saw the backs o everything, as i we had been escortedinto a place that we shouldn’t have been.
 J   o  e  o  n o  m o 
The magician pulls scar ater scar o breathtaking colors rom the single white handkerchie. Thechildren squeal, learning bounty, and aith. Ater the show the local insurance adjustor bends over his boxo tricks. A ake, aintly-grotesque thumb drops rom his vest pocket. He sighs.The invisible. The necessary. Duende, the inscrutable, the pervasive secret at the core. “These ‘dark sounds’are the mystery,” Federico Garcia Lorca writes, “the roots thrusting into the ertile loam known to allo us, ignored by all o us, but rom which we get what is real in art. [Manuel] Torres here agrees withGoethe who dened the duende when he attributed to Paganini ‘a mysterious power that everyone eelsbut that no philosopher has explained’.” Later, Lorca calls duende “the spirit o the earth.” Nonempiricaltruth is the most compelling and sincere o all truths.From my room at SkyDome I watch gloomily as characters rom
Beauty and The Beast 
waddle o o thestage into the backstage dressing-area. The murky applause and hyped voice o the PA announcer donothing to imbue these creatures with grace.The teapot, having been lited by a ew burly stevedores, inelegantly drops to the foor. Thecandlesticks, awkwardly lumbering about, bump into each other. Slowly they peel o their costumes, andwhat remains: sweaty adults in tights with their hair sticking straight up. Shoulders sag; they’re exhausted.Production assistants and stagehands scurry about, helping the dancers out o costumes, wiping awaymakeup. The anthropomorphism o a teapot into the suddenly human: this person has a car to drivehome, bills to pay, a spouse to love, to placate.A magic trick: something extraordinary happens during, and inside, this brie arrangement o words andsounds, but it all remains invisible. Try as hard as you might, you cannot pinpoint with exact precisionhow James Wright, at the end o “Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio,” arrives at:Thereore,Their sons grow suicidally beautiulAt the beginning o October,And gallop terribly against each other’s bodies.Little in the poem prepares the reader or the miraculous and stunning—the magical— transormation, out under the lights at a trivial high school ootball game, o those adolescents intodesperate beasts kicking up their heels at their ates. I’ve read this poems a hundred times: I’m alwaysastonished. Where’s the “on” switch. Metaphor as a “carrying over”—but rom what to what? We remainunmoored, and a bridge is shaped rom the invisible to the invisible.One git o art: it withholds its secrets. I can’t fip Wright’s poem on its back, take it apart, rst undoingtiny screws, then removing the outer lid, and then the assembly, spreading its contents out on the desk.When you fip a poem over, out o respect or out o insolence, you remain with the poem only. Contents
 J   o  e  o  n o  m o 

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