Proxy Vision

With my new dog I have gained proxy vision: eyes planted in the front of a surrogate — a living, moving device that I can think myself into.  The closest comparison is the periscope used in tanks and submarines, which puts us on a different, uncommon plane of vision.  As I walk I see the city through her eyes, which hover just 14 inches above the ground — plus minus one, as her legs take turns in the orchestration of canine locomotion.

What I see at any moment is the vastness of the street; its expansion beyond reason; its lack of clear direction.  The street with its incidentals invites me to stray off the linear path and enjoy the moment: the glove someone has dropped, with its middle finger permanently poised at cursing; the flattened milk carton with tire marks still showing; the ubiquitous cigarette butt; the Blue Moon bottle cap.

In this haphazard zigzag from one short-lived sensation to another, the path gains fractal dimensions; its length becomes undefined at best, infinite at worst.  Cultural references on street names and bill-boards are lost but others are gained; as far as a dog is concerned, there has never been a Thelonius Monk or a Frederick Douglas.  Instead there are asphalt bumps with roots bursting through, fire hydrants, dandelion shoots, and little fences protecting dogs from trees.  There are no sculptures of accomplished squirrels, doves, or dogs, though—the unfortunate  result of millennia of anthropocentric preferences.

I don’t profess to know what goes on in a dog’s mind – could it be the glim idea of seeing the world through our eyes in reverse, periscopically, on a much-elevated plane? The plane where the grand scheme of the Manhattan grid at once becomes conceivable? Where buildings attain a scale that is commensurate with the human architect’s vision?  If that were true, they would tip-toe through the newly-found space, read street names with historical finesse, and acknowledge the grand visions of their masters.

Joachim Frank