about nostalgia

Once upon a time, in the nineties, on a St Patrick’s evening, I listened to a band full of the most amazing lust for life play Irish music in one of the stiff and serious music halls of Bucharest. Somewhere towards the end one of the girls sang this song, with a divine voice and in an accent in which the stanzas made no sense to me whatsoever, but I could just about make out the chorus properly enough to melt into tears. I looked for the song for years after that, forgetting to ask Matthew Sweeney during his creative writing seminar what it was called (not that I could reproduce enough of it, with melody, for someone else to recognize it, but it would have been worth a shot). I found it last year, when I decided to transcribe what I remembered of the chorus word for word in the google bar (Hail, Google!). I’ve listened to it a few times since then. It’s still beautiful to me. Maybe also because I remember now my student self from when I listened to it, who was moved by nostalgia for a time of purity and grace and community togetherness before that… and that’s where the harsh sound of the needle scratching the LP breaks my construction, like in kids’ TV-series.

It’s not then. It’s never been then. I know everybody says this all the time, and yet, even when you understood it, it is difficult to feel it, because it’s so damn easy to make `then` feel absolutely perfect, to purify it of everything that was not idyllic, or, just the opposite, to fill it with all sorts of anger that are actually not about then, but are much easier buried there. `So we did, so we did and so did he and so did I/ And the more I think about it, the nearer I’m to cry…` And it’s so easy to melt down in this invented collective memory which my generation puts in PPS-es with all the lost products of the communist age that we grew up with. Because `then…`

It’s not then. It’s now. It’s now that my daughters splashing each other in the tub laugh so beautifully that the back of my throat aches with suppressed tear-bliss. It’s now that I feel the ocean of fear for whatever world there will be ahead for them. It’s now that I’m grateful, furious, amazed and drained at the same time. It is the now that is loaded to the brim with ideology, politics, communication, life, work, meaning. I’m nostalgic, as I write, about every bit of now that I wasted thinking about how differently serene things have been before. Instead of looking for my serene point from which I can absorb and deal with today. It’s now.

somewhere in there

In keeping with how eclectically I usually write this blog, this has nothing to do with books (or politics), language (or children) or basically anything I have been thinking about lately. And yet it is a recurrent thought that kept gaining flesh… and yet it is, like all of the above, (also) about identity.

The way we conceive ourselves – and it’s very difficult to figure out if this is characteristic of women and men at the same time or even of most women – seems to be this archetype of who we would like to be/used to be in photos/intend to be at a certain time. It seems to me that, at any point in one’s life, there are things that a person is, and yet thinks (or merely hopes) they’re not.

`I look all right these days, if only there wasn’t for those pimples` – followed by a mental photoshop brushing away temporary things that are not essential to who you want to be.
`I’m actually not someone who wears glasses. It’s just because I can’t stand my contacts lately and I don’t dare attempt surgery and… oh yeah, because I have bad eyes` – photoshop to your face 4 years ago when you were wearing contacts or to 9 years ago when you refused to wear the glasses on the street.
`I’d be feeling very well with myself if it weren’t for those extra pounds. I don’t recognize myself in the mirror, this is not me` – photoshop brush to 63 kilos that you may have had 10 years ago, while at that time photoshopping towards 59.
`My cheeks in this photo look like a basset hound’s, but it’s just because I was pregnant at the time, this is not how I generally look` – accompanied by silent envy towards all the gorgeous pregnancy photos of friends, who probably photoshop their own head out of those pictures as well…
`I sound like a very controlling mother, although this is really not how I am, I want to…` – photoshop towards a mental image compiled from Hollywood family movies where kids roam around free all day and yet follow the most perfect table etiquette.
`I’m really not an office clerk, I’m a writer…` after years of deskjobs in which you never wrote a line of literature. (all right, this is really not one of my thoughts, it’s more inspired from the `Bartending is just a temporary thing until I get an audition` – I admit as an identity decision that I could never live in the insecurity anything artistic as a vocation presupposes.)
`I’m sorry my house is such a mess, I’ve only just gotten home…` – whereas it would look just the same at any moment someone visits without calling beforehand, because the way the house it’s supposed/designed/imagined to look only lasts while the cleaning lady has just left the living room and is sweeping upstairs, only to be completely lost for another week by the time she goes out the door.

The thought came back to me again yesterday, in Polish class, when a colleague describing me said `she has curly hair` – and although I had taken the mysterious change that electrified my hair a few months ago for a temporary, `not-me` phenomenon which will pass, after which I will `be me` again, it dawned on me. Every single day I will be things that I want to photoshop away and things that are esentially the way I want them to be. Things I know and I don’t know about myself. Outside and in. There are `ways I am` that I will have to fight my whole life because they will not simply allow themselves to be changed radically, but will allow a daily `straightening`. The things by which I define myself are not pick-and-choose, although, for the sake of minimal confidence, they are the ones one rather concentrates upon. I don’t think there is peace to be had with all these things I don’t like about myself (temporary or not). But the layers I try to strip away in order to get to `really me` are, sometimes, to be accepted as inevitable, and sometimes, as demons that can be louder or quieter roommates on my asteroid, but the `baobab plucking` or `volcano cleaning` keeps me on my toes and makes me aware of my shortcomings towards others.

clorofilă

Pe peronul trenului e îmbulzeală. Pe lângă feţele obişnuite, pe care le înveţi încetul cu încetul în patru ani de navetă (sau dacă nu feţele, atunci combinaţiile specifice de glezne subţiri în pantofi cu toc de culori neaşteptate care semnalează prezenţa unei anumite tipe cu părul creţ, sau hăinuţe hipioate-şic şi umoare matinală infectă – o post-studentă şatenă), azi mişună multe costume şi cravate. În schimb rucsacii hiperplini şi purtătorii lor uşor mirositori au dispărut. Îmi ridic braţul să mă scarpin la nas, fiindcă în mână am cafeaua şi ziarul, şi conştientizez cu încântare că pielea antebraţului are încă un iz de pârlit-sărat. Colcăiala încă nu m-a prins în vârtejul ei rutinier, în care ochii ţi se golesc de noimă şi de bucurie. Am baterii noi.
În lipsa chefului de a googăli după o carte de biologie care să-mi explice cum se metabolizează vitamina D din lumină şi care e efectul ei asupra ordinii lucrurilor în corp, dar şi sub influenţa zâmbetului de ieri la publicarea celei de-a un miliard o suta cercetări cu impact micronic, conform căreia ascultatul de Wagner îţi reduce zahărul din sânge (mă rog, intuitiv sună plauzibil, sigur că glicemia scăzută nu explică nazismul, da’ o oarecare grumpiness orişicât, mă-nţelegi…), fantazez despre cum în piele există nişte celule care funcţionează la fel cu clorofila. Un fel de fotovoltaice. Căci la mare mănânci muuuult mai puţin. Şi dormi pe sponci, dar nu eşti obosit. Şi creşte nivelul energiei vitale. Şi, măcar vreme de câteva săptămâni, ai o privire care pare vie. Probabil că în vastul efort de a crea condensatori deştepţi care să înmagazineze mai bine energia, o să facă la un moment dat şi unul implantabil, cât să rezişti în ţările nordice după ce se stinge lumina. Dar până atunci, îmi mai mâşâi din timp în timp pielea (care seamănă, pentru prima oară de vreo doi ani, cu ce-mi aduc eu aminte despre ea).

prostia la români

Mă gândesc de ani buni la asta. Pare-mi-se că, de la Caragiale încoace în mod documentat, dar probabil de cu mult înaintea lui, premisa elementară a relaţiilor interumane în România este că celălalt e prost. Asta poate să însemne orice, de la ignorant la retardat şi de la semidoct la un IQ cu doar un punct sub cel propriu. Pe vremea bunicii, deşteptăciunea şi rangul burghezimii se măsura în „cu carte”. Adică şcoala de ingineri era o chestie mai cu moţ decât să te faci ofiţer, îmi povesteşte mama. Străbunicul meu şef de gară sărac-lipit după crah era mai deştept în mentalitatea locului decât cumnatul lui care administra o moşie de sute de hectare, cu cap, dar fără şcoală. Pe vremea împuşcatului se măsura „inteligenţa” cumva în cărţi citite, cu atât mai mult cu cât cărţile disponibile erau mai mult sau mai puţin aceleaşi, într-un număr limitat. Mintea se măsura în informaţie – deşi, în lipsa informaţiei cu pricina, interlocutorul putea să aibă o capacitate de sinteză cu mult mai mare decât tine, care posedai informaţia şi nu făceai mare brânză cu ea. În ziua de azi e greu să mai ai o măsură fie şi aparent obiectivă. Iar criteriile de evaluare a „inteligenţei”, dincolo de +/- manele, care e la fel de arbitrar ca orice criteriu, sunt de o volatilitate nemaiîntâlnită, fie şi numai datorită specializării substanţiale în plan profesional. Cu toate astea (adică cu toate că, mie personal, atunci când m-aş întâlni în virtual cu cineva care ştie să facă ceva ce mie mi-e complet străin, respectul pentru competenţele lui mi-ar paraliza întrucâtva capacitatea de a-l categorisi alb-negru), invariabil, pe forumuri de toate felurile, prezumţia, atunci când cineva nu e de acord cu tine, e că e un bou. O gâscă. Un prostălău. Acum vreo săptămână am citit, într-un subsol de articol de pe criticatac, un schimb de replici condimentat cu puhoaie de citate din cărţi de economie şi filozofie politică pe care nu le-am deschis vreodată. Impresionant schimbul de argumente între cineva care se ţinea de „de dreapta” şi cineva care milita stângist. Oamenii erau amândoi uriaş informaţi, gândiseră temeinic şi ajunseseră la concluzii diferite (deja un spectacol pentru un schimb de argumente pe un forum). Dar nu se puteau abţine – se tratau reciproc de „prost” şi-şi numeau reciproc concluziile „idioţenii”. Oare chiar nu există loc de „agree to disagree”? Să mor dacă pricep de unde şi până unde a apărut orgoliul ăsta absolut că numai tu poţi pricepe/cunoaşte/manipula totul şi că ceilalţi, dacă văd lucrurile altminteri sau fac altceva cu informaţia, sunt nişte imbecili. Poate cineva să mă lămurească?

new motto

A couple of friends of mine got married a couple of weeks ago. Their (other) friends published an interview with each of the `parties`. Among the questions was `your motto is…?` (I know I don’t have to/maybe even shouldn’t tell you all these contextual things, but where I come from, this is how stories are told, even when they actually consist of `I found a needle on the floor.` You first HAVE to know who had been there the day before and what their children are doing nowadays for a living, which mood grandma was in when she found the needle and why, what was the temperature of the room and which tablecloth was on the table – so be happy, this is really-really short and to the point!). Aaaanyway, the gentleman friend’s answer was `I don’t know how, but definitely not this way`. I love it, I think I’m going to adopt it.

Frenchy melancholic mood

Am descoperit, printr-o asociaţie mentală pe care a trebuit s-o verific pe text, că una din favoritele bunicii şi una din poeziile care mă panicau pe mine pe vremuri prin răutatea refrenului au în comun o bucată de vers. Şi cum azi e bleah, vă propun, deci:

    Chanson d’automne (Paul Verlaine)

    Les sanglots longs
    Des violons
    De l’automne
    Blessent mon coeur
    D’une langueur
    Monotone.

    Tout suffocant
    Et blême, quand
    Sonne l’heure,
    Je me souviens
    Des jours anciens
    Et je pleure

    Et je m’en vais
    Au vent mauvais
    Qui m’emporte
    Deçà, delà,
    Pareil à la
    Feuille morte.

    vs.

    Le Pont Mirabeau (Guillaume Apollinaire)

    Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine
    Et nos amours
    Faut-il qu’il m’en souvienne
    La joie venait toujours après la peine

    Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure
    Les jours s’en vont je demeure

    Les mains dans les mains restons face à face
    Tandis que sous
    Le pont de nos bras passe
    Des éternels regards l’onde si lasse

    Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure
    Les jours s’en vont je demeure

    L’amour s’en va comme cette eau courante
    L’amour s’en va
    Comme la vie est lente
    Et comme l’Espérance est violente

    Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure
    Les jours s’en vont je demeure

    Passent les jours et passent les semaines
    Ni temps passé
    Ni les amours reviennent
    Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine

    Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure
    Les jours s’en vont je demeure

Trebuie să recunosc că cea de-a doua mă umflă şi acum, cu niscai scuturături de cămaşă pe care numai

    Though nothing can bring back the hour (Ha! buzunarele astea mentale…)
    Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
    We will grieve not, rather find
    Strength in what remains behind;

(din păcate, culeasă din cultura mea pop şi cu implicaţiile din „Splendoare în iarbă”, nu din Wordsworth însuşi) mi le-a mai oferit.