I’m a’dreaming – I’m a’planning

As per usual, I find myself in a situation where borderline delusional dreams and more concrete plans need to be made to fit into the same space. My time as a post-grad lit student comes to a close within the next few months hence it’s time for that semi-existential crisis thought of what comes after yet again. sigh.

I loved freelance writing and being the social-media and web person for my first employer and then for the studio. But the whole reason for adding the Master’s was to become more professional, more qualified and versed in the world of stories and story telling after all. A thought that now seems a bit trivialised by the – let’s face it – regression into the massively infantilised uni-environment.

That being said, I love being a student. Moving to this smallish uni town and returning to Germany once again for this degree has been a wonderful experience. I’ve met the best people, was given amazing opportunities both work and private life related and, I have to admit one of my favourite things about this time has been that I got and still get to talk to people who are as obsessed with words, stories, books, the development of books in this new age and everything about it – AND I even get credits for this. It’s almost like being payed, except for it’s really nothing like being payed.

Truly a wonderful time.

But, now that its just a bit over half a year to go before I graduate, I got the bug. The adventure bug. The working with creatives and being creative and create bug. The moving bug.

My initial and most natural idea was applying for jobs back in the US. Easy as pie. I’ve been sending out applications and am feeling rather good about it. Some got derailed to Canada. No biggie.

I’m expanding my map tho, sending cvs to the UK, and am currently working out how employable Europe might find me in general. Nice thought, getting to stay for another while.

But then the unexpected happened. A novel idea to me. Australia. A wonderful, creative, book-bursting place that has a great bonus of warmth. It might not be a place seeking for foreign creatives but I like me a challenge.

The position offered to me might turn out to pose some logistic problems, scheduling my dissertation and the required move could be impossible. That door, however only in my mind, is opened now, though, and I keep finding myself looking at Melbourne avenues and cafes, Sydney beaches and nightlife. I’m smitten by this great unknown place on the other side of our pretty little planet.

Here’s Buzzfeed’s 59 Reasons living in Sydney ruins you for Life

Top Three

Being obsessed with crime fiction from early childhood on (I’m not even making this up, Doyle was the predominant creator of my bedtime stories) I couldn’t be more delighted to find that two marvellously brilliant crime writers brought their output to the top three of the upcoming New York Times Best Seller list for Hardcovers and the third is no one lesser than the astounding Donna Tartt herself!

Continue reading “Top Three”

As the sun rises

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As the sun rises over this half waking place I am thinking about those who see him standing in full noon, ready to take their lunch, half way through their day. Students and teachers, of all ages and sizes and shapes.
I think about those who see him setting settling in for the evening, on their way home or already with their loved ones.
About those who see the moon in the night sky, sleepy; scared or safe, at home or lost, sad or happy or any of the endless array of shades in between and beyond. I weep with those in war. I laugh with those in joy. I think of those who dance, and hug, and talk, and watch, of those reading and writing, drawing and painting. Of those being born and those dying. Smiling, crying, alone and together.

Of those – of everything and everyone – on our green and brown, blue and white little marble somewhere amongst blazing stars, frozen rocks, spinning giants and dancing dwarfs.

I love you, little marble. With all my heart. I love you.

So He Returned

It was about this day, a year and two more before this one. In fact, it was on this day, exactly, three years back.

It was stormy then, too. The waves hit the stones and the rocks and the cliff with a force. The salt and the pearly fog of the surf sprayed high, drifted miles and miles into the land.

Foaming, raging white, grudging, furious grey, madly boiling black. The wash rushed ran roamed. It swooshed and slashed and smashed its body against the land, jealously, as if it wanted to take it back, as if determined to victoriously end that perpetual war of land and sea that day.

He sits atop that very same rock.

Staring blindly over the sea, to where there is no longer a distinction between waves, horizon and clouds, to where they become one greyish blue blend of turbulented tempest. To where there is no longer a me or you or they, not even an it or a that. Nothing but a milky exhaustion of contrasts, shapes, and figures.

He is numb to the cold salt water accumulating on his skin beneath clammy clothes, running down his face, into his eyes, his drenched hair clinging like seaweed to pale stone.

Rocks tremble under Poseidon’s roar. He sits, unshaken.

Gales bash violently against his indifferent frame.

The world around him is in a howling riot. Battling to stay afloat.

Three years.

It has been three years.

“already” is a lie.

“only” is a lie.

It’s not the years that matter, it’s the seconds that pose the challenge.

The minutes and hours, days and nights.

The weeks that pass, birthdays and holidays are tough. But the weekends, the normal day to day, the getting up and having breakfast in silence, the fights and pranks, the movie nights and the smell of freshly popped corn, the chemical sweet flavour of cherry twizzlers, the moments that bring so many memories back –

No one to blame, no one to hate for the loss, no such anger release. Not as if that were needed. Grudges feed on anger and the soul, they weaken and sicken the body as well as the spirit.

Three years.

Three years since his brother took his last breath.

Three years walking this earth as a single child.

Three years of being the one that is left.

Three years.

The gales spit in his face. He sits, motionless.

The salt of the ocean runs down his face.

He had escaped to the rocks that day because he couldn’t stand the way his parents had looked at him. Like they wanted to apologise to him. Like they were sorry, as if they had not lost their son just as much as he lost his brother. It was not fair to his parents to think this way and he knew it then as he knows it now. They suffered, they cried, their hearts were broken just as his. No parent should have to bury their child, right? It’s not natural.

Yet, the first thing they did upon the ceased heartbeat was turn to him, to comfort him, talk to him, ask him, too much, too fast

The walls narrowed in on him, the air was sand, he wanted to cough but there was no space for that, it scratched and suffocated him and, he ran

He ran out of the blinking, clean, glaring fluorescence. Out of the beeping and ticking and pumping and wheezing. Out of white and light blue and sterile green. Out of the etherized air. Down the squeaking hallway. Past doors and windows and counters and elevators. He flew down the stairwell. Feet barely touching down on too clean steps. Through the swinging white doors. Into damp air. No rain. At least the world could have had the decency to show some sympathy. What was that, rainy days are the only days one can walk tall down the street while crying? He didn’t walk, he didn’t cry, he ran. He ran until he could breathe again. Until his lungs disgorged cotton and sand. Until Oxygen pumped through his blood. His veins. His muscles.

He ran until he reached the rocks. Until he sat on this rock. Only then could he bring his aching body to stop. He froze to the slick surface.

Three years ago. Three years of dark and empty room. Of the cavity in his childhood home. Of a dusty museum. Of time-defying space.

Three years of moving on and looking back.

He had cried with his parents when he returned home that night three years ago. Nobody spoke a word as he walked through the front door into the darkened living room, drenched to the bone, shivering. The shared grief, corporeal, like a fourth person under the weak lamplight in the room with them.

Nothing could have prepared them for it. The weeks and months with the doctors and counsellors before that final day, three years ago. Nothing healed what was left. It isn’t true that time heals wounds. You just adjust to the pain. You learn how to live with that missing part. Like an amputated limb. In being gone it stays with you for the rest of your life. It is your challenge, your duty to them, to honour what you lost by learning to live again.

A response to the 1,000 words weekly writing challenge.

Inspired by the picture of Contemplation.

Going Gonzo

In the air-conditioned lounge I met a man from Houston who said his name was something or other — “but just call me Jimbo” — and he was here to get it on. “I’m ready for anything, by God! Anything at all. Yeah, what are you drinkin?” I ordered a Margarita with ice, but he wouldn’t hear of it: “Naw, naw…what the hell kind of drink is that for Kentucky Derby time? What’s wrong with you, boy?” He grinned and winked at the bartender. “Goddam, we gotta educate this boy. Get him some good whiskey…

About that time The Daily Post @ WordPress challenged me to write Gonzo.

It’s Sunday afternoon, the last silver rays of the setting sun crawl across the shiny surfaces in the coffee shop down the street from my apartment. The warm, humid air smells of hot brew and chocolate chip muffins. The girl in front of me in the queue steps up to the counter “Two Latteys, please.” but her mousey voice is defied by the swooshing sound of the milk steamer and the chattery noise from the crowd of customers around her, seated in the black faux leather armchairs around the six-cornered pretend-vintage cherry-wood tables, some on the high-chairs by the tall window tables, others waiting for their orders to get to them or to be placed. Loud laughs and high-pitched outcries emanate from a particularly enthusiastic group of mid twenty-ish girls in oversized second or third hand wool cardigans of any off-colour you could name, missmatched beanies, broad brimmed glasses and enormous scarfs. A skinny jeaned boy-man wearing a fedora and a perfectly groomed hobo-beard triggers a supplementary clamor as he drops down into the last vacant seat at their table.

“Whah? I di’end catch thah'” responds the gum-chewing, remarkably skinny barista as she leans towards mousey. The barista’s layers of off-coloured makeup reflects the cold January light. “Two La-tey-s, please” repeats mousey, leaning forward, straining her pitchy voice to the effect that it sort of breaks at please making it sound like just the plea, as if these two “la-tey-s” would save her life. “gotteh'” issues the perpetually chewing mouth of the brunette barista. She presses some buttons of her cashier machine in high speed, pauses without looking up and asks mousey “skeehm, regulah oh soy?”. “Excuse me?” “SKEEHM, Ree-gulah ooah Soh-I!” “Milk?” “YES of co-ahs meehlk, sweethaht, wheah dooh yooh theenk yooh aah?”. A man wearing a canary yellow t-shirt printed with black letters reading “I don’t think one can ever generalize” on the front bumps into my shoulder and apologizes, fleetingly fixating some random spot above my left ear before he turns and walks on through a group of cheerfully chatting mom-jeaned ladies to his laptop on a small table by the midnight green wall.

The second barista waves one exuberantly bejewelled hand topped off with black nail-polish at me to step forward. “What can I get’ya tohday, honey?” her square, glaringly red painted mouth enquires. “I’d like the skim milk for both, please” mousey squeaks at the barista. I order a soy latte and decline the offer of “two mixed-chip cookies for the price of one tohdaaay”. Mousey accepts. We pay simultaneously and usher our way to the left-hand end of the counter to wait for our orders. We wait, standing opposite each other. “Sure is loud in here” her answer is a look mixed of fear and forced politeness. She straightens her unseasonably thin bloomed skirt and smiles shyly at the wooden floor. Her pale ashen hair falls in un-styled curls across her face and I cannot help but feel sympathy for this misplaced, uncomfortable girl. We get our orders and she smiles a last time before she struggles her way through the shop to a like-wise mousey, bespectacled little man by the window tables. I step through the tall glass-doors into the crispy clean air remorsefully picturing the struggle the mice will have communicating in the den of cats.

Who Murdered the Gentleman?

Yes, dramatic opening, isn’t it?

The concept that people of past generations were more polite, kind, well-mannered, and chivalrous, admittedly, is not exactly novel. Yet it struck me once again on the subway the other day. A scenario simple enough. A man and a woman, both relatively attractive, about the same age (mid twenties) were about to get on the train. The woman would have stepped through the door first, speaking from the logistic point of view here. Yet the (not-so-gentle)man cut in and basically pushed her aside to get in first and (a round of applause) scored the last vacant seat in the carriage.

It is not as if he was in the position of holding the door for the lady.

This is just one example, one instant, but even out of context (assume they knew each other and were fighting, she was a gold digger and stole all his money, she assassinated his beloved Schnauzer puppy Brian) this just made the bloke look pretty bad. There you go, our starting point is set.

So, if we presume that chivalry is dead for the moment (and not just in hiding or hibernation) it is time for some good old-fashioned finger-pointin’ (yay! How fun).

Who can we blame for the demise?

The most comfortable perpetrator (speaking from a woman’s point of view) would be The men. They simply haven’t got manners any more and are *nothing* like the beautiful illusion of masculinity created by the likes of Noir Hollywood. How dare they! No more Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grand, Humphrey Bogart, James Dean. But, catching a breath and stepping away from stereotyped character expectations, there never really was a  Mr. Darcy to begin with (I know, taking an example from a satire is bad style, but mentioning Austen’s gentleman-protégé appears to be obligatory for any conversation of this sort) . They are just a figment of someone else’s creativity, nothing more.

Hence, it could have been us women. Did we drive The gentleman into throwing himself over the railing by constantly demanding ridiculous expectations to be met, constantly comparing them to the silver screen heroes, role-models of perfection, setting out unreachable standards that would frustrate anyone into resignation, into throwing the hat and not even trying for politeness any more.

Moving on. Emancipation could have murdered the concept of the gentleman. Bear with me here. Consider endless lectures of gender equality, equal pay, equal chances (not that I oppose any of these developments, I wouldn’t really like living in the world of Mad Men, myself). But maybe, maybe, these movements of levelling out differences in gender concepts worked better than expected. Men no longer have only other men as rivals, women are out to get to the top of the professional and private food chain now as well. Thus, competition is no longer gender bound. Is the downfall of chivalry then another positive step towards absolute equality?

Did evolved Betty scare her suitors from holding the door for her lest she’d think they’re conceitedly patronising her? And I’m not speaking sleazy date encounters of men who pull off the chivalrous card for their (well… let us call it) “romantic agenda”. This is every day encounters, motive-free, common-place manners.

As a quick side note, as much fun as generalizing admittedly is, I should point out – for fairness’ sake – that I might be caricaturing the tiniest bit here. I could add tons of examples of every-day chivalry. For instance, to stay with the imagery up top, another day on the train, there was only one free seat (how uncommon) as I got on, the sole seatless passenger. As I approached the man next to it looked up, glanced at the seat and picked up a small candy wrapper (which I hadn’t even noticed) and dumped it into the trash. I thanked him (parents, be proud) and he just mumbled “no worries” and continued sitting there, no further interaction. It was just the briefest instant, and it might as well have been his own wrapper, but it stuck with me as a memory of non-agenda inspired kindness. But, as I said, please consider this as a side note to the greater issue at hand.

Chivalry, what happened?