Archive for July, 2009

Of Mules In Love

There is an old Dutch saying that goes something like, “The average donkey (idiot) does not run into the same stone twice.” Sometimes patterns can be recognized at a very early stage and avoided before they manifest, it usually doesn’t take much more than an idiot savant to figure it out.

I happen to be very good at pattern recognition. No, really: I’ve done tests for the VDAB (unemployment agency) along with over a dozen others, and I was the only one done within the time limit (and some change) and with all answers correct. The freakishly fat woman said she had never seen anything like it, and I almost answered that neither had I.
I don’t want to blow my own horn too much, so I should mention that my memory is worse than that of a 80 year old Alzheimer patient. No seriously, I took tests.

If a hippie hugs an unwilling tree, is it sexual harassment? If a donkey is in love with its rock, would it still be a fool to run into it twice? What’s the limit? Or does love render you a fool from the start? So many metaphors, so little point. Is love even a factor to begin with? How many times will love fit in one paragraph before my monitor starts leaking sap?
In less than three months, we get into the same argument and break up, twice in one week. So now what? A third time to boot?

On, off, on, off, and on again. Not really my style, but there you go. I’ve done so much lately “not my style”, it’s become my new thing. It’s the new pink.
Seriously though, I really don’t know what has come over me that I partake in this. Or I do know, but don’t want to. I haven’t come this far through dependence on others, quite the contrary. On the other hand, she claims the same thing. So if neither of us is strong enough to escape this, we might as well be weak together. Two mollusks in a shell.

Aaand I’m sick again. Again, because unlike usual, last time still falls within my memory. Basically, my digestive tract, start to finish, if giving me a not-too-subtle “Fuck you, too”. My diet isn’t doing me much good. I’ve known this longer than today, but it never hurt before so I failed to care.

I eat when I feel like it, and don’t find it particularly enjoyable unless I make it so. You would hate to be my M&M, I will eat you in so many sadistic ways, you’ll wish you were um, something else. Jesus anything but an M&omg not the peanut.

And now I pay the price: A lack of vitamins and sleep made this situation way overdue. I don’t let it stop me doing what I want to, but it’s no joke waking up with this kind of throat. I can feel that I’m somewhat feverish, too, which makes tonight’s walk home in the rain seem like a somewhat dumb idea.

My girlfriend gave me a funny look when I told her, and asked with a straight face, “You didn’t catch the swine flu, did you?” I nearly choked on my noodles laughing. But she was, in fact, dead serious. A colleague of her housefather’s (she works as an au pair) actually managed to catch it, and the whole family will now have to do a check-up with the doctor as they have all come into direct contact with him. And of course she and I, disgusting spit and god-knows-what-other bodily fluid swapping humans that we are, are irreversibly connected in that fate. If she’s got it, I have it.

I can’t believe I may actually become part of the statistics I’ve become so annoyed with hearing. I expected to come into contact with it some time or other, but this is a little sudden and close to my taste. What are the odds for survival, anyway?
I know the symptoms though, and though mine match, I’m a few essential ones short. No dizziness, couching or any of that. I’m on the goddamn lookout for them though, I don’t intend to spend the next couple days forced to spend in bed. I have a life to waste, damnit! I don’t think they’re legally permitted to keep me there against my will, however, so I can walk out whenever I choose and do my thing.
No virus is a match for this piggy.


Gent

I don’t recognize myself anymore.

The Gentse Feesten, a local, city-wide festival, has come to an end. For most, it was a 10 day feast of music, street culture and alcohol consumption. For me, it was a revelation.
It was exactly one year ago when I walked out of my own house, knowing that she’d be gone by the time I got back. For good. For the rest of the summer, I would fail to notice the sun. But I knew what I had to do if I wanted to live though what was to come, and today…. I am alive.

Ironically, the longest constant that I am now going with is my work, which couldn’t possibly be seen as one to begin with. I lost everything that I valued since I was hired, and simply moved on to value other things. And now, while history repeats itself as people want it to, I can finally afford to take a break and look down at myself.

365 days –it seems so short- I’ve been facing forward in a strict stare, obsessed with change. In my environment, but mostly myself. It may sound stupid, but the metaphor of the wheel of time appears very fitting here. It seems to me that the seasons have physically described a full circle, and are now doubling over themselves. I have only to look past my shoulder to see how things were last time around, and the change with today is outright shocking.

Back then, I knew what I had to do, and did it to the best of my abilities. After the many situations I’ve found myself in throughout my life, I’ve become very skilled at adapting to them. The past year was a true test of those, and at this point, I dare say that I’ve passed. There is still much work to be done (as always) but I can take it easy from this point.

Work has come to a brisk standstill and my “usual” taxibike job has become impossible to manage (long story), so I’ve had the chance to fully enjoy 10 days of music, street culture and alcohol consumption (I tasted a friend’s cocktail). I spent a fortune on calls and text messages, letting friends know where to be and that they’re more than welcome to join the growing group. More than once, nearly a dozen people had gathered simply to enjoy each other’s company in some park or other- that I was part of.

Dead normal for most of us, but most of us haven’t spent most of their lives minding their own business, needing a valid excuse to go out. I would wait for calls rather than pick up my phone (new year’s resolution) while putting my energy in my computer. 8 years of this, and I have nothing to show for it. But do we ever?

My house had become the refuge of wanderers, couch surfers to be exact. No less than 6 individuals (not counting locals or myself) slept here, and hopefully had a good time. I got to hang out with my closest friends on a regular basis, and was reunited with a few from past lives. I never knew how much I had missed any of this.

And then, with a meaningless touch to the arm, it all froze and shattered in my hands.

My girlfriend, who I had gotten so attached to in so little time, got tired of the shit I gave her. In a few moments, it all derailed and came to a bitter end. The details are there and I have my opinion about them, but I’ll keep it to myself. I was an asshole and she repressed how she thought about that.

The festival is finished now, and instantly all has become eerily quiet. The masses bow they grey faces once again and return to work, leaving me standing with a fading grin. Alone, and left to pick up the pieces of a broken relationship.

In several ways, nothing has changed. The opportunity to meet is still there, and the city hasn’t gone anywhere. But without someone to hold…? It all suddenly seems very pointless.

Where we go from here, time will tell. I am bankrupt so running is not an option, this time. It hurts, but I was told last night that that is the purpose of it. Whatever “it” may be. It’s all pretty damn vague right now.


Stone Monkeys

I’m an individualist and I am very aware of the advantages and disadvantages of it. I’m rather proud that I learned to think for myself and I try to strengthen that reflex, by staying in control of my actions (rather than follow blindly), or at least be very aware what the purpose of them are.

A perfect example occurred earlier this month, when I was with a crowd of strangers on our way to a festival I had to work at. We had made our way to the front entrance of the train station, all in one group from the same train. There, we encountered a sign that pointed the opposite way. Everyone muttered and turned around, many never even saw the sign but just chose to follow. I was the only one left behind, looking around. Something wasn’t quite right. This was the only exit and I specifically remember, without a doubt like most of the others, that this was the way to go, last year. I went up a few of the steps and indeed, saw another sign posted ahead. Someone had turned the arrow as a practical joke. I set it back and wandered on… alone. It took the group, without leadership, more than 20 minutes to figure out where to be.

I can’t help but feel very smug about myself at such moments, and I like to believe I have good right. However, this tendency to question what is decided elsewhere occasionally annoys the others to the point where they tell me to just shut the fuck up and follow, already.
Especially at work. Recently, I’ve been remarked that I have trouble listening to what is being said to me. I, of course, have always disagreed with this. I try to co-operate, and make a valuable contribution. I try to be a good worker, honest. I just don’t just swallow what I am told without at least reconsidering it, and if it clashes with what I think is logic, I offer feedback so we can work it out and find the best thing to do. If the other has the last say, and still persists, I will do so- on their responsibility, and only if I deem it doable.

Imagine sitting in a forklift like that. Since a lot of the time I can’t see what I’m doing, I have no trouble blindly following instructions. But if I can double-check, I will.
Last night I was told to back my “Maniscopic”, a cross between a forklift and a fucking tank (I’m not kidding here), up, so they could clear they way for me. By doing so, I would block another forklift that was working on something, so I shook my head and pointed, thinking that my voice wouldn’t go above the diesel engine anyway. The American rolled his eyes and repeated his order, but I was still in doubt, shouting back, “I’ll block the other forklift!”

His colleague joined in at that point. “Don’t argue with the big man! (He was indeed huge) Do as he says!” I opened my mouth to respond that I wasn’t trying to argue, but quickly enough saw the irony of that and put a sock in it.

Seriously though, I really wasn’t trying to argue. I was merely providing feedback, in case he didn’t know this. But when the other guy put it like that, my penny dropped. I was being wayward again, like I’ve been told I am more often than not.
I wasn’t aware of this before. I hope those involved know that I am not trying to go into discussion out of principle, but just want to do my job right by communicating. Perhaps I should watch my mouth a little more in the future, but that might prove to be very difficult. This is who I am, and I don’t want to chance my defining feats if some other compromise can be reached. I just don’t want to be difficult to work with.

Of course, I simply don’t want to listen to certain individuals, either. Because they come up to me, saying “Come on, we’ve got a job laid out for us” and before I know it, I’m on my knees leveling the screw jacks of the entire fucking stage, while they’re off doing something else. Next time they walk up to me, I simply tell them I’m busy.

 

 

When you get to know the venues you work in and ignore a few rules, written or not, you can often come places no one else can. I’ve witnessed Apocalyptica from the trusses, hearing the crowd sing. I’ve shared pizza with artists and watched the crowd go wild to Moby, from his side on the stage. If you go look for them, you find views that will stay with you for the rest of your life, and you don’t even have to travel to Vietnam for them.

The feeling that I get when I stand in the dark, watching unseen, is a very familiar and comfortable one. It gives a strong sense of higher purpose, of being an outsider among a crowd.

It was very recent, during a gig of Seal’s “Soul” tour, that I managed to define this emotion. We were sitting on the handrail of the highest possible platform, four of us, shoulder to shoulder. In the dark, right above those who paid to be there. We could literally see each and every individual in the audience, but no one saw us, because no one bothered to look up and back. And if they did, they would probably only be blinded by the followspots, anyway – There was just one woman who managed to spot us, only because she had seen us climb up there.

It hit me quite suddenly: Slumped, balanced and quiet, we resembled a cathedral’s gargoyles- in human form. Drama queen that I am, I immediately fell in love with that idea: The Venue Gargoyles. Alive only when unseen, we watch over our work, in the darkness as if never there in the first place. Everyone knows that this construction didn’t build itself, but no one stops to think where those who did, could be- So now you know.

I want to capture that image. I was trying to explain this concept to someone and started looking up art on gargoyles, but couldn’t find exactly what I meant, anywhere. So now I want to summarize it, myself. Find some way to invoke that feeling without experiencing the situation first-hand. Here’s a few ideas I’m tossing around:

  • Pictures. Photography. I used to study graphical arts for a year and now the photographer in me is getting a hard-on. Imagine the possibilities in a city like this, with castles, churches, chapels and cathedrals, a city-wide festival about to explode, and a skyline of medieval buildings.
  • Conceptualize. That same “Gargoyle”, recognizable, could be found again on floor level, in the streets. Watching without being watched, because no one bothers to look his way, just as they didn’t look up as he was observing from above. Maybe it is possible to play with details: make him the same color as the wall, as he would be as a real stone gargoyle. Obviously there, but rendered psychologically invisible because of some detail.
  • Stencils! Can you see it!? A construction worker goes through his daily routine, walking over the rooftops, and suddenly runs into an intricate, abstract image of a gargoyle. Looking around, he sees the city and its streets, and realizes that this creature saw him drive to work today. Just like it witnessed the city awaken every morning, and go to sleep at night.

I don’t think I’d be able to pursue much on this subject at work, even though that’s where the inspiration comes from. I would love to, but first of all we have better shit to do, and I doubt my colleagues would be very interested to begin with. Still, it would be nice to take this out of context and really be able to do something with it. Perhaps I’ll contact a “real” artist or two…


Against All Odds

One of the traits that I envy about my sister is her spontaneous honesty. Not that she would never lie to anyone, but she will always speak her mind whether you asked for it, or not. Recently, I noticed that she has grown another habit: She will flat out tell you that she has the information you ask for, but she won’t give it to you for the sake of others, or yourself. She doesn’t want to be the cause or center of a conflict, and despite the need for info, I swallow the urge to pry further and nod in understanding.

All this became painfully clear during our latest conversation, on the picturesque docks of the Korenlei.

“She knows. Tine? She knows, I told her.”

-“Oh.” I went silent, as I always do when I want to avoid an response based on emotion. After a few seconds though, I stuck with my original question. “What did she say?”

-“She was… glad, that you found a good girl.”

I had to laugh, I couldn’t help myself. Each respectively distorting the truth, they had managed to make it the complete opposite. There was no chance in hell that her first feeling would have been one of relief. “Glad, huh?”

I’ve known my sister since she was born, and my ex since she was what, 6? I was aware that I was only being told the second half of the conversation between the two, where details were asked and given. I knew my sister would have approved of my girlfriend, and my ex would have said that she was happy to hear that, lying her ass off. She would have wanted me to wait for her, she’s like that.

I expressed my disbelief but was cut off. “I don’t remember literally what she said and I may have misunderstood. I don’t want to start… something.” I knew all too well what that ‘something’ means; I’ve known it for a long time. My ex is angry with me, more and more every day. It’s been months since I heard from her, and at least twice as long since she heard from me. That’s how it always was: she called me long before I called her, unless she wanted to test me and answered the phone furiously. She would hate me right now, and I can’t blame her. To her, it must seem like I lost her like a bad habit. She would be right, in a sense, if you want to ignore the countless nights that I spent, desperately trying to shut down my mind. I never enjoyed a thing about the single life; it’s ironic that, now that I’m "trapped" again, I truly feel free.

It’s inevitable that we will meet, sooner or later. We still have the same friends, share the same city. The question is, how we will deal with that. I wouldn’t mind staring at her from the opposite side of the street and wandering on, but I know she won’t have that. We will talk, if I like it or not, and it. will. Hurt.

One might think that I still live life relative to her, that I see everything in relation to her. That’s only partly right. While I am acutely aware that she would disapprove of most things about me right now, I have chosen to ignore it. It’s my life, and I’m moving on with it. If you would draw ven-diagram of my life right now, you would have a huge circle representing me, my life and the way she left her mark on it, with a tiny dot a small distance away, that would represent her presence. While her memories, her love and influence will remain a part of me for the rest of my life… she will not.

Bear with me. There will come a time when I will stop writing about her, and all of this will be behind me. For now, things remain unresolved and knowing that I indirectly hurt her, troubles me. But, I don’t have to answer to her.

Moving on was evident, locking her out was necessary. She has no reason to be mad at me for it, she made me do it. I could be dead right now if I hadn’t. Instead, I have so much more to live for now- and I won’t apologize for it.

I’ve been dating for nearly two months now. That’s a small miracle to me, the sheer fact that I am still capable of such is enough to raise an eyebrow. What’s more, I managed to do so (not that it was such a difficult feat) without much, if any, support from those around me.

I can count the individuals that were sincerely happy for me when they heard the news, on one hand. But, then, even less were aware of the state I was in after my last relationship crashed, I can’t blame them. Still, it would have been nice to get a few more positive reactions here and there. This is a big thing for me.

Instead, I had to answer a list of questions about where my ex fits into the picture, or was shared an unwelcome opinion on whatever they though had to do with it. In more than one case even, I had to deal with active attempts to “change my mind”, as if this was some hobby I had picked up and would grow bored of, soon. These people now know where they stand, which is facing roughly the other way. If positive comments on something this important is such a difficult thing, I have no business with you.

That is to say, there is one little fuckup that still manages to get through to me. It’s impressive, like a talking dog is impressive. You want to cheer it, give it a cookie and a pat on the head and then drown it in a plastic bag.
As I said to a friend, “It’s much like dealing with a shadow in a dark room. It’s hard to make out and depending of how comfortable you are in the dark, might scare you a little with every movement or sound it makes. But when you figured it out and the lights are on, those same gestures just seem dumb and amusing.” He is still using the same tricks, the same routine to harass me, even when he knows they’re way off target. He’s got nothing more to throw at me, so instead just builds in quantity. Now that I’ve figured out how he does it, my initial fascination has dulled to boredom. His phone number (all five of them, that is) is set to ‘ignore’ on my cell phone, so all there is left for me to do is to tap ‘clear history’ at the end of the day and move on. I’ve been advised to ask help from the helpdesk and alert the police, as they don’t take this lightly, but I don’t want to bother. I rather see my tax money go to… well, anything but the cops.

SO – if you would all just kindly fuck off and allow me my happiness, I’ll move on with my life thanks for nothing?