I have grown sensitive with age. Give me a couple years of wine and roses to let my guard down and now that we’ve arrived at this point, I either forgot how to turn it back, or I am not willing to pay the price. I haven’t figured that part out, yet.
I haven’t been this afraid since I was bombed with the news that I was going to be a father. That all-encompassing feeling of the world and everything you took for granted, crumbling while there is nothing you can do, is enough to ignite a blind panic if you let it- and occasionally if even if you don’t. (more…)
Change is the name of the game. If you went from art schools to boarding schools, squats to an army base, freelancing stagehand to technician in a city theater, you’ll know what it means to adapt to the situation. One survival strategy will not work in another environment and unless you get to changing your behavior, you will start moving in the opposite direction from where your goals are supposed to be.
Friends who know me long enough often mention that I’ve changed in just about every way, several times over. And when I thought I was finally comfortable in my skin, a baby boy was born and I had to start all over again.
One of my current colleagues happens to be an old classmate of mine, from when I was 12. We get along quite well and that’s funny, because we couldn’t stand each other in school. I’m pretty sure we got into a physical fight at some point, though I’m not sure- it’s hard to keep track.
We have spent a little time raking up memories, wondering what came of our old friends. I look back on that period with mixed feelings, it was a tumultuous time. From there, we talked about our educations. We only knew each other 2 years before we each went our own way, that’s how long our ‘freinet’ school took students. She, with most others to a nearby school. I, to a different city, to learn photography. And from there, to boarding school.
She perked up with surprising interest and asked which one.
Ledeberg. The catholic school behind the church, discernable by its high, featureless walls.
One of the doubts that I had before applying for my current job was the fact that I would be closely confronted with the inner workings of a social-cultural organization like De Vieze Gasten. I knew I wasn’t going to like what I saw, because aside from the amazing results that can be objectively quantified in the immediate area (and god knows this area can use those results), there are less beautiful aspects to such an institution.
Inner struggling, monetary problems, stress caused by the social nature of an inclusive place. All these exist with literally every cultural project but nowhere more than places like ours.
I was shocked to learn that many of my colleagues are suffering from it, much worse than I previously assumed. They are a solid team and mentally very strong, but the pressure can’t be distributed perfectly evenly and sooner or later, people crack. And to save themselves, they have to step back for a while, leaving a large problem to fix for the others. This is not a choice they make: it is the result of an issue of world-wide scale. (more…)
I think I saw the ‘Propere Fanfare van de Vieze Gasten’ [The Clean Band of the Dirty Guys] for the first time at some event or other in Ghent and though I don’t remember exactly where, it’s safe to say I liked them from the start. An incredible, colorful, rag-tag bunch of weirdoes building a party like you’ve never seen before. The were marching around, carrying their director on a bass drum on their shoulders. My mind has never been unblown since.
I saw them a couple times more, without ever knowing where they were from or what they were about. I could recognize them from a distance, and never missed a chance to push in closer and watch their silly dances with a grin on my face.
A lifetime later and a world apart, I was sitting in classroom “Brazzaville” in Brussels. Tasked with the impossible matter of choosing a location to intern at. I didn’t know anyone working in any venue, and neither had I been acquainted with the inner workings of any of the endless list of addresses in the folder before me. So I started with shallowly reading over them all, in case any one stood out.
We said goodbye to you yesterday. In the most heart-wrenching, wholesome way, we built you the feast that you deserved. Not dozens, but hundreds gathered together to mourn your loss and celebrate your presence. My friend, you should have seen it. You would be proud of us.
The love, Marc. I had never seen anything like it. People hugging in groups of threes and fours. Or separately, almost secretly, one person and another. I have never seen so many people locked in embrace, and I’ve been to Burning Man.
And the sadness. So incredibly much. I pray that you felt as loved as you proved to be this day. Not one of the many present was unmoved by your passing, least of all me. I haven’t cried this much in twenty years. Every time the understanding of your passing sank a little deeper, hearts broke all over again. How we will miss you. How you will be missed.
“I’m thinking of working part-time here, and focus more on photography.”
I grinned. “You should, photography is awesome. In fact, you should go do photography full-time. And let me know when you do, so I can come and take your job.”
-“Looking for a full-time job, then?”
-“Hell, no.” We stood on the balcony, overlooking the festivities. Another job well done, and another job laying in wait when the day would end. It hadn’t struck me until that very moment.
“But if I did, I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else more than here.”
From that day, I have been lurking passively, keeping an eye on the public forums for the odd chance that a job would become available, at De Vieze Gasten or some similar organization.
Life turned out differently, however, predictable in its unpredictability. I ended up working for the state, in a city that isn’t my own. And it’s a great job, don’t get me wrong, for many reasons. But it’s no life among the dirty. Still passively, I was always keeping an eye on my friend, so I could take a discreet step forward if he ever decided to step back.
He wasn’t supposed to fucking die on me, though.
But he did.
I never thought it was much of a routine until I fell out of it. Work in the summer, travel in the winter. Unless some friend or other is headed out and asks me if I want to join. Or I take off by myself. Like I said: Not much of a routine.
But it did end, for the longest time. The last time I had gone abroad for anything other than work or visiting my son, was my journey through the United States that started with the unforgettable Burning Man. Luckily, it turned out to be the life changing event that I was hoping it to be, because I knew all too well that it would have to last me a while. I knew I was going to be a father.
It’s 2:30 am and I am having a bad night. A short one, I admit- If it isn’t a working week, a productive sleep schedule is the first thing out the window. Good riddance.
But it’s been a while since those age old demons came to sit by me. I’m sure you know them by name: Those moments you regret, that like to haunt you when you let your guard down. They might be an awkward thing you said, an embarrassing thing you did, anything without much meaning but enough emotional backlash to stick by you until your death bed.
Considering the size of the gaps that grew between our family as it evolved, it’s a small miracle we all get along these days, let alone invite each other for barbecues and spend long, cozy evenings together in the tiny spot of Southern France that my father built in his back yard. It is during those evenings especially that sometimes, we reminisce about the times past and once in a while, a truth bomb gets dropped that puts our common history in a different light.
Little Krystof was there with us that evening, having the time of his short life with a little swimming pool and a hose that wasn’t even on. We were discussing the similarities and differences between our experiences as a parent.
There are many mistakes that my father made when I was young, that I vowed not to repeat. But other aspects, like his driving style or his seemingly effortless acceptance of my decisions as I grew up, I have taken to heart and strongly hope that I can uphold them as an ideal to live by.