Good day, gentlemen. Have a seat. Let’s talk. And by that I mean stfu and hear me out.
We were born in a world with expectations of us. Even before then, when our penis was spotted by some person with a sonar poking our mothers’ bellies, an enormous cascade of assumptions were triggered that interweaved with the rest of our lives. A role was designated for us and deviating from it would be met with prejudice, and punishment.
As men, we would be the caretaker. The leader. The fixer. As we grew up, we were trained to be just that: Whenever we needed help, people (generally) would not only help us, but explain how we could do without their help next time. Know-how and handiness were strongly encouraged. Figuring things out for yourself rather than stop and ask for assistance was the way we were taught. Because we are men, and men don’t ask for directions. Men read their map, point, and say ‘this way’, regardless of how sure they are of their conclusion.
I think I get it now.
In a previous life, I was once trained to be a camera salesman. I figured my passion for photography and technology would overcome my anxiety enough to push me and become a more social person. I was wrong.
But what they taught me there was, “If you want to reach a parent, talk to the child.” With how everyone agreed unanimously, I felt like I had missed a meeting somewhere. Like I often do.
Even though it didn’t fully make sense to me then, it got me on a train of thought that has now reached a new station. I think I get it now.
I get told that I am an asshole quite often. In some way or another, people like to drop me a hint that perhaps I should reconsider my behavior and quit acting like a douche.
This information isn’t new. It’s something I’ve known for a long time and in some sense, something I consciously decided upon.
I think we can generally state that life is harder than we imagined it to be when we were little. We could blame society or capitalism or politics but when push comes to shove, we are the ones now responsible for our own existence and it gets surprisingly complicated. (more…)
I’ve been diagnosed with all kinds of abnormalities, by professionals and not-so-professionals. Psychopathy, ADHD, I had one girlfriend pushing me to consider the possibility I was somewhere in the autism spectrum. Another friend called me a juggalo. I took well to neither.
Perhaps they’re all wrong, or maybe right to some degree. I just like to call it my warm and cute personality.
If there is one thing I might be leaning towards, I think it might be sociopathy. Especially when I was a teenager and young adult, I had the hardest time caring about how other people felt. It served its purpose well, keeping the influence of teachers and educators to a minimum while I walked my own path. Many thought I was lost.
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.
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.