greyhound, southbound, on christmas night

decembrie 31, 2008

the trip was supposed to last 26 hours. it ended up lasting 45. and it was pretty much what i had wanted, even if with the timing a bit off. in retrospect, i am trying to come to terms with the fact that few people would take the greyhound on such weather, and no one on my bus would have unless they wanted to reunite with their families for christmas or some such. i was the one person in that group who was there on holiday – and  was expected by no one at the end of the road.

there was snow, ice and hail. they put chains on the wheels.the first night in seattle, with the station locked, we slept on buses with the door half-open, the overhead lights off and the heat going off every hour. and it was snowing: i watched the snow coming down in the bad light by the station entrance. it was morbid. going through washington the next morning we passed by an accident on the road. on the second night we were caught in traffic outside salem, OR, and crawled at about a mile an hour for what seemed like ages. at midnight we must’ve been around woodburn, OR – „literally in the middle of nowhere” the driver put it – and we cheered and clapped and wished eachother merry christmas, and people were talking in their cellphones to other people and saying i love you very very often. we stopped at foodmarts and i drank hot chocolate from a supersized cup, but by medford, OR i already had a throatache.

the drivers were heroes. we had four of them – but especially john (jon?), the guy who took us portland-medford and who was with us on christmas eve, was great. he’d just been the same route the night before, and was totally beat. when he took the chains off,past salem, he quoted something from the bible about ‘…deliver us from bondage’, and we all clapped. also, by that time somehow the bus was full because it had collected all the misfits from tacoma WA on, everyone delayed. i fell asleep as we were crossing the mountains, and woke up around 5 am at redding. the new driver was telling jokes about greyhound drivers. in a couple of hours the sun rose, and we saw it was going to be warm.

i slept ok, even on the first night. i had hot chocolate at night and bagels the rest of the meals. i called my hostel from portland on 24th the afternoon to tell them i wouldn’t make it that night – they cooed over my misfortune and changed my reservation. and as everyone should know, while one travels one’s free. it’s beyond my powers to influence the way the bus goes. i don’t mind if it’s delayed. i am there, by the window, my coat against the pushed-back chair, reading ‘middlesex’. i love being in transit. any kind of transit, where movement is involved while i actually sit and read.

i talked to all sorts of people. people who had been waiting for 2 days in vancouver or seattle while the airports and stations were closed. people meeting their parents, children, partners at different points along the way. in the van-seattle night, one girl was talking to her brother on the seats behind me; an intimate talk between two people catching up with eachother. he was telling her about a friend of his who had decided to go to india, and who had said ‘i don’t have any expectations’ – and he had replied ‘that’s wrong – you always expect something, whether you know it or not’. i listened and smiled, because that conversation,in the dark, made so much sense. (do you know what i mean? i wish you did.)

and the second morning, the sun shone over us all, and i told myself well i made it , although it hadn’t been me who had made it. also, because of the warmth and beauty, part of me said it wasn’t fair. but it was, all the way. it was the classical yarn of reaching paradise after going through storms etc. (the funniest questions i was asked on the way: „what’s your favourite fast-food place?” – girl, 18, travelling to salem to spend christmas with her boyfriend; and „how normal is what you’re doing?” – officer at the border, after i exposed to him the circumstances of my journey.)

Reclame

things i didn’t do/find in san francisco

decembrie 31, 2008

i didn’t go to the golden gate bridge. i didn’t take any pictures of haight/ashbury. i didn’t ever stop in a cafe after 8 pm. i never wore my heart-shaped pink sunglasses – they were in my bag, but i never put them on. i didn’t buy anything beaded, floral-patterned, flared, multicolored or rainbowy. i didn’t go to any shows. i didn’t wear flowers in my hair.

it already sounds like a burial, doesn’t it? oh don’t worry it wasn’t.though:

only towards the end i realized the obvious: this was my first trip alone in my life, alone in the sense that i wasn’t traveling towards someone, or with someone. a proper young girl carrying a ‘lonely planet’. nothing bad happened to me. and the good that happened is a thin sun-glaze, that will be defeated, is already being defeated, by the snowy night.

i am not disappointed. but i want to be accountable, and to be held accountable for taking this trip. i never do something just for fun, so it must mean that this wasn’t for fun. i also usually forget that people don’t care – that if i give them the basics, appropriately packed in a positive tone, they won’t ask for more. see i’ve started explaining again, and it sounds like complaining. but i honestly want to know: whywhywhy san francisco, now?

and 10 years ago, for my twelfth grade english certificate, i wrote a paper on the ‘flower-power age’. because it had sounded good, because at 16, looking on the windows to the schoolyard, the most gorgeous bunch were the seniors with their cigarettes and guitars and flareds and long hair.i was woefully misinformed. it took a few more years to realize it was the beats i actually liked better or could relate to. but whatever. what i’m saying is, it’s all connected – nothing is random – 10 years later i went to san francisco.

all i fail to see is, what greater purpose does this serve? what is the bigger picture that all my tiny patterns want to shape? i see the patterns and recognize their force, their rigidity in scheduling me; in keeping me from a pre-settled romanian mid-whatever-class life. but right now i’m a bit tired of them. they look to me like the compulsion a magpie has for shiny objects. carmen doesn’t even have a nest, but in her non-nest here they are these stolen beads and silver spoons. with no string tying them together.

make it all mean something.

please.


yay books and timing

decembrie 21, 2008

this is possibly the smartest book that has flung itself at me, at this time of the year / my life:) : carol shields’ „the stone diaries”. i’m a bit in awe at the actual scale of the project, as well as the craft of it. the big structural things that i’m considering now while trying my draft, and also the small bits of stunning insights. it’s an eminently quotable book. but above and beyond everything – the core idea of ‘how to capture a life’. challenging. awesome.

it’s night, and it’s snowing in this small, focused way – a limbo, or the evercontinuing end of the world. there have been so many nights of eyesore in the semi-dark that i’ve lost the count of some things. also, it’s the coldest i’ve ever been in canada. one could either say it’s vicious, or that this is finally ‘real winter’, like the mythical, forgotten ones. and all these possibilities come and go in the span of just a few days. even the nothingnesses happen faster now. (i’ve turned my lamp off. incredible how many tiny equipment lights, of different colours, elizabeth has going non-stop: the computers, phones, stereo thingies. outside is white on foggy: ominous. stay with me for these seconds. i’ve been alone always.)

1) „the larger loneliness of our lives evolves from our unwillingness to spend ourselves, stir ourselves. we are always damping down our inner weather, permitting ourselves the comforts of postponements, of rehearsals.”

2) one of the secondary characters, alice : „something happened to me. at age nineteen i was on the verge of becoming a certain kind of person, and then i changed, and went in another direction.” (the lifechanging event, as she sees it, was plastering a crack in the ceiling of her room ): „that selfsame crack had been there ever since i could remember, since earliest childhood. it was the first thing i saw in the morning and the last thing at night, this menacing inscription in plaster that roofed me over with dread. not that i feared the witchlike configuration[…] no, what i dreaded about the ceiling crack was its persistence. that it was always there.”

and afterwards: „in one day i had altered my life: my life, therefore, was alterable. this simple axiom did not cry out for exegesis; no, it entered my bloodstream directly, as powerful as heroin; i could feel its pump and surge, the way itbrightened my veins to a kind of glass. i had wakened that morning to narrowness and predestination, and now i was falling asleep in the storm of my own will. my eyes would open in the morning to a smooth white field of possibility. the ceiling that had taunted me was shrunk now to a memory of a memory. it wasn’t just that i had covered it over. i had erased it. […] i next made up my mind to grow kind. i was not a kind person, but i believed i could learn.”

3) a fearful immigrant is witness to a bloody childbirth wherein the mother dies, and this is how he becomes a new person, confident and successful : „he swore afterwards that he watched her face fill up with his own fright; she drank it in, and then she died.”

4) depression, and out of it: „[…]sadness flows through every cell of her body, yet leaves her curiously untouched. she knows how memory gets smoothed down with time, everything flattened by the iron of acceptance and rejection – it comes to the same thing, she thinks. this sorrowing of hers has limits, just as there’s a limit to how tangled she’ll let her hair get or how much dust she’ll allow to pile up on her dressing table. […] but she’s tired of being sad, and tired of not even minding being sad, of not even in a sense knowing. and in the thin bony box of her head she understands, and accepts, the fact that her immense unhappiness is doomed to irrelevance anyway. already, right this minute, i feel a part of her wanting to go back to the things she used to like, the feel of a new toothbrush against her gums, for instance. such a little thing. […] it’s going to happen. all this suffering will be washed away. any day now.”

(and then everybody dies. in case you thought i’d left that part out. but yay, what d’ya know, some of them leave children behind.) i do not have an appropriate ending for this post.


reading in ’08

decembrie 18, 2008

i’m doing this in questionnaire form because i found out i couldn’t do it in a comprehensive, full-sentenced manner. i think this year kind of sucked reading-wise – not that i didn’t read a lot but most of it was a) on buses; b) while i should have been writing; c) when i didn’t have access to the internet. and probably the last bit explain’s [* !!! DID I FUCKING MAKE THAT SPELLING MISTAKE!?!? I DON”T CARE THAT IT WAS 3 A.M.!!! SHAME ON ME, FOREVER1 I’M NOT EVEN CORRECTING IT, IT SHOULD STAY THERE AS REMINDER. AND IN A POST ABOUT READING!] a lot. it’s totally obama’s fault. well, it’s someone else’s fault than mine. anyway, this is a personal list, duuuh, it means i chose from among what i read this year; it does not mean that any of these books is fresh on the market or ‘should’ be relevant to the general public in 2008, for any other reason than because i tell you it’s good.

1. BOOK OF THE YEAR: philip roth – ‘american pastoral’. (i’d read roth before, and been annoyed by him, so this is singular, and exceptional. i like a solid historical/cultural foundation to a book, i love an abrupt ending as opposed to a rounded, tied-up-with-a-bow one, i adore a twisted bigger-than-life character. it simply touched on some favourite obsessions of mine through time – and it happened here, now. )

2. WRITER OF THE YEAR: richard ford (spring), haruki murakami (fall). i had planned to read murakami for a long time now, and i went through 4 of his novels. being in a murakami book is existing within a universe where anything can touch you, and from where you will emerge subtly changed. by contrast, ford is as real to my mind as a blow to the head – and i mean real and blow in the good way :)).

3.GENRE OF THE YEAR: i’m not sure if short story is its own genre (duuuh, it’s not) – but it deserves to be. i read enough collections this year as to realize i hadn’t really done it before. or not to this extent. ford (‘rock springs’), annabel lyon (‘oxygen’), alice munro (‘open secrets’), lorrie moore (‘birds of america’), and i know i wanted nancy lee’s collection a lot but didn’t get it. i used to only read stories in magazines or anthologies. which brings me to the brilliant thought that maybe the feature of 2008 is the ‘author collection of shorter pieces’.

cause if you don’t accept that answer, i would have to answer ‘non-fiction’. i definitely hadn’t read much non-fiction before. and among other things this was definitely a joan didion year („the year of magical thinking”, but also „slouching towards bethehem”) and, surprise! a slavenka drakulic year. who’d have thunk?

4.TREND OF THE YEAR: a)eastern-european blah: kundera, klima, drakulic. b)a vague, but yet unshaped, tendency to try out comics. c) ??? (this is a shitty rubric, i don’t know exactly what i meant by ‘trend’)

5. WRITER I ENVIED MOST THIS YEAR: miranda july ; rachel k.

6. WORST-TIMED READ OF THE YEAR: reading irving’s „prayer for owen meany”, which is an amazing book, while i was busy thinking of other stuff. also, i finished it quickly, because it’s so good and because i was stressed, which probably means it won’t influence me much.

7. WORST READ OF THE YEAR: robert kroetsch- ‘what the crow said’. i read it because it had been recommended in class, against my better judgment that was telling me not to force it, because some stuff just isn’t for everyone. i should have given it up on page 10. i won’t even say it is bad, it probably isn’t. to me it was unreadable.

8. GOOD ANNOYING READ OF THE YEAR: ondaatje – ‘in the skin of a lion’ and muriel barbery- ‘the elegance of the hedgehog’. they were recommended books, which i knew i’d discuss with people afterwards, and which i had to bring myself to making sort of a case against. during which i, of course, discovered that i couldn’t have gotten so passionate if those books were plain bad.

9. LITTLE GEM OF THE YEAR: paula fox – ‘desperate characters’. (j. franzen’s recommendation)

10. MAGAZINE ISSUES OF THE YEAR: love love love: Granta 47 (‘losers’), Granta 77 (‘what we think of america’), Mcsweeney’s 26 (‘where to invade next’). also, please observe the titles, in case you hadn’t.

11. BOOKS/AUTHORS I ABSOLUTELY WANTED TO READ THIS YEAR AND DIDN”T: nancy lee – ‘dead girls’, david foster wallace, cormac mccarthy, the autobio of malcolm x.

12. ANYTHING ELSE? hellz yes. this year i met 3 people (2 of whom i don’t know well at all and 1 of whom i probably don’t even like) who in my judgment (mostly mean and harsh, no?) deserve to become known at least continent-wide simply on account of talent. not bad, i think, for the future of literature or whatever. it will continue to get written.


nothing more will get done

decembrie 18, 2008

yes, i’ve just decided tonight – seeing as i’ve been on the computer for long hours again without getting anything done (by ‘anything’i mean the draft, not reading countless posts/articles or writing on facebook walls) – that i might as well be wrapping it up for the year. point-blank: i do not expect any progress from myself on any thing that matters to me, within these 13 days or so. what i actually expect is to go on holiday and get back reasonably in 1 piece…and to start ’09 optimistically. because no matter what the basic facts are (they probably aren’t very pretty in my case, but i’m tired of checking ), an optimistic start can work wonders. or so i’ve heard.

so, yes – a terrible pressure was just lifted off my mind, and now i can relax into my not-sleeping-on-my-only-free-night, and into actually watching the colbert report, and sending silly messages to people i had almost half-forgotten, and looking out at the snow. the snow makes me happy. my holiday and my vancouver friends make me smile. which is as it should be. the insane idea that i don’t know where i’ll be next christmas – which probably is as it should be, as well…ok, the not writing on the draft and the not having sent submissions this autumn (= supposedly the very point of my presence here) are not very happy realities. but if you sit me by a large window and give me a vanilla chai latte, and a few hours, i’m sure i can manage to spin those things off in a positive manner.

and then there are small bursts of response. or a white line of silence.

because, yes, relax, no one cares. you’re not letting anyone down because no one cares. you can convince anyone within the moment, and move to the next moment and start from scratch. no traumas, no life-changing things, no life, snow.


my 2008 through songs (2)

decembrie 15, 2008

(continued) i am too pissed to figure out now exactly why my links won’t link, or why the font of my post changes midway through the text…i might fix that later, i might not. i would bet on the ‘not’. but moving on,

18. HERCULES AND LOVE AFFAIR – BLIND

19. HERCULES AND LOVE AFFAIR – IRIS

i was on the plane back from romania, across the atlantic. imagine listening to this in flight. with your eyes closed. or/and, imagine: „today is a day for someone else/ this moment is yours and you can give it to someone else.”

20. A SILVER MT ZION – SIT IN THE MIDDLE OF THREE GALLOPING DOGS

this is from matt, close to his birthday, but before i started working. i was settling in the new place, taking walks by the ocean and exploring the surroundings of main. sunny september mornings, good times. also, from about the same days:

21. – BARRY LOUIS POLISAR – ALL I WANT IS YOU

22. KIMYA DAWSON – TIRE SWING

obviously, juno soundtrack. but they’ll also remind me forever of my day painting the walls at elena’s, right after david foster wallace died. how can that happen? well. memory is a very complicated thing.

23. SILVER JEWS – SUFFERING JUKEBOX

i was writing with yael at prado, on a friday afternoon:). i had no idea who the band were or what song. so i asked.

and in the following, you’ll see what one gets when one moves in with a musician: a bunch of good songs to be obsessed with:

24. PALYA BEA – ZOLD AZ ERDO (elizabeth calls it the gypsy anthem. it’s from tony gatliff’s ‘transylvania’.)

25. LHASA – LA CONFESSION – bad youtube version; but oh how i love french!!!

26. ART BERGMANN – CRAWL WITH ME

27. ROBERT WYATT – AT LAST I AM FREE

28. GANG OF FOUR – DAMAGED GOODS (possibly song of the season. no comment needed.)

29. WILCO – HOW TO FIGHT LONELINESS

not sure what put me onto my short wilco stage; could be yael’s doing…anyway yael, you’ll be happy (maybe not) to find out that wilco (based in chicago :)) are rahm’s favourite band. not that i knew this at that time.

30. THE ORGAN – I AM NOT SURPRISED

hmmm, how can you tell that in sept-october i used to spend all my thursdays and spare afternoons at prado, hearing various songs and then looking them up on youtube? yep. ‘the organ’ is a vancouver band (local pride yay).

31. LYKKE LI – I’M GOOD I’M GONE

minimalism is amazing. (and this is a facebook + prado song).

32. THE NATIONAL – MR. NOVEMBER

not only a victory song; though i admit, this is what it primarily was to me. i do see, though, that the text is ambiguous – that it shows the character on edge, and not necessarily cocky. he is damn frightened, but/and making a commitment. that’s what i think everytime i hear the lyrics. (and he fucks things over too, probably; i wish i knew really who the song was written about.)

33. THE NATIONAL – MISTAKEN FOR STRANGERS

here we go – the dark, fumbling part of my autumn, a.k.a ‘the fall’. brilliant song, no?

and then, for a split second, i fell in love:

34. THE INHABITANTS

35. THE FLOBOTS – HANDLEBARS

on the record: i do believe that seeing a friend take a different path from yours and knowing there’s nothing you can do about it is the best excuse for ending the world in a holocaust.

36. THE DRIVER QUARTET – RAHM EMANUEL

because i’m not the only one, obviously :). i hope he gets and keeps a huge following, so the band can do a nice video/recording.

37. KEVIN DEVINE – NO TIME FLAT

as i was saying – political songs are hard to get right, but when you strike a chord, keep striking it.

38. MARY MARGARET O’HARA – BODY’S IN TROUBLE.

uh-oh.

and, really, really, really, you should hear this. but you can’t, yet, cause the album’s only coming out in april.

39. ELIZABETH FISCHER – SOMEBODY

(„there’s a new day coming/i can feel it in my bones/but what that day brings/i prefer to leave unknown”- or smth.) scary good stuff.


my 2008 through songs (1)

decembrie 15, 2008

you know i love doing this. so i’m starting a bit earlier now, because i’ll be gone soon and besides, there’s supposedly something else (better?) for me to do over my last days of ’08. anyway (shrug), it was not an epic year, and it’s noticeable in the selection.sorry. but it was nice. ok:

1. IMADETHISMISTAKE – GRAVEDIGGERS ON THEIR DEATHBEDS, P.2

apart from the wonderful title: these were the very first moments of the year, maybe blurred with the last ones of ’07. i spent the before-school days indoors all the time, getting scared at myself quite frequently – but in this not unhopeful mood :).

2. ELIZABETH FISCHER – WARM COAT

i met e.f. early january at my reading, so that very night i looked up her site – the song is there – http://www.monkey-boy.com/efish  – and wrote to her, and here we go! (she’s just getting ready to leave for the studio now, and the dog ate 1/4 of my fries:))

3.BEN LEE – GAMBLE EVERYTHING FOR LOVE

i got this from lari while i was cooped up in the basement messenger-ing with her one weekend, writing the 9/11 story.

4. BABY IT’S COLD OUTSIDE

there are thousands of versions (and yes, i chose the aimee mann one – sue me) ; i think i must have heard an earlier one: after my first ‘new shoots’ class of the year, the kids had a ‘filling the inspiration well’ activity. the topic was chocolate. we drank hot chocolate, in the dark, with candlelight, and the ‘organizers’ read their odes to chocolate. a sweet moment – much more than i’ve ever given them.

5. WILL.I.AM &…- YES WE CAN

i am not freaking linking this any more. but it still makes me jump. i used to know bit of this by heart . it would have been between south carolina and pre-super tuesday. now, this year i listened to hundreds of cheesy campaign songs, and this thingy – collage, montage, whatever – is more than that. you know it’s going to be taught in school in history classes, etc. and i’ll remember as much as i please how i watched the speech the evening of jan.3, and how it made me reconsider everything EVERYTHING again.

6. EXTRA GOLDEN – IT’S NOT EASY

i found this chicago band, obviously, because they have a song dedicated to obama, from when he wasn’t a candidate yet. apart from which, they are good.

7. FIONA APPLE- EXTRAORDINARY MACHINE

i received this from alex. i kept listening to it mostly because of the extra-smart lyrics. i’m a sucker for the whole idea of competition, and it must be not because i want to win so much, as because i’m a perfect loser. as long as i think the race is still on:

I still only travel by foot and by foot, it’s a slow climb,/But I’m good at being uncomfortable, so/I can’t stop changing all the time[…]

I seem to you to seek a new disaster every day
You deem me due to clean my view and be at peace and lay
I mean to prove I mean to move in my own way, and say,
I’ve been getting along for long before you came into the play

8.COCONUT RECORDS – WEST COAST

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTzEp4CeWT8

someone on daily kos posted this on a primary day, to help relieve a bit of the pressure. funny how being here on the west coast proper i feel i must be an east coast type, rather. it’s one of the best nostalgic themes of the year anyway.

9. M.I.A. – PAPER PLANES

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7sei-eEjy4g

off the same batch: what else is there to say? political stuff has never been so sexily unsubtle before. *__* is the new black. or something.

10. FEIST – I FEEL IT ALL

i don’t like feist so much when they’re play-y. but thanks god, there’s something in it for me too. „i’ll be the one to break my heart”, et.co. it’s a war, and IT IS ON!!

11. SONIA ZAGWYN – THE LIVING SKELETON AND THE GIANTESS: not even a weak recording available at the moment, but when she becomes famous y’all can buy it.

12. NAS – BLACK PRESIDENT

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HK39MpPsF2o&feature=related

ok, you know that normally i wouldn’t be have this kind of music running in my mind, right? right?

13. KURTIS LAMKIN – THOSE CRAZY BEACH GIRLS

ok, i could have chosen any piece by lamkin, but ‘the beach girls’ is a fatherhood poem as well as a black poem and a…yes, beach poem. this man made me smile so much back then in may, anyway. i’m going to link what i found on youtube – „condoleeza” and lora’s poem about the birds. he is great. you wish you had been there and seen him!!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJTM8K0MtNU

14. THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS – CHALLENGERS

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHWWWa8EvzI

this is a sonja l. song, and also the song that saw me through my bleakest ’08 days. june.

15. AIMEE MANN – FREEWAY

a yael song. i’d missed aimee, and even if this has a different feel from autumn ’05, why not? times change, people change, including their minds, or this is what i’m told.

16. DUFFY – MERCY

the nailscratch on my mindboard. the pebble in my shoe. etc. etc. etc. of ’08. (in every list, there’s gotta be one of these.)

17.BLAXY GIRLS – IF YOU FEEL MY LOVE

also, one of these. don’t get me wrong, i LOVE this song! i was learning how to ride a bike, eating watermelons, waiting for a phonecall and for the VP announcement and counseling a 16 ys-old about relationships. as if. to top it all, the endearing spelling of „black sea” – way to go international, girls!