i have been thinking about the toronto g-20. i don’t have enough information or involvment really, in this kind of thing. but i felt like discussing it with someone, and here in mtl i can’t. so i’m going to post this thing from ‘the field’, one of my former go-to blogs in 2008: if you read it (yael, sonja, lora, vancouver ppl…), please read the comments too. my initial feeling when i heard of what happened sort of corresponded to al giordano’s point…but i learned a lot from the comments too. and i keep thinking of it.
why do i still insist on trying to write, when v.s. naipaul already said the only things i had to say, and so much more?!?!? all i can do is try to not copy the whole book here, but to quote discriminately. but read it-read it-read it. oh.
*”I didn’t want to go back. not the first time. i didn’t think my heart could stand it. but the airplane is a wonderful thing. you are still in one place when you arrive at the other. the airplane is faster than the heart. you arrive quickly and you leave quickly. you don’t grieve too much.and there is something else about the airplane. you can go back many times to the same place. and something strange happens if you go back often enough. you stop grieving for the past. you see that the past is something in your mind alone, that it doesn’t exist in real life. you trample on the past,you crush it. in the beginning it is like trampling on a garden. in the end you are just walking on ground. that is the way we have to learn to live now.”
*”i thought when i went to england i would put all that behind me. i had no plans beyond that. the word ‘university’ dazzled me, and i was innocent enough to believe that after my time in the university some wonderful life would be waiting for me. at that age three years seems a long time – you feel that anything can happen. but i hadn’t understood to what extent our civilization had also been our prison. i hadn’t understood either to what extent we had been made by the place where we had grown up, made by Africa and the simple life on the coast, and how incapable we had become of understanding the outside world. we have no means of understanding a fraction of the thought and science and philosophy and law that have gone to make that outside world. we simply accept it. we have grown up paying tribute to it, and that is all that most of us can do. we feel of the great world that it is simply there, something for the lucky ones among us to explore, and then only at the edges. it never occurs to us that we might make some contribution to it ourselves. and that is why we miss everything.
when we land at a place like london airport, we are concerned only not to appear foolish. it is more beautiful and more complex than anything we could have dreamed of, but we are concerned only to let people see that we can manage and are not overawed. we might even pretend that we had expected better. that is the nature of our stupidity and incompetence. and that was how i spent my time at the university in england, not being overawed, always being slightly disappointed, understanding nothing, accepting everything, getting nothing. i saw and understood so little that at the end of my time at the university i could distinguish buildings only by their size, and i was hardly aware of the passing of the seasons.and yet i was an intelligent man, and could cram for examinations.”
*”you’ve talked a lot […] about those girls from East Africa in the tobacco kiosks, selling cigarettes at all hours of the night. they’ve depressed you. you say they don’t have a future and that they don’t even know where they are. i wonder whether that isn’t their luck. they expect to be bored, to do what they do. the people i’ve been talking about have expectations and they know they’re lost in london. i suppose it must be dreadful for them when they have to go back. this area is full of them, coming to the centre because it is all they know about and because they think it’s smart, and trying to make something out of nothing. you can’t blame them. they’re doing what they see the big people doing.”
yay pity party. two in one, crushed as a person and as a writer. thankyouverymuch, sir.
i.e. WHAT IS GOOD ABOUT VANCOUVER:
– a bunch of people (not more than 10 all in all), close enough to be thought of /remote enough to be obsessed about – plus their partners, pets and own weirdnesses
– a bunch of places: desk by the window view yay; 99 bus route (got the timing down by heart); the freaking campus (SUB/ library); table at ‘our town’; main broadway to 30th; commercial broadway up to napier; false creek waterfront; wreck beach, jericho, spanish banks, kits; lora’s downtown bit; 1067 granville
– weather between the *presumed* seasons: no seriously: the no-thick- coat-in-winter, the fog, some rainy days when rain is a relief (about 1/20 of all rain that occurs but w/e), late nights in summer, the awesome blooms in spring
– bookstores, literary journals, free magazines (mag boxes), newspapers available in cafes – that is the way to go – not having that will be fucking crippling!!(i’m almost crying, so moving on…)
– readings: the blenz/rhizome grouplet, the pulp fiction/montmartre one.
– along the same lines of ‘people read the books i read’ – although the statement is blatantly false and the situation far fuzzier: my ‘current news’ being closer to canada’s current news than to romania’s. i guess they’ve always been. and yes, it is a matter of being left-inclined and of going global in order to flee the bleak reality under my nose blah blah. sue me. (i am in pain over possibly not being able to read ‘dilema’ at home any more…i’ll freaking get into political arguments all the time with people i do respect…hell.)
– i’ve got monopoly on righteousness (of the outsider who’s had it worse in the other place)
-from far enough away, i’ve been told i might look glamorous. only in vancouver/on west coast, though. i have too much respect for montreal to presume it would work there
-close to U.S., i.e. i can use my visa for cheaper (not that i wouldn’t go cluj-new york as soon as i get the money lined up…that visa is too precious to waste)
may the disenchantment be not quick, not deep, not tragic.
ok, but it could have been over. i could have been in the position of those obamazombies ‘the onion’ talks about (harder to do with a semi-job+writing to do, but yeah). who rediscover the emptiness of their lives now that the campaign’s done. look how obama’s brilliance saved me from that!
(paranthesis: you know those dickish boyfriends who keep a girl hanging on? sure you do. whenever she -hysterically or not- threatens to go, the douche will do a half-assed nice gesture. not more than is necessary. by which i’m NOT implying anything about obama, of course, but everything about the perversity of life. esp. for obsessives.)
i have 2 words for you guys: rahm emanuel.
the new (‘designated’) white house chieff of staff. i’d learned about him before, a little, during the primaries, but didn’t stop then because i was still reading about barack a lot, and the race was on. well, on wednesday, it was rahm emanuel time. honestly if i hadn’t thought the guy looks absolutely hot, who would have bothered to check all the articles ever published about him 🙂 on the internets? really now. (also, this is the most unfortunate way to prove to myself again that whatever interest i have in obama is not really, wholly, a ‘crush’. ! 😦 )
but whatever. the administration of The Cool. emanuel’s story is truly fascinating, i mean even if he was old and disgusting. (* way better than the fiction books i’ve been reading lately, and i guess i should consider as mitigating circumstances that a) ondaatje annoyed me immensely; b) i’m getting interested in anecdotics etc, and the emanuels are all divas) it’s going to be one hell of a white house, if it starts like this. at least look up a good photo of him on huffpost, current page…of course part of me would like to assure everyone of the complexities of my sudden admiration, by sending you to read long articles, interviews etc. in chicago tribune and wsj etc. to see what i mean. the realistic part sighs and gives it up. but no shrug. i will never shrug about rahm emanuel:).
this week. tuesday, november 4.
versus the rest of the week, and the year.
it’s not change. change is not like that. i don’t feel more triumphant these days. maybe i feel nicer: because since wednesday morning i’ve probably smiled non-stop at work, my cheeks hurt, plastered in a rictus. sometimes it goes down cause i’m tired, but reappears in the instant of interaction: i thank everyone for everything. i get teased and complimented on my smile. but there is not an abruptness to it, as in yesterday i was sad today i’m happy. i’m probably not even happier: i „knew” we were going to win before, right? and obama is still guarded by the secret service and basically under threat non-stop, right? and victories fizzle out, and ok, maybe this is a short honeymoon but we all know what happens to honeymoons.
i’m not sure if people (and which people) expect an account from me on what i did and felt on that night, the cnn projections, the crowds. it’s simple: i don’t know what i felt. it was good because i could scream. i screamed a lot. in the yaletown brewery i positioned myself at the bar, under the screen, in a completely full room. in non-fiction i spent the last hour of the course with nadia’s laptop on my knees, after kinda announcing i wouldn’t be participating in the workshop. i let loose, and it was good while it lasted. but i was noticing myself doing what i assumed was expected of me. i noticed myself gasping, facebooking people from the bar, jumping sites to check maps, yelling stuff about senate races, talking to americans, hugging the only kenyan in yaletown (who, of course, was tearing up) but it was ok, because. we were winning. why not?
my voice almost went, and it was raining. after 4 beers, on the skytrain, the science world lights swung by dangerously close, and i was alone. who is the ‘we’ in yes we can, yes we did? downtown vancouver knew there was a president-elect obama, and they kept on their way to clubs, they kept walking in groups, soberly, chattering lightly. no one outside of yaletown jumped up or embraced someone next to them. and when i asked for directions, with my delirious eyes, and my smile, they didn’t even smile back. i wanted to put my tongue out at them, or take a stick and beat them. i knew in DC people were shouting at the white house gates, i knew in grant park they were trying to prolong the moment, later i saw youtubes of dancing in the streets in seattle. running on commercial in the rain, to sonja’s, i wanted to be in the US. (*not then: in general. it’s the US that i want – in the good moments and the bad). then a guy selling books under an arcade (at 11 :)), and i couldn’t help myself and asked. „you know obama won?” and he said yes, and nooded at me smiling, finally. a group was coming down and they cheered and gave me a high-five. further – empty. a girl on a bike passed by and looked at me and mouthed ‘obaaamaa’, but lightly, almost a whisper. i entered, and sonja poured me champagne.
i woke up smiling every day since. my boss gave me hot oatmeal to repair my voice. i smiled collecting newspapers from tables, folding them with the first family picture neatly on top. i thought about it long – the moment of the speech – and discovered i hadn’t cried. at all. lots of people cried for joy: apparently i only cry for sorrow. (cecilia, the boss’s wife, looked at one of the huge pictures, and what she had to say was, „poor guy, his grandma died”.) i see obama’s face, tired and deeply lined, his posture the moments before he spoke. somehow it makes it harder in retrospect to see what the cheering or the crying was for. the guy freakin’ just got himself a job. (and no, i’m not cynical. i’m trying to be…nuanced?…)
whatever. my point is that i understand elation, but when it lasts more than a few minutes it’s harder to understand. so i feel good. we’re better positioned for the US to get well under an obama administration. (again, what am i doing in the ‘we’??) and tuesday night was not the purpose for me. i’m still in it. for the serious and non-serious reasons. mumbling „president-elect obama” from time to time, tasting it like soft icecream. reading about the first presser, the cabinet, looking forward to jan 20 and beyond. it’s the only way i can adopt a country, apparently. by being a freak about that country, while i’m someplace else. (and yes it’s all my illusion & wishful thinking, thank you very much.)
but from now on it will be harder for me. silenter. i can’t expect any canadian, hell, any american, to keep up with these things as much as i’ll keep keeping up. i understand that the election caused interest (though, i mean, ‘canadian enthusiasm’ is after all an oxymoron), and that is over now. nevertheless. („yes we did” sounds way sadder than „yes we can”). but yes, we still can. it’s a fine beginning my friends.