president obama,

ianuarie 21, 2009

may the disenchantment be not quick, not deep, not tragic.

things i did/saw in san francisco

ianuarie 1, 2009

k, here’s for a short list of SF niceties, to celebrate the end of this wishy-washy year:
– sunlight: i was simply standing with my eyes closed and my face turned up, absorbing the sun. of course, magnolias and lemon trees and bushes of anonymous colorful plants, and palms all come with the territory. i do see the point now of people having their winter holidays in warm places!!! i called it ‘recharge’.

– city lights bookstore: i was expecting something much more flashy and crowded with tourists. not that it wasn’t flashy, but it kept a degree of decency well. and the jk alley.

– chinatown at night. absolutely ridiculous. even nicer when you realize that ‘night’ is only 6 p.m., so all the stores are still open and crawling with tourists.

– a homeless-looking person approaches me after dark on columbus, and i probably flinch, or smth. though i don’t mean to, duh. and he says, „clueless! you’re wearing a stupid hat and a stupid bag and you are clueless!” i laugh and say, „you have no idea how right you are”. and i take my hat off. and the following days (i have a fever all through) i walk hatless. and i buy a new bag.

– the beanbags at my hostel, the theater (our receptionist recommended ‘sicko’ as being the lightest docummentary they had in stock – and he was so right), the lounge (reading fareed zakharia – i knooow! – and a ‘paper’ ‘onion’; the breakfasts- esp. waking up before the cream cheese was out. top bunk. there! (feeling very young on account of ‘living’ in a hostel?)

– sales on clothes – apart for the madness, i found a new favourite : crossroads trading. i actually checked, and they have stores in seattle and portland too, so, extra reason to visit seattle. i half-mean it!

– gallery sightseeing. i’m not good at it, not being artsy, but for god’s sake i was staying on a street full of them: you went out of the hostel and towards union square, you’d pass by about 20 galleries. same at the fisherman’s wharf.

-SFMOMA: seen from the yerba buena gardens, and then the top floors, yay. story: a palestinian artist asked other palestinians who live in various places in the world but are forbidden to go ‘home’: „if i could do anything for you in palestine, what would it be?” – and then went and did those things, and put together a project showing it. ok, i’ve got more stories like this one.

– yoshimoto nara postcards. just because.

– running downhill, laughing like crazy. multiple times.

-the graffitti on valencia – more than those in haight, probably. (hmmm, i still have to come to terms with the haight that i saw. dunno.)

– on market street, there’s a wall with a slogan which i used to see every time i passed, from the bus: half of it says „love will solve all your problems”, the other, upside down as a reflection of the first half, says „love will always let you down”. the day before leaving i realized it was the last time i was seeing that wall, that slogan. that i was missing san francisco already.

– berkeley – the endearing lukas-eliot-ness of it, on a very very warm, t-shirt weather, morning.

– music in the street: a couple of kids under 10, i guess, playing drums at the corner of market&6th; a dreadlocked guy playing/singing an obama song on bottles and cans, corner of union square. guitar players practically everywhere.

– there is a post office in macy’s basement!!! macy’s is an absolutely self-sufficient fortress. HOW??

– sunday market at the civic center

– sitting (unexpectedly, duh) through the first 10 minutes of mass on sunday 28 at st patrick’s cathedral. i even sang kyrie eleison or smth. man, those people can not handle their latin, even when they read the responses. i had kind of wondered how that went…not well.

– ‘san francisco’ t-shirts at 1.88 dollars each. they should really pay people to take them!:) and, a pier 39 store called ‘making history’ – i am not kidding – full of obama merchandise. in the shop window, a lifesize cardboard obama wearing a t-shirt that reads ‘i ❤ michelle obama’! (should i mention that i never NEVER talked about obama on this trip?! never.)

– people approaching me with „you must be european. and this is a compliment”.

– the guy at valencia 826 found a way around a cliche: „good morning! and how are you today, on a scale of 1 to 10?”

i was an 8.5.

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.)

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.


climax of my year 2: yes. we. did.

noiembrie 9, 2008

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.

i’ll never be X: non-hipness panic attack

octombrie 5, 2008

happens maybe once a month. last month it didn’t happen, because i was busy with other stuff, and also because, it being a new beginning kinda thing, just the walking on main or commercial offered me a taste of the illusion that i could become that. the X. maybe, this time around.

in july and august (i don’t remember) maybe i was busy wishing i was more of a good wife type. i don’t remember. maybe not, and i’m just being mean, or patterning. maybe again, that will slip out my mind now that i’m here, and just because it was not only unattainable: it was non-desirable, except for the one circumstance. and now it is entirely non-desirable, so rest in peace. back to the other neuroses.

in june, it was all „i’ll never be miranda july”. and now i’m revisiting it. i’ll never be julia, never be anja, or alex. (i am home alone, and eating nectarines, and trying to discover new music, pretty much blindly, and sobbing a bit. of course.) i even spelled „el beit” wrong, and all of a sudden, who would’ve guessed, it’s all back to „el beit”, and to how i could have (maybe) seen new york, but i saw nothing. no i’ll never be cool, never be attuned. i’ll always come to find out three months later what the joke was about – and usually it was exactly about this kind of situation. i could write my personal essay about this. since it’s been dragging on for years without a clear focus, or clear models, and how it’s all here aligned.

i mean after one year it’s kind of annoying to be still the fresh candid voice, occassionally useful in whipping THEM out of permanent smugness; and the rest of the time, oh, pretty much drooling.

(canadians who read this: it’s not even an interesting composite story. there is a story nevertheless. it’s my ‘american dream’, parts 1 and 2 :), including the miranda july story i’ve told some. but i do still think mj is emblematic for the core of this; because she extracts success out of potential defeat.

i did come here knowing nothing, expecting everything. expecting to absorb like a sponge things that are subtle, that are fad-ish, that are layered, in the absence of a style and personality that allows it. some people just are good at it, i told matt, and he agreed. i’m not. i’m slow. i care. i want it too bad. i can’t join in, with anything.i don’t have the time, i have nothing much to offer.

all that everyone else thinks is valuable in me, let’s get straight here: i don’t dispute it. probably there is something, mixed in with the weakness and embarrassment and whatever, and all these bovarisms. i just want to control it, instead of letting it get me into deep shit every time.

own your freaking power.

i’ll never be a hip writer. i’ll never be a hip teacher in whose class everyone fights to get. i’ll never be in with the „el beit” crowd, or whatever they call themselves these days. but what the fuck, someday the ones who matter  will want to be in with me.  i  ‘am’ a writer, and a kitchen help, and a friend, sorta, and a dependent daughter, and a rude classmate, and a weeping willow. somewhere here, and in the future,  and NOT in the first part of the paragraph, are all the damn answers, so there. done?

NYC: day by day (2)

iunie 27, 2008

DAY 6, june 20 – black construction workers are building a big house right across the street from matt’s place. i’m sitting at the livingroom table writing early morning, then finish a joan didion novel and start on another book. matt takes me to sandwich bar for absolutely huge sandwiches + free coke, and he puts cocorosie on for breakfast, so i’m somehow on the Prague – TIFF (‘after hours’) loop again…again and again, those are the coolest things i’ve been, and maybe just because of the heartbreak within them. matt books my china bus and boston hostel for me, and i tell him my being autistic theory. he’s so amused by that, that he’ll keep calling me ‘autistic kid’ forever, i guess.

so afterwards all i do that day is go almost straight to williamsburg, where i roam around bedford street (in and out of shops, hipster-watching and bookstore envy and all) then i go and read in ‘el bait’ but not for very long because matt comes to meet me, and he’ll take me to this concert in this cool place, 10 dollars cover. i stop for a painful five minutes to reassess the state of my frayed budget. try not to make a big deal out of it, just because. but it’s there. but we agree that it’s not THAT important. but it’s a shadow on a lovely day. so we go to the concert to ‘monkey town’, where we sit on low couches arranged along the walls, with stuff projected on screens all over, and we have wine, and a girl comes and sings, and then we get to the bar where we keep having/splitting glasses of wine and beers. also, we talk about miranda july. again.

the night was all about what is essential to matt – it was about asking him questions. no one could have planned or envisioned it that way. patient, sarcastic, snarling (yes all at once somehow), with a lot of twists and pauses, and with rain when we got out to go back to brooklyn social, and a long walking phonecall. incidentally, or not, the end of my NY honeymoon, matt said that night that nowhere is home.

but people are shining points on our world maps.

and no i don’t think i’ve lost the love of my life. but it was a relief to say it.

DAY 7, june 21, Boston – hah. nothing much to say. arrived late, lost my watch somewhere on newbury street, it was very very hot, i went by the river, back bay- prudential-hynes-symphony area. all nice except i felt like a dummy deciphering the map, with no idea what is what. at fenway park they were just having a red sox game, and the celtics apparently had just won big very recently, so people must have thought my green dress was a costume 🙂 . talked to my hostel roommates a bit (an american girl , a taiwanese couple, later at breakfast couple of indians.

DAY 8, june 22, Boston – very very early start, subway day pass (that subway is a joke!! i totally enjoyed being bustled in and out of shuttles and redirected though), old town. market, harbor/waterfront, bits of freedom trail. in the afternoon, museum of fine arts, very nice (and free, ha! and everyone got a wonderful T-shirt saying „corporate culture” – i’m wearing it right now!! yes i’m cooped up in the basement so don’t worry.) then all i could think of was, do i want to go to harvard???

duuh. i did go. i guess anyone could have told you/me that i wouldn’t resist the idea. not very academic thoughts though: i was trying to figure out which building they used in ‘good will hunting’ for the girl’s dorm; also wanted to find harvard law school; there were groups of students and i kept wondering if it was research trip. also, at the h. bookstore i saw buttons with writers’ names. (but no miranda july, no; though not only classics – some very contemporary as well, i had heard of all of them – sigh of relief). it’s nice there, all spread out and…ceremonial – that’s the boston air. i did like it. also, at harvard station about 5 (white) women were having a bake sale for obama.

i’m transcribing something i wrote in boston commons that evening: „my purpose is never to take time off (off what??) to feel good about myself – it’s to take time to find new and marvelous ways in which i can be inadequate.”

DAY 9, june 23, back to brooklyn: i took and earlier bus than was supposed to (fung wah bus: on this day a woman was crushed to death as she was waiting to board a fung wah at the same place i had, in chinatown NY – but i only found out later) and arrived around 4, camped on the livingroom couch because mary was back home. at 5 matt woke up and came to talk and so we’re out in the backyard for a cigarette. („how was it?” – „i lost my wristwatch!” – „who cares?” – „exactly! it was good!” – „did you go to harvard?” – „yess!” – „i knew you would.”). so i’m appeased. i suddenly and overwhemingly feel super-fine. we go back to sleep til noon, and at some points i wake up, it rains with a vengeance, the workers across the street keep at laying the bricks though.

next, we have breakfast in red hook, at ‘baked’ (the best lemon scone in my life), then i wear my obama T to go up to columbia. i think what the hell, but i never expect the reaction that sweeps me through a whole whirlwindy afternoon. i’m thinking my face must communicate that something’s going on, how important my columbia pilgrimage is to me, and finding the hungarian pastry shop. i’ll question myself later as to why. (of course this is one thing i’ve imagined – and it didn’t correspond at all). everything is just quick. first i get stopped by this guy originally from ecuador who wants me to talk to his daughter on the phone. then lots of people are smiling at me (at the T-shirt, i know) and one 50-ish woman high-fives me in the street. i pass through the campus, but fear stopping, a minute even, i just can’t make it, so i just circle around amsterdam and phone matt every hour. i find the fountain, and the HPS, but there’s just not time for lingering, because we’re meeting ben at 7 in east village. i somehow still manage to tell about 3 people on the terrace, while i drink my coffee, the story of how my friend used to come here often while he was at columbia. (but he doesn’t want to anymore. and i see how that’s easy: upper east side and brooklyn are as apart as 2 different small countries.)

so yes, a long time on the subway, wishing i could have teleported myself and just stayed a bit more at the fountain. or on the library steps. actually wishing that sitting on the library steps didn’t feel illicit or ‘stalkative’. but oh well. these three women talk about obama’s giving up public financing right next to me, and about VP choices, i smile and one of them says „yes we’ve seen your shirt.”

with ben at ‘loreley’ and finally ‘good world’ again. everything becomes positive drinking, because ben (i.e. someone else) is around, and i’m going to let no guard slip, no matter how much i drink. and i manage to be proud of it. and i manage to understand and like „good world” better on a second look, although acquired tastes do take a lot more ‘acquiring’ that i’ve had the chance to have. also, ben and matt speak romanian for a while, and it makes me feel good. (me and matt speak some romanian routinely, or slip from one to the other, but it’s really efortless for me, so i don’t know how serious it feels. but i’m always amazed at how well they manage and how little they seem to have forgotten. )

DAY 10, june 24 – breakfast at brooklyn bread; last time ever that i see mary, and jeff (maybe not jeff, though). grieving. last time w4th and washington, bleecker, jones, 7th…doma…i wander around like a beaten dog. two girls in DNC shirts want to make me contribute to the obama campaign. it’s a hot hot day- then of course it rains, while i’m already in brooklyn, in prospect parc (lots of groups again, and a dog beach, and a woman with her easel, painting the lake). it stops as abruptly, so i walk down 9th, park slope i guess, and i’m back in red hook. not really sure what i’m doing. grieving is a good word. first the other side – brooklyn social, abilene, then fairway, waterfront, baked, the sandwich bar, coffey park,.and i’m back home to trying to not even look at bonz and trout much, to packing, while matt is ? working? talking a bit?. there must be a last day for everything. it was beautiful and didn’t hurt. then i’m suddenly on the cathay flight, surrounded by yelling 3 month-old asian kids. things never end, really.