Short Story: An Angel Passes By



As I am (slowly) putting my website together and applying for freelance writing jobs I have been going through a lot of my writing and trying to group everything together. I noticed that I hadn't posted this story, which is strange as it quite naturally goes with Autumn's Place and Of Instability and Growing Roots. I wrote them all about the same time and with the same frame of mind.
In any case, everyone needs a Marlena in their lives, just to make everything a little brighter and happier. Not long after I write this one Bat For Lashes released her last album, with the song Laura on it, and it really made me think of my own Marlenas. Cherish those friends forever.

An angel passes by ("un ange passe") is a French expression that always takes me back to moments in the dead of the night during my late teens with the friends I grew up with, that moment when everyone goes quiet, contemplating their own thoughts, and then all go back to their conversations at the same time. That silence that doesn't feel uncomfortable, but warm and fuzzy. These are the people that will always be with you, your own personal angels in your lives. I dedicate this one to those who aren't here anymore.



An Angel Passes By

She stood there in her little babydoll dress, her long, skinny arms wrapped tight around her body, as if she were protecting herself from an invisible force that was about to hit at any moment. Her eyes stared wide into the distance, somewhere away from what we could all see around us and her forehead was creased into a frown of concentration. This is always the image I will have of her in my mind, touchable but unapproachable. Surrounded by a ring of fire keeping her away from the rest of us.

She stood there in her skinny black jeans and black velvet jacket, cigarette smoke encasing her body and a bright smile on her face when she recognized a friendly face approaching her. Nothing fake about her smile – once bestowed upon you, you felt like you were the center of attention for a minute; that no one else existed but you in the world. There are so few people on this earth who have the ability to make you feel this way, that when you meet them you cherish their love for life, long after they have moved on to other places and other people. This is the other image I have of her, happiness and sadness, encased in that body with the beautiful face.

Some people leave and their memories fade over time, until they are remembered only when a photo is found, or a random memory pops into your mind. Other people leave a special legacy behind, one that cannot be erased by time, or alcohol, or drugs or age. All I need to do is close my eyes and conjure up her face and all the emotions I felt every time I was in her presence, even after all these years. Her foot prints can be found all over the world, in the many countries that she traveled to and the many people she met and loved along the way. She was never famous, she never felt exceptional in any way, but she simply made everyone she came into contact feel special for a few moments, and those few moments always lasted forever. Some days I walk through the streets of Manhattan and see a swish of long, blonde hair and a cigarette in a hand and my heart stops for a second. Maybe it is her? Maybe she is still here, walking and talking and dreaming and crying and smiling and just simply present. Maybe I can have one last hug, and this time I will know it will be the last and I will remember it forever. I never knew the last time she hugged me would be the last time I felt her touch and smelt her shampoo and perfume floating around me. If I had known, the last time I told her I loved her I would have looked her in the eyes for more than two seconds and would have made sure she knew that I meant it with all my heart. I hope she knew that before she left.

Marlena was one of those people that you felt had always been in your life, however long you may have known them. She arrived in my life randomly one night, a friend of a friend drinking in a bar that we didn’t often frequent. I didn’t really talk to her that night, she was wrapped up in a conversation with another person who didn’t want to surrender her attention, and then she left abruptly, hugging everyone as she made her way to the exit. A few days later I bumped into her on the street, and she smiled at me and invited me to grab a late lunch with her at her favourite restaurant. She gradually introduced me to all of the people she knew in the neighbourhood and I became part of the family of people working and living there. Marlena always had time for a chat, however tired or overworked she was. She had the ability to make me laugh and smile, even when I knew she was having a rough day. And when she was tired or unhappy, all I wanted to do was make her feel better, a small gesture, a hug, a cup of tea at 3am. Anything to get that look of pure gratitude she would give you on those days. 

There are no perfect human beings. If perfection really existed it would be a flat, boring piece of blank wood. Imperfections create the depth that makes someone human. As much as Marlena was an amazing person, she was definitely not perfect. She kept herself distant from certain things, and locked away parts of herself deep inside so that you could not even see a glimpse of them in her eyes. She would turn away when someone tried to get too close and shut down, wary of giving herself fully to another, wary of being hurt again, and having to deal with pain, again. But she would cry openly and sometimes let you into what her life had been and what she wanted to hide from. What she had finally got over and what she was still going through. She could be as stubborn as a bull and would butt heads with people with her strong opinions. I could not even count the amount of times I had seen her jump up and smash her fist on the bar shouting “but you aren’t listening to me!!!” and stomp off outside for another cigarette, ranting under her breath about idiocy and hypocrisy. But two minutes later she would be back, buying rounds of shots for everyone and laughing at the argument that had taken place moments before. There was never a boring moment in her presence.

Marlena taught me how to find the perfect beaches near the city, wild places where the waves would drag in shells and crabs and city trash, where you could sleep at night if you felt like it and you knew you were safe. She showed me special places in the city where the walls were painted with so much art you could spend hours just looking at them. I taught her where to find the best bagels and where to go to feel like you were in the middle of the countryside right in the city. She would sometimes disappear for a few days and apologise when she reappeared, always saying she needed time away, time to herself, time to finish a song, time to listen to her own voice in her head, away from others that were always crowding it. She would wrap her arms around herself and frown worries away until she could smile lightly again. Some days I would walk into her work and see how tired she was despite her smile and other days she would jump up in happiness and throw herself into my arms, a little ball of energy that couldn’t stop itself from showing all her emotions. She was just a normal girl, but one who created a special place in her heart for everyone.

“I think it’s time for a pint – who’s in?”

“Marlena – it’s only Noon! We have stuff to do today!”

“I said a pint, not 20, and I could really murder a Guinness right now. We can have it with lunch, that way we won’t feel like we are just drinking. And let’s call Robert and Liza and Sandy and the rest so they can join us!”

“OK – and here goes our productive Monday. Let the fun and games begin!”

Never a boring moment. Being friends with Marlena meant being friends with everyone she knew. And being friends with everyone she knew meant that you never really felt alone anymore. Some people you liked less than others, some you felt great connections with while others remained acquaintances, but everyone had something in common: Marlena. She loved to be surrounded by friends and watch them interact and be around each other. She loved to try and match make but hated it when people tried to do it to her. She didn’t get angry often, but when she did you could never see it coming until her rage had broken free. After you saw that you tried hard not to cross her or upset her. No one wanted to be on the other side of that!

When I put her in a cab that night and hugged her, telling her I loved her, she asked me to text her when I got home, which was always the last question she asked all her friends when they left the bar. Twenty minutes later I got her text saying she was home safe and getting into bed. She never made it out of bed alive. Her heart just stopped beating, gave up and sent her off to another place. There was no real medical explanation for this happening at such a young age, so we all ended up deciding that she was needed more somewhere else, and that she had given us everything we needed and everything she had to give. That doesn’t mean that I wasn’t devastated… It took me months and months to stop waking up crying and looking at pictures of her. I found it hard to walk down the streets where she used to always be, hard to be in places where I always wondered if she would miraculously walk through the front door. All of her friends banded together and talked about her and stayed friends, but it was always surrounded by sadness. Her presence was always around, but her voice could not be heard anymore.

Even now, years later, we always hold a Marlena party, a night out together where we drink pints, do shots in her honour and get completely drunk and silly. There are people who just won’t go away, even if they are dead and long gone. Marlena is one of those, an angel passing through lives, making them just that little bit better than they were before she arrived. Cherish those Marlenas as they are special people that may not be able to stay long. 

Catch some of their essence before it drifts away elsewhere – it will stay with you for life.

Ramblings: The "Traditional Sense of Marriage"


Scrolling through my Facebook feed the other morning I randomly came across a Frank Bruni article in the New York Times posted by a friend. The article in question is about Liz Cheney’s views on gay marriage while her own sister is happily married to a woman, causing a rift within her own family. That people have these anti-gay marriage views and choose to go public about them is fine in my book. I do not agree with them in any way or form and am happy to discuss my own views in public, but we all are allowed the freedom of our own choices and views of the world, and of other people. It wasn’t really the whole “Liz Cheney is against gay marriage” part that struck me, I’m not really that surprised, although I don’t really know how one can go from completely accepting your gay sister’s marriage to another woman, to then rejecting it in the name of politics. No, it was more the phrase “the traditional sense of marriage” that stuck with me.

My mind started reeling as it often does when faced with a question: what on earth is the “traditional sense of marriage” nowadays? I suppose it is meant to mean the union of a man and a woman with a following of children… Which I do suppose traditionally was what marriage meant in the eyes of a god of some sort. I don’t want so specify which religion and which god, because that will lead to a whole other discussion. So yes, the union of man and woman together til death do they part. The problem is how far back in time can we go to find this “traditional sense of marriage”? Back in the late 19th century, early 20th century, before women started fighting for the right to vote? Before the 1940’s when women started doing jobs that previously were reserved for men, and at the same time started wearing trousers en masse (oh the horror!)? Maybe that doesn’t count, because women were only doing those jobs because the men were overseas trying to save us all from the Nazis and the Japanese. Maybe the image that we get of the 50’s, before the feminist movement started back up again in full force, woman at home cooking and cleaning, father at work? 

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against marriage at all, nor anything against a family where the man works and the woman stays at home. I’m just trying to find a marker of what this “traditional sense of marriage” actually is. Because even within this “tradition” of man marrying woman there are so many levels of dysfunction/difference/anti-tradition that I don’t know where to start. Let’s start with divorce. If the “traditional sense of marriage” is based on man marrying woman “until death do us part” then technically divorcing and remarrying goes against any type of tradition. And therefore marrying again, even if it is still man marrying woman, is not a marriage in the traditional sense. Right?

If you think that the “traditional sense of marriage” can only be between a woman and a man because only a woman and a man can conceive together, then what about all of the married men and women who cannot conceive, due to infertility or other issues? What if they use infertility treatment, adopt or use surrogates? Sperm banks? Yet again, absolutely nothing wrong with this, but in the end, does this not defy any type of “traditionalist” views? If a man and a woman want a child so much that they will go to great lengths to have their own, what is wrong with two men or two women doing the same? Isn’t the whole point of marriage being a union between two people who love each other, and the whole point of having a child being a “product” of that union of love, a being that the married couple will raise as best they can, bringing into the world a little human that contains part of each of them. And that goes to adopted children too – by loving and teaching and being with a child you give them part of yourself that they will cherish forever.

It just gets more and more complicated. I certainly did not grow up in an environment where the traditional sense of marriage was observed (although my parents were married when I was conceived). I always wondered what it would be like to grow up in a family that I saw as “traditional”, and it always surprised me when I had friends who had a father and a mother and lived in a home where the mother didn’t work and the father did. This isn’t a bad thing at all – I cherish my upbringing and feel that it made me into who I am. And my friends who had more “traditional” upbringings loved to listen to my stories and were often jealous of the different experiences I had. In the end “traditional” or “non-traditional” we were all loved and cared for and given the best chances our parents could offer, despite any set-backs they may have encountered. Rather that than being part of those horror stories of neglect and abuse that we hear way too much of in the news.

I’m also not in a traditional relationship, even if I am a woman and my partner is a man. Sometimes we have to struggle with a past relationship still being present, and I would maybe like to get married later on, but this is not stopping us bringing a child into the world, and giving that child the best life that we will be able to provide for her. Because we love each other, and I think this transcends any type of wedding license. In my opinion that is. I don’t need to marry my partner, but I am happy that I have the choice to. If I loved a woman I would feel exactly the same way. Love itself doesn’t set standards or boundaries, does it? So why should we set them? When two people feel the same way about each other, why restrict them on their option to marry if they really want to? In this day and age what is still making people that love between two people of the same sex is wrong? 

Back to my main question… What on earth is this “traditional sense of marriage” today? I keep racking my brain and it just brings up more questions. Instead of preaching about how things should stay “traditional”, maybe we should start advocating change and showing the next few generations that it’s ok to be brought up in different environments with parents that may differ from the norm that was dictated to us last century. Let’s stop making children they are different because they their parents aren’t the same as other children’s parents. There is way too much hate in this world as it is, let’s stop creating it needlessly.


Book Review: She Matters by Susanna Sonnenberg


It took me a while to read this book, not because I couldn’t get into it, pretty much the exact opposite, just because it’s a book that can be read in installments, each chapter a story in itself, intertwined with all of the other chapter/stories to create a life in words. She Matters – A Life in Friendships is a collection of stories of Susanna Sonnenberg’s friendships that have come, gone and/or spanned a lifetime.

I had actually never heard of Susanna Sonnenberg before, and picked up She Matters one day while I was roaming around St Mark’s Bookshop for something new to read. The idea just really appealed to me, and after I had read the first chapter I wished it was the book I had thought of to write. It’s beautifully written, and a lot of the stories hit very close to home, mainly because of Sonnenberg’s complete ability to be truthful to herself and the reader. Some of the friendships she describes are balanced and go the distance; others end in tears, break-ups, or just sputter out along the way. Friendships that are built out of happenstance or a mutual interest; women who are brought together via a common cause, because they share the same classes or become roommates randomly after college. Some of the friendships have their ups and downs but settle down and become lifelong. Others last a couple of years and disappear due to neglect or distance. And others end in tears and pain, due to one or the other woman’s issues or selfishness. All are friendships that we can relate to – we have all had a Rachel, a Debra, a Louise in our lives. We have all met women with whom we have bonded immediately, women with whom we wanted to be friends no matter what, women who we disliked but then learnt to love. We have all had long-lasting and short-term friendships with women, and we have all had our hearts broken by a woman friend.

If I were to write a similar style project I think that I would not be able to only contain my work to female friendships that have shaped parts of my life, but I really love how Sonnenberg wrote and produced her work, creating a book that is both wonderfully written and so truthful as well as true to life that you don’t really want it to end. Very inspiring.

Ramblings: Spiritualized again...

I should have finished this well over a month ago, but as usual, I started something with the aim to finish it “at some point”. Thankfully it’s not a review of the show that took place on September 10th at Webster Hall, just some ramblings about sharing music with my unborn baby…


Everything I do nowadays has a “We” to it as opposed to just an “I”. For example, I am not just hungry (make that absolutely starving as if I may collapse hungry) in the morning when I wake up; no “We” are hungry and “We” must eat right away. Little Munchie has taken over my life in the most magical of ways and I will never again see myself as a person alone in the world. It’s amazing. Anyway, the point of all this is that I am now sharing absolutely everything in my life with my unborn child, one of the most obvious things being my love for music. I haven’t been to anywhere near as many shows as I would like this year, but that didn’t stop me from looking forward to seeing Spiritualized when one of my dearest friends bought us tickets as soon as they went on sale this year. I didn’t know I was pregnant then, but I did before we went and it felt so good to think that my child was going to witness the live performance of one of my favourite bands before he or she was even born. 

There are some bands or musicians with whom you have a really intense relationship, one that holds you so hard that sometimes you need to take a step back to reevaluate, just to come back loving them even more. That’s my relationship with Spiritualized. I have seen them many a time over the years, at different venues in NYC, been around them with friends in different locations in the city, and have never ceased to be entranced during each performance, tears in my eyes and a smile on my face. There are some bands and musicians you go to see just for the live music, others you prefer to stay away from as they are just better recorded. And then there are those bands that you want all of: recorded, live, live recordings, conversations, everything. That special music that you will never tire of, will bore your children to death with until they, at a certain age, will appreciate your love for them and may even start to love them too. I have a list of bands and musicians that little Munchie is going to have to listen to over and over again and will probably hate for some years (some on this list are actually musicians that my mother had me listen to before I was even born, so I am just continuing a trend over the generations). In any case, Spiritualized is on this list and I am so happy that I was able to experience one of their performances with my unborn child.

"If you feel lonely and the worlds against you, take the long way home, past the scary jesus, and you'll find my door with your name in diamonds, and you'll feel lonely no more" - So Long You Pretty Things  

A list of random Spiritualized-related memories in no special order (just the order in which they come to mind when I am thinking about the band or listening to the music in some form or another): dancing round and round to Come Together with Hannah at Terminal 5 back in 2009; running late to the show at Radio City Music Hall with Meg but not missing anything due to the disco ball falling from the ceiling a few minutes before the band came on stage (and therefore being yet another narrow escape for Jason Pierce); listening to Death Take Your Fiddle with Meg on repeat for days before marching (stumbling?) off to Darkroom for another night of the same non-adventures; playing Broken Heart on repeat for days and days on end to constantly remind myself that my broken heart wasn’t the only one in the world; receiving a signed copy of Sweet Heart Sweet Light in the post out of the blue from a friend in England; the way hearing Stop Your Crying will always bring tears to my eyes, every single time; reconnecting with old and special friends I haven’t seen in a while at a show, and not feeling like anything had really changed over the months of not speaking to each other; dancing with my now-deceased and very, very special cat Luna to Ladies and Gentlemen in its entirety the moment work got too stressful… Music, friendship, memories, connections, love, anger, happiness and pain. Spiritualized embodies all of that and more for me.

Other bands/musicians on this list are of course The Cure, Marianne Faithfull, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Stevie Nicks, Tim Buckley, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Nirvana, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, PJ Harvey… And so on…

Ramblings: The beach in September


I love the beach in September. Just after Labour Day the beaches are much quieter, and there is more room to spread out and enjoy the sound of the waves breaking on the shore (as opposed to people shouting and blasting music from every side). September has always been my favourite month in NYC (even though it signifies the end of summer and the beginning of autumn which is always followed on by cold, cold winters…): the air is cleaner and les muggy, the sun is still shining and warm and the nights are cooler. There really is nothing like walking barefoot in the warm sand, relaxing right by the water and soaking up the sun, never knowing if this will be the last time you will make it to the beach before the cold sets in.


The Rockaways have always been my favourite part of NYC. I’ve written many times about my trips to the beach, to Rockaway Park or Fort Tilden (when you could still go there before Sandy). A 45 minute subway ride from my home in Bushwick finds you in the middle of a lovely beach community, with miles of beaches to choose from, a perfect place to get away from the oppressiveness of the city and the humidity that coats everything through-out the summer. There have been years when I have spent at least a day per week on the beach, and then other years when I have struggled to make it out there more than a couple of times a month. I have to say that I have done better this year than I did last year, and mainly because I felt the need to support the place that I love so much after all of the devastation that happened there during Sandy. The first time I walked down the street towards the beach the boarded up places (especially the Sand Bar, a regular stop-off place for my friends and I), made me sad, although the fact that so many businesses were back open and ready for customers surprised me and made me realize how hard people had worked to go on with life even after part of it was destroyed. The beaches themselves were completely different. Smaller, with only partial boardwalks, the rest swept away during the hurricane. Fort Tilden closed for the foreseeable future, but beaches that were still accessible, comfortable with all of the amenities that one would need. I’ve always preferred the Rockaways to Coney Island – it’s more laid-back and less noisy (and there is always Pickles and Pies deli where you can buy sandwiches and fruit, not just places where you can only get fried food like hot dogs and fries). Coney is fun, but the Rockaways are my real place to go to, to relax and swim and be in the sun. 



I realised this week, listening to the Psychedelic Furs and contemplating the future while lying in the sun on Beach 106, that this is probably my last summer in NYC and that my future visits to the Rockaways may just be that – visits. There are oceans and beaches all over the world but this one will always have a very, very special place in my heart. Today some of the beaches are “closed” (although if you listen to the construction workers they will just tell you to walk over the dune and hang out on the beach – that no one is going to stop you from going there), but only because there is still so much work to be done to clean up after Sandy. I just worry that we will get hit by another super storm again this year… Or next year. Hopefully the work done will help avoid the extent of the damage that we all suffered last year. Right now a huge man-made dune has appeared all the way down the beaches, exposing a large pipeline (carrying water?), and the beach is even smaller, especially at high tide. But the same feeling is still there, it will always be the same place, no matter what the natural and man-made changes are… And it will always be a place that represents freedom, happiness and beauty in my heart. Hopefully I will still make it out there a few more times until the end of the month as I still want to finish a photography project I started using film earlier on during the summer. Fingers crossed that the weather will hold out until October. 



Ramblings: RIP Motor City Bar


Sometimes people ask me why I spend so much time in bars. To be honest, I don’t even really think about it that way – I’ve always spent a lot of time in bars, in all of the different countries I have lived in. It’s all about hanging out with my friends in a social setting. Where I come from and where I grew up, going to the pub or the bar was not about how many alcoholic beverages you could throw down your throat in the least amount of time. It was more about meeting your friends, getting a drink and catching up, chatting, being social. Drinking coffee and then moving on to wine or beer early in the evening. A bar was a place to meet up and talk, read, be together. After moving to the States I felt that bar culture here was a little different and that often a bar seemed to be just a place to get wasted and meet someone to hook up with. Luckily for me this initial feeling was dissipated when I found several bars that I could consider my homes away from home.

I have my moments getting very drunk in bars, and hooking up with not-so-random people and all the rest, but first and foremost it’s always been a social spot for me to meet up with my friends. I’ve met many of my closest friends in bars too, and there is nothing wrong with that, it’s not as if we only hang out in bars either. We met in a bar, met up several times aterwards, and then exchanged numbers, had brunch, dinner, went to a show, got to know each other and then became close. That’s how you make friends, or that’s how I make friends in any setting. Just because it’s a bar doesn’t mean that the friendships that start there are less worthy than the ones that may have started at work, or at the gym, or at a restaurant. 

Anyway, this is not supposed to be a post about bars in general but about one special bar that has been part of most of my life in NYC, a bar that I have spent so many nights in over the past 8 years and a bar that will always have a very special place in my heart, as it does in the place of many other people. This bar, Motor City, closed its doors for the last time last Sunday, after 18 years of existence on Ludlow Street. The one bar where on any night of the week (or any time of the night for that matter), you would find like-minded people and a DJ playing music that you would like. Even on Friday and Saturday nights, amidst all of the bars playing radio-friendly mush for the drunken weekend crowd, Motor City would still be rock n roll and a haven from everywhere else. 

So many memories, more than I could ever put into words, as one memory just divulges tens of others. So many friendships made and broken and reformed again, so many people passing through and moving on to other lives elsewhere, but often leaving there own mark on the establishment, and leaving with a piece of Motor City in them, never to forget the bar where they did more than just drink in. Because you always did more than just drink at Motor City. You danced and talked and wrote on the bathroom walls, you changed the world with words, discussed things for hours, jumped up on the bar and danced (well I used to for a while), heard songs you had never heard before and watched your friends scream and shout when they tried to beat each other at Miss Pacman. Injuries may have been sustained (a broken cheekbone in my case) and many a hangover suffered after a night at Motor City. Some memories that you probably would prefer to erase, but many more that you will cherish for life.

In my opinion there is nothing better than going into a bar by yourself, knowing that you would never be alone. Nevermind knowing if one of your friends may be there or not, just by the fact that you knew the barstaff and that they would always be there to chat and have a laugh with you, whether you were drinking alcohol or not. And I have to say that Motor City would not have been Motor City without the bartenders and the owners. Wonderful people who had been there for years and probably would have continued to work there if it hadn’t been forced to close down. People who always made me feel welcome and at home, even when I was at my drunkest, or when I was at my most sober. People who never made me feel judged or uncomfortable, and who I will miss not seeing in the setting of the bar, as this bar really was an integral part of my life. Even if, over the past few years, I had spent less time there than I used to do, mainly because I was working most nights on Orchard Street, but also because I was trying avoid running in to some people I didn’t want to be around anymore, the bar still felt like home whenever I stopped in. 

I stopped by the closing party, which was held a week before the actual closing, on a Sunday night after I finished work. The bar was so packed that it was nearly impossible to get a drink. I had a shot and left, as I couldn’t speak to anyone or really hang out there. Then I went back a week later, on the actual night that it was closing and it felt EXACTLY as it always had – a place where you went to have a lot of fun, listen to the music you loved and hang out with people like yourself. Or different, but that didn’t matter! My last memory of Motor City will be sharing a bottle of Powers and a few cans on PBR in front of the bar. Fitting memory for a place that never failed to remain the same, even when the entire street started to change. 

How many memorable birthdays have we all celebrated there? How many of us DJ’d there at least one night? How many times did you bump into, and hang out with people who play in bands that you adore? How many debaucherous after parties were held there? How many times did you end up there because there was nowhere else to go where you would feel at home? How many times did you walk through the doors and breathe a sigh of relief because the atmosphere never changed and you knew you could be yourself without feeling judged? And how many places in the city (especially on the Lower East Side) can you still go to and feel the same way? How many times in my life have I ever bought a new dress specifically for a Christmas party in a bar? (only ever for the MC Christmas party!).

RIP Motor City – you will always have a huge place in my heart. And thanks to everyone who worked there and who I met there who made the place into what it was.


Old Writing: The Beach (an ongoing love story)

While I am procrastinating about finishing some new pieces that I have been working on for a while now, I have been reading some old stories I wrote about nine years ago, just after I got back from Israel. This is one that just happens to be timeless, as it is a love story of mine that will never end or go away. Thankfully I don't live too far from the ocean nowadays, but I would love one day to live right by it, so close that every day when I wake up it is the first thing I see and hear.


(Written in August 2004)
What is it that draws me to the sea? I wasn’t born near the sea, I’ve never lived by the sea, well not until I went to Israel anyway. I just have an immense love for seas, oceans and beaches. The constant waves soothe me, the sand under my bare feet massages my unsteady spirit, and the sun making its way over the water releases a feeling of utter freedom in my heart. If I stay away from the beach too long I miss it terribly, I dream of sitting on the sand watching the waves, of searching for shells along the edge of the water, of making gigantic sandcastles with walls and moats.

The first two months I was in Israel, I spent them in the middle of the desert. On a beautiful moshav literally in the middle of nowhere, a kilometre off the main road, bang in between Be’er Sheva and Eilat. Oh yes, I developed a love for the desert, miles and miles of sand, mountains looming in the distance, a dry bush or tree here and there and a pounding, relentless sun, but I missed the water and waves.

So when I went to the Kibbutz Programme Centre in Tel Aviv in the beginning of September (2003) I knew I wanted to go north. Preferably by the beach. That’s what I asked for, and after being told there was room on a kibbutz on the road to Jenin the lady brought out another folder and handed it to me with a little smile.
There was no choice to be made really. Evron is situated 1km or so south of Nahariya, right up north, a very short distance from the Mediterranean and the train could take me all the way there. An hour and a half from Tel Aviv, a ten-minute walk from Nahariya and the station, 6 hours from the moshav, but no need for endless bus rides. A short phone call and it was all arranged, I was off to Evron. And for 7 months I lived on a beautiful kibbutz 10 minutes by foot from the sea. When you’ve lived by the sea once, you just dream and dream of living by the sea again.

I worked in the Dining Room most days, and there was a special part on the path going from the Dining Room to the Volunteer House where the sea appears suddenly on the horizon. Every day, rain or shine, when I got to that part of the path my heart would suddenly lift and everything would seem so perfect, even if only for a moment.

The first time I went to the beach I went alone. I had arrived in Evron the evening before, worked in the kitchen on my first day and was ready to explore the area. I walked into Nahariya, along the main road (I love walking, I’ve never seen the point in using a car or bus for short distances) and strolled along the main street, knowing that it had to end up at the beach at some point. There is a “river” running through Nahariya to the sea. It runs right down the middle of the main street and it was never really more than a trickle if not completely dried up (it did overflow once during a flash flood though).


I walked along the beach for a while, kicking off my flip-flops and rubbing my feet into the hot, coarse sand. The sand in Nahariya is unlike sand on most beaches around the world, its grains are big and coarse and stick to your skin like glue. Many a time I would come back from the beach with it stuck all over me. Knowing my love for the sea it was pretty obvious after my first contact with the beach in Nahariya that I wasn’t going to want to leave very quickly.

The weather was hot all the way until November, and I made many trips to the beach. Often with other volunteers. On Yom Kippur Andrea, Erica, Lotti, Haun and I walked in the middle of the empty main road, even sitting in the middle of it at one point for a perfect photo moment, and spent the whole afternoon sunbathing, paddling and searching for shells. It was on the beach that Andrea and I really bonded, and we would often walk along the water edge, chatting away for hours, making these outings into our own special moments together. I have to say that the friendships I made in Evron are some of the most special friendships I had made that will always be a part of me, even if we never meet again.

During the short winter months I made less trips to the beach, but still often enough. After my trip to Egypt in January, Isabel arrived in Evron and I made it my job (and pleasurable it was too) to take her under my wing and show her all of the things I loved. When I learnt she had never been to Nahariya I rounded up Fernando and Helge and we took her into town, along the “river” that had risen so high it had flooded the pavements and left them full of mud. We walked all the way to the sea on the little walls so as not to get stuck in the mud. The sea was particularly rough that day; I’d never seen the Mediterranean like that before, waves crashing onto the beach, the wind roaring. We walked along the mini pier, getting splashed by the salty water and took a picture of ourselves with the lights of Haifa in the background.


Another time we were all sitting on the beach, and both Fernando and me remarked one after another, without having heard the other say it, that the sea was more like a lake, the waves pretty much non-existent, just slight ripples from the breeze. The fact that the water is so unpredictable, calm one day, rough the next is uplifting to me. Whereas I crave stability in some ways, I enjoy the instability of nature as I find it soothing. If nature is unpredictable then I can be so too without having to worry about conforming with the rest of society. I need to be free and water makes me feel as if I have the right to be.

The weather changed suddenly in February and we were faced with a heat wave that went on for a few weeks, into the beginning of March. One Friday Fernando and I decided to forego the usual Friday night partying and headed off to the beach instead. We got Isabel, Helge, Indy and Maor to go with us and set off wrapped up warm, with the radio and the narguila. Fernando and I spent the whole walk ahead of the others, talking and joking, and when we finally got there we installed ourselves near the edge of the water, smoked narguila and looked at the stars. Nowadays every time I look at the moon and the stars I often think of that moment on the beach, a moment in time that will always be part of me. We cranked up the volume of the radio and danced like idiots in the sand, play fighting, singing, relaxing. Not really a beach party, but a special evening nonetheless.


If you went a different way to the beach, past the Kanyon and the newer housing estates then you would come across an inlet I discovered with Erica, a little cove-like area protected by rocks that I proceeded to call “my beach”. It was quieter than the beach area in central Nahariya and there were many shells and slimy rocks to climb on. I would go there to read and to think, alone, with Isabel, once with Maor too. That’s the beach I miss the most. The sun setting over the endless looking water, casting coloured reflections everywhere. Images cloud my memory, sharp as it is, Fernando finding sea glass for me, Isabel and Helge making an intricate sandcastle, falling asleep with Erica under the sun, walking along the water edge with Andrea, collecting shells with Isabel…

Tel Aviv must have one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. You can walk all the way up the beach to Jaffa, look at all of the weird, beautiful, normal and downright crazy people chilling out. Strolling along there with Judith, Ella and Eden very early one Shabbat morning; sitting there on Christmas Day with a hangover with Nick, Kirsty and Lotti; Sunbathing with Fernando in May before going down to Eilat… If I close my eyes I’m there. 

My dream is to live right by the beach, to be able to hear the noise of the waves every morning when I wake, every evening when I go to sleep. I would like to be able to look out my window and see sand and water. One day I will. You can take me away from the beach but you can’t take the beach away from me. One day hopefully. One day I will sit on my little porch and write stories in the sun, above the ocean.


Ramblings: The end of 2012 (and the beginning of 2013)



Last night I was lying in bed with the lights out, listening to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds No More Shall We Part, ready to drift off to sleep when I was suddenly transported back to 2001. Same music, same position, probably even facing the same direction, but thousands of miles apart, in a different country and a different time. It was such a weird feeling, being in two places, two times, all at once, showing me that some things just never really change…

2012 has been an interesting, strange, ultimately good, sometimes bad year, with moments of pure sadness and happiness, moments that I would love to relive and moments I would rather bury deep in the ground and forget forever. Some missteps, many bounds forward, quite a few stumbles and some big tumbles. I feel like I was very diligent in my writing during the first six months of the year, but let it drop to the background due to procrastination, a loss of inspiration and confidence during the last quarter. Although I do find that what I wrote over the summer and the autumn is better than anything I wrote last year. Some of it I am ready to show to others and already have done, other pieces will remain unread by anyone other than myself for a while. I have several different projects in the pipeline for 2013, but they will remain in my head until I feel ready enough to fully complete them. I feel that I have failed in certain ways this year and don’t want these new projects to follow the same trajectory. 

As with my writing, I started 2012 off with many photography projects, and since August haven’t really picked up my camera, let alone taken it out on a tour anywhere. I feel I made great steps forward when I finally managed to fully use the manual settings on my DSLR properly and start experimenting with different shots, but then lost all inspiration again. I took some film, remembered how much I absolutely adored black and white prints, and then lost interest again. I already have different plans for the New Year, and a new lens that will be arriving shortly that will hopefully help mimic my film prints on my DSLR. I am also intent on buying the Fuji camera that I have wanted for over a year now, once I finally save up for it properly. That won’t come until after my holiday in Jamaica though!

This time last year I was completely broke, trying (and failing) to make ends meet and trying to figure out what I actually really wanted to do with myself. Everything sorted itself out brilliantly after several stints working in different places, as I now work at my old job as well as in a restaurant right next door, and feel happy to be at both places. At least now I am financially stable again, although I still need to find a balance between work that pays the rent and everything else I want to do. I need to go back to writing at least 5,000 words a week, instead of less than 1,000. Finish more books again instead of tiring of them after 100 pages. Spending more time at home and being productive rather than on Orchard St getting myself into trouble. Finding my focus again this week after letting it go astray for months has been a complete blessing. Now it’s time to rein it in and wrap it around myself again, never to let it off its leash again.

Friendships come and go over time, but this year has seen the definite end of some and the beginning of others. The sadness from seeing some friends disappear is more than cancelled out by the blossoming of other amazing friendships. In my opinion friendship is never a one way road, it takes time, work, give and take on both sides, and while some people will surprise you with their consistency and love, others disappoint you with their willingness to give up in front of a hurdle that seems a little bit too high to step over. There are times that you need to take a leap to be rewarded, so if you never take it, how on earth are you ever going to really feel happy? Friendships that end are never a one-sided problem, they come from both sides, there aren’t any real right or wrongs, just not enough effort put in and probably not enough love to see it through to the other side. And, in a way, that’s OK. Time goes by, and others are always there, not to replace anyone, because one friend can never replace another, but just to take part of the love that you can no longer give to those who are just not around anymore. I feel like this year I have met some absolutely wonderful people who I can’t imagine my life without anymore. People who make you laugh and who care about you, who motivate you and who have the guts to tell you (kindly) when you are making a mess of things, and vice versa. I cherish these new friendships as much as I cherish the old friendships that are still going strong.

I’m not very good at summing up an entire year in a few words, especially not the last one, and some things are just too personal to post on here. Instead I will just post a few links to blog posts that I feel highlighted certain aspects of it, ups and downs, and leave it at that.

Words:

Photography:

And as I can never write a post without some kind of music reference, I will just post a link to a playlist I made for this year. All of the songs except for one were released during the year and all come from albums that helped me get through this year in one piece.

2012 in Music (direct link to Spotify)


Happy New Year! May 2013 be rich in happiness and productivity!

Ramblings: Inspired by a quotation...

I woke up and read this Roger Nimier quote on one of my friend's Facebook pages. It inspired me to write the following in the space of about ten minutes. It could be now, it could be 5 years ago, who knows... But it's all true and I think many can relate to it.



Descente aux enfers… Or is it ?

"Il est fréquent d'aimer les abîmes, il est juste de s'y précipiter, mais il est étrange d'accepter d'y descendre lentement, pas à pas, et d'envelopper cette déchéance d'une douceur qui trompe tout le monde et soi-même."
Roger Nimier

Rough translation (done in 10 seconds):
“It is common for one to love the depths of despair, it is normal to throw oneself into them, but it is strange when one accepts to descend into them slowly, step by step, and to cover this decline so gently that one deceives everyone else and oneself.”

It appears to be a sort of “descente aux enfers”, slowly, without even knowing where the idea came from, where the feeling started and what triggered such a pull downwards towards some kind of hell, but step by step it’s taking you there. It could be a way of controlling oneself, seeing just how far you can go until you hit a rock, maybe not rock bottom, but somewhere near there. Feeling like you are losing your mind, step by step, opens up certain visions to what you could or should be, and how you could and would make it. But, at that moment in time you don’t have the real incentive or power to actually stop it and climb back up again. When you are finally at the bottom, there are two real choices: stay there and probably just walk into an early grave, or look up and see what you are missing. 

It could also be a hidden cry for help, you want someone to notice where you are heading, but you can’t actually open your mouth to say it out loud because you can’t find the words to express what you are feeling. Or you feel too guilty to bother anyone with your own problems, which seem so much less serious than other people’s problems. You have a job, enough money to live on, wonderful friends and a place to live. So who will really understand the demons that plague your mind every day, or that feeling of walking through a thick cloud every time you are finally able to make it out of bed? Especially when you are one of the most positive people you know ten months out of twelve? Why would you plague someone else with your minor issues when they have much more important things to deal with in life? 

Or, then again, you could just not care anymore. Let everyone see how insane you really are.  Letting loose, losing control now and again brings some kind of fulfillment. When you are tired of looking after yourself and being responsible every single day, it often helps to go on a crazy self-indulgent and self-harming rampage. And then you wake up feeling like you lost a couple of days in your life and will never ever be able to live them again. You feel guilty and ill, but also kind of exhilarated and high – you dodged the bullet yet again and are still here to tell the tale. Back to reality and responsibility, back to life as you know it and don’t always want to live it.

All in all, it is a perfect combination of all of the above, and all in all, it is worth it to make it back up to the top, back to the other side. Because despite what we all may think at times in our lives, the sun always rises every morning and the rain does stop to bear blue skies and light, wispy clouds. Nights can be long, but days can be even longer if you decide to live through them instead of hiding until the sun goes down. I am too strong to let life get the better of me, and have too much to accomplish to hide away in the shadows.