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: 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…

Short Story: 9/11 - The Day the World got Darker

I don't know why I have never posted this one, but it was written years ago one September, as I remembered what I was doing on 9/11/01. I will never forget that day, nor how it made me feel for a few years after that. It's important that we always remember this day, for the horrific acts that happened, for the people who perished, for the heroic people who ran into the buildings to save lives, and for the aftermath of the attacks, all over the world. I know that I will never forget.

9/11 - The Day the World got Darker

It was just another day really… No classes to attend, no teaching classes to give either, so I was just sitting at home pretending to put together some research points towards my MA thesis, but really scrolling through the web on my slow dial-up connection looking for something interesting to read, and watching Derrick on the TV. Nothing better than a daytime German detective show dubbed in French to pass the time.

Until the phone rang.

“Have you seen what’s happening?? Attentats!!”

“What on earth are you talking about? I’m watching Derrick and drinking coffee. Want to meet up and hang out?”

“Put the fucking TV on. Someone has bombed the World Trade Center in New York. LOOK!!”

I groaned and changed the channel and then just sat there in silent shock with the receiver stuck to my ear. All I could see were images of smoke billowing from one of the tallest buildings in the world. I couldn’t even register what the reporter was saying, I couldn’t even read the words that were flying by on the bottom of the screen, but it appeared that everyone was in the same type of shock and no one really knew what was happening.

“Can you please come over right now? This is scaring the shit out of me and I don’t want to be alone here.”

“I’m on my way, will be there in 10 minutes.”

I sat there with the receiver still in my ear and waited. No one knew what was happening; the journalists were trying to scramble together as much information as possible and everyone was obviously in a state of shock and fear. And then all hell broke loose, a silence, and then the reporter’s voice saying that it appeared that another plane had crashed into the second tower.

The moment that that happened the world knew that this wasn’t a freak accident. Two planes flew directly into the WTC towers and exploded inside. I sat glued to the TV, trying to make sense of it all. There was no way on this earth that two aeroplanes had flown directly into the Twin Towers by accident. It was too precise, too calculated. I let my friend in, he made some coffee, and we continued to watch the news together, in silence. There was a hush, a chain of images and then the reporter’s voice, trembling slightly, announcing that there were two more planes in the air somewhere, two planes that had turned off their radios and were most probably heading for the Pentagon and the White House.

Then a plane crashed into the Pentagon. The images on the TV screen hovered between the Twin Towers with the smoke billowing out of them and the Pentagon where there were also clouds of smoke appearing from what looked like the center, and the reporter who was obviously as shaken as we were, civilians all over the world watching in horror as the biggest terrorist act ever carried out was taking place, live, before our eyes. Three planes crashed into important American landmarks, a fourth plane still in the air, possibly heading for the White House. All of those people dead and dying, all of those people trapped above the flames and the smoke, waving for help out of the windows so high up in the sky. I saw something black fall from a window, and then another, and realized that people were jumping to their deaths rather than waiting to burn or die of asphyxiation. There were no real words to describe all of the feelings that were going through my body at once, pain, sadness, confusion, disgust, anger and also the feeling that this couldn’t be real.
Then there was a rumble and all voices stopped talking, and as if in silence, one of the towers just collapsed into a huge cloud of dust and debris. It didn’t fall down sideways, but floor by floor, as if a huge hand had come out of the sky and shoved it down from above. I say in silence, but only because I heard silence in my head, the world had stopped and the impossible had taken place. 

“All of those people!! Oh my God, all of those people!! How could they survive with THAT falling on them??”

And then the same rumble, and the collapse of the second tower. I just hoped that those who were trying to escape the second tower had made it out, because all that was left was clouds and clouds of smoke and dust. The TV went silent for a second, while the commentators tried to gather their composure and explain what had happened right there, in Manhattan. Visible on screens worldwide, the entire world population had been able to see a terrorist act gone completely right, probably even better than had been expected in their wildest dreams. More images on the screen, and then the reporter giving us news of a plane that had gone down in Pennsylvania, probably the last hijacked flight that had fortunately not met its intended destination.
I continued to watch the scenes, listen to the words, hoping that it was all a huge farce, a prank to see how gullible we were. I was speechless. My friend refilled my coffee cup a few times and went out to buy cigarettes, as I couldn’t move. Couldn’t eat, couldn’t really formulate any sentences. I realized I was in shock and then felt terrible, as I was lucky to be thousands of miles away, in the comfort of my little apartment in France. But then again, how safe was I? How safe were any of us anymore? Planes had been hijacked before, not one, but four in one go, right under the eyes of the American officials. Before this plane hijackings were used as a way to extort some kind of deal, money or other (apart from the Lockerbie bombing). When had hijacked planes been used as deliberate weapons to kill? The name Osama Bin Laden was said over and over again, as many times as the images of the attacks spiraled over the screen. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t even think straight. I finally got through to my mother in California, and she had only heard the news when she got to work, had been spared the horror of seeing it all happen on live TV. I saw those people die when they jumped from the top of the towers. Flying through the air, all hope lost.

I continued to watch through-out the night, fell asleep to the same images that I woke up to. All regular TV shows had been suspended and the news reports kept coming in the rest of the next day. Death tolls and interviews and pictures of women running for their lives, covered in dust and debris. Statements from different terrorist groups, images of people weeping and people cheering, a collective feeling of horror in most places, chants of joy in certain countries. Death is death. It kills you just the same. I couldn’t wrap my head round the enormity of the acts, the change that they brought to the entire world. The day those planes crashed into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, and into a field in Pennsylvania, was the day the world changed. No country was safe anymore, and no country would ever be safe again. Ever. During the Cold War we feared nuclear attacks, but we also knew that they would never really happen, neither the US nor the USSR wanted to commit that much damage and death. Not really. But on September 11th 2001, a new evil emerged from the darkness and bared its teeth to the world. There would be no warning, no amnesty and no guilt. You were going to die, wherever the fuck you may find yourself in the world. 

I lost the little hope and optimism I had left that day. For weeks afterwards I was obsessed with watching the footage, over and over again. I followed the war in Afghanistan with baited breath, with some anger that it had taken such a terrible act to actually care about what was going on in Afghanistan. I think that I couldn’t help feeling like it was too little and too late. I started to stay in as much as possible, just in case something else happened. The TV was on day and night, with me waiting  for the next attack, the next images of death and destruction and hatred and sorrow. A plane disintegrated above Queens and all of the national TV channels went on high alert until it was determined that it was just a “regular” crash, based on some kind of technical fault. Engine failure.

I started suffering from brain failure. My slow decline into depression that had started months before took a nosedive, right down into the pits of the dark world that surrounded me. There was no hope left inside. Food tasted bland, and I couldn’t concentrate on anything apart from the news, terrible chick lit novels and my thesis. Sylvia Plath? Why not, I mean I was more than willing to crawl right under the bell jar with her, snapping it tightly shut. We could breath the same foul air together, but at least we were protected from the outside world. Three CDs on eternal rotation on my CD player: Tim Buckley’s Greatest Hits, Tom Wait’s Used Songs and Bob Dylan’s Desire. A Tim Buckley cassette compilation I had made was in the shower, nothing else. The Cure’s Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me on my record player in the living room. I couldn’t drink alcohol anymore, it just made me want to vomit. My dreams just turned to nightmares, so it was better off I didn’t really try to sleep, just toss and turn and think of death and how much warmer it felt than life.

How can something so much bigger than you, something that effects the world as a whole, something that triggered events that would never end, wars that had no meaning, more death, more hatred, more despair, affect one person in such a way? Why did  not let it change me for the better, why did I crawl away into a hole and hope that I could hide away in death, because life had no more happiness to offer? I felt like I was wasting away, I withdrew myself from my friends and stayed in my apartment, cuddling my cat and watching the news. There was no more hope. What happened to the girl who was an idealist? Who lobbied for the rights of the Tibetan people in front of cinemas and bars? What happened to the girl who tried to talk to everyone about the fate of the Afghan women under the Taliban? What happened to the girl who cared, who wanted to make a change, who wanted to make things better?

She lost hope. The day those planes crashed into those buildings was the day I finally lost the will to survive.

“Want to go out for a drink? I’m out with the boys at the usual bar, everyone is asking about you and is wondering why they haven’t seen you for a while.”

“Ah… I’m in my pyjamas. It’s too late, I have class tomorrow.”

“No you don’t! You have one class a week this semester, and don’t use the thesis excuse, I saw how far along you are. Take a night off, come out and have fun. Please. I miss you. We all miss you.”

“Don’t just say that to make me feel better love, I know you will all have fun without me. I… Just… I just can’t right now. I don’t feel well, I feel like I may puke and just want to stay in bed. I love you.”

“I love you too… I’m worried. I’ll bring you coffee in the morning.”

Click. 

What did I say? Lost all hope.


Ramblings: August in France



Amidst a time when a lot is going on in my life, and where there is a lot of uncertainty in the world, I have chosen to write a piece based on a nostalgic feeling I had the other day while I was eating toast with Kiri cheese on it, to remember my favourite month in France, the month where everything seemed to slow down and, contrarily to nature, nights seemed longer and days shorter.

August was always my favourite time in France, especially in Grenoble. The city would empty itself of people, running away to long holidays in the south by the sea, or into the mountains where the haze of city pollution would disappear, making way for fresh air and blue, blue skies. The weather was always hot, often muggy, the humidity broken up by spectacular thunderstorms that would throw bolts of lightning through the sky, sometimes right to the ground in front of you, rain would pour for an hour and then before you knew it everything was clean and clear and silent again. For a few days. Afternoons were for drinking coffee and/or cold pints of beer “en terrasse” of a bar somewhere in Place du Trib, or the Champollion or L’Excalibur if we are talking many many years ago. Mornings were for sleeping and/or working, watching the news and eating a light lunch, napping for a few hours in the heat with the shutters closed. Reading books and writing poems and stories, listening to music and watching series on TV until it was time to go out and grab coffees and beers and see what the night had to bring us. 

There were the days of lying by the pool in the hot sun, or hiking up the mountains to the cooler air, or just driving (or walking) up to the Bastille and having a picnic or barbeque up there, looking over the city and waiting for night to fall and the stars to light up the sky. There were days of hiding in darkened rooms, waiting for the day to go away, listening to Type O Negative and Sisters of Mercy and The Cure with some Slayer thrown in there, wondering what kind of parties the night would bring. There were afternoons spent at friends’ apartments, eating late lunches of pasta and vegetables and cheese and yogurt and fruit, smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee, chatting about life and relationships, love and anger, and where we would be in 10 years time. There were afternoons spent in my apartment with my best male friend, watching American crime series and talking about how we were going to change our lives and go away somewhere special and start over. There were those afternoons when we would go and watch movies at the cinema, just to get away from the stifling heat and sit in the cool of the air conditioning.

And then there were those August nights, mostly spent going from one bar to another, to someone’s apartment, to some area outside in the city, by a statue or a fountain, in a square, surrounded by other people enjoying the summer night. We would grab bottles of wine and beer, and sit in different spots around the city, daring ourselves to get up to some kind of mischief, looking for parties in different apartments, ending up dancing the night away at the Dock or the Mark XIII, or just standing on the bridge over the Isère, feeling the light movement under your feet and singing to the breeze. I remember one night, during one of the infamous electrical storms, just after watching The Craft with a friend, standing on the steps of the St Louis church across from the FNAC, watching the lightning hit the ground right in front of us, and instead of feeling scared, just feeling euphoric. Nights that would end at 5 or 6am, when the sun would start rising over the mountain tops, and the air would feel fresh and clean for about 10 minutes until the heat and the pollution would kick in again. 

I miss those afternoons where everything would shut down for three hours after lunch, where you could walk around in silence and just hear the tram bells ring from time to time and some cars drive by. I miss those days of eating warm bread just out of the oven, nabbed from the still-closed boulangeries at 5am, I miss those days when it felt like nothing else really mattered and when there were no real responsibilities, well not until September started again, and with it school and university and jobs and real life. And so now, until September starts in a few days, I will continue to dream of August nights in Grenoble, of real French food, of time spent with friends of long ago, who are still friends of today, of cheap wine and laughs and mountains and magnificent thunderstorms, of dubbed TV series and of music that I still love today…

Ramblings: Bring Me the Summer Rain


It has been pouring down with rain all day, one of those summer days when it rains and rains and the sounds of thunder can be heard from time to time, somewhere off in the distance, far up in the sky. Clouds ramming into each other and creating noise and fresh rain that land on the ground and produces an aura of hazy fog and intense humidity. It’s not cold outside at all, just refreshing. It’s one of those nights when you just want to stand outside and feel the rain on your face, jump in puddles and not care about walking home soaking wet, because in the end it’s only water and having wet clothes is not the end of the world.

It reminds me of those summer days years ago, back in France, when the sky would literally open up after a few very hot days in August, and the rain would break up the humidity and let you breathe again. It reminds me of the days when I would take off my boots on a whim and jump into a fountain in the city centre, laughing hard and pulling others in with me, and then walking home barefoot, shoes in hand, soaking wet, still laughing. There was one fountain by the train station that would shoot up at different intervals and different heights, and it was so much fun to jump through it, not caring about having to spend the rest of the night in wet clothes and with no shoes on.

I still feel as carefree as I did back then. It’s the kind of life I chose to have. I don’t feel any regrets about those choices, I don’t wonder what would have happened if I had chosen another path very often (although sometimes I do daydream and imagine myself in other locations and living another life). I feel happily surrounded and content most of the time, letting the fluctuating weather calm or amplify my moods, emotions and feelings and breathing in the fresh air conceived by the drops of summer rain. And when the rain stops I will smoke a cigarette, barefoot on the wet ground, watching the humidity rise from the ground as the heat dries the puddles up until the next downpour.

As much as I love the sun and the heat of summer, being by the beach and swimming in the ocean, feeling relaxed and full of energy, the summer rain always brings a rush of adrenaline, and a rush of power, a feeling that you can overcome everything you need to. It breaks up bad moods and lets you feel reckless and careless, a little loss of control, the ability to let go for a while. However old you are there is absolutely nothing wrong with jumping with both feet in the middle of a huge puddle with a big splash. I don’t think I will ever stop doing that, and if that is childish then so be it, I shall remain a childish adult.

I'm singing in the rain, Just singing in the rain, What a glorious feelin', I'm happy again, I'm laughing at clouds, So dark up above, The sun's in my heart, And I'm ready for love, Let the stormy clouds chase, Everyone from the place, Come on with the rain, I've a smile on my face, I walk down the lane, With a happy refrain, Just singin', Singin' in the rain - Gene Kelly

Photography and Nostalgia: Scanned Pictures - 1993 to 2004

Me, Grenoble 1998Auntie Dot in Melton 1994Zoe in Manton 1994Dylan in Loughborough 1994Koss and me, Oakham 1994Koss and Zoe, Oakham 1994
Zoe, Simon and Koss, Manton 1994My room, Sassenage 1994School courtyard, Grenoble 1994Rebecca, Champollion 1994Alice and me, Sassenage 1994Me and Karli, Sassenage 1994
Me, Grenoble 1995Worshipping the Docs, Grenoble 1995Rebecca, Grenoble 1995Cannibal, Pascal, me Grenoble 1995Andrew, Grenoble 1995Goth Jade, Grenoble 1995
Pascal, Grenoble 1995Shannon, Grenoble 1995Cannibal Corpse back patch, Grenoble 1995Spontaneous mosh pit, Grenoble 1995Karli in my Sepultura t-shirt, Grenoble 1995South of France, 1994
Scanned Pictures - 1993 to 2005, a set on Flickr.

A few months ago I purchased an amazing little tool called the Wolverine Photo Scanner (see link below for more details if you are interested). The tool scans negatives and slides into .jpg format photos that you can then load onto your computer and post online. So for the past few months I have been scanning all of the negatives I have managed to save over the years and over the multiple moves from country to country and apartment to apartment. I finally finished uploading and labeling them all this week as I had a bit more downtime than usual, with it being Christmas and all.

The photos are a mix of moments in time, taken between 1993 and 2004, mainly of people and places in my life at the time. The amount of nostalgia felt while labeling all of the photos was intense, as there are moments that I had forgotten about, and moments that I will never forget as long as I live. Some people come and go over time, others remain around, however far away you may live from each other and however many months pass between conversations. The photos are all mixed up, as I didn’t have the heart to sort them by year, so you may find an image from 1994 in our old house in Sassenage, France right next to one of me and my volunteer friends in Kibbutz Evron in Israel in 2003. I feel as if this entire set is a snapshot of a decade and of the changes and non-changes that may have happened over those years. I thought about making a playlist to accompany the set, but it would have taken many hours and would have been too long to accomplish before the end of the year. Maybe a project for 2013?

Before I post an obligatory piece about 2012, I felt a real, old-school nostalgia piece was needed, not only because I feel that it helps me to collect all these images in one place, but also because a lot of my friends are probably going to appreciate seeing these, especially as at the time none of us had cell phones and cell phone cameras, and I was usually the only one who would take photos during our random nights and days out…

Take care of all your memories. For you cannot relive them. Bob Dylan

From our house in Sassenage, through the apartment in Ile Verte, Grenoble right through to my first apartment alone with my best friend and roommate Maud, my home was always the main meet-up place and place to hang out for me and my friends over the years. Cooking up pots of pasta and sauce and smoking hash in the Ile Verte, listening to metal into the early hours before going out to explore the huge graveyard down the street; making mulled wine and listening to The Cure on vinyl at our place on the 5th floor at 5 Rue Crépu in Grenoble; standing on the balcony and belting out parts of Mozart’s Don Giovanni to our neighbours at 4am; playing tarot around the table talking about the world and how we could change it…

Walking through the streets of Grenoble with bottles of wine in our hands; sitting on the steps of the FNAC and the church waiting for something to happen. Trips up to the Bastille and nights spent drinking in bars until we were drunk enough to go dance in a club up in the mountains; Paris with Maud and dancing to Bauhaus in a basement bar; electro-goth nights in Grenoble and Lyon; Nick Cave in Lyon in 2001 and standing speechless in front of him, because what on earth can you say to someone you adore without sounding like an idiot? Months and months spent on a kibbutz in Israel, making new lifelong friends and drinking cheap Russian vodka, dancing on tables until 5am and getting up at 6am to go to work in the kitchen. Walks and naps on the beach in Nahariya; talks around bonfires and an 8 day trip around Egypt with $150 in my pocket. Visits to my family in Sacramento, California, meeting up with old high school friends and realizing that some things never change. Little Luna cat as a tiny kitten, still the same little Luna as she is today, 12 years older. Working in the pub in Empingham, England; hanging out in the graveyard and talking for hours; walking around Rutland Water and waiting for the next big thing to happen…

There are so many moments I could write about, so many moments I have already written about and made into chapters of a book that I may or may not finish one day, and I love having a visual reference to these moments in time and to the people I shared these moments with. There are about 400 photos in the set, and there are some people and photos missing because I somehow lost the negatives along the way, but the ones I chose and/or found really portray a great view of our lives at the time.

“Memories are what warm you up from the inside. But they're also what tear you apart.” - Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

 

Ramblings: Siblings

I've been terribly lazy about writing all week, blaming the fact that I am tired on my complete lack of concentration. It's not like I am lacking in inspiration - I actually have a lot of it at the moment - I just can't seem to sit down and just write for a few hours. I need to refocus my attention on what I need to accomplish over the next three months. This novel is never going to get written otherwise, and if I want to move on to something else I need to at least finish the first draft.

For some stupid reason I always seem to get inspired about certain topics when I'm in the shower. Not exactly the best place to immediately write things down so that you don't forget them, so I find myself repeating them over and over again until I have finished washing my hair and can jump out and write notes on some random paper/magazine/bog roll that is hanging around. Anyway, the other day I was thinking about brothers and sisters and family and everything those words entail in my life, and in the lives of those that I love, and was inspired to write something. Sometimes it's just so much easier to express yourself with written words rather than spoken words (in my opinion anyway - I tend to be quite crap at expressing myself at the best of times).

Remember that time when you and your little sister shared a room when you were kids and were always dancing and singing to Elvis Presley and fighting about who was going to marry him (never mind that he was already dead and had been for quite a few years)? That time when you thought your sister was a doll so you proceeded to go and try to pull her head off while she was sleeping, just like you did with all your other dolls ( I WAS 2 at the time, so cannot be blamed for thinking my sister was just a big doll)? Or that time when you got home from school to find your little brother had finally been born and was sleeping peacefully in his cot? Not that he remained peaceful for long - he the fantastic ability of screaming the house down whenever he needed to. What about that time when you and your sister walked into an empty bar, and your sister went up to the DJ and asked him to play Bauhaus because it was your "happy music"? Yes, he did play Bauhaus and Siouxsie for that matter, and we all ended up going to Yaffa Cafe for breakfast and I put Tabasco on my sister's eggs for a laugh while she was snogging one of the guys somewhere else in the restaurant. What about all those times you and your brother would have drunken conversations at 4am your time and 1am his time? Actually, I think that's more like one-sided drunken conversations, because I doubt he had been drinking most of the time.What about the time you went on a road trip from Sacramento to Santa Cruz with your sister, and just as you were driving into the town Dead Skin Mask started playing and you both ended up doing crazy air drum and air guitar moves while shouting along to the song to the amusement of the people walking down the street? Or that time when you went on a roadtrip to Bodega Bay and made your brother run/roll down the sand hill multiple times so you could get a good photo?

There are so many memories, good, bad, funny, interesting and just plain weird. I've lived pretty far away from my siblings for a long time now, but we text/talk/write/comment on each others posts every day. My brother is the only person up until now who has read all of the 123 pages I have currently written of my novel and took the time to write his comments down and send them to me. We've all been through so much shit together, even not speaking to each other for a while, but it always ends in hugs and tears and more hugs and tears. I tell my sister everything and know when she's not doing well, even if she hasn't told me how she is feeling. Whenever I feel the slightest bit lonely (and it is possible to feel that way in this city, even if there are always things to do and people to see), I know that I'll always be surrounded by my sister and my brother, however far away they are. I'll be in California for 2 weeks in June, and I know that we will have a million laughs, probably fight a few times, complain to each other about each other and create more memories that I will probably end up writing about over the next few years. Then I will be back here in NYC, and they will be over there in Sacramento and we will continue to count on each other forever, even when we fuck up and hurt each other.

Ahhh... I was just thinking back to that rave we went to back in the 90's, when we drove for hours and finally found it around 5am, then got kicked out by the police at Noon, only to drive all the way back to Grenoble in the boiling heat... And when I decided that one NYE that it would be a wonderful idea to drink a bottle of Baileys followed by a bottle of white wine followed by a bottle of cider and my sister tried to cover for me when my mum called from the party she was at because I was puking my guts up...Every time I think of a story ten others follow suite.

I don't even know why I am even writing this... I guess I miss my siblings more than usual at the moment and just know what a blessing it is that they exist in my life. I get that protective older sister feeling (even though I feel like they spend most of their time trying to protect me from getting hurt by everything) and want to be there to make sure they are always happy. Sometimes I fantasise about living nearer them in California, but I know that NYC is my home now and I would miss this place too much. I wouldn't miss the winters or my family so much, but I know I would miss my home too much.


Maybe I will just go and call both of them right now.

Music: Leonard Cohen - Old Ideas


I’m a little delayed on writing this one. I’ve listened to it many times since it began streaming on NPR, and then when it was released on January 31st. One of my most anticipated albums for months, I feel like the music world has been blessed with both excellent new releases by both Tom Waits (Bad As Me late last year) and now Old Ideas by Leonard Cohen.

The lyrics of Going Home, “Going home without my sorrow, going home sometime tomorrow, going home to where it's better than before” are just so simply beautiful. Take off everything that weighs you down and disguises you and walk free towards home, wherever home may be. Death? Maybe. Another world or life? Maybe.

I grew up on Leonard Cohen, quite literally. I inherited all of the old vinyls from my father, stepfather and mother (now in my lovely brother’s care), and have turned to his music and lyrical poetry so many times in my life that I don’t think I could even remember why. Famous Blue Raincoat and Chelsea Hotel #2 conjure up images of sad, rainy and grey days in New York City, walking up Park Ave from the subway, trying to rid myself of the constant heartache I was feeling at the time. Everybody Knows remind me of a trip back from Bodega Bay with my brother, the song starting minutes after we had both told each other stories that neither had managed to tell each other before. Dark roads, unknown secrets and Leonard’s soothing voice keeping us going towards the next destination. First We Take Manhattan takes me back to England in the 80’s, in our old flat by the churchyard, not knowing why certain events had happened and how I was ever going to forget or forgive them from happening. I could go on for hours…

I have seen Leonard Cohen perform just once in my life, and it will still remain the best show I have ever been to. Radio City Music Hall in May 2009. Over 3 hours of an absolutely amazing performance. This is all I could say on my blog back then, and I think I will keep it at that right now:

“Leonard Cohen was amazing - I am still in awe of him and his performance on Saturday night. I really can't describe the feeling of seeing someone you have pretty much admired and adored all of you life, performing in front of you. So I am not even going to try. I will keep the jumble of superlatives stuck in my head and leave it up to you to imagine.
Leonard Cohen. On stage. Yes.”

So, Old Ideas. Another wonderful collection of Leonard’s poems and music, not that I expected anything less. His voice alone has the tendency to reduce me to automatic tears when I hear it, and surround me with memories, despair and much hope, and this album does exactly that. Although low-key in sound, it is never simple, on the contrary it is full of metaphors for death, God, spirituality, love, despair and hope. Somehow it feels like an end to something, not as much the end of life, but maybe a final chapter in a life, the emphasis being on the article “a”. The background singers sound like angels, and the occasional use of an organ and the simple guitar sounds bring calm and serenity to the words that go from bleak to self-deprecating to even happy at times. Ten beautiful songs that each tell a story in the usual Cohen style. Just listen to it and dream – I know you won’t be disappointed.

Leonard Cohen Official Website

Leonard Cohen on Facebook

“You know it really is a pity, the way you treat me now; I know you can't forgive me but forgive me, anyhow. The ending got so ugly, I even heard you say, "You never ever loved me but could you love me anyway?" I dreamed about you, baby, you were wearin' half your dress I know you have to hate me but could you hate me less? I've used up all my chances and you'll never take me back But there ain't no harm in askin', "Could you cut me one more slice?” from Anyhow



The Park - place of sanctuary... Memories

We all had one growing up. It may have really been a park. It could have been a playing field, a graveyard, a railway embankment, a tree house, a forest. Just one place where you and your group of friends would meet up every day, lounge around for hours talking about everything and nothing, drinking beer, smoking hash and watching the hours roll by in great company.

A typical day in the life of outcasts teens, lazy, depressed, happy, sad, motivated, silly, young, old beyond our years... Countless hours of talking about the next gig we were going to, who the best guitarist in the world is, who the darkest 19th century poet was, about boys and about girls and about how we were going to afford the next packet of cigarettes and the next bottle of cheap red wine.

Our park was in the centre of the city, kind of in between all of our high schools, but right next to the private Catholic school a few of us went to. I had already dropped out of my school by that time, 1995 was the year of skipping class and then just never going back, smoking a lot of hash and drinking a lot of wine and beer, skipping through the park, contemplating the clouds in the sky, dating cute metal or goth boys and all signing our names in the little children's house with the slide. I must have had an awful reputation with the teachers at that school nearby as they used to try and drag my friends who went there back to class whenever they hung out with us all there. We were harmless, just different.

One night Alex and I decided that we were going to climb the fence and "break in" to the park... We did it, and walked through the trees in the pitch dark, pretending that we weren't scared when we really were, but unwilling to back out of the dare because we were trying to prove something to ourselves. At that moment we just wanted to run away to another country together and forget all about our lives, living another. Of course that never happened and I don't even know what he is doing or where he is nowadays, but that memory will always be imprinted in my mind.

Another time little skater Marion and I smoked a joint with some random guy and couldn't move for hours from the grass. Literally couldn't move. I suppose there was some lesson to be learnt there but I didn't learn it. The smell of burning Afghan hash still immediately brings me right back to the park and the memories of all that we left there.

Of course we weren't the only group to hang out there, there were other groups, but we never mingled with them. I think we all used to sneer at each other. Them at us because we wore ripped jeans and listened to aggressive music, and the boys had long hair and the girls smoked and swore. Us at them because we thought they were all boring and we felt inferior. We didn't fit in and they did.

My park is in the middle of Grenoble, France and it has a big fake elephant in the entrance. It's called the Jardin des Plantes (there is one in every French city) and is next to the Natural History Museum. The private high school is called Pierre Termier, my high school (lycee and college) was called Stendhal and was located just down the road (although my section has since been relocated). Some of my friends at the time have disappeared into their lives and away from mine, some are still very, very good friends and others I hear from now and again.

I'll always remember the time we drank bottles and bottles of beer in the afternoon and just stuck them upside down in the grass like a sculpture and left them there... It's amazing that the park keeper never banned us!

Dreams (edited from a 2005 piece)

I recently found this piece I had written in 2005. I edited a slightly to be more in tune with me today, but it remains so relevant...

Dreams

What happened to your dreams? When you were younger you would sit in the park and dream the afternoon away. A joint was nice, a can of beer a plus, but neither were needed. You were just content to lie there in the sun, chatting to your friends and watching the world go by.

Not anymore. Is it all part of growing up, losing this carefree nature? I don’t mean I was happy as a teenager, far from it. I was driven by teenage angst and anger; trying to figure out why I was the way I was, why I was still alive, why I couldn’t just let go of certain parts of my past and live like a free person again. I could honestly go on and on about how depressed and messed up I was. But I also had a good circle of friends who were all going through the same kinds of problems and we all soldiered on. We felt happiness so easily, holding hands, smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee, walking barefoot through the grass, crowd surfing at metal concerts, wearing ripped jeans, pretty tops and lots of black eyeliner. Crushed but invincible at the same time.

Quiet but loud, obnoxious but so right, ready for anything, scared of everything, first boyfriends, first explorations, old minds in teenage bodies, bad poetry, wine and hash, mad dancing in the rain, staying up all night in parks… If you think about it I haven’t really changed all that much. I’m still as cynical and sweet, but just more intelligent. Actually I don’t think that is the right word. More realistic, less pessimistic but also less optimistic, but still so idealistic. I’ve learnt and am still learning, my skin has a few more lines now, but I’ll always have my smile.

My dreams haven’t gone anywhere as they have always been quite simple. Be happy and make other people happy. It’s a quest that will never leave me. It doesn’t take much to make me happy, being with those I love, being in a country I love and being near the ocean. The dreams just weren’t as defined back then, ten or twelve years ago, but they are still here. I may have spent years trying to run away from them, but the just keep following me everywhere, never giving up.

I often still feel like that teenage girl inside, maybe more worldly, calmer, braver, tougher but softer maybe, but still Jade. I can still crowd surf and dance on tables, but I’m a little more outspoken and a little more guarded. But don’t be mistaken, when I am sitting at the bar, drinking my cranberry and soda and watching the world go by, I am still dreaming away and wondering what the next steps should be...