Writing: The Story of a Dream

Usually when I am having a nightmare I tend to wake up, turn around and go back to sleep, forgetting the nightmare and dreaming or not dreaming of something else. Same thing if I am having a nice dream - if I wake up in the middle I will never go back to it again. For the first time in my life (or I suppose that I can actually remember) a few weeks ago I had a dream that ran through 8 hours of sleep, multiple eyes-open-I-am-awake pit stops and actually had a real beginning and a real end. The nightmare-dream was so vivid and real that I can still imagine the scenes today... In any case, this is not a short story, just the strange dream in words. It was as if I was living a movie that I was watching in my head. I'll just keep this as a reminder of how brilliant our imaginations can be when we let them loose.


A Story of a Dream
Two years ago
They sound like loud fireworks, the kind that the city lets off on the 4th of July. But there is no coordination or choreography to these gunshots, mortar shells or bomb explosions. They go on and on and on and then stop. Just when you think that it’s safe to venture out to find lost ones and food and water they start up again. Daytime, nighttime, dawn, dusk; it never ends. The ground shakes, the dead pile up and the pillaging goes on. The electricity has now been out for weeks and radio communication is sparse: batteries have all but disappeared from any of the shops; shops that have no owners or employees anymore, and practically no food, dry or fresh.  All that is left of my apartment is a shell of a building, first it was attacked by snipers and then a large bomb finished it off. Troutman St, Jefferson St, Bushwick Ave – they all look like a war zone in the Middle East, not like the residential part of Brooklyn that they were six months ago. I fled with my cat, a blanket and a few belongings last week, over the Williamsburg Bridge to join some of my friends in Union Square. Our places of work have been closed for weeks, all of the alcohol gone, rats roaming over the Lower East Side eating the crumbs of what has been left behind to rot. 

What happened? One day everything went about its business as normal, the next nuclear missiles were flying all over the world, hitting the most random of targets and setting off what would become a war that no one could make any sense out of. No strategy, just a race to see who could kill the most people off in the shortest of time. Instead of uniting in fear and politics this country has become its own civil war zone, groups of people fighting against each other for no other reason than a need to be bigger and better. The government has long since disappeared into silence, maybe dead, maybe hiding, and we have no way of communicating with anyone within the city, let alone outside of the country. I have no idea how my family is faring, and now my only thoughts are on survival. Survival of myself, my cat and my close friends, the ones that I have been able to remain in contact with.

A few of us have created a little fort in front of Union Square, piles of boxes and bricks, a safer place to sleep, especially when we are huddled in numbers. There are fewer bombs dropped on Manhattan now, but the sniper dangers still exist and we are all scared of what could happen to us at any moment. Food is so scarce and the last bridge went down a few days ago, so, unless one of us can find a boat we are practically stranded on this island that has no light, no public transport, scarce food supplies and no working hospitals. I’ve seen people throw dead bodies into the rivers, just because there is nowhere to bury them on the island and the stench of the rotting flesh was beginning to putrefy the air over the city. We have nowhere to go and nowhere to stay. People are setting up homes in the tunnels of the subway lines, in broken down and bombed out buses and houses. Our Union Square spot is unsafe but none of us have been able to find a safer place to rest yet, our main concerns are staying alive and finding food and water. Those who didn’t know how to shoot rapidly learnt and we use bottles of whiskey and cigarettes, stolen from our bars when we knew that we would never go back to work in them again, to barter for food and firearms.

Two Years ago
Two days ago the fighting got worse again, and a group of heavily armed individuals moved into Union Square just as a general protest was starting up. I hid in our shelter with Luna while the sounds of explosions get louder and louder. At one point someone broke in and tried to carry me away with him, obviously not with any honorable intentions in mind, but I fought and screamed and a good Samaritan heard my cries and fought him off for me. We ran away down a side street and hid there until the fighting moved away. I went back to find my friends and grabbed those who had made it through, probably never knowing if those who are unaccounted for are dead or alive, hiding out somewhere else. We had become so used to having instant communication via text messages that now we don’t know how to handle the fact that once someone disappears you may or may not ever see them again.

One year ago
Seven of us found an apartment in an unfinished government subsidized housing building up in the far northern area of the island. It was supposed to be one of those high-end buildings with a pool and a gym and laundry rooms and upscale appliances in each apartment, constructed for families in need of a cheaper rent. Of course there is no running water and no electricity, but we are making do, the seven of us and my little cat, who has survived all of this with us. She roams around the building, but always makes it back within a few hours, sleeping in my arms or in her travel bag, the same one she used to refuse to get into. Now it is her safe spot. 

We have started to organize ourselves into a larger group of like-minded individuals, other people who don’t agree with the fact that this is the way that the world is going to revolve from now on. The group of right-wing people who have taken control of the island are only concerned about power and wealth and killing anyone who won’t agree or act according to their rules. Anyone who is part of the ruling party has running water and electricity again, while we continue to live day by day, in fear of being caught and killed. There is no way that I can live like this, hiding in a hole, not doing anything but surviving. We meet up in established safe houses, communicate via message drop offs and plan actions that will overthrow the “government”. I remember when we used to complain about our democratic government, back before this war and chaos, but at least we had our freedom. Now all we have is each other and our plans to do everything we can to create change again. I always wonder what life is like in the rest of the country and in other countries. Have whole nations been wiped out, places taken over by dictators and despotic rulers hell bent on creating a world that only belongs to them? Have other countries managed to build themselves back up in unity again? 

If we have to resort to physical violence to stop the horrific happenings around us we will. I am no longer against the use of explosives and guns to bring some kind of good back into what is becoming pure evil. They don’t hesitate to torture and main us if they capture us, one of us died in their hands, his head stuck on a pole in the middle of Union Square, right wear the public demonstration was squashed last year, as a reminder of what they are capable of. There are other families who are also squatting in the building but we all tend to hide from each other, as no one dares trust anyone except for those close to them. And even then our greatest fear is that at some point, as we grow, a mole will find its way amidst us and will quash our revolution before it is even underway. We are mainly in the planning area now, uniting different groups together so that we can act as one. Politics are put to the side for now; it is going to be the People against this evil that has penetrated our world. We remain positive that we will be able to overthrow them, as it will be a mass against a small group. They may be armed to the teeth but we are not afraid to die to ensure that we have a better life again. 

I walk around the city in constant fear that I will be caught and taken in, randomly questioned about why I am not working in one of the work force groups around the island. Every foot I take outside is a risk, and the alleyway of steps near our home is full of lurking shadows. I carry meeting notes and maps and important information around with me, information that I leave in drop boxes and secret pick up locations. If I were to be caught I would be tortured. Or if I were attacked by a random stranger for money or food or just because he/she felt a need for violence, and were found with incriminating documents they would surely sell me off to the party, for a few crumbs and a feeling that they helped find another one of us revolutionaries. Luckily there are more and more people who feel like us, and not as many people who live for fear and violence.

Now
It’s finally over. Or maybe over isn’t the exact word to use, more like there is a new beginning in the air. The party was brought to his knees and we have put a group of people in their place, not a real government, just an interim group of people who will bring back some kind of normal life to this island while we create new political parties and voting systems. The streets are safer nowadays and some cars have returned, although it will take a while to get the electricity and water running everywhere again. We now have boats running over to Brooklyn, Queens and New Jersey and a preliminary mail service on horseback has been set up. I still have no idea what has happened to my family and they all probably assume that I am dead, but in the future I hope to make my way across the States to find them, once I am happy with the stability of life in New York. I can only assume that there are nuclear bomb craters all over the States, cities that have been wiped out and other cities that are fine, just cut off from everywhere else. Or maybe there is nothing left out there?

I still can’t really walk down the street with confidence and without an inkling of fear. There still are shadows in the corners and lurking conflicts. The streets are much safer than they were last year, but there is still a lot more work to be done. People will not feel completely secure until we have a strong and healthy government in place, and this is something that may take a while. Sometimes I wish I had kept a lower profile as I know that there is a price on my head out there somewhere, but it was necessary, just for the greater good of this city. I’m just ready to leave for a while, travel and find out the fates of my family members and other missing friends.

Now
While waiting in line for food rations near the old Post Office building in Midtown she was killed by an acid bomb. He came out of nowhere, pushed me aside and threw the bomb at her stomach. Amidst all of the chaos he got away, and she died fast, with so much sadness in her eyes. I will continue the mission she was so invested in, and I will also search for her family members so that they know exactly what she accomplished and how she helped a cause that was necessary. Résistance toujours!


Ramblings: (R)Evolution

I’ve been obsessed with the show Revolution this month. The end of the world/major changes in life/dystopian and utopian views on life themes are often recurring in my writing and I like to imagine what life would be like without all of the comforts that we are used to, and without all of the elements that we take for granted every day (hot water, electricity, public transport and so on). The whole point of this show is to portray life 15 years after a never-ending black out that is completely widespread around the world. Without electricity everything falls apart and has to be rebuilt again. Or does it actually get rebuilt?


Can you imagine not being able to travel anywhere unless you it can be done on foot or by horseback? Or not being able to contact anyone via any form of mail or phone anymore? Basically imagine going right back to the Middle Ages, but even worse as there are not even ships to travel over the seas with, because they have all been destroyed by militias, or used for firewood. The loss of hundreds of years of evolution, to fall right back into a time that we have only read about in history books. Of course, the show itself is a little far-fetched, and it is made by the same guy who was in charge of bringing us Lost, but at the same time it gets me thinking. What if this really happened?

How many times has the end of the world been predicted, down to a specific date, just to go by and not happen? We have another one coming up very soon, in just a couple of weeks, and I doubt that anything will happen. At the same time I feel like many people I know, including myself, have been going through some strange transition phases at the moment, phases that is full of gloom and problems and sadness, that seem to trap you and pull you down like quicksand on a stormy beach right before a hurricane hits. The positive in me says that everything will get better and that we just need to push through the cold and make it back to the warmth again. Then the negative says that it’s never going to get any better so we had better just lie in bed and never get out from under the covers again. The positive is finally winning on the negative though, I find it impossible to stay down for too long, as there is some kind of invisible force from within that shoves me back out into the world and puts a smile on my face. Anyway, how can you help others who have it worse than you when you can’t see past your own troubles?

I’ve always been interested (maybe obsessed is a better word…) in revolution and uprising. Rebellion against what you feel is forced upon you and the idea of making a change for the better. Not that the better always happens, as so many human beings are too selfish and hell bent on gaining power over others in reality, but the idea that it exists makes me happy. I suppose that’s how I have always tried to live my life – by what I think is right. Although I suppose what I think is right may not be what you think is right, and if you were a fundamentally bad person then I would have to get rid of you. Or something along those lines. In any case, I digress. Back to the subject at hand, that of the world as we know it changing in such a way that we have to change our lives completely in order to live in it. What if all of a sudden the lights do go out without any warning, never to come back on again? What would your first reaction be? Disbelief? Straight into survival mode? Would you help others or just focus on your own well-being and safety? It’s impossible to really know until you are actually right there in the situation, but it’s way to interesting a thought to not speculate on how we would all survive. However, I can’t really imagine not being able to contact my family and friends who are far away ever again. That thought is too hard to fathom and too scary to even contemplate. But I do like to think about the rest of it… Where would I go, how would I find my friends, and what would I take with me if I left the city? Do you just leave everything behind and start over somewhere new, a new person in a new world? How would I live without being able to listen to music everyday anymore, or know what was going on elsewhere in the world, or even the next city down? There are so many stories to be written about these types of situations, stories that I should start writing down instead of keeping in my head. Maybe on paper instead of online though, come to think of it… At the very moment that I am writing this our internet decided to go down and won’t come back up again, which I find a little spooky, even if I know it probably has no connection whatsoever. Another thought comes to mind… Do we often imagine these end of the world scenarios just because we want something different but can’t find a way to make a change? Is it really impossible to make changes on a smaller level, instead of waiting for the world to explode (or implode for that matter), to rebuild what we have wanted to change forever? We always talk about remembering events of the past so that they never happen again, how about predicting them so that they never actually happen? Interesting concept, one for another post as it is time to make vegetable stew and mashed potatoes while I still can in the confines of my kitchen within the haven I call home. 

The main question that remains is… If all this really does happen where shall we all meet so that we don’t lose each other? Orchard St? 


Books/Graphic Novels: Sambre by Yslaire

Keeping in line with the ongoing French theme of the moment, I suddenly thought about an amazing series of graphic novels that my old friend and one-time roommate Maud had introduced me to years ago. For some reason I have never been all that drawn to graphic novels, or BD as they are called in France (the acronym for "bande déssinée", literally a "drawn strip"). Apart from Tintin (who I absolutely adore) and Asterix, I never really read many graphic novels growing up, or still even today. When Maud started going on and on about a graphic series called Sambre that I had to read I wasn't really interested. Until she gave me the first one, and then I was hooked. I don't know why I suddenly thought of it today of all days (going through my thought process it sounds a little like this: rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 8 - seeing Beth's Buffy graphic novel - oh my god remember that wonderful French graphic novel series I read back in France?). I couldn't remember the name, so after a little research via google.fr and then the FNAC website I found it. Sambre. Should be synonym of both beauty and despair.


 The main storyline is based on the torturous and condemned love affair between Bernard Sambre, a young man from a bourgeois family in France, and Julie, a beautiful vagabond and daughter of a prostitute, who has red eyes, something that incites fear in many a heart. The series follows the couple's descent into despair in the midst of the 1848 revolution in France. Bernard and Julie cannot be together, but cannot be apart, end up finding each other and then leaving each other, willingly or not, time and time again. The drawings are reminiscent of all the19th century had to offer: dark, powerful, romantic, decadent and full of doom, with a touch of hope here and there. Bernard and Julie, as well as the many characters that surround them, are beautifully drawn, and it's very easy to fall into their world of fire, pain, love and glory. It's unfortunate that the series has never been translated into English, although it would require an excellent translator who understands and feels the story to do it properly (in my opinion). The drawings are amazing, but the words are just as important in setting the scene and the characters.

After that short description (which really doesn't do the series any justice to be honest), you probably understand why I fell in love with it. Gothic doom, unrequited love, 19th century? Say no more. Best read with a background of Berlioz. I have only actually read the first four, as there was a long wait for the fifth one to come out, and I left France before it did. Now I need to add them all to my list, and more, as, according to Wikipedia, there are other series out there, and others in the works, all based on the Sambre family, post Bernard and Julie.

Sambre is a compound word, created from the words "sang" (blood) and "sombre" (somber). The title of the first book in the series is "Plus ne m'est rien...", a phrase that conjures up exactly the way I feel some days. Actually, some old friends of mine released a song of the same name back in the late 90's, which happens to be absolutely beautiful and I think now is the time to listen to it. This band is actually very, very dear to me, for many different reasons (and not just because I grew up with some of the members). More about that another time...



Links:
Bernard Hislaire on Wikipedia (it definitely sounds translated from French though)
Sambre at the FNAC


Book Review: Dance the Eagle to Sleep by Marge Piercy


There really is something about Marge Piercy and her writing. She literally TALKS to me. I've already talked about how much her novel Gone To Soldiers has affected me in my life (as well as the sheer amount of times I go back to it), but she has written other novels that have the same effect on me. Her prose tends to tear me apart, touches me intensely and then leaves me to think about it over and over again for days afterwards. A lot of it comes from the fact that she is able to to create story lines around (political) ideas that I completely agree with; strong characters that you relate to, love, dislike, want to be; and her powerful writing that always seems to become timeless. The ability to blend beauty and ugliness together in prose is what Piercy is insanely good at, as well as the ability to make you imagine that you are living the exact story that you are in the middle of reading.

Dance the Eagle to Sleep is Marge Piercy's first novel, originally published in 1970 and recently reissued, with a new foreword by Piercy herself. The novel is centered around four students, each from different backgrounds (Shawn the rockstar trying to avoid doing military service, Joanna the runaway, Corey the revolutionary and Billy the scientist). The story starts with the student revolt at Franklin High and continues with the development and country-wide growth of a dissident youth movement named the "Indians". Young people who are tired of being told how to live their lives, what they need to become to be a "proper adult"and what box they need to fit into. People with ideas that defy the norm and who want to live, be free and create a new type of world where there is no war and plastic pre-fab lives and boredom.
Through-out the novel the movement grows inside and outside of the cities; communes are created and the inevitable governmental crackdowns start happening. The Indians become self-sufficient and live as one large family, with natural leaders and different groups inside the family. Discussions are held every day where all members can voice thoughts and opinions and drugs are seen as a way to enlightenment as opposed to addiction, in the same way as hallucinogenics were used in certain Native American tribes. The Indians look for peace in the alternate way of living but prepare for the eventual clashes with the police and the the government. Police brutality is expected, but once the violence of the crackdowns becomes more akin to war, the family divides into those who want to go underground and those who want to fight to the bitter end.

Although an invented world, this novel is never far from the truth, and is based on the student protests in the 60's, and can easily be transplanted into the world of today, with the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement around the world. Hope, change, revolution, repression. A story of despair, of hope, of uprising and of defiance. Full of powerful images and metaphors that leave you imagining the may bes and the could have beens.

Marge Piercy's Website

Bahrain: Shouting in the dark - documentary to watch

Bahrain: Shouting in the dark
(Al Jazeera documentary - the journalist crew who filmed and documented all of the content in this documentary obviously risked their lives more than once to collect all of the footage. Amazing).

I posted this documentary on Facebook last week, but it has really affected me and I can't help posting about it again. I know I should keep my focus on certain causes, talk about, fight for and research one or two major concerns in this world, but I can't. Everything affects me and I want to make changes everywhere. I know I can't, but at least this blog is one platform where I can talk about everything and anything that affects me (be it in a good or bad way), and maybe, just maybe, it may affect one of you reading it and you will pass it along too.

Earlier this year, in the heyday of the Arab Spring, when news crews were showing us images of clashes in Libya, demonstrations in Egypt and protests in Bahrain, there was so much talk about people standing up for their rights, for democracy, for free speech and for change in these countries. A small domino effect of different populations seeing hope and reaching out to grab it in their hands. We all know what happened in Egypt (currently waiting for the first election results after the fall of Mubarak). We all know what happened in Libya (we all saw the pictures of Gaddafi being captured and then dead), but does anyone actually care that Bahrain just dropped off the newsreels back in the Spring? Does anyone actually really care what happened to the entire population who went out and peacefully protested for reform? They didn't even protest for the overturn of the ruling powers, just reform...Link
Watch this documentary, it will show you exactly what happens in a country when the minority ruling powers decide to go in and crack down on revolution, and when nobody in the West cares, because maybe, just maybe, this little country is too close to certain assets that we want to keep on our side. Watch how an entire population goes from rejoicing freedom and the right to speak to watching loved ones being shot down, arrested and tortured to death. And still, no one cares.

(And as food for thought, why are we all imposing sanctions on Syria - Western AND Arab countries - because of the violent governmental crackdown on protests, but no one even bothered with Bahrain?! This is not about not-caring, it's full-blown hypocrisy).

World Events & Active Ignorance

This week, amidst a million other things, the following events happened:

- Popular uprising/Revolution in Egypt: Al Jazeera live blog updates
- Sahra Bahrami, Iranian-Dutch citizen, sentenced to death in Iran for alleged drug smuggling was hanged: Iran Hangs Sahra Bahrami
- The Deputy Governor of Kandahar, Afghanistan was assassinated: Deputy Governor of Kandahar Killed
- Ugandan Gay Rights Activist, David Kato was beaten to death: David Kato Murdered

There is a world outside your bubble. If you don't feel like actively participating, at least try to KNOW about what is happening in the world today. The amount of blank stares and raised eyebrows I have encountered every time I brought up one of the above events this week makes me want to vomit.
I just wish people didn't try to actively be ignorant. It drives me insane.