I actually wrote this for something else, in the hopes that it may be published there, but once I had sent it realised that I just wanted to post it on here too. So I waited a while and am just going to post here anyway, while I am sitting in my Mum's house in California on vacation, another spot in this world that I consider as slightly paradisaical in itself... Sunshine, palm trees, pure calm and relaxation, food directly picked from the garden and thrown into a salad or onto the barbeque... The theme I was writing for was Paradise, and this is what I was immediately inspired to write.
I can't believe how this year is flying by, it's already the middle of May, Spring is finally here and I'm going to be flying to California for two weeks in exactly a month. Which also means I need to save and save and save every penny I make over the next month, because nowadays holiday means unpaid time off, and rent and bills still need to be paid, wherever I happen to be in the world. I'm not complaining though, this time last year I would sleep about 3 hours a night, go into work with a pit in my stomach that would grow and grow throughout the day, and go home and collapse, still stressed out and thinking about all the projects I was undoubtedly going to mess up at work. Now I am working three different jobs, 7 days a week with a day off thrown in here and there, but I have time to see my friends, hang out at home and write, draw and dream. I even have time to read and write at one of my jobs, which happens to be in the middle of a theatre, which is probably one of the coolest things ever. But the best part of all this is that I go to work and then don't have to think about it until I have to go back again. No one calls me with questions about different projects, I don't have to spend 12 hours working on a coverage chart when I take a day off, and guess what? I actually have fun at work. Who would have thought?!
I can't say that it has been easy to pull off, this whole change thing, there were days when I didn't know how I was going to actually afford my next meal, let alone pay rent and other important bills, and I still have a lot of credit card debt I am going to have to start paying off in the very near future (because letting all those 1-800 and 1-866 numbers ring to voicemail every day is really not dealing with the problem very effectively), but, you know, I feel like smiling every morning/afternoon when I wake up. There are days when I still feel so mad I want to stomp my feet and kick people, and there are still days when I don't want to get out of bed to face the world, but they aren't as frequent anymore. I just feel like this is what I always should have been doing when I moved here. What I want. I still don't know if I actually pulled anything off really, everything could fall apart tomorrow, but at the same time I know it will always be OK.
I was walking to the subway this morning, thinking about a million things as usual, and it dawned on me that I live most of my life in some kind of survival mode. Not real "I am being hunted by evil murderers" survival mode (although that is a recurring nightmare of mine), more like a "shit happens so I just have to bear with it" kind of outlook on life every day. Tired because I got home at 7am, had to take the dog out and have to be back at work at 4pm? Oh well, I'll sleep better tonight. Annoyed because friend never comes to say hello because her job is too tiring? No problem, there are at least ten other better friends who always come to visit me. Nose broken because stupid ice machine lid fell on it? No problem, it will heal again, just like the time before, and the time before that. Annoying people being dickheads at work? I just complain and then forget about them (even those annoying student idiots who thought that adding a tip to $2 beers didn't apply to them). It's all about getting to a place where you want to be in life, a place where you don't have to worry so much about everything... I feel like I am nearly there now. Don't get me wrong, I still worry about everything, but just less than I used to.
I'm so in love with this city, still today. It's been 7 years now, and I can't really imagine myself being anywhere else. I was writing a short story based on a parting of ways that occurred in my life in 2004 last night, and was looking for the journal I wrote during that time. While searching for it I came across a couple of journals I had started in 2005 and 2006, and spent an hour reminiscing about those days... It was all a lot of innocent fun, words about people I had just met who now happen to be my closest friends; words about people who have now disappeared into different lives and places; places that no longer exist and other places that are still there, and are still frequented by us all. Then there was one entry, written during my last trip to France in 2006 that was so insightful at what was to become of me over the next few years that I wish I had listened to myself a bit more when I wrote it. Or maybe not, because in the end it was all for the best. Someone once told me a couple of years ago that I just needed to hit rock bottom in order to find my way again, and I think he was right. I probably always knew what I was doing, even when I thought I didn't anymore.
So yes, New York. I often say that I miss Europe or that I want to move to a desert island and live by the ocean for the rest of my life... This isn't a lie, and I do miss France terribly every once in a while. I just need to make my way back there for a bit, see my friends, go to the old haunts and see how Grenoble has changed over the years (or not, whatever the more accurate statement may be). But New York will always be the city I come back to, I know that all too well now. I've never felt so completely at home as I do here. My apartment, my friends, my jobs, my favourite places to drink and eat, my memories and the new memories I create every day. Sounds silly maybe, but I spent so long looking for a place I could call my home, and it makes me happy to know that I found it.
I wrote a piece called Paradise the other day, based on the same theme for an online magazine. If it doesn't get accepted I will post it here seeing as I was quite proud of it when I wrote it. Something a lot of people can relate to I think, and it also goes along the vein of living in survival mode, continuing to move even when you think you can't anymore. I used to write mainly based on images in my imagination, nowadays I feel like most of my writing comes from something that happened to me, or that could have happened to me. I don't know if that is good or not, but I know that I need to get it all written down before I forget it.
Words, a set on Flickr.
Over the past few weeks I have been trying to sort through hundred of photos, both digital and film, to see if I can sort them out by theme rather than date which is how they are currently sorted.
I finished this one last night, a collection of words on walls and signs in NYC, Long Island, London. I am sure I will add to it as I am always taking photos of random words that I see in random places.
On one of my walks I was taking pictures of a mural on Myrtle Ave, in Bushwick going towards Ridgewood. The mural took up the whole of a deli wall, and said "Jesus Saves Brooklyn". A couple of guys stopped to tell me that "Jesus Saves" was actually a grafitti artist and that was his name. So there... If you ever see "Jesus Saves" on walls around town, it's not someone telling you that Jesus saves, just an artist signing off on his work.
Anyway, to be continued...
Saturday 9th June 2001 - Grenoble, France
I saw the best concert I'd ever been to last night: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Strangely enough I didn't feel as hysterically excited as I did before the Cure concert last year, it was all more calm. Maud and I were the first people to arrive at the Transbordeur (in Lyon), and as we were sitting in the carpark, smoking cigarettes and reading I saw Nick Cave go by... He is as absolutely gorgeous in the flesh as he is in pictures and on the screen. The man is everything: character, humour, uncharacteristic gorgeousness - anyway, he really is just this whole image. First it started with his music (this mini obsession I have with him) - when I was younger Louise used to listen to him all the time and I used to pretend to hate it, and then suddenly I fell in love, and now I can't go a day without listening to him. Anyway, it's a whole: the music, the person, the lyrics... Anyway, where was I?
The doors to the hall were opened around 7pm, and Maud and myself didn't even think of grabbing first row places, we ended up going up the steps, middle back, where we had a great view and we could sit down, and we weren't far from the front at all. The support band was not that good, well I didn't like it anyway. Australian band lacking in many things, especially atmosphere.
And then Nick Cave. It's undescribable really. The band started off with Do You Love Me? (great way to start!), and continued on, with many songs from the last album (at the time was No More Shall We Part), beautiful songs, especially the one I had difficulty containing my tears to, Hallelujah, others like Red Right Hand, The Mercy Seat, Henry, Into My Arms and many more. Nick Cave was wonderful, he's still full of energy, of anger, of pain... So were the Bad Seeds, although I found Blixa to have a little less energy than the rest, maybe he's always like that. Anyway, the audience was great, except for the idiot stagediver, you couldn't hear anyone during the slower songs, total respect, followed by thundering applause and cries.
When they left the stage the first time the whole audience was so heated up, front to back, that everyone felt as one big clap and stamp of the foot. They came back twice, two encores.
Excellent, fabulous, enchanting, too short, but it would never have been long enough. I want to see it again and again and again and again... I feel some kind of sense of fulfillment though, I saw Nick Cave and it was brilliant, even better than I could have expected, and I will see him again in a few years. That voice... So powerful and beautiful. To be honest, they are even better live than on album, and that is extremely difficult. They are all so together on stage. I can't explain all the emotions I felt during the concert, but it's all there and here, in my head and in my heart.
After the concert was the slight problem of getting home. Now Maud and I usually have a total lack of organisation going on, it's like we will organise the logistics of doing something and getting there, and the rest will work itself out. I love it. So we really didn't know how to get back to Grenoble (note: Grenoble is about 100km through the mountains from Lyon). We had the train timetable and saw that the last thing back to Grenoble was a bus from the Part Dieu station. We had 20 minutes to get there. We tried to hitch a ride and thankfully a nice couple dropped us off right in front of the station. We ran around looking for the buses, found where they were and looked for ours. Not there. Ten minutes later I looked at the timetable again and realised that it was only valid from June 10th onwards. That bus didn't even exist yet!!! Thankfully there was a train to Grenoble at twenty past midnight so we drank cappuccinos waiting for it and sang Henry Lee and Do You Love Me? on the train. I tell you we were lucky because otherwise we would have been hanging around in Lyon until 6am!!! Not that we really cared we were on such an emotional high.
Anyway, I have my literature exam on Monday, my last exam this year, so I had better go and finish reading Macbeth again. I hope the exam will be with Mme Blattes and that it will be on The French Lieutenant's Woman... I can't wait for it to be over at last.
Thank God for the pure existence of Nick Cave.
Note: The official live DVD released for this tour was actually the footage of this show in Lyon. Another note: I have seen Nick Cave many a time since then and he is always amazing.
This happens once a year, at least once, sometimes multiple times: all of a sudden I will stop what I am doing and say "it's time to read Gone To Soldiers again." Then I pick it up and fall back into the words that have kept me going for so many years now. I will never ever tire of this book. It happened to me this morning, while I was making my morning tea, wondering through the haze of my mind what on earth I was going to write about today, trying to avoid the inevitable subjects of "2011 was a shitty/great/annoying/interesting year", when I just stopped in my tracks, grabbed my most recent copy of the book and read the first page. Nothing better than starting off your new year with firstly your first bender in 3 years, and then back to reality with your favourite book. The former not to be revisited for a while, the latter a lot more healthy.
The first time I read Marge Piercy's Gone To Soldiers was in 1991 or 1992. One of my mum's friends lent it to her, and as with any book that ever came into our household, I read it. Actually I devoured it. I've always loved historical fiction, especially dealing with WW2, and I love strong women characters that I can relate to. I also love rich, well-constructed prose, words that let you imagine the scene in your own head, help you to picture faces and expressions and leave them imprinted in your mind for a long time after you have read the last page of the book. This is how Marge Piercy writes. Gone To Soldiers will make you laugh, cry, want to hit things and finally feel like you can go out and accomplish anything that you want to, just because you can.
The novel is the story of ten different characters (men and women), interweaving, across the Atlantic and the Pacific, over the space of 5 years of war. Every character is human, and you will probably relate more to one over another, depending on how old you are when you read the book. My favourite will always be Jacqueline, feisty French Jewish girl who has to grow up and deal with the undealable. I sometimes see some of myself in her, more than in any of the other characters. Basically, Jacqueline makes me realise how much potential we have to create something from our lives, while remaining true to our hearts and beliefs. I know it sounds a little silly said like that, but you really need to read her story to understand what I mean.
There is also Bernice who breaks away from her father and runs away to fly aeroplanes; Louise who goes from writing women's stories to writing from the front lines in France via London; Daniel who deciphers code for a living; Jeff, the artist with the survival instinct, and probably the male character who I am the most attracted to; Abra who learns to live with nothing after having everything and all of the others who will touch your lives in a way that you wouldn't expect. An epic story that you can't put down. Life changing? Maybe. Just read it, the least it can do is help you learn a little more about what the regular person went through in the 40's.
I've read this book at least once a year since 1991. I've been through so many copies of it, I've given copies to my friends and it is without a doubt my favourite book of all time. Every time I read it I discover something new and somehow I find comfort in the stories, in a way I find a patch of non-moving ground that I can stand on for a moment to recollect myself.
More information on the book on Marge Piercy's website: Gone To Soldiers
More information on Marge Piercy: Biography
All of Marge Piercy's novels are excellent - once you have read this one try the others (especially Braided Lives).
I listen to this song every day. It never fails me with it's beauty.
A while ago I made a conscious decision to only write about things that I actually like, appreciate and love, as well as voice my own personal opinions, fears, thoughts and emotions. This spot is not a place for me to review or bash anything I don’t really care about. If I don’t like a band, a book or a movie, I probably just won’t talk about it, not on here in any case. There are a few times when I have provided a negative review on something, and felt bad about it for days. So I’m leaving that for others. I will, however, not hesitate to voice my opinions on what I feel and see around me. On politics and world events and on human beings. Basically, I am not going to bash what you create, but I may ask you to think a little deeper into things, and questions your ideals (if you happen to have any). And you may not agree with me, and that’s cool too. I enjoy a good old debate where I try to prove myself right!
Support is sometimes found in the strangest of places, and not found in those places that you automatically thought that it would be found. Strange how life moves in mysterious ways: hills where you thought the terrain would be smooth, smooth sailing over rough waters and all that. I don't expect much, but even then you get disappointed by those you thought would never disappoint you, and at the same time are pleasantly surprised by the solidarity and encouragement of others who were always there, but not as close to you. All of a sudden you touch someone in a way that you didn't know you could touch someone, but the person you thought that would understand doesn't even acknowledge your presence. So what do you do? Force those who don't seem to care less to listen to you? Or just let it lie, move on and accept the fact that some people are just too caught up in their own hazy bubble to bother to see a little further.
I just don’t think my voice is loud enough and never has been. That’s why I started writing in the first place, as I can’t compete with the loudness of another person’s voice. I am constantly talked over, so there is no point in trying to force an issue when your soft voice just falls off the edge of everyone else’s much louder voices. And, honestly, if you really want to listen to what I have to say, then you can bloody well listen to me. Writing helps me voice opinions and thoughts and feelings that would otherwise go unheard. You can sweep this under the carpet too if you like, but in the end it may touch the heart of someone else, like me, and that is the main point.
It’s funny, but often I wake up, and say to myself that I dislike people immensely, and then I kick myself for trying to lie. I don’t dislike people and I don’t hate people. I love people. I love the way people talk, communicate, react, write, live, create… I do hate the way people mistrust, hurt, steal, and destroy, but in the end I still believe in the inherent good that resides in a percentage of the world population. Call me an idealist and I will agree with you. Nothing wrong with believing in something and hoping that one day there will be changes in this world. Changes that we can help make if we make our voices heard. Never think that you are just one person amidst many, and that you will never be able to make a difference. You will. You just need to believe in yourself… And I know how hard that is, I lose confidence in myself at least once an hour (and have amazing friends who prod me back into place whenever I need it). And I DO need it. I just won’t tell you that I do, well because, I am just too self-conscious and shy to. I’ll just get upset at your lack of attention to what I am doing, or saying, and will rant about it, but won’t actually ask you why you don’t give a shit, because I already know the answer: you don’t give a shit.
But someone else most likely does, and that is the reason I write. First of all I get what I want to say out there, and second of all, there is at least one other person in the world who is going to read what I write, and hopefully be inspired too. That’s the whole point in the end, be inspired to inspire others. So, in the end, I am heard… Maybe not by those I wanted to hear me, but by someone else who maybe needed to a little more. That makes it all worthwhile.
Today my first real article got accepted for publication. Nothing really special, but it’s a start and it feels like an accomplishment.
I woke up in the middle of the night last night and couldn’t get back to sleep. These are the moments that I wish I still smoked… Sitting by the window, cigarette in one hand, notepad and pen in the other, savouring that time of the night where everything is quiet and peaceful, and writing lyrics or poems for a few minutes before going back to sleep again. So instead of smoking I tossed and turned in my bed, realizing that it was not all peaceful out there, that there had always been a fine line of 4am happiness and 4am despair, and that if you were in the outside world at that time of night then not all was really well… 4am reflection can be amazingly insightful, it’s just a pity I didn’t have a pen and paper right next to me to jot down all the thoughts that whizzed through my head.
Some of us go through adolescence a little more traumatized than others, often with some type of tragedy that happened early on in our lives that we can’t get rid of. Somebody close abandoned us, be it by unexpected and/or violent death, or just because they disappeared. You are searching for the answers to everything and no one can give them to you. Adults still seem to be the people who are supposed to be perfect, and you feel like a failure because you will never reach that perfection, or what appears to be perfection. So you stumble on, start finding yourself, make music, write, paint, create. Go to college, drop out of college, go back to college, work in different jobs and experiment with drugs and alcohol, still trying to find out the hows and whys of everything.
Then you hit your 20’s and start realizing that you are an adult too, and that you still don’t have the answers to anything. And your childhood trauma starts to become a weight you carry on your shoulders everywhere, a badge that gives you the right of way to fuck up whatever you can, because, in the end, you are the one who is messed up, and you are the one who has the right to hurt yourself if you want to. Hey, something traumatic happened to me when I was a kid, and I want to forget it, so I have every right in the world to obliterate myself with a bottle of Stoli and whatever else wants to come my way. Because, you know, in the end, it all hurts too much, this real life where people die and never come back, and where you have to carry this with me day in and day out. And you continue to function. You have a close group of friends who are all about as traumatized and messed up as you, and you all help each other out in all of the different ways you can. You go to work, you party, you sleep an hour or so, and you go back to work, forgetting that you had once had all of these ideas and plans on what you wanted to do in life.
And then comes the day that you realize that none of this really means anything anymore. One moment you are dancing on a bar, thinking you are having the time of your life, and the next you are crying into your drink wondering how that profound feeling of sadness crept over you while you had your back turned, the one you had been running so hard away from to avoid. It’s just time to let go… Nothing is ever going to fix the things that happened to you growing up, and maybe they will never really heal, but nothing is going to change them. Hiding from your own thoughts, while nurturing this badge of trauma is just not a viable option anymore. All I can say is tell those you love how much you love them, and start living your life the way you had always dreamed you would live it. It just makes so much more sense than settling for unhappiness and hurt for the rest of your life.
I wrote song lyrics about this once, a few years ago, not long after I stopped drinking. I named it “Ludlow St”. When I read it now it very accurately describes all of the above, in a song form. Maybe one day someone can put music to it and sing it. If I ever let anyone read it that is.