Sunday, January 31, 2010

As the bus turns...

I'm travelling on my own, on a self-initiated psychological intervention, just lollying around the pointy, aesthetically conscious world of the French, eating chocolate and bread and butter every hour of the day. It's great. I see something that interests me, and I walk there. I totally don't care if I speak French like a four year old, or if I am late to a movie, or if I skip a meal and have a kinder bueno instead.

Basically travelling alone is the best thing ever. Grave. [eg, "seriously" in French slang :P]

Having said this, I will admit that I am head-over-heels in love with the human race. (Admittedly epic statement, but life is better with a little descriptive latitude. Get ready for a stream of consiousness/lovefest:)

I love people! I can't get enough of them. Even if they are evil, or frighten me, or elude me, or love me, hate me, ignore me, bore me...They endlessly fascinate me, and I could watch them or talk to them or just listen to them all day. I love seeing them, watching them. Talking to them, listening to them.

Loving or hating them. Or feeling indifferent but just being near them. Lingering even if it might have been better, proper, expected to leave sooner*.

Or even touching them. I like it when the bus turns and somebody leans back onto you, or when there is a fat person next to you on the subway and your bodies press together a little bit. I experience such delight in these utterly unexpected, perfectly accidental intimacies with other human beings, however fleeting.

As a minor aside, one of the best parts about having a higher level of comprehension in French than speaking is that I can just listen for a long time and people don't really expect you to contribute a whole lot to the conversation. And this is great because once people get talking, and aren' t wholly sure to what extent you understand them, they start saying all sorts of amazing things. Or maybe people trust these big brown eyes...who knows.

Festivals tend to come with a lot of people. And so I must say that the comics festival in France was lovely for the most part because of the people I met (and because of the fucking amazing artwork. I know it's kind of off topic a little bit, but it's my blog and I can write badly if I want to! Soooo I went into a minor art-induced coma the first day--an art-attack, as I will say--and then, with a few ups and downs I slowly regained some level of functionality, though I was numb to things like rapid cash burning syndrome. Boy; some stuff blew my mind, but mainly the scope and range was what overwhelmed me. All that said I wanted to eat ten copies of certain comics; I have an utterly carnal reaction to art I like if you didn't already know.)(yes, yes, and yes!)

But the people I met, well, they were great. I can't say I liked everyone I met, but I liked meeting everyone. And when there are a lot of people imported into a very small town, with small exhibition spaces and small bars, you achieve what is at times a surreal level of intimacy with perfect strangers. You brush up against people, talk to them for a few minutes or for several hours...And then you're left with this pocket full of interactions, which you can take out and toss around a couple times when you think to. Or others, which you will certainly forget, but regardless still happened. Little crumbly bits of truth and goodness. It happens all the time, but the festival was a little more of course, because all these little, new, unexpected interactions were packed into four days.

La, la lovely.

*Yep, sorry I totally lack the sense of the right time to go. Noticing it more and more but not sure whether I should start trying to care/notice sooner. I hate goodbyes and I never want to go usually. Sometimes, after the fact, I think hm maybe I should have not stayed to watch that movie all the way through, left with the others, gone home at a reasonable hour. That feeling never comes before, to any number of ends. But somehow I edge on by without any major social offenses.

And because I'm predicting some questions in advance, in the same vein:

I did touch Crumb on the shoulder when he passed me on the stairs (nobody knew it was him except for me, and his wife who was behind him). We didn't talk but then the moment wasn't right. Nonetheless, electric.

Friday, January 15, 2010

What do you do?

I work for an organization that raises money for a hospital in Haiti. It hasn't been easy all the time working for them, but I feel like that's how it is with any non-profit.

My primary issues with the organization was based what it means to be on this end of a fund raising organization. For a long time it was really hard for me to be OK with fund raising tactics, this idea of throwing a big party with fancy people and dresses and food to help the poor, hungry people miles and miles away. It would make me very uncomfortable to talk about how the invitations would look, and paper preferences and which festive stamps to put on the envelopes, when I'd seen malnourished infants, whose swollen bellies were being caressed by their mothers, mothers who sang prayers for their children to be "Kapab manje" (able to eat again), kapab manje the food that these mothers knew they would not always be able to give. These babies were so hungry that they simply refused to eat; they had resigned themselves, their little infant bodies, to starvation.

No, I don't care which stamps you use, and the debate needs to be over now. I complained quite a bit about this whole setup, mostly because of the inconsistencies I saw in these efforts. Why don't these people just give? All the time? I knew they could.

And now here we are--

Having seen this world, I can't imagine what it looks like now, now that the sky went and fell on their already heavily-burdened heads. Come on, why Haiti?

First thing is first, and I'm not ashamed to say this: I'm so glad that everyone I know down there is ok. That my ex-boyfriend, one and the same who broke my heart, is alive and well. Thank god--

We create these structures, these arbitrary narratives that we point to saying, "This is my truth, this is the sacred architecture of my reality." And then the real world comes and taps you on the shoulder. With a perfectly-formed flower by your desk. Or an earthquake hundreds of miles away.

The nice thing about this sort of reality check* is that it lends you a certain clarity, even if you can't logicize it.

And also, if you're lucky, with the clarity comes a thing called hope.

There will be no party. And they are already just giving. Giving so much, that we are totally inundated with their good will. That people, who can't pay online, are coming in and delivering checks by hand. For $15, or $15,000. People are giving what they can, because they can. And it's truly amazing.

It is so, so heartening to see people rally behind this country, these people, no frills attached.

In turn, I have acknowledged feelings that I can't understand, but still make perfect sense.

*And I honestly don't think it necessarily takes a 7.0 earthquake in this hemisphere's poorest country to have a reality check; as I said, flowers also tend to do it for me...some poetry...other humans...a flock of birds. And then experiences--trauma, grief.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Things I'm thinking about at 4:59 am...

Hello folks, it's 4:59 am, and we've decided on yet another re-run of my favorite show "Insomnia." This is (surprisingly) my first insomnia post, since I started having it in August of last year. I'm not terribly bitter about this arrangement my body has made, rather I'm mostly fascinated. I was such a big-time sleeper before. Endless naps could be followed by full-nights' sleep...

I now have this funky type of insomnia that, regardless of the hour I go to sleep, I always wake up between 3 and 4 am, and either stay up (like tonight), or have totally inconsistent ups-and-downs from then on.

Here's what I was thinking about when I woke up today.

I had kept these dried flowers on my desk at work since my birthday last May, peonies, my favorite. They had dried somehow in perfect formation, and I'd put them in a little box to take home one day about a month ago, and then it started to rain, so I ran back in and put them in my desk drawer. As time passed, they were a little reminder of spring, of that unbelievable beauty that can be contained in a tiny, perfectly formed peony, even if it's long dead and dried out. It provided me with a small dose of joy every time I opened that drawer.

Yesterday, I got a call at 9 am from my coworker. There had been an earthquake in Haiti, had I heard? (I work for an organization that raises money for a hospital in Haiti). My first thoughts were: Is T hurt/dead? (T = ex-boyfriend, currently living in Haiti, the same one whose actions may or may not have brought about my current sleeplessness). Yes, he was ok. It was my day off and they needed my help with some online stuff. Trying to be nice and mature about being woken up (which is hard when you got to sleep around 7 am) I agreed to help (due to the dire circumstances, which clearly slammed my petty insomnia way into perspective) and got dressed to come in.

When I got in, the phone was ringing off the hook, and a news crew had just walked out the door. I sat down at my desk and opened the drawer where I keep my personal effects, and there were the flowers, crushed to pieces. My coworker had rifled through it in search of something inexplicably urgent I'm sure, and had totally crushed my happy, perfectly formed daily moment.

I guess you don't realize what role things play in your life until they are taken away. That said, I'm not completely sure why I felt just as crushed as the brittle petal confetti I took up between my fingertips. But I did--it was like all the grief and anxiety and disappointment in the world was held in the crushed flowers, just as only a day before, all the pleasantness and hope for spring had been in the perfectly-formed ones.

It would have been like her, I thought, not to notice the flowers, or even go as far to think that they might have been there on purpose, to bring me a little moment of joy each day. Still, it felt illogical to mention something or to be angry about it, or sad even, because I couldn't even explain why it upset me just so much. She'd been in a rush, I thought, to find some useless bit of information, which, in a panic, she was convinced was held in my personal drawer. What's all this garbage doing in here? She must have thought. Where is that file?

I know what you must be thinking--that we had to deal with the aftermath of a 7.0 earthquake in Haiti, make sure our people had what they needed, once they were accounted for--and I, selfish white girl in America, could only think of this.

But like the insomnia, the dried flowers contained more coagulate emotion than I can articulate or understand. Like my first thoughts of the day, that moment of panic when I'd been awoken. There is a measure of complexity to these feelings that is masked by the insurmountable integrity of one's experience (of insomnia, of the crushed flower, of the moment of worry). The moment makes perfect sense--there is no conflict there--but then, with time, distance, perspective, the true complexity of the feeling reveals itself, conceals itself, reveals itself once more. Perhaps, at a certain point you just have to trust that you're feeling, despite the knee-jerk, "What the HELL?!" that comes after some time. We'll find the "why" file eventually, it's in another drawer.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

When I grow up...

Paris is calling...

And I have to go! I'm going to a comix festival in the south of France, but not without stopping in the city of Light.

There may be a Crumb spotting in store, who knows :)

Monday, January 11, 2010


It is a new year--happy, happy new year, one and all. 2009 was tough for me. It was a year of perpetual transition, and at times, I felt like all I could do was hold on and go along for the ride. At the end of the countdown on New Year's Eve, I felt an unbelievable release. Not that this year will necessarily be "better," but it certainly will be different, and that's as far as my expectations go.

2010. Ok.

I'm sure as time passes, a lot of things will stay the same, but so much will change all the time. I'm excited about the possibilities the new year holds, and trying not to brace myself at all for the inevitable commotion of each major (or minor) event.

I just want to keep on doing, being, without the residue of feeling, emotion or bitterness, but rather with the slivers of integrity and privilege that can be attained with each new experience.

Again, thanks to the Roches, aren't I predictable? (Above, me in New York city as a baby, spinning...)