More postcards from Calcutta.
Last evening I went to Prinsep Ghat, at the foot of the second Hooghly Bridge. There is a half-built bridge that juts out into the river but was left incomplete and I walked right up to its brink. It was a cold evening. Prinsep Ghat was hosting a cultural evening with a sitar player. I did not stop to watch. I could only see the river beckoning me from beyond. It was misty and damp, and there was only the sound of the heavy silt-laden Ganges water lapping the bank, leaving it, and coming back again, like the light tongue of a teasing lover.
I lit a cigarette and looked up. Above my head towered the iron bridge, it was dizzying to look up at it. In front of me was the wide river, far ahead there was a jetty moving across slowly. After a long time, I felt like I did not need anything else from life, as if that moment was the coming together of everything I had always believed in and all that I ever lived for.
This morning I met Dr Sengupta, the man who had delivered me in the hospital. He is over 80 now, and a very handsome man indeed. He had come over only to meet me, which I thought was very sweet of him. When he saw me, he put his hand on me head and said, "Tomake eituku dekhechhi (I have seen you when you were tiny), what a beautiful girl you have grown up into."
Then he said he was writing his autobiography (he is one of the most renowned doctors in Calcutta), and I asked him to narrate some incidents from his life that had touched him the most.
So he started.
I knew his wife had died very young, and he never married again. Today, he said that on his wedding night, she had washed his feet with water, and had wiped it off with her own hair. Call me old-fashioned, but this was so touching that I almost felt like crying. How much they must have loved each other. When she died, he had been around thirty, wealthy, handsome, and about to become one of the biggest doctors in Calcutta. Everyone around him had urged him to get married, but he'd never agreed.
When I asked him today why he didn't, he told me, "Reshma, she was made of gold, I could have never found a replacement." And then he paused for a while to hide a tear.
I was stunned. This was the best expression of love I'd heard for a long time. In these days of casual relationships, easy sex, and relationships fraught with doubts and uncertainties, is it possible to find such love anymore? And I am the worse fool for believing in the magic of such things?
So we sat there silently for a while, eighty year old man and twenty-seven year old me, almost three generations apart, each musing about life. He was reminiscing about the perfect unconditional love that he'd received although for a brief while in his life, and me yearning for just one taste of something so distilled and pure... that when I'm not there, at least one man will know that I can never be replaced, and so won't even bother to look.
Used with permission
The new year finds me in a bit of a quandary about continuing FITK- at the very least there will be some noticeable changes. Regular readers may have noticed a wider format to facilitate larger images. I probably won't be publishing on week-ends anymore as it seems that most of my regular readers read while at work. (And just who is that person from Valspar? Or the reader in the Houses of Parliament in the UK?) The ebb and flow of blogging has affected many of my regular "reads" as well, we'll just have to see how it goes- maybe blogging has "peaked" after all?
"Tuesdays with Reshma", which has been a regular feature for most of the year, will also end. She may contribute on her own (she's always welcome here), and I must thank her profusely- her writing has really broadened the scope of this blog. I must also thank all of my Icelandic correspondents. Their sharing of their lives and their reflections on the entire Icelandic culture has given me an education that no book or class could ever hope to match. You know who you are- and I thank you.
There have been some new links in the sidebar- Annie and Sharon have been hilarious and thought-provoking on a regular basis, I thank you both.
And, of course, no year-end wrap-up would be complete without mentioning Audi, Comica and Munkay, who have been linked from the very start and continue to expand my world on a regular basis. There won't be any posts from the Professor until the New Year, but there will be one more Tuesday visit from Reshma tomorrow...
"We've got a transmisssion coming through, Dave..."
2006- Summed Up In A Meme
1. What did you do in 2006 that you'd never done before? Went to a music festival overseas.
2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year? Yes I did, and I'll make the same one as always- keep the weight down.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth? A niece.
4. Did anyone close to you die? No.
5. What countries did you visit? Iceland (Of course)
6. What would you like to have in 2007 that you lacked in 2006? The feeling of job security for more than three months.
7. What dates from 2006 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? The ones with Kristín and Audi, naturally!
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Keeping my good humor.
9. What was your biggest failure? Not ending the war.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Yes, a nice clean cut, needing several stitches.
11. What was the best thing you bought? An antique handwoven Icelandic rug.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration? My wife's, for understanding (tolerating?) my blog fixation.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? George W. Bush's, but that's hardly a surprise.
14. Where did most of your money go? Iceland (My expendable income at least!)
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? That week in October!
16. What song will always remind you of 2006? IBM 1401: a users manual.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? happier
b) thinner or fatter? thinner
c) richer or poorer? richer.
18. What do you wish you'd done more of? Swimming
19. What do you wish you'd done less of? Worrying.
20. How will you be spending Christmas? With family.
21. Did you fall in love in 2006? Sweetie, I fell in love in 1976 and I've been in love ever since.
22. How many one-night stands? Really!
23. What was your favorite TV program? The Simpsons
24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year? No.
25. What was the best book you read? The Fish Can Sing, Halldór Laxness
26. What was your greatest musical discovery? Ölóf Arnalds
27. What did you want and get? A Samsung NV10
28. What did you want and not get? A raise.
29. What was your favorite film of this year? Mýrin
30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? Nothing special, 56.
31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Winning the lottery- I know that's crass- but it would make my retirement options infinitely easier.
32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2006? Ridiculous, as always.
33. What kept you sane? My wife's unerring analysis.
34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Still intrigued by Dylan.
35. What political issue stirred you the most? The arrogance of the stupid bastards who rule the country. They should be cut down to size.
36. Who did you miss? Still missing John Lennon.
37. Who were the best new people you met? See #7.
38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2006. The world is a good place.
39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year. "It takes courage to enjoy it"
The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes.
- Frank Lloyd Wright
It's been a tough week. The run-up to a holiday can get like that for me. Perhaps that explains this week's theme- revisiting the darkest days of my life (on the darkest day of the year), a strange form of past-looking skadefryd that somehow enables me to deal with the trials of the day. It would be a mistake to read too much into any of this. The things written here are just an echo of the many, many thoughts that I may ruminate upon during the course of the day. Things are good. As the year draws to a close, I have much to be grateful for. To have been able to have had so many great new experiences at my age is a blessing that may be hard for a younger person to appreciate. Mr. Wright was just beginning his most productive era when he was my age. The old dog still learns.
e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-eeverything is everything
And then I came down. Hard.
Those little capillaries were popping like bubbles in my aching cranium as the unmetabolized chemicals in my brain did their unholy dance.
But I was back, and that "ultimate solution" of last night's trip now looked more like a fool's bluff.
I went to school.
Robin touched my hand, and I was OK again.
"...everything is everything..."
And nothing is nothing.
And thirty-five years later, the lesson still remains true.
The Last Casualty
The voice on the phone was vaguely familiar. He Identified himself by first name , he said he was someone who had graduated from high school with me five years earlier. He started talking about high school in a strange, disjointed fashion. He mentioned that he remembered people calling me "gay".
Then it started to click. He was reading from the yearbook; I had put that phrase in the nickname section as a joke. I asked him for his full name, he gave it and I still drew a blank. I had my yearbook handy and looked him up as he dithered on. I recognized the face, he hadn't been in any of my classes, we had never spoken until now. He said he was throwing a party, he asked if I wanted to come, and if I knew any one else's phone number. I gave him one, and begged off the party.
The next day I ran into the guy belonging to the phone number, he gave me the story on our mutual acquaintance. It seems he'd been in the Marines, stationed overseas, and something happened and he was sent home. "The guy was always a nutcase" my friend said, "and he's really gone over the line now!"
A few weeks later his obituary ran in the paper. My friend had that story as well. He said that our "friend" had called up a lot of people, trying to make a reconnection, grasping for anything he could hold onto. When that didn't happen, he shot himself with his service revolver. He was the last casualty from our high school class in the Viet Nam war.
I'm afraid that this story is now being told again, with just as little sense to it.
You're already dead if suicide is your decision.
I find it humorous that if you include the word "suicide" in a heading people want to read it more. It really reflects a sad state of things.
Why is it that your mind lights up if someone wants to end their existence? Does it make you feel strong? Do you want to relate? Do you really think that you could help?
If someone calls you and tells you that they're about to commit suicide, will you attempt to talk him/her out of it? Although they feel it is time that they end their life and that there is no reason left to live...Who are you to tell them they're wrong? How could you? It is impossible for you to feel what's burning inside them. So whoever wants to die, it is their decision, not only obviously... but most importantly.
Threats of suicide are often and empty. Someone who used to be very close to me pointed out something I think I will always remember. "If I was going to kill myself do you think I would tell you to get you to stop me?"
No. They wouldn't have. Neither would I.
Thoughts are meaningless compared to actions. If it is help that you want then ask for help. Do not threaten me with taking your own life. Tell me that you do not want to die, and are looking for a friend. Tell me that all you want is someone to talk to. Tell me that I can do something to make it better. Tell me what I can do to help.
If I love you then I won't keep you here and unhappy. Death is not something to fear. Or a toy to play with. It's like string. It's just there to hold things together.
It is an oxymoron to say a person is suicidal. They are dead. Or they are alive. There is no suicidal.
I am not saying I will not help someone who wants to die.
I am saying that I can not help someone who wants to die.
I can help someone who is looking for help.
If you're strong enough to admit you just need a little attention or someone to talk to.
You're already dead if suicide is your decision.
Used with Permission
Dreaming of the Dead
Those late-morning-sleep-in dreams seem to be the most disturbing kind. I dreamt of the dead today, at one point in the dream my grandfather spoke to me at length about his tastes in pickles. It may have been the longest sustained discussion I ever had with that taciturn fellow. Meaningless, yet somehow comforting.
That dream morphed into a house-party, a party with a wide group of friends, people in varying degrees of nakedness- have you ever noticed that in sex dreams you are usually weightless?- but that part of the dream was not significant, (thank goodness my grandfather had disappeared by then!) It was the ending, if a dream can ever really have a proper end, that really got to me.
My long-departed friend Debbie was there, in a separate room, we began speaking, I knew that she was dead, but it was still nice to talk with her, she said she was doing well and she somewhat ominously stated that she would be back to see us all on the "thirtieth."
I had to leave her, but I leaned over her and began kissing her gently on the forehead and cheek. I felt that if I kissed her on the mouth, which I wanted to do, I would have had to leave that land of dreams which we shared and join her, forever, in the land of the dead.
Oh dear, that time of year again. The cards have been made, now it is time for the "stuffing" as it were- the dreaded "Christmas Letter." The dilemma is that people who are interested in your family and its activities usually already know what you did in the previous year. People who don't know usually don't care. Hmmm. I could be creative, which means I'll be misunderstood, or I can play it safe, and be boring. Evidently I am not alone, I got well over a million hits when Googling "generic Christmas letters." Hey! Is it my fault that people don't read this blog? Then they'd know what I'd been thinking about.
It's probably a good thing they don't.
I get into enough trouble already.
The Party's Almost Over!
...blogging will peak sometime in 2007... -Gartner group
It's been a hell of a ride... the fame, the glory, the fabulous riches and wealth- all generated by Flippism Is The Key. No more expense accounts paying for those fabulous trips to Ísland paradises. Free tickets to concerts and the theatre? Gone and gone. Instead of original and inspired writing: pop-up ads for mortgage reduction firms, Zune viral marketing sites, dancing elfs/bunnies/babies, kute kittens. Now all that's left for me here is a downward spiral into penury, disgrace and oblivion. I might as well just close up shop- Blogs are so like over- I saw it in USA Today.
Although Blogging may peak and plateau, or even decline, there will still be plenty of people with stories to tell, not all of it news-worthy, not all of it great literature. But something will still be there, for people who want to discover more about the world and its inhabitants than the seeds gleaned from the barren field of newspapers and their on-line equivalents. I may be wrong. Might the blogosphere suffocate from its own gaseous emissions? Or perhaps a nefarious government will clamp down on any form of expression- via some not-yet realized technology? 1984 thirty years late?
Nah. The genie is out of the bottle. While sites like Flickr and Itube are only the tip of the iceberg in the next wave of internet, there will always be a literate component to any form of communication. It may change form, it may go through a transition period, but the party won't end. More wine!
The Hatred Tag
YOUR MOST HATED...
BEVERAGE: Clam Juice. (no double meaning intended)
COLOR: Taupe. The non-color color, the color used to sell houses.
TOWN/CITY: Ogilvie, Minnesota. Don't ask why.
MOVIE: The English Patient. I had to ask my companion (who had read the book) "What's going on?" about halfway through. I never did figure it out. Carnal Knowledge is a close second- sex without love is bad enough, sex without anything is the worst.
ASPECT OF BLOGGER:
a) commenters who take you to task without reading (or mis-reading) what you wrote.
b) commenters who think that a blog is an English class assignment and insist on pointing out "errors" in grammar which are actually pretty clever usages of the language. Especially bad when done to English as a second language writers.
Mosquitos. They suck.
The end of winter. It just won't give up without a nasty fight.
TALKING ON THE PHONE:
I'm the world's worst phone talker- but that's my problem.
WATCHING TV OR MOVIES:
Bad sound in cinemas. It's gotten WORSE with digital! (Bring back Dolby SR!)
EATING IN RESTAURANTS:
Waitstaff who don't write down your order. It happened to me (OLD CHICAGO, HAR MAR MALL) and after an hour and a half I still didn't have what I wanted in the first place. I was totally flabbergasted. (It was just a sandwich!)
I'm a soaker, not a stander. Showering is for swimming.
Adam and Eve never had to do that.
Cigarette butts. It isn't an ashtray, you know.
THE GROCERY STORE:
Unresolved family issues discussed while blocking the aisle.
Doing anything on a Saturday morning. I'll settle for only a half a day of sabbath, if I can have it undisturbed.
HABIT IN OTHERS?
Smoking. (Sorry Reshma!)
HABIT OF YOURS?
Letting anxiety restrict my achievements. (Thanks Reshma, I couldn't phrase it any better)
THING ABOUT WOMEN?
I can't think of one thing.
THING ABOUT MEN?
Everything that George W. Bush is, was, and represents.
WHAT'S ANNOYING YOU TODAY?
Microsoft. (But that's every workday)
tagging: anyone who won't let the topic bring them down...
-so what's up with you?
-been a long time.
-since that incident...
-you know, that girl, what happened...
-don't know what you're talking about.
-that night at the Uptown, you thought she was going to shake your hand, instead she put her hand in your pocket...
-what? did that whole summer not exist? The dope, the parties...
-and how Petey got off, then never came down?
-other folks might know about that, I don't.
-how it was all together and then fell apart?
-your misspent youth, didn't that exist?
-we're here now.
-somebody could have said something, it didn't have to go bad...
-yes, that never happened.
I am feeling remarkably unloved.
I think I'm about to use this blog for some good old bitching and moaning. That's what it's for, right? What else could you possibly want to read? Oh well. Hopefully there won't be a stupid whiny teen angsty entry like this again any time in the very near future.
I mean I don't know. Nothing terrible happened. Out of all the charming things I have been through in my life, these few days really don't come anywhere close to meriting whining like this.
I guess I'm living through a kind of torrent. I don't have any time anymore. My to-do list keeps getting longer. There are so many people I want to meet, I feel like I am not meeting enough of them. I feel like I'm not spending enough time with the people that I do know, or being nice enough or intimate enough with the people that I care about. I especially feel like I am ignoring the people who care about me because I'm too busy wishing they were someone else.
I also feel paranoid and insecure and over-analytical. And dishonest. I thought I was over this.
I want to be up front with people. But sometimes I get the feeling that they don't particularly want me to be up front. Do you want me to be up front with you?
I just want people to love me like I love them. That's all I can ever ask for.
I need a hug. Someone give me a hug please? And not just a blow-off polite cursory hug. Give me a real hug.
::big dramatic sigh::
I need more than a hug. I need someone listen to my rambling and understand my thought process and hold me. I miss having someone to exist with. This whole being alone and strong and independent thing is getting old. And exhausting.
I hate that I'm going to post all of this online. I know that doing so makes me desperate and whiny and immature. I'm sorry, and thanks.
Used With Permission
When I Paint My Masterpiece
The blank canvas, a symbol of artistic aspirations unfulfilled. Nothing more is needed, the paints and brushes are stored below the easel, inspiration is plentiful, what keeps the image from appearing?
As a young child, I had no such qualms when it came to decorating the neighbor's garage in crayola- on stucco no less! As a youth, I thought nothing of whipping out a 5 by 7 foot painting on unbleached muslin (where did that end up?)
But as for now, nothing. The easel has been up, mocking me, for months. I'll start after the holidays I tell myself, and I may be telling myself the truth. What gremlin in my brain has put a monkey wrench on my creative output?
Who are these guys, anyway?
Previously, in these pages, was related a conversation which I had with a very nice young man at Iðno, one of the venues at the IcelandAirwaves music festival. During our chat we explored some of the latest options in ink-jet printing, specifically concerning photographic reproductions. He mentioned that he had a project coming up involving high-resolution images. Recently I found out what he was up to. A Unicef benefit, for HIV-positive children in Swaziland. His "group" had also spent the summer staging free events all across his home land, done as a way of giving back to all those who had supported them in their career. Altruistic? Perhaps, but I won't fault them for it. What an aware, socially integrated group of people. Who are these guys? Check them out here. Oh, and they make some mighty fine music too...
Where Have All The Spammers Gone?
...Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam... -Monty Python
It's just not the same. spam that is. All those Nigerian scams, with their enticing get-rich schemes... haven't seen one in years. The Viagra come-ons have withered as well. Stock market tips were big for awhile- but they've crashed. Recently the spam headers have been incoherent (re: inso requia) or just the name of the spammer repeated.
And now, nothing. Not one piece of spam since last Thursday. I haven't changed anything. I even checked my double secret alternate e-mail address. Zilch. Have they given up? Or have I been put on a "Do-Not-Spam list" because of my age, socio-economic background or political affiliations? Or is this a calm before the storm? Maybe my e-mail server is broken. Just a minute, I'll send myself an e-mail to test it.
I'm back. E-mail works great.
What if I never get another spam message? Will that mean I really don't have a cyber-identity? Perhaps this is like a Twilight Zone episode, in that I've died and gone to heaven ("In heaven there is no spam"...) Whew! I've still got a pulse.
Hello out there...
Is anybody listening? I need a mortgage/pharmacy/sex aid/watch...
Is it something I said?
I miss you.
UPDATE: Mohamed franklin just wrote: "I delirium as carolyn"... all's well again...
Santa's Little Helper
Yep, that's me. Working late on Christmas presents for good little girls and boys. Holiday cheer, right. At least there'll be a little extra in my stocking next payday- and it's needed: My sleigh needs new radials.
Half-made clay idols.
The smell and feel of new clothes.
The smoke of camphor and incense.
The swish of my mother's starched new cotton saree.
The sindoor bindi on her forehead, some dusted onto her nose.
The nip of a winter chill in the morning breeze.
Getting together with friends and family.
Giving and receiving gifts.
Hopping from one pandal to another.
Lavish lunches for guests at home.
Exchanging furtive glances with boys who were checking you out.
That's how I spent my Pujas through my growing up years.
That's what I yearn for even today.
Used With Permission
I am Tom, a feral cat. In this holiday season, I am making a special plea for you to remember me and my feral friends with a timely gift of tuna and/or salmon. There's nothing like some delicious seafood to bring joy to the wild felines in a colony near you. We need all you can spare, just deliver it, uncanned, on a paper plate. You gift is tax-deductible and will bring joy to the hearts of your furry little friends everywhere. Thanks, Tom
P.S. Sardines will do in a pinch.
Collectively Speaking...Icelandic Style
The musical explosion which was the recent Iceland Airwaves Music Festival is only now starting to settle in my impressionable brain. What keeps floating to the surface is the work of two musical/art collectives, Kitchen Motors and Bedroom Community. Each had memorable individual performers, and each had equally worthwhile collaborative efforts. The solo artists; Egill Sæbjörnsson, Ólöf Arnalds, and Siggi Ármann, each projected a very personal musical impression, refreshing in this era of "wanna-bes". Siggi, in particular, created an intense emotional field, captivating in its purity and simplicity. Ólöf and her armadillo-shell lute brought out some kind of primal response in me, her music was new and a thousand years old at the same time. Egill, with his persona (video Elvis?) was quite unlike anything else I've experienced. The larger ensembles, Kira Kira, Stórsveit Nix Noltes, the formidable Jóhann Jóhannsson and the exquisite Valgeir Sigurðursson all fronted large groups with unique, experimental or newly imagined music, all at a very high levels of musicianship and composition. Two of the "odd men out" in these organizations are actually American, old-time folkie Sam Amidon and the Julliard grad Nico Muhly. In some respects, theirs' is the more traditional music, but still tempered by their Icelandic cohorts' contributions. Muhly is a serious composer, already with an impressive cv.
All of this music is fully realized, incredible and enjoyable. You may have noticed that I haven't yet mentioned the two 500-pound gorillas of the Icelandic music scene, Björk and Sigur Rós. Something great has been emerging from that rock in the North Atlantic, a cultural magma whose effects have yet to be fully measured.
What's it all about? Every so often, we have to stop and look at ourselves. What it is that we've made of ourselves, what we're made of, and how we integrate (or not) with the world around us. When we can't make it work it might be considered as a "writer's block", but it is our life which is the story we've stopped writing. The old cure for a writer's block is to write something, anything, so as to have something to change. But life isn't so arbitrary, our actions can cause harm, and so, not wanting to cause a disaster, we find ourselves back at square one. That's why it is nice to have friends, or at least someone to bounce things off of. That might be why bloggers (we the afflicted) write. To get a reflection, a grounding. To let others know who we think we are, and to find out what others think of us. It's all a complicated mess, but you work on it- maybe in conversation over coffee in a bookstore. Then, perhaps a week or a month later, it dawns on you. Someone else thinks of you as a fine person. They think that your struggle, like their own, is a grand, sprawling, imperfect-yet-worthwhile effort. And they, like you, will continue writing the Great Novel, every day a page, every month a chapter, and on and on and on.
It's true, you know.
But the next time, the coffee is on me.
This Blog Not Yet Rated
There have been a few readers who have expressed an inability to appreciate FITK. Perhaps if I had a rating system for my posts, things would be clearer. Let's see:
★★★★ (four stars) = if posts were rated like movies, this would mean serious, epic, pretentious...
★★★☆ (three stars) = high quality action post, or a better than average independent entry...
★★☆☆ (two stars) = popular with the masses, perhaps a guest cameo by Will Farrell?
★☆☆☆ (one star) = some posts are worse than others...
☆☆☆☆ (no stars) = should have pressed "delete" not "publish"
or, we could use the MPAA rating system (with modifications):
G = Great post...
PG = Pretty Good post...
PG 13 = teen-age sex post...
R = Ridiculous post (like this one)...
NC 17 = Needs Content, 17th time I've tried to rewrite it...
X = Batty won't go there...
Somebody gave FITK a "thumbs-up" rating...