Monday, January 9, 2017

Above the Ground

“I cannot register that Trump is to be sworn into office. I just cannot.” A friend remarked. “I hope he becomes somehow incapacitated before he gets into office.”

Aside a passing eye over the headlines, I cannot bother to read “articles” about the President-Elect's tweets, those barking missiles aimed at avoiding responses and discussion as much as possible. And yet, back in the states it was time to read something about the situation. With a multitude of hours on my hands, flying across country the long way round west to east, I selected Vanity Fair and the New Yorker at the no, let’s not call it a book store, let’s call that kind of shop a granola bar and tee-shirt shop. T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland and Thomas Mann’s Tonio Kroger were also in my tote bag.

Cramped in my United seat, I sat next to a woman playing with her phone. I read half of Tonio Kroger in German, and then Vanity Fair’s special reportage on the Trump game.  Suffice it to say that Vanity Fair’s claim to fame is fancy photos and muck racking articles dishing the dirt on people we recognize from photos.  In the past, I have from time to time appreciated their inquisition antics. 

During this last trip I read VF's article on the lost Apprentice Tapes, the most interesting angle was the discussion of the media manipulation of Trump’s campaign.  Moving on to an editorial type article about the personal experience of the aftermath of Trump’s election, a moaning and searching piece looking for weight to register for a green card in a foreign country, it appeared to me as an article without much merit or interest. Then came the piece on the Trump sister act followed by the Trump bro-romance, and then finally the triumph of the Largo del Mar presidential vacation spot, intended as a presidential retreat and now, by default, a presidential retreat complete with a gaggle of Trumpettes, aged groupies, on the intro page to the story.

Vanity Fair had lost its left hook. It had also lost its right punch. You see, the mass of inappropriate statements, obscene business practices, name calling, and other offences unleashed by Trump’s communication platform practices had rendered a magazine like Vanity Fair powerless. It had nothing new to report; Trump had basically prepackaged and trademarked any scandal and sold it for profit before a journalist could pounce.

During the next leg of my journey I read more Tonio Kroger, and then decided to read the Trump article in the New Yorker. The woman next to me played with her telephone.  The New Yorker article brought forth the argument that Trump was the answer to moving the American Republican Party along to a new era or moving the bipartisan theme towards outer space exploration. Never mind the man, the article prompted, and his tweets, Trump was an instrument that would slay and lay dinosaurs to rest.

Where, I thought opening up TS Eliot’s The Wasteland for the final mileage of my journey, is the person behind the President-Elect?  It’s like we have all ended up “playing the gramophone.”

Saturday, January 7, 2017

That Little Encounter in Black

I don’t know about you but maybe you’ve had the same experience. It was like landing in Absolutely Fabulous.  I suppose I had gate crashed but maybe you can’t gate crash if the gate hasn’t been set up.

“You’re early.”

I looked at the immaculate buffet spread, and the two young women in black.  I remember their eyes appeared clad in black as well. It was as if they were saying, “We are black like crows. We can’t make the runway because we don’t have the right junk anywhere on the vehicle so we are black as crows and that’s our excuse to cross the room.” I ignored the statement and asked them about their mission in the shop. That was why I was there anyways, sent on an errand for an organization to see if we could provide volunteers for a good cause. 

An elegant woman rushed from the back of the store towards me and exclaimed, “I didn’t even get my make-up on.”  She was the type of person you like immediately even though she started in burbling her media statements about the ethical fashion line she’d started, instantaneously confiding her age to me. “I am forty-six.” She looked a lovely forty-six without make-up. I suspected she was younger and this was a little game.  She indicated to a woman loitering nearby, another being in black. “She’ll do my make-up.”

“Is she any good?” I asked, having glanced over the example.

The entrepreneur didn’t answer. She rolled her eyes ever so slightly.

You'd never guess it, but she was wearing all black. “Do you know who made your clothes?”  She was persisting in her spiel. I didn’t need to hear the spiel. I was standing in a recycled coat, not much black to be seen.  The entrepreneur looked me over.  That’s right I followed her eyes.  Let alone who made the garments I had no idea who had worn my clothes earlier in time and I didn’t really care. My lifestyle is based on the grand theory of recycling.

I inspected the near invisible retail items in the shop. We ate some popcorn out of an extremely attractive cone together waiting for other guests.  The calories accepted by her nimble fingers. “You can maybe help out with the upcoming events for our line of bags. They are made by the women in prison down in Naples.”  She meant Italy and not Florida. I didn’t mention any association about Bush and the American industry run out of prisons all over the USA, because this was different, this was for a cause in support of women who have experienced domestic violence. Still the word exploitation hovered near my lips.

Guests arrived. Her assistant talked to me. “I am thirty-one.” She stated looking too young to wear so much severe black, “But everyone thinks I am younger.” I concentrated on examining the photo shoot in Vogue Magazine using the shop’s fashion accessories.

The entrepreneur rushed from the back store room into the miniscule shop towards her more acceptable guests, her faced mummified in pancake.

That was my cue to go out into the night and catch a train elsewhere.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Run Around, Good Style

“What is that which always is and has no becoming; and what is that which is always becoming and never is? That which is apprehended by intelligence and reason is always in the same state; but that which is conceived by opinion with the help of sensation and without reason, is always in the process of becoming and perishing and never really is.”

Jesus.  The answer came to me directly. There, a messiah. I just solved the ancient riddle of the Greek philosophers.

Recently I met a friend after many years.  I was quite pleased she reached out, asking me to set a date for coffee.  In fact when I moved to Amsterdam I expected that this would happen often, tried to initiate contact but most often it didn’t manifest.  So instead of meeting old tenuous connections from my past I attended tango, yoga, etc. to form new connections and routines. Now three years down the road, my friend, unemployed, has time and sent me a message.

What did I know about her, I mused, from all those years ago? She was still petite, vivacious, her black eyes sparkled. I am living in a small apartment in the city center, actively pursuing my interests which have nothing to do with forming a relationship of any sort. Fleeing attachment, I’ve been thinking about my oasis, a little patch of calm, as a gift of grace.  She, on the other hand, not having had a long term relationship was still actively looking for the true love of her life while squatting in 27 square meters of studio.

I remember, years ago in Paris, I lived in a chamber de bonne on the top floor of the American Church.  There were three of us, au pairs, housed in a row of small rooms along the top floor. We each had a sink and a closet, mine was without doors. Next to me an entrepreneur organized his resale business, he trolled garbage bins for saleable items and housed them next to the elevator for short periods. He’d lugged up a complete spiral staircase once, with those gravel encrusted cement pedal steps. He’d done this in the middle of the night one Parisian spring month before his plans for conquering Russia consolidated. At the end of the row lived a divorcee. She was American, had been married to a Frenchman, and was co-parenting a teenager.  Whispers about domestic violence in her past (the church was secured) and her quiet zen like countenance embraced her; she was kind and sometimes invited me to drink tea in her room, sitting on the floor. I believe Marie Kondo, organizational angel of great tidings and seeker of holistic appreciation, would have approved of her lifestyle.  We each had 9 square meters of space and I was drowning in mine, my stuff tumbled out of the closet despite numerous attempts to organize it. The divorcee seemed to have sussed out a supreme minimal lifestyle, a few decorative cardboard boxes served as furniture and decor.

Keeping this type of reduction in mind, I use and purge continually. While the realization that nine square meters would be a gut wrenching challenge, I happen to be blooming in 30 odd square meters. But then I had the twenty year relationship, the trips around the world, the garden, the hassles of home repair, the bouts of marital discord. I sat and looked at the lovely woman across the table from me, describe a series of terrible employment engagements, low professional ambition, swimming around the same menial job pool for the last twenty years, and realized she had never gotten the chance to break out of the student life situation, and there she stayed. As she spoke I realized she was still in her mind a student, young and open to showing whomever entered her atmosphere the warmth of her heart. Why would I want her to feel any different or curtail her dreams? She could always establish a new starting line, after all we all reconsider the map after discovering a path yet untaken.