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Archive for the ‘dreams’ Category

Keeping House

In A post to keep afloat, Absurdlandia, Artists, Current reading, dreams, Rejection on July 20, 2016 at 8:13 am

The walls are lined with books, all in French. The literature sorted by period – the well-known classics, most of them from the nineteenth century and early twentieth. I pick up some of the more recent, read a few chapters, and set them down. Uninteresting? No. Predictable. You turn to the last page: sure enough the landing, as expected.

The boy comes back from his shopping expedition with two others in Toulouse. Tells me about his purchases and the highlight of their foray – a kebab shop where they ate so much, he says, that at nine PM, he’s not hungry yet. Large eaters they are not. He heads back to my place for the night, proud to have his own key, his own room – and the envy of some of his friends, still in the Home. Before leaving, he wonders how I can spend entire days alone. Reading and writing, I explain. The notion strikes him as too odd for response.

In fact, the writing is at an utter standstill. Something like a stunned silence with brief interjections from time to time. “I thought I knew, but I didn’t,” –  that kind of thing. Totally off track, in fact. Imaginary friends are tricky that way.

Recent writings in French don’t appeal much so I revert to a battered old find. The lives of famous seamen, offered in the year eighteen seventy-five to a young lady, as first prize in religious instruction. Instructive indeed in terms of the White Man’s great mission of spoil and plunder. The racism so blunt and blatant it could be lifted straight off some contemporary twitter feeds and Facebook comments.

Dispossessed and at sea. Basic theme: I thought I knew and I didn’t. A familiar place. I’d like to visit other spaces where some of the people keep some of their promises some of the time.

I’ll find my footing again? Of course I will. But I expected better and will have to find some way to make it so for myself and for others.

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When nothing works out as you’d intended

In Absurdlandia, dreams, Local projects, proto drafts, Rejection, Uncategorized on July 19, 2016 at 9:02 am

lots of ways to chip away at someone’s self-confidence. Lots. Anonymity allows for lots more. Add the “hark, who goes there?” factor to it and  you can do a mighty fine job – something like the psychological equivalent of earth tremors. Is the ground moving? Will it grow to a rumble? Will your entire life’s work crash or dissolve or pale into insignificance? Are you being overly sensitive? Is it all your own fault anyway, etc. Upbringings rich in guilt education make for extra-favorable ground to self-inflicted doubt. Fighting the paralysis when it creeps in – how best to.

Move the limbs. Move the fingers. Refuse, refuse the verdict – be it self-administered or someone else’s take on who you are, what you mean, why you said or did not say, why you did or did not do.

The world’s a crazy place and not about to get saner.

Tenir debout dans le chaos. Just because it’s your life and you’re not about to be handed another.

How this will translate in fiction? No idea. None. Right now, the whole project feels as lifeless and useless as a dead fish left to feed the flies under a pier. I’ve no doubt this too shall pass, because that’s what feelings do. Pushing out and out, and out some more. Taking time out to say hey, me, whereto now? Nothing works out the way you expected, does it?

Whereto now.

Frustration – dealing with

In A post to keep afloat, Absurdlandia, dreams, Hautvoir, Local projects, proto drafts on July 15, 2016 at 8:01 am

Such are the ways of internet that I learn of grief and carnage further south here in France from an email received from Canada. The grief and carnage (and looming rage, revenge and so on): undeniable. But I have more immediate and local concerns centering around a group of teenagers – and one in particular – so you might say that, for the moment, the immediate looms large enough to counterbalance the further down the road.

The title summarizes the predominant feature in the inner landscape this morning. Frustration at not getting through to a frustrated teen ager. Of the group, he’s the one most at risk of falling in with the wrong friends. The one most in need of structure and of someone playing the role of a father figure or older brother. Obviously, I am neither of those.

Unseasonably cold weather. The proto draft on chill too, for no other reason than the impossibility of maintaining the breathing space in which to let the characters out to play.

Magpies chattering outside. Recollections of a long-ago dream in which my former mother-in-law and grandmother to my child instructed me on how to deal with all those dangers at my door and windows. Concentrate on one object, she said in the dream. Even as someone jimmies the lock on your door, concentrate on one thing and one thing only.

Breath, for example, the empty space between intake and out take. The space where potential likes to hang out.

 

Mischief

In dreams, Food, Fun, Hautvoir, proto drafts, RLB trivia on July 14, 2016 at 8:21 am

We’re in the car, driving to the glass museum in the former mining town of St-Benoit de Carmaux, when I say something about our mother’s recoil at anything resembling humor. Yet, in the trove of photos, I see a few of her looking jolly in social settings – parties and such. But jolly didn’t fly in family circumstances. My sister’s interpretation: laughing implied a loss of control. Given some of the less savory aspects loss of control can take, you could call our mother’s efforts at self-control commendable, if misguided. Given we’ll all die anyway, I’d rather die laughing and I’d rather laugh whenever possible between now and the final send-off.

The nuns shared this dread of laughter. As for portraits done in oils (or their later interpretations in the first days of photography) – how often have you come across a formal portrait of some grandee laughing his head off, or with his teeth showing and his wig askew?  The simple answer: never.

Therefore (since this is leading somewhere) a someone given to setting off bouts of giggling in others was not invited to exercise her skills at school commencements or graduations; in classroom settings; at her grandmother’s table or during a family dinner where the main concern of all centered on the edibility of the contents in the mystery pot about to be uncovered.

Solemn was good. Mischievous was bad. Simple. Basic. Prior to the meal, we now bow our heads to ask for heavenly assistance with our digestive juices.

***

After the glass museum, we ate salade aux deux saumons (gravlax and smoked) in Albi.  Giggled over some of the more memorable culinary fiascos from our childhood. And recalled with fondness our father’s   purchase of a gadget from which he produced grilled cheese sandwiches he served with pickles, when all else was lost to the Burnt, the Raw, the… the… that thing you just lifted out of the stewpot, what is it exactly, mother? Or would we rather not know?

(Both the visit to the museum and the subsequent walk through Albi were enlivened by my attempts* to keep my pants on – the change in diet begun end of June isn’t beneficial to my limited wardrobe.)

* successful, but this added an element of suspense to the outing.

***

One boy whose papers don’t bear up under scrutiny will show up at my door at some point around ten o’clock this morning. Beyond listening to him, there won’t be much I can do to help. Who knows – there may be a hidden thread in his narrative that leads out and away, same as in a Navajo rug.

Another boy sends me three pieces of writing he’s done. Of the whole group, he’s the one with a real grasp of the French language and a real desire to use the written word. Why he’s taken to signing his stuff so-and-so President of Africa in some cases, or President of Africa and revolutionary in others, I’m not sure. Given his enthusiasm for words, the fact the authorities signed him up to learn maintenance on industrial equipment can’t sit too well on his sixteen or seventeen years of life experience.

Of the three pieces he sent me last night, the best to my mind is the one he titled Immigration. Could also be called Immigrant’s Blues. Some of the imagery in it stays in mind this morning – for instance, his comparison of the Mediterranean sea to a cold storage chest for Africa’s youth. Funny, not.

Which makes humorous mischief the better option when the weight of the world bears down too much.

(Do I add a post to keep afloat to the filing categories for this blogpost? Yep. Along with food, dreams, fun, Hautvoir, proto drafts, and RLB trivia.

Allez? Allez.

While a silly tune plays havoc with my head

In Absurdlandia, Artists, Circus, Dance, dreams, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, proto drafts, Theater on July 3, 2016 at 8:35 am

This is serious. Come on. Look at the mess on your desk. Look at everything you must get done before nightfall. Plus, the horrors, the miseries, the emergencies. Plus, you must take some time for yourself, as they say. Relax. Wind down. But Think Of Others! But don’t stress out. But…! and so on.

Tragedy/Comedy. An impossible balancing act? But so is the simple act of walking.

Few of us will ever push the act of walking up to the level of walking on point, one foot at a time, on overturned glasses. And, indeed, what is the use or the purpose of achieving such a level of strength, grace and daring? No purpose. The notion must have appealed to the circus artist* the same way a crawling baby decides he’s going to manage that trick of walking on his hind legs no matter how many times he lands on his bum.

Impossible. The tragedies, too deep. The comedies, too superficial. “Not funny,” say the mourners, and of course, they’re right. Except for the fact laughter doesn’t ask anybody’s permission to show up, even at a funeral. Laughter breaks forth – in churches, in schools, in hospitals. It can even break forth while having sex or visiting a sorely afflicted friend stranded in dire circumstances. How? Why? Because of something incongruous. Something that breaks the solemnity. A fly on the solemn speaker’s nose. A piece of savage wit. Anything, anything at all that interrupts the narrative and sends it spinning off in another direction.

Something silly enough to interrupt even horror?I don’t know, although some of my characters keep on trying to break through that barrier too.

For now they’ll have to take the back seat while I tackle another bout of paper sorting, laundry and house-cleaning, prior to various visits – official and otherwise –  to my humble home. (The official part happens on Tuesday. Can I greet two persons from Aide Sociale à l’Enfance with my living-room in this condition? And my kitchen? And – gad – the bathroom. Will you look at this mess in the office? )

and so on.

*La danseuse sur verre (Lucie Boulay). You can see her performance on youtube or visit this page of Le Boustrophedon’s website.

Whatever you do, make sure you re-arrange the truth

In Artists, Current reading, dreams, Hautvoir, Music, notes, photography, proto drafts, Theater on June 20, 2016 at 7:00 am

The estrangement is subtle. Subtler things are easy to pass by. When you do, they leave an impression, a dis-ease with no clear name stamped on it, except that of estrangement.

A group of people. Some you like more, some less, but you are linked together by a common task. At some point, one of them evokes a childhood memory – a song, a popular figure or even, the names of Snow White’s seven dwarves in their childhood recollections. The stories tumble out – first one, then another, in the usual way groups react to something meaningful. To some of the memories you wish to react with your own, except…

Except you know you’ll interrupt the flow. Why? Because you’ll need to provide context – another country, another culture, a different way of relating to what the group is sharing. Sometimes, you join in with this bit of yours and modify the flow. More often than not, you don’t. A camera’s a good thing to have in those moments. You’re the one in the group who clicks the shutter every so often, the way one of the dwarves is called Sleepy and another…whatever – the names of the seven dwarves never meant that much to me.

Meanwhile, it’s Act Three in the days before King Arthur’s time (at least, in Shakespeare’s play) and King Lear feels his sanity reel and sway. He counted on Regan after Goneril’s betrayal and lo – here they are, his two daughters, joining hands against him while he’s cast away the third.

Of course, once the betrayals begin they won’t stop until the play ends. The play isn’t called a tragedy for nothing and good king Lear could be called But, I thought

I wake from the dream with thoughts of James Joyce’s The Dubliners this morning. Of all those real-life encounters you can’t tell without at least a smidge of transmogrification.  Finding the one thread to pull so as to get away from what really happened: not always obvious.

Late morning. A young man lies in the grass, complaining that his head hurts. The story tumbles out of why he and the group leader arrived so late.

Binary systems, open-ended ones

In Current reading, dreams, Hautvoir, humeurs, Local projects, news coverage, notes, proto drafts on June 16, 2016 at 8:29 am

The meeting broke up when the rain pelted down. Thirteen people in front of a tea house in a small town. One man quoted Gramsci: “The old world is dying and the new world struggles to be born. Now is the time of monsters.” A much younger one with piercings explained why voting was a sham, we needed to change our daily lives, reach out to others and link in brotherhood across the world. A third slammed into the quoter of Gramsci (and member of the Communist Party) – how could a Party who’d followed the Stalinist line all those years, etc. Some of the exchanges I couldn’t make out because of young men driving by, revving their motors or screeching the tires in sync with the rapper blaring off their car radio.

At least four of the thirteen said they wouldn’t vote at the presidential election next year. I can’t vote anyway, seeing as I’m an alien from the Americas. So what was I doing at the meeting, you ask? Putting in my two cents’ worth and listening to what others had to say.

Three of the thirteen are members of the Communist Party. One of them, of Algerian origin, spoke about the massacres that overtook his country of birth in the late eighties and nineties, and how we take democratic freedoms for granted until we lose them. The young man with piercings asked: “what freedoms?” The older one answered: “Sitting outside with others, debating on whether to vote or not, for instance.”  From the younger one’s reaction, you could tell this was much too little to satisfy his longing for universal brotherhood.

For/Against. Yes/No. On/Off. We/Them. Party discipline. Maybe, just maybe, the Gramsci quote isn’t complete, the quoter and I said while the group sheltered from the rain. Maybe the “new world” needs more of our attention, and the monsters, less. Maybe the monsters will take the day. Maybe not, if we act as if the future isn’t foregone. As if an endless rush into bigger meaner catastrophes isn’t the only option. As if the strict parity of men and women in a rigid binary-system isn’t the be-all of possible higher aspirations. As if a tad more attention to the kids before they freak out doesn’t make more sense than more guns, more tear gas, more water cannons, bombs, etc.

A dreamer? OK. So are we all. Why discard the finer dreams and live out nothing but the worst nightmares? And if the worst nightmares prevail, why not go on preferring the jesters to the kings and pulpit-thumpers, whether self-appointed or elected?

(Although, I admit, on some days, opting away from tragedy and gravitas requires a serious act of will. And the reading of The Tragedy of King Lear in tiny, bite-size increments. This last paragraph, written to the sound of a road crew slicing through concrete with a power saw. Maman. It’s the small stuff that tests the most).

As we do not go marching

In as you see fit, dreams, Hautvoir, proto drafts, Sundays on June 5, 2016 at 7:10 am

Three years ago in Toulouse, a bunch of ultra right-wingers beat up and killed a young man who was part of an anti-fascist movement. Yesterday, several hundred marchers marched in Paris to slogans such as “We don’t forget”, “All cops are bastards”, “Everybody hates the police”, “No fascists in our quarters, no quarter for fascists”, etc. There followed some predictable exchanges with the police. How any of this was supposed to serve the cause for which the young man died three years ago, I fail to appreciate.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in a flooded section of Paris, several hundred migrants in leaky tents had their water supply cut off. A local team of activists did their best to keep the men, women and children fed, if not dry, to the resounding indifference of everyone, save the ones battling exhaustion, anger and discouragement – their own and that of the folks drenched to the skin.

***

Sunday morning. From winter-like, the weather turned to full summer here yesterday. On the market place below where I live, the temperature registered at 37° C. Cloudy sky this morning, two of the market stalls were up and the chicken man was setting up business when the dog and I came back from the morning stroll.

***

Writing away from the previous piece of fiction. Maybe I’ll get the synopsis done on the previous; maybe not. Finding my way into the world of published writers may turn out to be a pipe dream, since I’m not willing to invest much energy in solving that part of the equation. Pipe dreams are important, if they get you to do what matters most. From what I see of human interactions, my published writing would either go down to the remaindering pile or get a few people excited over stuff in my writing that made no sense to them. etc. Instead of writing, I’d spend my time angsting over what people say or don’t say about something I wrote.  I put that pipe dream aside next to the pipe dream of the one and only love that’s supposed to keep you soaring. I don’t discount the power of either one. Often and for long stretches, you have to learn to do without both except as longings. Longings are important too. Lots of energy bottled into them. You need that energy on some of the slower days. Plus “longing” has a finer sound to it than “pipe dream”.

 

 

 

Finding the break in the pattern

In Absurdlandia, dreams on June 3, 2016 at 8:10 am

When even one keystroke feels like an act of unspeakable hubris. Because who the hell are you to have an opinion on anything whatsoever? You’re a nobody and those who are somebodies make sure you know it. Familiar? Oh yes.

Yesterday’s moment of zen – what to pick. The invite to a screening on October 21st. Yes, that was a highlight indeed. I won’t have to pay, of course. I’ll go with the kiddies and their parents. Then, I’ll get to administer the quiz to the kids on the following week. Do you remember last week’s movie? Yes? Remember what it was about? and so on. I haven’t entered it on my calendar of upcoming events yet. Mustn’t forget. Won’t, for sure.

The stories don’t jell – or if they do, you don’t see it. You’re an occasional blip on someone else’s screen – hurray, hurray. The money’s come through on your bank account – your job to make it last till the fall. Summer holidays coming up = no paycheck. With luck, you’ll get to rake in a bit more with a workshop or two. Nothing fancy: basic grammar and spelling for refugees, that kind of workshop. A few of them profit from the experience, others don’t.

You’re supposed to polish off a synopsis and, by gum, there’s no polish left in the spit. Self-pity looms like a bank of storm clouds. All this for naught? and so on. But don’t worry: you’re a good egg and folks like you a lot. Smile, kid, smile. Keep going, etc.

There. You managed the unspeakable hubris of over two hundred words on a screen. No rain while you walked with the dog. Joie de vivre at a premium right now? Don’t fail to record whatever trace of it shows up. Man. For instance:  the sight of “news” about France on The New York Times website. The renovated Ritz in Paris. Man. Sure makes for a smile. Thanks, ye good ol’ TNYT for the stuff that counts.

Finding the break in the pattern. Or sticking to your own ways. Either way, nobody else will live your life for you, that much is clear.

 

Are we making sense yet?

In Absurdlandia, dreams, Hautvoir, Local projects on May 30, 2016 at 6:58 am

Some dismiss you as a fat, but harmless, old fool. Some dismiss you for no reason. Some don’t like you. Some like you for reasons to which you don’t relate. Some you like who don’t like you. Sometimes, there’s not much that makes sense and the disconnects leave you wondering if you landed on your head at an early age and everyone’s been too embarrassed  to tell you.

Making sense? Long stretches don’t. The million-copies-sold crowd get it right. Somehow, they figure out not many lives make sense, therefore, give the folks something that adds up. Ah-ha. For five hundred blessed pages, the readers let the pilot take them safely through all kinds of mayhem, on to the words The End. You’re in good hands with celebrated writer X, Y or Z. Fasten your seatbelt, suspend your disbelief, nobody will get hurt for real, no matter how realistic (or fantastical) the tale.

The week looms. I feel like an idiot who boarded the wrong train, and only discovers this when all the money’s gone and no one aboard speaks a language even remotely familiar. Some Monday mornings are less appealing than others.

So. Gather what wits I have about me. Deal with yet another bus ride to la préfecture in Albi with a man who still hasn’t mastered French after three years in the country. Nothing adds up except well-kept account books i.e.  math and straight lines drawn with a ruler. I flunked math a long time ago, and no matter what any of The Books say, being a human is one hell of a crazy ride with no promised land where the train tracks leave off for no reason.

Monday morning blues? Let’s call them that. Onward and so on, of course. Bounce along. Pretend you’re the boulder rolling downhill, and not the one who will have to roll it uphill again. Inertia to the point of complete standstill. Enjoy the standstill while it lasts. Pretend you enjoy absurdity in all its manifestations – who knows, you might even convince yourself you do. Those long periods of waiting in parking lots, for instance,  while others drift from one thing to the next, and before you know it, there’s another day gone in absurdlandia. Absurdlandia rules.

Allez.