Ah, I know. Friendship bracelets.
Told my coworker I’ll make a list of “calmer” games for the kids to play at the refugee camp, something we can do sitting down so their energy level doesn’t get too crazy; especially since yesterday smiley little amir mohammed, with his tiny toothless grin and big sparkling eyes, chucked a fat rock against the head of two-year-old Dameer and broke the kid’s face open. I carried this bleeding, screaming child all the way across the yard of the refcamp and surely everyone’s thinking, great, this fucking American just beat up an Afghan child. Not like that’s anything new. They know NATO for dropping bombs on kids and families all the time, without much discretion. I’m just a micro of the macro. Nobody actually said anything.
Duck duck goose. The silent murderer. Telephone. Down by the banks, but not that one, because the English is too difficult. Most of them aren’t at that level yet.
So the next day we load up the van and go, and I bring a sack of embroidery thread in 8 or 9 different colors with a tiny pair of scissors. Tape would have been nice but we didn’t have any, so we tied the strings to the table or held them taught by hand.
The plan was to teach the kids to braid, if they didn’t know already, and make friendship bracelets of three different colors. They all wanted to keep the bracelets for themselves, so there wan’t a ton of friendship going on, but companionship happened anyhow. We sat at a wooden picnic table in the center of the park area outside of the camp; kids between two and five, then some older Iranian woman, and one ancient Afghan great-grandmother of Asiatic heritage, wrapped in shawls, spoke only Persian, sat methodically braiding an elaborate chain from my coworker’s hand. He seemed to be falling in love.
Chasing beauty can be one’s permanent life pursuit. Chasing money is less abstract and equally achievable. Beauty is easy to find because it lives in dirt, in sorrow, in the separation of families, in the distance between young lovers, toddlers whose mothers have been killed in an airstrike and the community which rises to raise them, tiny hands braiding bracelets, wrinkles in brown skin and handmade trousers torn from jumping a border fence. Beauty is the most difficult thing to bear because it is temporary and somehow born from some type of hardship. Beauty is pain, blooms like flowers in the gut, and can never be fully destroyed. To chase one is to suffer the other.
I have decided to write The Great Friendship Manifesto
It is this:
Trust no one (completely.)
Your trust is like a cookie. You can give it all away and then you are shit fucked with no cookie, or you can hoarde that shit all for yourself and never have any friends because nobody wants a loser friend who won’t share their cookie.
I’ve met plenty of folks on both sides of the board–those who trust too much, too easily; and those who claim to trust no one. The caveat is that there aren’t really two sides: those who trust too easily are those most likely to claim to trust no one. Those who actually trust no one probably wouldn’t trust anyone enough to get into that level of discussion in the first place, so we can only guess at who those depraved nihilists are 😉
Perhaps I am an overly trusting person. Let’s be honest, if I’ve known you for a 24-hour period then I’m good to pop a squat in your front lawn in broad daylight if the bathroom’s busy. I will tell you all my secrets, because I don’t have any secrets, because there is no story I won’t tell, nothing I won’t talk about openly to they who will listen. I figure it doesn’t serve me to keep all my stories and shit to myself; does it save face, really, to act and then live in silence about acting?
Why should I care about saving face, anyway? From whom? Am I afraid The Public won’t love me? Fuck the public. I save face for my mom, who I do not wish to destroy emotionally, and for my dad, who I already have. Certain things are implied or inferred in our conversations; there are certain facts of my life that we never confirm nor deny. That is fine, I’ll do that for them. But not for you.
Posting a smutty photo that I know you’ll see, pissing on your lawn, sleeping on your couch, recounting to you that time in Denmark where I woke up with my underwear missing, memory black and a video of someone’s flaccid cock wearing sunglasses on my phone — none of that is really an act of trust, for me. I’ll do that shit with anyone, provided they’ve got a couch to sleep on or a dick that wears sunglasses. I believe acts of true trust run deeper than stories; they run to emotions and to physical acts, sex, sleep, relapse, bleeding, sobbing, screaming. If I can fight with you then you know I must trust you, although I may also want to murder you..? Oh well. We’re not trying to figure me out. I don’t recommend undertaking that endeavour and I’m beginning to figure that pretty much everyone else agrees with me.
Feeling free to feel freely with people is a lovely thing, but don’t delude yourself. By no means does it signify you’ve got a confidante to rely on for anything — especially the painful or inconvenient things. All people want for themselves and for their clans, and very few will welcome you into their clan with open arms and no fine print. If someone does, be wary. People lie. People act out of accordance with their true desires and beliefs in order to save face, out of guilt or social pressure, or to serve their own means and ends. Everyone has their limits of how much they can love you. There is no boundless love the way we are taught to believe, there is only delusion and an internal battle to balance self vs. us vs. them. And as we all know, them is not us. And rarely does us reach the importance level of “self”. Only when another is considered part of the self do we see that real, authentic bond of trust.
If someone says they would die for you, do not believe them. Jump in front of a bus and see if it’s true. Jump so you won’t need to need anyone anymore. There is no way they will not let you down, no way you won’t hurt them. There is no one but your mother that will love you forever, and no one on this earth who merits your unfailing trust.
chasing one little baby tick of unblackened weed around the rim of the pipe, warm in my bone-cold fingers: cold white light and me here on this dingy old velvet couch listening to the boys in AIDS’s bedroom pretending it’s a real gym. they listen to eminem a little too much, but i won’t givem shit for it.
genezareth and hannah are considering busking on a corner on weekends; seabass was turned down for a resto job due to his lack of a work visa; bethany was selling Christmas cards for a euro apiece; i was considering selling knit caps, AIDS and I have discussed becoming regional camgirls.
we are sort of brutally poor, but we do our bestish. combat creeping depression with routines and rituals: open the shutters every morning and close them up every night, go for hikes, go for runs, do pullups and pushups and abs, chat together in the sparsely-furnished kitchen all squattin on buckets and low stools on the ground. we are all in balls deep for bernie sanders.
written fall-winter 2015. entry 1 of a series.
only REAL MEN please
a REAL men:
-UniversidAd De La kAlLe
-into “butt stuff”
-can survive on pussy alone
-30min underwater breath-hold minimum
-can ask questions
-NOT allergic to shellfish
-SOMETIMES wears thongs
-ability to pivot right AND left
-does NOT use a pillow
-allergic to yogurt OK
Alright folks, I’d like to try and tell you about Dublin. I feel like I owe you at least that much. But I’m having trouble, see, because if Paris (or any city in France, really) is a nice classy woman exiting her limo and stepping delicately over a homeless man as she flits into a high-end cocktail bar, Dublin is a raw-legged tramp who just ditched the bill for a couple of pints eagerly pulling the homeless man into a taxi to get his pants off. The homeless man will happily be paying the fare.
In short, Dublin’s got the right idea about things.
But perhaps to kick off I should first mention Nice in the south of France, Nice which is bright shiny and gorgeous 364 days out of the year but rainy and ranging from 7 to 9 degrees Celsius with the wind chill on the day we were to pass through. Yet despite this frigidity the Mediterranean glowed pale turquoise under the grey of the sky and man, how that lady can beckon. Tourists and locals alike got their kicks watching as I clambered out of clothes and into blue water, air shocked from my lungs and the sky rumbling grey above, foolish girl again doing foolish thing but foolish girl hasn’t tasted saltwater since before she broke her spinal column and really couldn’t give a flying fuck about anything other than greeting the sea. Squeezing my frozen body back into skinny jeans while sticky with Mediterranean sea salt was more of a challenge, at which point one opportunistic middle-aged fellow up on the quay became notably fond of his camera. Casey held out a sweater and I struggled back into clothing while Elaine, bless her, kept busy shouting “YOU LIKE THAT, I SEE THAT YOU LIKE THAT” in loudly broken French.
Now, back to Dublin. The first thing you should know about Dublin is that Dublin loves you and it demands your love in return. Dublin is willing to work for it.
It’s illegal to purchase alcohol of any sort after 10 PM anywhere in the Republic of Ireland, which contributes directly to its universally thriving bar scene — one where pub crawls are packed with deceptively adolescent boys but it’s easy enough to find dashing Irish rapscallions partaking in their evening “mother’s milk” (creepy term for Guinness) while they bide their time awaiting a lady willing to cook them decent potato dishes in return for marriage vows. Dublin is a place where it is not possible to sleep before 5 AM if one is at all interested in flirting with rugged tattooed off-duty police officers or smoking in hostels with exceptionally friendly Croatians, in jumping in on ukulele orchestras or clubbing with handsome strangers keen on paying your way, in giving pep-talks to/charitably fondling desirous transvestites; in being tattooed late at night by a guy who is essentially Badger from Breaking Bad; in kicking a few back and communing with homeless folks and water hens down on the riverbanks; in lolling about in ancient crypts and shaking hands with 800-year-old Crusader mummies; in hanging out in bars dating back to the 1200’s or, at the very least, in drinking one’s dinner on the nightly.
We stayed four nights in Dublin, during which some of the above probably happened.
On to Galway and the Burren National Park, where resteth scattered tombs and burial remains dating back to 3000 B.C.E., where chalky sheep graze in dampened fields of grass and clover across rolling hills and rocky outcrops, dropping off on the brutal western coastline at the Cliffs of Moher (a.k.a. the Cliffs of Insanity, as featured in the Princess Bride.)
Our arrival in Galway coincided with the final day of “rag week”, an unfortunate chunk of time in which the closest European equivalents to fraternities and sororities do what those groups do best: get sloshed to the point of no return, pretend that they’re interesting individuals and hump each other in public. The boys break glass all over the damn place and the gals later walk around barefoot, toting their overly-ambitous heels and contracting various forms of Hepatitis. This booze-charged display of gratuitous juvenile douchebaggery had enveloped most of downtown Galway and, as it reminded me sickeningly of frat row back in Eugene, I did not rest long. Trudging back to the hostel one evening, my newfound French comrades and I stumbled upon an old man resting contentedly in the street with an enormous bloody hematoma on his forehead, and while we flagged down staff to call an ambulance this man took quite a shining to me. He grasped my hand tightly, telling me all about himself (name, address, the fact that he used to be a renowned street fighter and was chummy with Tom Hanks) and in the end I had to stay with him as I was the only person to whom he was willing to give his information. I explained frankly to my bewildered compadres that, according to the recurrent patterns of my life, it made quite a bit of natural sense that this man would select me as a BFF.
Ireland is an indelicate balance of esoteric landscape and raw humanity; one minute you find yourself contemplating the meaning of existence and simplicity in the clover fields and the next you’re shocked back down to earth by drunkards howling in the streets and the searing whiskey shot you just took to get your evening going. My French companions interpreted the Irish way as sleazy and inelegant, and I suppose they’re not exactly wrong. But for me this break from the delicate, guarded French approach to all affairs in life was a startling breath of fresh air and a welcome relief. I felt as though I’d unshouldered a heavy knapsack I’d been slogging around unwittingly for the past few months, and this feeling of intense calm chased me all throughout the country – from Galway down to Limerick for half-pints of Guinness, melted cheese sandwiches and old men hollering at the televised rugby game; to Killarney shoving into sweaty pubs and live music with Elaine and Lisa, a hot-blooded badass from Austria who travels Europe on her motorcycle; while winding through the unrestrained misty wilderness in the southern part of the isle on an inter-city bus; while passing the evening with a scruffy Irish bloke in a mescal bar on my last night in Cork. I even made some money when I demanded cash from a carful of guys that had hollered in my direction; they scrambled to get five euro together and handed it over without a word. That’s Ireland for you.
By the time Elaine and I reached Paris on our eighth day we were exhausted on every imaginable level, and our rapidly dwindling motivation to return to Lyon drove us to stay and recuperate two days with my dear Australian friend Leanne. We successfully visited the Parisian Catacombs, which I will save for a future post. That’s all for now, folks.
Ireland, you remarkable old floosie, you stole meh heart right out o’ me.
May the winds of fortune sail you,
May you sail a gentle sea.
May it always be the other guy
who says, “this drink’s on me.”
Just returned from Paris, two weeks living with basically the staff of the UN. How I ended up in a Villejuif apartment with two Turks, a Syrian and two Australians (one of whom is also Chinese) I cannot tell you. That last sentence was a lie, I am going to tell you now.
I met Leanne (Australian #1) kind of because we had a class together but mostly because four years ago she suffered the same exact type of spinal injury, except hers was for an acceptable reason (falling down a flight of stairs) rather than a dumbass reason (falling out of a tree.) Leanne is the definition of badassery: 30-something, multiple (legal!) passports, over 60 visited countries under her belt (her life goal is 200, lofty considering there are only currently 196 in existence.) She has been a dirty hippie and a rich bitch, been fat and been thin, and has left a trail of lovers all over the world (basically I’m aspiring to spiritually become her.) Leanne’s magnetic personality and clinically confirmed “unrealistic optimism” about all things in life make her an exceptionally adaptive human being and quick to build a social circle, hence the mixed-heritage carpool plan. We (the Syrian, the American and the other Aussie) “helped” her move out of Lyon to join her Turkish boyfriend Ilkem and his roommate/best mate Erke at their flat in Paris. (Worthy of note: Erke and I shared a white-hot romantic chemistry which culminated in his uncomfortably placing a hand on my shoulder/armpit area in the kitchen on the fifth or so night and stammering, “You’re good.” Mon dieu, Erke. Seductive skills top-notch.)
Aside from this whirlwind romance, the highlights of the trip are as follows.
- Commuting: Driving in France is a lot like being on a bumper car track if everyone else on the route has had a considerable amount of wine and a couple hits of crack cocaine. On the freeway, after being cut off by a middle-aged fellow in a small van, Leanne honked and Gareth stuck up his finger, and the force of his gesture fired an invisible channel of lightning directly up the man’s ass. He immediately began screaming and swung the van as near as he could alongside us, rolled down his window and slapped at the rear view mirror on our car, finally managing to knock it sideways. He continued in this manner for the better part of ten minutes, not allowing us to get away, throwing things (mainly lighters, what a sad waste of lighters which are often inconveniently expensive in these parts), swerving and basically having a time of it all over the freeway. It was almost cute, in a way.
- Getting cozy: Sharing a single-sized futon every night with Gareth, a lovely gay Chinese-Australian fellow, which was pretty easy for him as I now sleep like a log thanks to a combination of busted back (read: no moving) and a good-sized dose of Nortriptyline (read: no moving, no dreaming, no breathing or making of sounds whatsoever); more difficult on my end due to Gareth’s considerable snoring problem and random jerking about of limbs. Usually this resulted in sleeping Gareth slapping the side of my ass, which did not have pants to cover it after night #2 when I gave up on that venture. Anyway, Gareth and I got real close real quick.
- Nightlife: Had a nice little break from street harassment, believe it or not, but traded it in for a lot of bar harassment. One guy asked to take a picture with me in the bathroom, and before I had a chance to refuse he leaned over to snap a selfie and hurried to set it as his Facebook profile photo. Another night, a little tiny Arab guy drunk off his tits actually bought me a rose from one of the unfortunate souls that toots about selling single flowers out of bouquets at bars on the nightly (a common profession in France though doubtfully very profitable.) Little fella just couldn’t take no for an answer and consorted to kissing me all over the freaking face while I mostly just made noises and swung my hands about in a flurry, turns out I really need to work on my ‘no’ skills. When he stumbled to the toilet Gareth and I ducked out and jogged a good half-mile away from the bar, only to realize his scarf was gone. Though I offered in earnest to replace the scarf, as it was 100% wool it was clear that neither of us actually possessed the replacement funds; we opted instead to go back. Of course, we ran into the little meatball halfway up the hill and were forced to duck into a fancy Chinese restaurant to escape confrontation, where we were promptly seated and served with shrimp crisps while we perused the menu with no money. Leaving was uncomfortable.
- #MuslimXmas2014: A valiant effort on Leanne’s part to get the Turks, both raised Muslim, excited for a Christian holiday. It ended up being pretty fucking adorable: some really terrible Christmas music accompanied by Erke crooning “Jesus, Jesus” over and over, a baby tree topped with a mishmash star I folded out of wrapping paper, a raclette dinner, a small white elephant exchange and a breakfast of TimTams (a fine Australian delicacy/art form), shitty mimosas and earl grey, all helped along by that friend among all cultures, a healthy dose of Jackie D. We ended the day by smoking under the eiffel tower, as one does.
- Getting lost: Busting out on my own now and then, wandering through Belleville and hunting for street art, discovering “the only 666% metal bar in Paris” which was important, though laughably over the top, getting lost in the international district, drinking espresso between old French men and their newspapers, eating the best almond croissant I’ve ever dreamed of, bumbling through vintage shops, and trancing out watching an old homeless man feeding pigeons, surrounding him like gusts of wind in enormous waves.
- La Vielle: One grey morning in line at the bustling pâtisserie, a lovely old Parisian woman fawned all over my hair, so curious about my life and studies, insisting I had to see Florence because apparently Florence is just the best place ever. She then bought me an entire box of baby macarons and wished me a très bonne fête, which blew my heart up like a gross meat balloon to the point of bloody bursting.
- Queueing: The Catacombs, bane of my existence at this point. Number one thing I planned to visit, and visit I did — three days in a row without ever getting in. The queue is a debatable 2 to 4 hour wait, they stop taking people in an hour before close, AND close two hours early sometimes without warning, hooray! The catacombs literally employs people to just hang about near the end of the queue on the daily and tell folks who have been in line for hours that they probably won’t get in, which is likely the second worst job to have in Paris (#1 is definitely working the counter in paid toilets and turning away people with no money who need to shit.) Fortunately the hours on hours spent queueing for the ‘combs was time enough to make fast friends with a lovely group of British/English gals on holiday from Sheffield-slash-Yorkshire-I-never-quite-figured-it-out. Awesome people, feminists and kindred spirits with whom Gareth and I spent
- NEW YEAR’S! Jogging through the Paris metro with a gaggle of people all shouting and laughing in different languages, bursting out of the elevator and scattering up the hill in Monmarte, pushing up towards Sacre-Coeur and the bustling crowds of semi-drunks all singing and screaming and kissing each other, the sky alight with gold and bursts of fireworks, the tower and all of Paris sparkling out before us. We shared two bottles of cheap champagne and a beefy cigar (which I then pawned off on a drunk in a truck — we concluded cigars are on the whole little more than a really nasty-tasting design to stroke the male ego.)
To think, last year at New Years I was sick with the flu in my brother’s old twin bed, asleep by 9 PM. Feels like eons away now, a different era — or maybe it’s just hard to see through all the torrential merde that 2014 slung about. Shitfest that it was though, it was transformative beyond measure. I see myself so much clearer for its trials and triumphs; my awe and gratitude are too great for words — for the incredible love and incredible loss, all of the pain and the enormous joy. I’m resting with open heart and open mind for new lessons, new adventures, new chaos and new passions.
Buckle up, ladies and gents — 2015 is gonna be a wild one.