Rust and stardust

Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were

I have spent the last couple of weeks trying to account for every month of 2017. I needed to go through all the photos in my phone to be able to do this. It seems that without them it would not have been possible for me to recall what I have lived. 2017 was not an easy year for me and for those around me. I broke someone’s heart and got badly bruised by someone else. Some sort of cosmic retribution I would say, if I was inclined to believe in a such thing.

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I don’t remember much happening in January 2017. I remember that I did not celebrate New Years, I went to bed before midnight. For the past eleven years I lived with someone who did not “believe in that sort of thing” and accommodated. I do believe in starting over, either on January 1st or whenever there is a need to do so. The best of January 2017 was hoping for something better to come along during the rest of the eleven months ahead. Daydreaming has always seemed to me another form of making plans. I did play dress up at Fatima‘s which seems to be my favourite form of therapy and was happy to find my Mozambique travel diary.

Why, what’s the matter,
That you have such a February face,
So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?

I particularly dislike the first three months of every year. They are normally cold and grey and wet and February does feel like paradoxically long most of the times, but this one I actually remember it as being a happy month, celebrating Futurism and Almada in the voice of talented friends and art exhibitions, going back to Fatima’s for a somewhat surreal fashion shoot, having my hair cut and feeling incredibly cool and authentic as a tomboy, getting on stage for Flamenco tangos and fandangos and being busy with costumes and make up backstage.

March was also surprisingly good: Filipe Catto doing Variações, finding the life of strangers inside second-hand books, commuting in Lisbon with people that have no end, as Almada would say, those are the best people; seeing friends’ dreams come to life, Anna Karenina remixed at TNSJ (How she dies) and finally gaining momentum to read it all, page after page, without spiking details, Olivier Saillard‘s manifesto, waiting around for friends who are always late, going back in time, Macbeth’s open rehearsal and being reminded of the absolute privilege of hearing António M. Feijó

April came and it was not the cruelest month. Going away, enjoying bad habits at cool smokers lounges, arriving in Sarajevo, the sun, the snow, the coffee, new Friends, their stories, the history, the drive to Mostar, long conversations on everything and nothing, swan lake reloaded, the beauty, hanging out over drinks and photos and dance, “come what sorrow can it cannot countervail the exchange of joy”. Sarajevo might not have changed my life but has changed something inside me forever in the way I am able to relate and feel immense love for other people and to the moments we shared. Realizing I live somewhere in musical schizophrenia, absolutely loving two of the best concerts of the year between Heavy Metal and Fado, and that this actually helps. Every day.

May walked backwards: going back to the roots that sometimes still clutch, being back in Siena in great company, getting lost in museums, being silly enough to play La Niña de Fuego, going back to the music that once made sense

June chasing angels and finding them: Loft living in DTLA, getting an education at Los Feliz, unexpected gifts, falling in love with a bookstore, the kind and dapper gentlemen at Clifton’s, old school partying, the Los Angeles Athletic Club, being back at the MOCA, stars that never fade, hanging out with some of the coolest Ladies I know, feeling in heaven at the Way we Wore, feeling at home at LACMA, “The city is named for the angels, And its angels are easy to find”, on Beauty and Consolation, Shakespeare, being called Hope and the freedom of learning by heart, feeling at peace in Porto, clowning around on stage.

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought

I summon up remembrance of things past,

I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,

And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:

Then can I drown an eye, unus’d to flow,

For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,

And weep afresh love’s long since cancell’d woe,

And moan th’ expense of many a vanish’d sight;

Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,

And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er

The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,

Which I new pay as if not paid before.

But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,

All losses are restor’d, and sorrows end.

July “I believe I read most of it with my eyes shut” Spring’s Awakening, Summer sunsets, flamingo shoes, walking on sunshine, flirting with writing machines and getting no answers, seeing the fog clear; “life is a matter of taste”.

August getting older and none the wiser: Chance encounters have consequences too, birthday surprises, finally returning to Mérida and making it to the classical theater festival, between a rock and a hard place, checking works of art walk by, music does save your mortal soul (writing letters might not). Fátima moved to Braga and I almost did as well.

September “Music melts all the separate parts of our bodies together.” Going kitsch, Being hugged by strangers, getting closer, Rosalía e Raül Refree at Theatro Circo, Revisiting Viana and more talented friends, realizing that nothing lives there anymore, Lisbon stories por buleria, reconnecting with Luis after having met in Boston, Still writing letters (with a pen), Jazz with a view, bumping into Lola Lola, Book fairs and pulp fictions, Being somewhat afraid of Virginia Woolf, meta coincidences, Being teletransported to The Zap via Ian’s syndrome, Revisiting Mr. Vertigo’s last (together) space, Being disarmed by words, bedtime stories and playlists feeling like goodnight kisses, Between lived words and word games, Street poets on the verge of insanity. Facing the truth and having it added to my pillow book.

I wasted time, and now doth time waste me

October “There is nothing in the dark that isn’t there when the lights are on.” A road trip through a black hole, Spiraling into someone else’s talent, Seeing George and Martha come to life, The apparent insight and kindness of strangers, Getting it wrong, learning where not to go, learning to let go, forgetting the door was open and letting chance walk right in (again), the Safety of favourite places and favourite people, Walls quoting Sartre, Lisbon stories, Healing noises, Wonder walks, wonder walls and the best guide in town, Black cats and English eccentrics, Bad concerts with cool friends, Reaching Point Omega, Making peace with Virginia Woolf through Orlando, “To put it in a nutshell, he was afflicted with a love of literature. It was the fatal nature of this disease to substitute a phantom for reality.” I have fallen in love with words. The ones I wanted to read, the one’s the poet on the other side knew were the right ones.

November “O bom é ser inteligente e não entender. É uma benção estranha, como ter loucura sem ser doida.” (The good thing is to be intelligent and not to understand. It’s a strange blessing, like having madness without being crazy.) In love with Josef Isräels‘ Mijmering, Stendhal syndrome episodes, Daydreaming and insomnia, Fictional love affairs through jet lag induced illusions – such is the power of words: they make you see things that aren’t there. Teenaging in Yichang, getting to know Frida who met at me at the airport wanting to know if my name really meant hope, hanging out with Cathy, Being a lucky charm, Getting Lost in translation and still feeling better than Charlotte, Tai Chi classes on airplanes, the sunset in Xangai and the sunrise in Amsterdam, Dark Porto, Lisbon stories on disappointment and being a spoiled brat, Life according to George Costanza, Flying solo, Getting it (so incredibly) wrong and trying to take the high road, Lisbon stories – the cold shoulder episode, saved by the happiness of strangers and a wise beyond her years long distance friend, Chasing walls, 3 a.m. dinners and the warmth of platonic love, Boots, Songs about boots, Good concerts with the same cool friends and some more, Drafting fictional memories, “For once the disease of reading has laid upon the system it weakens so that it falls an easy prey to that other scourge which dwells in the ink pot and festers in the quill. The wretch takes to writing. ” Flying high and falling hard: Considering emotional exile, Soap bubbles as reality filter

December “São tudo fantasias que o cinema projectou no meu olhar” (They are all fantasies that the cinema projected in my gaze): Letting someone else’s clothes and music do the talking; Being called a pearl farmer and realizing that every once in a while casting pearls to swine is no big deal; I’ll still have plenty left. The circus, moments of pure joy, remembering my Grandparents, because they were the ones who used to take me when I was a kid, Sharing heartbreak stories during the storm with a name, pretending to be Mia Wallace and then dreaming of being Vivian Rutledge, better yet, Florence Carala (there was enough mist for that), If only I was Jackie Demaistre, Facing lost possibilities, Befriending misfits while drinking coffee and talking for an hour at gas stations, Going back to the classroom and considering that I might actually enjoy teaching, Midnight strolls during Sagittarius birthdays, Playing diva with the Diva, Holly Golightly gifts for breakfast, Christmas Day at the movies, making up gangster stories at Turkish restaurants, Bumping into Pedro from school and being 9 again, ivory colored letters in real envelopes with real stamps, feeling connected while trying to disconnect, Synthesizer freaks, being Alice but not in the city, time lapsing, picking up where we left off, So many ways to be (“no olvides que solo eres real cuando tocas y te tocan“), the Clear Insight, Incredible Patience, Undivided Attention and Unconditional Love of old Friends. Braga doing more for my sanity this year than any shrink could have ever done. “And the rest is rust and stardust.”

I can only note that the past is beautiful because one never realises an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don’t have complete emotions about the present, only about the past

I think this is the first time I try to write some kind of “memory”. I am not very good at describing events, everything that has happened seems to have only a translation in how places, books, movies, plays, poems, music, little details, events, actions and the words of others have made me feel. And, in 2017, most of them have hurt me deeply. This year, I celebrated New Year, for two whole days. On December 30 I went to a punk rock show and decided not to move away from the mosh pit as some sort of “shock therapy” and it felt good. I spent New Years Eve with my best friend and his family and even though we had not thought of going out, we did and danced the night away until morning. And all this might not solve anything, but just giving myself away to music makes me feel both hugged by the world and ready to restart.

The appeal of inebriating oneself.

 The appeal of the dance and of the shout,

 the appeal of the colorful ball,

 the appeal of Kant and of poetry,

 all of them . . . and none of them resolves things

 

Today (January 1st) I went back to the circus and felt like crying during Duo eMotion‘s act. Real life is never this perfect. Or beautiful. And then, sometimes it happens. I went for coffee at my favorite place in Porto and wished by favorite waiter a Happy New Year and he just called me my love and kissed me. These little details end up, in a way, making up for a lot of the mistakes and disappointments of the previous year.

Unspoken feelings are unforgettable

If you set them free by writing unnecessarily long posts they might just go away.

 

mde

References:

Vladimir Nabokov, Marcel Proust, William Shakespeare, Clarice Lispector, Virginia Woolf Anais Nin, Samuel Beckett, Carlos Drummod de Andrade, Andre Tarkovsky, António Variações, The Twilight Zone

Mozambique 97

In August 1997 I travelled from Brazil, where I was on vacation with my parents, to Maputo where I stayed for a while with an uncle who was working there at the time. These are pages from my travel diary.

After six days in Porto Alegre, a city I was quite familiar with during my teens and early twenties, I flew to São Paulo to get on the flight to Beijing which had its first stop in Johannesburg.

At Guarulhos I waited,  trying to read Raygun magazine’s special issue on Cinema and Music.

I think my mistake was that I thought you could live the things that you acted. But I realized that that wasn’t the case. Then I realized that I would be better suited to try to do that but without an audience. To pretend I was in the movies all the time, basically. And to try to create a narrative flow out of actions, and sequences and events.

Will Oldham in that Raygun Magazine

My mum made me promise I wouldn’t get out of the airport in Johannesburg during the six-hour-long layover. I did. I took a taxi and Philly drove me downtown to Museum Africa and drove past Ponte Tower and took me to Ellis Park and the flea market in Gateway and told me I should walk around Carlton Center and I remembered that my mum used to talk about this place. There were people playing chess on a gigantic board. I was born in Johannesburg. How could I not go out?

I arrived in Maputo at night. My uncle, my aunt and my cousin picked me up and drove me home, a big apartment in Avenida Albert Lutuli, overlooking the Aga Khan foundation from the living room and the car park on the Polaroid from my bedroom.

I went to Mozambique to do research on forced labour migration. Most of my first weeks were spent at the library of the Provincial Culture Centre in Rua do Bagamoyo, former Rua do Araújo in the also former “red light district” of the former Lourenço Marques.

The long balcony of the former brothel was where I spent my smoking breaks. Across the street there was a Pensão (I suppose a hostel by now) and the life of the Dutch couple staying there became also some sort of voyeuristic break. Under the balcony, every day, the same lady selling matchboxes danced to her own rhythmic section when she got bored.

This how research turned mostly into contemplation of life by the Indian Ocean.

Every morning I would pretend to be a morning person and go downtown at 6.30, have coffee at the Scala or the Continental and wait for the library to open while marvelling at the long line of men and women getting their shoes polished. We are proud of our shoes, Professor C. tells me. Most of us only have one pair, most probably handed down, we have to keep them looking new.

Before my aunt and my cousin go back to Portugal we go to Nelspruit to do some supermarket shopping. It felt like the old ritual of crossing the border to go to Tui or Vigo in Galicia for the same purpose before there were “free markets” and you could buy the same sort of things on the Portuguese side at the border. We get to Ressano Garcia and there are long lines of people and cars to cross to Komatipoort. I walk around amazed at the chaos of this mythical place that I knew only from books. It’s dirty and crowded. On the other side, I don’t have to wait, my passport is South African and everyone thinks I am American because of my accent. Nelspruit looks like a giant supermarket where people buy giant tins of butter. I had never seen a tin of butter before. We spend the night at a lodge near the Kruger Park and go visit the next day. There’s no diary entry for this. There are hundreds of photos and boxes of photographic slides (!) I still can’t find the words to tell anyone what it felt like.

My aunt and cousin return to Portugal in time for the start of the school year. I stay on with my uncle and Olga who worked as a cleaner and cook at the flat and was now a single mother of two after her husband left. We had fun together. There was a fabric warehouse just around the corner from our flat and we often went to buy capulanas and play dress up. With my uncle, there were a lot of arguments about how to “behave in Africa” and how to deal with “things you know nothing about”.

Outside, there was still a whole world to be explored and a lot of bureaucracy to deal with when trying to get authorization to see archives. The upstairs neighbour who owned the liquor store in Avenida Josina Machel tells on me because she saw me walking home. It’s not appropriate. Apparently.

I spend two days reading labour legislation at the Ministry. The intern there just got a scholarship to go to Holland to study for a Masters degree. He’s happy is not heading to Portugal to do that. I then move to the National Film Institute. I had an amazing two weeks in this place just watching movies and making friends.

Everywhere, I am surrounded by words and images and words and images that always have some sort of political meaning. And writers, and artists and liberation activists and foreign journalists that have stayed on after the colonial war was over. And Italians that have become African and don’t even speak Italian anymore. And generous souls that have shared pieces of their lives and changed mine.

Re-living these pages I am, sometimes, amazed at what I have written. From quotes of Ruth First and Margot Dias to somewhat futile accounts of every little detail of every walk around the city, every coffee, every encounter.

I didn’t want to risk missing a thing. I didn’t want to risk losing the memory of the place and of the people.

Re-living these pages, I am really sorry that I haven’t kept the habit of writing travel diaries. Re-reading some of these pages, I realise they are actually a script for the adventure movie of that African winter.