Bizarre witnesses

If they asked me, I could probably write a book on my mistakes. Not that it would amount to a very interesting read. But then, I take a long time to admit mistakes and I am not ready to talk about most of them, let alone willing to write them down.

My “Closet of Errors” is an attempt to come to terms with some of those mistakes by honoring them as intentional, mostly because my closet is full of witnesses.

In the Summer of 1992, I went to León in Spain for a paid work placement wit immigrant communities. I used part of the money I got to buy this Junior Gaultier jacket on sale. It was a super sale. It cost me 2.500 pesetas, something like €15 today or, if you are to believe that some online vintage  listings are accurate, €500. This witness still lives in my closet. I think I bought it because it was an unmissable opportunity to own a Gaultier piece (even if it was a little too small and it makes raising my arms a tad impossible) and because, in some way, it resonated with a watching, and loving, “Little House on the Prairie” when I was a kid. I think I haven’t worn it for at least fifteen years but it is not going to be easy to let this one go.

Having grown out of “Little House on the Prairie” and after a few years studying in the UK, my next Gaultier was a nod to Punk aesthetics and an attempt to keep some kind of Britishness with me. It’s now the property of someone living in New York. I though I was ready to let it go because I was selling it someone who would love it as much as I did. I wasn’t and I have the feeling that I didn’t sell it to the right person. I never got any feedback apart from the one in my mind telling me that, even though my unworn wardrobe can be an investment with an interesting return, it’s really not about the money. It is always about the lives I have lived wearing a particular piece, the lives I planned on living when I bought some other.

I planned, or better yet, I daydreamed a lot, and, in the process, started to choose the wardrobe to go with all the fabulous things I would be and for the grandiose life I would live. I have always missed places in time that I didn’t know  and prepared for them. I dreamed of being an aristocratic bohemian in Marrakesh, a flaneur who spent the time reading books and being intellectually brilliant and aesthetically striking.

Our lived lives might become a protracted mourning for, or an endless tantrum about, the lives we were unable to live. But the exemptions we suffer, whether forced or chosen, make us who we are.

Adam Phillips


I prepared myself to go live in Ibiza and lounge by the sea in never ending parties.

 I was even ready to go dancing at Studio 54.

I got ready to be a rock star wearing silver leather jackets, or maybe be a bass player for Lenny Kravitz in fringed suede pants.

I got ready for all the fantasy going around in my mind. I prepared myself for a life of eccentricity and adventure. I groomed myself to be someone else. In the process, I forgot to get ready for real life.

The witnesses to my mistakes that still live in my closet are now stories written on small papers that accompany the items I’m ready to let go or in somewhat bigger posts when they tell the stories of a life that I can’t leave behind. They are the witnesses to whom I am becoming. As Adam Phillips wisely puts it, “we share our lives with the people we have failed to be.” There’s no escaping this, “we are always haunted by the myth of our potential, of what we might have it in ourselves to be or do. So when we are not thinking, like the characters in Randall Jarrell’s poem, that “The ways we miss our lives is life,” we are grieving or regretting or resenting our failure to be ourselves as we imagine we could be. “

Coming to terms with my unlived life(s) has not been an easy process. Sometimes I get the chance to perform one of those imaginary parts for a moment and live out real scenes exactly as I imagined they would turn out. In January 2014, I dragged myself through the polar vortex and went to the opera at the Met. As I should, wearing my, never worn before or again, opera coat. I will most probably keep repeating mistakes and collecting witnesses to those repetitions.

If the unexamined life is not worth living, it’s equally true that the unlived life is not worth examining.

Parker Palmer

References

Dinah Washington,  I could write a book

Adam Phillips, Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life

New Order, Bizarre Love Triangle

Parker Palmer, Naropa University Commencement Address

 

 

Witness

 

Vuelvo al Sur

I was born in the Southern Hemisphere and live in Southern Europe although my current city is geographically “up North” and people here tend to passionately identify themselves as “northerners “.

For a while I lived in Brighton, also the South in the North and then moved to London and to a more northern lifestyle. I did identify with England mainly because of the music that nurtured me through my teenage angst and bouts of dramatic isolation from the rest of the world. I miss my English life often, I miss the politeness and the freedom of being foreigner but accepted, or at least tolerated. I even miss the pebble beaches and the custard and the days spent in libraries and trying to find a proper espresso. I miss wandering around with nowhere to go. I miss feeling lonely in London and still quietly happy. I miss the quirkiness and people not staring at you because you look different. I miss talking to street performers and photographing them. I miss spending a fortune at Joe’s Basement in Soho to get contacts printed.

I could have stayed. I left and felt that I really belonged there. Up North. I don’t. My landscape is now far from the green grass, blue eyes, grey sky and the gothic lines that I  only revisit when travelling Northbound. Now I marvel at  the marble collonades, the porches and patios and baroque pearls of the south. Red soil, black eyes, blue sky.

 

son dos pozos de estrellas tus ojos negros

 

Geographies aside, I’m intellectually from the North and culturally and emotionally  from the South. Not the place. The set of values. The feeling. That different dimension where one floats and feels whole and at home in all “souths”. The olive tree souths, the palm tree souths and the fern souths.  The Atlantic souths and the Indic souths, the Mediterranean and the Gulf souths. The carnation souths, the azahar souths, the magnolia-scented souths and the lavender souths. The jacaranda south. The iced tea souths and the wine and manzanilla souths. The beignet souths and the cannoli souths. The pistachio colored souths, the turquoise souths and the ochre souths.  The south of Tango and the south of Blues. The rhythmic south. The south of Duende.

Llevo el Sur,

como un destino del corazon,

soy del Sur,

como los aires del bandoneon.

The Belles souths and the Amazons souths. The Maria souths and the Carmen souths and the Tallulah souths. The polite souths and the loud-mouthed souths. The south of dark hair and lustrous eyes and cadenced walks and throbbing charm. The south of apparent frailty and unbreakable strength.

The orange souths, the mango souths and the strange fruit souths.

The lazy, laughing South
With blood on its mouth.

The cruel south. Not a geography. A metaphor of all the pain in humanity. A testimony of decadence. The fatalist souths and the combative souths.

The emotional souths and the passionate souths. The souths of private virtues and public vices. The south of sin. The south of absolution.

The souths of Homer. The south of Faulkner. The souths of disquiet. The lazy Apollonian souths, the dancing, graceful, spontaneous, impulsive souths. The eternal midday, clear, still and in the moment South. The nostalgic, embracing South.

And still, the yearning for the lost South. “And there were other ways to live…”

Se você tem uma idéia incrível. É melhor fazer uma canção. Está provado que só é possível. Filosofar em alemão.

 

References (in a very random order)

Astor Piazolla, Caetano Veloso, Camaron de la Isla, Jorge Luis Borges, Eugene Walter, Langston Hughes, Agustina Bessa-Luís, Fernando Pessoa, Susan Sontag, William Faulkner, Billie Holiday, Oswald Spengler, Nietzsche

South.