I've been on the road for seven of the last eleven weeks. In that time, I've seen nine U.S. states, slept in at least a dozen places (not including upright in planes, trains and automobiles), visited friends and family, DJ'd a wedding, run a marathon, drunk a bottle of saki with Onikaaru, lost (and found) my passport, seen sunrise through the St. Louis Arch, spent my 11th wedding anniversary in Connecticut (?), witnessed the ritual of a father giving his son a haircut (video forthcoming), come out of the subway and experienced the disorientation of New York City (finally!), longed for home, called home, acknowledged where home is, had that slip through my fingers, and reset my sights for the coming winter.
It's good to be back. I plan to keep my feet on the ground for a little bit, save a few weekend jaunts to Düsseldorf, Berlin, and the weekly Wednesday teaching trip to Göttingen. Cold rolling in. Time to unpack all of it. See how it looks in Kassel's low-wattage winter light.
It's time to stop listening to reggae, Sho tells me. It's one in the morning and the room is crowded both because it's small and because it's filled with people. And cigarette smoke, and languages, and plates of homemade Greek food, mounds of fruit, the enlarged gestures of actors, a wall collaged with images.
It is fall, and things are shifting.
If you read the I-Ching, and you toss the hexagram Ko (Revolution/Molting) this is what it will tell you:
Times change, and with them their demands. Thus the seasons change in the course of the year. In the world cycle also there are spring and autumn in the life of peoples and nations, and these call for social transformations....Man masters these changes in nature by noting their regularity and marking off the passage of time accordingly. In this way order and clarity appear in the apparently chaotic changes of the seasons, and man is able to adjust himself in advance to the demands of the different times.
It's time to bring out the guitars, the hip-hop.
Mars Volta, The White Stripes, Looker and Joy Division, Biggie Smalls and, ok, even Lil Wayne makes the cut. What we need here is something rougher, shifty, unsafe, unpretty. Summer is over, people.
Fall is a transition season. The kids pack their lunches and the costumes are sewn from sketches, and outside everything starts to die. Summer is over and it's not all in full bloom anymore and that is a relief. The air cools and dries, the leaves fall; everything smells different. When I described the kind of flowers I imagined for our wedding eleven Octobers ago, the florist understood perfectly. "Of course: Hydrangea. Berries. And roses that are just past their peak." When everything begins to change, we are entering new territory.
early fall exists; aftertaste, afterthought; seclusion and angels exist; widows and elk exist; every detail exists; memory, memory's light; afterglow exits; oaks, elms, junipers, sameness, loneliness exist; cider ducks, spiders, and vinegar exist, and the future, the future
--Inger Christensen from "alphabet," translated by Susanna Nied
Another photo-free update, this from middle America, where I've spent the last six days eating and seeing family and eating. I arrived Thursday into St. Louis in a torrential rainstorm. I will leave Evansville today in a torrential rainstorm. In between has been glorious autumn weather, cool mornings, bright sun, warming afternoons. Not too much on the docket here in Evansville - catch up with Lisa and Zach (and eat: Mr Earl's soul food, Zach's pulled pork tacos), catch up with my folks (and eat: ma's soup), slip out for long bouts of thrifting with Lisa (I passed on the green velvet sportcoat, which will probably appear in dreams for the next six months), got in the last few tuning runs before Saturday's marathon in Hartford (they installed a track at my high school... Bossy), Chopped it up with Jenny B and Naomi on the poetry front (and the riverfront... Ma Browne's new digs in downtown Newburgh are lush), went to the intensely redneck Flea Market, didn't go to the intensely brainy Fall Festival, saw my niece, met my brother-in-law, watched half of a jayvee soccer game, missed my brother by a week, and nearly got smothered by cats. Good times in Heavensville. Now back to Brooklyn.
I have this friend who used fantasize about playing bit parts in movies. She didn't want to be the leading role she said, or even a secondary role or an extra, walking by. She wanted to play one of those tiny roles, like the waitress at the coffee shop where the detectives are cracking the case, where only part of the body appears in the scene. In detail she'd describe it: the two guys would be sitting there, she'd walk up and you'd see a shot of her hip, and then you'd see her hand, the coffee pouring into the cups.
Looks like one of my body parts made the final cut in this little promo from the summer. Converse got a bunch of NYC musicians together for a basketball tournament in an old church gym down on Mulberry and filmed the whole thing. Look for the puppet sitting next to the guy with sunglasses on. Just my hair made it in.
Been reading Joan Didion all year, most recently her account of her husband's death and daughter's illness. Like in all her writing, it's the honesty that I'm enjoying. The precision, the exploration of deep emotional subject matter without being maudlin, the big leaps between internal and external subjects. Normally I can flip through a book in a week or so, but this one's taking awhile. I'm reading it in German.
Scattered among the stack of papers in my desk, stuffed into the dictionary, jumbled on the kitchen table with the broken necklace and the grocery receipts are word lists. Lists jotted down at opera rehearsals listening to the director - notes made talking to my friend and sometime german teacher - scribbled translations of words I searched for earlier in the day - and lists I made while reading.
Most of them I forget almost immediately. Some of them, by the time I find the list again later, I've retained. Each list webs a moment, a conversation, the theme of a chapter, a rehearsal, my state of mind.
überwältigen / to be overwhelmed
ich traute mir nicht zu / i didn't think i was capable of
der Verlust / loss
beilaufig / incidental
besitz / posession
nüchternd / matter-of-fact
betont / emphasized
sachlicher / grounded
bescheuert / ridiculous
schritt für schritt / step by step
wir können gut miteinander / we get along
From my lists:
sich kümmern um / to take care of
es macht mir nichts aus / it's doesn't matter to me