Donnerstag, 31. Juli 2008

to sleep, perchance to dream... (aka freud would cry)

since the conscious part of my brain seems to have switched off for the summer months, i'll go on autopilot, let my sub-conscious take over and jot down some dreams i've had, two older ones and two more recent ones:

old dream 1, approx 1994

i'm sitting in the backseat of a late-1970s model mercedes, dark green, the kind that are still popular as taxis in the middle east, which is rather fitting as this particular mercedes is indeed a taxi in the middle east, more precisely in lebanon and we are driving down the beirut corniche, the seaside promenade. and thats about all i remember...

follow-up in real life: interestingly enough, at least for me, when i actually did visit beirut about 13 years later, they still had the same kind of taxis and the corniche looked much like it did in my dream

old dream 2, approx 1997

i'm sitting on a couch in my friend's old flat in downtown helsinki (where i was actually staying at the moment) reading some textbook or other when a pink flamingo flies onto the balcony and then struts into the living room, which in reality as in the dream is full of books and dvd's. and thats about where the dream, or my memory of it, ends.

follow-up in real life: when i recount the story to my friend and his wife the next morning over breakfast, they laugh and say some words to the effect of "well, you know what they say about guys who dream of pink flamingoes..." later that day i find a book on interpreting dreams in a second-hand bookstore. no mention of flamingoes in it, though. my friend, in the meantime, was diagnosed as having a third nipple in a chilean navy hospital, but that's another story.

new dream, approx. half a year ago

i'm standing inside a multy-storey car park on the channel island of jersey, discussing with a british government official as to whether or not the alleged dumping of lightly radioactive materials by russian submarines within the 200 nautical mile zone claimed by britain in the north atlantic would constitute a breach of international environmental law.

follow-up in real life: none as far as i can tell, unless there is a court case pending at the international court of justice in the hague that i am unaware of (but perhaps sending somnambulant legal opinions to in my sleep)

new dream, few nights ago

am driving around ljubljana in a light-blue battered ex-yugoslav van that used to belong to the managua office of my ex-employer with a friend, looking for a restaurant that we used to visit when i was a child in the mid 1980s. seeing as i've gone veggie since, i couldn't help but wonder what i should order since their signature dish (pljeskavica sa sirom) wasn't really on my menu anymore, until i remembered, with a certain degree of relief, that my parents had visited the restaurant a few years ago and had mentioned that they now had other dishes (the ubiquitous pizza & pasta) on their menu these days as well.

follow-up in real-life: received an invite to visit belgrade again the other day. not quite slovenia but ex-yugoslavia nonetheless....

Montag, 7. Juli 2008

reality check

a quick injection of non-fiction into this series of half-baked, semi-fictional, middling attempts at writing short stories:

the other day i (finally) managed to send out the first draft of my phd-thesis to my profs. when i clicked the "send" button, i was overcome with a sense of euphoria, of lust for life, which completely overtook the fatigue i had been feeling all week. but after about three minutes the euphoria subsided, leaving me with an empty feeling inside. having finished the draft, what should i now do with my life? (answer being: enjoy it. soon enough the profs will be back with their comments and you can lock yourself up in your academic chamber again and write the second draft)

due to circumstances, i've also been having a "home improvement"-month over the past few weeks and i can honestly say that no, i'm just not the type for that kind of lifestyle. and i've got the cuts and bruises to prove it, not to mention the new curses i came up with when i managed to both hit my thumb with the hammer and cause the bookshelf to collapse on me simultaneously.


as i was listlessly poking at the tasteless nasi goreng which was technically my breakfast in the afternoon heat of jakarta, a man sat down at my table. all the other tables were free, so in spite of my slow hangover mood i was able to draw the conclusion that he probably wanted to talk to me. he was a whitey, in his late 50s judging by his looks, but he might well have been younger. he had a gaunt, drawn face, and the etched lines of his face and burst capillaries led me to jump to the perhaps unfair conclusion that the large bintang beer in his hand was not the first one in his life. he was the kind of person that this street, jalan jaksa, seemed to attract like a magnet. the human flotsam and jetsam of the industrialised countries that falls overboard at home and finds itself, 20, 30, 40 years down the line, washed up in sleazy, second-rate bars such as this one. lost, lonely, hanging on to the last scraps of their dignity.

without any further ado, apart from a swig of his bintang, he told me that he had thyroid cancer. he had been diagnosed just the other day, he couldn't quite say when, though, as he had been on a drinking binge ever since. and in the end, did it really matter now what day he found out? he didn't have any money for therapy, no health plan, he had burned his bridges in britain decades ago but had not been able to build any new ones on indonesia either. nor did he see his chances of finding a loving partner for the last few years of his remaining life as being too great: a dying, old, impoverished, alcoholic man does not really score very high in the highly competitive jakarta social scene.

i had in the meantime stopped eating my fried rice and wondered if i should say something, but there was no need for that, he was the one doing the talking.

and then he stopped. his eyes were fixed on something far away, metaphorically speaking, for in the grubby street that is jalan jaksa there isn't anything one could look at thats more then 25 metres away. after a moment's silence, he turned to me: "where are you from, anyway?"

"finland," i said, adding my first and last word to what had now become a conversation. "oh, finland...," he started, with a new-found dreaminess in his voice... "i remember finland well," he continued, almost as if transfixed, "the olympics in helsinki in 1952." he paused to sip his beer and his gaze was now fixated not only on a place far away, but also on a different era. "i remember it well," he said, looking through and past me with his glazed eyes, his back suddenly ramrod straight, as if in a past memory of better times, of more self-dignity, perhaps even of pride in himself.

lost in his own world, he continued slowly. "it was the marathon. i remember it well. it was the helsinki stadium, and emil zatopek came running in. it was the cold war, you know, and he was czech, but the crowd stood up and chanted his name... ZA-TO-PEK, ZA-TO-PEK, ZA-TO-PEK! cheering on the one who was supposed to be the enemy... oh, the humanity of it! the humanity!!!" tears started rolling down his worn face as he mumbled "the humanity, the humanity..." to himself a few more times, bleary eyes focusing on a better, other life. he then quickly finished his beer, stood up and continued walking down jalan jaksa as if in a trance, leaving me speechless and dumbfounded with my now-cold nasi goreng.