Monday, January 3, 2011

Day 100 From Algiers with Love

What am I without control? How do moments add up to life? Purpose. Purpose. Always searching for purpose. Any purpose will do. As long as I can cage it. Atomise it. Label it. Explain it. Because everything happens for a reason. So I’m always on the look out for the reason. Now. Immediate. Understand. Process. Make peace with. Change. Find myself in it. Relentless search for reason purpose end result. Understanding and changing. Almost obsessive. What if there was no purpose? What if there was no search? I will search the no-search. Find purpose in the no-purpose. Make a circle and measure whatever it is I can measure. What if there is no measure? No instruments? What if there are no alphanumeric measurements? Can it be? How can it be? My body – what does it hold? Relentless search. Outer measurements. Form. Body weight. Hair colour. Place of origin. Places of formation. Language. Languages. Parents. Heritage. Travel. Change. Pain. Disruption. Measurements. What if you’ve measured and you’ve measured. And you’ve come up with 165cm , translates into 5’4 maybe 5’3, 127lbs, 56kgs – give or take and right now I want to take, tricultural, trilingual, well-educated, good job in a bad economy, broken hearts, dreams chased, gut followed all over the world, co-habiting – not single, not married, no children – yet. Measurements – all true. Some have physical form. Some have memory – almost physical. Some joyful, some hurt. There’s a kid behind me kicking my seat. Measurement. Under. Inside. When the measurements stop. Not stop. Don’t serve. Because the search for measurements can go on. Even what you can eventually measure you can’t plan for. You can’t measure in advance. Holy shit. A beautiful, explosive, heart-opening realization. What emerges for you to measure if you need to, if you are so driven, is like magic – unpredictable, unknowable, uncontrollable, not yours, stunning, a mystery – immeasurable, even as you measure it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Day 99 Tray and Lisa or The Love That Never Was

Tray and Lisa ran in the same Chicago social circles. At first, which was two years ago, they were indifferent to one another. Lisa thought was Tray was aloof and weird, and Tray thought Lisa was superficial and annoying. After about a year of hanging around the same group of friends, and not being friendly with one another, the ice began to thaw.

They bonded over dancing, which they both loved to do. It may have been someone’s birthday, and it may have been Danny’s Bar, but there was definitely dancing involved. Lisa began to think Tray was funny and unusual, in that endearing kind of way, and Tray began to think that Lisa was cute and interesting.

Neither one of them made a move. They would hang out with their friends, moderately flirt with one another, and then part ways. It may have been inertia or it may have been shyness. Either way, life went on and Lisa started dating someone else.

Within a month of Lisa starting to date someone else, Lisa and Tray found themselves dancing together at Danny’s. All their friends had gone home, they had one too many Vodka and pineapple juice and it was a full moon. Tray, after months of mild flirtation made his killer move.

For a few days, Tray and Lisa didn’t exactly date, but spend a good chunk of time together. Tray gave Lisa a piggy back while riding his bicycle. They walked on the beach at night. And they went swimming in Lake Michigan during the day. And that was it. Lisa decided to spend her energy and time on the other guy she was actually dating; who at the time she thought looked much better than Tray on paper.

But, of course, things with that guy didn’t work out and Lisa realised how much fun Tray was. She kept hoping to run into him, but of-course, she didn’t. She saw a lot of their mutual friends, but Tray seemed to have disappeared. She finally called him and nonchalantly suggested they go dancing. Tray agreed.

Before Lisa had a chance to confess her growing affection, Tray announced that he had a new girlfriend, and Lisa went home, hopes dashed, convinced the universe had played a cruel trick on her. And life went on.

Four months later, Tray broke up with his girlfriend. In that same week Lisa, completely unexpectedly, came across someone who felt special beyond words. Sometimes things between two people really aren’t meant to be. And life goes on.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Day 98 Lora and Eddie

Lora (see Day 10 Lora and Lina) first heard about Eddie from Yoni (see Day 12 Yoni and Mere) and she was dubious. Yoni was an Israeli friend of Lora’s who was always pushing her to get more connected to Jewish culture, especially to klezmer music, which she hates, so she was suspicious of his politics and his friends. The first time Lora saw Eddie, she noticed his beard,

Lora: there were all these very anti-religious secular Arabs and Jews around, and they all had the same damn beard as though they were religious. This was very funny for me.

During their first conversation, at one of the artsy parties they frequented, Eddie remembers looking down Lora’s shirt, and Lora remembers that he told her he was a political writer and she was like, “ew, political writer”. Lora is a political writer.

They got talking about Gaza. It was January 2009, a month after what the Israeli government were calling Operation Cast Lead. Eddie asked Lora to go for a drink with him, and Lora declined. Instead, she said “let’s make a pact to get to Gaza in the next 6 months” and he said “okay”. A week later, out of the blue, Lora was invited to join a humanitarian delegation to Gaza, and she called up Eddie to let him know of the opportunity. Eddie had an ohshitmoment,

Eddie: like oh shit I can actually send myself to Gaza, oh shit I might be in Gaza really soon, oh shit GAZA, oh shit homeland, oh shit hot girl+gaza = joy+pain wow wow wow.

Eddie kept changing his mind about going, and didn’t buy his plane ticket till three days before they were due to fly out from Chicago to Cairo.

In Egypt, they waited for five days at the Egypt/Gaza border, camping out, before they were let in. After the delegation’s work in Gaza was done, Lora decided to stay in Gaza for an extra month to do translation work for a human rights organisation. And Eddie decided to stay in Gaza for an extra month to work on what has now become a film project. Their friendship deepened, but Eddie was seeing someone else back home.

Back home, in Chicago, some few months later, Eddie found himself single and things between Lora and Eddie blossomed. Lora had always felt very natural around him. They opened up to each other pretty quickly. Eddie started spending hours working with Lora on her book, making very detailed edit suggestions. He owned land in Taybeh, a village in the West Bank north of Jerusalem, which was very sexy to Lora. Very quickly, within a couple of weeks, Lora knew in her gut that this was for real.

Being with Eddie has taught Lora not to be so neurotic. She calls it “happiness by obligation”.

Lora: If you care about the person you’re with, you soon realize that if you’re sad, it will affect them, and your relationship, and everything. So you have to figure out how to deal with your emotions in a healthier way. I’ve really put emotional stability as a priority because of Eddie.

Eddie has learnt what it feels like to REALLY be listened to for once and it feels great, “I didn’t realise that a relationship could be so easy, but when you really listen to the other person you can really understand them”.

A month after they got together, Lora was accepted to teach English in Paris and after much discussion, Eddie accepted to follow her across the globe a second time. Lora knew she had found someone special and it seemed dumb to drop it for logistical reasons like geography.

And now it’s Lora’s turn to do the following across the globe so she’s following Eddie to the West Bank this April where he wants to make art. For the next two years, they will be between Paris and Palestine. For their anniversary, Lora got Eddie bulbs for flower bushes for him to plant on his land.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Day 91 Louis and Petra

Louis and Petra met in 1998 in Environmental Science class at the University of East London. Petra flirted with Louis and Louis found her annoying and off-putting. She was too loud and exuberant.

After getting to know her more, and finding that her zest for life was real and not a put-on, he started falling for her. By the time he had started to fall for her, she had moved on and was dating someone else. But Petra still had a soft spot for Louis and so they started an inappropriate friendship. Petra eventually broke up with the guy she was dating and she and Louis started a relationship proper. It lasted three months. Louis broke up with Petra because being in love was new to him, because it freaked him out and because he didn’t realise that love was not a smooth ride.

Petra finished her degree and moved back to Greece. Louis went on with life, relationships and political activism. Ten years later in November 2008, Petra got in touch with Louis out of the blue. She called him from Greece and told him she was planning to be in London during the Christmas vacation, and they should meet up. Later, she would tell Louis that she had called him in the naïve hope that something might be rekindled between them.

Something did rekindle between them. Louis fell in love with Petra all over again. Hard. They met up the day after Boxing day (which is the day after Christmas day) and had the best date. They met in a pub in Camden Town, had dinner in a Brazilian bar, and then went dancing at Madam JoJos, a funk club. It was the best six hours Louis had ever spent with a woman.

At the end of her vacation Petra went back to Greece. Louis didn’t pine away. Instead he made a plan to spend the summer with her. Plan A was that Louis was going to spend a month in Zakinthos, where Petra lived. After agreeing to that, Petra got cold feet and the plan became that Louis would spend a month in Greece, but only a week of that would be in Zakinthos with Petra.

It was a long, difficult winter for Louis. But finally summer came round and it was time to go to Greece. He opened two separate bank accounts giving him access to ₤1,250 in overdraft and sold all his books for ₤800. Two weeks before he was due to fly out, Petra told him she had started dating someone.

Louis went to Greece. He had to know what had happened, and if there was still a glimmer of hope, which there always is, he was going to hold on to that.

After spending two awkward days with Petra in Zakinthos, her boyfriend showed up with a menacing undertone. Louis spent three more awkward days with Petra, Petra’s boyfriend and Petra’s mum in Zakinthos. Louis eventually left Zakinthos and went on to other Greek adventures. He had fallen in love and he had followed his heart. He may have been heartbroken, but he had no regrets.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Day 90 Adam and Rachel

Adam and Rachel met in Grinnell College, Iowa in 2004. The first thing Rachel said to Adam was that she was pretty enough never to have to work for a living, and he told her she was no where near pretty enough.

They would run into each other at various parties without paying much attention to one another until the spin the bottle party. Rachel asked Adam to leave with her so she could avoid the advances of another Grinnellian. That may or may not have been a sorry excuse to leave with Adam. They spent the night wandering around campus looking for somewhere to make out and eventually settled on the TV common room in one of the dorms until they were thrown out by the security guard.

And so began a relationship that was not so beautiful. They lasted for two years and they laughed a lot together, but in the end Adam was in his early 20s. He wanted to sow his oats and so Rachel left him. Adam eventually moved to Chicago and Rachel moved to San Francisco.

They stayed friends and there was that one fateful trip that Adam made to the Bay Area. He wasn’t sure whether he wanted to win Rachel back or not, but he was open to it. In the first day, he found out that she had started to see someone else. He said nothing to her about the way he felt, and instead had a miserable time pretending to be her friend.

For four years Adam languished in Chicago. He tried dating other women. Many other women. In the beginning it would be exciting, but then problems would surface and he would always think of Rachel. For four years, he drove his friends crazy talking about her. He would call her family every Christmas and Rachel’s little brother in particular was always happy to hear from him. Rachel moved in with the guy she had started to date and it did not go well.

After four years of pining away, Adam was in a spiral and the only thing left to do was call her. It was August 2009. Adam couldn’t have picked a better time to call. Rachel had broken up with her live-in boyfriend and was mourning the end of a doomed relationship. Adam invited her to come to Chicago and Rachel, wanting to get the hell out of San Francisco, said yes.

The day Rachel flew into Chicago they drove out to Lake Michigan and made out. Rachel needed the distraction. Adam had carefully planned what he needed to say to win her back. Things did not go as planned. He ended up blurting out his undying love for her in the middle of making out by the lake.

It took Adam a few more days and a few more trips to win Rachel over. They are planning to move to New York together this spring. For Rachel, the timing isn’t exactly perfect, she’s still reeling from her last relationship, but she says, “if we’re going to do this, let’s do this”. For Adam, he’s learnt that when you’re in a relationship with someone, your job is to make them happy, not chase after women and expect the person you’re with to put up with it because that’s just who you are. Reading more Socrates and less Nietzsche has helped Adam be a better person.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day 58 The Story of Yousef

When I was little I would write made-up stories about the people around me. I would read the story out loud to the person it was about and then give it to them. When I was ten years old, I wrote The Story of Yousef, which was about my very good friend's dad. Athar, who is still my very good friend, was recently going through his dad's stuff and found this. It was 1988 and I had used a typewriter. Link is to a scanned pdf file of the original copy.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Day 57 Jenn and Tony part trois or The Problem with Keeping on

Jenn and Tony were first featured here on Day 17. On Day 29, we had a beautiful and honest reflection from Jenn on the struggles of being married, being a mother and being an artist. Today's post is an entry from Tony's blog on doing what you love.

Jenn and I had a fight yesterday, all the stress built up and led to the kind of fight normally happy married couples have all the time. Stress builds, it leads to an argument which leads to a bi-annual fight, which leads to talking about what's really bothering us, which leads to six more happy months until the next time we get frustrated with each other. (I'm 32, so I'm hoping we have about 136 more six-month fight-ups.)

But, I wonder what the kids see. If Jenn and I disagree about something, Tony Jr. immediately tries to get us to stop. We have to tell him, it's okay, mommy and daddy are just talking. We just disagree about a play. He gives us a weird look to see if we're telling the truth, then moves on to the next thing he wants to do.

I think back to when I was a kid. I never saw my parents happy unless it was something to do with us kids. With everything going on, do I stop moving long enough for my kids to see that I actually am happy? That I love their mom. Not in some abstract notion, but in the I can't imagine a day without her kind of way.

Can they see that amid all the frustrations, that I love what I do?

I know that my parents didn't. They worked so we'd have food and a roof over our head. I know the difference. But what happens if I get so caught up in the minutia that my kids don't ever see that?

It's difficult for me to keep it all straight sometimes. Jenn's joked that the past festivals have gone up primarily by my willpower. The festival and the reason behind it are things I'm extraordinarily passionate about it.

I remember the first time I got the sense that anything besides us kids had made my mom happy. I was out west on this backpacking trip/class that my high school and two neighboring schools did. (Not the whole schools, but there were around thirty kids and faculty from three schools.) We stopped in a town and there was a care package waiting for me with some goodies, snack etc, and some mix-tapes to listen to that my mom had copied for me.

I've been thinking of that a lot lately. The cancer's back. She's in chemo again.

At the bottom of that care package was a stack of poems she had written. I was seventeen and had no idea my mom had ever written anything more than a grocery list. She'd been squirreling them away for God knows how long. It was the first time I'd sensed any true joy on her part. Writing made her happy. I was seventeen before I had seen anything make her happy.

If we're so busy keeping on, how can our kids even tell the difference between what we do for them, to keep food on the table, and what we love? How can we tell the difference?

Amongst all the pain in the ass things around us, I have to remember to not gloss over the reason that I do it. When I'm filling out stacks of paper work, or reviewing a grant application, or trying to help directors cast fifty plus roles, I have to remember that I'm not doing it for money. That all the work I do on the festival is my way to connect my mom's dream, what made her happy, with my daughter's potential, what might make her happy. I love what I do, who I do it for, and who I do it with. I hope my kids can see that. And I hope my mom has a chance to see the future festivals and can see that too.

The Alcyone Festival 2010 opened last weekend and runs through February 27. This year's festival celebrates the work of Maria Irene Fornes, featuring four Chicago premieres and a Pulitzer finalist in rotating repertory.