Category: Photography

Un extrait: L’échappée du désert, par Antoine de Lévis Mirepoix

L’échappée du désert

Ils abandonnèrent lEuphrate avant laube, avant le jour. S’élevèrent vers un premier cordon de dunes, laissant derrière eux les dernières sibât*. La piste, davantage devinée quaperçue, filait plein sud.

Jamil les guidait. Il parlait un peu français et le comprenait bien. Dans les années vingt, au début du mandat de la France, sous les ordres du général Henri Gouraud nommé par Clémenceau, il avait été jeune méhariste dans les troupes françaises. Corpulent, moustache fournie poivre et sel, les yeux rieurs, il était content. Content de voyager, content de parler français. Connaissait-il vraiment la piste ?

Les traces multiples sentrecroisaient, sarrondissaient à droite ou à gauche du fil principal, légèrement plus creusé. Le sol devenait plus foncé, le sable faisait place à une surface durcie, parfois lisse, parfois craquelée. Une file de points sombres au loin sur la droite : rochers ? Jamil pointa du doigt :

« Les restes de la ville forte de el-Kôm. »

La chaleur se faisait sentir. Certains passagers somnolaient. Gaï restait attentif, en alerte, observait le chauffeur et lhorizon.

Une chaîne de collines, « djebel el-Bisri » nomma Jamil.

              

*Cabanes en bois de réglisse, quatre piliers, traverses du toit couvertes dune natte, deux demi-parois de tissu dans un angle.

 

__________________________

 

Insensiblement le rythme du paysage, de leur progression, de la vibration de lair, de la respiration du guide et du chauffeur changeait. Un flottement. Des failles et leurs ombres de chaque côté. Des ravines les obligèrent à ralentir, à presque s’arrêter par moments. Les deux hommes se regardèrent. Un doute s’immisça dans leur pensée.

Gaï se tendit. Il perçut l’hésitation, linquiétude. Était-on toujours sur la bonne piste ? Avaient-ils vu des traces suspectes ? Les deux hommes se regardèrent encore. Gaï voyait cette fois des empreintes de larges pneus crénelés, profondément marqués à gauche de la piste. Il se tourna vers Jamil en montrant du doigt les lignes parallèles. Lequel haussa les épaules avec une moue de « je ne sais pas ». Depuis combien de temps navait-il pas traversé le désert ?

Surgit alors le caravansérail, immense et brun sombre, ruines posées dans une large cuvette, carcasse abandonnée, imputrescible, que survolaient des nuées de corbeaux criards. Voilà plus de mille ans que ce khan omeyyade était brûlé par le soleil, et que les briques des murailles, des deux portes principales, des tours, des ar- cades de la grande cour, du premier étage en partie écroulé, cuisaient dans ce four sous une lumière de feu. Combien de caravanes, combien dhommes, de femmes, denfants, danimaux, de denrées et de marchandises avaient foulé cette immense cour intérieure, y avaient dormi à l’abri des tribus insoumises, nomades bédouins, druzes, kurdes.

Ils ne sattardèrent pas. Jamil quitta la piste principale bordée par le double sillage cranté, pour infléchir leur route vers lest. Ils voyaient au loin sur leur gauche le château de Kasr el-Heir al Sharqi et son puits d’eau amère puis une haute colonne, Al-Kuwayr, la frontière indiqua Jamil. Le sable était dur. Comme une roche lisse. La piste seffaça.

Des heures quils avaient quitté la Jazira. La chaleur était intense. Ce n’était plus de linquiétude mais de la peur que Gaï percevait

maintenant. Peur de s’être égarés. Peur de tourner en boucle. Peur de navoir pas assez de combustible.

Là, une tente. Longue, noire, elle semblait plaquée au sol, une source plus loin, et la ligne verte qui suivait le ruisseau, s’élargissait, buissons et maigre pâturage. Trois chameaux, des chèvres, des moutons, des femmes et des enfants, un homme âgé. Les autres étaient partis travailler à Soukhné. Ils indiquèrent le chemin à Jamil, qui, soulagé, sourit de nouveau. Ils échangèrent des biscuits contre du fromage.

« Ce sont des bédouins Anaza, des sunnites comme moi. »

Le chauffeur était détendu. Pas de piste visible, aucune trace … quimporte, les indications suffisaient. La beauté des Anaza était surprenante. Le vieux, les femmes, même âgées, avaient un port, une allure, une dignité. Manger peu, marcher beaucoup, le
silence … comment imaginer le cours des pensées dans le désert, chez les hommes et les femmes du désert ? Le moindre fait était un événement, mais entre les faits ? L’espace nu ne désertifiait pas l’être humain, il lamplifiait comme l’océan ; loin d’être vides, déserts et océans sont infiniment renouvelés, infiniment mobiles, changeants … les nuages, la lumière et les ombres … la fonction du désert : lesprit partait, s’élançait, senvolait non … l’âme plutôt.

Dans cette splendeur de l’air brûlant qui tremblait, la souffrance était là, la mort les poumons incendiés, la torture de la soif, la glace de la nuit dans les os, livresse folle de s’arrêter, fermer les yeux, dormir … dormir ? Aborder un autre rivage, voler enfin.

Un cahot le secoua. Pas de piste visible, aucune trace … Cette femme Anaza longue et mince, droite, les yeux presque turquoise, surgie de la tente noire tapie sur le sable, — étalée, aplatie, scarabée immobile à l’affût — cette femme avait sans nul doute du sang tcherkesse. Son regard s’était planté dans ses yeux, Gaï n’oublierait pas.

Jamil se détendit.

La première oasis, As-Sukhna — Soukhné sur la carte survenait comme un soulagement, un relâchement du corps, une mollesse des membres, le vert, les arbres, leau. Ici croisement des pistes reliant Alep à Bagdad, Hama à Mossoul, Damas à l’Euphrate. Pâturages, cultures dorge. Des ouvriers et des machines : la fu- ture route Damas Deir-Es-Zôr en chantier.

Ces pistes : des milliers, des millions de pas danimaux et dhumains avaient façonné ces lignes, ces diagonales du désert. Des armées, des batailles avaient aussi chargé les lieux de l’énergie des combats et du sang, énergie que le sol a bue et le vent purifiée.

Le soleil avait basculé vers le soir quand se profilèrent les constructions de la vaste oasis. Apparue au détour dune grande dune, elle s’étalait sur lhorizon entier. Gaï était stupéfait, subjugué, hypnotisé. Palmyre ! La légendaire, la somptueuse Palmyre, les fastes de la reine Zénobie. Il avait lu, imaginé. Là, il voyait. Songeait à ces caravanes qui enfin arrivaient. Arriver : à la fois essentiel et éphémère, vital et illusoire.

Arrivait-on jamais quelque part ?

___________________________

 

Antoine de Lévis Mirepoix, de mère argentine et de père français, est né en 1942 aux Etats Unis, a vécu une partie de son enfance en Argentine puis en France, principalement à Paris.

A l’adolescence il a été élève de l’école des Roches, collège de Normandie, sous la direction d’André Charlier. Après maths sup et maths spé, études de sciences économiques puis de lettres à lla Sorbonne. Coopérant à l’Université du Nord à Antofagasta, Chili, il entre aux Affaires Etrangères pour occuper divers postes culturels et pédagogiques à Mexico, Barcelone, Beyrouth et Nairobi.

Puis il enseigne deux ans dans un CES de Moulins, Allier, France. Il entre ensuite au Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales à Toulouse dans le cadre du Satellite Spot, chargé à Spot Image du développement commercialpour l’Amérique, puis des relations avec les organisations internationales.

En 1991 il rejoint la Girection Générale des Laboratoires Pierre Fabre à Castres comme responsable des relations internationales du Président. Il réside à Buernos-Aires depuis 1997 où il ouvre un bureau de consultancepour guider des entreprises françaises désireuses de s’implanter au Brésil ou en Argentine. Bureau qu’il fermera début 2002.

Membre de l’Académie des Jeux Floraux de Toulouse depuis 2000, Antoine de Lévis Mirepoix partage son temps aujourd’hui entre la France et l’Argentine où il cultive sa passion pour les chevaux.

Il publie en 2008 son premier roman aux Editions du Rocher, « Le Passeur ». En 2011 « Le Crabe et l’Aube » est édité chez Atlantica qui décide de mettre fin à ses activités le jour même de la publication du récit. Trois autres romans non encore édités : « Quartetti e Sonata a Tre » et « Fortuit », “Contes Véridiques”, un sixième en voie d’achèvement et un septième en cours d’écriture. Antoine de Lévis Mirepoix a écrit égalementquelques récits courts sur les voyages, les chevaux, Venise, etc … et des poèmes.

Conférencier à ses heures autour de thèmes divers comme « les bibliothèques », « Gérard de Nerval », « l’Amérique du Sud », « Antoine de Saint Exupéry », il s’interroge sur le destin, le sens des mots et de la parole, la signification du voyage, la création artistique, la juste place de l’homme.

Interlitq’s Californian Poets Interview Series: Alexis Rhone Fancher, Poet and Photographer, interviewed by David Ga...


Alexis Rhone Fancher (photo credit: Baz Here)

 

Interlitq’s Californian Poets Interview Series:

Alexis Rhone Fancher, Poet and Photographer

interviewed by David Garyan

 

Click here to read Alexis Rhone Fancher’s contribution to Interlitq’s California Poets Feature

 

DG: Your work has the quality of being uncompromisingly raw—all in the best sense. Too often, poetry is viewed as a “high art,” when, in fact, it resonates most with people when the words descend to near, if not total deviance. In this respect, when did you decide that you would not only be a poet, but also write the way you really wanted to?

ARF: I came to poetry rather late, after a successful career in advertising. I consider myself to be a “feral” poet, ie: I have no degree in English or literature or poetry (my degree is in Theatre with an emphasis on acting/writing). I have no poetry MFA or PhD. So no preconceived ideas about what poetry “should be.” I did study for 5 years with the great Los Angeles poet, teacher, mentor, Jack Grapes, who taught me to trust my voice and write my truth. It never occurred to me to sensor my words or dumb down my poems. Once a rebel …

DG: It seems counterintuitive, yet individuals censor themselves not out of necessity, but out of fear. What advice would you give emerging writers to help them overcome this impulse?

ARF: I work with emerging writers as an editor, teacher and mentor, as well as running a business, SubmatCentral, that submits poems to literary markets for poets who, for whatever reason, can’t or won’t submit their own work. I often encounter nascent poets who, censor themselves on the page, afraid to offend a relative, parent, lover or ex-spouse. I explain that it is highly unlikely that these fearful people will read the poet’s work. I mean, I have a brother whom I adore who has never picked up one of my books or read my work! Poetry does not float his boat. If I were to write about him, he’d never know! If a poet is seriously afraid of their own truth, writing under a pseudonym is always an alternative. But that’s putting the cart before the horse, yes? First write your unvarnished truth. To paraphrase that old saying, “Write like no one is reading.” Then worry afterwards as to how it will be received.

DG: Aside from poetry, you’re also an accomplished street and portrait photographer. Some of the most established names in literature have sought the creative energy of your studio, and your urban photography is equally amazing. In this respect, is there a different psychological and creative approach you adopt when photographing artists, for instance, as opposed to those who aren’t “creative?”

ARF: Thanks for your kind words about my photos. And what an interesting question! I approach all my sitters as “creatives.” That is what I hope to connect with during a shoot. That inner spark that makes each of us unique. Actors are the most outgoing and least self-conscious when posing for my camera. Also musicians. They are used to being onstage, in the spotlight. They come alive when the lights go up in the studio—great fun to shoot, high energy, extroverted. Poets, on the other hand, are all over the map. Some are dramatic, bigger than life, while others are timid and introspective. Hard to get them to open up. My job, as the photographer, is to make the sitter feel at ease and to trust me to discover their inner self. The best compliment I ever received was from a poet who, when she saw her portrait, said: “This looks exactly how I see myself in my mind, on my very best day.” That’s what I work for, whether I’m photographing an architect, bartender, professor, electrician, or a famous actor or writer. Capturing their essence—that’s my goal.

DG: Do you prefer to take pictures of people or landscapes and why?

ARF: People. I’ve been fascinated by faces my entire life. I like to get up close and personal; peer deep inside their psyche—not in some devious, evil way, like that old superstition, that a photographer will “steal your soul.” But with intense curiosity. What makes this person tick, and how can I photograph that? Shooting bucolic landscapes, other than the view from my terrace (of the Port of Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean) rarely excites me. I prefer urban jungles, cityscapes, catching the interaction of people and pavement. Whether it’s the well-heeled denizens on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, or the lost souls on Skid Row, even my landscapes are populated.

DG: What are some particularly interesting photoshoots you have fond memories of, and what are some of your favorite locations in LA?

ARF: Most Memorable: Since 2012 I’ve been working on a project dear to my heart, documenting/photographing the poets of Southern California, Los Angeles, in particular. In April of 2015 I had a One Woman Show at Beyond Baroque, in Venice, (California), in honor of Poetry Month, where the first thirty of the poet portraits were viewed for the first time. The opening was a celebration of poetry in Los Angeles, and was followed by a reading of all the photographed poets, depicted below.

(photo credit: Alexis Rhone Fancher)

Favorite Locations: The 1/2 mile long Fishing Pier in San Pedro off Cabrillo Beach (photo bellow), the Marina, Venice Beach Boardwalk, Downtown Los Angeles. I love taking off for a drive, riding shotgun, going anywhere, my window down and my latest model iPhone (I just upgraded to the new iPhone 13 Pro Max, which has a spectacular camera) poised and ready. It’s like one of Forest Gump’s chocolates, I “never know what I’m going to get.”


(photo credit: Alexis Rhone Fancher)

DG: Many critics place your work in the confessional category; the label itself, however, looks to be self-defeating and apologetic. The direct, unflinching candor of your style seems, in my opinion, to be the total opposite of what it means to “confess,” in the strictest sense. In other words, the steadfastness of your writing suggests that you don’t possess the guilt which would give rise to the impulse of apologizing for anything, let alone confessing, even if what you’re writing about might be true. Would this be an accurate assessment of your approach, or are you aiming for something different?

ARF: I agree with your assessment of “confessional” poetry, and thank you for your keen understanding of my work. You’re right. I have absolutely no guilt over what I write. I don’t believe in sin, either as a concept, or a condemnation. I am writing my truth. I own my story. It is what it is. I make no judgment, moral or otherwise. I leave that to my readers.

DG: As a poet who writes candidly about erotic themes, would say that words can ever be a bigger turn-on than a sensual photograph, even if photographs are more immediate?

ARF: I’ve read that women are more into the written word, erotically speaking, and that men are more turned on by the visual. Me? I like them both, although a well-told tale gets me hotter than a mere photograph ever could. As a photographer, I’ve been fortunate to pair my photos with my poems in all of my published books. I think of them as co-dependent.

DG: You’re the poetry editor at Cultural Daily, the well-known online platform for independent voices. How does reading submissions inform your own work? In this respect, something which is closer to your aesthetic or radically different material?

ARF: I’m a fool for (really brilliant) poetry! I read voraciously, both print publications and online, always on the lookout for poets who astonish and provoke. I cast a wide net, and I am interested in reading work vastly different from my own as well as poems that share my aesthetic. To that end I don’t have a submission portal via Cultural Daily. Submissions are by invitation only, with the exception of our annual poetry contest, The Jack Grapes Poetry Prize, which runs from July 1st through August 31st each year. This year’s contest received 1,835 poems, sent by well-known poets as well as neophytes. One young poet from Nigeria recently shared that this was his first poem ever written in English! (His poem made it to the semi-final round, ie: the top 10% of submissions!) Quite a feat.

DG: What are you working on at the moment?

ARF: My next, full-length, erotic book, (with photos), BRAZEN, publishes in 2022 by New York Quarterly. Stiletto Killer, a full-length collection (in Italian) by Edizioni Ensemble, Italia, will also be published in 2022. DUETS, a chapbook written with Virginia poet, Cynthia Atkins, featuring ten of my photographs paired with 10 ekphrastic poems each, will be published this summer by Harbor Editions. And a coffee table book, Poets of Los Angeles, with portraits of over 100 poets I’ve shot over the past several years, will be published in 2023 by Moon Tide Press.

 

About Alexis Rhone Fancher

Los Angeles poet, Alexis Rhone Fancher is published in Best American Poetry, Rattle, Hobart, Verse Daily, Plume, Tinderbox, Cleaver, Diode, The American Journal of Poetry, Nashville Review, Poetry East, and elsewhere. She’s authored six poetry collections, most recently, Junkie Wife (Moon Tide Press, 2018), and The Dead Kid Poems (KYSO Flash Press, 2019)EROTIC: New & Selected (NYQ Books) dropped in March, 2021. Her photographs are featured worldwide including the covers of KYSO FlashWitness, and The Pedestal Magazine. A multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Alexis is poetry editor of Cultural Daily.

Witches Brew: Machiavelli, Tarkovsky, Cefalù, Aleister Crowley, and Aci Trezza, an article by David Garyan

August 16th, 2020
Ravenna, Italy

 

Outtakes, Deleted Scenes, and Bonus Footage

Witches Brew: Machiavelli, Tarkovsky, Cefalù, Aleister Crowley, and Aci Trezza

In Chapter 18 of The Prince, Machiavelli wrote the following: “Everyone sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are,” which, in the author’s sense, means that a ruler should strive for virtue if the circumstances allow it, yet, at the same time, be prepared to act in a completely opposite way when another situation demands immoral behavior; this foxlike cunning is what Machiavelli described as the oft-misunderstood concept of virtù—translated as virtue in English, which incorrectly conveys the traditional overtones of moral goodness. In reality, virtù was Machiavelli’s way of emphasizing the wide spectrum of personalities that a good prince should have, all of which would allow him to keep order in his domain and by extension continue maintaining power there. For our purposes, however, I would like to interpret this particular quote in a different way, using the sentence before it (“men judge generally more by the eye than by the hand, because it belongs to everybody to see you, to few to come in touch with you”) as a guiding point for departing on a different course of discussion; again, the meaning is ambiguous, as it connotes both light and dark—no one can touch me in the sense of absolute power, and, likewise, it’s been so long since I’ve been touched in terms of love or even artistic inspiration.

For a fleeting moment, I’d like to see Machiavelli from the perspective of creativity and affection (towards someone or something) because that’s where life really starts for people and how this journey through Italy began for my brother and I in the first place. From Ravenna, we left our apartment in a total mess and departed on a two-week tour throughout the mainland and Sicily. In all, we covered a total of 2,000 km on land, sea, and air, using all the modes of transportation in the process—an automobile, ferry, plane, and lots of trains. In this sense, I’d like to think that after having spent a total of one year here, I’ve come a bit closer to really knowing what this country really looks like, who its people actually are, and what its character is all about.

I’ve touched and been touched by everything I’ve seen during the past two weeks on the road and this intimate contact has made me realize that I do want to stay—that I do love this country despite the challenges I’ve faced and will continue to face. What I’d like to do, thus, is offer a different glimpse into this beautiful, yet complicated place—the hidden features that not many will see or even know about. By extension, there’s really no way to recreate the rush one feels upon encountering a great city for the first time—its impressive culture that everyone knows about; this article, however, will not discuss the Roman Forum, Colosseum, or carbonara; there’ll be no insights into Pompeii (a grand archaeological site overrun by tourists); in terms of Sicily, it’s equally pointless to discuss the Palermo Cathedral, its amazing castles, cannoli, or even arancini because those are things everybody experiences without really feeling the island’s true essence, so to speak; indeed, I saw and tasted all of those aforementioned sights and foods within their respective regions; nevertheless, I learned more about myself and Italians by closing my eyes and seeing with my hands, rather than witnessing everything from a distance.

Unlike Machiavelli, who was deliberately exiled—neither too close nor too far from his beloved Florence (on any sunny day he could’ve seen Santa Maria del Fiore’s dome)—I came to Italy out of my own volition. I arrived with the romantic idea that life would be “easier” here, that I would at last escape the insanity of Los Angeles, and finally find some peace and quiet; it must be said that I both knew and didn’t know that things never turn out that way, that people who move for precisely those reasons never fail in finding other difficulties to preoccupy themselves with, and, invariably, the need to escape them always returns. Upon entering the room in which Machiavelli wrote his most famous work, I felt relieved that exile wasn’t my own fate, that I didn’t have to write a work dedicated to someone who belonged to a family that was responsible for sending me to a place from where I would rarely fail to see the object of my affection—from a distance, always from a distance, never having the opportunity to touch what I so loved.

It’s by this window, in a little town called Sant’Andrea in Percussina, that Machiavelli wrote The Prince with the aim of getting himself out of banishment, attempting to curry favor with the family who had driven him out by dedicating the work “To the Magnificent Lorenzo Di Piero De’ Medici.” Eventually, Machiavelli did return to Florence and died in the arms of his treasured city.

The benevolent fate of perishing on home soil wouldn’t grace Andrei Tarkovsky, considered the greatest Russian filmmaker of all time. Having made his first five films in the Soviet Union, the avant-garde director became increasingly unsatisfied with the repressive atmosphere of Soviet censorship, which began to take a toll on him until finally in 1979, after authorities stopped one of his projects midway during filming, Tarkovsky abandoned the project and traveled to Italy in search of more creative freedom; it’s here where he made perhaps his best movie, Nostalghia, released in 1983.

Unlike Machiavelli, Tarkovsky never returned to his home country, despite the fact that he likewise attempted to portray himself as a man who didn’t have a problem with the people who ultimately did everything in their power to alienate him from his own people. According to a NY Times obituary, when Soviet authorities refused to grant him permanent stay in Italy, Tarkovsky renounced his homeland’s citizenship—still, he stated the following: “I am not a Soviet dissident. I have no conflict with the Soviet Government.” Nevertheless, as Peter Wagstaff writes in Border Crossings, “Tarkovski encountered fierce resistance within the Soviet film establishment, even to the extent that in Cannes in 1983 Sergei Bondarchuk, the head of the Soviet delegation, actively (and successfully) campaigned against the award of the Palme d’Or to Nostalghia.” The great director died of lung cancer in Paris at the age of 54 and it’s long been suspected that he didn’t, in fact, die of natural causes but that his disease was really a product of poisoning which occurred during the filming of Stalker.

Anatoly Solonitsyn, an actor who appeared in many Tarkovsky movies, along with the director’s own wife, Larisa Tarkovskaya, died of the same cancer. Tarkovsky’s sound designer at the time, Vladimir Sharun stated the following in an interview: “We were shooting near Tallinn in the area around the small river Piliteh with a half-functioning hydroelectric station. Up the river was a chemical plant and it poured out poisonous liquids downstream. There is even this shot in Stalker: snow falling in the summer and white foam floating down the river. In fact it was some horrible poison. Many women in our crew got allergic reactions on their faces. Tarkovsky died from cancer of the right bronchial tube. And Tolya Solonitsyn too. That it was all connected to the location shooting for Stalker became clear to me when Larissa Tarkovskaya died from the same illness in Paris.” Coincidence? Maybe. Let’s not get into that, however. Life is life.

Tarkovsky continues to be a major influence on not only avant-garde cinema but movies in general. My brother and I were lucky, thus, that by pure chance, on our way up to Piazzale Michelangelo, we spotted the director’s former residence on a somewhat quiet Florentine street. The plaque was quite high above the door but still big enough for me to get a decent picture. Standing there for a considerable amount of time, it proved difficult not to contemplate what the director must have done and felt walking around his neighborhood.

In eerie Tarkovskian fashion, his name was still on the door and we thought about ringing the bell and asking for a moment of the good director’s time, but for some reason we decided against this and let him enjoy his self-imposed exile without any disturbances from fellow countrymen.

After all, it’s enough for a great filmmaker to be seeking asylum in a foreign land only to end up in a Latina refugee camp. In a documentary about the approximately 80,000 refugees who were housed in the so-called “Rossi Longhi” center, Italian journalist Emanuela Gasbarroni uncovered a document which proves that Tarkovsky did, in fact, pass through there—a fact perhaps “forgotten” by biographers. Even the memories associated with the camp, according to the la Repubblica article, are something that authorities are trying to remove from people’s recollections. Damnatio memoriae is clearly affecting not just Tarkovsky but all others who’ve had to endure self-imposed exile or forced migration.

Tarkovsky fled Russia because of censorship and a stifling creative atmosphere. Generally speaking, it’s not a surprise that those in power are rarely comfortable with views that challenge their own dominance; what’s more interesting, however, is the so-called woke phenomenon which is currently sweeping across the US and also all over social media. Anything challenging the current dominant liberal stance is met with illiberal liberal denunciation—you know, cancel culture. The way it’s very easy for parents to love children who always behave and do what they’re told, so it’s very convenient to “tolerate” and “encourage” speech that satisfies the agenda of the dominant political class. There’s no freedom of expression anymore if you’re only free to support the status quo and to dissent even the way a ruling class sees appropriate. In one sense, contemporary American activists, for example, have achieved a lot in “exiling” the Confederate legacy from its historical homeland; on the other hand, this process has led to a type of intolerance rarely seen in a country like the USA.

Today, even small amounts of “unsanctioned” disagreements can led to being ostracized, along with loss of employment and status. By no means does this argument serve as an excuse for people to say what they wish—that’s not freedom of speech. Indeed, controversial comments should be protected, but when they have no merit or intellectual value—when they’re simply made to inflict pain, people who live by utilitarian principles of maximizing society’s happiness should invariably recognize these comments as pain, instead of “speech.” In his article “Worlds Apart: Reconciling Freedom of Speech and Equality,” UC Berkeley professor John A. Powell distinguishes which kind of controversial speech is acceptable and which is not: “Assaultive racist speech functions as a preemptive strike. The racial invective is experienced as a blow, not a proffered idea, and once the blow is struck, it is unlikely that dialogue will follow. Racial insults are undeserving of first amendment protection because the perpetrator’s intention is not to discover truth or initiate dialogue but to injure the victim.” Walking the streets of Rome, I was confronted with the very challenge Powell highlights. Take a look at this photo taken not far from the Colosseum. Tell me: Does it offend you?

In the US, such an establishment would probably have already been burned down, but would that have served the First Amendment’s interests or gone against its core values? I’m really not sure at this point, but I think we have to do a better job in confronting the past, and by confronting it I mean something akin to carefully removing the poisonous plants within a forest, not simply writing off the entire organism by uprooting every tree just because that particular environment has produced harmful substances within a place that ultimately represents something bigger than the considerable problems it simultaneously constitutes. Although I was startled when I first saw it, ultimately, I’m now okay with this particular establishment and also business concept in general, precisely because as a US citizen I value freedom of speech; furthermore, in this case, I don’t think the messages or depictions are meant to assault anyone. These are a series of dictator wines and among the detestable Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin varieties, there also appear Che Guevara, Lenin, Marx, and Churchill—figures who are far more complex than the previous three, meaning their intellectual pursuits and achievements make it harder to fit them neatly inside the classic dictator archetype.

In reality, it’s not necessarily about despots, repression, liberalism, freedom, or even the difference between Europe and the US; what it’s really about is the human tendency to see everything foreign, mystical, and strange as a threat. Even the most liberal people or countries will seek to avoid that which disturbs the harmony of their environment.

Nowhere in Sicily did this become more apparent when Mussolini, in 1923, told Aleister Crowley—the infamous occultist and poet—to leave the city of Cefalù. Crowley was a controversial figure in the early twentieth century, claiming that he was the prophet of a new age called the Aeon of Horus. He developed the religious philosophy of Thelema after experiencing a vision in 1904; supposedly an entity called Aiwass had contacted Crowley in Egypt and dictated the text known as The Book of the Law, which would go on to serve as the foundational ideology for the entire belief system. One of the core principles of this religion can be seen in the following picture I took inside the abbey.

After renting the house, Crowley was known to have driven the landlords crazy by painting murals on the walls and supposedly some of the graffiti is original, but I have my doubts about the latter point; locals would’ve probably whitewashed everything shortly after Crowley left; the reason for this is precisely because he believed that people had a so-called True Will which was unique to them and it was their duty to follow it; hence, like stars, which occupy both a distinct time and space in the universe, Crowley believed that humans too were both dependent and independent of time—that they were part of the universe yet possessed a path and destiny which was unique to them. Yeah, kind of crazy, to be honest, which is why I was so interested in seeing this place. I mean look at the alien behind me.

Crowley was a notorious drug user and hedonist in general. Locals didn’t take kindly to his presence and his reputation certainly preceded him. The infamy surrounding the man reached such an extent that even the well-known Sicilian novelist Leonardo Sciascia wrote a story about him called “Apocrifi sul caso Crowley.” The work is in a form of letters exchanged between Mussolini himself, a general, and the commissioner of Cefalù. With my rather limited Italian and some help from Google Translate, I realized the story is written in a satiric tone and probably for good reason, given how flamboyant Crowley was—it wouldn’t be wrong to think of him as the twentieth century Oscar Wilde, one that also thought he was a prophet, however. As the pictures show, the abbey is in complete ruin and locals couldn’t care less about preserving it, which is a good thing because we really don’t need any more men (or women, in fact) believing they’re prophets.

Another reason the premise is best left in a state of disrepair is because it’s more interesting this way and also much harder to find. There’s nothing I love more than walking through ruins; this pursuit always demonstrates to me the frailty of human endeavors. In Ortygia, for example, I saw the Temple of Apollo, dating back to the sixth century before Christ; as I looked at what was left, it was clear to me that this was once an impressive structure but what was even more majestic was feeling the presence of time walking among the ruins, slowly picking up rocks and putting them into its bottomless pockets. Crowley’s abbey, on the other hand, is one hundred years old and looks worse than what the Greeks built so long ago. I think it’s, thus, safe to say whose legacy time is giving a much harder time when it comes to being removed from the face of the earth. There’s perhaps a greater amount of stone left at the Abbey of Thelema, but on any given day you’ll find more people admiring the Temple of Apollo, meaning the Greeks are still with us while Crowley has largely been forgotten.

Speaking of the Greeks, we can perfectly make the transition to Odysseus, the legendary king of Ithaca who fought in the Trojan War and was stranded at sea for over ten years before finally returning home. The first stop our great hero and his men made on their long journey home was in Sicily; in fact, one of the most important and recognizable events of the myth are said to have occurred in the town of Aci Trezza, about a twenty minute car ride from the hometown of my university classmate Emanuele and his sister Valentina, both of whom I consider very good friends. They were gracious enough to host my brother and I for the duration of our stay in the Catania region and also took us to Syracuse.

Meeting people like Emanuele and Valentina is a fortune filled with the greatest happiness and sadness—happiness because you’ve found genuine people in a world where it’s difficult to do that and sadness because it’s so difficult to find genuine people in a world where everyone is supposedly looking for happiness. Hence, it’s both very easy and very challenging to have friends like Emanuele and Valentina—easy because they’re the most understanding and generous people in the world and challenging because you don’t want to do anything that will upset them, making you second-guess every action and emotion; in fact, a funny thing related to what I’m speaking about happened the morning my brother and I were supposed to fly out of Catania. While sitting in the courtyard of their house having breakfast, enjoying a cake their mom had prepared for us, I tried making a little jest to show how good it was by telling them I wanted to take the whole thing with me; they thought I was being serious and started wrapping it for me; immediately I told them this wasn’t necessary, and we all had a good laugh about the matter.

Nevertheless, having said all that, the cake still ended up flying from Catania to Bologna because Valentina packed it for her boyfriend and then forgot to take it out of the car before our farewells—in these circumstances Emanuele drove us to the airport; on the way, I didn’t miss the opportunity to tell him I was putting it in my bag, and, in fact, I’m eating the cake right now as I write this article; indeed, life is really all about that—misunderstandings that lead to understanding; confusion that leads to clarity; missed opportunities that bring new opportunities and sometimes these revelations also work the other way around, meaning not in your favor. In the end, however, I think I should accept that life is beautiful and every second of it is worth living, even when nothing makes sense and it seems like the whole world was designed to work against you. Maybe this is what we were all thinking here after having climbed up to the dome of Chiesa della Badia di Sant’Agata in Catania. Maybe we’re no longer seeing with our eyes but looking at the world the way it really is—perhaps even coming so close as to touch it.


(Photo by Valentina Ventura)

Let’s return, however, to Odysseus and the town of Aci Trezza; as Emanuele told me, not only is it the city where Giovanni Verga‘s novel I Malavoglia is set, but there are a number of places which begin with Aci in Sicily; it goes back to the Ancient Greek myth of Acis, a mortal, and Galatea, a sea nymph. When the Cyclops Polyphemus (yes, the same one who traps Odysseus) becomes jealous of their love, he kills Acis; in her grief, Galatea transforms the object of her affection into an immortal river spirit; it’s thus in the town of Aci Trezza that Odysseus runs into Polyphemus. The Matterhorn-shaped rock I captured in this image (there are about three or four in the vicinity) is supposed to be one of the stones which that angry Cyclops threw at Odysseus after he escaped the cave and began taunting the giant; locals call them faraglioni dei Ciclopi.

Unlike Odysseus, however, we left the island on better terms with Polyphemus. We finished our last day in Sicily by eating granita e brioche catanese at Gran Cafè Solaire, one of the best spots in the area for it and afterwards Emanuele drove us to the airport. Now back in Ravenna, I already miss Sicily; as with everything good, I feel both happy and sad—happy because I know that I’ll be back and sad because I don’t know when. Sabbinirica, my friends.


(Photo by Valentina Ventura)

Here’s to Sicily and I hope to see you soon, but why write anything else when pictures have invented an alphabet you don’t have to learn how to read?

 

About David Garyan

David Garyan has published three chapbooks with Main Street Rag, along with (DISS)INFORMATION, a full collection with the same publisher. He holds an MA and MFA from Cal State Long Beach, where he associated himself with the Stand Up Poets. He is currently studying International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage at the University of Bologna. He lives in Ravenna.

Witches Brew: Outtakes, Deleted Scenes, and Bonus Footage

August 16th, 2020
Ravenna, Italy

 

Machiavelli, Tarkovsky, Cefalù, Aleister Crowley, and Aci Trezza

Witches Brew: Outtakes, Deleted Scenes, and Bonus Footage

Practically having traversed Italy from top to bottom, I feel like it’s a good idea to add some material which didn’t make the cut, so to speak, for whatever reasons. For the most part, I was intending to use these shots but they either didn’t come out right or it was difficult to incorporate them without disrupting the flow of the article; also, however, there are a few pictures here that are meant purely for comical purposes, but I’ll leave it up to you to decide which images belong in what category.

Machiavelli’s kitchen: Because even princes and those who write about them need to eat.

 

Machiavelli’s garden: From here he could see the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore—the Medicis knew how to punish.

 

Parco dei Ravennati: No, this park isn’t located in Ravenna, but in Rome; in fact, it’s not even located in Rome proper but close to the ancient port of Ostia Antica.

 

Via San Gregorio Armeno: Also informally referred to as the street of nativity due to its famous Christmas market, but it wasn’t Christmas in Naples—it happened to be August and it was pretty hot; good thing we went at night when the sun was taking a nap. According to the country’s official tourism agency, out of all the Christmas markets in Italy, this is the one you shouldn’t miss. I guess we didn’t miss it—we just came at the wrong time.

 

Lucius’s House: I have a new property in escrow and you know what they say about real estate—location, location, location; that’s why I chose Pompeii. As you can see, I get the finest views of Vesuvius and you always receive the best deal on lava in these parts. The only problem is that I can’t pinpoint the previous owner—was it, in fact, Lucius? No, I think it was Marcus, but then again it could’ve been Maximus. Who knows? Getting the contract done on this baby is going to be tough.

 

Pope John Paul II: In Messina I finally got to meet a bona fide pope and this miraculous occasion didn’t even make it into the article.

 

Mexican-Palermitan horse: The driver only speaks Italian but the horse is B1 in Palermitano. All jokes aside, Sicilian is considered a so-called “vulnerable” language by UNESCO. Likewise according to a 2008 study cited by the Endangered Language Institute (ELA), “only a third of the population will speak Sicilian at the end of the 21st century.” Sicilian is different enough from Italian to be considered its own language; in fact, it would be more correct to say that Sicilian itself has dialects of its own as there are even notable differences between the way people speak it in Catania and Palermo, for example; the language, however, is slowly losing its uniqueness because of “increasing pressure from standard Italian.” Along those same lines, according to National Geographic, “One language dies every 14 days. By the next century nearly half of the roughly 7,000 languages spoken on Earth will likely disappear, as communities abandon native tongues in favor of English, Mandarin, or Spanish. What is lost when a language goes silent?” The lesson here: Stop learning English and study some Sicilian, and this is coming from a guy who’s wearing a t-shirt from the English language school he works at—almost in every photo.

 

Spiaggia Pineta del Gelsomineto: Cliff diving videos are always fun, especially when you don’t know if things went well afterwards, or not. Judging by the fact that I’ve completed this article, however, it’s safe to assume that everything turned out all right—but then again, this whole thing could’ve been ghostwritten. How is a prankster like me familiar with UNESCO and endangered languages anyway? Again, I’ll let you be the judge regarding the veracity of this article’s authorship.

 

Catacombe dei Cappuccini: Too many skulls for Hamlet, but let’s try it anyways.

“Where are your jokes now? Your pranks? Your songs? Your flashes of wit that used to set the whole table laughing? You don’t make anybody smile now. Are you sad about that? You need to go to my lady’s room and tell her that no matter how much makeup she slathers on, she’ll end up just like you some day. That’ll make her laugh. Horatio, tell me something.”
Hamlet, Act V: Scene I

And so, our Italian adventure ends on a very cheerful note. It’s always nice to know the world is both full of meaning and no meaning at all—somewhere, in the back of my mind, I distinctly remember something about being or not being, staying or going; maybe Hamlet himself said this or could it have been The Clash? “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,”—for God’s sake, let’s not get into that right now. I neither have the time nor the patience.

 

About David Garyan

David Garyan has published three chapbooks with Main Street Rag, along with (DISS)INFORMATION, a full collection with the same publisher. He holds an MA and MFA from Cal State Long Beach, where he associated himself with the Stand Up Poets. He is currently studying International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage at the University of Bologna. He lives in Ravenna.

Seeing the Netherlands, an article by David Garyan

July 14th, 2020
Ravenna, Italy

 

Seeing the Netherlands

Before I even begin describing my experiences in the beautiful country known as the Netherlands, I’d like to point out right away that, despite having stayed in Amsterdam for three nights, none of the pictures in this article were taken in that city. Don’t get me wrong—I think the capital is an amazing place to visit and many people looking for thrills of various sorts will find plenty of opportunities to partake in whatever activity they desire, but I’d like to go a less conventional way. I don’t want to reduce this country to just one city. Let’s just say that I, myself, took full advantage of everything that Amsterdam had to offer, but if I may be real frank, the best and most fulfilling experiences didn’t actually happen there—they occurred in places like Utrecht, Delft, The Hague, and Den Bosch.

The reason why so many people are drawn to the capital and rarely visit other places in the country—which from an aesthetic point of view are just as, if not more impressive, than Amsterdam itself—is because a lot of tourists unknowingly (and perhaps even deliberately) misinterpret Dutch tolerance as a right to be reckless; this couldn’t be further from the truth. The real reason, in fact, why sex work and soft drugs like marijuana are legal in the country (the former exists only in some cities while the latter can be found almost everywhere) really has its roots in the Dutch belief that each and every human being should have the right to decide in a sensible way about the matters pertaining to their own health; this is a fundamental rule of Dutch society and it’s based on the idea that individuals have not only the right, but also the inherent ability to exercise their own reason and prudence for the purpose of making sound decisions that coincide with their existential tastes and preferences.

I can only speak from the perspective of my own people and thus I’ll say that the typical (in this case young) US traveler arrives in Amsterdam, spends three or four days doing all sorts of reckless things there, and then leaves with the belief that he or she has “seen” the Netherlands, so to say; to witness a country, however, is to experience, at the very least, another city that’s different in character, culture, or perhaps even size. As someone currently residing in Italy, I can tell you that life is far from similar if you compare places like Venice and Rome. To the question of which city (or cities) represent the so-called authentic Italian spirit, however, no one can say—and perhaps there’s really no answer to this question, but to stay in Rome for three days only to leave immediately after just to claim you’ve visited Bel Paese is kind of pathetic. You’ll neither find Italy just in Rome, Venice, Naples, or Palermo alone; perhaps, however, you may succeed through the combination of experiences that are gained by having visited two or more of those places—truly, you may begin approaching the feeling of what it means to be “Italian” by looking at the sculpture of nationality from different angles, not just glancing at it directly for a second and walking away.

The Netherlands are no different in this regard. Many people use Holland to describe the entire land, but actually the whole nation is divided into twelve provinces which together constitute the Netherlands—North and South Holland are just two of those aforementioned territories; having said that, getting around the entire country is incredibly easy. The trains are fast, efficient, and clean—I expected nothing less from the Dutch, and, of course, the level of trust on which the ticket system relies on restores your belief in the goodness of humanity. Let’s just say it’s not difficult to walk behind someone who’s scanned their pass and then walk to your train (where vouchers, at least in my experience, were never checked); even in stations like Utrecht, where no physical barriers are present, people nevertheless scanned their passes as they entered and exited. Accountability, honesty, and respect for the rules—this is perhaps why the country has been one of the most successful in dealing with the coronavirus and is today, once again, not just open, but also thriving. In Italy, on the other hand, discotheques and nightclubs either remain totally closed or have begun opening with very strict distancing rules; additionally, masks are still absolutely mandatory when going to the supermarket or any kind of indoor establishment, for that matter.

The Netherlands, for their part, have been so successful at dealing with the pandemic that Amsterdam has even decided to reopen its Red Light District (as of July 1st) during a worldwide pandemic—it was supposed to restart in September; almost comically, the only place where people still wear masks more or less regularly is on the train. Again, accountability, honesty, and respect for the rules—as a writer I’ve never really possessed any of those virtues in great quantities, but I’m starting to realize that art does exist in order, consistency, and caution—all traits which, nevertheless, go against the principles of “passion” that fuel creativity. Indeed, I must say there’s something incredibly admirable to be found in those qualities which the Dutch hold in such high regard; whatever opinion you may have about the people, you can’t accuse them of lacking imagination. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), around “17% of the entire land area has been reclaimed from the sea or lakes.” My point is that while the so-called “creative” Italians are letting Venice sink, the Dutch, since at least the 16th century, have been raising (quite literally, in fact) large portions of their country from under the water—that, in and of itself, is the greatest artistic achievement a country can claim for itself. The following image shows the difference in the amount of territorial expansion that was achieved with land reclamation techniques.

Truly, enough philosophizing, however—any philosopher knows it’s easy to fall in love with a country when you’ve first visited it and it likewise doesn’t take much effort to get sick of a place when you’ve spent almost a year living there; that’s why, in the interest of Dutch prudence and caution, I won’t give a hasty response as to where I’d ultimately prefer to settle down. All I can state with relative confidence is that having traveled more or less extensively throughout Europe at this point, I know that I still love Italy and everything it has to offer.

Let’s at last move away from abstract discussions now and focus on what actually matters—experiencing the Netherlands outside of Amsterdam. My relationship with the country really goes back to when I was a nine or ten year old kid, living in Germany; the precise details elude me but my parents found an organization dedicated to enriching the lives of young kids and this establishment was in the business of organizing yearly summer trips to the island of Ameland, where I ended up going for two summers. Despite the fact that more than twenty years have passed, I still remember some of the rules, duties, and activities: Whatever primitive technologies we did possess at home (Game Boys and other gadgets from the nineties), these were strictly forbidden; every kid had to help in the kitchen at least twice during their month-long stay; a special disco-styled dance (the lighting equipment was pretty awesome) was organized in your honor if you were lucky enough to be born in the right month of summer; that was the case for me as I was born on July 26th; furthermore, those who had birthdays also received presents which weren’t cheap, let’s just say. I remember getting a high-quality soccer ball on one occasion and I was able to play with it for many years. Other things I remember are swimming in the cold North Sea and repeatedly being warned about the tides by the camp counselors; all these things are distant memories, however, and despite the impression I’m giving here of being able to throw around details left and right, there isn’t really much I can recall from those times, except that I never felt happier at any point in my life; perhaps this is why the Netherlands hold such a special place in my imagination.

Maybe it’s not so much the Netherlands I missed and more so the easiness and effortlessness of my childhood, but when I set foot on Dutch soil again, I realized it was both. The hustle and bustle of the capital helped me drown this bittersweet nostalgia for some time, but when I left Amsterdam and arrived in The Hague, the thought—for some odd reason or other—that life is incredibly difficult for all of us came to me. Even for those who’re wealthy and have every privilege imaginable (I have neither of those things), the certainty that there can never be another childhood, that greed, hunger, and crime do constitute a part of our world (perhaps even making up an unchangeable aspect of it) is a realization that no amount of money or status can change; as I marveled at the International Court of Justice, I thought about all of those things. The impressive nature of the building did give me some reassurance that perhaps it is possible to rid the world of its problems with human institutions, but then I remembered everything that my professors had said about the ineffectiveness of the UN, its inability to stop genocides, and all the other plethora of problems that continue to exist. For a moment, however, I felt at peace standing next to this structure; in the attempt to rediscover my youth, I just imagined that it was a magical fortress which protected the world from every misfortune and inside it no bad thing could happen either. Maybe my expression in this photo shows that.

After spending some time in the city center of The Hague, I walked to the beach and discovered one of the liveliest scenes that a coastline can offer: a modern pier next to which people were bungee jumping from a crane, a tall Ferris wheel, and varied dining opportunities along along with dynamic gaming scenes all around. This shot I took from the pier really gives you an idea of how big everything is; the entire shoreline offers various entertainment opportunities for adults and kids alike.

The next city I visited was Delft. A classic university town in the most pleasant sense, it’s home to the Delft University of Technology, which is one of the best universities in the Netherlands; likewise, according to recent data, it’s one of the top fifteen engineering and technology schools in the world.

Due to the contributions of Dutch Golden Age scientists such as Antonie van Leeuwenhoek and Martinus Beijerinck, Delft is often considered the birthplace of microbiology.

Architecturally, the city is quite stunning. Here’s the picture of the main square and not far from it there once stood the home of the great painter Johannes Vermeer, whose painting The Girl with the Pearl Earring has become one of the centerpieces in the art world. Walking among the canals and enjoying the seclusion and silence of this city proved to be a very memorable experience and one I’d like to have again.

Trees line the waterfront and when their leaves fall, they create a type of moss that really adds to the character of Delft. One of most stunning views I captured was this one.

The following day I decided to visit Utrecht, which Lonely Planet calls an unsung gem of the Netherlands, and when I saw it for myself, I realized why. The city with its canals, dining scene, and architectural offerings feels both medieval and modern at the same time. Surely, you’ll find crowds and many people out and about; however, where Amsterdam is noisy and stressful, Utrecht is calm and relaxed. I simply couldn’t resist asking someone to take a picture here. The entire city pretty much looks like this and there are endless opportunities to enjoy a coffee or meal right on the waterfront.

In terms of its history, Utrecht was actually the cultural center in the Dutch Golden Age before it was surpassed by Amsterdam. It was the location where the famous Peace of Utrecht was signed: Since he died childless in 1700, Charles II of Spain, in his last will, had named Philip of Anjou (grandson of Louis XIV) as his successor. The other great European powers, however, weren’t prepared to tolerate the possible merger of such powers like Spain and France. What the treaties, therefore, accomplished is that it allowed Philip to assume the Spanish crown by permanently giving up his right to the French throne. The treaties were, thus, an essential component of maintaining the balance of power in Europe. Since the eighth century, Utrecht has also served as the religious center of the Netherlands and the Dutch Roman Catholic leader, called the Metropolitan Archbishop of Utrecht, has his seat in the city. It’s the location of Utrecht University, the largest institution of higher learning in the Netherlands. The famous Dom Tower, completed in 1382, was, unfortunately, undergoing major renovations and couldn’t be seen.

The next location I visited is officially called ‘s-Hertogenbosch (no, neither the apostrophe nor the hyphen are typos). Furthermore, despite the fact that the aforementioned name is the very one you’ll see above the entrance to the train station, most locals simply refer to their city as Den Bosch; it’s quite picturesque and quaint. Although there were plenty of people in the main square, I still consider the city a well-kept secret in the Netherlands. One of its claims to fame is being the place where Hieronymus Bosch lived and died, along with the fact that the oldest brick building (pictured below) in the Netherlands is located in the main square.

St. John’s Cathedral, the burial site of Hieronymus Bosch, looks as impressive from the outside as it does when gazing at the interior. In vain, I tried taking a good picture of both, but none of them did the cathedral any justice. Instead, here’s the plaque on the ground which commemorates the burial of the famous artist, whose depictions of hell are so vivid and intriguing that I consider them to be what the Divine Comedy would’ve looked like had Dante chosen to become a painter.

For the time he lived (the 15th and 16th centuries), Bosch’s paintings really are some of the most original and idiosyncratic that ever existed. So many people praise the vision of Salvador Dali’s composition without ever having heard of the man who really had one of the most fantastic imaginations any painter can have. This particular image is a closeup of The Harrowing of Hell.

It’s only fitting, then, that the great citizen of this city which bears a name just as eccentric as his own (Hieronymus) should pay tribute to the artist with a statue right in the main square. The less strange thing, of course, is that few tourists really look at it and perhaps not many even know who he is; instead they sit around the master, enjoying whatever tasty beverage or snack they’ve just purchased—ah, the beauty of travel and relaxation.

The main square is rather busy, not just with restaurants but also with food trucks serving traditional Dutch-style seafood. To escape that scene for a bit, I stumbled upon this incredible place by pure chance. Sit and think about whatever comes to mind—it’s both a blessing and curse to be free.

I finished my trip in Eindhoven, which in all honesty, I wouldn’t have taken the time to visit had my departing flight not been from there. Aside from the fact that it’s very modern and clean, along with the beautiful St. Catherine’s Church in the center, I really have only two things to discuss in terms of this city—the classic example of Dutch organization and also my scenic walk to the airport. The former is highlighted in the picture below.

As you can see, the sidewalk is divided into two halves, each side serving to accommodate one flow of traffic; this is just one measure enacted by the Dutch government in the wake of the coronavirus—to make movement more efficient and to decrease congestion, which leads directly into my next point: The pride with which the people maintain not just their infrastructure but also their natural world can easily be seen here. Although the country is one of the flattest in the world, the amount of amazing nature is never in short supply. On every train ride out of Amsterdam, I saw some of the most pristine and well-kept landscapes. The decision not to take the bus which I’d already paid for and instead walk to the airport, thus, seemed only natural, as discovering the Dutch countryside was one of the things few I didn’t do.

I would like to end this article with a quote I saw painted on the side of a building in Den Bosch. I did a quick translation on my phone and the literal one is as follows: The feeling that you are just a bit bigger today than you were yesterday; it probably means that each and every day offers us an opportunity to grow and if we seize it, we realize our potential—that would be the most standard interpretation.

Since we’re in Den Bosch, however, I take it to mean something else; for me it’s that bittersweet nostalgia I described earlier—the realization that you’re no longer a child in the country you once experienced the greatest happiness in and have now returned to as an adult who, at that exact moment, is longing for those very days you’ll never have back. You’re now a little bigger than you were over twenty years ago and the past is even less likely to come back the more you try to convince an empty house that it needs a lamp at night. So go. Live. Whatever has happened has already happened. The people who really want you in their lives won’t keep trying to run away.

 

About David Garyan

David Garyan has published three chapbooks with Main Street Rag, along with (DISS)INFORMATION, a full collection with the same publisher. He holds an MA and MFA from Cal State Long Beach, where he associated himself with the Stand Up Poets. He is currently studying International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage at the University of Bologna. He lives in Ravenna.