Thursday, October 18, 2012

Justicia poética: Enfisema cerebral

Justicia poética: Enfisema cerebral: Es cierto que es demasiado joven y también que su propia educación no alcanzó a darle el vuelo para considerar los pequeños detalles...

Casi que puedo escuchar a Carlos Gardel y su "Fumando espero" : "Fumar es un placer, genial, sensual..."
No gusto del fumar, pero entiendo que la magia de sus espirales ha inspirado a muchos en la misma medida que se cuela en sus entrañas.  Me gusta esa cotidianidad del cigarrillo desprovisto de vicio casi que por la absorción en el vicio mismo. Como si el cigarrillo fuese una nariz, un órgano más, de aquel ser que vive en su alquitrán.  Hace poco vi a una familia entrar a un taxi y ver al taxista fumando. Sin preguntar, todos encendieron su pitillo y no lo dejaron apagar jamás, encendido como el taxímetro.

Respondo a tu inspiración con una reflexión añeja, que mas que un cuento, es un estado de animo… Se llama : ¿El Factum o la cantata? y dice:
“Ansío alcanzar un millar de constelaciones. Me encuentro perdido en mi propio sistema. Cada despertar es un puñetazo bajo que me ahuyenta las pocas ganas de continuar. Siento en mi tristeza la aguda punción de un vaticinio, como si el factum hubiese tomado la decisión de darme porrazos en ciertos momentos de esta caminata.
Por eso me he ido a refugiar al parque. He salido a caminar las penas y los malos genios. He desbordado en cada paso, por cierto lento, todo suspiro de este silencio. Atravieso con el sigilo de mis tacones, la arboleda semidesnuda que deja caer sus hojas, pajarillos viajeros. Las ráfagas de gente contra el rostro, como el viento, me pasan sin pena ni gloria.  Distingo sus formas y colores, pero se confunden con los restos secos del otoño, esparcidos a mis pies. Mientras los piso, crujiéndolos con hastío, la luz excepcional de un cielo cenizo me cubre con su noche y me ilumina la desolación.
Hoy le dije a mi cuerpo “no tengo a donde ir, toma tu las riendas de mi propio ser”, es decir mi mente y mi corazón. Así es como me condujo, cuesta abajo, hasta este corredor arbóreo que atravieso. Estoy solo, conducido por mis pies. No tengo más remedio que observar.
Hay hortensias a mi alrededor con diminutas guirnaldas que las embellecen. Me apoyo en una loza y veo dolorido más personas que pasan. Me creo egoísta por no querer mirarlas, le roban espacio a mi soledad. Les doy la espalda. No quiero ver a nadie. Es una noche hermosa de otoño y yo estoy gris.
Quiero entonces empezar a cantar para dejar fluir lo que tengo reprimido. Entonar sin miedo algunos cantos antiguos, los que oí cuando era niño, los que se han quedado grabados en mi memoria auditiva. Los canto cada vez con mas fuerza mientras mezo la cabeza, y voy haciendo de la banca donde me encuentro, mi propio escenario.
Canto para la nada.
Canto para las hojas que siguen cayendo.
Canto para los que no me ven y sobretodo para mí.
Canto y canto para mí, para liberarme de mi propio yo. Del yugo sobre mi cerviz. Canto para volverme a levantar y retomar el camino de regreso a casa.
Canto para darle fuerza a mis pulmones y seguir respirando.
Así recobro mi aliento para proseguir la marcha.
Y no morir de frio en la arboleda”.
Antonio Aragón - Madrid, 2000


Friday, June 18, 2010

The gospel according to Saramago...

Saramago has died. A good reason to awake my dormant writing. His words have inspired me for a decade now, since I first read The Cave. His craftsmanship combined with the wisdom of he who sees beyond the surface, and manages to reach the core of the fruit without destroying its beauty, has left us today at 87. Poignant, relevant, critical of this world but intimately in love with it, Saramago managed to raise important questions about the open wounds of the human condition, our creations and destructions. A great loss because his words will no longer procreate. Yet a great gain because he was… because he existed, and left such a legacy behind him. He won’t be going to heaven because he didn’t believe in it, he won’t go to hell because it is too small for him… he’ll come back as a tree, as Cipriano Algor, or as the man with the black eye patch, or as the seeing woman or simply as the cellist, who surprisingly will not die!é_Saramago Share


Friday, March 12, 2010

Feb 13 Strasbourg and the legacy of Gutenberg!

Au Crocodile has been passed on through many generations and now hangs, lifeless, from the ceiling of the Strasbourg restaurant bearing his name. Dinner is not cheap but it is flavoursome, très français, very ceremonial, and surprisingly light. I could type up the menu but that would mean more delays on posting this blog entry. I’d rather upload a photo of the St. Valentine’s carte du jour!

Strasbourg, a European Union capital in the Alsace region was built on and around water. Its canals trick you into feeling like you're in a “bike-less” Amsterdam. A nice mix of German and French cultures make it clean, conservative and interesting. Wikipedia says that the city's name has been “Gallicized” from a Germanic origin meaning "Town (at the crossing) of roads". Gutenberg might have been inspired by this busy intersection when crafting the most influential invention of our modern times… the printing press. He lived here for a while. As a crossroads, Strasbourg was a pleasant surprise in my transition between Africa and the former Soviet Union.

The Hotel Regent Petite France where I stayed is a modern gem built within old walls, tastefully renovated and relatively inexpensive compared to what you can get in Frankfurt for double the price. Another restaurant I savoured was Les Deux Gourmandes. Smaller and family run. A cozy living-room-type bistro, equally reptile-friendly, detailed and as full of ritual. I love the French eating pace. One can spend hours at the table without the pressure of humming waiters asking cliché questions such as: “how are you guys doing?” or “here’s your bill but don’t worry, whenever you are ready” …right! In Canada tables are often double booked thus one is expected to leave shortly after the last sip of coffee… Not in France… it is like “you stay, you enjoy, we take our time as well… life is rude but belle!

My selected book for the moment, pretty much in tune with Valentine’s weekend, was The Lover (1984) by Marguerite Duras. I have read the two versions of it, one in Spanish and the other one in English. The Lover was written in the form of an autobiography as the young Duras narrates in first-person. The Lover from Northern China (El Amante de la China del Norte), released concurrently with the film version, was written in film script form and in the third person. I enjoyed both. Duras is sharp, short sentenced, extremely detailed in single terms and in bold observations. She says it all in petite sentences like: "Very early in my life it was too late." Definitely one of my favourite authors. When I visited Saigon (Ho Chi Min City), I endlessly thought of the way Duras described food, colours, steam, humidity… wow, that was a genius showered in sweat in the expanding borders of "French" Indochine!



Sunday, March 7, 2010

Feb 11 - Ghana

Despite the infernal heat, the drive to Cape Coast in Ghana was my gift from the gods. And my companionship: god’s angels. How lovely the people, how cordial, how thriving, how inspiring. My friend BG was right. The coast is natural, ages old with fishing villages by its shores and hunters on the road selling rodents (some smoked, some still breathing). Gospel on the radio and Nana, my group leader, telling stories about religion, traditions, politics.

We stopped at the University of Cape Coast to talk to students. Impressive. The sculpture of mother wisdom feeding her child caught my eye. I also found bright smiles that tell you stories, colourful fashion, elegant talk. I was treated very well. I was told that is how officials treat foreigners... often better than locals. I used my “foreign-ness” as a charming way to grab their attention… and to invite them to come to Canada with me. We then visited boarding schools, for girls, for boys, private, public, wealthier and not so, uniformed, organized, old enough to be soon celebrating their first century.

On the way back, we visited one of the various fortresses or castles used to gather slaves before shipping them away. Most of them were Portuguese but this one was Dutch. A bit dilapidated, although recently renovated, it sits as a silent reminder at the top of a hill in the midst of a crowded neighbourhood. A tired-looking man in his forties is the key holder. As we walked into the small dark rooms where people from the region were ‘herded’, I felt my pores jump and my eyes pour. And there was that “door of no return” through which stolen generations of men and women walked off their land and disappeared onto the ocean… under the supervision of greedy traders and the ambitious colonizers of the Americas.

I come from Africa too. I felt at home in Ghana. Colombia is also a multicultural society where races have mixed again and again. It is difficult to trace one’s heritage. We are an amalgamation of Europe (with all its combinations and permutations), Africa (mostly from this region of the West Coast) and from the local sedentary inhabitants of the land, rich Aboriginal families (Muiscas, Chibschas, Quimbayas) who lived on “Pacha Mama” for centuries before Columbus. I’m sure African blood runs through my veins… I felt it in the beat of my heart drumming as I saw the boat makers make boats and followed the waves that bathe their bare toes…
Back in Accra the bi-colour cabs buzzed. There were ads welcoming Obama in full smile along John Atta Mills, the Ghanaian president. From North Ridge where I stayed (at the Alisa Hotel) to the steaming streets of a city with a large football stadium, I melted with the inclement sun but suffered no pain. For the first time on my trip I saw traffic police. I noticed that my driver uses the emergency break instead of the pedal break to stop and the highways are divided by fence-like barricades adorned with chicken wire to ‘encourage’ street-crossers to use pedestrian bridges. Along the road I saw big markets, informal vendors. They sell wedding dresses, iron bars, stereo speakers, fridges, evangelical churches, remedies for tumors and other malformations, food.

As we listened to the radio there was a catchy tune that I started to whistle. Nana, Collins and Cynthia laughed. What do the lyrics say? I asked. “Give me a quarter, I'll forget all my sorrows and I'll pay you tomorrow”. It refers to getting a shot glass of ‘akpeteshie’, the 40% alcohol local gin… that helps one forget about the daily burdens so that tomorrow never comes…

I missed the akpeteshie. If there is a tomorrow, I must return to Ghana for my quarter. Share


Monday, February 15, 2010

Feb 6 - The Lion and the Jewel - Lagos

With the challenge of technology comes this delayed video from Lagos... no, it was not filmed at the beginning of the 20th century. My writings and postings have been as slow as uploading these videos onto YouTube. I am now in Ukraine... a lot to share. This video was shot on February 6

Unlike Chinua Achebe who has an Ibo (Igbo) tradition from Nigeria's South East,Wole Soyinka has a Yorùbá cultural heritage from the Lagos region. He was the first African to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986 for his extense work. In 1959 he published his comedy The Lion and the Jewel which I depict here. An amusing short play filled with colour, sense of space and creativity. Share


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Feb 7 - The Blowfish Hotel - Lagos

Blowfish expand like globes. They are cute water versions of porcupines. Nevertheless, I would have never expected to stay at a hotel with this name. I did in Lagos. Everyone locally calls it the Blue Fish, it sounds more pristine and inviting. I agree. I have never scratched the surface of a blowfish but I imagine surprises. That’s what I have found at this relatively small boutique hotel in the heart of Victoria Island. It is so secluded that it has no sign on the door (apparently you pay a lot of money for such signs in Nigeria); so one enters the place like a secret guest through the garage front door.

Bright pink external walls, the Blowfish invites you with its furniture, its many bellmen, porters and other uniformed staff. Wow, it seems like it is going to be a good stay! Oh, wait a minute… my newly assigned tiny room hasn’t been cleaned, it looks like somebody just got up… and the toilet, oh no… what happened? Not a nice welcoming ceremony. Ok, after a few minutes, the baby-looking manager with an Arab accent comes to my rescue. He apologizes a million times and ‘upgrades’ me to a corner room where I can actually walk a bit. I like the windows facing the street and I settle down for one night. The internet is not working… but it must be down for now, maybe tomorrow. But tomorrow never comes. I cannot even see the wireless network on the list of available ones. I’ll have to live for 4 days without access to my inbox. My consolation, phones and blackberries work just fine.

I find this hotel a resemblance of the two extreme realities of our world. On one hand a very wealthy elite who “enjoys” the benefits of good food, fine shelter, and a social life. On the other, the vast majority a nation (and many nations), working hard to please that elite, trying to make ends meet (sometimes at whatever cost).

The Blowfish administration is trying to fill the gap between those ends. Good luck! And here we are, westerners, asking for lotion in the bathroom, clean water, reliable internet… when I complain about the service I am left with this bitter sense of guilt inside… How can I dare to ask for more?

The same combo goes for luxury cars driving on dirt roads and the poorest people talking on cell phones. We forget, I forget, how this is, because in Canada things seem much different. Although, we can always scratch the surface, and dig a little deeper to find out that the poor will always be there and be more than we imaines (ask the organizers of the Vancouver Olympics). We are sitting on a very privileged chair in a small dining room. Although… chairs can always tumble and fall…

I wrote this in the silence of my secluded fortress:
“In the open night, abandoned at their mercy and with no tail to rid them of mosquitoes, two men lay down on a straw mat. Instead, they scratch their legs with their toe nails. Their dusty sandals as pillows. The heavens as the infinite end they could sink into. They try to sleep. They toss around while the palm trees hardly move. The only street light in their faces is a reminder of the cement floor on which they try to rest. They are lying on the backyard of a big house besides a shiny Land Rover. The humid air weighing on their shirtless bodies. They evaporate in sweat. Rub their chests with naked hands. Once in a while, get up to pray… on the same mat. They kneel and stand, kneel and stand with silent prayers. They also play with the keypad on their cell phones. They call people and throw laughs around in retaliation. They seem restless. They go out onto the road to shake hands with other pals. They piss on the walls. I see them through the window of my air conditioned room on the third floor. I wonder when they are going to start the next revolution. And I see motorcycles stop. People chat. Passing cars give me snapshots of life with their beam lights. I see hollow roads, and moving shadows that bounce around. I hear ghosts of the past; I see spirits of the present. And they talk with loud enthusiasm and even smoke despite the pressing heat. But the sounds of engines swallow any singing”.

Requirement of the day: reliable internet and laundry.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Feb 4 Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (Posted in Accra Feb 8)

I am finally in Lagos. A bit tired after a long day. The city welcomes me with the humid heat of a port. The Virgin Nigeria flight was short, calm, full and relatively on time. Adekoya waves at me with the Canadian Embassy sign. He will drive Tushar (a colleague) and myself to the Blowfish hotel. Vendors on the street, blowing horns, taxi drivers wave some kind of an ID at us. We drive through the crowds as if we were celebrities. A huge green billboard displays a beautiful woman and a Nigerian flag. It prays: “Be still and know that I am God”. This city is anything but still: Women carrying kids beg through the traffic, many sell water, a young girl signals cars to stop as she crosses the busy road with a tray of fruit on her head. Welcome to the buzzing Lagos, largest city in Nigeria.

Soon after we drive out of humanity to enter a long highway… It could be Buenos Aires, Shanghai, Ho Chi Min City or anywhere in India as Tushar states. The road is bumpy but steady and we advance like a sail boat in the sea. As we get off the free way we enter a higher-end neighbourhood, we see a mall, we pass by the higher buildings and end up across from a garage door: That’s the blowfish; almost a pension, a boutique hotel.

P.S. I just Watched the video and noticed it didn't upload properly... darn... I can see it well on my computer. Oh well... Things Fall Apart, what better conclusion...I'll try to fix it soon, for now I think it is fun!... Cheers).

As I wait for a chicken and avocado sandwich in my room, I lose faith in blogging tonight. The internet is not working. Neither was my first room. They assigned me one that hadn’t been clean. The benefit of my complaint was an upgrade, but it came with a price, no internet on sight… I have also lost my faith in recovering my camera. The local Lufthansa people told me "it had not been found". I hope whoever has it, can do wonders with it. It contains my latest video from the Frankfurt-Abuja flight… where I was sharing the clouds with all of you. What can one do? Just move on. My webcam seems to be in conflict with YouTube and I burnt a converter last night… I just hope I can share my Nigerian books with you before I depart on Sunday.
My chicken and avocado has arrived. And as I am starving I will stop for a little while. The fries are very salty but my palate doesn’t seem to mind. Share