Category Archives: travel

the anointed line

victoriaandalbertmuseum

“She took the pen carefully and looked at it, twirling it around slowly as she did so. Then she wrote her name in the registrar’s entries of death book on the anointed line. She looked as if she was praying as she wrote. He looked over to see if her writing was as lovely as he was expecting it to be. It was; she had a beautiful hand.
_____The woman smiled at him. The intimacy between them had been like love. Mohammad would miss her. She said, “Thank you,” to him. She put the certificate and official papers in the Please Do Not Bend envelope that she had brought with her. She paid the fee for her own copy of the death certificate which she looked at before putting it away, as if to check if everything was all right.”

— excerpt from Trumpet by Jackie Kay

Photo: Book in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Book: Beautiful novel read on trip by Scottish writer Jackie Kay.

je ne sais pas

London_2011-08-17_233

Giulia’s translation of the bit written on a planter on a street somewhere between Euston Station (leaving Alys) and Cornhill Street (meeting Tom) in London:

i dont know where i am going
and this i have never really known
but if i will ever know this i think that i would no longer go.

I’m back! What a lovely trip. I’ve never really wandered around London before on my own. Always I’ve been there on my way somewhere else (well, I guess that’s true this time, too), with someone who knows it better than me. I liked it more this time. The juxtaposition of new and old architecture is pleasing.

I stayed with an artist friend whose apartment building is in the Arsenal/Emirates Stadium complex (which is both strange and excellent) and had some time to wander about before and after Scotland, plus a short trip to Brighton/Worthing to see old Lithu friends.

My flight back was easy. Even enjoyable. I read 170 pages of a lovely book, Trumpet, by Jackie Kay. I have not read that much in one sitting in over fifteen years, I bet. Since home, I’ve read only about 30 to and fro on the subway. Snail’s pace.

Stories to write. Love stories. I hope I get to them sooner than usual.

kyzyl kum breakdown

Uz_2000-08-12_Kyzylkum

I told the story of this particular tour the other day, in which Valery’s bus broke down. While tagging photos in Lightroom just now, this image popped up when I moused over its folder in the catalog. I love trucks. I love transport in general. Yesterday, I was talking to fellow photog, Arnis, about how distinctly cars date photos. Looking at my photo archive, I realize that it does vary vastly in different countries. I remember how amused I was by all the old American cars from the 70s driven in Iran in 2000.

I’m suffering a crisis of quantity over quality. I want less.

 

climb down, yo

~or~how to not be a wanker in your online approach

And so, The Global Hook-Up Party: How to have a sexytime-no-strings-attached-two-day-affair through couchsurfing. Or not. It is true that the last two posts were building up to this. Because even in my worst moods, my heartbroken moments, my deep despair, T’s words will pop into my mind, and I laugh. You will, too. That’s the point of all this. His pickup rewrite is simple, yet hilarious and amazing. My point is not to be schooly, as T has suggested. Though I can see how a guy might find it so.

A few weeks ago, I received this couchsurfing request (I cut a bit for length):

spero_crucible_365Hello V. (or should I address you as Venerated Coconut?)

The cool morning breeze across my face as I ride my bike downhill¦ The howling of jackals in the deserts of Eastern Oregon¦ Writing, the sensuous movement of the pen upon paper, letters forming into words, sentences and ideas¦ Playing as a football goalie, diving across the goal to turn the ball away¦ Joining with others in peace and environmental groups, trying to restore some balance and justice¦ The touch of a loved one’s hand¦ These are some of the things that I love and that provide my life with joy and light.

I will be in NYC [for two nights] and would love to meet you, and be hosted if possible….I share your love of writing and art- the last show that moved me deeply with its pain, love, war, suffering, and resistance was by Nancy Spero at the Serpentine in London
www.serpentinegallery.org/2010/09/nancy_spero_serpentine_gallery.html

and would like to hear of your other passions as well as share mine.

I am…a university teacher in the department. Writing and editing essays and books about these subjects is also an important part of my being. [One would think he’d take a moment to edit his correspondence. But evidently not so important.]

If you have the time and inclination, let us meet for coffee, an art show, a hike, a concert, a bike spin, prepare a meal together, or whatever the spirits and our imaginations inspire.

[closing cut]

My CS profile has no recent photo but I would be happy to send one (as an attachment I can only send it to a non CS address.)

Oh dear. No, I’m not interested in a photo of your 49-year-old self. Not at all. In fact, I’m grossed out. T and I have discussed fairly thoroughly the nature of couchsurfing, and this “request” does seem to land on his side of the argument (that of the global hookup party). I shared the request with him:

A (me): I got this from a couchsurfer. It’s so gross. What else is there to say? [see above]

T: Lordy.
It probably works most of the time.
Wankers all.
Say: “climb down, yo.”

A: “I share your love of writing and art- the last show that moved me deeply with its pain, love, war, suffering, and resistance was by Nancy Spero at the Serpentine in London and would like to hear of your other passions as well as share mine.”

is that like a mashup or mistaken cut and paste?

GAG.

T: i think it’s just barmy writing yo. few people are able to write articulately.

I recently saw a show by Nancy Spera at the Serpentine in London.  It covered all the bases – pain, love, war, suffering, resistence.  I was honestly moved.  I would love to meet you and talk about our respective interests.  I am sure we would find that we share a love of writing and art.

Something like that.  It comes easy.  People are morons.  I don’t know why I can’t function in this world when it’s the rest of the world that is moronic.

A: [Gales of laughter.] Agreed.

It’s almost shocking how T’s quick edit instantly changes the para from swarmy to thoughtful. It’s really just not that hard. But giving the behavior of (many) guys both online and in person, it seems that it is. Why is that?

a global hookup party (or not)

Lithuania_07-05_ Vilnius2_004If you didn’t read the last post, this post is a continuation. It can also stand alone. It’s the second in a series about online personality and relationship.

I had a nice surprise today when I saw that Owl, a blog friend, had posted a favorite part of a favorite poem, T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. I posted almost the same lines years back. It’s one of the few books I own (everything else from the NYPL, thanks).

I’ve never met Owl, but we’re bloggers, over-thinkers (in recovery, maybe), and ashtangis. She warms my heart just as a personal friend would. I made my first website in 1995, and within that year made friends through the web. It’s not so strange to me. As with anything, I employ discretion.

Lithuania_07-05_ Vilnius2_001It was also in 1995, before my first solo international trip, that I joined an organization called Servas. “Servas hosts offer hospitality to approved travellers of every ethnicity, creed and nationality. Through Servas, travellers have opportunities to meet hosts, their families and friends, and join in their everyday life (excerpted from their website).” They weren’t online at the time. There was an application, a fee, and an interview. Once approved, I received a book of hosts for the countries where I was traveling. All this through the US mail. It was great fun. Through it, and a book called People to People, I met friends in Europe I have to this day, including a Lithuanian family I take for my own. (The photos are, top to botttom, of Dad Myrius in their living room, with his son Regimantas behind him, Mom Regina making bulviniai blynai, and Regimantas visiting NYC years later.)

Servas is online now, but it’s been eclipsed by Couchsurfing.org. Couchsurfing is for those interested in “Creating a Better World, One Couch At A Time.” Very few have heard of Servas, but most travelers and youngsters know of Couchsurfing. I first heard about it through Anya, an in-the-flesh friend I met through the internet (about seven years ago via a harvard listserv on central asia, or siberia, or something). An anthropologist and intrepid traveler, I don’t think Anya has couchsurfed, but she talked about a male friend at Columbia U. who liked to host people with great frequency, particularly young girls. Later I heard about it from other people who said that it was used largely to find a free place to stay. My first impressions were not great—certainly not ambassadorial—but I did sign up before my long trip to Australia, and met some people before I left New York. Like Servas, many couchsurfing hosts prefer to meet others for drinks or to show them their home town rather than to host them. This I did, and still do on occasion. I’ve met some great people. But really, for most, inviting anyone to stay in her home is a bit fraught. To invite perfect strangers? Who has the time?

NewYork_2004-05_Regim_3One’s attitude to this, like most social networking sites, can be a litmus test of personality. There are really lovely people on the site looking to meet locals where they travel, like I was sixteen years ago. Now? I don’t know. My travel style has changed, and I tend to go to places I already know people. If lovely people contact me, I do like to meet them, certainly. These people send a message about themselves and what they related to in my profile—i.e. why we might enjoying meeting one another. Oh yes, like a dating site, there are profiles, which does cause confusion (conflation) for some. There are others just looking for a free place to crash. They write carbon-copy form letters about themselves and seem not to have troubled themselves to read their potential host’s profile. These people I ignore. And there are others still who give the site the reputation that Anya’s friend lends it. Why T likes to call couchsurfing “The Global Hookup Party.” This we will talk about more. Next time.