Sunday, August 7, 2011

And the addiction takes hold like a python, and you fall into it...

My name is Eric, and I am an addict. I have been an addict for approximately two years. My symptoms? An intense desire to see the road whipping by me at incredible speeds. A complete feeling of awe at the exhilaration of being completely lost in the home town of others, and above all, my main symptom comes from the withdrawals... When I am off the wagon (or on it, depending on your outlook) I have visions. They are quick, maybe a millisecond long. I will be walking down the street, and see a biker, or a street sign, or even the hear the mention of a canal, and my past flashes before me like a junkie coming down.

I am addicted to the very thought of moving. A planning session for an imaginary trip to somewhere foreign sends me into a fever. I cannot go even one day without escaping to a place I have been for merely a few months. Suddenly and without provocation, I am riding a bike through the streets of Nijmegen, Netherlands. It is raining and there is not an end to the storm in sight. The moon peaks through the rounded ends of two blue-grey and pillowy clouds, and I am smiling, because I always was back then. I am bombarded by a cacophony of Polish and Danish and Spanish and Dutch, which is translated to me by a Hungarian guitar player.

I cannot explain my addiction fully, because when one is confronted with the completely irrevocable notion of existing in a place that is not one's own, there is nothing left at the end but the failure of any and every language that has ever existed.

Every language except the unspoken one. The only form of communication available to those who truly understand it. To those who have sat in Amsterdam coffee shops and outside
convenience stores in Korea. There are no words for the last cigarette of the night with those you are truly into.

This, my friends, is my addiction. That right now, I could have the greatest night of my life, and I would still think of the past. Because of this, I will not do the twelve steps. I will not go cold turkey. I will never, nor could I, stop the adrenaline rush of seeing the Coliseum rise up before you past the end of a beer bottle. There is not stopping the visions of the Grote Markt at dawn, with little Dutch ladies pickign through vats of freshly picked corn and wheat. It will forever be in me. It will forever occupy some territory of what is me. A begrudging Lichtenstein refusing conquer.

I am not sad for this. I know that I should be. But if there is one thing on this microscopic landmass that makes even the slightest sense, it is the euphoria I feel by becoming lost. If I am never cured, if I am never found, I will still shoot up the nostalgia of Nijmegen, of Rome, of Brussels, of Seoul, of New York City, of Phoenix, of Dublin, of Jukjeon, of Emporia, KS, U.S.A. and laugh, because happiness is only luck, and I am one of the luckier ones.

I conclude with a wish...

If I could be in one place right now, just one... And I had only a split second to decide. I would be on a train in Europe, going anywhere it took me.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Uncaring... Rephrase that... Oblivious American

The above link is attached to an interesting article about America's former fascination with studying/reading about/writing about/ keeping updated on/etc. everything French.

I thought the article was pretty interesting because I think that there is something to be said on the subject concerning today's version of "The American" juxtaposed with the version from the early 20th century.

In particular here I am talking about literature, because that is my typical m.o. The Lost Generation, consisting of Pound, Eliot, Hemingway, Plath, Falkner,etc, was particularly into the expat gig. The Beats were no different (see: Beat Hotel). These writers were constantly obsessed with other cultures and this influenced many of their works (see: Naked Lunch, Sun Also Rises, Farewell to Arms, Dharma Bums, Mexico City Blues, The Yage Letters, etc, etc, etc).

These guys and gals were representative of a cultural mindset of the time. Though, I guess it could be argued that these people were exceptions to the way Americans typically acted, but I don't know that for sure. To me, these two generations of writers represented the way Americans thought. France was the cultural capital of the world, the far-east was thought of as a place of wisdom, Mexico, South America and Africa-- havens for the adventurous and rebellious. It was from that mindset that Americans thought of the world. Americans were interested in exploring the world outside our borders.

I bring this up now because I no longer think it is true. I really just don't see the same kind of energy being put into being a global citizen as I have seen in studying the early 20th century. This may be a bit shortsided because I don't really know how the entire population acted and felt, but I do know how a select few writers acted and felt. I think it can be said with little to no opposition that these writers were the greatest of their times. Part of being the greatest is being a voice for the voiceless, so to speak. They are representatives of the whole, or if not the whole, then at least a significant portion of the whole. Therefore they were speaking for their generation of like-minded individuals.

I just do not see the kind of adventurous spirit now that I saw then. That is very sad to me. The writing I enjoy, and the writing I attempt to create is almost primarily fueled by juxtaposing my life in America to the places I have been and what I have been taught by travel. I am not comparing myself to Hemingway or anything, I am just saying that there is a lot to be learned from travel. The Lost Gen. knew that. The Beats knew that. I don't think America's contemporary writers are focusing on travel as a way to transcend and learn what cannot be learned at home.

Maybe it is because there is just too much to worry about on the home front. Maybe there is just too much fonder for good writing currently in America. This may be true, but it is not as if the previous American writers ignored America completely. It's exactly the opposite. Ginsberg and Kerouac defined a generation by writing about the America they saw. But sometimes it is only possible to see the problem from the outside. It is by doing this that we can really get past the surface stuff and analyze what is really going on in our own country.

And besides that, we stop looking like elitist douches.

Just one man's opinion.