Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Town That Was.

Warm summer evening. The wind knows abandon, craze, keeping time with the tired tips of blades of grass. We're driving down the only road this town has, this relic of a town that once was. Dilapidated structures fall deeper into history as the ashen landscape skips past the glass of the window pane. I'm thankful it's there, that transparent barrier between me and the corpse of a town that no one remembers. Glass armours, protection.

No one remembers.

We're children, and this is our great adventure. When you're 17 and hungry to eat the globe, swallow it whole. Driving around the galaxy of America, in a beat up truck, finding.. finding. This is the story of the day we found nothing. Nothing but smoke and memory colliding in the air, mocking our smallness.

M is speeding and I don't care. There's no one to hurt, to run over, here. Trees become a blur as we drive along, the vision out the window is a broken skyline. In my head I see the shining corridors of NY city, places we've been these last two weeks. Finding.. finding. And then I stop and look out the window. The coal of the sun burns a red hole into the sky. "The sun burnt this town, babe. Can you imagine a time when kids rode bikes down this road and shopping marts littered the scenery? This place must've had it all. Happiness and color and feeling. And then the sun burnt it. " He's thinking out loud. We're both making a map in our mind, inking the dot of this town an opaque shade of grey.

He slows down, drives along. I wait for a cat to pass us by, languid and calm or Tuesday morning drunks to throw stones at the car. I wait for movement and some sign of life. I wait for someone to tell me what happened.. where everyone is. You know that recurring dream where you're a ballet dancer and the world dies, over and over, around you? Controlled demolitions. You sit in a chair, tying your shoes while the planet slips off its axis . You sit in the passenger seat of an old beat up truck, tying your shoes, while the planet slips off its axis.

And then we whizz past it, the tombstone. Centralia, population:11. M turns up the volume. "Dig me up from under what is covering.." We trail past a pulverized house, and a woman is standing outside, smiling. We're comrades, this woman and us. Humans in arms, against nature and the deeply sickening dose of loneliness. Against the sense of loss you feel, when driving through a ghost town where 11 people live. A town that has burnt for the last 60 years and continues to do so. Centralia. So apt, the name. The center of the world, the core, the vast black hole that God drilled right through us.

And slowly, desolately, we drive on. Leaving the soot road behind. I'll switch places with him soon, and we'll get to another big city. Alcohol and cigarettes and mindless abandon. Wait till the memory of this poltergeist fades into a mass of hedonism. We're children, and this is our great adventure.


That half hour in Centralia is the only thing I remember about that summer. Education, life lessons. The death of the center of the world taught us everything. Every human face I now look into, is the face of a childhood friend I've never met. As I gather this strip of nostalgia into my palm, M peeps in from the crack in the wall and calls me for dinner. And at 25, as I start to lose faith in humanity and attach less and less value to life, play around with existentialism and post-modernism, the story of Centralia that warm summer night, all those years ago keeps me believing.

Because there's time and we're still here and so are they, all 11 of them. Finding.. finding.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Travelogue. Or something.

The summer of 2010, Orenburg, Russia. It's the quaint, sleepy town you've never heard of. The balconies with baskets of chrysanthemums, the shining horizon and no skyscrapers. Expanses of clarity. The warm sunbeams on your naked back, clear and watery, sans those golden flecks of dust. The parks and the walkways. Tulips everywhere. The houses, those structures you learn to draw in 2nd grade. The kind of cleansing coolness Ben Gibbard talks about. The air, clean and cold. Those evenings on the European terrace, staring at a part of Asia that sparkles in the distance. Right out of an Of Montreal song.

The museums, oh, they're pieces of languid history frozen behind glass doors. The people, so proud. "So how do you like our city?" I'd never call Delhi mine. Their soft voices, the streets devoid of conversation. Spasiba, which means thank you, resonates. So.. civilized. They talk in a neon blur. "Silence, I discover, is something you can actually hear." Ye niye gavaryoo paruski, "I don't speak any Russian", becomes your new anthem. The place has it's own force, it calls out to art and literature. To creation. I've never drawn and read so much. The townsquare and the library, they transport and lift. The granite and the marble. The Russians revere their literature, statues of Pushkin at every other redlight. There’s culture in the cement and clay.

The Russian secretary. And her brother, her very hot brother. Who doesn’t speak English. Heh. The other secretary who passes out on my bed after 2 glasses of rum. The picnics and the strange food. The lines of bath and body stores, the salt scrubs! The pool. The super fast internet that downloads 8 gb worth of Star Wars in an hour! The live singing in the restaurants.

The Russian ballet and the opera.. oh god the opera. You know, how you read about it filling you with a deep sense of awe, pregnant with emotion? That’s a lie. It does, however, make you stop. And just stare. “Beautiful isn’t the right word but it’s the first word that comes to mind.” Such opulence, such splendour.

The war killed so many men. And now Orenburg is the feminist’s dream. Women run the city, you see them everywhere, in super markets and police cars, in the courts and the clinics. Women that look like supermdoels, make you want to work out. Their high heels and short skirts. An incipient matriarchy Virginia Woolf would bask in.

The deep seated communism. Where your dad's doctor is a taxe driver by day and your maid is a trained account on alternate weekdays. Where tiny tenements, brimming with families still exist. And on the other hand, the government gives you central heating and hot water, and medical insurance.

The bridge that divides Asia and Europe, with a river running through it. Bicycle rides, ice-skating and bowling. The nightclubs, with the dingy bars and the men who think I’m 14. Exotic but 14. Bollywood is popular. And for the record, I'm not Apu, neither is "jimmy jimmy aaja aaja" anythign CLOSE to a line. Pfft. They love your “tan”.

And what is this small town for a 19 year old, on the verge of entering what is going to be the hardest year yet? Time, so much time. To introspect. Character construction. Like those summer breaks in school when you discover music and art and literature that will define who you are for a long time to come. Complete seclusion, no phone. The leisure to draw, to sketch, find latent talents. To write. That idea for a book that will make you rich and famous, the easy way. All that underground music that will always remind you of this sombre, quiet time. Insomnia and catatonic fits. Late night conversations with the people closest to you. You know what I mean. The kind of soulspeak where all real epiphanies are made. Where you formulate opinions you will later use in those "intellectual" conversations with the ex.

The kind of vacation where you grow and feel older. That feeling you crave for every birthday but never experience? That feeling, right here, is tangible, you could wrap your hands around it and marvel.

..And in a week, Delhi will happen. In a week, everything will change. And I’ll go back, with Russian songs on my new Zune. And the sort of languorous maturity that makes you stop being a child, finally.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


His room's just little pieces of imagination strewn everywhere. Books, canvases with impressions of Impressionist art, music from the 90's, music from the 80's, music from the 17th century, music from Denny's basement, music from New York and Bellingham. Movies, mute movies, foreign films, post- modern plays. Every Sunday afternoon, we go over our.. list.

I have this habit of lying across the floor, the bare, cold, deliciously cold marble floor and looking at his half-painted ceiling and trying to fix the Rubik Cube. No painted, glow-in-the-dark stars there, nothing cheesy. He is trying to copy Manet's Olympia. It's really just a naked woman with a cat staring at you, though he hasn't painted the cat yet. The cat's weird, it would creep you out.

We're tired teenagers, is all we are.
We have big dreams and we want to be cultured. We want topics of conversation. Common interests. We're as original as a dead ant. But we get by. We drink from other people's goblets and pat ourselves on the back for "getting" it. For appreciating all this.. art. So vicarious. Sam Beam made a great record but who cares about Sam Beam. I'm the artist for having heard it and you're not because you don't even know such genius exists. Muscle flex.

We're just tired teenagers, is all we are.
He's sprawled over my sofa, his shirt's undone. " You know, dear, dear.. dear. You and I are worse than the rest. We KNOW we ape. Those kids don't know they ape. They're happy being sponges, at least something goes INSIDE and remains there, you know what I mean? You and I.. well. We're looking for education in all the wrong places."

I'm not really interested in this piece-of-crap, overplayed broken-record conversation. We have it everyday. But I play my part. " I'm not looking for education man. I'm just looking for.. an outlet. Don't wanna be a mouse with just one hole to escape from. Those stupid humans could shut down the hole, cover it up. Then I'd be a dead mouse in a covered hole. I'd rather just be a mouse. With reality and another "ism" to escape into."

He's sort of.. right though. This Sunday afternoon scavenger activity, looking for literature and poetry to wolf down, glut down is no education.

It's no second hole either.

It's just us 21st century, tried teenagers wanting to say a new word. And realizing that all the smart words have already been said. That there are no "isms" left to start.

He’s twirling a pen between his fingers and he’s drifting off to sleep. An old Cut Copy song’s playing.

“But we’re better than that cat I’m too afraid to paint, we’re better than mice... we are.. We have to be. ”

Emo rant.

I can deconstruct and then demolish anything you give me. At least in my head, I can write off almost anything no matter how great it is, how thought provoking it is. What is deep is also pretentious, what is light is way too superficial. The mainstream alternative on the radio is too "commercial" and sell-outy, the indie that is made in the basements of Austin, Texas is too half-baked and wanting-to-be-different. This.. incredible capacity to hate. It's worse than nihilism you know. They seek to "clear the ground" because they're a force that needs to account. Force without matter.

This brand of.. absolute loathing or contempt for every intangible idea and concept, every breathing entity. Its purposeless. We're not seeking to clear the ground, we're not seeking to establish a new order the way those 19th century realists were. We're only seeking to hate.

You see it everywhere, in those case-taking sessions in college where it's a who-can-hate-more competition thinly garbed as humour, in class where you hate the feminists for wanting everyone to be a lesbian and you hate the sexists for being sexist. It's a gift.

OF course, I'm not saying that I'm some emo kid who hates everything, naw. Just lamenting this capacity I have. It's POSSIBLE, you know. Like I COULD be an all-loathing emo kid so easily if I wanted to.

And that's a super-power I don't want.

Friday, April 23, 2010


This canvas here, I'm going to smear it with his words, his hands and the smell of his skin.

Hang it up, slit it through and drench that strip of memory in the morning sunlight.

He stands across the room right now. Squinting, he wants me to escape outside with him, make him forget the curls on her head and the poetry hanging on her neck.

At least, for a while. She's in the smoke from our cigarettes, curling upward after he frees her from his mouth and traps her in mine, the air in my atmosphere thick with her. " I'm a visitor here, I'm not permanent." She's mine too, I'm sharing her with him and she's mine. All mine? His and mine. We're just a couple of kids fooling around. She's his rock, and my standard. You know, that bar I want to reach.

The stars in her eye can sparkle my fibre and corrode his existence.

He's never going to find out what saving him means.

I don't need his conversation, his touch or his breath on my throat. All I need is knowing that she once was. And that she remains. And that she's his bloodstream, his personal detox. His blanket and favourite book.

..and that I walked upon the same ground as her.

He's the only thing I'll lose after the barman throws us out.

There's some comfort in treating the symptoms and denying him the cure. I'm just medicine to him, bitter, distasteful and unavoidable. He leaves me on the shelf when he gets better.

And keeps coming back. Keeps bringing her back to me. We're just starry-eyed poets, him and I. Writing the same poem, sniffing the same ink.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Stone and Bread.

Statues, so many statues. Cemented, chiseled, sculpted, they glisten when the sun shines on their old, Gothic faces. Signs of life, you know? Mark is 23, he's ambitious, he's going to rule the world in a couple of years. Playfield, this land, its all his, his alone, territorial. This particular Sunday afternoon, we meet his long, sinewy body standing erect in appraisal of the City Centre. Every quaint little town has one, hidden somewhere. The City Centre, where heritage and history (however banal) collide and manifest as ruined buildings, or sculptures or just some milestone that says M.G.Road (built 1978).

Today is unlike all other days. Mark has had.. a shift in perspective? No, he's had his belief system collapse into gravel and dust, kind of like the ruins he's inspecting. They're the same, man and environment. The ageing statues have parts of them missing, a broken nose, or a stone gem from a cement necklace. So does he. His mind's a jigsaw today, you see, with all the leading pieces misses.

So tell us, enough with the mindless description, we don't care about that, get to the point, what happened to your boring Hero from Small Town, Third World Country.

Heh. Nothing happened. This morning, he changed his regular breakfast routine of cereal and milk to bread. Just that. Bread. Bread, incidentally tends to mould, green and crumby.

Kind of like life for a 23 year old who wants a lot, tries a lot and doesn't know where to begin. And the statues that withstand the abrasive pressures of time but only breathe when the sun shines.

I'm walking away from him as I type this. He's still standing encompassed in that naked statue's shadow. They're kindred, the shade protects him and she shades him only when she's alive. And he needs to be alive today. Why? Well.

Disenchantment. And Disillusionment. When you're 23, there comes a day when the world is no longer a playfield, your territory and becoming its ruler is suddenly not "practical." And when that happens, you shift from healthy food to self-raising flour and start smoking.

And when that happens, you sneak away for a little bit and stare at beings, etched in stone. Beings that whisper quietly, in your ear, that this earth is big enough and kind enough. Big enough for you to have your own slice of kingdom.

…And that unlike them, you must stay alive even when the sun doesn't shine

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Green park bench, green over-mowed grass. Warm summer night. My skin was crawling along the lines of his cigarette's curling smoke. He's a real nutjob, one of those English pieces, dirty blonde hair, Oasis fan, sexy drawl. The works. Bohemian, nomadic poet, he would spend his days singing in a gondola if he could, you know? He scavenges around north London, that lazy face with arched eyebrows at every gig. Used to dabble with the guitar, he's written a few songs I guess. They're very good. He gets by. No one knows him. I do.

Me, I'm just a small town girl from a third world country who wants to be a groupie. We're both looking for The Beatles in the dark alleyways of London city. The architecture, the red brickwork oozes that 60's charm I want to internalize. Wide-eyed, starry-eyed. Drugs, sex, rock n roll. Cliched? Yes. Unreal? No.

That fateful night after a particularly grand The Holloways gig, we'd decided to crash in a park. His red wine bottle was rolling on the scant grass, little drops of blood everywhere. That band had bled us, made us robust. Healthy. Life in our hair. "You know you're only here so you get to sleep with one of them tardy guitarists. Its the glamour for you god damned villagers. Ride the band wagon of the talented. Ho hum." My smile wasn't going to lose out y'know. Its true. I WOULD sleep with one of them. Fuck me, but those sons of bitches can play.

"How's your lit course at the university going?" Meh, haven't touched those books in a long time. I didn't feel like conversation.

He got up, brushed his pants, flipped his red hair back. Smoked. Walked. The idle summer breeze was rocking the swing. So restless tonight, the motherfucker. There was scant melody playing from some house in the neighbourhood. Some poor kid trying to play an old Ben Gibbard song.

I got up too. Started swaying to the scratchy tune. The bolt of ember in my hand was about ready to burn me through and so was my head but I didn't care. A poet, a guitar, nicotine and the dream of music. I'm wasting away. The dissolution from being a person to being a character in your own imagination can be real fun, you guys should try it. That summer I WAS the character though. That night in the park was the rest of my life. And it was calm and pretty.

And it was mine.