August 16, 2008

Time for a swim...

... down by the sea. There's nothing I love more than last minute decisions that you don't ponder over. By this time tomorrow, I'll have had a close encounter with the sun, and a fair amount of salt on my skin. Light travel, light thoughts :)

August 15, 2008

Work is something you do, not somewhere you go

Politics has never been one of my top-rated fields of interest . Aliens and ufology didn't rank high, either.
Apparently, their combination works just fine for me. Immersed in Christopher Buckley's Little Green Men, my life has moved to Washington D.C. in the past few days, revealing the mysteries behind top-secret, government-instrumented alien abductions.

The plot-line is simple: since 1947, a top secret organization, called MJ-12, has had one mission - convincing American citizens that there is something out there... and they're trying to reach us. Things get complicated when one of the abductees is the most popular media personality of the day. And he's willing to do anything to convince Americans that the aliens have landed. The combination of absurd plot and witty humor is just wonderful.
Fiction always does the trick, and translating pretty much borders writing - finding the right words, trying to figure out what the author might have said if he could have said it in another language. The kind of work I might not get bored with. At least not in the foreseeable future.
It kind of reminds me of school projects, with all the dictionaries, notebooks, post-its and research involved (by the way, I miss school a whole lot. This is the symptom of mid-summer holiday, feeling like I've had enough spare time on my hands and waiting to get back in business). Unlike school projects, however, working with books gets me more involved. The novel I've translated before Buckley was a wonderful parody of all literary genres, with all the conceivable amount of blood, bourbon, a quest for a blue stone that holds magic powers, freaky characters and a good laughter, all set in the spooky town of Santa Mondega, home of the undead, where the only things not allowed are not smoking and not drinking. It's been a few months now since the book's been published, and I still crave for a triple bourbon every now and then, not to mention my decision of working, at least for a while, in a bar - more or less similar to the filthy Tapioca Bar, where Sanchez would serve a glass of piss to any of the new faces in town, or to the strangers who just don't look strange enough.
Hopefully, by the time I'm done with the little green men, I won't change my career options and decide NASA is the place for me.

August 12, 2008

Elf power

It may be that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. However, standardized beauty is a matter of pixels, color schemes and carefully selected tools. Likewise, my ideal of beauty is only achievable, at least at this stage, by means of photoshop. Which took over my life in the past few days, making me speed up everything else just to have some spare time, at the end of the day, to explore its magic. Sick. The bottom line is that I've been dreaming of being an elf. Didn't seriously consider surgery, and that just partly solves the problem. So today I started elfing myself. Not in front of the mirror, but in front of the screen. I'm (almost) halfway there.
Coming soon, my new and improved version :)

August 11, 2008

Yay! Planning :)

With the parents away on vacation, a household to take care of, a Granny to look after from time to time, tons of paperwork to manage until I leave to Poland, a novel that's not going to translate itself while laying on my desk, an inbox full of unread messages (most of them requiring not only reading, but also a reply of some sort) and at least two trips to plan, things are beginning to look busy. In other words, better. The time has come to make lists, to prioritize, to freak out, for the time being in the nice, productive, not harmful way.
It's reconfirmed. I work better under pressure. Typical. Pushing myself towards the edge of the cliff, waiting (and sometimes whining) until I run out of time, until all deadlines are so close that I feel I won't make it. And then pulling myself together, speeding up and checking all items on the list(s).
I'll soon be in a desperate need for a holiday, which I'll have to carefully plan, since the best case scenario only allows about two days off :)
Note to self (1): paperwork, especially when it involves the university, the dean and the secretaries, takes time. If it's August and everybody's away, it takes even longer.
Note to self (2): deadlines were invented for a reason - meeting them.

August 9, 2008

Someday soon

Crawling towards my happy self. Actually, took quite a big step today, been nice to people, smiled a lot, bought three pairs of shoes, drove around in the family car listening to Johnny Cash, chattered with the girls and avoided going out on the balcony... that balcony where this whole mess was blown out of proportion.
It's only a matter of time until I'm fully back on track.
That is, of course, if I can handle Sunday afternoon. I was never very good at this, and never saw the point of Sunday afternoons.

August 8, 2008

My American Dream

This is the cold hard truth I've only recently become fully aware of. Before, I'd just blame it on coincidence. But coincidence can hardly explain how and why, despite my European background, my (sometimes obsessive) love for some parts of Europe, I'm still the kid of American culture. Which, by the way, I never experienced directly.

I grew up with Jack Kerouac, fantasizing about the endless road and its possibilities, about the magic of light travelling and light thoughts, with Richard Brautigan, Kurt Vonnegut, Tim Leary and his Politics of Ecstasy, discovered poetry thanks to Pound, William Carlos Williams, Allen Ginsberg and e.e.cummings. For about two years, I've lived with a strange nostalgia of Max Yasgur's farm and those three days of peace and music. Later on, the feeling transfered to CBGB & the good life provided by punk. Rrrrright... a radical twist. But hey, that's part of the growing up process :) I've dreamed about having my very own pick-up truck, pictured myself as a retro-housewife - yeah, that was me being delusional, but I still think the '50s rock (and roll), I even started mixing apple pie and ice cream because of Kerouac. My heroes: James Dean, the Marlboro guy, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, Andy Warhol. The places to be: Route 66, New York, Chelsea Hotel. Is there any need to mention South Park, again? I suspect that my somewhat sick attraction towards crappy, insalubrious motels is also American. I've outgrown some of the influences. I've adapted others, reshaped them, and accepted them as part of my present life. Others suffered no change. But no matter what happened to them throughout the years, they're still here. All of them. And I have a feeling some of them are here to stay.

p.s. Managed to keep a safe distance from fast foods, Coca Cola and (partly) Hollywood. Does this make my American dream less dreamful?

August 7, 2008

Bedtime story

The only way to overcome sadness is to come to terms with its full consumption.

Survival kit

The first option was doing nothing, watching the days and nights go by. It worked for about one week, and then I got bored. I also overdosed on cigarettes, so I had to cut down on my smoking. This brought about the worse possible mood mixture in history: depression and boredom. I never actually knew how to fight them one at a time, not to mention the two of them combined. So I started a quest for remedies. Reading. Many thanks to Kundera, Milosz, Jonathan Safran Foer and Andrew Cowan. Helpful, but not helpful enough. Movies. Wajda's movies. Watched almost all of them. Not the best choice, under the circumstances. Beer. Ice cream. Going out. Dying my hair. Cutting my hair. Endless talks with my girls. This summer is not the best for any of us. Spent half a day watching a documentary on the Warsaw Uprising. Spent the other half reading about the second world war and listening to my Granny's stories about the war. Again, not the best choice. Cleaning my desk, my wardrobe, my files and folders. Planning and thinking ahead. But it's too early for the future. Writing. Learning photoshop. Still didn't work, but at least it was funnier than the war. Polish grammar (ok, so could we please make the numeral a bit simpler?!). South Park. Re-re-reruns. World of Warcraft. Shopping (this used to be another wonderful addiction. Hope my dissatisfaction is just temporary). There's one other thing I might try. Should try: working. I'm totally running out of time, changed the deadline, gained some more time, still have something like 100 pages and one month to translate them. The quest will continue for another day or so. Then I'll probably get bored.

August 5, 2008

Addicted?! Who, me?

Ceci was the first one to mention it. To say it out loud. "Dude, you need therapy". At first, I thought she was just being funny, although therapy is hardly ever fun (of course, there are exceptions which we might talk about later on), but then again she sometimes has her strange ways. Only this time she really meant what she said. And I had to admit that, to an extent, she was right.
It goes like this.
I don't particularly enjoy mornings, hence my grumpiness and low energy level. Actually, there's about enough energy to power two crucial things: making coffee and turning on my computer. Whichever comes first. And then it takes something like half an hour to be fully awake and functional. Coffee does not fall under the "addiction" category, it's just coffee and that makes it vital. Being online, well... that's a different story. It's not vital, it's not even a necessity every morning. It's just something I have to do. It might happen that I completely ignore my computer after making sure I'm online, but if I'm not, then hell breaks loose. That's the guarantee of a pretty screwed up day. And if the problem persists, there's a nervous breakdown guaranteed before I contact the network administrator. Who, most likely, is in for a screwed up day as well
In the past five years, there have been quite a few places that were to become "home". Short or long term. And the first few days were, with no exception, awful. Guess why? There was always some sort of a problem with the internet connection. I used to think home is where your playlist is. Then I figured out home is where you are successfully signed in. No matter how excited I was about moving, decorating, shopping as if there was no tomorrow, having housewarming parties and sleepovers, my fun was ruined by this one major absence. I would postpone work, school projects, I would have postponed life itself until I was online.
Last month, while still struggling with the very basics of Polish, I've managed to enrich my vocabulary with technical terms and set up a network under the supervision of a network administrator who obviously only spoke Polish. Having to purchase a cable (one of the basic conditions in being connected), I became familiar with different types of cables, which was not spectacular in itself, if we leave aside the fact that it also happened in Polish... my survival & elementary Polish. The process was abnormally long and tiring, so in the meantime I got to know all the pubs, cafes and restaurants where I could enjoy the benefits of wireless connection. I was one of their most faithful customers.
There's something odd about my addiction. It's not like I'm the kind of computer wizz-kid who's into the newest, hottest, trendiest technologies, gadgets and internet goodies. Some of them are just another foreign language, about others I don't have the slightest clue, and there's sooooo many that don't even exist for me. So basically, I just have to be online. And then I can carry on with my life.
And yes, I have other addictions. South Park. Can't really fall asleep without at least one episode. Lip balm. Using it about 30 times a day. Cigarettes. Tried to quit, managed for one month. I still stick to my idea that coffee does not count as an addiction.

August 4, 2008

The big picture

Sometimes being in a relationship is like trying to run a marathon handcuffed to someone in rollerblades.

Falling in love with Warsaw. The story reloaded

It almost felt like I’ve only been gone on a holiday. A longer one, but nevertheless a holiday. Warsaw still seemed so strangely familiar, that I kept living with the impression I never actually left. Two years ago, I fell in love with Warsaw. It was the kind of love that’s beyond words and has no reasonable explanation. Up to this date, I can’t answer the simple questions why Polish? why Warsaw? Not that I analyzed it too much. One month was more than enough to swipe me off my feet. Come to think about it, I had all the symptoms: butterflies and hurricanes, sleepless nights without grumpy mornings, light thoughts and bright smiles. I even cried when it was over. For some reason, this was the only place where I’ve remembered how it feels to feel secure. When I was about 5, I used to walk a lot with my Dad. We don’t do that anymore, since now we mostly take the car, even if it’s not always necessary. And now we don’t hold hands anymore. Even if we did, I’ve lost that feeling of security that holding hands with him used to give me when I was still a little girl. Somehow, I remembered that feeling, although couldn’t name it from the very beginning, when coming to Warsaw. It was almost as if the city took me by the hand and made me feel secure again. And happy. The mere happiness that requires no further arguments.
It so happened that this year some people in advertising figured out they might talk others into falling in love with Warsaw. There’s one message you can’t ignore once you’re out in the streets: zakochaj się w Warszawie. On buses, flyers, posters all over the place, touristic guides and maps, basically everywhere. The people responsible for this should have used me as a poster child. I’m pretty damn sure the result they want to achieve is very similar to what I’m going through.
For reasons beyond my will, my body had to leave Poland for a month-and-something. The brain & heart chose to remain there. The body was on the edge of a depression. It was smoking inertly out on the balcony, hoping time would just pass by. There was not much to do, nothing that could compensate, at least partly, the brutal break up with the city. The brain & heart are doing just fine, thank you.


This summer I moved back to my parents’ place. It feels a bit awkward coming back home after more than five years. Even though I knew from the very beginning it would be just for a few months, I still felt like an intruder. Invading the privacy of the 17-year old who lived here, who dyed the walls in bright orange, kept dry flowers hanging from the ceiling, collected old postcards and sea shells and recorded her life in colorful notebooks. The only things we still have in common are the colorful notebooks. Apparently, we both thought diaries are only worth writing if the covers are pretty. There was no way to reason with her and refurbish the room, and actually I gave up on that idea pretty fast, this was her own private space and it made no sense trying to change it for the sake of my three months spent here. So I stacked my books where there was still room, dropped somewhere on the floor the boxes that were not be reopened in the near future (she doesn’t seem to mind the newly created chaos), convinced her to change her taste in music so that we’d share my playlist for a while and piled up my clothes in her wardrobe.
One late evening, I stumbled across the box where she kept her old diaries. The hours that followed were some of the most enjoyable I’ve had lately. There’s really no better proof of the growing up process than discovering the process itself, recorded step by step. In the morning, I woke up somewhat confused, guilty of having abused her memories that, in some way, resembled very much to my own.