December 30, 2009
December 24, 2009
December 9, 2009
However, a pub alone will not convince me to go back to a city that didn't make a very strong impression upon me. But a pub like this + Baudelaire + organic food might do the trick. Poznan is the only place I know, until know, where you can rent a room called Flowers of Evil.
Or perhaps Room with a View. Or Portrait of a Lady. And, according to the owner, this is only the beginning of Artrooms.
December 7, 2009
December 2, 2009
November 26, 2009
November 22, 2009
November 15, 2009
November 13, 2009
November 12, 2009
November 3, 2009
November 1, 2009
All that mattered was that we were in Berlin, Ana and I were finally back in business, ready to explore the wonders of the city, to plan and debate and come up with ideas, skip sleep and make the best of that weekend. We had books and chocolate, so there was little to complain about.
And there was room for poetry on the second night. This time, celebrating the 10th anniversary of lyrikline.org, a platform making poetry available on the Internet: 600 poets, 5500 poems, 50 mother tongues and 6600 translations in about 50 languages. The project started small, with no significant budget, but with a great deal of support from local authorities and cultural institutions who simply believed in the power of artistic projects. Or, as one of the organizers put it, they knew Berlin would be nothing without its artists.
October 30, 2009
October 26, 2009
October 23, 2009
October 22, 2009
October 20, 2009
October 14, 2009
October 11, 2009
The weather in Poland seems to have finally come to its senses. It’s dark, cold and rainy. Just perfect for exquisite shopping at the flea market in Cracow’s Kazimierz, very early in the morning, followed by some tranquil hours when writing is the one and only thing to do.
I arrived in Cracow two days ago to help a Romanian director and film producer who’s documenting a movie. I was supposed to do some translations and then mind my own business. The difference between what I thought I’d be doing and what I actually did was huge. This was not work, it was a fictional bubble that nurtured my brain and warmed my heart, and it was so perfect and round that I even gave up the idea of a night in the tent just because the pieces of the puzzle here in Cracow matched in a way that I had longed for. I felt like myself again, conversations were meaningful and every meeting, every interview seemed to add more sense to the story she’s documenting, but at the same time to deepen the confusion and to bring to light different perspectives, some of them so dissimilar that they bordered absurdity. And even though this is not my project, and my contribution to it was minimal, the trip was very inspiring simply because I spent my time with people who are passionate about what they do, are fresh and creative and believe in the work they do. This made a very valuable point in terms of my current work situation, cleared my mind and the whole picture. It also reinforced my beliefs in my priorities. When I asked A. how she managed to stay focused on her projects, putting a safe distance between her and all the exterior, disturbing factors, she replied with one of those memorable lines that are worth keeping somewhere in the back of your mind, to be brought to surface when overwhelmed by uncertainties: Everything that’s not related to my artistic projects is inexistent.
October 8, 2009
October 4, 2009
They probably don't know it, but each of them made my day, simply by asking this question, which used to piss me off when I was 16 and wanted to buy beer and / or cigarettes. I just love to see the wheel turning and to find myself in similar situations, having completely different reactions. Gives me the illusion of universal equilibrium, even if it's only a matter of minor, yet essential details.
October 2, 2009
September 22, 2009
September 20, 2009
September 17, 2009
September 9, 2009
September 8, 2009
September 6, 2009
August 25, 2009
In Romania we love papers. For every situation, thinkable and unthinkable, there's a paper. A formal request, a petition, a memorial, a letter or an application. As if I didn't have enough of these things on a daily basis at work, where I suspect we'll end up writing petitions requesting permission to write petitions, today I started putting the pieces together for my MA. Given the fact that I'll be studying in Warsaw, I figured it won't be a big deal (I still have this tendency of idealizing Poland - nothing can go wrong there, nothing works against you). I was particularly impressed by their online registration process, which gave me a very good reason to complain some more about my own Uni here in Bucharest. For about five minutes. Then I discovered it's not easy at all. First comes this part of the registration, then the fun begins. Of course, it all comes down to papers. Apparently, Poles love them as well. When I came to terms with the fact that I also need to print my entire academic record, I finally faced the absurdity of the situation. The guys at the office in Warsaw informed me I cannot mail all these docs. Someone has to take them to the office. But it doesn't matter who does that. Doesn't have to be me, it can very well be some random person. I kept thinking about this, trying to find a reasonable explanation, and in the end I gave up, trying instead to find a random person with spare time on their hands.
And there's another thing I can't understand. The pictures attached to my academic record have very strict dimensions and characteristics (which makes sense), there's only one type of acceptable background (I'm ready to admit this also makes sense) and they have to be semiprofile, with the left ear visible (does this make sense?) And here's the irony: I have a picture that matches the description in the tiniest detail, but it shows the right ear - I took it shortly after shaving the right side of my head and I was very happy to expose it. Before getting my haircut, I pondered over the decision quite a long time, simply because I didn't know which side of the head to shave. And deep down inside I've always wondered if it would have looked better the other way round. Now I know my doubts were actually a premonition. The left ear knew her fifteen minutes of fame would come, sooner or later. I just didn't expect the University of Warsaw to have anything to do with it.
August 24, 2009
The beginning was innocent enough to fool me. It looked like this: getting there early in the morning, exchanging polite smiles with the rest of the people in the office, asking thousands of dumb questions (South Park strikes back - I kept hearing the voice of Mr. Garrison in my head: Remember there are no stupid questions, just stupid people), trying to get everything done during the day and happily riding my bike back home. It lasted for about a week.
The first thing that worried me was that extra quarter of an hour spent at work. It is my firm belief that once you stop working freelance, you trade a limited amount of your time for a limited amount of cash. I thought it was an accident and tried to ignore it, until the next day, when it happened again. It didn't take me long to spend some extra 30 minutes at work. Not to mention I started smoking less, because I didn't have the time to go out of the office and smoke. This is another downside of the whole sharing-the-office issue. And anyway, you can only smoke on the corridor, which is still better than being kicked out of the building.
When I spent a whole extra hour, I figured I had a good excuse, because I was just about to meet Ceci downtown. By the end of that day, I was starved to death (no time to eat, either, and anyway I hate eating while I'm working, unless of course I'm in my room, sharing some quality time with my laptop and writing whatever is it that I might be writing at that point), pissed off for having broken my rules, even more pissed off atfer having figured out that my rules were rather naive and it was going to take a lot of effort to stick to them.
However, in the meantime I managed to submit the translation for The Eye of the Moon, even though it took me quite some time to edit it, over and over again, just for the sake of having all the characters and all the fun to myself before sharing yet another brilliant Anonymous novel with the world. I did share it with my Mom, who's the master of proofreading, and unfortunately she came up with a very elementary and unproblematic explanation for my fascination. I'm still wondering if she's right, and if my efforts of putting the whole story in a theoretical framework were marvelously useless. The other good news is that starting this month I've come up with a new column for our magazine, dealing with Eastern European writers, books, editors, translators and everything else that comes with the pack. I'm already planning a few interviews, none of them in Poland at the time being, so I'll have to slowly start planning my trips to Slovenia and Croatia, to begin with.
Getting back to the job thing, today I totally crossed the line. Not only did I spend the extra hour at the office, and probably would have spent another one if it hadn't been for the power cut, I also brought a file home, thus profaning the very last stronghold - Ceci's living room, which I am squatting at the time being. As I sat down with my laptop and lit a cigarette, it dawned on me that I've showed the file enough kindness by taking it out of the office, for a bike trip around Bucharest and a lovely dinner with Ana, and I figured it needed a good night's sleep in my bag.
August 20, 2009
Survival guide for the working class:) Bilus dixit:
1. keep fit
2. don't let work overwhelm you
3. don't booze
5. escape from the self *this seemed to be the toughest part, since I'm so in love with myself. A compromise had to be reached, so the fitfth commandment was changed to: escape into the self
6. be creative, which really means "make room in your life to be creative".
With some exceptions, work is quite alright althoug its fictional potential is almost inexistent. But this is mainly because I was never a fan of absurd in literature. However, it might prove to be an anthropological challenge.
My Mom calls me every morning to remind me I have to go to work. I have a hunch it will become a habit.
August 9, 2009
I just rented mine and parked it in Ceci's kitchen. She was nice enough to host me for a while, as I have to spend a few weeks in Bucharest, training for my new job. And then they'll ship me off to Warsaw :)
I stopped questioning my future, put all my worries aside and decided to go with the flow and see what happens. So I'll spare you the nasty details of my decision making process, my fears and expectations regarding this new chapter in my life. For the time being, I'm learning to accept (radical) change and deal with it. And it's not as scary as I thought it would be.
August 4, 2009
Packing our Taczka T-shirts wherever we go. Pictures with a wheelbarrow, wearing the club's "uniform", are a must.
Keep an eye out, you'll be hearing from us again ;)
Przemek and Jules in UK
Yours truly, back home in Romania
Szabot in Croatia
Owca in Poland - outside Kato (Pieniny)
Even though I am perfectly aware that in a certain way this was the end – my mornings won’t start in Kato and my nights won’t end in the tent, I’m somehow incapable of being sad. But not because I don’t regret it, rather because it feels like I belong there, in a way that I can’t fully explain. It almost feels as if I’ve left home for the second time, much in the same way I waved goodbye to my city and moved to Bucharest. Of course, once in Bucharest, I’d do my best to escape from it and run back home for the weekend.
Away from Kato, I can now bet things will follow the same pattern, and I’ll be more than happy to go through the whole packing procedure every Friday or at least every other Friday. Since I’ve had my fair share of tears in the tent, I left the city feeling relaxed and happy and anxious to see what happens next. Almost like reading a good book. Captivating, surprising and mind-blowing.
I hate those moments when it is expected of you to look behind and draw the line. That’s why I don’t have resolutions on New Year’s Eve and I can’t make a list of the things I’ve learnt in Kato and the way they’ve changed me. However, Asia was so right when she told me that what I’ve seen here in Kato (and especially Ligota and the tent), what I’ve learnt, that’s mine for good, and it’s an experience that would have been difficult, if not impossible, to gain anywhere else.
But definitely the best part is the one which was totally beyond my control. It’s as if one year ago, someone knew I was about to dive into the unknown and wanted to make sure I have my safety net. So last year I’ve been offered this safety net, which I had time to test and become comfortable with. And now I’m ready to jump, because back in Kato there’s a bunch of wonderful people and we’ll be just three hours and a phone call away. That pretty much puts my mind at ease.
July 30, 2009
Landed in Bucharest few days ago. Need to catch up on my writings and my readings, since the last days in Kato have been mostly about working, saying goodbye, drinking, working, making promises and rememorating those first days of October, when I showed up out of the blue and was intorduced to everyone as the new bartender. Very much like camp.
Meanwhile, I've developed a theory about destiny and Kato and my future, it's rather cheesy but on the other hand quite accurate, that's why I'll be posting it here as soon as I'm done with the marathons in the city: (1) the ordeal of coming back after a scholarship and convincing the University that I did come back with a full pack of ECTS and (2) the selection process for my possible future job. As part of this process, yesterday I had to write a formal statement, according to which I did not collaborate with the Secret Police back in those years when communism was still around in both theory and practice. The thing is, I was 5 when communism became history, at least theoretically. And yes, my parents, my grandma, my aunts and family friends keep telling me what an exceptional kid I was, but I was no genius, so the odds for the Secret Police to have roped me in were... zero?! Yet, to some people, this makes perfect sense. After all, that's what the law says - and we can't fight the law, can we?
Later on that day, taking some papers from one office to another, I got stuck in the elevator at the Faculty of Letters. The elevator is probably older than the building itself, and the building does have a history of more than a century. And there, trapped behind bars and with a dim light above my head, I smoked and waited for somebody to rescue me, while trying to make this moment a special one - a time of reflection, of developing a life-changing philosophy. Instead, I was just standing, waiting and dragging on my cigarette, with my head empty like a baloon. Very special indeed.
And now I'm off for the second part of the marathon, anxious to see what this day has in store for me.
July 21, 2009
I'm also trying to come to terms with the fact that I'm leaving my job in the tent.
I'll be in a book.
My own book is a mess and seems to have a life of its own. I'll have to take some time off and deal with it.
On Monday I'm flying back home.
Warsaw is gorgeous and I am very much in love with it, nothing has changed.
I'm still undecided about the MA. And this job thing makes the decision even more complicated.
I'd like to take a week off and go to Italy, which is very strange since I don't like Italy.
Two nights ago I dreamt we were serving raspberry-and-sand cocktails in the tent.
Don't forget to vote.
July 16, 2009
The bomb exploded the minute I set foot in the tent. I wanted to turn around the very next minute, leave the bar without any further explanation and never come back. By some sort of magic, I managed to control my emotions. For a while.
There she was, sitting behind the bar, pretty, young, with her beautiful brown locks: the new bartender. It should've crossed my mind that with the new bar soon to be open for business, with me leaving Kato in two weeks, there would be someone new showing up, sooner or later. I just didn't expect it to be that soon, and I certainly didn't expect to find her there, without some kind of previous warning. So I did what any sane person would do. I sat down with Asia and her friends and kept staring at the new girl, while trying to run a decent conversation. Of course this only lasted for about half an hour, after which I was incapable of any kind of conversation, decent or not, smart or completely idiotic. There I was, having beers with some of our regulars, while the new girl was pouring us the beers. Well, not me, because whenever I wanted a refill, I'd make sure Magda took care of that. I was sad and disappointed and I couldn't hide it. The one place that had really felt at home, that gave me the feeling I was part of something and I belonged somewhere, in a city I disliked and had nothing in common with, had slapped me in the face so hard that my eyes filled up with tears almost instantly. For a while, I managed to hold them back. Unfortunately, a few hours and several beers later, having observed the new girl in the tiniest detail, I couldn't control my tears. The tent has witnessed a lot, but I somehow doubt it's seen any of its bartenders crying because of it. Which was very frustrating, in the end, for several reasons. First of all, Sanchez would have never ever cried in the Tapioca. Second of all, I'd rather be caught wearing no perfume than be seen crying in public. And third of all, I had no real reason, except my oversized ego which just couldn't tolerate the thought that I was replaceable. Not even replaced, just replaceable. The good part of the story is that most people in the tent are normal and nice and tolerant. Top of the list is Pan Janek, who in the end explained the whole situation, which was in fact a matter of the obvious (they really, really need new people), gave me a hug and sent me home, telling me he expects me to show up the next day and to train the new girl.
And that's exactly what I did. Having calmed down and with a more rational approach to the whole situation, I showed up at work yesterday. For two hours, I did nothing but talk to people, occasionally selling beer to my favourite clients, and let her do the rest of the work. By midnight, I was alone behind the bar and happier than ever before to be there.
July 13, 2009
The houses in Nikiszowiec look identical, and there's nothing but houses in the entire district, except for the market which has a post office and a church. It used to have a bar, too, but something really odd must have happened, since the bar was closed and it seemed to have been in that state for quite some time. So on our way back to Ligota we stopped for a beer at a very optimistic bar, one that wishes you "happy holidays" in the middle of July. I was hoping we'd get presents, too.
In the meantime, back at the tent, we're in business with the new bar. Well, almost, since it's still a few weeks to go until the grand opening, but the new tent is in our back yard, raising a lot of questions about the kinds of drinks we'll serve, the heating system, the inauguration party - questions we obviously answer with an evasive "you'll have to wait and see", as we also have to wait and see. I'd suggest putting bourbon on the menu. The new bar is quite controversial among the old bartenders: Titior claims he won't ever work there, Magda thinks the scond bar doesn't really fit in the backyard of the first bar, Jacek is wondering how we're going to split the shifts and Pan Janek is busy trying to keep everything under control. As for me, I'm quite happy and enthusiastic with our new baby, mostly because now I really feel I'm part of this from the very beginning. I've heard so many stories about how the tent began 10 years ago, but it is only now I am able to tell a story of my own, from the very beginning. So yes, if I'll be around, I'll work in the second bar, even though rumour has it this bar will be a non-smoking place, and my fellow workers keep teasing me about it.
Sunday morning I took myself to the movies. Nothing compares to having the whole cinema to yourself, so that you can fully enjoy the life of Mademoiselle Coco avant Chanel. I wore my mother's pearls and later on went shopping for shoes and boxes. As I started packing, I realized I was starting to say goodbye to the city. After almost a year, I'm not expecting anything more from Kato. If, however, something is going to happen, I'll consider it a nice surprise. But as far as I'm concerned, I have no expectations. And for the first time in my life, I have no idea what the future holds. And I'm sort of enjoying this freedom, for I know it won't last forever.