Monday, February 16, 2009

And Now Another Perspective

Every so often I manage to shake my head out of it's identity theft mode and think about other things. I suppose one of the advantages of having your own soapbox is using it for whatever comes to mind. Thus the following thoughts from long ago...

Feb 2005
" It’s no wonder that a lot of writers live in Northern California. We have that long period of cold, dark, rainy weather that makes us go inside ourselves. The mix is just exactly perfect to grow writers in. It’s not like it is like that all the time either. At about the time when the gloom of rain and chills seem to be permanent it all shifts. The long warmish, May to November days make the whole thing new again allowing us once again to pursue the outside, and feel the sun on our faces.


I lived in central Belgium where the names of places drip with double vowels betraying the guttural sound of the words. Rain is a way of life in Belgium, hardly noticed, it’s only the way the air is. House painters go about their daily rituals, scaffolding goes up, beers open, and at the end of the day there is a new coat of paint. I don’t know how they do it but the rain somehow has no effect on Belgian housepaint.


Belgian people with short legs and a low center of gravity live in low buildings, sit for hours in bars staring at the gray gloom and declaring it a nice day. There’s something about a country that you can drive through in less than three hours and claims to make over three hundred kinds of beer with names like “Sudden Death” and pictures of grinning Trappist Monks on the labels. It tells me that these people have adapted to their climate. Their cities like their stature are low and firm, no frills.


I lived in Sint (Saint) Giles in a Brussels townhouse, its blue stone fa├žade carved in crisp Nouveau shapes. On one side lived an English antique dealer who specialized in ancient documents. Our relationship consisted of getting each other’s mail. We were, after all both native English speakers; the mix up in the mail was easy to understand. The routine went something like standing on his doorstep both of us silently sorting through the mail and performing a perfect handoff, “one for you, one for me”, like that. On the other side was a legally blind movie critic. We never actually met for if we had surely I would have put that claim to a test. Maybe it was a special gift, or maybe she would go to her screenings with a group of trusted friends and debrief them afterwards in lavish “apres’-cinema” parties at the local brasserie. More likely someone in her family owned the paper. Funny how reality isn’t quite so romantic.

Belgium is the country that gave us Communism; bred in small apartments over roaring fires to keep that damned cold at bay. What else can one do in a place that has rain on average 260 days a year but to sit around plotting new schemes to offset the dreary reality just outside the window? Funny how Belgium never actually became a communist country. As I write this on a mid-February Northern California morning the wet has left us temporarily giving rise to the possibility of better days ahead. We have that balance of wet and dry days, all clumped together long enough to forget that the other really exists. "


Thanks for indulging me.

John

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