The concept of simultaneity as it applies to the internet has fascinated me for several years now. Particularly with regards to communicating via social media, one life can parallel another in a manner that few other forms of technology have previously seen (telegrams interjected life inside life for brief moments; the telephone call intervened in our existence, but do not these compare little to our present affair with portable devices?). While posting on Facebook the remnants of a quote I overhear in the taxi in Tangier, I can see its alert boxes pass by my periphery indicating Joshua has arrived at Skowhegan, Heidi is enjoying the wedding Upstate; Meaghan is listening to Folk Group Something and So and So on Spotify; James has completed his latest recording.
After traveling between fourteen cities this past July, I have become re-intrigued by the parallel lives that are being lived around the globe, at any given moment. Simultaneity is so fascinating because - to state it so plainly - it exists everywhere, despite our often lack of awareness of it. The world is Deleuze’s Rhizome. It isn’t just round, or even flat again (thank you, Thomas Friedman), it is connected to itself in ways that are at once specific (we can often track the mere degrees of difference between ourselves and a person of fame or an important event, thank you Malcolm Gladwell for the reminder) and at once convoluted (how do the Tahrir Square protests, a North African president’s declaration of citizenship to all illegal immigrants, the DC shooting, the weather in Seattle, the rebel fighters in Syria, the Latino mayoral candidate who lives just across the street, or a friend’s frustration upon losing her cotton sweatshirt, affect my moment to moment existence this week?).
We see instances of not just systems, but hybrid systems, of ideologies, experiences, memories, and sensations, in every part and moment of our life in this snow-globe world.
From New York to Chicago, Amsterdam to Den Haag, Arnhem to Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Wurzburg, Barcelona, Cartagena, Murcia, Málaga, Tánger, Casablanca, or Cairo, I cannot recount how many times I saw the same dusty navy-blue and ivory striped shirt pattern. In Tarifa while waiting for the ferry to Africa, a woman on her cell phone talked outside a long-paneled window, inside of which, only inches away separated by the glass pane, sat a child and her mother, whose capri pants matched the pattern of the cell-phone lady’s hijab. Two patterns connected distinct ideologies.
On Bethaniestraat in Amsterdam a Chinese tourist is swaying hips with a lady who waits in a window half the night; an elderly woman sits in a booth surrounded by tulip-clad posters, plastic kloppen shoes, and Delft’s Blaue knock-offs in Den Haag; in Arnhem a 99 year old Opa is painting self portraits as he’s painted every year since age 13. As I nod in approval I am still thinking of the felt penises attached to the apron’s fronts next to blue and white porcelain teapots (from that infamous Dutch city of a day earlier). My perception of what constitutes “Holland” has forever become nuanced, divvied up into a myriad of new experiences (and is this not the essence of life as it comes to us).
Barcelona and Murcia present memories held by a younger, more naive, self; its seeming past liberality and present tameness merge as one in a hybrid of understanding and miss-understanding.
In Tangier we cause a small riot in the bus station; a day later our train crashes, as a million protesters gather in Cairo. America closes its Middle-Eastern embassies, and I am still thinking of how he grabbed her bottom two days ago, and how the Egyptian Gazette’s comics weren’t so funny. Since when does one find humor in funerals? But perhaps that was precisely the point. Here again I am reading the paper through my own lens of inevitable illiteracy.
Yesterday and today interweave with last week and next week, and suddenly I am reminded of last year, and two years ago. Beijing merges with Tangier: fish heads, “foreign” tongues, and comfortable yet new, unfamiliar combinations of freedom, presence, and Big Brother.
There are the moments one might expect - the “every tourist must-see”s - and the more subtle surprises. Every tourist must visit Centraal Station when in Amsterdam, and do so via bike, while not interfering with the daily commute of your average blond, blue-eyed, “fuck-you” shouting tall Dutchman, who sometimes looks less like the archetype.
The house my Oma grew up in, where she and her brothers hid Jewish families between the walls and cooked dinner that was given via a pulley system and a bucket, is a daycare now. Arab and Asian children are eating triangle-shaped sandwiches and the nannies squint at me quizzically when I cup my pinky to ring-finger, leaning against the window in hopes of seeing some semblance of the stories which form my familial nostalgia. Instead I see preschoolers, who I really wish were not there to mess with the stuff of my own bedtime stories.
In Tangier it is necessary to see the American Legation Museum. It is the only one in the world, after all, and “what an uncanny consideration that it resides in North Africa, is it not?”
A man much too obese to be riding a child’s bicycle is wrangling down the street next to the canal where Oma’s brother found the cat that became their dinner in 1944.
Murcia is the town “without a contemporary art museum”, which means that one must stick to the Cathedral and Bishop’s Palace. There is of course the annual music festival, and Roman ruins next to the river, where the Moros sell pants from Baghdad that all the artists in New York and Amsterdam and Frankfurt and Barcelona and Paris are wearing. (In the end, there is a really decent gallery we find called Noveau, showing photo-collages from London and Madrid, so perhaps the city’s fine art infamy has been misplaced.)
Next door there is a hardware store that opened in 1895, and when I ask in Dutch whether the same family has been there since that year the boy behind the counter rolls his eyes as if to say of course.
The Arabic in Cairo is spoken slightly quieter these days. Everyone seems camera-wary, and while disguising my lens I am uncertain of the men asking me whether I am Christian or Muslim. I stay up late eating molasses and almond cake at the Baron, averting my eyes from the Nigerian who claims a desire to know more about the word Paschal (so long as my description has to do with faith and not mathematics).
But do you in your sarcasm and your nonchalant boredom remember the past, this very recent past that is very present to me still, though I have never lived on this street called Vengaden, dear eye-rolling Dutchman behind that counter? Do you know that my great-uncle was placed on the train to Auschwitz, for meticulously copying by hand replicas of Nazi meal cards, so that those on the street hiding multiple families within their walls could eat too? Are not some of those who benefitted from his work still living nearby, perhaps? Or at least their children.
But what is faith? In Wurzburg we are blown away (pun intended) by the placards on all the cathedrals. Every building has a personal archive, and each clicked restart in 1948 when new funding arrived, post-Hitler.
The hardware-store man’s annoyance agitates the nostalgia in which I’m existing as I walk that street. The mustard-color cafe next door to Oma’s is asking for my order, and without looking at the menu I hear myself requesting “koffie met melk, ein appeltaat”, as if Oma has reappeared by my side to join me for her favorite midday dessert. She has been gone for nearly 5 years, yet to hear the waiter ask me “met klein beetje van zukar?” I am back in Toronto watching row after row of my new green socks slowly appear on the knitting needles, and listening to Opa talk of the post-impressionists, with tears that feel the “gezelligste” rolling down the cheeks of both past and present.
Most of the Roman ruins in Cartagena are all but emancipated from any present understanding of themselves.
In a cafe in Malaga - a poor choice for a stopover, mind you - I walk atop thick plexiglass towards the bathroom with ancient rough-hewn toilet paper handles (or was that in Bredevoort, the book town? Yes, but it was). There is a hewn-wooden bathroom handle in Southern Spain, too, but it is spoiled by the chintzy Louvre-like structure covering the ruins found last year or the year before under the sidewalk.
A few blocks away from Oma’s, artists are engaged in an active embodiment of Bourriaud, exchanging reading lessons for a massage, next to an installation that speaks of the country’s educational system and immigration.
I am surprised by his speech: “mi trabajo es recto, Sahah” were the words of the taxi driver I’d overpaid en route from the market with the Spanish name for a cheap house.
When I dip my nose into his fur, the cat smells like a bonfire. The neighbors here in the Bronx were grilling outside the window sill on which he was napping, and he is purring contentedly at the added attention he receives because I am partaking of the scent that is of hours passed.
At long last this blog will revert to a “true” blog, one that is not also a place-holder website. Here I will share project ideas, updates, and riveting images that catch my eye.
For complete works, one can now visit the skeletal frame of a new website: jannadyk.com. It is tentatively entitled “Connections”.
"Did I sufficiently answer your question?" The froth had sunk to a crusty nothing in the cup’s bottom.
"….question? Hmm, yes. I think so… You usually answer with enough specified vagueness to secure my attention."
"Specificity? Yes, I’d like to think that there are no generalities. But you should do what you feel. Keep in mind that whatever you put your time to you master."
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