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An Old Lady with an Orange

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This was last week on Tuesday, in a yellow tram running on the ring. The city clock indicated the end of another winter day: the time was precisely 2.55, displayed in blue numbers.

The doors opened, the chill came in, the girl sat down. She was so young and focused on reading the translation of a Japanese novel. The weather didn’t seem to bother her in the least and bilious strangers didn’t exist for her. She was entirely oblivious of the tram ride, her rosy fingers turning page after page.

An old dignified woman took the blue seat, next to her. When the tram started moving, the old woman forcefully leaned against her clenched fist to better maintain her equilibrium. A minimal portrait – intermittent mutters, careful glances around, leather gloves, and an orange in her left hand.

Unexpectedly, the old lady turned to the young girl and said in one breath: “So far, I could sometimes spot the meaning of all this. And when I didn’t see it anymore, I would find beauty. Hardly ever both of them. And when I didn’t have either… Well, that was the most unbearable part.” Her face turned away, her glance piercing the old buildings, and then she suddenly stood up, greeted the third tram stop with a “hello” and got off.

Written by Caprescu

februarie 1, 2010 at 1:44 am

Moldoveni si florentini

with 10 comments

Pe masura (pe)trecerii timpului in Toscana, mi se pare ca legaturile dintre moldoveni si florentini devin tot mai vizibile si mai numeroase. Deocamdata vreau sa ma refer la caracteristica principala care uneste cele doua categorii: nemunca, lenea, taiatul frunzelor la ciini si uitatul pe pereti. Teza pe care o sustin este ca, desi lenea a devenit un dat al zestrei genetice atit in cazul moldovenilor cit si al florentinilor, italienii au ridicat-o la nivel de politica publica. In alte cuvinte, daca moldoveanul se multumeste sa nu faca nimic, in Firenze si prin imprejurimi oamenii tot intreprind ceva: institutionalizeaza lenea.

In primul rind, la nivelul institutiilor publice (iau acest termen in sens larg, care cuprinde orice activitate de interes public, incluzind afacerile private). Extrem de frapant si enervant in acelasi timp, pentru cel care paseste pentru prima data in Italia, este orarul institutiilor statului si al magazinelor. Cu foarte putine exceptii, pina si supermarket-urile sint inchise intre 12:30 si 15:30. Dupa ora 19:00 doar sa vina Papa mai tine patronul deschis vreun magazin. Culmea este ca si benzinariile urmeaza aceeasi regula: scrie pe ele „24 Ore”, insa sint inchise trei ore la prinz si dupa opt seara. Compania Trenitalia nu poate fi, evident, cu nimic mai prejos: rar gasesti vreun tren de noapte, iar daca locuiesti in Firenze si ai avion la 13:30 in Venezia-Treviso, nu gasesti un tren (regional sau national) inainte de ora 8:30 dimineata – ceea ce este evident prea tirziu pentru a mai prinde zborul. Garile sint practic paralizate simbata, duminica si sarbatorile legale – trenurile circula extrem de rar (ceea ce iti poate crea iarasi probleme cu diversele legaturi spre aeroporturi sau autogari) iar ghiseele sint, fara nici o exceptie, inchise: daca esti strain si nu stii sa folosesti automatul de bilete, ghinionul tau! Ori nu te mai urci in tren, ori risti amenda!

In al doilea rind, florentinii instaureaza lenea la nivelul limbajului. Oricit de incredibil poata sa para, pina iti spune un florentin „graaaaaaazzie”, trece si trenul lui Tarkovski! Intrucit prelungirea „a”-ului tine, cronometrat pe ceas, mai mult decit mersul trenului din celebra si plicticoasa secventa a „Calauzei”. Si daca ar fi numai atit! Dupa Papa, pentru florentini vine pe locul doi in gradul beatitudinii Sfintul Pomeriggio (in romaneste, „dupa-amiaza”). V-am spus deja ca zilnic trei ore Italia e moarta pe timpul lui pomeriggio. Cel mai relevant fapt tine insa de modul in care florentinii percep timpul: prima data cind am intrat intr-un magazin in jurul orei 13:00 (era un supermarket mare, singurul deschis toata ziua in orasul in care stau) si am auzit formula de salut „buna seara!”, am crezut ca am probleme prin zona ORL-ului. Dar experienta s-a repetat, in fiecare zi! Intr-adevar, daca trece ora prinzului – gata, pomeriggio e un fel de apus, apoi vine rapid „buona sera!” Daca spui si tu „buongiorno” la 14:00 e clar, florentinii isi dau seama ca esti strain… Nu e de mirare ca „il dolce far niente” este o expresie italiana!

Pronuntia este insa eticheta celebra a graiului florentin, marca de netagaduit a lenei lingvistice si poate cea mai apropiata legatura de rudenie intre acesta si graiul moldovenesc. Pe scurt, si noi si ei folosim „Ș” in loc de „C”. Asa cum spun moldovenii „Și vrai?”, la fel fiorentinii pronunta numele orasului Sieci cam asa: „Șieși”. Si exact cum moldovenii atrag in Romania priviri depreciative cind altii le aud accentul, cam la fel se intimpla si cu florentinii in Italia.

Banuiesc totusi ca o diferennta incepe sa se faca simtita intre moldoveni si florentini: cum orasele tarii lui Stefan cel Mare (si sfint) se golesc din cauza indivizilor plecati la munca in Italia, cum majoritatea acestora vin direct in Toscana, cea mai bogata regiune din aceasta tara, florentinii devin tot mai lenesi: cam greu sa vezi italian in Nord lucrind la munca de jos in constructii, culegind struguri sau maturind strazile. Si astfel, ei devin tot mai lenesi, in timp ce moldovenii, obsedati sa cistige bani pentru a-si lua gip bemveu la mina a doua si casa la tara devin tot mai harnici. Misto imagine, nu?

Written by Andrei Stavilă

octombrie 27, 2009 at 11:10 am

Two seconds in Austria-Hungary

with 3 comments

I confess that at that time examining the movement of hands and arms was one of my daily default activities, running somewhere in the background of every conversation or metro ride. I wasn’t impressed with prominent veins, I wasn’t interested in the color of the polished nails, I wasn’t trying to find hypotheses for green finger tips. Why and how they looked didn’t touch me much. With those impressions in mind, I would then return home, look at the turn-of-the-century building from across the street, and imagine stories about each window that still had the light switched on late at night. My stories were a collection of hands and windows.

Budapest, last night.

She was walking down the boulevard, heading to Hősök tere. As she passed by, I couldn’t help but notice that her left arm was swinging in the air in the most bizarre fashion. Her right elbow was resting on the large green leather bag she kept somewhat up, placed on her hip. The left arm, though, was mysteriously attractive, gently moving back an forth, as if almost estranged from the rest of the body. Its appearance was that of an abstract shiny sculpture and its movement that of a flying fish in a gliding flight over the water. It truly seemed like the body did not form a whole. Its strange and enticing combination of qualities made me follow the flying fish arm at some distance. I can hardly remember any other detail of the woman with a green bag, but for some reason, it made me think of two fashion advertisements from a Romanian gazette, from the early 1900s. A modern woman holding a cigarette in her hand, sitting crossed legged in an arm chair, wearing trousers, and pointing to her magnified Viennese gum heels that “every woman had to wear,” as the ad imperatively recommended. In contrast, another woman, with a forme droite, rationnelle, representing the reshaping of the woman’s body into the new “S-bend” corseted silhouette. As compared to them, it was as if the undefined arm was performing a coming out of some sort. A seemingly free gesture, I thought and was delighted by its sheer movement. But as I lapsed back in time for this one second, my unusual synecdoche too slipped into a crowd of tourists on Andrássy út, and I was left alone with my musings.

gazeta_de_transilvania_1911 175 - Copygazeta_de_transilvania_1911 176 - Copy

And so I carried on. Late that night, when I reached the end of the Andrássy boulevard, it was already 1896. The yellow metro was silent, and the preparations for the Millennium celebrations were over.

Brassó 1893, black ink.

She blinked a couple of times in a row, as if trying to hurry her thoughts and get to the conclusion. It was past midnight. In the yellow light, she caressed her ear and a few grey locks, and then her hand grabbed the glass of water, holding it half-way to her mouth, while writing the last lines of the report. Her handwriting was calligraphic. She then put in order the eight pages written in black ink, and patiently went through the numbers again in pencil. After all, the budget for the girls’ boarding school and for the orphanage was the crucial point of the report. Added up, the yearly expenses amounted to roughly 4,500 fl. – a manageable sum, with some efforts and donations.

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She spaced out for a second, re-evaluating her work. “The Romanian women’s association in Braşov,” she thought, “has an important mission. The truth is that the boarding school and the orphanage that we are running are tremendously useful for our people. We are bringing up little girls, who are either orphans or come from our middle class, and we give them a practical education, which they otherwise wouldn’t get. We have to increase the number of girls that we educate, to have a bigger impact. Organizing the ball will help us raise some funding for that…” Meanwhile, her long bony fingers lit a cigarette, and the ash fell on her long black dress without her noticing. On the carpet, the shadow of her hand moved and looked like a pair of pliers, always ready and useful. Shortly, she cracked the window open, and drew the curtains.

On the first floor of the same building, a small silhouette appeared at the window. The little girl pressed her forehead against the cold glass, and felt her temples throbbing. She was one of the girls from the boarding school. The place had been established a few years earlier, in 1886, but it was still financially fairly insecure, especially given the fact that the women’s association had been trying to link it to a more recent project, that of an orphanage. Managing both of them was challenging and it implied to some extent a fair amount of networking and lobbying. But the little girl didn’t know any of these things. Her days at the boarding school weren’t particularly exciting, and she had to obey a strict program for three years. During that time she learned how to take care of a household, of the kitchen, how to wash, iron, sew, and make clothes. She learned knitting and the art of embroidery. She was also exposed to some pedagogical principles insofar as they were applicable to bringing up children. To this curriculum, the women’s association committee further added the practice of hygiene, a few aspects of gardening, religion classes, Romanian language and literature, arithmetic, and household bookkeeping. It was the woman in black dress with bony fingers that moved like a pair of pliers who wrote this curriculum.

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The thirteen year old took a breath of cold night air, closed the window with a shiver and rested her palm against the window again. She had always liked feeling the contour of her hand, the first few seconds of touching the cold glass, the burning warmth of her hand. She innocently looked at her dim reflection – she was calm now.

The building was completely silent and dark. I sank my hands into my pockets and went down the street, pleased with this peaceful night and its detours.

Written by Caprescu

octombrie 18, 2009 at 10:05 pm

Marimea conteaza?

with 11 comments

… depine UNDE, depinde CUM… Pe strazile inguste ale Florentei, mai toti spun ca small is good, big is bad! Chestiune de context, carevasazica… Important e sa duca, nu-i asa?

DSCN12292

DSCN12553

[click pe imagini pentru a le mari]

Written by Andrei Stavilă

octombrie 10, 2009 at 9:29 am

Publicat în De pe drum

Tagged with , ,

Din alta lume…

with 3 comments

DSCN12191 [click pe imagine pentru a o mari]

… era o umbra, o palma data pe obrazul maimutzelor in costume scrobite si al cucoanelor impopotzonate in rochii scumpe. Un scandal urban, o sfidare adusa deopotriva Renasterii si lumii contemporane. Omul asta de vreo 60 de ani, plimbindu-se nestingherit de privirile acuzatoare ale turistilor ghiftuitzi, a caror singura problema era pe ce sa-si mai cheltuiasca banii, se plimba intr-o zi de septembrie prin centrul florentin parind ca nu-i pasa de nimeni si nimic. Absenta lui sincera, uimirea lasata in urma sa il faceau sa para ca vine din alta lume, dintr-un univers paralel…

Written by Andrei Stavilă

octombrie 1, 2009 at 5:34 pm

Publicat în De pe drum, Photo

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The Ping-Pong Club

with one comment

And then, before it all began again, there was a club. A Ping-Pong Club, as it was called, and it did not show up on Google (perhaps not until now, with reference to the H. city) and few locals actually knew where it was, but most of the young people had at least heard of it. The club, so that you know, is open only during summers, only on Wednesday nights, and only from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. And yes, the most important thing to mention is that the club is only for friends, and sometimes for friends of friends. The password that you need to know – “J. ist dorf” – may be useless, as the real trial is to get there, to find your way, not very far from the city center, but in a semi-industrial zone, where hundreds of metal gates make it difficult to recognize the right gate, to know which parking lot to enter. As you go in, the barbed wire above your head, you see trucks lined up, and a few dozen bikes around the corner in front of a shabby house – this is your club. If you ever imagined that when you grow older, you’d have your own publishing house, your own bookshop, and bar, and movie theater, and university (did I forget anything from our dreams? A kindergarten in the backyard perhaps?), then this ping-pong club is part of our alternative bohemian dreams. This is the kind of club where the familiar becomes unfamiliar. At the beginning, the new comer takes baby steps into a large and colorful living room, as if entering the strange story written by Poe (the one with the red mask), and finding there as bartender the little man from Lynch’s movie. After half an hour, holding green Jever bottles in their hands, the newly arrived group of friends closely sitting together looks around and wonders “What’s the catch?”. The toilet – with flower bouquets in front of the mirror and hand creams for everyone’s use – makes you feel as if you’re an intruder into someone’s house who’s been so kind to leave the door open for you, but who’s never going to introduce herself to the guests. She simply enjoys having friends and half-strangers in her home-club, playing the “who’s who” game from a distance. And what’s left of the last open night in the Ping-Pong Club? A refreshing and lingering feeling of in-between-ness of a different sort than the one experienced in airports, transvestite clubs, subways, and other city places. It’s as simple and mysterious as that.

Written by Caprescu

septembrie 15, 2009 at 3:04 pm

Intre feminitate si feminism

with 15 comments

Nu am reusit niciodata sa inteleg reprezentantele tipului de feminism pe care il numesc „extremist”. Ma refer la creaturile care nu-si rad parul de sub picioare sau de sub brat, de teama ca asemenea actiuni le subjuga, cel putin la nivel simbolic, privirii agresive si chiar „violatoare” a barbatilor. Evident, tot ce tine de masculinitate le produce scirba, oroare, groaza. Daca sint artiste (contemporane, cum altfel?!) fac o „instalatie” cu un penis spinzurat de tavan: razbunarea ultima pentru veacuri si milenii de sclavie! Daca sint teoreticiene, iti vor demonstra cu incredibile salturi logico-mortale cum iubirea intre doua femei este evident mai pura decit dragostea heterosexuala – „pura” inclusiv la propriu, deci „curata” in alcov, intrucit nu sint implicate scirboasele lichide asociate „violului” (da, propriile-mi urechi au auzit o asemenea enormitate!). Iar „viol” inseamna desigur orice act sexual care implica un barbat. Daca sint membere ale unor ONG-uri implicate in „affirmative action” vor produce intilniri publice in care un penis imens din balon va fi dezumflat, altul imens de hirtie ars, si neaparat unul urias de lut decapitat.

Interesant este faptul ca, abordind agresivitatea pe care singure o declara drept „masculina”, intelegind sa preia calitati tipic masculine (par pe picioare si sub brat) sau haine considerate barbatesti (pantaloni, impreuna cu refuzul total al fustei si al rochiei), cel putin la nivel vizual feministele respective se transforma din victima in ceea ce ele identifica drept „calau”. In loc de a fi consistente in contestatia pe care inteleg sa o afirme extrem de violent, ele sfirsesc prin a prelua – repet, cel putin la nivel vizual – elementele simbolice ale obiectului contestat. Ca si cum am contesta ororile nazismului imbracati in uniforme de ofiter german si defilind pe strazi cu zvastica in frunte!

Si mai interesant este ca aceasta atitudine apare pe un fond mult mai larg al schimbarilor sociale (atit la nivel atitudinal cit si simbolic), in care barbatii insisi devin mult mai atenti cu propria imagine fizica. Tot mai mult barbati se rad sub brat (in fond, este un elemennt de igiena corporala, mai ales vara), merg la manichiurist(a), la saloane de spa, si asa mai departe. Atentia fata de propriul corp, astazi, nu se reduce neaparat la o reverenta umila in fata privirii sexului opus – desi nu vad nimic rau in a dori sa arati bine pentru prietenul sau prietena ta, pentru sotul sau sotia ta. Mai mult insa, ea poate insemna – in acelasi timp sau poate in primul rind – o incercare de a te simti bine in propriul corp. Este, in fapt, o revenire fericita la vechiul ideal grec, mens sana in corpore sano – daca ne educam mintea si o ridicam la nivel de doctorat, sa zicem, de ce sa nu aducem si corpul la acelasi nivel? De ce sa tinem doar la imaginea noastra intelectuala, cind o putem cultiva si pe cea fizica?

Iar daca acceptam cultivarea imaginii propriului corp (pentru noi insine si pentru cei ce dorim sa ne admire, sa ne iubeasca) atunci putem face un pas inainte in argumentul de fata, abordind deschis subiectul diferentelor simbolice si vizuale intre categoriile generale si vagi de „masculin” si „feminin”. Desigur ca asemenea deosebiri sint puternic fundamentate biologic si cultural. Biologic, intrucit pe parcursul evolutiei femeile si barbatii au capatat aptitudini diferite. Citeam undeva, de exemplu (imi pare rau ca nu imi amintesc unde) cum femeile sint mult mai atente la detalii aflate foarte aproape de ele intrucit, o lunga perioada de timp, au fost nevoite sa stea acasa si sa se ocupe de lucrurile din casa. Barbatii sint foarte slabi la atentia acordata detaliilor din jur, insa sint mult mai abili la orientarea in spatiul larg, la cititul si interpretarea hartilor, etc. (calitati necesare atunci cind barbatii plecau la vinatoare). Desigur, vorbim de generalitati si tendinte, nu de aptitudini existente in si exhibate de fiecare reprezentant al respectivului sex. Cultural, intrucit – pentru a lua un singur exemplu – obiectele de vestimentatie, precum rochia si fusta sint elemente tipic feminine in Occident, dar nu si in alte zone – iar pantalonii sint itemi prin excelenta masculini in acelasi spatiu, dar nu si in Orient.

In consecinta, faptul ca o femeie poarta fusta sau rochie nu poate fi interpretat decit cu rea-intentie si agresivitate drept un simbol al opresiunii al carei obiect ar fi ea. Este pur si simplu o diferenta culturala existenta intre termenii generali de „feminin” si „masculin”, la fel cum costumele populare difera de la o zona la asta: cu alte cuvinte, nimic opresiv aici. Cred ca asemenea diferente culturale trebuie cultivate, si nu distruse dintr-o atitudine politic corecta prost inteleasa, asa cum cere feminismul extremist. Cred ca diferentele simbolice intre „masculin” si „feminin” ar trebui pastrate (majoritatea femeilor pe care le-am intilnit, de pilda, nu ar accepta sa fie niciodata cu un barbat scund si slab – nu este ideea lor de „barbat”! – iar majoritatea barbatilor pe care i-am intilnit nu sufera femeile „baietoase”). In cadrul acestor diferente, evident ca cele vestimentare sint extrem de importante. A nu se intelege de aici ca sint impotriva purtarii pantalonilor de catre femei – dimpotriva, in multe combinatii vestimentare panntalonii pot emana feminitate. Insa fusta si mai ales rochia sint, prin excelenta, vectori ai elegantei tipic feminine.

campanie

Fotografia de mai sus a fost facuta in Bucuresti, in urma cu aproximativ trei saptamini. Site-ul www.petocuri.ro a lansat campania Poarta rochie! Fii feminina! Cred ca este un demers deopotriva inteligent si important, pe care am dorit sa il anunt si sa il sustin in consecinta. Desigur, sustinerea vine doar din partea mea, nu si din partea blogului (ceilalti autori pot avea evident cu totul alta opinie).

Written by Andrei Stavilă

septembrie 9, 2009 at 8:41 am