How weird to be back in a city again. I have to say, going to the city life in Amsterdam and Utrecht right after my week on the tiny island of Jersey really heightened the experience for lots of reasons. In Jersey, though I felt very physically ostracized and out of place with the bike riding (who knew there were laws with bikes), quiet atmosphere, reserved conversations, and terrifying earthquakes that were really windstorms, I felt remarkably at peace and comfortable. Each thought was a fantastic conversation and I felt like the world could be lived more simply than I had even imagined. On top of the location, I spent the afternoons and evenings with my Scottish friend Susan and her boyfriend Gary. They are figuring out how to live together, and I watched them call each other out for not getting the oil for the heat, dance in pajamas, and veg out with tv, wine, and chocolate after a long work day. I laughed with Susan as she planned out her simple wedding and then laughed harder when she brought it up casually around Gary. She would say yes if he asked, she nudged and he laughed as well. They are in love in this adorably domestic way, a way I only pretended to know in my past relationships.
Thoughts on Jersey.
Susan took the day off so we decided to cycle to a cafe on the west coast of the island for lunch. She knew about some old railroad trail that was supposed to be a pretty ride so we set off to explore it. We missed the trail somewhere along the way and ended up on the cliffs with the most beautiful view of the ocean I’ve ever seen and completely forgot we had been looking for a trail.
I woke up early on Sunday because I wanted to do something different than Wadenswil. I headed to the station and hopped on the fast train to Luzern. When I arrived I headed to old town. I only had a few hours and I wasn’t really sure where to go, so I started walking until I came to the lake and the bridge that leads to old town.
Location: Kunst Haus Museum, Zurich
“The music of expressionism and contemporary art exhibit”
Going with Hedi Ernst (http://www.arthke.com) turned a typical touristy museum day into an in depth art lesson on German and French expressionism. Hedi explained how expressionism took flight in Europe and how to see the art in a way I hadn’t before. She encouraged me to avoid thinking about what the artist intended and focus instead on what it brings up personally. That’s the point, she argued. A good work of art has different meanings. It’s personal to everyone. I always enjoyed fauvism and Impressionism in painting, but Hedi made me think of it in entirely different way. As she showed me the progression of style, I saw the leaps each artist made and could appreciate the risks. They allowed themselves to do things differently: they used different brush strokes and colors that don’t exist in reality to create an emotion that does exist in the mind. It reminded me of Luis Borges, the first author to write magical realism. In both cases, the artist gives himself the right to bring something from their imagination (third eye, whatever) into the material world. It gives it this universal meaning because everyone’s connected on that invisible level.
Stanley is from Sudan. When he approached us, we told him we didn’t speak Spanish to avoid him. He switched his language to English and said, “Please, I speak English too. I implore you to help me.” We hesitated for a minute, and Alysse handed him a euro.
“Thank you so much,” he said, and he slumped his shoulders and took the euro with appreciation and guilt. I couldn’t help myself, “What’s your name?” I asked. His name is Stanley.
We meet again, Rome. Rome, with your dangerously unpaved roads and cobblestone alleys that look straight but are actually circles that dead end or lead to more circles that laugh at your lost travellers in the dark as they struggle through the streets with broken suitcases. Rome, with your fast-paced civilians and lightening speed bicycles zipping in and out of the throngs of nameless tourists and locals never looking back at the unintended chaos they’ve created. Rome, with your gray skies and heartless cold, foggy streets under flickering lampposts rolling hauntingly beneath brown and red apartments with all of the windows shut up. Rome, with your limited technology limiting communication and unreliable transportation rendering us unable to penetrate the city walls, trapping us in the interior as the rest of the world goes on wondering and I, unable to communicate and alone find myself powerless to the confines of my own loneliness. But who was that person then?