Friday, May 10, 2019

Mad Meg and a Memory, Between Brussels, Antwerp, Here, There and Everywhere

Bruegels' Mad Meg vanquising foes, real and  imagined 

Scenes of the old City Center and Elfde Gobod on Torfbrug 

It was hard leaving Romania. 
Plans between the three of us –flights, life details, schedules can tricky.
We don’t  worry about the details.
We do what we can do. 
We take what we can  get.
Which tends  to  be  a yearly trip.  
Into a mystery.
But  we never know where its coming.
Rob had been in  Romania for days, exploring the Transylvanian myths, learning about Vlad the Impaler, exploring Dracula’s castle, as I was going to do with  him.
But Easter was late, pushing break well past the Spring. 
A few  hours  later, I made my way to the airport.
The plane full of Romanian handball players horsing around on our  flight to Poland.
All those black and  white sweat suits, like the  Olympics all those years ago.
When Nadia was king,
catapulting through history.
Perfect 10 in ’76.
Silver medal in Moscow 1980.
Obsolete at 23.
Dark days.
Leaving her country in ’89,
Months before the Revolution.
"“Romanians have a saying, 'Not every dog has a bagel on its tail,'”
Explained Comaneci.
“ It means that not all streets are paved with gold. When I began my career, I just wanted to do cartwheels.”
Romania left us wondering,
Feeling the  same way. 
Running  away from New York, Bruce Benderson found himself there making new friends,  doing a few cartwheels  of his own.
“Of course, a blow job given in friendship isn't the most arousing, but it stays in the memory longer,” he wrote after a short stay,  tracing the outlines of a new novel, The Romanian: Story of an Obsession.
The feeling  lingers.
Sad to leave it.    
I thought looking at the handball team on the  flight, 
Talking about Nadia with coaches.
The  team
Snapping photos  of each other.
Leaving me to dream on the way to
Alive  and  bawdy.
Sex and  art on  the edges, 
As  a  good city needs,
High dancing with  low.
Cultures colliding, 
People sleeping in the train  station. 
Spray paint on  the walls: 
“Leave us alone,  signed the girls.”
 “Vulva La Revolution”
Overlapping flavors.
History here there.
Colonial pasts. 
World Wars.
An migration mix.
Bodies everywhere.
“I feel good. Going back to Romania to see my mom,” noted a friend at the station,
On the way to Antwerp from Gare De Nord.
Visiting  friends.
Reading  Master and Margarita,
sympathy for the devil.
Moscow Magic realism.
Northern Masters, Memling, Bruegel, Jan van Eyck, Roger van der Weyden,
Just outside a majestic train station in the Antwerp.
High art and low.
Building on each.
Bruegel the Elder’s Dulle Griet, or Mad Meg, a figure of Flemish folklore, a 1563 oil-on-panel.
A collective memory,
Battling demons,
Chasing enemies
Inside  and  out.
Real and imagined.
a looming reality or a bad dream,
a collective memory or a fantasy.
Her sword drawn.
A mystery.
After encountering her, I am lost.
Wandering Antwerp,
Through streets.
Past a Cathedral,
Into the vine covered Elfde Gobod on Torfbrug.
Just a coffee please.
Past a bookstore.
Past red lights,
Workers in windows.
Walking Roberto Bolaño’s Antwerp,
“I wrote this book for the ghosts, who, because they're outside of time, are the only ones with time… time isn't the only thing that matters, time isn't the only source of terror. Pleasure can be terrifying too, and so can courage.”
Contending with something else,
A feeling that  accompanies Roberto:
“a secret sickness called Lisa. Like all sicknesses, it's miserable and it comes on at night.”
And even during the day.
Back to Brussels
Onto the subway,
Back to the street car.
Meeting James for a final drink off Subway Louise.
Before making  my way back home.
I already miss it.
Passing through as so many others have done.
Suns up, and off we  go, through Warsaw, West, West,  West.
Back to Brooklyn.
See you next year Jamesy!

Time for a Tyskie and pierogis on an unexpected layover in Warsaw. The road offers countless surprises. Sometimes good, as long as I make my flight.

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