Thursday, April 14, 2005

Holiday at Osco

Do you have a place that you can easily visit and when you are there you feel southed? There is a combination of sensations there: light, sound, scenes, that feels good. You want to think of vacations, Pawley's Island or Kiawa if you are from the Southeast, or Cape Cod if you are from the Northeast, or a mountain top if you are from the Northwest, or the Great Lakes / Door County Wisconsin if you are from the Mid-west. Now that I live in the midwest I have to adjust to new concepts of places for holiday, not the drama of the coast, the cool attitude of the east or chill-out west. I learned that Dorr Country Wisconsin has a prestige and beauty in the imagination of people from Illinois. In my imagination it is flat and boring, on land and off. There is no difference between staying on the porch and looking at the view and actually participating in the water because the lake is also calm and flat. This is not the place for me, I need the water to feel different, especially salt on my skin, especially if it stays on until I scrub in a shower, and I need to feel weightless or excited by the possibility of drowning or swimming to the horizon, just swimming off. I am born in Portugal and I am sure that this is where I have my sense of adventure, love of sea, and why I stare at the horizon when I go to the coast.
Beyond this there is the everyday escape, the place to run off. For me it isn't always the memories of the coast. I like to visit Osco, the drugstore. Don't laugh, just remember what it is like to go there, or walk through with me. It has some components of a holiday... The soundtrack, I really like it, so that is one good sensation. The isles are neatly arranged, and especially the beauty section has lots of colours neatly arranged. I like the colors and the order, I feel calm. I like to look at them as possibilities. Would I like this, who would I be if I wore this bright purple eyeshadow... whom would I want to see that identity. The lighting is florescent, but not so bad. I can satisfy a need there, find what I want and probably it is reasonably priced. It feels good there. It is my escape place.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Spring has come in Illinois, and I am thinking of some warm weather rituals. Vincek is the place for the creamiest, most flavorful ice cream (sladoled) in Southeastern Europe. It is on Ilica west of the trg in Zagreb. I went there for a scoop of chocolate and banana on warm Saturday afternoons, on the way home from coffee. I think food helps mark seasons and times and moods.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Borders and Spaces

Visiting Houston last weekend reminded me of the tension of a border. I don't mean the Mexican cuisine or Spanish language on top of English, we have that here in the mid-west, too, and we're far from a border. The influence is now part of US culture. And the influence is different everywhere. What I felt in Houston was the feeling of a borderland. The ocean, the legal border, it is all right there. A friend told me the border is a short bus ride away. Another country is over there. Do you know what is exciting about a border? Do you know what it means? A border is a geographic sign, it is a metaphor for travelling, for what could be, for choices about change or not. A border tells me that I have arrived somewhere. Yes, you have travelled as far south as you can go. You have achieved something. Sit and rest. There is a tension. It also tells me, you have gone this far, and now it is time to turn around and go home. Or I can keep pushing and go into another territoriy, but that is taking things to an extreme. The border tells me where I am. I brush up against it, and I feel its pressure. I like it, it feels reassuring, I know where I am, I am on this side of the border, and I know where I am not, which is in Mexico or the interior of the USA. I am somewhere special, I am on the border. I live on the edge but I know I am somewhere.
There are no borders in my midwestern city. I am far from Canada or Mexico or a body of water, or even anther state. I don't know where I am. When should I stop, why am I here, and what am I supposed to do here. The only sign is the sun, its shadow, and I only know where east and west are. I am in the middle of east and west. The shadow looks the same in Houston, too, but it doesn't mean the same, because I know I am somewhere, not in the middle of other places. The only reason the shadows and the sun give me for staying, they don't give me any. I have to make up roots here to resist the wind. In the border, I don't have to do that, because the border will prevent me from flying away. All the existential questions and answers are taken care of by the border. I like the assuredness of it. I can enjoy it. I know I am somewhere, a destination. I like borderlands. I lived in Croatia, a borderland, and I liked the cozyness of five countries and the ocean and rivers tucking me in to the place.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Food and Memory

My Aunt Carla asked me during my trip to BA in January if I remembered anything from my first trip to BA about twenty five years ago. I said, well I remember Aunt Mila's house and I remember Baka sitting in her chair at that house and I remember eating soup there, and I remember my cousins Tomi and Vlado and Jure and their turtle Pinky. Then a few days later, I walked into a bakery with my mom and Gabi, my cousin. I looked through the display case at the cakes and cookies. And the whole experience of the trip at age five came back to me... The wonder of a foreign place and meeting my parents's sisters and my grown-up cousins, after living with just us in the USA, in a small town in green Kentucky, and here we are now in a city with buildings that went up forever and avenues and streams of cars that went on forever. My mom telling me in the car not to talk while my Dad is driving, becuase we almost got into a wreck, this never could happen at home. My brother and sister seeming to get it better than I. So much new stuff... I remember the beach at Marciquita (?) - was that my first beach, the first time I saw the ocean? The beach was so wide, and I wasn't permitted in the cold water, of course. I remember the sand everywhere, and my cousin's house there, and preparing and eating Asado...
I felt when I was there in January similar. Now those cousins live in the USA, in our town in Kentucky and San Francisco, and in Zagreb, in Croatia, in Europe! But I'm the one in BA now. I'm just with my mom, this time the visit is about her ageing mother, not my Dad's, she passed away when I was 13. I hardly knew what to say to my Dad that day when I was raking leaves and he came into the yard and told me my Baka Katica died, and then returned to the house. I have her name and I only knew my grandmother from metting her once. I didn't know what I felt about this half stranger, half namesake, and I couldn't imagine what could my Dad feel. I wonder now what my Mom said to him to comfort him. I'm sorry I couldn't miss my Grandmother that day, it would have to wait until 2003 when we re-buried the urns of my Grandmother and my Grandfather in Croatia. I cried during that ceremony, so did my Dad. I was sad that I missed out on knowing her, and I was sad for my Dad that he lived away from her for so long, and sorry that his mother died, that he was an orphan, and that wars had changed their lives so much, it must have changed relationships, too. Feeling in my heart a lingering lack of faith in the future, an assurance that the worst will happen.
But on my Mom's side it isn't so. This time what is new is the teasing and laughing between my Aunt and my Mom, ganging up on Abuela. How Gabi is just like my Mom, go-go-go. How I feel good every time my Aunt looks at me, how I feel understood. How I know this time it is different, and next time I can feel different for my Mom and for me. That lingering lack of faith seems less relevant, and all the tenses of time less unsure.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005