immortal thighs [chronicles of infection, 2017四月]

For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one. – Khalil Gibran

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A few weeks ago it happened. I had been sitting down for a long time at my desk, neck muscles beginning to cramp up, stomach growling for food. No, that‘s not correct. Memory be damned, especially after 35. I think I was sitting in our bean bag, an ugly multiple-colored specimen which my gf does not approve of at all [our is an euphemism, it‘s mine, my aesthetic irresponsibility]. Nor do I use it all that often, it might be headed for the attic, come to think of it.

Anyway, there I sat, reading I suppose, but hunger or munchies or the siren-call of my metabolism eventually won out and, cat-eager, I catapulted myself out of the gravity-well of those tens of thousands of beans and, just for fun, took off at a canter towards the kitchen [a right and then a left]. I almost got there. But before I did, darkness descended.

Cinematically a black curtain [filled with whirling, luminous floaters] came down from somewhere along the lower edge of my forebrain. All motility fled my legs as I buckled backwards towards the doorframe of the living room [somehow I had missed the kitchen by a continued step straight ahead instead of a smooth turn left]. The curtain descended further to below the equator of my eyeballs.

Death! The thought struck me lucidly, a counterpoint to the encroaching blackness. I am dying, so this is it. I thought utterly unpoetic drivel. The moment was too brief and final to allow for any social or romantic concerns [What about my loved ones? What beautiful last words for my beloved? What will be my shitty legacy?], much less a biopic synopsis to obtrude. In fact, it was so short that there wasn‘t even any violence of emotion. I didn‘t exactly fight the long night. Just a calm, even sedate realization that my life ends in the course of a childish, meaningless dash to the kitchen. A disturbingly drama-free The End.

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Then however, my back slammed into the doorframe. A solid wooden upright, a post, a pillar that held the door in place and, who knows, maybe even the wall above it. Let us contemplate for a moment the gods of structural engineering [is that the term for it?]. Ok, enough.

My thighs tightened up, refusing to give in to gravity‘s tug, a ceaseless annoyance I‘ve had to deal with these last 38 years. It seemed my legs didn‘t at all want to die. Maybe they wanted to go for a run later or something, though it was snowing outside. But what the devils do they know! They tightened, shoved the rest of my body against the frame. If I had slid down, that would‘ve been the end of me. I was heartened by the fact that my body was not as spineless as my mind.

Anyway, all this exertion, this brainless pumping of blood and activating of muscles, finally rallied some of my animal spirits, the better half of my nature I would say. The curtain slowly lifted and the living room hove into view, a good place for literature and youtube and distracted daydreaming.

I was not yet going to die.

Then I stood up and went to the kitchen for a snack, most likely an apricot quark. It didn‘t taste any different than usual.

 

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[not mine!]

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Ningues [Chron. of Dis/Inf., jan17]

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January 5th and it finally feels like winter proper: snow, minimal, but still definitely that white stuff that has no business down here in the cities; swirling flurries that cut your vision short and make you regret riding your bicycle without ski goggles, regret that there’s no bike version of snow mobiles; children wasting their precious homework hours outside building snow… snowpeople (could be a woman, could be a man) with the itty little bit of the stuff that’s available in these climate-changed times; an overpowering urge to stay inside and enjoy the benefits of indoor heating, light and having a cooker; a sense of blessedness for not enjoying any winter sport and instead reading up on good literature; a faint nostalgia for the beach which will turn into rigorous shunning of same by mid-july; all the hibernal sentiments basically.

How many times can one write about winter? An infinite number of times, sadly or happily, depending on mood swings [of which there seem to be plentiful] and weather patterns [getting more freakish by the annum]. This might start creating the impression that the wintry season puts me in a poetic mood, that like that french guy, in the depths of winter i discovered some eternal summer of the soul. But I haven’t. I keep rediscovering [like a gadfly busting it’s head for the n-th time against a window] that no matter how freakishly healthy one might be during the rest of the year, some bloody virus will lay your behind low come december, january, february. As well as your [my] feverish dreams of immortality.

And you wake up one morning feeling helpless as a babe and forty years older and at the hands of an ungrateful bastard of a body. With a jolt it seems like the chronological halfway point of winter is a very theoretical construct and that in fact you are stuck in the dead middle.

Personally speaking, i also always have the creeping sense that whatever illness I have come down with is not nearly as bad as I make myself believe it is. Meaning I could go to work, I could go to the gym, I could rise at a decent hour. To make this perception worse, there is the associated feeling that other people pick up on my sense of hypochondry or maladic fraudulence or whatnot….and that they subsequently don’t really feel i deserve any type of special patient-grade attention that could potentially save me from a further complication of my illness [pneumonia?] but that, instead, they now in a show of forced goodwill are obliged to play along and also make-believe that I am very sick [e.g. make a cup of tea] when, actually, I just have a slight cold. Around noon, when the vertigo, sickness and headache kick in properly, these self-conscious fantasies usually disappear into germ-infested air. Just to reappear in the evening, when all of the day’s torpor and head-clutching and doddering gait yet again seem exaggerated and ridiculous and, perhaps above all, needy in an infantile way that fits in badly with a hard-earned sense of adulthood [paying bills, going through tax forms, establishing a hierarchy of folders, buying milk and vegetables, etc.]. In my case.   

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What a powerful, sublime juxtaposition. Of course there have been other Hitler experts, Kershaw and Ullrich come to mind, but make one up and transport him backwards in time to such a pre-loaded year: what a coup! And what a jibe to the Humanities; you make up disciplines as you go along, don’t you? Then cut to a maximum blast of everydayness.

 

¡™¢∞

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A Geological approach VS the Post-Factual stance [Chronicles of Dis/Infection, Nov2016]

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In a certain limited, metaphorical sense, this seems to me the oppsite of the most recent age that is being declared. Maybe not declared by scientists who put in their vote for the Anthropocene, nor by frothing-at-the-mouth religious types who are convinced of the nighness of the End of Days but by the always-amusing apostles of the social sciences, the media and pop-culture. A mixed bunch.

This newest era the latter, eclectic peer-group is referring to has been christened The Post-Factual Age. It combines the information flood, the lack of or unwillingess for or incompetence in analysis/scrutiny with the over-powering imperative of the Postmodern Ego‘s Holy Opinion. Other factors are probably involved too, such as Fake News, etc.

The way the PFA is being described by commentators points out a general disinterest in or even ignorance of the facts [Facts in the debatable sense of what the Associated Press, the UNO and other hegemonic institutions publish].  In the Post-Factual Age, the prime examples of which are televised political debates and click-bait articles on free news-outlets, what one source states is taken to be as valid as what another states; regardless of their competence in the subject under consideration. Who evokes this impression? Politicians (the Brexit debate, the US presidential campaign 2016), publicists (20min, fox news, etc), people in positions of public standing that should be considerably more interested in factual truth production than they make the impression. [Given the fact that this topic is deserving of much more in-depth references, I, ironically perhaps, refer you to this]

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Experts are one more caste of Opinionators. Science is Fiction and Science Fiction is fact. The difference between the New York Times and the New York Post is literally a single word. And what was once a debate with more and less valid arguments, with sources, with authoritative experts, with facts and counter-factual scenarios, even hard-assed epistemological debates, has devolved into a serial stating of incommensurable opinions where only the preservation of the ego‘s perfect integrity in the face of facts it might find to its disliking is the uppermost objective. Nobody can possibly know anything more than anybody else, google it. [ ….tough, I must admit, that often times, at least in my experience, one titanium-grade Wiki-fact can also settle an argument.]

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Compare this, if you will, to the above quote. Here the examination of rock strata is the foundation of knowledge. Not that it is incontestable but that you have to grab your shovel and spade and hydraulic excavator and dust brush to make a hole in the very ground beneath your feet to find out what might be true or not. One needs to open the great book of earth itself and read its strata, its fossils, its aeons of calcified detritus. The facts will be presented by mother earth herself in the form of hard stone and visible strata.

And what emerges? An irreducibly complex historicity, a full archive of fossils, not something one can click through at one‘s leisure to find the hyperlink to one‘s preferred version of the truth. Here there is something rock solid, while everything that is ego melts into air. [You can hear me laugh diabolically as my rant hits a new pitch!]

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So when we hear the siren calls of the Post-factual Era, the time of Hyper Normalisation, we are perhaps well-advised to remember previous epochs of knowledge production, such as the time when Geology was dug from its depths. Perhaps great antiquity and the majesty of slow and profound processes might give us the time to pause and consider how we wish to go about gaining access to the truths of the Anthropocene.

Peace out.

 

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A Spot of Tennis [nov 2016]

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The depressing thing about tennis is that no matter how good I get, I’ll never be as good as a wall. – Mitch Hedberg

 

 

After two decades and change of having given up on practicing the sport, I finally gave tennis a new spin yesterday. Like almost everybody else, I gave up on the racket and feltball for the perfectly valid reason of being abysmal at it. Tennis, being online or on TV every given day, entices by being a highly attractive sport to watch with larger-than-everyday demigod athletes doing battle on the glorious, immaculate, UHD courts of the ATP pantheon.

 

You watch tennis and immediately become immersed, though only vicariously, in its aura of gobsmacking athletic excellence and precision ball movement. Those velvety felt spheres, those gleaming carbon instruments of top-spin destruction. Who wouldn’t want to have a go at this resplendent sport?

 

The come-down is then standing on an actual carpet hard-court, holding a racket and trying one’s very best to A) actually hit the ball instead of flail at empty air B) not hit it into the ground directly C) not kathwerk the felt fiend haplessly into the net D) not to torpedo said ball into yonder fields beginning a good dozen meters behind the service line E) not lobbing it across the net in the very high arc of an octogenarian tennis mummy.

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All of these four basic-seeming objectives are rather difficult to achieve and, numerically, already suggest that the average beginner will only be able to initiate the tender beginnings of a rally one times in five. And that even then it will be on the level of a soft, pathetic, milque-toast shot which looks as though one were playing tennis, ideologically speaking, under a communist regime where the main goal [as per the dictatorship of the proletariat] is to share the ball equably, rather than to gain any positional advantage within the on-going exchange. Let alone to grab as large a share as possible of the means of [point-]production for oneself.

So, yes, Tennis is a marvelously difficult sport.

 

However, I’ve been watching it so intensely for the last five or six years, forming multifarious opinions on the panoply of world-class players and their styles of play, reading sparkling pieces of prose by Wallace and that other English Gentleman [who ended up not writing a book on it, ah, yes, Dyer!], listening to my good friend’s foray into the sport that, at long last, exasperated me to the degree that I decided to buy a racket. At a discount. Which again, as should be obvious, is a long shot from actually making for a court with balls and game face. It took more than a year to magically arrive at that point.

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    From a personal perspective, Tennis is also always the sport that has been casting a long shadow over my own favorite among racket games: badminton. Though the former has garnered much more global acclaim, it is the latter which, to make the old metaphorical workhorse do an extra mile, is more democratic. The equipment costs less, the courts are more affordable and so is club membership. Nor does it frustrate one’s early efforts with a perversely high degree of difficulty. Within no time, rallies of a decent length  and with some appreciable degree of fun begin to occur. At the professional level, the sheer speed, athleticism and deceptiveness [trick shots!] of the world-class shuttler makes this sport, in my shambolic opinion, quite a bit more attractive than tennis. Except that the dearth of camera angles and absence of all-around spectacle diminish its attractiveness for the casual viewer, as well as the ardent fan [such as myself].

 

At any rate, the hitting session [if it can be called such], went reasonably well. Much fewer balls than expected opted for A, B, C or D, leading to mini rallies from the beginning. Rallies absent of pace, power or placement, I hasten to add. Still, contrary to my expectations, I did break a sweat. Not just from the bit of running that was done, but also from wielding around such a mighty racket. I must say, swinging a big old scythe of carbon&string hither and tither is a very pleasing sensation, even if the balls do not at all comply with one’s mental trajectory. Apart from the hitting, what seems the most difficult aspect to begin with is body placement. I found myself perpetually in the wrong spot: either the ball was almost smacking me in the noggin and I had to bring the racket up as a pure measure of self-defense. Or the low bounce on the carpet [there is always somebody else to blame, even a lowly carpet] left the ball with so little altitude and coming down so early for its disastrous second bounce, that often a time I found myself lounging sideways and/or forward to even just get the string-bed to connect with the felt; no matter what might happen thereafter.

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Fortunately, my good friend and otherwise badminton partner SPD had precious pieces of advice for me to try to eliminate the worst of my shortcomings so that our playing session wouldn’t be entirely reduced to ball retrieving.

Speaking of which. Given amateur level there is the curious matter of the court eventually becoming ever more perilous because dotted by balls all over the place. And players running out of balls to serve and play with. So that one finds oneself, at the latest after every third rally, scurrying around the rectangle, either neutralizing danger spots by expediting balls to the back of the court or pocketing them for up-coming serves [into the net]. At any rate, I do wish to pursue my new found racket misadventures for the foreseeable future. I cannot think of a better age than 38 to finally kick off one’s glorious tennis career. Especially after being gifted D. Wallace’s String Theory….

 

 

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Room temperature circumbendibus [Chron. of D/I, sep2016]

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come back believer in shade believer in silence and elegance believer in ferns believer in patience believer in the rain – w. s. merwin

Last week a message reached me on my phone. Many messages reached me but this one was very different. The message had travelled from another brain to its fingers, which had touched the screen to form it into a string of symbols and spaces, thence it took to the air, antennas and satellites got involved, I assume, it bounced into  the lower bounds of outer space… when it breached the ionosphere, did it seem like it might yet reach me? Couldn‘t it be that a spectral copy of this message fled out into deep space where one day someone on a remote planet on a far day will receive it in wonder and incomprehension?

It turned back or it was turned back by an object travelling at 28 kilometers per second. Imagine that for a few seconds and already you‘re in a far-away city. Further antennas? Today‘s word of the day truly applies: circumbendibus: a roundabout way; circumlocution.

It eventually alighted in my dumbphone where it caused vibrations. Vibes these days are no longer good vibrations nor emitted by people at parties, they are in pants‘ pockets, a manifestation of the will to communicate. I read that my mother has been taken to the hospital sick. She‘s at the advanced age where such a message sounds, at the very least doleful if not outright foreboding. Shucks, the day hath come and I‘m not prepared at all: emotionally, administratively, financially! …quoth me. So the bad feelings blend with a creeping panic and I can hear Lenin in a breaking voice: what is to be done?

The details are not so relevant, what matters is that it ended up being nothing serious. Unpen the first fumbling lines of the eulogy why don‘t you. She ended up in the ER but as a precautionary measure not because of any hideous, irreversible trauma. Pheeeeeeew, with a stress on that eeeeee part.

When I finally got to the hospital I only just asked for Mabona: 12, 64. They probably do not but I‘m under the impression that my parents always wind up in that particular room. I‘ll have to start keeping a record, I mean, something more reliable than my gut-memory.

However, when I opened the door, instead, it was my father [not a paragon of brimming health himself] seated by the window, studying his aged hands. Or perhaps the sky for unidentifiable objects, I don‘t remember with any precision. We make these things up as we go along, backwards in memory I mean, don‘t we? Be that as it was. He turned around at me in surprise, mirroring mine. He had had a medical emergency too? Why was he not down in Nephrology? Hooked up to the impressive artificial liver? The explanation of course was simple: they couldn‘t leave the rusty dialysis patient home alone. Thus they had simply appointed him a room, something that can only be considered simple within the formidable parameters of swiss health care.

My mum was downstairs, in the ER. Some of the earlier alarm trickled back. Why was she still down there? A suspected infection. My anglophone-media-trained reading mind immediately jumped to the scenario of midnight bacteria, a blissful exception hereabouts. Still, I couldn‘t just go inside. I was given a fullbody antiviral gown, green rubber gloves a gauze face mask. And attired like-so, with moving images of Outbreak and Contagion racing through my head, I went to say Hello to the Mums.

The gauze muffled my voice and the rubber muted the touch of our hands. All distances in our universe tend towards the infinite.

Surely there must be words for that sense of outlandishness that overcame me at that moment there, right next to & sealed off from my sick mother, but I‘m afraid they won‘t come to me.

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It is different now, the person I love is not next to me but in the city next. Our cities cannot even scratch each other‘s backs. No big deal it should be, the distance, the very, very temporary separary*; just a once a week exception occasioned by her site of studies. Sit and study, Art herstory. Yet with a tad of bad… conscience and a bit of bathos, I feel the emptiness at my flank. It‘s not an emptiness, there is regular room-temperature air. That standard air however should be displaced by the warm, lovely body of my beloved. Maybe that‘s why it feels a little colder instead, the ambient air.
I want to reach out and touch her, simple, to converse with her in our alphabet of caresses. Or lean over to plant a kiss, be a plant watered by kisses. Kiss or be kissed. The elementary gestures of love that have come to be our everyday nutrients.
Funny thing it is: here I am, an alleged adult and after a single day of distance from my significant other, beLoved 1, I can already fell pangs. Thirst for her, Nomhle, who makes me whole. It is crazy, nutso, madness, water deprivation this sense of incompletion, the thirst&hunger pang of absence, the miss of kiss that overwhelms me in the space, the awayness of 24 hours only!
I mustn‘t be ridiculous, I mustn‘t belittle my sensations either. I can miss but I shouldn‘t dismiss. I must acknowledge both either and or. Must be patient like the fern at room temperature. Such is one of the states of being in love, of this folly of having found a better half and not having her around.

[Listening to Studio Ghibli Piano is not making matters iota one easier.]

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Isola Farniente & back again [Chronicles of Dis/Infection, jul2017]

Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.

– sam keen

I like the word ‘indolence’. It makes my laziness seem classy.

– bernard williams

 

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As much as I’d like to call my partner in amore my designated “native companion” [the one with all the emic inside knowledge one consults when one doesn’t wish to end up in the multi-cultural stewing pot], the most i can honestly call her is the assignated “linguistic companion”, the one that helps me not to make a total fudge of everyday communicative tasks, such as ordering a simple tramezzino. The destinations? Isola Elba and Firenze.

 

The first was an asymmetrical compromise between her stated wish of frying times on an Italian spiaggia and my half-hearted wish to either check out Ferrante’s stomping grounds [which, if you’ve so much as read the first 100 pages of the tetralogy is an urge that rises from the very pits of your literary guts] or pass a sweltering week in SPQR [one has to admit that a sojourn in the Godmother of cities in the middle of july is a very hard proposition to defend if one isn’t a southern sudanese type, or the like]. Despite my metropolitan leanings, I was enticed by the possibility of an island. The second destination, Firenze, was as consensual as coitus. The Moms had been harping since the birth of our brood of siblings about the many unrivalled, supernal beauties of the city of flowers [and super narrow streets and, not least, Medici].

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So then chronologically.

 

Just an hour out of Lucerne we came across a strange irony, though i’m not even quite sure which word to properly apply: instead of entering the newly constructed 700 gazillion Francs supertunnel [longest of the world, national pride showpiece], we gently curved up and over its opening and onto the old [now ancient] tracks up into the Alps, namely Goeschenen, thence Airolo. After having been treated all year long to a media and advertising extravaganza about this Helvetic construction masterpiece, which it took over two decades to….bore! [and who advertises a public transport tunnel anyway?!], instead of bloody using it, we just left it by the railside as the grey-red Trenitalia climbed its usual serpentine tracks into the mountains.

 

The ChangeOver in Milano Centrale adequately echoed the latest issue of “The Spiegel”: Ferien der Angst [Vacation of Fear]. To be honest, yours truly generally comes down on the anxious side, however, I haven’t quite fell off the neurotic cliff with this whole the Summer of Terrorism thing. However, Nomhle was fairly hopping on a hot wire when we arrived in Milano, darting her azzuro-marroni irises left and right in search of every- and anybody w a beard and/or a suspiciously unattended suitcase. So we decided to dash over to the connecting platform, the trouble being that M. C is a full-stop station [or whatever] and that TrenItalia does this thing where they don’t announce a train’s platform until, like, 5 minutes before its departure. So as to better get in the country’s spirit of mad last-minute dashes, one may assume. Anyway, we sidled through the station crab-like.

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In Monza, as we cruised through slowly, nearly flaunting a vacational lassitude, in this city of Senna’s departure stood a naked concrete high-riser, unfinished and emboldened by scaffolding, defying the need to accommodate human shapes.

 

Already by the time we got to Piombino, on the Italian West Coast, the weather was agreeably sweltering. The local train was not a beauty but not nearly as beat-up as I had imagined it. The seats being some hard blue material, hard on the eyes, that is intended to minimize all the fun in vandalism by way of an anti-spectacular canvas.

 

A nice guy in his 50s helped us find the correct jetty for the traghetti [ferry]. His Italian was quite followable, even for a beginner and he sprinkled it liberally with “cazzo”, again, it seemed, to make sure we understood where we’d arrived. He even informed us about the wind conditions on the island and what they meant to beaches and the seaside. Then, in a mood of camaraderie, I pulled out the EU card and the man was off and racing, his Italian soaring to C2 altitudes, laced with working-class venom. It was both incomprehensible and beautiful.

 

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The ferry was straight out of “A supposedly Fun Thing…”, with a sleek 1980/90s modernist look [edgy, sharp angled], slanted backwards like a blade to cut apart air and water, in white, yellow and blue. For a little while I wondered why it was so phenomenally huge but once it docked into port it spewed forth a vile stream of cars and campers. Many of them hailing from our motherland. Many others of Oranje provenience [a people constantly in search of locales where sandwiches are not the exclusive staple food]. It jetted across the Isthmus in a sprinterly 30 minutes, making the Mediterranean seem like another concrete road. This was a remote yelp from what I had imagined the crossing to be [influenced by a trip to Robben Island]: wave- and wind-tossed on a small barge, with the stomach’s contents remaining put being somewhat iffy.

The only thing that threatened one’s gastrointestinal buonessere [well-being] on the behemothal barge were the numberless TV screens, which presented an undifferentiated medley of extremely old-school food- and beverage advertisements. One of them, I shit you not beloved reader, was a Coca Cola advertisement from the 1940s [at the latest] presented with not even a smidgen of irony in sight. The hand holding aloft the Coke bottle had probably only just returned from duty on the Western Front; the missing rest of the body having been taken out by an on-target Kraut grenade.

 

Then Isola Elba, Portoferraio. Another horrid belch of cars, immediately infiltrating the pot-holed arteries of the isle. The island is small but not nearly as tiny as we’d miscalculated [e.g. we’d be able to cycle across it in a good day]. The cabdriver took us across the many arid, brush-choked ridges and ravines to the southern coast of Elba [Marina di Campo]. Our holiday house was a nice white country thing for 4 parties, maybe 500 meters land inwards from the beach. That first day we went down into village along the dried out river-bed, crossing a tiny bridge while trying not to get struck by passing cars and motorcycles, to rent two high-end mountainbikes at low-end prices. The handle-bars were wide like bullhorns, lending a very enjoyable sense of ultra-control; plus the gear-stuff was, surprisingly, at XT level.

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    The next day we took on the intermediate challenge of pedalling up the winding road to the next “mountain” village, where awaited: absolutely nothing. A calm little Inn where a bumbling teen served up a lovely Spritz. We tried to reach the next spiaggia by bike trail with the intention of staying isoaltitudinous for a while. There was an abandoned soccer pitch on the outcrop of a ridge overlooking the Mediterranean from on high, the field only dust with remainders of brown lawn sticking out, goals in shambles, suggesting that the last match had been played many decades ago. And that the village’s soccer youth is not particularly high up on Isola Elba’s budgetary list.

 

    Eventually we ran into an interesting figure: an elderly man only in black shorts and black sandals, made exclusively from sinew and roast-brown skin. He’d become a bit lost much as we had and heavily advised against continuing down the steep trail we were engaged on. So we backtracked along with him. The guy had tracked up with nothing, no backpack, no shirt, no handy, no wallet, nothing to drink. His key statement “La mia moglie si in cazera da mati quando ritornero” [My wife’ll be mad when I come back home]. He’d been on his way for over two hours but he wanted to make San Pierro di Campo before returning. As soon as the terrain became intermediately steep, to my astonishment, he fell into a long-loped run which just about matched our measly pace on the mountainbikes [we were a bit spent, in our defense]. Our ways split and he jogged out of sight. We made down the hillside only for a short while before dismounting our rides, Umde unhappily behind me. The trail had shrivelled to a tiny bushpath bordered on either side by all the world’s thorny vegetation. She made mention of snakes. The sand and the dust deposited on the rocks made it seem like one was constantly one false step away from braining the back of one’s skull. Eventually and still in good time, we made it to the Spiaggia, where sun-blessed happiness patiently had awaited us. The ride home offered a spectacular view from a steep-plunging cliffside road onto the dazzling blue-diamond sparkle of the Mediterranean. The road back was downhill free flight.

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    In the course of the week we tried a number of beaches, none of them farther than we could reach with a decent bike-ride and without a sun-stroke. The one called Fonza intrigued mostly by its approach. You left the village by the hindside [at the far end of the massive, central beach where people seemed to top out on sunshine like human dollops of spam], crossed a little bridge and rode towards the camping grounds. This would maybe be a good place to digress into the vastly amusing paradoxes of camping but let’sn’t. The campers were parked in a low pine copse, well-girdled in by a tall fence wrapped in a green windscreen, a bit like turning a chunk of nature into a compartmentalized [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] pseudo-living room. With a fir-needle carpet, mind you. We parked our bikes thereabouts, anxious of theft, which many folks had already waggled their indexes at us about.

 

And up the hill it went, oh-so-very-steeply, on a wide dust road, the dustiest yet, across the adjoining ridges past the showboaty gates of Don C. K. [letters hugely welded into the estate’s frontgate], then down down down to Fonza beach. Where middle-aged women welcomed us with killer-dagger-stares. As well as Australian teens. Our brine dabblings were always very brief affairs between Nomhle seeing it in functional terms of not going up in flames and myself being of extremely limited swimmerly competence. When I caught my first inadvertent gulp of seawater, I instantly, viscerally understood the term “brine” and all its salty associations.

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    Seccheto was probably the best. We did a fair share of swimming and diving. Lots of reading on ascetic rock too. And I got to observe a mildly complex beach tableau: a young woman arguing with a rod-fishing guy who I assumed to be the father of the boys snorkeling around; though it was actually about him fishing with hooks while the kids were out there in harm’s way. Except that these french kids were, as far as beach-life goes, also armed to the gills: they had harpoons! And had been diving around for a speerable catch for who-knows-how-long. Meanwhile a skateboardy guy in coral-reef-sneakers had been observing the kids irritatedly and I imagined that he was just about to read them the riot act. Instead he put on a lifesuit, lowered himself into the waters and put on a more desperately incompetent show of non-swimmanship than I could ever hope to perform. Meanwhile a chubby pre-teen Italian girl was pacing the large rocks to an unknown end, mayhap in search of nettable animal life in the little tidepools. Eventually one of the frog-eater kids harpooned a much-too-small red fish, proudly capering across the rockscape with it hanging limply from the tricorn. I could fairly see the irritation fuming off of the local beach goers at this grave breach of pescatory etiquette.

 

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Italian crabs adhere to certain minimal aesthetic conventions.

In the stones’ crevices, it turned out, there were indeed sidling crabs. The curly haired french kid, buoyed by the catch, went on to snorkel for what seemed like ever. It was a lovely day on the rocks. Then that view again!

 

One day was for Portoferraio with the idea of giving culture its due. After all it is, unfairly, known as Napoleon’s Island. The thing is….

 

 

 

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Commuting, aka the eternal drag [Chronicles of Dis/Infection, Mar2016]

 

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For many people, commuting is the worst part of the day, and policies that can make commuting shorter and more convenient would be a straightforward way to reduce minor but widespread suffering. –  Nassim Nicholas Taleb OR Daniel Kahneman [according to brainy quote, hilarious]

There is a good chance, too good a chance, you woke up at an unchristian, unmuslim, unbuddhist, non-atheist hour today, cursing the up-coming commute and, perhaps, if you‘re less fortunate, your entire day of work. The forbidding distance you still have to climb until Friday late afternoon to then dive off the cliff of the workweek into the weekend, a drink in each hand. Say a Shenzen-Mule* and a GILF**-on-the-Beach.
I suppose I‘m exaggerating but the daily commute is an exaggeration too.

biketowork1Whether you wear a fitbit monitoring your sleep-cycle or not, getting up with the crows and hens is an abomination! Every fiber of your body screams at you to stay under covers, to enjoy the warmth and soft comfort for another hour or two. But some mis-programmed long-term reward program in your brain, without even really being activated, hauls you off the mattress. Its arguments are un-argumentable-with: getting fired, not finding another job, possibly never achieving anything in life [a project, coincidentally, in which i am at quite an advanced standing].

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The present-day fact [the social-democratic reality?] of getting up early in the morning has never been particularly understandable to me. A recent study referenced in The Atlantic*** that a few odd-ball characters actually enjoy their worm-catcher‘s commute [notably only if it‘s not longer than 30min and if these people, morning-afficionados, also love their jobs; in which case liking the morning ride could be a collateral benefit {can we make this a thing? collateral benefit? that’d be so cool; I’d get mad props} a side-effect of loving your cushy existence], this study did not achieve much in the way of convincing me that commutes and human nature are not shittily compatible at best. Not to be all SPSS [a statistical programme, horrible] about this but I‘m fairly positive that upwards of 51% people I know f#cking dread the matinal bus or train or bicycle, even their own cars [which with a soft, warm interior are a painful reminder of bed?].

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So here‘s what is inexplicable: A) assuming that a low-ball number of four-out-of-five [sleep-berobbed] people on their way to work bloody despise the morning commute B)….and there is a common-sense mantra about doing 20% of the work in 80% of the time [again more than 51% of folks seem to believe in this; wink to statistic-pros reading this] C) ….and the French do 35h weeks without tumbling into poverty [question: is their average quality-of-life higher than that in the workaholic US?] D)….we live in ever more extensively individualized societies whose clarion-call appears to be to cater to these millions of individuals in every conceivable way…  E) …we also live in an information society which, given its stupendous computing capacities, has been able to coordinate activities ever more ingeniously…..

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WELL, given A to E, I frankly wonder: How in the fuck it could be that so many people still HAVE TO commute at such ungodly hours? Is this the inertia of human institutions? Is it perhaps one of the last outlets to show other people what [involuntary] hard-asses we are? Do we wish to „Call it a day“ as early in the afternoon as humanly possible?

I wish I got to decide which are the correct answers but I‘d even rather not even be able to ask these questions. Because at the next deeper level there is a more important follow-up question: why in a society so organizationally ingenious, so in doe-eyed love with individualization, the morning commute is still a living, breathing, 2 x 45min fuct-of-life?
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*…my twist on the Moscow Mule which seems to be a surprisingly elitist drink, according to google images
**Girld I’d Like to Flirt with
*** here’s the study about the happy commuters http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1369847814001107

 

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