January 2004 Message Board back

01/25/04

a perfect day

we wake up, early, quarter to six, exercise, make breakfast and eat it: pancakes, sometimes, more often hot bread and butter, cheese, milk, tea, tea with milk. then we read our e-mail, scour the news, pick a few, read them out loud, think about them, talk, argue.

then we work, from eight till eleven, nothing ever interferes with our work, our work is the thing our day is built around, our work is the thing built around our life, we work three hours a day and think no man or woman should work more than that. there's more to life than just working.

we prepare our lunch ourselves - that's the only way to eat, that's the only way to be sure you're not served someone else's misery with the soup. it's important to know to cook. ignorance is never justifiable.

we eat at noon. and then we rest. then go out for a walk. the weather is perfect, we always have things to discuss.

we return home. read. think. talk. make love. then we go out to catch an early movie. bring a peeled orange in a zip-lock bag to the theatre. after the movie we may have a coffee or a hot chocolate.

we return home. read. think. talk. make love. check our e-mail. maybe watch another movie.

then we sleep.

we dream.

then we wake up.   

01/18/04

No special feelings about English, don't like it, don't hate it. It's not my fault it is the most wide spread language in the world. This is the only reason I use it.

There is that other language I have a situation with. My mother tongue Ė Croatian. He says I'm not allowed to use it any more. Because we don't have time to be Croatian writers any more. We are almost thirty and tired of getting neglected back home. We published two novels there, but haven't been able to survive as writers.  

They stole it from us, he says, you don't have it any more, neither do I, he says. Stop pretending it belongs to you, because it doesn't, from the moment you wrote your first sentence in this foreign language you lost it, he says. With your first step on this new continent you broke the bonds. He talks a lot, don't you think? Getting on my nerves too, because he is a thief himself. Steeling my own thoughts. 

English is empty for me. Doesnít have memories, no childhood dreams and embarrassing moments of my teenage years, no first kiss, no pain, no exaltation, nothing except bleached pictures from Hollywood movies fading one in the other in my mind. It is a boisterous, outside thing, this English, calculated and predictable. Croatian is intimate, wet and alive, like a worm ridden spring soil, things can grow well from it. But he says we should speak English even between ourselves, and then he is the first to get tired of it. Yes, English can be so tiring, draining out the last drop of our concentration.  

Croatia is not entering European Union this year, most probably it will stay out of it for the next decade, or more, or even more than just more. Together with Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia. Ex Yugoslavia, the country I donít even remember I was born in. He says I should stop thinking about that part of the world, itís just making me depressed. People there speak my language, ourÖ Not mine, he says, not any more! But, you know, we come from there andÖ People there donít buy books - him againÖ No, thatís not true, they donít buy our books, but he is sure we are not the problem, they are. Doesnít make any sense to me. 

I would like to return, have kids, teach and write. He would like that to, but wonít admit it. We have worked out a whole plan: weíre going to write a letter to the governor of our region, tell him they have to open a position for us, we are going to teach kids languages, show them how to write, how to express themselves, bring them books, discover the world for them. Everything is going to be fine. 

People here use the word to ďbalkanizeĒ, very often. To describe something bad and dangerous, violent and bloody. They donít understand. They havenít seen. The future. Nostradamus in his prophecies speaks about Balkans and says it is going to be the happiest part of the world, most advanced. And as you know, Nostradamus knew. He wasnít a vegetarian.  

He is angry because we had to leave. Thinks people were obliged to help us. You donít think what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country, I remind him.  

It is stupid. We arenít even political refugees. There is democracy in Croatia, no repression, freedom of speech guaranteed by the law. And non the less we are here, not even working, not allowed to work, because we donít have any special skills like for example computer engineers  and we are not doctors, useless says American Immigration Service, unofficially of course. Writers? What kind of a profession is that? Ė that can be just a hobby. And our parents are sending us money, we pick it up on the Internet. Make a transaction or two per week. How is it that we are here then? To learn the language, we said to the vice-consul in the US embassy in Zagreb. And how long do you plan to stay? Silence. He decided to give us two years, no more. Otherwise, you get spoiled, he smiled innocently.

Our frustrations:

- we are almost thirty and not earning enough money to stay alive

- Nís parents are paying for our schooling and our living and they never complain, not a word of reproach from, never

- we are ungrateful children: instead of giving our parents grandchildren and living in a big house with a beautiful garden they built for us, we went to America and left them alone; we are using them mercilessly and they never say nothing; makes us feel like shit

- we published two novels and over twenty stories in almost all Croatian literary magazines, including the most influential ones and we are still nonexistent in that literary scene

- we try to write in English now, it is like someone cut off our tongues, even worse, we cut them off ourselves; and weíre learning to speak again, like newborn children fighting the sudden pain of oxygen

- Croatian left us naked and hungry, we think we might survive by using English

- the only way to enter US and stay here was as students, but since thereís two of us, doing things together and only together, a Writing program seemed the only solution; so here we are, attending classes with people who never finished a proper story before, but itís okay, they are talents of the future and besides, so merry, well, most of the time they areÖ

- we donít have much time, our visas expire in August 2005., till then we have to master the language enough to publish a book, publish a story, show people we deserve those stamps in our passports, the pressure is a pregnant elephant cow sitting on our lungs, while she yawns out of boredom we search our pockets in panic, but canít find any peanuts to feed her, she is getting more and more irritated

- in the last few years the Atlantic Ocean grew, it became an abyss between the continents, to take a flight to Europe has become so complicated, to be a foreigner in America is so demanding, but do you hear us complain? No, not at allÖ  

We write out of guilt. It is a good reason to do this kind of job. You can be an asshole in life and redeem yourself by creating wonderful wild sentences and even be remembered by them.

We write out of rage too. It is an inevitable cause for expression. You hit the enemy with bare words, hard, to make bleed, your enemy and yourself.

We write out of loneliness too. As a couple we are never alone, as a writer we are the loneliest two people in the world.

Indeed, it is true, nobody can understand an artist. It is twice as true, no one can understand a twice an artist. We are not fit for this world, this world is not fit for us. Nevertheless, we aim to conquer it.

01/05/04

11:22 (am) - it's a sunny day in Southern California, and whatever you might've heard - it's coooold here.

today the right side of our street gets cleaned - lucky for us our car is parked on the other side (has been since last Tuesday).

recently discovered MovieFlix.com with bunch of old pictures (back from the good old teens, 30's and 40's) for free (more recent ones you have to pay for).

the screen is kind of small, but it has kept us in our apartment for the last couple of days. us, with a $40 electric oil radiator and a $30 DSL internet connection.

hopefully we'll venture outside once we get dangerously low on nutrients - or tomorrow - to move the car.