neljapäev, august 23, 2012

cracked

Smile!
I would like to entertain you, to complete you, to take your mind off of the things that eat away at your being each day. This is the world we have drawn for ourselves, a world that orbits around the pursuit of happiness. We keep after it though it slips from our hands like soap. And here is the camera now, look up ...

When I was a boy at the ocean I would get taken down by waves, and some of them were big, and then some of them were monstrous, walls of moving salty water that sucked me up and pounded the meat of my body into the shells and sand. That's how my most recent bout of jetlag has overwhelmed me. I am exhausted. But I don't think it is this one travel that has exhausted me. It's 33 years of forward motion.

Scott Fitzgerald called it "the crack-up," a blow that doesn't hit you all at once, but takes you down over time, so that you can only pinpoint the moment the rushing water collided with your being in retrospect. In a lot of ways, he was describing jetlag, that sinister hangover that just won't go away, no matter how much sleep, no matter how much coffee. You long to get back to you, but you left you somewhere else, in a hotel room in Chicago maybe, or perhaps tucked under the seat on that Finnair flight. But this is a different kind of jetlag, a jetlag of the soul.

Estonia is cool these days, the end of August. Summer peaked with Viljandi Folk, when my home was turned into a temporary hostel. Viljandi is a hard town, a wild town. The streets here where we live are unpaved, so they are hard on the feet, hard on the shoes, hard on the legs. The homes are heated by wood, so the smoky air is hard on the lungs, the temperature is hard on the body. A person needs to be hard to live in Viljandi. I am still soft, and I am not sure if I can adapt. My neighbor watches me, smoking. His constant expression is one of quiet amusement. He's wondering when I will crack. He thinks it's only a matter of time.

The neighbor across the street smokes too, except he's 10 years old. I watched his mulleted father beating a carpet the other morning. There are class issues here in Viljandi, in Estonia. And class is not just how much money you make, but how you speak, what you eat, what you talk about. Class defines whether or not you will feel comfortable parading around town with a half empty beer can in your hands on a Wednesday afternoon, or playing bossa nova music at a dinner party. Class creates jealousy and friction, malice and misunderstandings. Most of all, class leads to ignorance. You don't see me, I don't see you. We live right next to each other, but very far apart. Even children grasp this, without being lectured.

Will I crack? I think not. I hope not. These are just complications, I tell myself. I'm not going to go the way of the drink like F. Scott, or burn up in a madhouse like Zelda. And I am definitely not going to do myself in ala Hemingway. I'm like the stubborn moss on the ruins in the Old Town of Viljandi. Smoke all you want neighbors, let me be the mellifluous entertainment in your morning charades. But as hard as these Viljandi streets are, some days the sun does shine. It reflects in the puddles among the cobblestones along with the close blue ceiling of the northern sky. And on these days, I feel that I'm this side of paradise.

18 kommentaari:

saare-snowqueen ütles ...

Maybe you should consider moving to Saaremaa. The air is breathable, the streets are paved, people talk to each other - even ex-Viljandilaisd Of course then you'd need to find a job, but.....

Giustino ütles ...

First we move to Pärnu. Then Saaremaa.

saare-snowqueen ütles ...

OK - Tere tullimast

Marko ütles ...

Interesting topic and well written piece. I think you're on your way of becoming a real Estonian, with an American backround of course but none less. Class system is tricky in Estonia. Whereas in Western Europe classes are separated - council estates for the working poor, affluent suburbs for the upper-middle and old stately homes inhabited by the ex-nobility. In Estonia, they're all mixed. In a single block of flats you can find doctors, school headmasters, descendants of Baltic-Germans, cleaners, welders, scientists - all sharing a single hallway entrance door. It's difficult to pinpoint - this is the good end of the street or that is the bad side of the town, as you are likely to under or over estimate. And that can come across as being bigoted, ignorant or unsensitive. Its the legacy of the Soviets invading post-feudal society. Altough Estonia was a republic de jure, a lot of the old world, the Old Europe, was still around. And after they marched in and all the nasty things they commited, people capsulated, became more inward looking and at the same time creating little timecapsules, social bubbles of the old world.

I think I know what you must go through, being immigrant myself, and when a level of social anxiety, isolation and maybe even a level of paranoia kicks in it is hard to make sense of it. It's difficult to stay focused and it's easy to lose yourself in the midst of confusion. All I'd say is - time is a healer. Find refuge in your family and close friends. Distance yourself for a short while - go hiking or take piano lessons or volunteer at your local cats and dogs home or whatever.

Of course you could move away from Viljandi or from Estonia. But if theres one thing I've learnt over the years, its that you cant move away from yourself. If you can find balance within you, you can be happy just about anywhere.

Rainer ütles ...

"Of course you could move away from Viljandi or from Estonia. But if theres one thing I've learnt over the years, its that you cant move away from yourself. If you can find balance within you, you can be happy just about anywhere."

Truer words were never spoken. It seems to me that you have been going through a personal crisis of some kind for some time now.

Marko ütles ...

I had my moments in the past, but all sorted now. I think it was the hardest couple of years in, living abroad. It was just a random Sunday and I just woke up from my afternoon nap, when it hit me. It was a wave of anxiety, I felt as if I couldnt breathe and was all burning up. I felt crippled by the fact that there was noone there I could speak to in Estonian, in the way only one Estonian can speak to another. I felt that a huge chunk of my identity has been compromised, and there wasnt a damn thing I could do about it. I picked up a phone and rang my mate Andy, wheres that joint you offered me the other day? We met up at the seaside, smoked and talked for hours, I mean I was talking, he listened. That really helped and it was the last time I did drugs. That was seven years ago. A lot has changed since but I remember that down moment as vividly as back then. I was nearly cracked, but I pulled it together and have since let go many inner insecurities that greatly contributed towards my little breakdown. You have got to deal with the stuff in your head, otherwise you just end up bonkers. And it has little to do with the fact that Viljandi is hard, or in my case that Northern England was so much more rougher. Its more to do with how you yourself position yourself in the middle of hardship, how you deal with it. Is it your inner gentelmen or bitter side of you that comes out on the top. Its an inner battle every man has to fight themselves, and the outcome of that battle is something that is going to define us, make us who we truly are inside.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Truth be told, part of me is that guy smoking and waiting G to crack. I cracked and I was in my 20s when it happened. So it is interesting to me. The day I will be able to say "I told you so" will also be one of the saddest.

I want Estonia to have cool people like him to live there. I really do.

I've invested considerable time in Giustino watching it is going to be interesting.

On the other hand, in a long run, we all end up dead. So no need to get excited. We all know how it will end.

Until then, all that really matters is how you spend your time when your number comes up.

Do you choose to spend it duking it out with drunks in Viljandi or swim in a mountain lake in the Catskills (just got back from there).

Or drop everything and move to Italy, like my brother - living in the foothills of Alps, running his own B&B?


Jesus was 33 when he basically said, "F it" and ended up on the cross.

Anyway, summer is over and it is nice to be back in town ...


Christine ütles ...

The Catskills... seriously?

Timbu ütles ...

No matter how cracked you are, writing about it is probably a good medicine.
Speaking of the Estonian class issue... my dream is to make a movie that is the Estonian version of My Fair Lady: that difference in how you talk, how you act when drunk etc. (the line runs through my family, so a topic close to my heart). The hard part would be getting the actors to cross the dividing line: from what I've seen, they never seem to manage, and still "talk white" - with an "educated" accent - even when playing a country dude. Perhaps the movie "tulnukas" is an exception.
I even feel a class difference between myself (first generation university graduate) and people whose grandfather went to university. They're so comfortable in their positions, dynasties of doctors or artists, never short of jobs... and there's the other world of self-reproducing poverty, and then there's the world of Farmi-Gabriel, and that of uncle who votes Keskerakond, and those who got rich recently with some murky business and still "talk black"... what a gallery.

Giustino ütles ...

Yeah, class is definitely worthy of further discussion. I am trying to figure out why I think that Zelda was such a babe. Is it wrong to be attracted to dead people? Too bad they stole her name for a video game.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Probably off-topic, but I just have to pass this along to you guys ... I personally I am still haunted by this film I saw the other day. So understated, yet so powerful. Even if you do not understand Estonian or Russian, you may get the idea ... and enjoy it.

After the movie, I was ... spellbound. It is one of those one off quirky documentaries ... Well done.

Here is the link:

http://etv.err.ee/arhiiv.php?id=131395

Marko ütles ...

LPR, I think this cuts closer to home:

http://etv.err.ee/arhiiv.php?id=123895

I felt really bad for the old lady, as she talks about her grandson not talking to her because he thinks shes an uneducated 'mats'. There was something so moving about her story, that it made me rethink a lot of the stuff that goes on in Estonia in relation to class. And lets not forget that historically people of Viljandimaa were the so-called upperclass of pesantry. 90% of the pesants were landowners by the end of 19th century, whereas in Northern Estonia equivalent percentage was around 30, the rest were either renting land or renting out their own labour. Yet by the beginning of the 21st century the roles have greatly reversed. Now people from Harju county tend to look down on us and on family level it causes great distress. It can literally tear families apart as you can see from the clip. I've always wondered, wouldn't we have been better off with two countries, South and North, as originally proposed by Laidoner.

There are many issues with class in Estonia. One of the big ones I think is the way they teach Estonian language at school. It's as if, when you come from a small village in South and speak the language the way it has always been spoken and do not conform with the Northern dialect, you're seen as a weirdo, an outcast, illiterate simpelton. And that can't be right, in anyones book. I'm from Viljandi, but a lot of my ancestors come from Paistu and Halliste region, yet I can not speak their language, neither would I understand any of the folksongs sang in Mulgi. It's as if my roots have been beaten out of me over couple of generations. That can't be right either. It's as if we are witnessing the Northern cultrual colonisation of the South. And that's probably why we will never see Estonian-Finnish confederation or something of the kind, as Northern Estonians are too dominant in their ways, even savage, some might add. Phew, had my rant now. Feel a lot better :).

Marko ütles ...

LPR, the little Vepsa that old woman speaks during this documentary sounds remarkably Estonian. I'm fluent in Finnish and had always this idea that the other Finns are linguistically closer to the Finns-proper, but this proves me wrong. Wow, thats a real surprise. What do we do for Vepsa people? Can they study for free in our universities, could they move to Estonia if they wanted to, do we supply any political or financial support to them? This is too real to let it go as we did with the Livonians.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Too late. It is all gone. We had a rare opportunity to witness the last of them basically saying goodbye. This is how nations die.

On the positive note, with the Global Warming in full swing and people running out of places to live, maybe one day these villages will be rebuilt and people will live there once again. Not Vepsas, of course, but some kind of people. Arabs maybe. :-)

Marko ütles ...

Well, according to this theres nearly 8000 of them still alive.

http://www.erm.ee/et/Avasta/Soome-ugri-rahvakultuur/Vepslased

I shall conveniently ignore your last comment:), but perhaps there would be some Estonians who would like to move there? All these farmers complaining about EU regulations etc. They could potentially have a go there. Altough the Russian position on the matter remains unknown, but as they say, wheres a will, theres a way.

Would be nice to see some of us returning to our spiritual, cultrual and anchestral home of North-Western Siberia.

Marko ütles ...

Sorry, North-East Europe that is, as Siberia starts where Europe ends.

straight ütles ...

Maybe just "East Europe". Here in North-East Komi think that the ancestors came from South - Udmurtiya or Mansi..

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

This blog has readers in North East Komi!?

Wow.

When was the last time I was thinking what's the latest in Komi?