All things come to a beginning

Monday, October 29, 2007


I had hoped that the “Project Bxl” thread would become a long account of my brave quest for an affordable room (I’ve already learned that “cuisine américaine” means no kitchen at all) and decent roommates. You know, I’d meet some loveable new age nutjobs (scented candles, soy milk, bake your own bread, non-ironic tie-dye clothes), some überstrict overly intense people, some living dead (“He’s had three different roommates in the past year and I have reason to believe they all died of BOREDOM and he KILLED them with his BORINGNESS and now they are DEAD because of it. And friggin bored”) and, like dates, it would be either a good time or a good story. And eventually, I would stumble upon the perfect little abode - something colourful and warm I would enjoy coming home to every night.

However, it looks as though the Proj Brux is on hold. Already. Instead, I’ll be staying where I am (different neighborhood, same town) for a little while longer and I feel really good about that. The moving card is still on the table, but if and when I play it, it'll be for the right reasons.

Een grap is leuk
Als je `m helemaal niet verwacht
Ellende kun je hebben
Als je er eigenlijk om lacht
Verdriet is best te dragen
Als je `t eerst zelf hebt bedacht
De blues is echt te gek
Als er iemand op je wacht

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Project Bxl (2)

I spent most of my day - which, admittedly, thanks to a festive Friday night started about halfway - walking around Brussels, trying to get a taste of the place. I had a fantastic lunch, saw some charming neighborhoods, but in general...I'm so glad to be home. Brussels and I didn't exactly shake hands today. Not that anything in particular went wrong, and maybe it's largely due to some PMS/dead tired from last night, but I just didn't feel it. There's no love, yet. I am incredibly glad to be home again, with a big cup of tea, my laptop on my lap SATC style, the TV on, comfortable slippers on my feet. Did I turn 47 overnight? Is this just a temporary slump? Would I be happier living where I live now?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Project Bxl

I pingpong on a daily basis about this issue but...when our lease ends in February and we all have to move out of our house, I'm thinking I could find a new place in Brussels. Closer to work - no more daily commute - and just a general changement de décor. I've been back in my hometown for over a year and a half now. Time to pack up again, move somewhere new & bigger & challenging. Somewhere I don't know my way around. I have itchy feet, but going abroad isn't in the cards right now. I have a job I like too much, and lots of people here that I want close to me. So the capital seems like a good option.

So why am I afraid to jump into the pool? What if the city is far enough for me to be removed from my comfort zone (even just moving a few kilometres apart is enough to decimate the number of times people meet up & it'll take a while before I know enough people in Brussels that I can drop in on whenever I need a good chat) but not far enough to be markedly different? What if I realize it has exactly the same ailments as the ones that bother me now: a small world in which everyone knows everyone, an artificial Emperor's clothes-esque cultural life, lifeless rainy February streets? Except now I'm dealing with that minus the cushy bubble I call home?

My theory is that yes, any issues or problems you may have are always at least partially in your head and will therefore accompany you wherever you go. Still, I am convinced that the physical/geographic context can worsen or soften those issues and that switching things up can be a trigger. It brings out another side of you, and it might just be enough to give you a jolt and look at things from a different angle. So in extensio, moving can in fact be a marked improvement or a big step back. It's funny that I signed up to go to Toronto before my councellor had gotten to the "ron" syllable, and moving 20 add kilometres takes some seriously deep breaths.

Anyway, I just need to do this and try this and see where it goes. Because I can. Project Bxl (Is anyone watching Project Runway? "One day you are in...the next you are out!" Oh, Heidi Klum - after Tyra, I didn't think I would ever cast my eyes on another famous model/show host who so gleefully indulged in her quest for attention, shameless name dropping, sexually ridiculous cohosts and the joys of casting psychological terror over a dozen of wacky hopefuls while still coming across as, I hate to admit, likeable & addictive) is on. If anyone knows of a place opening up sometime in February, holla.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Life is music, eh? (4)

Yesterday night was phenomenal. After a quick dinner with my bestest colleague, I hopped on the bus heading towards downtown Brussels. I fell down in a seat next to a blonde guy, about my age, rubbed my hands together and breathed on them to warm up. "That cold, huh?". A simple phrase that went straight into a 20 minute conversation about coldness and moving and our jobs and choosing kitchens (he did say "We just bought an appartment"...) and the Feist gig I was on my way to see. He raved about an artist named Mocky who did a duet with Feist a while back - I totally should have asked him to come, shouldn't I? Sure, it was sold out but there were scalpers all over, he could have scored a ticket. Instead, he told me at which stop to get off and we waved at each other through the window. I don't even know his name...Just where he works (the biggest building in town. Great lead)

I found the Cirque Royal easily (just follow everyone you see with bangs who's wearing lots of black, skinny jeans and flats/wrinkly boots. Damn. I'm such a stereotype), found my friends and ran into more people I didn't even know were coming. It's funny how the Brussels crowd has such a defined "look" to them...I have to move to a new place in February, and am seriously considering switching cities. I think I could live in our little capital - and more importantly, I think that I should. Mix things up a bit, you know, challenge myself. I don't have a big social network there just yet, but should that stop me? Would I lose my Leuven circle?

Opening the show was a pianist from Paris called Chilly Gonzalez.
He's all over YouTube, if anyone wants to check him out. Very interesting guy - first time I'd seen anyone play the piano with gloves on - with hilarious French humor, and undoubtedly talented as hell. He entertained the crowd like a pro, and as much as I hate being asked to clap or sing along he actually pulled it off. Feist was brilliant as ever - she sounds even better live and her songs brought back so many good Toronto vibes. Let it die, My moon my man, 1234, Mushaboom, One Evening, Inside and Out, So sorry, Sealion woman, Honey Honey, Intuition...very satisfying. And to see that woman rock out on her guitar makes me want to have her babies. I don't have any big musical plans, but I've taken up my own guitar again. I played for years and years, got deeply sick of it, quit, left my guitar in a corner for a good 4 years - I know - but I think I'm ready for it now. I took it to the store for a brand new set of strings and I've been playing around with it. There's more left in my fingertips than I expected, and knowing there's no homework or exams to work towards, but only my own ears & impulses really changes the picture. We'll see where it takes me...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Des nuits plus blanches que nature de Jean Cayrol

"Tu ne me laisses jamais le temps de te parler. Quand m'écoutes-tu? Tu souris vite, tes yeux s'éclairent brusquement, tu me serres le bras; c'est le moment ou je ne suis plus sûr de nos paroles ni de notre attente (...) Nous ne sommes plus dans nos gestes, notre timidité devient une intimidation (...) Je n'aime pas ce moment qui ressemble à un adieu provisoire, tu fuis déjà et, malgré ton sourire, je me sens déconcerté"

I was reading this on the bus this morning and it struck a chord. How often people shy away from really seeing each other and showing themselves. The quick as a flash cover ups of battle scars, while fidgeting with a few freak flags that keep poking out. The urge to present yourself, to make a solid impression, to not...lose...face. Doing that on a day to day basis around your colleagues and random people, fair enough. It's when it trickles over into important friendships and promising relationships that the trouble begins. I've learned that lesson so many times, and yet this week it came to me once again. I'm looking forward to the day where it actually sits in my brain.

The letter in the book ends on a beautiful, brave note:
"Ce soir, je t'attends enfin pour te dire que je t'aime comme nous devons nous aimer. Ce qui n'est pas partagé, divise. Nous allions sur la frange de nous vies sans en connaître l'opacité, les ombres, le noir. Or, l'amour demande la transparence afin que nous puissions apercevoir le fond, même si cela nous coûte (...) Nous avons voulu être impitoyables pour nos moments anciens (...) Si j'ai l'air de t'écrire noblement, avec une certaine recherche, ce n'est pas pour flatter notre amour mais pour lui donner ce qu'il n'avait pas encore: un commencement sans panique"

Amen to that.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Mad mad world

It's on its third edition, but this is the first year I found the Madman's project in Leuven. The location is an abandoned orphanage that's destined to be knocked down in a few months. In bad shape but unspeakably beautiful. The exhibit itself is a mix of film, photography, sculptures, installations, video art, drawings, sketches, music, food, hair cutting and massage. Hard to translate, but these shots might give you an idea anyway.

Friday, October 12, 2007

David Foster Wallace

From the genius who brought you "Brief interviews with Hideous Men":

"The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day."

Life is music, eh? (3)

A little while ago I bought an mp3-player that's also a radio. Everyone who's ever driven anywhere with me and who's seen the smoke come off their radio knows I switch channels like it's my job, and I've fallen in love with the little gadget. I swear, hitting that forward button is like a morphine drip.

It's happened a few times now that I stumbled upon the perfect song for that specific moment - such bliss. Just the other day I was riding the bus home, a bi-daily ritual. The evening before I sat there feeling miserable, trying to figure whether the salami smell was coming from the guy sitting in front of me or the grimy seats. But this particular ride, I had a gorgeous jazz song seaping into my ears and I was fully at peace with the world. I was finishing Ken Kalfus' "A disorder peculiar to the country", sitting next to a friendly guy with a New York-ish jewish look, watched the sun set, got a bit sentimental about North America and all of a sudden all the other passengers looked beautiful. The old ladies and their shopping carts, the young women coming from work, every single person. And then...a small ant walked across the seat in front of me. Reminded me immediately of Dan Clark's stand up skit , the too-cute comedian I met at the short film festival last year. And all the while, the music kept going. A natural high, I guess, out of the blue. Which continued straight into the night. I hit up the Broken Social Scene concert, made nice backstage and got to take the band out on the town after the show. They were hilarious, very sweet & a bunch of good people all around. When I dropped them off at their tour bus around 3 (they had to be in Cologne the next day) and walked home, I could honestly say I hadn't felt "meh" that night for a split second.
The same soundtrack-to-life thing happened to me today. I went for a run in the park, passed a gorgeous lake, saw little kids playing together, started thinking about my own niece & nephew and then... Regina Spektor's "Samson" came on. Perfection.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Here's the conclusion I draw out of the past few weeks: what you think of as a guarantee to semi-permanent happiness, something you never imagined you'd be lucky enough to experience, the thing you've always thought of in terms of "If only I could reach that far, man, I'd ask for nothing more" most likely won't live up to such a big promise. At the same time, something you embark on with absurdly low expectations and which you look at as a one-way alley to just a few inches underneath rock bottom can actually work out surprisingly well.

I like when life outsmarts me like that. When the plans I so arrogantly assumed I could make take a sharp turn and I have adjust all my car mirrors. When I catch myself smiling over something that caught me completely off guard. Being guarded is overrated - it tends to pay off to open yourself up to be touched, whether it's by the most gentle finger tips or a king-sized sledge hammer.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Start again

I had lunch outside today, wrapped up in a cosy woollen sweater. Blue sky, deep red leaves twirling down onto the table, a picture perfect Saturday. I've always been a big fan of fall/autumn and I'm fortunate enough to live in a town that counter-hibernates. October is the month the streets fill up with people, with life. And I couldn't be happier about that. On Thursday night I caught my acting/directing friend Thomas in "Deze beweging wordt vaak niet meer gebruikt" in Tweebronnen. Very cleverly done. We all went down to the bar afterwards where I ran into entirely too many people, stayed way too late, screamed out conversations over the loud music, ended up smoking a cigar and woke up voiceless.

Friday night, I had dinner with a friend who's been abroad for over a year. We tried a new Vietnamese restaurant, filled each other in on the big events of the past 14 months or so and then saw "Het was zonder twijfel een ongeluk", a theatre monologue about a woman who stands by dumbly while her husband seduces a young girl.

It's been a week and weekend of gentle thrills & simple pleasures. Smiling friends, warm hugs, hilarious coworkers, kind gestures. I don't know where things are going or whether I'm handling life the way I should be, I don't know if I deserve all I have and have all I deserve. It could all fall apart with a few gusts of wind, but for now, I cherish it.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Life is music, eh? (2)

Tired of "Shut your eyes"? Feast them on this. Featuring Canadian-American Martha of the otherworldly Wainwright-McGarrigle clan.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Tell me what you read...

You're Prufrock and Other Observations!
by T.S. Eliot

Though you are very short and often overshadowed, your voice is poetic and lyrical. Dark and brooding, you see the world as a hopeless effort of people trying to impress other people. Though you make reference to almost everything, you've really heard enough about Michelangelo. You measure out your life with coffee spoons.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Life is Music, eh?

A few weeks ago, I suffered a pricy combination of Canada-nostalgia and the urge to be broke. So I bought a whole stack of concert tickets, tacked them to my bedroom door and take them down one by one as I make my way around the concert venues of Belgium. First up: The Tragically Hip, last Friday, in Brussels. Gordon, gij kunt mij krijgen.