Monday, July 27, 2015

Searching for the way home

Those are footprints on the street, thousands of them, made during a light snowfall on the night of February 15, 2010, on Castle Square of Old Town in Warsaw, Poland. I took the photograph from the third floor of what I designated as The Apartment -- a temporary home, as one might describe it, for a few months during a brief interlude in my life. In a sense, the countless footprints in the photograph are symbolic of the many wandering, often aimless, steps I have taken searching for the right place to be. You might recognize the photograph since I have used it before to accompany a post. The music with this post is from a group called Soft Cell. I stumbled across it on YouTube a few days ago. I cannot remember the last time I heard this production .... it has been a while, that is for sure. I like the sound, the beat, the rhythm, maybe the message, and I hope you will, too.

You cannot go to a place which does not exist

In 1940, the American writer Thomas Wolfe wrote the words, "You Can't Go Home Again." He did not stop with that sentence until it had formed a complete novel. I suppose ever since then there has been debate whether a person can or cannot. Some say Wolfe disproved the title of his own story, but we will not enter into that argument. I have not read this book. I have tried a couple of times, but never made it through. I think it is because the title frightens me.

A few others among Wolfe's works of fiction, notably, "Look Homeward, Angel," I have read. Magnificent titles, do you not agree ?? I passed through his hometown almost my accident once upon a time, Asheville, North Carolina, and saw the house he grew up in and which is a primary location in "Look Homeward ...."

That was the point of entry ....

Next, I happened across a photograph on one of my computers, the photograph above, which I have used in a previous post sometime way back when. It was taken from the window of the third floor apartment overlooking Castle Square of Old Town in Warsaw, Poland, while I lived there in 2010.

To be more precise, the photograph was taken at 03:12 A.M. local time on February 15, 2010. It was a nice night, and I was very happy for a few months living in that apartment and exploring that city with a sweet, beautiful young lady as my companion, and experiencing a life very different in many ways from the life I was accustomed to in mid-America, USA.

That was the point of exit ....

I have a hometown, but I have not lived there since three months after turning eighteen and three days after completing high school. After that, I did not even visit the town for years and years and years, although I had loved it as a boy. You see where I am going? I really have no home, only a place of residence. So, I need to go back to a few places, not to set up camp, but simply to try to enjoy again the feelings I felt there once upon a time.

The point where entry and exit collide .... 

This autumn there finally will be a journey of sorts again, and I hope to begin it in Warsaw in the place -- The Duval -- where I stayed for the first fifteen days upon arrival and before renting The Apartment. I had the Japanese Room at The Duval back then, and liked it. This will be for a week or two, with, maybe, a run to Krakow. And, maybe, another run north to the "Wolf's Lair." (I am a history addict, you may recall, and the name suits my persona, in a way.)

Then, I want to go to Germany (which will be new for me), then return to Giverny in France and, probably, to Paris .... then "home" to America, in a manner of speaking, I guess .... in any case, back to the place I am hanging out for now .... or .... or .... or ??

I have had a few low-key, long-weekend excursions (all involving work) here and there during the past few years which observant readers of my posts might have recognized from photographs and/or words, but nothing meaningful or a significant. Remember? Living ten minutes from an international airport comes in handy. 

Essentially, as you might suppose, right now I want a bit of the new, but mostly to see if once-traveled streets and gardens bring back a feeling of -- for lack of a better word .... a feeling of contentment -- as I "look homeward" and elsewhere in search for a sense of belonging. Silly, hah ??

Silly or whatever, life is ours to waste away as we wish, and I wish to use some of mine in search for my own concept of a "holy grail" -- whether it be person, place or thing .... or non-existent futility. So, I am thinking of staying in Europe from sometime in October until the New Year arrives in this ongoing episode of "The Search."

Anyway .... not as a pass, a proposal or a plan, but if anyone cares to meet for dinner and drinks in Warsaw or in Germany (Berlin, maybe, but I am open there and have other places in Germany I wish to see); or at Missolonghi, the last stop in this life for George Gordon / Lord Byron (You did read my last post, did you not ??); or in the Giverny of Claude Monet (Is October too late in the autumn to enjoy the outdoors there ??); or in Paris or in Neverland or .... hmmmm ....

Anyway, again .... it might be best to speak up soon if you are interested and to begin making plans to skip out of work for a few days or to arrange for a dog/cat/?? sitter or .... or .... or ??

Remember, you only live once (according to pedestrian philosophy), and life goes on with or without you ....

I am teasing, sort of, but time is not our friend.


PhilipH said...

Great post, really wonderful (Wunderbar if you're in Germany). If you DO get to Germany I recommend Monchengladbach as a nice little town. I was stationed near to this place in the early to mid-fifties at RAF Bruggen, close to the Dutch borders, and at RAF Hospital Wegberg. Both stations now returned to the German authorities. Holland is a pleasant country which holds memories for me. We were given the freedom of the town of Echt in 1954 as the Mayor invited all airmen one Sunday in gratitude that "not one brick was damaged during our raids during the war". It was a grand day out for all of us.

You write so intriguingly and skilfully. Interestingly, extremely so. I envy you your travels in the past and even more your travels yet to come. WARSAW, what a history this city has, tragically during the war of course but majestically too in so many ways. I've not had the pleasure of ever going there but I feel a connection in some ways in that so many of the young Polish men who fought with us during WW2 helped in no small way to win the Battle of Britain in 1940 and beyond.

You sound somewhat like the pop star Paul Young who had a massive hit with his "Wherever I Lay my Hat, That's my Home". Perhaps your signature tune should you ever become a Rap star? Wouldn't surprise me in the least as you could 'Rap' about your travels ad lib.

The Soft Cell recording you included was a big hit for them, mainly because of Tainted Love, a favourite with the 'Gay Clubs' in the 80s onwards. Marc Almond is, I understand, a Gay - like so many other pop stars such as Boy George, Jimmy Somerville et al. They must be ever popular still in the town of Brighton on the south coast of England. This town was once my nearest seaside resort from my home town of Croydon. Today it has become the 'gayest' town in the country. Still, better than being the town ruled by gangsters as in my younger days. Battles amongst the gangs for 'protection money' and to get the best places to install their crooked one-arm bandit machines. Graham Greene wrote "Brighton Rock", a marvellous story about Pinkie Brown and his mob, later a film of the same name.

You mention the novel Look Homeward Angel. I've not read it but one of my favourite pop stars of yesterday was Johnnie Ray who burst upon the pop scene in the 1950s with "Cry". He made a good many records, one of which was Look Homeward Angel and it's still one of my many favourites:

I do so enjoy reading your posts. I envy your style and ability to write so beautifully.

Good wishes and bon voyage -Phil.

ANITA said...

Hello Mick!
Greetings from Norway!

Wonderful post.I remember so very well your time in Warschava.

It was a wonderful time in your life..

We are leving on sunday.Also got a new apartment.So much to do..ahh..

Wish you a nice time ...stay cool and happy!

I will send a postcardgreetings from Arguinneguin!Las Canary Islands


Kaya said...

I am always waiting when you will write again the post like this one. It's so much to think, to feel and talk about. Great post, Fram!

Thomas Wolfe and his "you can't go home again"... I never agreed with the title. I truly believe that one can never leave home. I believe that one carries the shadows, the dreams, the fears of home under one's skin. Home inside ourselves and we feel safe when we go inside ourselves and find a place where we belong and maybe only place we really do.

It seems that Warsaw is always with you. It captured you and never let you go. That is a long lasting an affair with this small country. Does Warsaw know it? I am sure it does.

If you go to some places where you grew up you might bring some nice memories and feel at home and then you will say that I have a place which I can call home. I believe Fram that this is possible.

Home begins with love and only love. It's difficult to live in the place or country you don't love. I understood it many years ago. My home right now is here and I am not dreaming anymore of seeing Europe.This time is over. I would like to travel to New York ( my favorite city) or see someday Alaska. Do you want some day to see Alaska, to catch a huge wild salmon and do things you never done before? Life is about creating new memories. And of course to cherish old ones. And some day let them go... No, never let go nice memories.

Yes, time isn't our friend but if we learn how to leave in the moment and enjoy it; time can become our friend or at least more generous.

You write beautifully Fram. You converse not only with yourself ; you converse with us. This is a style I love very much.

Fram Actual said...

I will make note of your suggestions for places to visit in Germany. This is one country I already have a few locations I wish to see, Philip, so I am not certain I will make it beyond any of them. I have an ancestral great-great-grandmother who arrived in the United States from Mecklenburg, Germany, in 1849, and a great-great-grandfather who arrived here from Darmstadt, Germany, in 1847, and those places are quite some distance apart in terms of traveling in Germany.

In addition, there is a cemetery in a town not far across the border going west from Wroclaw, Poland, into Germany which I want to visit. With your background, this might interest you. Buried there is an airman who was part of the World War II Luftwaffe. He was killed in March 1945 and, as you know, the war in Europe ended in May that year. I have his pistol and holster, which were brought back to the U.S. as "war trophies." I very much would like to stand by his memorial and "talk" with him a while. This, also, would create another tangent of travel.

I could write many things about Poland, Philip, but I will hold back and mention only a very few. When I began to think of going there for an extended stay, as often is the case the first thing which entered my mind was a book. In this instance, the book was the novelette, "Taras Bulba," by Nikolai Gogol. It is a story of many elements, but I view it mainly as a tale of war and how a Cossack fell in love with a Polish princess. When I began thinking more seriously and less romantically, I turned to one of my favorite historical writers, James Michener, and used his meticulously researched novel, "Poland," as my primer.

While in Warsaw, I was able to speak with an elderly woman who lived through the Polish uprising of 1944, so I had a first-hand taste of those times. The building in which The Apartment was located was rubble by the time the uprising was put down and rebuilt after the war. I saw photographs and a scale model of the entire neighborhood as it looked after the destruction.

New experiences, such as Warsaw was for me, mingled with dramatic and relevant history are nourishment for my spirit.

You gave me a chuckle with your mention of "rap" music. This particular style is not part of my repertoire, and, in fact, is about as distant from me as the planet Mars is from my backyard -- rarely visible to me, but accepting the word of others that it exists.

When the word "cabaret" appears, the film with Liza Minnelli and Michael York is, of course, among the immediate responses which appear in my mind. It also creates images of popular conceptions of Berlin nightlife in the 1930s and, for me, more contemporary images of the Downtown Cabaret in Minneapolis. It is a strip club which advertises that it offers the most beautiful women in the world on stage. I do not think I would go that far, but I will admit beauty is in the eye of the beholder -- so, who am I to argue ??

I will end this with a thank you for your visit here and for your comment here and for your kind, complimentary words about my post and my writing. I appreciate them, Philip.

Fram Actual said...

It sounds like you have been busy, Anita. Preparing for a vacation is difficult enough, but moving into a new apartment while making holiday preparations would seem to combine to form a near-insurmountable task. I hope Alexander is holding up his end of the work and making life a bit easier for you.

I am not aware that you have been to the Canary Islands before .... have you? If not, I hope you will find the trip both interesting and enjoyable. An acquaintance of mine in Warsaw went there for two weeks during the January I was in Poland, and I have wondered about its climate and what it might have to offer since then. It would seem to be very different than your usual hideaway in Cyprus. I was beginning to think of Cyprus as a second home for you. I look forward to seeing your posts from your new destination.

Good luck and have fun and stay safe on your journey, Anita, and thank you, for your visit to my blog and for your comment. I am always glad when you come to see me.

Fram Actual said...

I suppose "home" is both a matter of semantics and a state of mind.

In the sense of semantics, Kaya, I do have a hometown in which I grew up and spent the first eighteen years of my life and which, in many respects, I truly did love. I do have a house with a mailing address identifying my precise location, which is my current home. I have had other houses in other towns which once were my homes, and which carry along with them both good and bad memories.

But, in terms of a state of mind, I do not think I have had a place I truly considered to be my "home" since I "hit the trail" when I was eighteen. Possibly, the closest came during the few years when I lived alongside Lake Superior. I really enjoyed my life by The Lake, but there came a point when I was ready to leave and continue searching for a place at which I could feel that I really belonged.

Actually, I do not think there is anything I could do in Alaska that I have not already done in northern Minnesota or the Upper Peninsula of Michigan or a few other places which have a bit of "wild country" still in existence. Alaska mostly would mean doing the same things I have done before, but in a new place. I suppose I could climb mountains in Alaska, something which have not been present in other places where I have lived, but I am somewhat beyond the peak of ability for that activity.

The only reason I can think of for Europe holding me in fascination is the ancestral connection. I am curious about what is within me -- psychologically and spiritually, mostly, I mean -- and to understand that, I think I must understand what and who I came from to form the genetic patterns which guide me and, in effect, control me. In the broader scheme of things, the history of Europe is simply the history which dominates my thoughts. Everyone has to have a few favorites -- right ??

I think I will leave New York City for you. I am not sure why it is, but whenever I am there I am in a hurry to leave there. The feeling was completely different in Warsaw. I felt comfortable there, if not actually at home. I felt that way about Minneapolis/Saint Paul once upon a time. I no longer feel that way. I do not think it has anything to do with size, but simply to do with place. Just as there are people, for instance, you instantly like or dislike, so, too, there are towns and metropolitan places and woodlands and bodies of water which send their own messages to you, some reassuring, others frightening.

I think it would be nice to take a coastal voyage to Alaska someday, though. Maybe, I will see you there.

Thank you, Kaya, for your visit and for your comment and for your kind and ever-so complimentary words about my post and my writing. I very much enjoy your company.

Something special ....