0026 – The Softness of Winter

Snow on grass, Berlin November 2023

I woke up this morning and there was a stillness in the air. It feels like everything has slowed down and things are more focused. There’s a lot of life within. I remember being in a garden in northern Norway one winter. The snow was up to our stomachs but I waded through anyway. I saw a long brown stem. They told me it was a rose. I had trouble believing it. In Malayisa if a plant looks like it’s dead, it’s usually dead.

I came back in the summer and the flowers grow so heavy from that rose that it almost bent it out of shape, such was the decadance of life. All the trees have lost their leaves now here in Berlin and the branches are coated ever so slightly with an icing of snow. I feel calmer now than I did before. I feel it was a sort of manic summer, with many changes. Now it feels like the time for settling and doing things internally, letting things come to rest and preparing for a new season.

I’ve been listening to “Goin’ to Acapulco” by Bob Dylan, specifically from the Basement Tracks. He had retreated into his basement with The Band (a band named The Band) and started recording half done but also perfectly executed songs. Acapulco is a city in Mexico that sits on the water, you know the ones with the sandy white beaches. I read somewhere he took the idea from Elvis who mentioned it in one of his songs.

I’ve been struggling a lot this year with understanding compromises, why we make them and the rationales we use to justify them. There’s a part in Goin’ to Acapulco that goes like:


I’m going down to Rose Marie’s
She never does me wrong
She puts it to me plain as day
And gives it to me for a song

It’s a wicked life, but what the hell
Everybody’s got to eat
And I’m just the same as anyone else
When it comes to scratching for my meat

I love how he sings it because it’s so strained and so world weary. He’s playing his song in maybe a brothel and that could mean anything, it could mean the world, the music industry. It talks about doing what you can to get what you need. He puts himself at the place of anyone else and says that he’s had to make compromises too. It’s making peace with oneself, it’s understanding what happened and why we do certain things. I love how they howl in the chorus like lonesome wolves. It’s haunting. I’d like to imagine them in the basement like on the album cover.

I’ve been in a weird place, this surreal place. I think working on the computer too much does that to you. Too much is virtual. I was poked on the shoulder on the plane the other day: “Hey, you want something?” he asked. Only Americans are able to be so politely impolite. He was a young man working as a cook in one of the fanciest restaurants in Berlin, I found out. It was so easy to speak together and conversation just flowed. I miss Americans, they actually know how to talk.

We were stopped by the border control because of course. I wonder what kind of life it is to stand around and pick people out for security checks. To move people with a finger. He smiled at his power but he weilded it lightly too.

My new friend spoke about how it was to work the grill station, how it was to cut things. “I would quit if I had to use blunt knives, it’ll take all the fun out of it”. He said he was used to working six days, he loved working. We talked about the difficulties of finding apartments and visas and learning German. We had a lot of fun speaking to the taxi driver and what he lacked in pronounciation he made up for in kindness.

I toyed with the idea of working in a kitchen, which food lover hasn’t? There’s something ancient about it, it’s probably the oldest profession regardless of what people say. We then got speaking about writing and how a lot of nonsense happens in the kitchen that no one knows about. That reminds me, I should proably read “Kitchen Confidential”.

Sometimes we have to meet other people, to play around with potentialities to come closer to who we are and what we want. As the conversation gravitated towards storytelling it made more sense to me. I think this is my craft, I could do this and I want to do this. Alain de Botton says that we should listen to what makes us envious and I’m definitely envious of people like Craig Mod and Visa who make their living from writing. Not writing in the traditional sense with a publisher and whatnot but writing with an audience, a following and fans who want to see what you come up with. I would really like that.

I would love to meet people, interview them and document their stories, their lives. Maybe I should do that with my friend. I’ve sent him the link to this blog, maybe he’ll read it and see himself sketched out here. It’s kind of like a portrait, you know but with words rather than charcoal.

I miss my friends lately, I miss my family. The day gets dark around three and part of what keeps me going is that I get to write here in the mornings. Another very stabilizing part of my life is work. It’s important to be wanted, it’s important to be needed. I think it’s very easy to be untethered and float around. I want to do great things for people and go places. Maybe my writing can take me there some day.

How about creating a series like “Humans of New York?”. I find their stories a bit too on the nose but how about a slightly anonymized version? Let’s think about it.

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