Death Visits Me in Izola

Death Visits Me in Izola

1

I was lingering near the bar then known as Sonček, near Marjan Motoh’s studio, maybe I was even talking with Marjan, when my phone rang and I found there was a woman who spoke no English on the phone and seemed very upset. This was about ten years ago, so my poor Slovene was penniless, but luckily Marjan was there—he did speak English–and I handed the phone to him. The caller, it turned out, was a woman I had never met, the wife of a friend who had just driven his car into the Seča canal. Luckily his daughters weren’t in the car as they often were when Š drove drunk, which he often did. Once at my apartment in Lucija he drank nearly a liter of ruda in a very short time and soon was at my dinner table with thick parallel waterfalls of snot pouring out of his nose, coughing a concerto, while his elder daughter, maybe about 12 at the time, tried to convince him it was time to leave, which meant driving home, up to one of the small hill villages of the brda. There was no way to stop him. Š was a humanist madman, a perfervid anarchist, who taught me a new pronunciation of Balkan—the Ball-Kane, he called it, by which he meant a great many things ranging from criminal-cabalistic to utterly liberated in style and thought. I never took notes when I was with him, so I recall only one story, that arose during one of his screeds about how stupid Americans (the US ones) are. He had been a tour guide, and he was guiding a bus in Montenegro, a bus full of Americans, and they were passing through swampy land when he asked the driver to stop, and for the passengers to lower their windows. Swamp noises orchestrated their way into the bus. What is that noise? he was asked by someone who surely had heard pretty much the same noise dozens of times in some typical swamp in the US. Montenegrin baby crocodiles, he told them, or maybe the creature known as the Montenegrin dwarf crocodile. At any rate, he did it out of disgust, and they believed him, and I presume the tour continued.

I met Š in this odd Slovenia where people are always telling me, so recently a stranger, often still a stranger to them, telling me that Slovenes are a closed people, cold (as Austrians—no wonder Hitler came to Maribor and drew crowds or had them drawn; I went there, too, by the way, to speak of a newly released book, and drew a crowd of one stranger) yet so warm they swarm to their human brothers and sisters to criticize themselves; I met Š hitchhiking from Lucija to Koper. He picked me up in his Citroen, one of those you can raise and lower, a whacky car, whackier still for its driver and his two halfrican daughters—a father half-drunk early in the day with his daughters in the car picked up a hitchhike: was that the half Hungarian in him? But he was a drunk, and even madman surreal drunks become nasty at times, and twice he violated my hospitality with a turn on someone close to me. The second time it was my wife and I told him odjebi and he was off and I didn’t see him for a year, but was glad to when I did, at Boško’s place in Lucija, where my dog Zoltana learned to climb like a monkey. He was at the little šank inside, I approached, he fed me refošk while Boško as his wont wonts slipped me medica, and we were soon a bit drunk, he probably more than a bit, and he surprised me by apologizing for attacking my wife, he was truly sorry—and I was truly amazed at his memory, that it was functioning that night a year before. Ah, Črtomir, an artist of life, which so unfortunately makes of a greatness a danger to self and others. The daughters were not in the car, hvala bogu. But Črtomir was.

2

Izola is filled with ghosts, more so than any other town that has hosted me, and no, not because I have reached that age. Perhaps it is because I have managed to avoid catastrophe, none of my travels having coincided with earthquake, plague, floods, mudslides, sudden acute group apnea syndrome. I did once attempt to make a move to Yalova in Turkey that if successful would have put me there at the time of the 1999 earthquake that killed between 40 and 50 thousand in that area, some thousands in Yalova itself.  It’s something else about Izola, not only that it is a small town—I’ve lived in small towns before—but that it is an outdoor small town, one in which, particularly if you live in the center, you come across a great number of people and soon know them socially. Izola is an outdoor social town. But there is more. Izola is both Balkan and Mediterranean, circumstances that tend to breed a gregariousness that residents themselves no doubt consider the natural societal condition of the human being. They are right, if you give credence to the notion that we are by nature very much like the bonobo ape and the chimpanzee. Consider the first great Izolan acquaintance of mine to die while I lived here, a pure Balkane man named Ibro, at age 60 some a quotidian street man, someone who likely never stayed indoors an entire healthy day in his life. We moved here a bit more than ten years ago, and on that day Izola no doubt sent to its sentries like Ibro some vibration or other letting him know that new people were arriving. Ibro was a drunk, I think, perhaps he at various times in his life took various drugs—I wouldn’t know. He wasn’t for polite society, but I never enjoyed polite society myself, and so we were soon speaking that first day in some combination of partial languages, and I swear it is true that by our second day in Izola he knew the name of our dog. I’ve heard a sad story about Ibro, that he too had a dog, but it died, and in his grief he carried the dog around for days after its death. I never learned very much about Ibro because I knew him a few years and not many others well enough to talk about our locals. I did see a favorite bartender make an ugly face upon Ibro’s approach once, which was really the only fault I ever found in her; naturally I invited Ibro to sit with me and enjoy her hospitality, which he did, as he would. He always enjoyed enough life for two at the very least. My son, condemned by my own decision to move to Europe was destined to play futbol, not baseball, my own passion. I accepted this, and even grew to enjoy futbol. My son, Arjun, and I often went to svetilnik to practice the game, the ball leaving our hands at the door of our apartment and not picked up again en route to the green. We dribbled little, passing mostly, and naturally in our narrow streets the ball often made its way to the feet of others, all of whom, it seemed, were once professionals in the sport. In Europe I suppose, not just Izola, a futbol approaching ones footfall is not the least interruption, but a natural event one responds to with some tačke or a deft pass. The best day of our futbol life, though, was at Lonka, before it was disgraced by an apparently permanent bandstand that looks enough like scaffolding that it gives a once lovely spot by the sea the look of being perpetually under construction. On that day, there were others similar, but on this particular day, we played with Ibro, and I think my daughter Bhairavi took part as well, for well over an hour—the man was a true uncle to my children, a brother to me. We simply had a blast. Probably it was a short time after that day that I stopped seeing Ibro for some time. And then after a few months I saw him again, already he had been thing and now was thinner, unmistakeably dying. Very soon after he was truly gone.

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One comment came in about Ibro: ‘Ibro’s dog’s name was Miško. It got hit by a car; Ibro was running around town with this cute, bleeding dead dog in his arms, crying for help, that nobody could provide anymore. This sad, terrible image will never leave me; a man, who had just a bit more than nothing, and even that little bit left him. Ibro died shortly after his dog; as so many Izola people he just gave in. Death became a blessing around here for the dead…’

3

Why are ghosts presented to us as scary figures in stories and films? Because we understand so little about life: reality, time, death. We know that there is more to our story than is told to us, we know–and read great book by people who know as little as we do but make valiant attempts to understand what we’re missing. Schopenhauer perhaps deserves special mention, as do Indian philosophers—but not as too many idiots think because of re-incarnation (if there is re-incarnation going on it is punishment for idiots who believe in literal re-incarnation, so that some sense can be kicked into them the second time around). Kafka…well, Kafka pretty much tells us what we already know. I have occasion to discuss ideas with mostly USAmericans who like books, and now and then the topic of reason itself comes up. They are startled but usually then dismissive when I tell them that reason is a sham, a delusion. There arguments are trite, as if the very fact that 3 plus 4 equals seven every time is a rebuttal. No, our seven does exist, it positively thrives, but it does not express anything about life, which we know is something that has constant flux, is not predictable, that ends with a dismissive finality, dismissive in the sense that our desire for that not to be so, our inability to come to a secret agreement, even a secret understanding, with time has failed throughout a lifetime of attempting to bargain. To be dismissed implies a presence or a figure that dismisses—yet even that is a mere argument against reason.

So what are ghosts? Ibro is a ghost now, but we can’t ask him. His ghost is multi-dimensional, and he is a cubist ghost, too—reason mistakenly calls cubist paintings multi-dimensional. We have his memory, the bloody dog, which actually occurred longer before his death than the commenter thinks, but she conflates that horrific powerful moment, for one secret involving life and time is that it is a marriage that occurs out of the need to laugh at the human-made mechanisms to measure time, clocks and calendars. From these two observations, that the commenter conflated events and that time is not what we think it is, we can learn that time is measured by meaning, that meaning can bend time. For me, Ibro is walking toward that bar where the barmistress wishes to dismiss his existence, and he is playing futbol with my children. I just looked out there, just now. I walked the length of my apartment and looked: there is the stage, a sterile lego taverna, and across the street, just below my window, a mad painter who exists here—he may have been conjured—to underline one important distinction that need be made, which is that not all madness is divine or non-maleficent, for that bastard painter will die and become a ghost who scares children more than he does now when he is alive and is truly capable of eating them.

One of the ghosts who died young was sitting at that disgusting taverna on lonka when I saw him last. This is not a world for geniuses, so I do not know if he was one, but he had a lot of ideas to go along with a capacity for not initiating them but speaking as if he had. The words usually used for such people are ‘pathological liar’, and there is no doubt he was one of those. But when ghosts are on the mind, such an appellation is far too surface; I might as well say he had a small mole on his neck for all it speaks of him. I was mean to that guy, but the last time I saw him I was kind, telling him that the cruel nickname I was calling him by had been used for the last time. A while later he died. Cause unknown. Cause known. I would say he died because he was alive, which is one known cause, but a contributing factor—here I pull reason out of its holster like a revolver filled with blanks—was that there was no place for him in this society. Someone who knew him a little, whose judgment I do not trust, told me he was a genius, so I will speak of him as such, for I know that the human ape has served itself poorly in regards to the mind, which is vestigial as the opposable thumb by now. Our ancestors did not create in which geniuses could thrive. A historian could reel off 30 names of Renaissance geniuses, yet during those years at least 30,000 geniuses resided on Earth. The ratio, I’m afraid, is worse today. In the United States, there is something called a MacArthur genius grant, by now up to half a million dollars that is granted mysteriously or through a mysterious process, every year to sometimes a writer, sometimes some other artist, sometimes perhaps the idiot nephew of a new board member, who knows…I knew one recipient, a famous writer. A genius. Yet the most important matter in his life was his daughter—he spent the majority of his grant money visiting her, for he lived in the Midwest and his daughter lived with his ex-wife on the east coast. He had lost the custody battle, which occurred shortly after he received the genius grant. During the court scuffle, his wife’s lawyers portrayed him as the typical absent-minded (razstresen) genius who couldn’t find his own ass with two hands and a search warrant, a flashlight, a SWAT team, and a pack of tracker hounds. He lost his daughter because he was a genius. That’s at least partly true. The mother usually gets the children anyway, but he would have settled for half and half. And that tragedy came to largely define his life.

Another genius receives his certification from me, an Obala boy, as troubled and brilliant a man as I have ever met. He is legendary, and he was when he was alive. He was feared. He was explosively violent. I don’t know how I became someone he would visit on my balcony and tell me I was his best friend, that I was like a real brother. Yes, I loved him and held him in high esteem, but he was trouble, and he knew it, and showed his respect for me by retreating before it was clear I wished him to. I think he loved me for trusting him with my children—he was great with my children. He was great with my dogs. The children saw him as no adults—including me—were any longer capable, as the dogs did, they sensed not the genius, not the great man, but the real man, the man who managed to maintain his connection with the apes. He visited me last on a Tuesday night, and a bit more than ever before, suggested the suicide to come—I could be creative about such talk and am sure he left with those thoughts subdued, distracted demons…that would of course remember their toys before long. He died on Friday night, but whether or not it was suicide is not known, though in a sense of course it was and the process had been going on for twenty years.

His ghost is as complex as he was, his presences varied, unpredictable, at times violent.

4

Čebo

(for a Belgian who unlocked the land)

Ghosts have always been known to ply the seas, long before the fata morgana, ghost ships emerged from the fogs that lifted sea to sky, astonishing the land peoples and often providing cover for marauders. The Uskoki of Senj were expert at working with ghosts to mock Venezian power: surrounded on a tiny island during a rainstorm burja, they would disappear as ghosts do, only to reappear just in time for the Venezians to surround them on the island, finding tree limbs as big guns, behind detritus fortifications. So cautiously, yet without fear, did the Venezians, themselves peoples of the sea—yet defiant of the realities behind the veil of perception and so defiant ghosts, impertinent, aggrandizing, overbearing as you can see by their ghost city itself, impinging as it does on our necessary outlines of life–approach the ghost on land defending the nothing visible of an abandoned island. And in speaking of Izola we need to mention the flag of Izola, that dove that served up a fog to make of Izola a ghost as the only defense against a Genoan warship that, historically speaking, was itself a ghost in that the likelihood of an attack on Izola as a means to nip Venezian heels is rather a silly notion, like a prankster ghost, more evidence that we have little or nothing to fear from ghosts. And in speaking of Izola we must recall the ghost ships Riba I and Riba II, the last of the hiring fishing vessels, sad fading symbols of an already lost occupation, of a phantasmal definition of a place, the ghost of permanence in a temporal zone, berthed at the breakwater side by side, ghostly even when fully operative: I will never forget our first walk out to the returned ships soon after we had moved to Izola, the way they lured ghosts from every corner of the old city, who met the ships and begged or bought sardele and sardoni from the crews of seven or so stout salts, one of whom handed me a large bag of sardines, and replied when I said I had no money that I could buy him a beer sometime—I never saw him again. People from centuries ghosted by what we know of as time lured to the breakwater by the return of piscine hope…Oh how the dogs still go berserk at the end of the breakwater!

The cook on Riba II died several years ago the same way ships do on those days of fog, reverse ghost ships that leave land corporeal and slowly slip through the veil until it seems they have actually gone at speed in desperation to leave this life behind. Čebo was a man who played his vibrancy close to the vest, for he was a renaissance man of the modern anti-renaissance era. He was a lover of jazz and music of the tropics, an aging man who loved reggae. He knew the news as if he had fished the world, he knew ideas and their haunting inutilities. He could cook a brodet if he felt like it, of course, and he would cook as a visitor rather than serve, and he would from habit empty ashtrays at parties, serve drinks, but if you were on his vessel, as I once and only once was, he was not liberal with the secret rakija in the giant barrel of glass, a mixture of all fruits known to man, a thousand and one nights of deflating pleasure, of ghostful descents, of shanghaied destinies, that he served severely rationed to one shot each of deliriously fine liquor, one shot per person per trip, as if in that way only would the magic bottle remain full (I was on board the vessel again once and saw the bottle, was refused a shot though I begged, and I swear it was more full than when I spent a night and day on the ship, which set us asail with a shot of that nectar, though Čebo always said he had to be sparing of its contents for it was one of a kind, could not be repeated). I spent a night and a day on the vessel with Čebo and the rest of the crew, beginning with a shot of his magical rakija, continuing with beer, wine different rakijas so that the trip itself was for me a dream. I had hoped to see dolphins in the morning but I saw many different things as I slept and woke to drink to sleep only to wake to drink, the journey a drunkard’s dream of high adventure, a delirium, myself a ghost lest I learn the secrets of the fisherman.

Čebo taught me how to offer a cigarette at taverna Koral. At a small table we sat with two others, one of them a woman who made the mistake of asking Čebo for a smoke. ‘Ne me jugat,’ he said mildly yet with a faint trace of disgust. ‘Don’t fuck me,’ is what that means, and what it signified was you see my cigarettes on the table, don’t you, so why ask, they are for anybody—when it is on the table don’t ask, just take it. That was life itself in a humble tumbler of philosophy. He had various physical problems of the kind an overworked machine has, but he was still strong when he announced his impending retirement, which was put off again and again by a bureaucracy that was an evil ghost and a brutal reality at the same time. And when he finally retired he became a vessel embarking into the fog, slowly yet clearly losing his outlines, fading, dissolving, and disappearing suddenly, long after it was clear he was sliding into the fog.

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5

Marjan

For those of you who are afraid to become ghosts, remember this: when you die you are no longer subject to the imposition of human-imposed accounts, particularly those represented by coin. You are no longer haunted by debts, that nonsense that people created to torment each other and drive their fellows off cliffs. When Majan Motoh died I did not think of Majan Motoh, I thought first of myself, of what I had lost, another great man was gone, another daily pleasure was lost to me. I did not think of Marjan’s budget; I did not think of the relief Marjan might have experienced at his transition to the other side. But today I do, today I am thinking a great deal of Marjan’s budget, for I believe that a locus may be judged by its valuation of the arts, of artists, of culture. Back in the days of ancient Izola, which in this context means a couple of mayors ago, 12 or 13 years approximately, the town government was given the idea to make of Izola a city of arts by using the phenomenon of ground floor shops in city centers become havens for ghosts into art studios. They offered spaces to artists for 1 tolar per month. Marjan Motoh was one of the first to opt in. All the city required was that the artist work in the studio, have a presence there—and here Marjan becomes especially interesting. I haven’t said anything about him yet, I know, but I wish here only to say that Marjan was a man of the highest fashion in every way, a man who understood fashion, who understood that life was a fashion—he understood that the very essence of fashion was authenticity. He was a beautiful man because he was 100% Marjan, he dressed beautifully, because whatever he wore was 100% Marjan, his art was perfect because it was perfectly Marjan. He lived fashionably, as an artist, by merely being Marjan at all times, whatever chaos that invited or enjoined. He was not a man for accounts—he was not a man for externally imposed order. He understood well that life was a flux behind a veil of a near static bizarre façade. Yet—and this is not a paradox—when Marjan made the agreement to occupy a studio he gave himself a schedule: early morning and again in the afternoon he would be at the studio, fortunately within sight of Sonček tavern, so that, of equal importance, from Sonček bar he could see his studio. Yet he still spent a great deal of afternoon time inside the studio, near the door—he was available. He kept his schedule better than any artist in town. And he produced. His art ranged from lithography to etchings in stone, paintings in oil on canvas and silk, drawings, cartoons—he never missed his weekly and always current commentary cartoon in Mandrač, Izola’s weekly newspaper. This man who understood that constancy was the enemy of the artist was a constant as could be with his studio. There are two reasons for this: 1) It was his decision; 2) Ask Marjan.

One reason artists are the most abused members of society in such political economies as ours is that though it may be said that they had no choice but to be themselves, artists, they also entered the bargain with eyes wide open and have no basis of complaint. They can be kicked because they knew they would be kicked. Artists are like dogs who chose cruel masters. Worse, though, the artists must view the society around them and understand that there is no way to prevent ugliness, the natural outgrowth of value and function and profit as calculated by these systems, from impinging on their daily lives. They must watch politicians spend funds for the beautification of their city on all manner of ill-fitting, ill-conceived projects that betray the environment they are meant to improve. They cram indigenous plants into giant pots that sit upon the ground where they would grow naturally. They pay no attention to the historical materials and designs that created beauty organically—they choose iron over stone in a city below the karst set beside the sea. The artist is capable of elevating the true worth of the city, but is limited by the lack of imagination of those who control money and thus they are forced to try to earn a living selling art in an artlessly imagined world. Marjan was born in Ljubljana, which was probably fortunate, for the largest cities even in tiny countries are centripetally pulsing with art, art moves toward the centers, and so Marjan developed his art, became an artist, shared his artistic beginnings with other artists—he went to no school to study art; he was already an artist and he taught himself, though certainly chose teachers from among friends and artists who had long been ghosts. But he wanted to live by the sea, and thus brought his family here to Izola, and became the most important and prolific artist in the town. I have never been an art collector, and have always been collecting art—I am a poor man, so quite often collecting art to me means buying a post card with a painting I like on it and putting it on the wall. Yet somehow, beginning twelve years ago, I began without realizing it, collecting Motohs. First, some students who worked in the enlightened government of Izola at the time the studios were first rented out at that nominal one tolar a month fee, proudly took me on a tour of Izola and gave me a present of a Motoh lithograph which I can see right now on my wall, fish in a net, color avocado green. It is a Motoh, and I would easily recognize it as a Motoh wherever it might be because Motoh was that quality of artist that his art is self-signifying—everything he made one looks at it and says That, is a Motoh. When he died a couple of weeks ago I counted the Motohs in my apartment. I can’t remember buying any of them with any specificity like I can the first…I might walking down Ljubljanska, stop when I see him in his studio and somehow come out with another lithograph or a drawing, leaving his some very little money, from five to twenty euros perhaps—he sold cheap because he did not care about money as it pertained to art, not because he needed to make a sale at that time…and eventually I found I had 14 Motohs in my apartment. So I wrote in my eulogy for the Mandrač. Of course there is always one more Motoh. I had forgotten my big purchase, a square stone etching of a wind rose—from his studio on Ljubljanska to near Manzioli there is a virtual outdoor gallery of such stones, thanks to his relationship with his environment, that fortuitously included the tavern and right next door the family home of the people most responsible for maintaining an artistic life in Izola through sponsorship of music events, street parties, publications, art and artistic idea, the Mislej family, who produce the Mandrač. For me, this is a luxury item, for Marjan this was a very minor work. I mentioned the idiots who shape the town; there is one work of art only that perfectly embodies the town made by a current artist—for Marjan died to recently to be considered utterly gone. That is the bollard on Sončno nabrežje pictured above, a bollard, that classic symbol of the sea and seamanship, subtle omnipresent, artless and radiant with meaning and history; so the bollard, but also the stone, the limestone, the native stone or our region, and on it a wind rose, one of the maritime world’s natural artistic inventions. But sometimes art is not meant to blend in. Sometimes art is meant to proclaim. And the one work in Izola that does so uniquely is Motoh’s sculpture, also an etching on stone, in Pietro Coppo Park, an exquisitely wrought reproduction of Pietro Coppo’s map of Izola:

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This to me represents the beginning of my own disgust with this town I love so much, or so often so much, for at this very moment I am brim full of hatred and disgust.

Yes, the artist is abused. Abuse me, your humbly serving writer, Abuse Karp, the other great painter who took a studio at the beginning of that brilliant hustle. But I abhor you all, for you need not have abused us all, and especially the man who could have done more than any other to make this town unique and artful. For very little money, which would have meant a great deal for Marjan Motoh, allowing him to live without accounts, the city could have used his talents in perpetuity, and we would have instead of the most ugly—less even than mundane—lighthouse on the Adriatic we would have alongside it a creation of Motoh’s, of enduring life in stone rather than rusting painted metal. And wherever there is a street named after a person, we could have a fitting homage to that person wrought in stone, and beyond that, instead of the street signs we have we could have our streets defined and defining, our signs made by Motoh, in stone—there is one, but not by Motoh, a stone from Italian days, Egidio Street: go find it. The Street has changed his name, but etched in stone is EGIDIO. So, yes, tragedy is also that which does not happen. In the case of Marjan Motoh tragedy is what did not and what did. He, now that I am as romantic as a violent storm drenching an island town, I can bring myself to say that while Marjan was not appreciated, not provided the opportunity to transform this town for the better and rather condemned to watch it deteriorate, instead he was his own work of art. Every time I saw Marjan he was witty, friendly, and the artist Marjan Motoh—all forces of clinical capitalist debauchery were fended off by the divine debauchery that is embodied by only the finest of artists. He lived and became his work. Now he is gone, but his ghosts have yet to emerge, for this death is too great an event for such transmogrifications to be rushed. Marjan retired. That in itself is a joke. Marjan went on his pension, his 330 euros a month. Nothing changed in his life except for the slight raise from a widower’s pension to his own pension. Nothing inside him, nothing he could control changed. His life remained on his chosen schedule. But a particular external change occurred—here the writer searches for a word that is as simple as idiot yet accommodates the evil implicit. Call it evil then. The Mayor Klokočovnik decided that the artists must pay for their studios and the next mayor did not have the clarity of mind or awareness of the communal import of art to rescind that asshole Klokočovnik’s determination. So look here at our artist. He smokes, as all men have the right, (yes, women, too), and as an artist perhaps as sublimation, as an indulgence against quotidian injustice and malevolent absurdity, human-made. Let us call him a pack a day smoker. For that he must spend 105 euros a month. All the same applies to his drinking. Marjan drank travarica, which is not so expensive, as nothing is at Pri kralju, nee Sonček, but is, after all, 1 euro and 20 cents. Let us allow Marjan two shots a day. After all, he deserves it like any of us and perhaps one or two more. And as we love him, let us yield one beer at 2 euros. So his humble bar bill is 4 euros 40 cents per day, so 130 euros per month. Now he has nothing, he has the morning paper, or permission to park, car registration, benzin, coffee…Coffee! Almost forgot, let us limit him to two per day, as he was in  his mid 60s, that age when a man must begin to watch his caffeine intake, so 2 euros per day, now 60 per month. Yet of course no one lives by strict accounting—do not overpity yet, for there will be those who buy Marjan a drink…but what that means, too, is that Marjan must be budgeted a little extra that he may buy a drink on occasion, and as we are up to 295 euros per month, let’s get to 330, allow him 35 euros per month for impulsive generosity. It’s a good life, a simple Istrian life of an artist. He awakens, has a coffee that he takes to his studio, emerges for a shot. He returns to his home and then is back to his studio in the afternoon, when he has another shot, another coffee. He spends an hour talking to his daughter, and that’s when he drinks his beer. Perhaps she buys him one or two more, and somewhere in there he neglects to buy someone a drink and instead hands a euro to a grandchild. Many of us would envy him such a free and simple—even cozy—life. 330 a month. The studio, though, is now no longer free and the bills are at an all-time high (believe me): he must pay at least 65 euros a month. I cannot guess what his apartment cost in taxes and bills. Surely more than 100. And much as I hate to bring it up, the man must eat.

Marjan Motoh lived 65 years, produced countless, literally, works of art, worked continuously, went unacknowledged as the finest artist on the coast—I have one final critical appreciation left to say—lived without the most common modern amenities, the computer and automobile, lived anything but extravagantly, and died in debt. I cannot express my sarcasm as artistically as Marjan would, but if I could, this is what I would draw:

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Many artists on the coast, perhaps most, cater to tourists, their themes, if they can sometimes be called as such, are boats and fish and…well, let’s just say boats and fish. The key to Marjan’s ‘local’ art is perhaps in his decision to move to the sea, his desire to live near the sea. Marjan’s art all around my apartment is, well, nothing but boats and fish. Yet I wonder if whether the difference between his art, what elevates his boats and fish above those of others, is that a free Marjan is creating those boats and fish, creating, not created, for they are still alive though he is dead: one of them is a sail boat, ghostly in and of itself, with a very tall mast, and the colors are scumbered darknesses, ranging from midnight purple to purples of other midnights, a stunning work, yet at the same time casual, what Marjan would probably have agreed is a mere Motoh, bought for 10 euros one happy unrepeatable day.

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Geography Quiz Answers

  1. Vietnam is not as big as Cambodia and Laos combined. I thought it might be, so I made a question of it. The problem is Laos is bigger than it seems.
  2. I have no idea where this question came from, nor what it really means. Existentially, no answer is really correct. But Vanuatu is the answer, and I suggest we all simply forget the whole thing.
  3. This one is important. The Chagos Islands are owned, so to speak by the British and controlled by the US, who wanted it for a base and leased it in the mid-60s from the Brits. The problems was the place was inhabited. As we know from the last hundred plus years, this is not necessarily a problem. The Brits simply removed the islanders, mostly to the Maldives, and they remain a stateless people in any real sense of that term. But the US makes good use of the island, from where they exert much of their global military dominance, particularly from the notorious Diego Garcia.
  4. That first city may not exist–I thought its sounded like a city. But Novi Sad is the central and largest city of Vojvodina, the great overlooked Serbian city of the Pannonian Plain.
  5. There is one far flung Philippine island farther north than Hong Kong. This question meant to highlight the stretch of the Philippines.
  6. Windward and Leeward islands…weren’t we supposed to know these? But how many come to mind, even after hearing their names? Saint Kitts sounds familiar. One of the others is a correct answer as well. Or is it the other way around? Check Google Earth.
  7. Poor Gozo, so much of Malta, so little in our hearts.
  8. The key question here is ‘would’, which makes all answers correct.
  9. This fine question I must admit is not mine, but Martin’s. I knew Kazakhstan was the northernmost, or figured it out quickly, but Comoros? Who would have thought. I looked into it, checking the southernmost Indonesian islands, but true to form Martin was correct.
  10. I love this one. Forget the US States and the correct answer, it is really just a way to emphasize how few double landlocked countries there are in the world. The answer is one or two, depending whether or not you believe in Liechtenstein. I do not. I do, however, believe in Uzbekistan, and in fact will soon be portraying that country here, as the US ally of the year–the last two winners being Iraq and before that Israel, and the year before…well, I can’t remember, but they had one hell of a human rights record.

Geography Quiz #17, bonus question

As our students of geography have found this latest quiz a bit too obscure and even difficult, we have conjured a bonus question which you may use to replace any of the other questions on the quiz.

To wit:

If the Black Sea were considered to be part of the Mediterranean, which of the following cities would not be a port:

–Izmir

–Taranto

–Ceuta

–Rome

GEOGRAPHY QUIZ#17

Geography Quiz #17

For this quiz I have invited a guest to help formulate the question. Martin McCarville of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, North America, Western Hemisphere has delivered five of these question, one of which I knew. He knew three of mine.  But I will not say who is responsible for which question.

 

  1. True or false: Vietnam is larger in size than Laos and Cambodia combined.

      2. What country has the highest density of languages per capita?

      3.  Who controls the Chagos Islands?

      4.   Which is the main city of Vojvodina:

           –Vergenhulst

          –Novi Sad

          –Czernowitz

         –Monastir

  1. Which is farther north, Hong Kong or the Philippines
  2. Which two of the islands on this list are Windward Islands, as opposed to Leeward Islands?

         — Saint Kitts

         –Santa Lucia

         — Saint Thomas

         — Saint-Barthélemy

         –Saint Vincent

          7. What country is the island of Gozo in, taking up nearly one-third                    of that nation’s total space

         8. Of the three totalitarian megastates in George Orwell’s 1984—                         Eastasia, Eurasia, and Oceania—which would have had the largest                 uranium reserves?

         9.What are the northernmost and southernmost Muslim-majority                    countries (by northernmost and southernmost point)

       10.If each state of the US were to become an independent country,                    what would be the total number of doubly landlocked countries in                  the world?

Tsutsugamushi and the Microbial Apocalypse

Bad dreams, bad ideas, bad people, good tics, mites, parasites…sick is well, well is ill, a pail of sick tics down the well wall into the bottomless.

I dream tsutsugamushi–a giant mite on my face as I slumber, or I dream a giant mite on my face as I slumber exposed to the tsutsugamushi flux of the quotidian.

So I googled–I googled (is not this heralding the end?)–microbial apocalypse and second on the list was my own blog, first was a ship in Kazakhstan probably, stranded a few thousand miles from anchorage, or Ankarajastan, but the story was no story, rather an exercise in imagination, imagine a world, imagine a world you awaken to, a world bare of microbes!

Noughtmares, fleet zero horses, riding the tsutsugamushi trail, with flung fruit furrowed into their flesh.

Tsutsugamushi: Is a Comeback in the Offing?

Tsutsugamushi is a febrile disease caused by mites, which in itself is not a matter for concern. But, and be calm here, there is a chance that the treatment for tsutsugamushi, fairly standard antibiotics, will soon be utterly useless, as this week we have found that a microbial strain has developed that is immune to all known antibiotics. This tends to make the medical community think that perhaps the microbial apocalypse is nigh.

tsu

WHAT CAN I DO?

  1. Be sure your community has an effective mite control unit. Remember, not all mites are bad mites, and no good will come of killing inoffensive mites.
  2. Stop taking antibiotics for sprains, rugby injuries, acne, anxiety, ess (excess of saliva syndrome), tenderness in the ribs, reflexively after coitus, and so on. In other words, be sure doctor is coordinating efforts with the World Health Organisation.
  3. Eventually, and the sooner the better, you will need to find an Indian doctor. There is likely one in your community already or at least in the nearest city with a population of 50,000 or more. Indian doctors have the most experience with creature borne diseases as well as the longest tradition of effective healing in general. You will be surprised to find how many times the cure to your health problem disappears with a change in your point of view.

IS THE MICROBIAL APOCALYPSE INEVITABLE?

Yes, it is.

IS THAT ALL?

No, there is much more, but I would not exhaust readers with a comprehensive presentation. I will, however, answer any and all questions.

Rick