February 19. Jazz

A life for the art is a life apart. A life à part, a sacrifice of solitude. You have to keep moving on, or you will become mediocre, a painful aesthetic entrepreneur smiling unctuously to his customers. But how do you live art? Hear that question? It is no good thinking about that at all. You just live. Take me and Jack, we just do what we do. If someone comes along and asks us if we live for the art we say of course and what are you living for? For the dough? Who doesn’t live for the art? Who doesn’t consider himself an artist of life?
Today I went for a short walk in the Barrio Alto to find a café to write. I walked down too far first, then went up again. Behind me a street musician playing Beethoven’s ninth, the anthem of Europe, and shaking his paper cup with ample coins in it to match the rhythm. Beethoven in my back, a straight blue sky above my head, reflections in the shop windows, wonderful clothes they are selling, walking up the street again to reach my café A Brazileira, the popular tourist place with the Paris entourage. I went inside and jack came along. I ordered a coffee, wrote, was said that sitting inside costs extra, felt too proud or stingy, went to another place and continued my work there. Some poetry, a fragment in French I will send to Aurélie to correct, and a short Dutch essay about the beauty of moving our appendages. It was a beautiful afternoon. I concluded the day with satisfaction and appetite to continue writing tomorrow.

Jack didn’t say much and stands at the counter to order a strong espresso. Why didn’t he go for crack right away, one asks. Well, I can explain that to you. It’s because Jack lives by the second, not by the millisecond. He still has some sense of what’s going on around him. There are still some moral values, there’s still some social glue that slips into his perception of the world. Jack is always after his pleasure, if he sees something that he can associate with pleasure (and he has a rich fantasy) he tries to grab it. He tries once, twice, and when he’s not successfull he moves on.
Jack is only a few days old now. I created him out of a rib of mine, if that metaphore pleases you. He already gave up on the world, the poor bastard. He would have been a cynic if he were like one of us. But he isn’t. Jack has no consciousness. But as we will discover in the course of his development, Jack will become our consciousess.
The opposite of Jack, of course, lives aeon by aeon. It is the higher spirit Nietzsche dreamt about. The spirits that communicate with each other throughout the centuries, Napoleon, Bismarck, Goethe, Mozart, Dante, Shakespeare, Churchill. Their talk stands on a higher level. The Apollinic beauty of the products of their minds is tantalizing to the smaller spirits; the aere perennius of their words becomes the holy grail of the less gifted; their halkyonic aura does a great job consoling the misanthropical semi-geniusses among us. Jack has a brother, Marin, who is his opposite in this sense, but he wouldn’t come with us. He is hibernating in Berlin.

Jack sees a man with a golden watch around his wrist and starts talking to him.
“You must be a wealthy man with that golden wristwatch?”
Jack lives by the second. He knows all he has to know about watches, namely their price.
The man felt uncomfortable but then found the question hilarious enough to answer it. He laughed
“Yes, you could say that. I don’t complain.”
Jack pops his lips. Then he asks his next question
“Is your daughter free?”
-“What do you mean, free?”
Jack frowns. He isn’t used to being the one that has to explain everything.
“Free to have. Can I marry her?”
The man looks stupified. Jack says “marry” because it sounds good.
-“Look mister, I don’t know who you are, but I don’t like your tone.”
“My tone? I’m only politely asking for your daughter’s hand. So, is she free?”
-“I don’t know.”
“Can’t you find out?”
The man turns his head and starts to talk to a beautiful young woman who sits next to him, as to shut down the conversation with Jack. Jack estimates the woman to be about 27 years old, and falls in love with her on the spot. It is not only her breathtakingly well-formed décolleté that makes Jack feel like a hummingbird exploring a peach tree, not only the warm teint on her smart-looking face, not only the shiny long hear that curls over her shoulders like manes in gentle gait, but her whole appearance. Her whole appearance fits into Jack’s seconds. He moves over with his chair and looks the young woman straight in her eyes.
“So, you must be his daughter. I reckon you can answer my question. So, are you free?”
She laughs.
-“No mister, I am happily married.”
Happiness sounds good. Jack doesn’t want to meddle in that.
“So, who’s the lucky guy?”
-“I am” the old man answers and he kisses the girl on her mouth. “She’s my wife.”
Jack understands pleasure is out of reach here. He gives the girl a card whispering in her ear “if he dies give me a call okay” and leaves.

That night we heard piano jazz and bossa nova from Mozambique in the CCB (Centro Cultural de Belém). It was a free concert, and it was really good. I recognized Schubert Impromptus in a terrific jazz version for solo piano. Sitting on the floor, I dwelt in dear memories of listening to piano music, memories that I have to take care of. Music is the only thing that counts! I can understand the musicians who are living for nothing but music, who marry, love, work, sleep, procreate, eat, drink, all for music, all with music in their ears. Alfred Brendel. Daniel Barenboim. That night, the piano touched me. As a writer, I take off my hat. This went way beyond words. Still, of course, my task is to find out beyond which words. I think during concerts. Always did. They can only stop the stream of thoughts in very short moments, then I feel the music, but normally thoughts pile up in my head, unfinished philosophies, ideas for writing, buzzing through my head and warming it up like a huge chestnut in a campfire. Music must catalyse it in some way. The thoughts, the words that are the furthest coasts of language, the Patagonia of speech, the heavenly words we imagine music goes beyond – is writing not a quest for these final words, that we must never understand as final but as the beginning of the organic movement of music?

We are on an Odyssee. I have to remind Jack all the time, because he never gets it. He doesn’t get excited about what’s more than a few seconds, alas, a few hours away from him. I feel sorry for him. But what can I do? There’s nothing in my power that I can do to educate Jack. Not yet.

February 18. Jack’s first adventure.

Today Jack got out early, while I was still dreaming of rosabuds and guirlandes on the wall of a monch’s refectory, of tulips and waterpipes, of drowsy days spent under semispherical
pink umbrellas, of the Lisbon elevator that takes you up to the sky for only 2€ and the tram that takes you down for much less, of the drug dealers harassing everybody who looks like a
tourist with their cheap Marihuana offers, of the miserable street people gathering food furtively like a bunch of shrewd vixen, of the affluent enjoying their café with flannel pillows
put behind their back, under their butts, supporting their knees, their hips, their shoulders, their ellbows, their ankels and all other ligaments, huge piles of pillows everywhere,
stowed in the heavy space around them, pillows with the goose feathers peeping out and start twirling slowly to the ground.

Jack got out because he wants some action. “What is a stay in
Lisbon” he thinks, “without something happening, I mean, really hap-pe-ning, something unusual like a dog pissing kiwijuice.” And Jack has a nose for things. He just goes down to Rossio, the tourist area and walks into a drug dealer. He sniffs his nose and looks the guy straight in the eyes, saying
“Got some coke?”
The guy looks at him and hisses
“Not here. Police.”
“Ah!” Jack shouts and points at the poor guy, his hands in an almost majestic pose like the Redeemer on the other side of the Tejo,
“This guy doesn’t even have the guts to sell me some decent coke. Keeping it al for himself under his pillow. What are you, a fucking pussy?”
The bystanders gather in a perfect circle around Jack and the poor guy, who starts stuttering and a white spumy stream of saliva glistens in the corners of his mouth like frothed eggwhites.
“What are you?” shouts Jack and he looks at his public. The man is angry now, he does not understand where Jack aims at. Jack aims at his frazzled identity that he identified as the
Achilles’ heel he had to put his spear in. The man sees Jack with his eyes turning and a victorious grin on his face.
“You’re nothing but a despicable street rat, a scumbag, a bum, a lost case.”
The man wipes the foam off his chin and tries to hit Jack with his fist. He misses him. Jack doesn’t think about his boredom anymore, he looks at the sky and falls in love with the clouds.
How beautiful they are, how they regained their structure, their hue, all of a sudden the world has dimensions again, dimensions to explore, myriad possibilities of soft clouds, the world was fluffy like goose feathers escaping from flannel pillows that are squeezed under well-fed behinds. Then he laughs and kicks the man between the legs. His shoes have steel fronts. The guy almost loses consciousness. He sinks to the ground and yells like a strangulated kitten. The circle of bystanders is perfect. Jack looks up at the sky again, the clouds sailed now, direction Tejo. Adrenaline is soaring through his veins. How easily does our body secretes that stuff
when engaging in a conflict with other humans. It’s almost the same hormonal high as in a deadly animal attack. I’m talking tigers and crocodiles here. Jack wonders. I have to take a note
of this, he thinks, this is bigger than me. Something along the lines of “in human encounters we are more prepared for a deadly fight than in the case of a deadly animal attack. Fear and
vigilance primordial stance of a human being-” It is a conjecture, nothing more, but Jack believes it. Suddenly, a heavy hand grasps his wrist firmly tight. The officer talks fast in Portuguese, he drags Jack along and he is taken to the police vehicle. Neat, modern minivans the Portuguese police has, Jacks observes. Now he can observe! Nice leather seats. He is unable to answer the questions the officers start yelling at him. He keeps shrugging and smiling and looking at the clouds that are almost out of sight now.
“We need your name and id please” an other officer says in English. His voice is echoing between the Pombal-facades. Jack nods his head. They begin. The first page is almost done when the same poor guy that Jack just hit walks up to them and offers his help. His voice was
vibrating.
“Hi my friend, how are you?” says he.
Jack nodded. He is fine. The policemen look at each other and at some goodlooking women that pass.
“You can go now, but the next time we’ll arrest you” the officer said to Jack.
“Got it” Jack replies and they walk together, the man he hurt and he.
“Why did you come?” Jack asks with great surprise. “I kicked you right in the balls. I inflicted terrible pains upon thou.”
The man walks next to him and seems in a hurry.
“This way” he tells Jack and takes him up a few blocks.
“You wait here.” Jack stands in a narrow street and feels happy. All the laundry drying in the February sun, silk and linen and cotton of marvelous bright colors dangling underneath the
window sills. There are blouses, towels, skirts, wunderbras, and many woolen socks. Jack can’t believe he is gazing at socks while he ought to be hanging out, having chilled Portwine with
the beautiful women of Lisbon. Why does he not hit on woman? Something is holding him back. The same thing that makes him aggressive towards people who want to sell him drugs. Jack doesn’t need anything. Just the seconds, not the stream they constitute. Jack lives his life second by second. That’s why he is disconnected to everybody, that’s why he starts kicking
other humans. The stream does not matter to him at all. The seconds are his solace, their he seeks the fecundation of his dearest ideas. He tries to hide away in the pulse of time.
I know he’s there, and I know he he is lonely and wants to listen to us. I live this life day by day, I understand Jack.The man returns and pushes Jack through a small door. Suddenly he stands in a tiny room with two beds and a smal color tv on a mahagony sideboard from colonial times. In the bed Jack counts two children.
“My family” the man says.
-“Why did you bring me here?” Jack says while uneasily looking at his toes.
“We will have dinner together.”
-“Why the hell…?” Jack grunts.
“Ssst, children asleep” the man whispers crossing his wet lips with his dirty forefinger. Jack sees the drool again. Abruptly, he turns to the man and asks
“Did Kamiel send you?”
-“No”, the man replies. “Not this time.”

I am traveling alone. I buy 10 portions of instant coffee in Pingo Doce for 50 cents, it keeps the ideas flowing. Pingo Doce reminds me of an old friend. It’s a sentimental thing. Instant coffee with milk does not taste too bad, while being a cheap form of caffeine intake. I take my computer and write, trying not to care about the result too much. Maybe I have to keep it
all to myself. If it’s a struggle and only the result counts, the shiny beads of polished insight. Nobody cares how you get there. If a friendly old man has written poetry all his life and he is invited to a tv show to tell about it, the question will be “what is your best poem?” Only the most lean, brushed-up, only the best are of any value to the interviewer. He says we reduce your life to that one poem which we are gonna absorb so all your value, all the things you are worth will be sucked out of you and into us. Your own life is worthless, we don’t give a shit about you. Give us your best poem, give us your best photograph, your best painting, your best composition, all free of charge of course, and we’ll digest that and poop it out to fortify the encrusted walls around the nidus of their fat egos.

How are peaceful societies possible? Let’s not think about that. Let’s just rejoice the freaking miracle. Couchsurfing.com has a 99.8 percent rate of positive references. 99.8 percent of
all couchsurfing experiences are good. It’s a high number, and since there are almost one million couchsurfers on the planet, it’s a reason to be positive about human nature. We are getting somewhere. Think of Obama. Still, it remains a miracle and I think it should. But we are on our way. Miller’s Tropic of Cancer closes: “The sun is setting. I feel this river flowing
through me – its past, its ancient soil, the changing climate. The hills gently girdle it about: its course is fixed.”

February 18. Jack’s first adventure.

Today Jack got out early, while I was still dreaming of rosabuds and guirlandes on the wall of a monch’s refectory, of tulips and waterpipes, of drowsy days spent under semispherical
pink umbrellas, of the Lisbon elevator that takes you up to the sky for only 2€ and the tram that takes you down for much less, of the drug dealers harassing everybody who looks like a
tourist with their cheap Marihuana offers, of the miserable street people gathering food furtively like a bunch of shrewd vixen, of the affluent enjoying their café with flannel pillows
put behind their back, under their butts, supporting their knees, their hips, their shoulders, their ellbows, their ankels and all other ligaments, huge piles of pillows everywhere,
stowed in the heavy space around them, pillows with the goose feathers peeping out and start twirling slowly to the ground.

Jack got out because he wants some action. “What is a stay in
Lisbon” he thinks, “without something happening, I mean, really hap-pe-ning, something unusual like a dog pissing kiwijuice.” And Jack has a nose for things. He just goes down to Rossio, the tourist area and walks into a drug dealer. He sniffs his nose and looks the guy straight in the eyes, saying
“Got some coke?”
The guy looks at him and hisses
“Not here. Police.”
“Ah!” Jack shouts and points at the poor guy, his hands in an almost majestic pose like the Redeemer on the other side of the Tejo,
“This guy doesn’t even have the guts to sell me some decent coke. Keeping it al for himself under his pillow. What are you, a fucking pussy?”
The bystanders gather in a perfect circle around Jack and the poor guy, who starts stuttering and a white spumy stream of saliva glistens in the corners of his mouth like frothed eggwhites.
“What are you?” shouts Jack and he looks at his public. The man is angry now, he does not understand where Jack aims at. Jack aims at his frazzled identity that he identified as the
Achilles’ heel he had to put his spear in. The man sees Jack with his eyes turning and a victorious grin on his face.
“You’re nothing but a despicable street rat, a scumbag, a bum, a lost case.”
The man wipes the foam off his chin and tries to hit Jack with his fist. He misses him. Jack doesn’t think about his boredom anymore, he looks at the sky and falls in love with the clouds.
How beautiful they are, how they regained their structure, their hue, all of a sudden the world has dimensions again, dimensions to explore, myriad possibilities of soft clouds, the world was fluffy like goose feathers escaping from flannel pillows that are squeezed under well-fed behinds. Then he laughs and kicks the man between the legs. His shoes have steel fronts. The guy almost loses consciousness. He sinks to the ground and yells like a strangulated kitten. The circle of bystanders is perfect. Jack looks up at the sky again, the clouds sailed now, direction Tejo. Adrenaline is soaring through his veins. How easily does our body secretes that stuff
when engaging in a conflict with other humans. It’s almost the same hormonal high as in a deadly animal attack. I’m talking tigers and crocodiles here. Jack wonders. I have to take a note
of this, he thinks, this is bigger than me. Something along the lines of “in human encounters we are more prepared for a deadly fight than in the case of a deadly animal attack. Fear and
vigilance primordial stance of a human being-” It is a conjecture, nothing more, but Jack believes it. Suddenly, a heavy hand grasps his wrist firmly tight. The officer talks fast in Portuguese, he drags Jack along and he is taken to the police vehicle. Neat, modern minivans the Portuguese police has, Jacks observes. Now he can observe! Nice leather seats. He is unable to answer the questions the officers start yelling at him. He keeps shrugging and smiling and looking at the clouds that are almost out of sight now.
“We need your name and id please” an other officer says in English. His voice is echoing between the Pombal-facades. Jack nods his head. They begin. The first page is almost done when the same poor guy that Jack just hit walks up to them and offers his help. His voice was
vibrating.
“Hi my friend, how are you?” says he.
Jack nodded. He is fine. The policemen look at each other and at some goodlooking women that pass.
“You can go now, but the next time we’ll arrest you” the officer said to Jack.
“Got it” Jack replies and they walk together, the man he hurt and he.
“Why did you come?” Jack asks with great surprise. “I kicked you right in the balls. I inflicted terrible pains upon thou.”
The man walks next to him and seems in a hurry.
“This way” he tells Jack and takes him up a few blocks.
“You wait here.” Jack stands in a narrow street and feels happy. All the laundry drying in the February sun, silk and linen and cotton of marvelous bright colors dangling underneath the
window sills. There are blouses, towels, skirts, wunderbras, and many woolen socks. Jack can’t believe he is gazing at socks while he ought to be hanging out, having chilled Portwine with
the beautiful women of Lisbon. Why does he not hit on woman? Something is holding him back. The same thing that makes him aggressive towards people who want to sell him drugs. Jack doesn’t need anything. Just the seconds, not the stream they constitute. Jack lives his life second by second. That’s why he is disconnected to everybody, that’s why he starts kicking
other humans. The stream does not matter to him at all. The seconds are his solace, their he seeks the fecundation of his dearest ideas. He tries to hide away in the pulse of time.
I know he’s there, and I know he he is lonely and wants to listen to us. I live this life day by day, I understand Jack.The man returns and pushes Jack through a small door. Suddenly he stands in a tiny room with two beds and a smal color tv on a mahagony sideboard from colonial times. In the bed Jack counts two children.
“My family” the man says.
-“Why did you bring me here?” Jack says while uneasily looking at his toes.
“We will have dinner together.”
-“Why the hell…?” Jack grunts.
“Ssst, children asleep” the man whispers crossing his wet lips with his dirty forefinger. Jack sees the drool again. Abruptly, he turns to the man and asks
“Did Kamiel send you?”
-“No”, the man replies. “Not this time.”

I am traveling alone. I buy 10 portions of instant coffee in Pingo Doce for 50 cents, it keeps the ideas flowing. Pingo Doce reminds me of an old friend. It’s a sentimental thing. Instant coffee with milk does not taste too bad, while being a cheap form of caffeine intake. I take my computer and write, trying not to care about the result too much. Maybe I have to keep it
all to myself. If it’s a struggle and only the result counts, the shiny beads of polished insight. Nobody cares how you get there. If a friendly old man has written poetry all his life and he is invited to a tv show to tell about it, the question will be “what is your best poem?” Only the most lean, brushed-up, only the best are of any value to the interviewer. He says we reduce your life to that one poem which we are gonna absorb so all your value, all the things you are worth will be sucked out of you and into us. Your own life is worthless, we don’t give a shit about you. Give us your best poem, give us your best photograph, your best painting, your best composition, all free of charge of course, and we’ll digest that and poop it out to fortify the encrusted walls around the nidus of their fat egos.

How are peaceful societies possible? Let’s not think about that. Let’s just rejoice the freaking miracle. Couchsurfing.com has a 99.8 percent rate of positive references. 99.8 percent of
all couchsurfing experiences are good. It’s a high number, and since there are almost one million couchsurfers on the planet, it’s a reason to be positive about human nature. We are getting somewhere. Think of Obama. Still, it remains a miracle and I think it should. But we are on our way. Miller’s Tropic of Cancer closes: “The sun is setting. I feel this river flowing
through me – its past, its ancient soil, the changing climate. The hills gently girdle it about: its course is fixed.”