The valley of the Mississippi is, upon the whole, the most magnificent dwelling-place prepared by God for man’s abode; and yet it may be said that at present it is but a mighty desert.
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, p. 14
Winter here is a pitiless bitch, but in the warm months [the midwest]’s a little like a seaside community except the ocean here is corn, which grows steroidically and stretches to the earth’s curve in all directions. The town itself in summer is intensely green – streets bathed in tree-shade and homes’ explosive gardens and area-code-size parks and golf courses you almost need eye-protection to look at, and row upon row of broad weedless fertilized lawns all lined up flush to the sidewalk with special edging tools. (People here are deeply into lawn-care; my neighbors tend to mow about as often as they shave.) To be honest, it can be a little creepy, especially in high summer when nobody’s out and all that green just sits in the heat and seethes.
[E]verybody pretty much has his family and neighbors and tight little circle of friends. By New York standards folks keep to themselves.** They play golf and grill out and go to mainstream movies …
… And they watch massive, staggering amounts of TV. I’m not just talking about the kids.
David Foster Wallace, The View From the Midwest. (AKA: The ONLY writer of our generation gives the best description of the Midwest Americana. Ever).
There is something to be said about the notion of a motherlanguage. I really do not know which one is mine anymore. I figured I should write something about leaving Carbondale in this blog, since this was my little place for comfort during the years I was getting used to the idea of being in Carbondale.
But I never wrote in English much around here. Actually, there is a case to be made that I never wrote in English around here. Perhaps because I always intended this to be the place my friends back home would go to see how we were doing. The thing is, where the hell is home?
And if I have a motherlanguage by now, which is it? I know for a fact I am a clearer writer in English, I also know that I feel more comfortable writing in the language that Milton invented.
This little stupid thing that I study keeps on telling me about the distinction between home and alien, and something like “motherlanguage” fits right in. So, the motherlanguage should be the language we express something that we cannot quite translate.
Portuguese speakers like to brag about the word “saudade”.
I particularly think it’s bullcrap. Saudade means “longing”. The end. But what’s with this thing, why do I feel compelled to write about leaving the Midwest in English? I don’t know.
It was a good home for us. Though I hated it more often than I liked it. But I guess we just enjoy hating stuff. It’s a good exercise, you should try it sometime. But I guess I will miss being so close to the river, and the birds. I’ve always really liked the birds. Carbondale has got this insane sky, and it’s in the middle of the migratory route for a bunch of birds. So they would make their pitstops around the patio at Southern Hills, and I would feed them cheap seeds. They would stay for a while, when winter was not bad. And then, if winter was bad enough, we would be left with the crows beating on our windows and asking, ‘hey, what the fuck, we need seeds too, asshole’ .
I like the crows, actually. After the woodpeckers they might be my favorite bird around here. They are bad ass, they don’t take shit from anyone, and they eat squirrels.
Tatiana thinks they are bad omen. I think that people that do academic work for a living don’t get to talk about bad omen – we basically choose one as a way of life. So, the shit for that.
Yesterday it hit me that it was our last day in the apartment. It was a strange feel. It didn’t last much. We’ve been so tired that we hardly have time to feel much these days. I suppose it’s a great thing. But we lived in Carbondale, in that apartment, way more than we lived anywhere else. Our little apartment in downtown Porto Alegre, that we loved so much and that was so tiny that we were actually surprised when we saw it empty, is now a strange memory from seven years ago.
The place where we lived for two years, during the time we were figuring out how to be a couple, that was not home. That cannot be home when we’ve been in Carbondale for the better part of six years, making money count, getting into fights, making friends and unmaking friends (and we are pretty good at both parts, let’s face it), building up our own version of what a family should look like.
Shit, that’s gotta be home, right?
So it’s weird, I guess, that we are leaving home to go back home. And perhaps that we are homeless – of course, in a peculiar sense, but I had to give my research theme some sort of relevance, so, there.
I have a thing for the wind around here, too. It’s a open field wind. The kind of wind we call “north wind” back home. It is the wind that announces a storm. You know there is a storm coming when the wind blows north.
Today is a outstandingly beautiful day, with the kind of big sky you get here, and that looks totally fake when you see in pictures. It’s not. The sky opens up in this sort of deep blue, and if it is winter, you know that it will be cold as fuck outside. I remember in my first winter here, I actually got out to take pictures in a day like today. We didn’t have a car, and I walked through Pleasant Hill Rd. through the reservoir, and went up to the library annex. People must have thought I was insane for walking around there. I didn’t give much of a shit. This was in 2008, Flaviu and Mimi still lived across our apartment, and came for cake and tea every other day, and I had barely been admitted in the program.
Few people know this, but we got a notice in December 23rd 2007 that I wouldn’t be able to stay in Carbondale. I was to go to New York. That was a weird Christmas. And by weird I mean it was fucked up. We fixed it. We fix shit, it’s one of the things we do well. But it was a strange feeling, we thought things were going to the gutter, that we would have to make do, and so on. We would only be able to relax in the end of January, when things got back on track, thanks to our refusal to understand the meaning of the word no.
And then, we finally were home. And that’s where we’ve been.