Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Getting recultured

I am writing this on the bus from Chicago to Detroit.  Because I can.  The difference between this and my last bus ride is the difference one finds between worlds.  Just thinking about my last bus ride triggers my incipient claustrophobia and makes me want to climb walls.

Chicago is awesome. As always.  D and I spent about 5 hours yesterday getting our culture on in the Art Institute of Chicago.  There I learned that I need to reacquire the ability to stand patiently in line . . . instead of walking up and taking whatever I am after . . . and shoving my way through people to do it. This tends to make Americans uncomfortable.

I like looking at art, especially after not seeing much of it for three years.  D and I's tastes are pretty similar, although she has less of a tolerance for modern and abstract art than I do, so that is helpful.  We spent a lot of time looking at Impressionism and early modern European/American art.  It is nice to go to an art museum with a lovely lady on one's arm- when the pictures get boring, you can look at her instead. 

Monet blows my mind.  I get lost in his colors. But the one piece of art that I can think of that provokes an emotional response in me besides "wow, thats pretty cool" is Van Gogh's "Portrait of the Artist, 1887."  It looks like his face is popping out of the canvas and is about to take a shot of absinthe while lashing me with a tortured stare. 

There were some French tourists in the museum.  I heard one girl ask her mom why there were so many French artworks in an American museum. Not really, but I would have asked that if I were her.

I dont care what anyone says, I love the public transport in Chicago.  Cars in cities are so over-rated.

 My great-aunt died last Tuesday.  She is permanently 92.  My mom and I went to see her on Monday.  She seemed sleepy, but she read an article about me in the newspaper.  Then we left to let her rest.

The funeral was Saturday morning.  I appreciated the solemnity of the occasion, and the emphasis on "celebrating" my great-aunt's life, but celebration does not happen in a somber church where silence is golden and everyone is dressed in black and sadness.  The funeral home guys in charge of the ceremonies were professional and courteous.  And resembled porceline dolls treating the occasion like a glass snowflake in which a sneeze would shatter the occasion a million jagged shards of emotional trauma.  The whole ceremony had a theatrical feel to it in which ritual mourning was more important than any sort of spontaneous expressions of joy.  As in we were expected to feel a certain way, and the service was engineered to produce that feeling.  The result was a fragile performance of mourning that seemed more designed for the casual funeral attendees than for us, the family.  A true celebration is supposed to joyous, not necessarily happy.  Grief certainly has a place in a celebration that is joyous, much like you cannot have light without dark. This point of view has probably been influenced by all the funerals I attended in Togo, where partying in memory of the departed was the order of the day.  And in which the departed was still thought to be hanging around. 

I was one of the pallbearers.  I had this urge to suggest we do like the Konkumba do and put the coffin on our heads and go dancing around the block with it.  With beer.   But I did not want to shock the funeral guys. The best part about my great-aunt's funeral is that she had requested the "Hallelujah Chorus" to be played when the coffin was taken out.  That's more like how it should be.

Since my great-aunt was buried in my mom's ancestral cemetery, my dad and I dug the grave Friday morning. D came and helped supervise.   She and my dad shouted directions as I ran the backhoe.  I have now helped dig grave on 2 continents.

I wore actual shoes for the funeral. For the first time since January, 2011.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that my suit still fit. 

The only Bible verse I want read at my funeral is Genesis 6:4 because the world is a strange and wonderful place. 

D and I went out to dinner with my friend Laura and her boyfriend Eric the other night.  It was good to see them.  3 years seems like a long time, but, with some people, it doesnt seem like any time has passed at all.  We had amazing chinese food too.

I still do not have a phone. This is the longest I have gone without owning a cell phone since I first got one when I was like 18.  I want a new iphone, but I want to buy one that is unlocked so that I can use it overseas.  Unfortunately, new, unlocked iphones are super expensive without the discount you get when you sign an annual contract.  I do not want to do this because, when I joined Peace Corps, I had to pay a bunch of cancellation charges.  All this stuff with cell phone contracts and locked phones is bullshit.  I feel like I have to chose between a bunch of noxious squid who are trying to lure me into reach of their toxic tentacles in order to suck out bits of my soul.  I miss Togo where I can buy a phone and a sim card in like 5 minutes and start talking.  I guess maybe I am spoiled, but I don't feel like tying myself to some corporation again.

All the new styles here are kind of amazing.  In Chicago I saw a lot of new car models that I did not recognize.  New phones.  Different clothing lengths and combinations.  I was puzzling over a guy's clothes on the L when D pointed out to me that we were in Boystown.  I took a picture for a woman at the AIC with her phone and the picture looked as good as my camera could do.  Crazy.

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