”Sometimes I wonder why I even take pictures. I take a bunch of them for weeks, months. When look back at them, I realize none of them are any good. ‘Listen you don’t have what it takes,’ I tell myself, ‘you need to stop fooling yourself. There’s a life you need to lead. There’s nothing wrong with this life. It’s just not the life of an artist, about finding or expressing yourself. Most of them are miserable anyway. You are miserable and you are not even a real one. They say there’s nobility in the man chasing the impossible dream. But there’s nothing sadder than the man chasing a dream that doesn’t even belong to him. This doesn’t to you. This is not you. Go home.’
It’s then that I encounter this street musician. I’ve seen him before. He moves from place to place. You live in the city you can’t miss him. And it’s not the music that fascinates me about him, it’s how he plays it. Every time, he’s standing there, for hours with a big smile on his face. For a long he has realized he never play an arena, the crowd will always be small. Most people even ignore him. But so what? There he is, singing his heart out for a few pennies people have to spare! You realize that that this is a man that has found himself a long time ago. And that’s all I want to be. I want to be authentic. I just want to know who I am, to be good at something. In the infinite book of human expression, I will be in one of those pages. Like so many, there was something I wanted to say. Before it all ends, there was something I needed to leave behind- even if nobody will pay attention to it. Like the street musician, I will be ignored, yet I smile and play my heart out anyway. Maybe I’m asking too much, but I can’t let this go. I don’t care if this dream doesn’t belong to me, I’m chasing it anyway.”
Photograph taken in Groningen, Holland.
”It was a small village, packed with farmers. The days were predicable. If you wanted fancy stuff you had to drive for an hour to the mall or to the city. The people live here for the silence….
They hadn’t seen him before. It was obvious he came from a different place. Cars would stop, doors would open. He’d tell the driver he was fine, ‘don’t worry, it looks worse than it is,’ he’d said, ‘I live close by from here. I’ll be fine.’ He would put pressure on his wound as he walked ahead. It wasn’t far from here, he believed this, though sometimes he forgot where he was supposed to go. He would think of home, but he wasn’t sure whether he still lived there, whether these people still lived there with him.
Things get so blurry. When you’re hurt, things become a blur. You get these images of the past. Streets. Roads. Houses. Buildings. Fields. You remember them so clearly. You feel your ghost still there.
He found a pathway under the bridge. It seemed so familiar to him. He went off the road and ventured into that pathway. They had been doing some construction there. There was nothing there, no houses. Only graffiti, evidence of youthful parties. If he made it far enough, he would find himself on the highway. Eye-witnesses said that he had a smile on his face, as if he was looking forward to something.
Sometimes you remember things so clearly and places become so meaningful to you, you need to be there. No matter how far it is, no matter if these places even still exist, there has to be a way.”
Photography taken somewhere in Poland.
”In the end I think it’s better for them. They don’t need to know me. They will imagine a villain, a selfish creature, that deep down could not care less about them. It will give their suffering some weight. Build character even. I will be a mindful obstacle. In therapy they will overcome me. Nobody wants a flawed parent, it can’t be that complicated. Just some asshole undone by his weaknesses. It’s just so fucking lame. Perhaps even more painful in retrospect. It’s better for me to be a demon. All of my fragile humanity will just frustrate them. Too much pity will obstruct their growth. They will grow stronger if they hate me. To answer your question: yes I knew what I was leaving behind. I just couldn’t stop myself. I just kept on walking, I kept telling myself that I would turn around eventually but I never did. I do miss them, but even if I manage to return, I know I will walk away again. It’s in my nature, runs in the family. I wish I was a better person, but this is who I am…. Again please don’t tell them where I am. It’s better if you them that you couldn’t find me. Presume me dead. You will only be doing them a favor.”
Photograph taken somewhere in Poland.
”They talked about the old world, how the young don’t appreciate what they have now. They see the kids coming in and out of these fancy clothing stores, spending so much money. This kind of consumerism didn’t exist in their days- not for their kind anyway. The special ones could do everything, the normal ones had to get by. Back in those days, there were no choices, only survival. There was duty. If you didn’t do what you needed to do, you weren’t going to make it. ‘We have come to a point now where we coddle our children, all their feelings matter,’ said one of them. ‘It didn’t used to be this way. The world didn’t care whether you were depressed or came from a broken home. You had to go out there anyway and make something of yourself. Now a work-ethic is secondary.’ ‘Just wait and see’, said the other one, ‘read the newspapers, the old world is coming back. The signs are all there.’
For a moment they wondered what they would do if they were the young generation. A rumination so painful, they quickly abandoned it. They lived in a world where such dreams are dangerous. If you dream too much and wake up, the dread would be unbearable. It’s better to stay grounded and prepare for the worst.”
Photograph taken in Krakow, Poland.
”I have this habit of looking back, even though I know I shouldn’t. If I don’t go back I have this constant feeling telling me that something is amiss. Something’s wrong, you need to check it out before it’s too late. I keep fearing that pernicious knock on the door, the devil smiling at me, telling me ‘you should have seen it coming.’
So I look back, observe images from the past. Some of them are very painful. Once you see them and look hard enough, they refuse to leave you alone. But I keep looking, hoping to find something, an answer that will make these painful memories hurt less. I keep trying to remember everything as clearly as possible. Maybe if I look hard enough, I think, I will discover something new.
In return I find myself imprisoned back there. I try to escape but the guilt becomes too much. I try to stop caring but I can’t. There is nothing I can do. I just keep staring back, hoping that somehow, if I look hard enough, I will find a way out of there.”
Photograph made in Poland
A Friend in Weird Places
Sometimes you close your eyes and find yourself in a place that doesn’t exist anymore. There was a playground, a sandpit in the center. As a child you would fill buckets and topple them until you created castles. A swing-set nearby, as a child you would try to reach the heavens with your feet. There was a time when great adventures were made by sliding down a slide and crawling into tubes. The older you get, the smaller the world gets.
When you’re in puberty, you would return to this place at night, sharing a cigarette with your best friend.
But Harry was forty-five years old now. The street where he used to live is full of shops now. The playground has been demolished, another shop opened up on its location. Any semblance of his youth resides only in his mind now. So goes the fate of all our childhoods.
Harry found himself here, in the place that doesn’t exist anymore. He looked up into the sky, Dark clouds were circling this playground, ready to descend hail fire.
A familiar voice: ”hey butthead!”
Harry looked to the swing-set where the voice came from. There he saw someone he hadn’t seen in nearly three decades.
”Yeah I’m talking to you!”
It was Crispin, his childhood friend who looked just like the fourteen boy in the height of their friendship sitting in one of the two swings. Still slightly chubby donning the traditional crew-cut his father from the military persisted he’d get. But still wearing the Frank Zappa T-shirt, where Zappa flipped the bird to the audience- something he wasn’t allowed to wear in school. They lost in touch in the end of his adolescence.
”We were supposed to be friends forever,” said Crispin as Harry moved towards him with a stunned face.
”We promised we’d be always be there for each other.”
Harry looked him over. He was a confused and nothing made sense but there was a sense that it was pointless to ask.
”I’m talking to you butthead!”
”Things happen,” Harry said, sitting next to him on the other swing-set, ”we didn’t know real life when we promised this. You died before you ever discovered the real world.”
”But you barely thought of me in the last few years. You believed yourself to be alone. You never thought I would still be there for you.”
”But you aren’t. You’re dead.”
”That doesn’t matter. A promise is a promise.”
”What are you able to do for me?”
”Nothing in the outside world. But in here I can save your soul.”
”Is my soul in danger?”
”Not yet, but somebody has his eyes on it.”
Crispin pointed ahead of him and Harry followed his finger: there stood a man with a blank white face with bulging dark eyes. A bald scalp, his face seemed unnaturally smooth, not a trace of hair. Even his eye-brows were gone. He was wearing a three-piece suit, perfectly fitted, the color of dark gray, only his tie had the color of scarlet red.
”He can only have your soul if you do things that will change it to his advantage. If you fall deep enough, he will be able to reach you.”
”What is his name?”
”It doesn’t matter.”
”How about Mr. Anonymous?”
”He’s your foe.”
”He looks scary.”
”He is. He is everything you were ever frightened off and you’re playing a very dangerous game with him.”
”What if I stop playing?”
”That’s not an option. That was never an option.”
”Tell me how to play the game. Tell me how to beat him.”
”In here, it’s easy but when you are out there, you really have to listen.”
”Tell me now.”
”You don’t have much time.”
”You’re waking up soon.”
Mr. Anonymous groans, it’s the groan of loud annoyed cat.
”Here it comes.”
”Don’t be scared. It’s only a dream.”
Crispin pushes a hand on each ear, closes his eyes. Before Harry can comprehend why, Mr. Anonymous runs towards him, screaming as he does. The screaming is terrifying, it sends shivers down Harry’s spine. The scream affects the dark skies above, as it begins to roar as it to warn them of an upcoming storm. Harry pushes his ears closed and watches Mr. Anonymous run toward him- but something strange happens, the scene keeps repeating itself. He keeps seeing him run towards him, again and again, moving closer and moving back, as if on a loop. His bulging eyes seems to almost burst from his sockets, his mouth, inside there’s nothing but sharp pointy teeth, seems to get bigger and bigger. Harry feels himself falling. …This is when Harry wakes up.
Art by David Lynch
”There are so many choices and so many lives are created by these choices. No choice is insignificant. They can lead to victory or defeat. The wrong choice can lead to our greatest tragedies, choose the wrong way and you can lose everything. Commit to something and you will realize later that you’ve wasted your life. They say the choices our made for us. It doesn’t matter what we think. Whether we feel free or not. We lead the story our genetic code.
I’m not sure if this is supposed to make us feel better or not. Even so, I’m in awe of all these choices. I am afraid to take a stand. I’m afraid to move.”