A Pledge…

Memoir (noun)

  1. a record of events written by a person having intimate knowledge of them and based on personal observation.
  2. Usually, memoirs.
    a. an account of one’s personal life and experiences; autobiography.
    b. the published record of the proceedings of a group or organization, as of a learned society.
  3. a biography or biographical sketch.

    (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/memoir)

Over the years, since I was actually quite young, I have been told that I should write a memoir. One immediately wonders if their life is that interesting and if they are actually pompous asses if they think it might be. Such a word – memoir – holds a great deal of weight, because I feel that only people who have lead extraordinary lives should really put pen to paper in such a manner. My father should have written one and my grandfather did; however, I fear that it is rather pretentious of me at thirty-six to feel like I have something worthwhile to say about life. What do I know?

I would be lying if I said I’ve never thought about it. I have momentarily touched upon my childhood in Moscow in 1991, as well as my life in Kuala Lumpur in the mid-80s in writing, but I struggle with how to write a truly full and colorful account of these experiences and a myriad of other stories. I only hope that I can do it justice.

Since leaving Los Angeles on June 3rd, 2011, I have kept a journal that I have written in almost daily. My intent over the next year (or so) is to go through these pages and find the stories and anecdotes that may help me pull together a book that would describe my move to Paris; my childhood in Malaysia, Russia, and the United States of America; and the people that are my family. I am the child of two amazing individuals with very different stories of their own.

My intention now is to use my blog to gather my thoughts in order to write this book. I must decide what to leave out and what to include. To find the correct words to describe memories that are both recent and over twenty-five years old, as well as family stories that have been handed down throughout the years. I guess the only way to forge such a path is to begin to write…

 

Flâneur

Dear You,

A flâneur. I have become what Charles Baudelaire described as “a person who walks the city in order to experience it.” In the morning, I go to my local café for coffee and walk down beautiful streets lined with dozens of parked cars and magnificent buildings that loom far above me. Each street is unique without breaking the architectural theme that brings Paris’ twenty arrondissements together.

The places immediately around my apartment in the 16e have grown to become familiar in the last few weeks: the cafés, the grocery store, the pharmacy, and the convenient store. Each day, I cross over the same side streets and pass the now familiar small parks that have statues of famous men that remind us of the past; however, after my morning coffee, I usually continue walking to places that I have never seen; to places that yet feel familiar.

On these walks, I carry my Leica with me. I am aware of the fact that I now look like a tourist, but I am simply documenting my life. The camera becomes my point of view while my journal becomes a trusted companion. And perhaps the street photographer is the modern day flâneur roaming through the city, looking for a moment or an image that jumps out at them. They look through their viewfinders as a way of getting to know a place.

I look to photograph something that catches my eye and write about an experience that burns into my memory long after I have moved on. I write about how I am living my life; what thoughts and emotions penetrate my heart and mind. I attempt to photograph more than a simple landmark, but the essence of a space. My eye is drawn to brightly painted doorways, ornate fixtures, curving streets, open windows, sculptures that line one of Paris’ many bridges, metro stations and the people around me.

The entire city feels as if it is straddling time. I feel as if I have one leg in the present and another in the past. You can imagine people in the cafés, strolling through museums and walking the streets fifty, eighty, a hundred years ago. It is as if little has changed over time and the city’s spirit has never altered.

I wish you were here with me. Walking these streets. Sitting across the table at the café. Philosophizing. Discussing art. People watching. Not understanding 90% of what is being said, but trying to communicate. Trying to be part of this foreign world. I think you’d love it here. Everything feels different here. Everything is temporarily new. I think your heart would race with the pulse of this city that breathes around you and envelops you in its breeze.

~ Me

June 4, 2011 – Los Angeles to Zurich – Part 2

Written: June 4, 2011

The last month in Los Angeles has been truly great. So great that it gave me a false sense of comfort. It was probably one of the best times that I have spent in LA during my nearly 10-year run. (In late-August, it would have been 10 years!) What made it so wonderful was my complete emotional abandon. I ceased to care about (mainly) how I was perceived by those around me.

I spent an entire month on Nikki’s couch. Bless her for being such a supportive friend. I will never forget waking up every morning to her cat, Ava, as she crawled on top of me and purred. This morning’s ritual was married with the garbage trucks outside every morning. It reminded me of the ocean where Tamarind Avenue was the Pacific and the trucks were Great White Sharks taking out seals.

Now I am 1 hour and 16 minutes away from touching down in Zurich. I am only a few hours away from arriving in Paris. People say I am brave to do this… Right now, I am silently wondering if and when the fear is going to kick in. Each time I start to hear or imagine the question, “Did I do the right thing?” I stop myself short of truly finishing that question, because I know that Los Angeles had ceased to have meaning for me. My drive had almost all but disappeared… until I decided to move and then I was inspired.

The future is truly the unknown for me right now. I know I will succeed wildly in some areas of my life and “fail” (or fall short) in others. I do worry about what is ahead of me. Will film truly continue to be a part of my life or will it quietly wither away and fall at the wayside… because I left L.A. I have wondered if I am too artsy a writer and filmmaker to ever get my work made. I wonder if my creative inclinations have put me in the realm of talented yet unmarketable. I guess I’ll just have to see.

A State of Mind

Some have remarked that I am going to be a fish out of water in Paris. Perhaps, but maybe the city will welcome me with open arms. I cannot walk into my new life with the fear that the city will expel me. It would be as if I entered a match or a battle with the decision that I had already lost; that my defeat had already been made up in my mind. How could you ever triumph over anything if you thought you would loose before you ever started?

And so I envision a beautiful image of life in France before I even arrive. I set the stage in my mind. The architecture of the city alone is the perfect backdrop for my dreams. I have an idea of what I want my existence to feel like. It’s as if my thoughts are judged by my senses. I warm to the idea of walking the streets of Paris. I tingle at the thought of taking photographs of people dressed in gorgeous clothing as they stroll past me or of buildings towering above. My mouth waters when I imagine the food that I will taste. My heartbeat quickens at the thought of running around the Seine for exercise. My eyes mist when the realization that I am moving there hits me.

I want to write in Paris. I want to write about the city and create stories that take place there. I want the pulse of the city to run through my sentences. My paragraphs. I want to know Paris through my own words and images. I want to study its landscape, as if my stories are Oxford dissertations. I want and I am going to have it.

Standing in my own way

I cannot run away from the difficulties I face in life. As hard as I try, I cannot run the infinite distance it would take to do so, for there is no true end in sight. Nor do I dare to ignorantly think that a change of pace will make the difference. If I stopped moving, the past would catch up with me, because no amount of running erases the damage. No amount of moving will eliminate the pain.

When you run, you are only in a place that temporarily dulls it. And no new destination will erase whatever malaise took your energy, your inspiration, and your muse. You have to face it head on, like the matador with her bull. You beckon it towards you with a quick flair of red before you plunge the sword in. Only then, as the beast lays in defeat, can you safely turn around, bow in a theatrical manner and know that you can walk away. There is no need to run anymore.

So I must face my difficulties head on before I leave America in May. This does not leave a great deal of time to set things straight; however, there is no one that I must face except myself. Perhaps knowing that it is only myself will make this an easier fight; however, it is then that I realize that the enemy on the opposite side of this duel is me. How can I be my own enemy? By standing in my own way.

I have lacked inspiration to work for a while now, as if the tide had receded and made the beach a desert. And California is known for its beaches, but all I saw was sand. After spending nearly ten years in Los Angles, I feel that it is not a place that inspires or moves me anymore. I recognize the beauty around me – the ocean, the hills, and the parks – but to me, the Paris architecture alone is a visual banquet and I need that kind of visual stimulus. But what am I afraid of and what am I fighting?

In a journal entry on May 29, 2009 – while spending my last few days visiting Paris – I wrote about the fear of returning to Los Angeles. “I have to also realize that a lot of my emotional turmoil today is due to going home and fearing losing this new sense of self and returning to the old me! I want and need to continue on this path.” However, I do fear the reverse now. I have to realize that moving to Paris will not suddenly infuse me with a consistent inspiration, a constant muse. There will be hard time ahead. There will be trying times.

Since I made the decision to leave Los Angeles, I have been infused with inspiration to write. It is truly irresistible and I am now nearly finished with my next project; however, there is a realization that I could find myself in a dark uninspired wasteland in Paris. Perhaps it is because I have recently pulled myself up from one such wilderness. I am completely aware of the fact that it is not Paris that would do that to me, but myself. I am my own worst enemy and, regardless of the reasons, these thoughts alone, when planted, can kill the root of the flower before it has had the chance to see the sunlight.

So I must not let the idea take root. I am not running away anymore, but running towards something important. Since I was a child, I have searched for a place to call home; a place that inspires and nurtures my creativity, which in turn creates a happiness that swells within my chest. As if I were having a heart attack due to joy. Today I know where I need to go to find such joy.

The city of Paris has always felt special to me. Perhaps my idea of it is wrapped up in a romantic notion – after all I am a romantic – but it is a notion shared by millions of people, who do not even reside in one of its Arrondissements. The Parisians are proud people perhaps for a reason that is Paris. They recognize the beauty that is constantly around them. At their fingertips.