strange fire

books. poetry. paganism. feminism. queerness. blog.

this is my last blog post from europe May 31, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 2:54 am

I’m flying back home tomorrow morning.

And yeah, I’m having a hard time keeping “Leaving on a Jet Plane” out of my head.

Been in Paris the last few days, just hanging out, saying goodbye to all my old haunts; bought my last few books and magazines from Violette. Said farewell to the permanently sleeping cats in the corners of Shakespeare and Co. Might go up the Eiffel Tower, because I’ve never actually done that.

But I’m in a very bizarre emotional state. Like limbo. I’m still suffocating under this head cold and been dealing with a sinus headache for almost a week now. I’m tired of being cold, and wet, and hungry. The weather’s awful. I’m having problems with my credit card again. And I’m scared to go home. When I came to Europe I knew what I was leaving, what I was trying to escape. But what am I going home to?

Paris has been so good to me. So much has happened here that I didn’t mention on my blog, for various reasons. But it’s been amazing. I find myself in 3W, or Bliss, or Violette bookstore, just breathing it in, as if the air in that dyke space were like nicotine and if I just inhaled enough it would permanently infiltrate my lungs.

But I can’t wait for a sweltering Midwestern summer. I feel like it’s been winter for a whole year. I want familiar comfort food; peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Root beer floats!

Ironically, as soon as I get home we’re going to drive 6 hours to visit my sister in Ohio. And I’m hoping to visit California with my dear friend RC at the end of June. So I’m not putting the suitcase away just yet.

I’m feeling very forlorn. Going to sit somewhere and read.

I’ll be back when I’m back.


I never could get the hang of Thursdays May 26, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 12:42 am

yesterday sucked.

I’m in Mitte, a neighborhood in what used to be East Berlin, in a hostel entirely themed around Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker Trilogy. I shit you not. It’s called The Heart of Gold Hostel and it has quotes as part of the decor (“Ford, you’re turning into a penguin. Stop it.” “On no account allow a Vogon to read you poetry”). As far as hostel standards, it’s pretty damn nice, and decently priced. Lots of brushed stainless steel. The doors and lifts, unfortunately, do not burble happily when you enter and exit. Nor can I find any depressed robots. But I got to do my laundry, which at this point in my life is quite a luxury (WOW! Y’all have a warshing machine! Well la di da!)

I know I’ve said this before, but I’m tired. Emotionally, as well as physically, for one or two reasons I can’t mention here. Part of me is genuinely thrilled to be in Berlin, but it’s pretty much buried under the part of me that wants to curl up in bed and weather this head cold with a cup of tea and a copy of Christopher Isherwood. I read The Berlin Stories when I was 15, far too young for it but fascinated; I remember sitting in the sun on the grass of my convent school, reading about homosexuals and cabaret singers in 30s Berlin while the girls in the choir sang madrigals. Wish I had a copy with me now.

So suffice to say, I won’t be hitting any dyke bars here. I’ve got the will, but no energy. I’m probably going to leave on Saturday; it’s a hell of a trek to get back to Verdun and my luggage, and I need time to say goodbye to Paris. It’s a shame, because my grandparents lived in West Berlin in the 80s and I was looking forward to exploring a city they love so much.

Well, off to buy a train ticket and see what I can of the town.


in which I get all serious before setting off for Berlin May 24, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 10:27 am

Last night was so incredible I don’t even know where to start.
The weather was nice, for a change, which meant I got to see the evening sun shining off the plastered, timbered walls of the Globe as I crossed the Millenium Bridge. I sat on the sidewalk at 6:30, eagerly waiting for the gates to open in a half an hour, wondering why there wasn’t a crowd of fellow groundlings gathering to get a good spot. I mean, who doesn’t want to spend their Tuesday night standing for several hours to witness murder, mayhem and a little cannibalism? But finally the gates do open, and I get my program, with its handy synopsis and historical background. I chat with the vendor; he advises standing about a row or two back from the stage, so you can see the peripheral action, and also because sometimes the actors like to involve the audience.
Standing in line waiting for the theater doors to open (I’m second place)….it starts to rain. Luckily I am prepared with my Official Globe Theatre Rain Mac, complete with Falstaff quotation on the back (“Let it thunder to the tune of Greensleeves…” from The Merry Wives of Windsor). I took a tour of the Globe that morning and went a little crazy in the gift shop. The tour was fantastic; did you know it’s the first thatched building built in London since the Great Fire? How cool is that?
The interior of the Globe is magnificent. The stage is swathed entirely in black cloth, except the roof, which is painted with the sun and the signs of the zodiac. There are two tall censers standing onstage, burning the same incense they use at a Catholic mass. I haven’t smelled that for ages. How strange to encounter it here. There’s a smoke machine underneath the stage that spews out a wet fog intermittently, which combined with the fading sun and incense creates a wonderfully eerie atmosphere.
I’m right in front, dead center, second row (insofar as there are rows in a crowd of people). The Globe is decieving; it’s a lot bigger than it looks. The Yard can hold 700 people, but there are only 300 of us groundlings tonight. The theater slowly starts to fill up and it’s amazing to see, from the Yard, surrounded by eager spectators like me.
And it’s a hell of a spectacle. This cast is making full use of theater in the round; the actors come running from all directions–it opens with Titus returning triumphantly to Rome on litter carried by Goth prisoners, parading around the Yard on their way to the stage. There are two wheeled platforms that are used frequently, actors standing on top declaiming while the bit players push them around, literally shoving the groundlings out of the way. I don’t know how they manage it with a full house. More than a few scenes happen right in front of my face in the Yard–the hunting scene, the discovery of Bassianus’ body–I could practically smell the actors’ sweat.
I’d never seen or read Titus Andronicus before last night. I make it a policy not to read Shakespeare until I’ve seen him performed–it’s a play, after all, and it makes it easier to understand. Get the plot and the action first, go back to the script to savor the poetry later. I knew Titus was bloody–I think everybody knows about the Pie Eating Scene–but I wasn’t prepared for just how gruesome it is. There’s a scene where three characters disguise themselves as Rape, Murder, and Revenge, and I think Shakespeare wanted to see just how much of that he could fit into one play. It reaches almost ludicrous levels of violence, to the point that it’s comic–the whole audience was laughing, half in shock, half in nervousness, throughout the whole performance. Shakespeare takes patriarchal Roman warrior culture to its logical conclusions in this play, with the result that nearly everybody is dead by the end. It’s almost like absurdist theater, there’s nothing you can do but laugh at their, well, bloodymindedness. Because it’s all pointless, ultimately. Nothing changes, no one’s redeemed, by the end; Rome is in the same state is was at the beginning, about to be overrun by the Goths. The only element that really horrified the audience, into dumbstruck silence, was Lavinia. When Lavinia appeared, raped and mutilated, her hands cut off and her tongue ripped out, drooling blood, you could hear a pin drop. She just mesmerizes the audience with her agony. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from her, though I really, really wanted to. When ever she was onstage she was like a dead weight, compared with the frenzied action around her. When Titus kills her it’s a shock but almost a relief, too, like a mercy-killing.
I think the moral of this story is a pretty simple one: Killing People is a Bad Thing. I don’t know what Shakespeare’s “intent” was, but it seems to me like a brutally clear example of the inherent self-destruction and nihilism of militaristic culture, the violence of patriarchal structures. And people wonder why I’m a pacifist.
Damn but it was a great show. Next time, though, I think I’ll catch Twelfth Night or Much Ado.


bragging rights May 23, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 6:34 am

(because I can!)

guess who plunked down a measly fiver to be a groundling at tonight’s performance of Titus Andronicus at The Globe?

and–I’m almost afraid to say it, in case I jinx myself–it finally stopped raining!

::jumps up and down like a three year old::


good girls go to heaven, bad girls go to London May 22, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 9:50 am

and I used to be such a good girl.

In London, completely exhausted and fending off a cold with my remaining energy. 48 Hour French Girlfriend, who I think I will start referring to as Garcon Manque (French for tomboy) met me here for the weekend, and well, we didn’t get a lot of sleep. She left early this morning, at 3 am; and I’m in a very wierd mood. I’ve never done anything like this before; it’s an enjoyably surreal chapter from someone else’s life that’s been randomly inserted into mine. We went to the Candy Bar and I had too much fun and got sick in front of Hyde Park on the way back. Making a spectacle of ourselves all over London. Whenever I’m on the street with a woman I’m “with” there’s always a reaction from others (even in Paris), subtle and not-so-subtle commentary (I wonder what it would be like to hold someone’s hand on the street, even kiss her, and have no one notice?). But Garcon Manque is so butch she easily passes for a boy; a few weeks ago she was in Istanbul with friends, and when she tried to put on a headscarf to visit a mosque, they told her “Oh no, no sir, that’s only for ladies!” When I’m out with her we don’t get commentary so much as double-takes and open staring, I guess because at first glance they think we’re straight (I got such a look of amazement from a man at the bus stop this morning, as I said goodbye). We think it’s hilarious, for the most part, and it only encourages her. But once, we were on an escalator on the Underground, her arms wrapped around me, and a woman passed us and gave us a huge grin. So yay for visibility!
Still, I’m glad to be on my own again. I’m not sure what exactly is the nature of our relationship or what to make of it, and that’s tiring. I’m just worn out in general, I guess; epuisee. The thought of Berlin now is feeling more like an obligation than a thrill. I’m forgetting what it’s like to stay in a place for more than 3 days.
Like Scotland. Wish I had stayed longer. Never managed to find me a freckle faced girl who’ll read me Burns (the writer’s museum, by the way, was kind of a dud). I was quickly falling in love with Edinburgh. The castle was impressive enough, and I just like the feel of the city, its particular energy. I met up with a friend of my brother’s, a Scot who sounds very much like Billy Boyd, he took me out to a French restaurant (ha) and introduced me to single malt whisky and Baileys. I had a room all to myself in the hostel, I decided after Dublin that there’s really no point in checking out the dyke scene once you’ve been to London and Paris, so I spent my evenings wallowing in the bathtub, reading The Lavendar Annual, a collective magazine published in the 80s by New Zealand radical lesbian feminists, which I picked up in Dublin (I know, I know). It’s a great snapshot of the Second Wave, and not all that different from indie dyke media today. Where are all these uptight political P.C. Second Wave dykes I keep hearing about?
Rosslyn Chapel was amazing as well, I had no trouble finding it because everybody and their brother was going to see it that day. We poured off the local bus and walked towards it almost in procession, like pilgrims. And ironically we were all there not out of religious piety but curiousity about its links to blasphemous conspiracy theories. Rather incongruously set in a picturesque village, not the likeliest place for the Holy Grail and ley lines. But even if you’ve never read The Da Vinci Code etc, it’s worth a look for the carvings alone. The Green Men are fantastic, not to mention the carvings of sweet corn and cactus in a church that was built almost a century before Columbus discovered the Americas. The basement room is kind of creepy though.
More sleep now, and Shakespeare tomorrow. Cross your fingers, I’m going to try and score tickets for a performance at the Globe.


hello from Edinburgh May 17, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 7:26 am

Which I like better than Dublin, even though it has more hills. I think the highlight of Dublin was, like JaneFan mentioned, Trinity College (I seem to have been chasing you around Ireland! wouldn’t it be weird if we were someplace at the same time and didn’t know it?). I went to see the Book of Kells, which was, you know, interesting and all, but I think the British Library sated my desire for ancient texts. It was the Long Room that wowed me. And it was totally unexpected, I knew nothing about the Long Room, I was just trying to find my way out, and I got to the top of the stairs and just stopped in my tracks, before I even rounded the corner. It was the smell of books, old, dusty leather bindings. There’s no other smell like it. I just stood there for a minute and inhaled reverently. I love that smell. I wish they could bottle it.
And then I entered the Long Room, which is a bibliophile’s wet dream. It’s like…well it’s like something out of a book. One long corridor full of towering shelves absolutely crammed with Trinity College’s oldest books. There’s the spiral staircase in the corner (I bought a print too!) and busts of great authors. It’s magnificent. I was about to slide to the floor in a puddle of happiness when I saw the exhibition of Beckett manuscripts to celebrate his centenary. Notebooks and letters and drafts and theater programs and first editions. I’ve never actually seen any Beckett, but someday. He’s enough of a literary giant that I was appropriately bowled over. I think my favorite part of the exhibit was his notebooks from his college days; there’s one full of notes on Dante’s Paradiso, going on about Canto XXVIII and the levels of heaven, very analytical, and then at the very bottom of the page he wrote, “[Don’t understand a word of this]”.
As I was drooling over the display cases I suddenly hear music from the far end of the room. Just to make things perfectly perfect (and maybe to make up for the fact that I spent the rest of my stay in Dublin soaking wet), they had a harpist playing Carolan on a replica of the medieval harp kept in the Long Room (Carolan was a blind Irish harpist in the 18th century, for those of you unfortunate enough not to have heard his stuff).
And then I did slide to the ground in a puddle of happiness.
But now I’m in Edinburgh, rather worn out, trying to find the Writer’s Museum, and failing to arrange a final liasion with 48 Hour French Girlfriend. Tomorrow I’m going to Rosslyn chapel, just in time for the release of The Da Vinci Code.


When you are old and grey and full of sleep, And n… May 15, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 1:16 pm

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

It’s not precisely what I want to get off my chest, but it will have to do for now. And after all, I’m in Ireland.

I need a decent pint. On to Edinburgh tomorrow.