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martes, 16 de diciembre de 2014

martes, 30 de septiembre de 2014

Chicago in september: Superlative





By Eva Feld

In Chicago, autumn takes its time to fade the leaves, to wither the flowers to replace the summer heat with the uncertainty and the folly of rainy days, so it often starts early.   Its skyline, lake and river are laid up in such a manner that no matter how harsh the weather may become, they are always a delight, especially in September.

The Trump Building may suddenly rise up to the clouds right in front of your eyes, or a rainbow can appear for just a second to catch your attention in the midst of doing a million things. This year, there is an extraordinary exhibit of Magritte at the Art Museum. Under a suggestive title, “The Mystery of the Ordinary,” the curator chose twelve particular years (1926 - 1938) of the painter’s work to reveal certain aspects of his art.

The visitors are strongly encouraged to take a deep look through his surrealistic vision; one in which misleading objects and models disclose a senseless world. He claims the value of the image at a time when the words had become weak, deceitful and dishonest. Nevertheless he took time and dedication, with abundant and wordy explanations to justify his thoughts and aims. Samples of his handwritten ideas are carefully displayed to further charm the avid admirers.

Chicago’s Millennium Park is always there to wander and contemplate the mysteries of many forms of art and nature. In September, the city is particularly rich in providing excellent music, a dance festival and tours through the gardens. On its magnificent scenario, performers from all over the world have come to fascinate audiences from everywhere. People gather there to experiment osmosis to bloom with enhanced vitality.

Chicago seems more cosmopolitan in autumn. Its weather is milder than during its tough and windy winters, hot and humid summers or rainy springs. Besides a large network of art, science and industrial museums, its zoo, aquarium or the Navy Pier that are always there, September offers the golden reflection of its waters and the silvery shine of its buildings

If it happens to be a Tuesday in September, The Modern Art Museum offers a fantastic jazz presentation on top of their permanent and incidental exhibits. This year, Frieda Kahlo’s two paintings are on display in a rather circumstantial context concerning her influence on transgender artists and her standup position against all forms of gender discrimination. The exposition also offers a great chance to discover Iran’s film director Shirim Neshat and singer Sussan Deyhim  through a video that reveals their  extreme talents.

As any other month of the year, September is a good time to taste something new and exciting. Whoever believes that American food consists only in hamburgers, ribs, coleslaw and hotdogs, should stop at Hoyt’s at 71 East Wacker Drive to taste their sea bass and for dessert, goat cheese pie with pickled blueberries and olive oil. For true Spanish tapas, Mercat a la planxa  at 638 S. Michigan Ave.

Before touring the southern neighborhoods of Chicago including a peek at Barack Obama’s home, stop at the Iarcas gallery (just a couple of blocks away from the tapas), owned by the Rumanian artist Costel Iarcas. He may be willing to talk about his numerous and diverse paintings as he thrives in a very competitive world.
There is so much to do in Chicago, especially in September. I am already looking forward to going back as soon as autumn starts fading the leaves and withering the flowers next year!

Cincinnati, Sept 2014.

martes, 1 de julio de 2014

Cerdeña y Córcega con pasión por las curvas




Por Eva Feld

La línea óptima entre dos puntos es la más larga, la curva más sinuosa. Cuando se anda en moto, sobre todo en una de alta cilindrada, el viaje en sí supera en importancia y en hedonismo el interés por el destino. El trayecto es lo que cuenta: bajadas en tirabuzón, ascensos en espiral.  Se trata de desafiar a la gravedad en la inclinación de los cuerpos, unos que a lomo de máquinas aceleran o frenan, según se ubique el ápex; de acuerdo a como vayan surgiendo en el pavimento  las líneas blancas que delimitan el sentido de la ruta. Se trata de un ballet  con música de combustión interna, de una ópera dramática en la cual por más que se prolongue el recorrido, éste siempre acaba.

Acaba con el final del día, alrededor de una mesa, con los comentarios de cada conductor precisamente sobre cómo ha ido el día. Los cuentos de los moteros llegan a parecerse a los de los pescadores: igual que ellos, van agregando tamaño y dificultad a sus hazañas. Algunas de sus historias llegan a ser tan inverosímiles que estallan en franqueza, en muecas de empatía, en solidaridad y en risa.  A veces la realidad supera las exageraciones, como le ocurrió a Ray a ciento treinta kilómetros por hora, al verse enfrentado, cara a cara, con una culebra asomada en el tablero.

Cada vez que intentaba sacársela de encima, la víbora se devolvía a su escondite. De no haber sido por algunas fotos parciales de la culebra, que tomó su esposa desde el asiento trasero, habríamos podido atribuirle a nuestro amigo una nueva condecoración a su ya bien habida condición de fabulador. Pero la culebra era de verdad. Nos orillamos en fila india con las motos y uno por uno inventamos ardides para hacerla visible: los que fuman le echaron humo de cigarrillo para que huyera de lo que todos creímos confundiría con un incendio; muchos nos afanamos en tocar la corneta atronadora para que saliera aturdida, otros intentaron con una rama llegar hasta su escondite, pero todos nuestros intentos fueron vanos. Reemprendimos pues la marcha, las cinco motos más una culebra corsa. Se podría decir que llevaba urgencia de llegar al continente. Venía enrollada desde San Lorenzo de Córcega, tomó con nosotros el ferry hasta Marsella, pero pretendía llegar más lejos.  La vibración de la moto la hizo finalmente emerger de su escondrijo y enrollarse justo al lado del velocímetro que marcaba nuevamente ciento treinta kilómetros por hora. El diestro piloto logró entonces botarla, valiéndose de una rama que cargaba, su esposa. Ella, por su parte, aún se lamenta de no  haber podido tomar esa última fotografía de la culebra entera, enrollada justo al lado del velocímetro, seguramente digna de concurso.

La anécdota de la culebra fue, digamos, el corolario de un viaje extraordinario en moto por las islas de Cerdeña y Córcega. ¿Cuántos adjetivos nos es dado imprimir en un texto sobre la naturaleza de esas islas? No alcanzarían hipérboles ni superlativos para describir sus aguas, ora turquesas y superficiales, ora casi negras en su insondable profundidad volcánica. Los pilotos apenas reparan en semejantes matices, las curvas requieren toda su atención, a veces llegan a ser cerradas e inclinadas otras veces abiertas pero con efecto. Los caminos insulares ofrecen sorpresas y abruptas apariciones. La concentración de quienes conducen apenas les permite registrar por el rabillo del ojo aquello que, en cambio, consumen las pasajeras como ambrosía. La sequía de Cerdeña en el inclemente estío muestra sus aristas  en la canícula, en la aridez, en el sofoco. Las montañas blanquecinas evocan épocas ignotas, invitan a perder la mirada en sus ranuras, en sus turgencias, solo que la velocidad se lleva consigo las ansias de explorar esos contornos salitrosos o de comprender el carácter de los sardos. En otros momentos, pocos, los moteros se permiten un respiro más turístico a orillas de un mar añil colmado de visitantes, pero en verdad prefieren regresar a la velocidad y al desafío, a la brea y a la combustión, a la adherencia y a la inclinación, al sonido redondo de sus poderosas máquinas, las cuales, bien lo gozan, solo mediante ellos cobran potencia. Los pilotos, en perfecto engranaje con sus motocicletas, en una simbiosis, en una precipitación de adrenalina con gasolina y de sangre con aceite, se convierten en los dioses todopoderosos de las autovías.

Dioses sensuales según su naturaleza humana, dioses que se rinden de buena gana ante la gastronomía sarda pues en verdad  merecería un  capítulo aparte.  En la vía entre Puerto Torres y Alghero, una parada obligatoria es una ensenada desde donde se divisa el Castelsardo, allí se come el pescado del día, en un ambiente marinero. Pero en Europa el horario de la comida no comprende excepciones, a la hora de nuestra llegada ya no la servían. Al preguntar por alternativas, se nos recomendó ir al restaurant Da Hugo, a poca distancia. El destino quiso que el almuerzo se nos fuera convirtiendo rápidamente en festín: no menos de diez tipos diferentes de mariscos, moluscos y pescadillos fueron apenas el antipasto servido por la presurosa hija de Hugo, un sardo de toda ley, para quien son mandamientos  la calidad, la cantidad , la hospitalidad y la variedad. Camarones, calamares, manta, boquerones, mejillones y otras muchos mariscos, moluscos y pescados,  macerados, fritos, al vapor, guisados, estofados, en escabeche, a la plancha…Hubo que pararle la marcha para darle cabida a los espaguetti alla bottarga, una delicia al paladar que consiste en revestir las hebras de pasta con una mezcla de huevas de pescado y aceite de oliva hasta hasta que adquieran un característico color rojizo, cero salsa.  Aún faltaba  el plato principal, por supuesto de pescado, los postres y el café, para comprender la consigna de Hugo  Cossu, que reza asi: “Tutto cuanto che non conosci”.

Luego supimos que el sitio de Hugo es visitado por celebridades del mundo entero y que recibe reservaciones con muchos meses de antelación. En sus bodegas guarda los mejores vinos y champañas, pero su mayor orgullo radica en que jamás se sirve en sus mesas productos congelados. Todo se prepara al momento, asimismo es el tiempo de espera, es decir,un frenazo en la ruta acelerada de los moteros. Ahora sudorosos y ahítos, cuesta lo suyo investirnos con chaquetas y cascos, guantes y botas para seguir la ruta. Pero la estela de los aromas de ese almuerzo nos acompañará por mucho tiempo.

Nos queda por conocer el burgo colonial del Alghero y volver a comer comida sarda, aún resta degustar los quesos, los vinos insulares consistentes con su áspera procedencia y sin embargo delicados en el acompañamiento de frutos del mar o de corderos. Todavía no sabíamos que llegaríamos sin proponérnoslo a una península ubicada en el extremo noroeste de Cerdeña, donde los diez tripulantes de las naves alquiladas en Barcelona, perderíamos el aliento y nos convertiríamos en instantáneos japoneses en nuestro afán de registrar cada ángulo en nuestras cámaras y teléfonos celulares. Acaso el dato más curioso que surgió de esta breve parada, fue el que aportó Gil al descubrir que el lugar se llama Capo Falcone. Con su habitual buen humor parangonó nuestro Estado Falcón venezolano con ese paraíso terrenal y consiguió  además de las analogías geográficas y numismáticas, razones históricas entre ambos puntos. Sus ojos como los de todos los demás se llenaron en ese lugar del esplendor del horizonte marino, del resplandor de las arenas y de la visión de montículos insulares más distantes. No podría decirse si ese fue el momento más feliz de su viaje. Hubo muchísimos. Además, de oficio conciliador,  de temperamento arbitral, de profesión “alquimista”, él es un hombre feliz: El fiel de su balanza, su esposa y copilota,  es madre de sus hijas, abuela de sus nietos y portadora de su piedra filosofal. Lo que sí se sabe de él es lo bien que baila. En Ajaccio, ya en Córcega, los turistas hasta le tomaron fotos cuando al son de un saxofón dio rienda suelta a su cuerpo en plena calle, alegrándonos la tarde a todos con su vitalidad, con su ritmo y con un despliegue de pasos, de gestos, de muecas y de palmas.

Córcega

Llegar a Bonifacio por mar es una alucinación. El barco se va adentrando en la montaña produciendo una cópula extática. La lenta penetración del navío en las paredes pedregosas de la isla, en los abruptos riscos coronados por un fantástico burgo medieval, en las cavernas misteriosas de la historia universal llega al clímax al atracar en una ensenada de ensueño o de película. Podría uno encarnarse en Grace Kelly o en Ingrid Bergman para protagonizar un filme romántico o evocar una persecución al viejo estilo James Bond. Es ese lugar en el que se conjugan los elementos para robarle a uno la respiración hasta el último estertor.

Córcega se ufana de su afrancesamiento, en la mesa como en la estética, en el idioma y en su abolengo vinculado a Napoleón Bonaparte. Su densa historia de luchas y de invasiones, de enfrentamientos y alianzas, de sometimientos y rebeliones ha dejado huellas e historias de las cuales los corsos procuran contarnos lo más posible. Una de las muchas se refiere a las casi doscientas torres genovesas, a través de las cuales se ejercía en su momento la defensa de la isla. En tiempos de invasiones se quemaba monte para pasar mensajes a través del humo si era de día y a través de las llamas si era de noche.  El corso que nos hace el relato, ríe de buena gana y agrega: “no había celulares ni internet como ahora” luego se enseria para hablarnos de temas más ceremoniales, del enterramiento de los deudos, del homenaje de los caídos en las guerras mundiales, de las epidemias y las hambrunas del pasado.

En Ajaccio, la capital y ciudad natal de Bonaparte, es un privilegio para los lugareños vestirse de época y deleitar a los turistas con sus trompetas y manierismos. En el mercado de la calle, es posible conseguir quesos y jamones, frutas frescas y especias, aceites y dátiles, cordero y mermeladas, olivas de todos los colores y tamaños, panes y tortas, turrones y tomates, berenjenas y pimientos…  Hay productos nacionales y de otras partes del mundo. Es uno de los momentos sensoriales para Marco, no solo porque disfruta del espectáculo y de los olores, de la variedad y del movimiento, sino porque le agrada conversar con las gentes, hacerles preguntas sobre su procedencia, saber de sus vidas y quehaceres, Seguramente luego, cuando nuevamente se emprenda en la moto, rememore y rumee todos los sabores gustosos de cuanto paladeó y escuchó, mientras su querida copiloto, mapa en mano, le vaya abriendo el apetito con datos sobre el rumbo. Ella lleva siempre el mapa consigo para complementar las rutas que señala el GPS. Ella es el sexto sentido: el de la orientación…

La belleza de Córcega sobrecoge, a ratos la ruta se adentra en riscos de arcilla, en esculturas  que parecen talladas por un artista gigante. Se entusiasma uno ante la insólita creatividad del universo. Del otro lado, siempre el mar en serpentina.

Cuando acaban los riscos arcillosos, aparecen paredes de roca, de piedra caliza, de variadas tonalidades; surgen arboledas, pueblos incrustados, viñedos, fincas y encuentros con centenares de moteros y de ciclistas del mundo entero, jadeantes por el esfuerzo y boquiabiertos, como nosotros, ante tantas maravillas.

Gil y Ray llevan días tratando de convencer a Isaac de girar sutilmente el manubrio en dirección opuesta a la curva para mantener la inclinación adecuada de manera de facilitar la toma de la siguiente. Es decir, “cuando las raya en el pavimento se abra como si fuese una tijera”  Isaac lleva a su Alegría en el asiento trasero y ambos se mueren de la risa en el intento. Una risa contagiosa y adictiva pues ambos convierten la tijera en el chiste y el retruécano del viaje arrancándonos a todos buenas carcajadas.

El viaje no termina en Bastia sino que se prolonga en Ferry hacia Marsella y de allí hacia Andorra y Los Pirineos.  Esta vez las curvas sinuosas se vuelven frescas y hasta frías, hemos pasado de 36 grados centígrados a diez; del mar a las montañas, del medioevo a la modernidad, de las islas al continente. Las cinco motos en formación, en la vastedad del universo, a la vista de las nieves perennes, de pinos y eucaliptos, de vacas y ovejas. Hemos atravesado el pujante comercio de Andorra, las impolutas autopistas pagando peajes por cada trecho de rectas infinitas, hemos comido en italiano y en francés, en corso y en sardo.  Ahora nos toca nuevamente en catalán y en castellano. De regreso a Barcelona a devolver las motos con los cauchos gastados (algunos hasta el acero), cada uno con nuestros cuentos, con nuestros kilos de más, con recuerdos imborrables y con el deseo de reemprender la aventura en dos ruedas lo antes posible.

Pd: Los nombres de los protagonistas han sido modificados para proteger a los inocentes, aquí la única culpable es la autora. Culpable de fabular, de inventar, de añadir y de editar.

Junio 2014
 




sábado, 3 de mayo de 2014

The English Professor






By Eva Feld

Not a decade had passed by since that exciting date in which some partisans of the Democratic party had failed to achieve their dream of proclaiming a pig for president at the Chicago Democratic Convention, when the English teacher dragged his apathy to the pulpit where he used to get even more bored than usual while teaching the rooky college students the rules of how to write properly in English. Fed up by the monotony of endlessly repeating the properties of certain adjectives or the appropriate use of  verbs, tired of reviewing the same mistakes over and over and terribly nostalgic of his own youth, his mind wandered often going back to the old days when his life was an open promise. He decided one day to reincarnate into the young revolutionary that he used to be at a time when was able to break the rules to the point of even championing a porcine cause.  So with a grin on his face he turned his back on his perplexed students, he slammed the door and came back a few minutes with a paper American flag in his hand.   Overcoming his pupil’s astonishment tore it into what seemed to everybody like a hundred pieces.  At this point, his foxy eyes where shining with rage and joy. Then he threw the red, blue and white pieces of flag debris to the floor and he spat them. Outraged he gave his students an unquestionable order: “Now write!” The experiment resulted in such a shot of adrenaline that he became an addict to his own performance. He couldn’t wait for the next class so he could challenge surprise, frighten and instigate. Neither could his students. Many of them even started to actually learn how to write.

Three months later the English teacher at the Roosevelt University suffered a flashback. He was even more bored than before. His malaise was like the strike back of a virus, stronger, empowered. He started to feel like a useless clown, his wittiness was expected of him, his students got used to expecting him to be funny. He started dragging his feet again and soon replaced his lectures by giving out some printed forms with lame exercises to do in the class room while he sat on his chair with his feet on the table, wandering again in search of better memories.

One particularly dull Tuesday, he came up with a sheet of questions for his students:

1.      If you are a woman, say three reasons for which you would rather be a man (or vice versa)
2.      If you are white, say three reasons for which you would rather be black (or vice versa)
3.      If you are married, say three reasons for which you would rather be single (or vice versa)

A certain malaise got into the student’s spine, now that they felt like victims of the avenging teacher. Without any further words, surprises or fun, they were compelled to write a super boring essay by demand.  Some yawns and some nervous coughs broke the silence. The pencils seemed to get lost on the white papers in front of each student, many scribbles ended wrinkled in the waste basket. Many students took a chance by repeating old learned clichés.  They wrote that white people have more opportunities, specially  in cities such as Chicago where segregation is so common;  that black people are more appealing concerning sex and music: that it is more convenient to be a man in a male chauvinist society; that being single enables more freedom but being married gives more stability. Without any paradox not even one guy wrote about the advantages of being a woman…

The next Tuesday, the English teacher arrived later than usual; he took his place at the podium immediately and infringing his own behavior, read aloud, one by one, each evaluation. None was excellent: they all got a flat C. Maybe they had improved their grammar or their syntax, he said.  But he ended up penalizing their lack of creativity and their poor structure.

Nobody seemed to really pay him any attention, until the English teacher took off both his  shoes and also his socks. Then he unbuckled his belt and slowly unsheathed one by one, his legs. He unbuttoned his shirt and took it off too. Then, standing in front of his class, so he spoke: “I am white, divorced, nude, liberal, agnostic, neurotic, skeptic, music lover male. I hate vegetarian food. I smoke and  at times I think of myself as though I was gay. I wouldn’t want to be other than what I am and if only one of you would have preferred being what you are, not only would you have gotten an A  plus, but  you would have also gained my respect, my confidence and my solidarity.”

One of the white students, who incidentally looked very much like the English teacher,   spoke up and said: “I still don’t know who I am, or what I want and therefore I can see benefits and disadvantages in everything and also I can easily become others. Hence I feel respect and solidarity   for everyone in this class where we gather to learn how to write”  

Suddenly the Department Chair erupted through the door. A disapproving grin preceded his words. Furthermore, he got furious. “I will not tolerate this disrespectful behavior from a mischief maker, from a nudist!” he shouted breathlessly.

The white student who looked very much like his teacher replied: “Pst! Mister Principal, lower your voice.  Are you saying that there is a nude professor in this room? The only one naked here is a literary character and the only mischief maker in the room is yourself. “






viernes, 25 de abril de 2014

Ante los escritores de Ohio







From Tear World to Loveland

By Eva Feld
1.-
Not a week has yet gone by since I came back from what used to be a tropical paradise, my homeland, Venezuela, a country where three races -the white Spaniards, the Africans and the native Indians -, melted to come up with a mestizo common idiosyncrasy; a place where calling someone “negro” was just an affectionate nickname and where white people with light colored hair were called “Musius” regardless of their origins. The word dates back to the nineteenth century when there was a French loving president whom was heard very frequently addressing any white visitor by the generic name of “monsieur”

There was very little social confrontation either, such as poor against rich, at least not on the surface. I went to numerous popular parties where workers, employees and shareholders danced together to the sound of drums and sang and drank to commemorate religious festivities on the streets and plazas. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that there was no injustice. Actually less than twenty percent of the population owned more than eighty percent of the richness of the wealthy oil producer country.

This fact, together with corruption and much wrongdoing by politicians brought the outburst of a young officer fifteen years ago. This man, Hugo Chavez, brought a new nationalist identity to the Venezuelan poor and outlined for them a promised land, one that would become a new reference to Latin America and the world, where there would be no more homelessness nor hunger, one in which everyone would have access to all public services including  free education and health. In  Venezuela, people would even be granted the latest technology and would fulfill the dream of Simon Bolivar by becoming totally   independent from the American Imperialist dominium.

The more Chavez talked (and he talked gradually more and even more as his planning was failing to comply with his own magnanimous imagination), the more he enchanted his followers who recognized him as their leader by his language and also by his authentic mestizo looks.  At this stage, he ignited hate toward anyone who would think or look different, while at the same time, he managed to spread the false impression of being politically and even philosophically progressive.

Hugo Chavez died a year ago and his successor, a very narrow minded and short sighted follower was elected president to fulfill the last wish of the now considered saint and almighty commander of the Venezuelan revolution, Hugo Chavez. Hence, his incompetence added up with an anachronism such as a pseudo-Communist economy in which the productivity and the profit have been almost completely abolished and the fact that almost 25.000 people have been killed during the last year due, among other reasons, to the presumption that the criminals might be the poor underdogs who also represent the constituency of the new regime.

On the other hand, the hatred embodied against half of the population who antagonize the actual system is now creating a boomerang crisis. Fifty percent of the population is fed up with crime, inflation, verbal violence, intolerance, incompetence, economic disaster, lack of progress etc. and many are backing what started as a student demonstration on February 12 that has degenerated into a massive repression that has produced so far at least forty casualties and several million dollars in military mobilization as well as civil destruction.

2.-
Not yet five days have passed by since I arrived in Cinci with my eyes still filled with fire and teargas. I am readapting myself into being able to find everything I need in the supermarket without having to stand in lines for hours to buy limited items, as they seldom appear on the shelves. One day, maybe a maximum of two liters of milk, the next maybe toilette paper, not more than one package allowed; once every blue moon, corn flour which Venezuelans use to make their bread every day and so on.

Yes in Cinci, I can buy as many soap bars as I might want and choose which brand of cooking oil I prefer, but I still miss talking to my fellow buyers on the long lines. Venezuelans are still friendly and make jokes out of everything all the time. I still miss the chit chat, the gossip, the tales and gags, the laughs and rages, the Venezuelan sounds and words that express anger and fear, hope and despair.

Yes, I have come home to my family in Cinci. My house is full with my grandchildren and I love hearing their chirps, like free birds flying all around me. Sometimes I feel blessed when they land on my lap and willingly accept me telling them a story in Spanish before they take off and fly back to their electronic games or the television. I also witness their parent’s hard life: work, commute, travel and drive their kids to piano, karate, soccer, gym… My life also becomes busy with peace and progress, with the joy of springtime, even if it is still cold for someone coming from a tropical country.

Yes, I think I am adjusting to Cinci’s pace,  to see rabbits and squirrels, blue jays and cardinals instead of parrots and other very noisy birds with onomatopoeic names such as “guacharacas or guacamayas” in the sky.  I am learning how to live without worrying about reading the news because nothing really dangerous happens here, there are no barricades nor is there teargas in the air; no helicopters are constantly airborne, no “vigilantes” are violently undressing students at the university to humiliate them -as the Nazis did with the Jews- nor do fifteen hundred people take out to the streets naked to demonstrate solidarity with them and repudiate the government.

Yes, I am finally indulging for missing my well known trees such as the “Araguaney” with its beautiful yellow flowers or the “Bucare” with its big orange flowers that look like fire for afar.  I am also willing to learn the name, shape and colors of the trees that are so beautifully blooming in the so very cozy neighborhood where I actually live now in Loveland.

Cincinnati april 7, 2014