Wednesday, August 03, 2005

notes from a cosmopolis - I

my first time in after 7/7, what will it feel like to be brown? can i still walk around wearing the mashallah pendant given to me by verbal privilege? can i still carry a rucksack? will people look at me funny? coffee at baker street, read middlesex in the sun, multicoloured london going about its business, red double-decker buses like humdrum whales gorging ticket-wielding plankton through baleen turnstiles, two have been harpooned but the rest seem blissfully unconcerned, many sirens, that too is humdrum except this time i wonder if they are all connected in some vast dan brown-like conspiracy, more attendants than usual on the tube station platform, the tube is crowded, no one really looks at me, i don't really look at anyone, this is the british way, business as usual, off at angel, more middlesex in the sun, meeting in pub, cheerful energetic well-meaning people, chaotic and meandering, throbbing headache, it's good that i have come but now i need to go, leave pub, walk down upper street where trinidad turkey and thailand are neighbours, this most apolitical of places, young people out for a good time on a summer evening, this most political of places, spiritual home of new labour where brown and blair scribble deals on napkins in islington backrooms, this is where it all began, this may be where it all ends, lenjgang summoned at moment's notice, enveloped in old friendship and mouth-watering sinus-draining thai food, old holidays discussed new holidays planned, i love these people, dinner over, marble arch-bound double decker bus, no i will not sit on the lower deck, there's nobody on the upper deck, bus lists to port to let off wheelchair, bus refuses to list back, bus cannot proceed, all passengers must disembark, no one complains, another bus rolls along, i am homeward bound. the answers to the questions are: the same, yes, yes, no. but maybe that was because i was reading middlesex.

and since middlesex occupied so much of my day, here's a random snippet:

'Mr. Eugenides, the Smyrna merchat
Unshaven, with a pocketful of currants
C.i.f. London: documents at sight,
Asked me in demotic French
To luncheon at the Cannon Street Hotel
Followed by a weekend at the Metropole.

Everything you need to know about Smyrna is contained in that. The merchant is rich, and so was Smyrna. His proposal was seductive, and so was Smyrna, the most cosmopolitan city in the Near East. Among its reputed founders were, first, the Amazons...and second, Tantalus himself. Homer was born there, and Aristotle Onassis. In Smyrna, East and West, opera and politakia, violin and zourna, piano and daouli blended as tastefully as did the rose petals and honey in the local pastries...And did I mention how in summer the streets of Smyrna were lined with baskets of rose petals? And how everyone in the city could speak French, Italian, Greek, Turkish, English, and Dutch? And did I tell you about the famous figs, brought in by camel caravan and dumped onto the ground, huge piles of pulpy fruit lying in the dirt, with dirty women steeping them in salt water and children squatting to defecate behind the clusters? Did I mention how the reek of the fig women mixed with pleasanter smells of almond trees, mimosa, laurel, and peach, and how everybody wore masks on Mardi Gras and had elaborate dinners on the decks of frigates? I want to mention these things because they all happened in that city that was no place exactly, that was part of no country because it was all countries, and because now if you go there you'll see modern high-rises, amnesiac boulevards, teeming sweatshops, a NATO headquarters, and a sign that says Izmir...'

Cosmopolis. A concept that sounds like a Greek-Turkish city.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?