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to be an expat

How can I even begin to explain the experiences of an expat?  The great assumption is that East and West are terribly different. One is vilified, the other painted as a land of patriots and heroes. One is crude and filthy the other has streets paved with gold. Look up and you will see miracles of architecture. Beyond the windows there are supposed to be good people, open smiles and warm hearts. How can I tell you that none of this is true? How can I untie my shoes, and somehow put them on your feet three thousand miles away? You would never believe what secrets they have to tell.

Every time I go back to the states I become more embarrassed to be an American. I overhear conversations in the street, the whines of privileged and moneyed voices. Coddled, dumbed-down and mislead they are drunk on a calculated fairly tale. And then back in Moscow, the same ignorance - the same questions from curious taxi drivers about how good it must be in America, where everything is possible and life mu…

the dinosaur and the cockroach


I grew up on this fantasy that someone from my generation would write the next great American novel. Then it became the all-encompassing album. These structures, these great houses, the traditions I went to school to learn how to build  - they became dinosaurs in a handful of years. Do people still try to pull off this minor miracle, this speaking directly to everyone? Of course they do. There are always survivors - brittle, tough, unyielding die-hards that think this is still possible.

Plenty of catch-phrases make things easier to swallow  - "Three chords and the truth is all you need."  or "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." In truth, these are optiates, soothing pills to lesson the pain. Sometimes it feels like a curse, to be born in-between the end of something  and the beginning of something entirely different. At what point do you abandon ship, and try on a lifejacket? I am not a person who surrenders easily. One more catch-phrase hangs in the air - "No one likes a quitter." 

Maybe reinvention is the greatest obstacle for an artist. Nostalgia is a heavy load to shoulder. We all feel the hot sting of loss at one point in life. How to say goodbye to stories half-told? How to look at the world with fresh eyes? It is like getting a divorce. Everything you poured into that cup, it leaks slowly to the floor, wasted. Lost time, lost money, lost ambition. And then there is that low flame of embarrassment, for the nights you talked in a hushed voice about all you would accomplish, a drink swirling in one hand as the ice slowly melts. 

You choke on what you abandon. 

Of course, you can just keep on going with blinders on. Keep your nose to the stone, hacking away at that pile of dog-eared pages. Jot down lyrics on scraps of paper in the wee small hours of the morning. Yes, stare out the window while you are on a train thinking about the book you will write after this one, if the next collection of photos will be color or black and white, if that film title still works or if you need to cook up a new one. 







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