To the commune

Before I left Boston on June 22, I decided to take the subway over to Cambridge to see a film, at a theatre largely surrounded in M.I.T. buildings. The film was Aleksandra, by Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov. I’d already seen two other films by Sokurov: Russian Ark, a dialogue-light, quasi-documentary historical fiction, of sorts, filmed in a single take in The Hermitage in St. Petersburg, and Moloch, a similarly light-on-dialogue depiction of Hitler and Eva Braun – taking a relaxing break from the stresses of executing the holocaust – in the company of Josef Goebbels and Martin Bormann. Both films were at times somewhat evocative of watching grass grow, or paint dry, but were at the same time quite compelling, creating the awkward combined senses of restlessness and fascination.

Aleksandra, in comparison, was almost fast-paced. The film portrays the journey of an old woman who travels by military boxcar to Chechnya to visit her grandson, an officer in a Russian camp near a Chechen village. While there, she walks into the village and interacts with several Chechens, including an old woman who lives in a bombed out apartment building. The physical and psychological condition of the Chechens, particularly (?) of the young men, and the stagnating lives of both the Chechens and the Russian soldiers, provides a necessary but non-proselityzing anti-war message.

I also traipsed through several sections of the Museum of Fine Arts, at which the current major exhibit was “El Greco to Velázquez: Art during the Reign of Philip III”. I’d also intended to get to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, but I learned long ago not to overdo the museum circuit or exhaustion soon sets in, so I left it for a future visit.

Boston seemed a pleasant enough place to visit. Lots of interesting art and architecture, busy, safe, clean streets, and a great, reliable transit system (and cheap: a one week pass for just $15. Hello, Translink…?!). Something wasn’t quite right for me, though. It’s the people. It’s unfair to judge a whole population based only on the observations of a short-term tourist, but things seem a bit Disney-esque for my liking. Not enough rough edges.

Often, when I was regularly travelling on business, I would ask the concierge where the “funky” part of town could be found. Usually he or she would hem and haw a bit before pointing me toward a mall or a multiplex theatre. “No, no”, I would say, “Funky. You know, where the queers and hippies hang out”. Usually I would get a blank stare at best. The hippie pool has been vastly diluted since the 70s, and in most places like Boston, the queers (now generally referred to as the LGBTs, in keeping with the greater societal trend to reduce pretty much everything to an acronym for easier marketing) long ago diverged from their counter-cultural roots and are now in the suburbs painting their picket fences nice colours that complement the soft tones of their minivans. Of course, New York and San Francisco may be the only places left in North America with even a shred funkiness, but even they are waning fast. I ambled into one gay bar in South Boston to find a flock of what I imagine to be Log Cabin Republicans standing around looking at baseball and CNN on the television monitors, not a whiff of sexual tension in the air, nor anything more colourful on the menu than Bud Light. Oh well. Onward I will be dragged (or not), kicking and screaming, into the 21st century.

I arrived at the commune at Easton Mountain in time for dinner on the 22nd and set myself up in a nice little cabin on the banks of the middle pond. The cabin is only about twelve feet square, and has no power or water, but it has a dozen screened windows, all of which I keep open. (I’d post a photo, but I brought the wrong sized USB cable. Curse you and your inconsistent digital standards, Nikon Corp!). I lay in my bed at night listening to a symphony of crickets, bullfrogs, tree frogs and barred owls creating fine music, conducted by thousands of fireflies that animate the forest. My mission while I am here, besides helping run the programs that support the community, is to spend a part of each morning writing, with the objective of compiling a wholly unedited novel-length draft that I might use at a later date. It’s taken me a week to actually get my sleep cycle into an early rising model, but I’m finally getting to where I want to be. I’m a little behind on the word count, but am making progress nonetheless. Quality over quantity.

I came here without a firm date for departure, but I have since established one. I will stay here until July 20 or 21, at which point I’ll be catching a ride to New York City. I’ll have a couple of days there to socialise, and if ticketing works out, catch a live performance of Hair in Central Park. On the 24th, I fly out of La Guardia to Vancouver, but I’ll only be hanging around for two days. Then, on the 27th, I fly to Singapore to meet Larissa. We’ll take a little trip in (possibly) Malaysia. On the 13th of August, I fly to Seoul, Korea to hang out with Jennie for a couple of days, and then continue on, reaching Vancouver again on August 16, just in time for the last of Wreck Beach season.

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