Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Aimless Reading: The G's, Part 3 (Greg Gerke)

Gerke, Greg
There's Something
Wrong With Sven

Given to me by the author. Inscribed.

Last night we were watching Chantal Akerman's "Les rendez-vous d'Anna," when for some reason the thought came to me that I wanted to write about "mornings" this morning, and possibly for several mornings to come. I pulled out my iPhone and sent myself an email with the subject line "Blog" and a one word message: "Mornings."

So, here we are.

(On a side note, you should watch every Chantal Akerman movie ever made. We just finished watching the five that came out in the new "Chantal Akerman in the Seventies" box set from Criterion Eclipse. We also watched her masterpiece, "Jeanne Dielman..." a few months ago. I've never seen a filmmaker who makes you pay such close attention to the details of the images she creates, while also leaving you more than ample room to daydream -- or to send yourself emails on the iPhone.)

I don't know exactly what it was that made me think of mornings last night, but the first thing that came to mind after having had the thought was the Sunday mornings of my childhood. My parents were both devout Catholics (my mom, who survives, still is), and we went to church every Sunday.

I hated going to church, and thus I hated Sunday mornings. The usual routine was to wake around eight and then eat breakfast in the kitchen. I think we usually had something like bacon and eggs and toast and juice. I had probably added coffee with cream and tons of sugar by the time I was twelve.

After breakfast it was time to dress for ten o'clock mass. This was when the mornings turned unpleasant. My mother always wanted us to dress up for church. I hated dressing up, and so would begin a battle that went on weekly for the first eighteen years of my life. I would do whatever I could to approximate my usual mode of informal dress, and my mother would make me change, one detail at a time until I looked presentable enough to go to church.

First, I'd have to change my pants, then I'd be told to put on a belt. Then I'd have to change my shirt, then I'd have to tuck in my shirt. Then I'd have to change out of my tennis shoes and into my dress shoes. Then I had to brush my hair, then I had to brush it again. The whole morning was a kind of negotiation. Being the oldest, I also had the extra burden of setting an example for my younger brothers and being blamed when I set a bad one, which was always.

Our church was called St. Mark's. It was a about a mile away from our house. I remember driving up and down the hills in our neighborhood to get there. On a few rare occasions I was allowed to skateboard all the way to church with my friend, K. Sometimes we rode our bikes..

Once at church, we embarked on a whole new set of negotiations involving posture, proper kneeling position (no leaning your butt against the pew!), keeping hands out of pockets, not favoring one leg while standing, singing visibly and out loud, properly making the sign of the cross and also that other gesture you make at some point where you touch your forehead, then your lips, then your heart (what was that one for again?), making sure to say all the words of the prayers clearly, not talking, not playing with or picking on my brothers, making sure to look people in the eye when you shake their hands and say "Peace be with you," not turning around to look behind you during mass, not playing around in the parking lot afterwards, etc.

On certain Sundays, if we had followed all the rules, we'd get to go to Dunkin' Donuts and pig out before settling in to watch the Redskins game on the couch with my dad.

It's funny, as much as I hated all that ritual, I think I hate Sundays even more now without it. Every Sunday I struggle to figure out something to do with myself that is not a complete waste of time. I am always bored and I always feel kind of empty and I can never really think of anything constructive to do with my time. I usually end up on the couch watching movies or sports or whatever, feeling like I should be doing something else.

from There's Something Wrong With Sven


Bill Macam goes to work on a cloudy day and finds when he opens his lunch at noon to be missing the second blueberry granola bar his wife promised to add after they discussed how one would just not do. He complains to his co-workers and goes back to threading screws, burning with hunger. He doesn't know how he makes it through the day, but he does. When he gets home Bill finds his wife in bed with the second blueberry granola bar. She is naked and smoking a cigarette. After Bill, his wife, and the blue berry granola bar enter counseling they come to an agreement that one blueberry granola bar per day should be satisfying enough.

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