"I dig the way you enjoy books!"
How did he react?
He laughed, "Yeah man, reading is awesome!"
How did I feel?
Passionate people please me. The fire in their eyes, the tide in their nods, the dance in their gestures- Sharing their company brings me to life. The best part: Everyone is "those people" sometimes. Everybody digs something. Think about it. Do you know somebody who loves nothing at all? I don't. Some people’s enthusiastic expression may be more subtle than others but I am certain there is excitement in every person. The objects differ. Music, science, film, dance or something exotic such as beetle fights (that’s right. Beetle fights are a thing. There is a whole community around domesticating and training beetles and organizing beetle fights.) How many things to be stoked about there are exactly? My guess: Probably as many as there are people on this planet. Fascination is in the heart of the beholder.
Whenever I meet someone new I love finding out what they are into. Listening to particular characteristics they dig about their passion is my favorite thing. While they picture moments that make them feel like "This rocks. This is what I want to be doing." I watch the sun rise in their expression. Their sharing those moments are gifts: Not only do I learn about whatever it is they love first hand but I also enjoy their happiness as they immerse in their passion. Praising what they are into they turn from strangers into lovers. As they celebrate their beloved matter or activity in words they fill the space around them with warmth.
There is only one thing I like better than experiencing that magic with a stranger: Having a friend surprise me with it. I like to think I know some things about the people I hang out with, especially when it comes to what interests them. Like Gino: He may not be a good friend- I have only seen him a handful times- but I know he is an open hearted person who loves playing guitar, skating, drinking, visiting Berlin and spontaneity. It took me about five minutes to figure that list out when we first met a year ago in San Francisco. That night I was busking in the Mission, Gino passed me on his skateboard. He heard me, stopped and talked to me. We quickly bonded over our love for music- and Berlin: When I told him I am from there his eyes grew wide and he said, “I spent my best summer there.”. We talked for a while. I enjoyed his company and decided to invite Gino to my goodbye dinner a few nights later. I had no phone so I wrote my address and the dinner’s date on the back of a postcard. He promised to be there. And he came: On the night of my dinner we spent some fun hours jamming and eating and Gino returned the next night, this time with a bunch of friends, for a party at my house. Together we burned Christmas trees, drank beer and sang at the bonfire. It was beautiful.
Now, more than a year later, Gino has returned to Berlin. Last night we met at a bar. I was prepared to reminisce about San Francisco, enjoy a fair taste of German beer and share our latest music discoveries. I was all wrong. Sure, we did talk about San Francisco; For about two minutes. No longer. Twenty sentences into the night we were absorbed in a different conversation. It was neither about music nor beer, nor anything else I associated with Gino so far. No skating, no traveling, no eating. Before we even entered the bar I found myself hanging on his every word while he: Sang Charles Bukowski’s song. Gino liked literature! Actually, that is not true. He did not just like it. He was over the moon with it. His eyebrows greeted the crown of his head as he told me about what Bukowski's poetry made him feel like. "The guy is so real! He just captures life the way it actually is. Oftentimes in a dark way, but you know how that sometimes helps when you're really down? When you find someone who makes you feel like you're not alone because he is going through the same? That's Bukowski. He is the lost dude you meet at night in the bar who looks at you with the clarity of an alcoholic and knows exactly where you are. And his humor, his humor! I recall reading the poems on BART, laughing out loud, and then two minutes later, while reading the next one, being on the verge of crying again. What a man."
Time flew with Gino sharing his love for literature. He told me about how he had not liked to read in High School and spent days with it now. How he saw countless meanings in Dostoyevsky's work. Teasing every book he mentioned as if the author himself had asked him to recruit readers he came up with thrilling summaries and funny character descriptions. Two hours after the Bukowski kick off I held a scrap of paper in my hand. It contained six books, two authors and one film. Each of those names triggered Gino's ardent praise for them in my memory.
Aside from the glow and depth in Gino's literature devotion I loved the fact that he is into poetry, too. Rarely do I meet people who sigh, "I love poetry!" the way he did. If you ask me books are like relationships. They require commitment. You enter a process with them. Poems on the other hand can be momentary, like the a stranger's glance you catch on the subway: That one look that makes you feel like you see their soul. That gives you the chills. It moves you in your innermost self, reminds you of a past lover, a friend's death or the smell of the first rose in spring. Just like the look on the subway the right poem in the right moment leaves you breathless.
Moreover I see a larger variety of meaning in poems. I can read the same poem a hundred times and I will read a hundred different texts. Because its meaning is less pegged into a tight structure like a novel and more up to my reading. Its brevity makes it more open. At the same time it is not completely up to the reader I feel: The author has implemented a certain quality in it. Sadness, yearning, anger, or an emotion that transcends one notion; whatever it is, this one stays the same each time I read the poem. It enters my heart like a water trickling into the sand. There is nothing I can do. However particular sentences mean different things as time passes and I look at the piece again. Poems continually change and remain the same. Long story short: I am fascinated by poetry and I love it. Like Gino. Yesterday, when my beer was about finished, I folded my recommendations-list and put it in my wallet. There was a moment of silence. I contemplated on my favorite poetry moments. Suddenly I realized I had not mentioned my favorite poem of all times to Gino. I recited it for him, my eyes closed:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Gino's recommendations for me:
- Charles Bukowski. Ham On Rye.
- Charles Bukowski. Love Is A Dog From Hell.
- Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Notes From Underground (Gino says this was one of Bukowski's favorite books. Plus it reminds him -Gino- of another book he really likes: The Fall by Camus).
- Cormac McCarthy. The Blood Meridian.
- Louis-Ferdinand Céline. Journey To The End Of The Night (Another author Gino discovered through reading Bukowski)
- Jack Kerouac. On The Road.
- Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?
- Italo Calvino. If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler (Because this is my current reading. I have been busy with it for a while and probably will be for another one, two years. I can't continue following the story for more than five minutes at a time. Calvino is such a genius writer he makes me stop reading every three pages. I drop the book, jump to my computer and brainstorm about what story to write. When I read If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler it makes me want to write a novel more than anything else in the world).
- Rainer Maria Rilke. Letters To A Young Poet (Because.)
- Erich Fromm. The Art Of Loving (This book blew my mind several times a few years ago).
- Wittgenstein. Tractatus Logicus Philiosophicus and Philosophical Investigations (These books blew my mind last year).
- The Brothers Grimm. Fairytales. (A good reading for an American traveling Europe)
- Hafiz. Every Poem Of His. (Because he is the best poet I know)
Yesterday Gino sent me two of his favorite Bukowski poems. One of them is called Bluebird. I received his message after teaching Yoga. The poem blew my mind. Once I had finished reading the last stance I went straight back into the studio, jammed with the harmonium for an hour, repeating the few stances I remembered (or thought I remembered). I can't wait to play the whole poem together with Gino.