Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Trangsted - just outside of Aarhus, Denmark.

Preben Grundstött left the dinner table to go upstairs to his “cave” – the small room on the first floor where he was allowed to smoke his pipe, make a mess and write the books, articles, critical reviews and essays he had made a living from writing for almost thirty years.
“Where are you going, Preben?” his wife had asked him, not really paying any attention as she was sitting in the corner of their living room fully absorbed in creating some of her award winning ceramics
“I’m going up to the cave to write a critical essay about the U.S.A”, Preben said as he walked up the stairs.
He entered “the cave” and stood in front of his desk for a while untill he blew some smoke from the pipe over the typewriter on the desk. A small ritual to please “The Gods of Writing” as he would explain to visitors. He had used the same electric typewriter - "Selectric II" - since he began writing over thirty years ago. It was a gift from his late parents when he graduated from the university and although everybody he knew had pestered him for years about buying a computer there was no way he was going to do that – they had no soul, and he secretly believed that switching to a computer would destroy his talent for writing immediately – the Gods of Writing were not to be angered.
After the ceremony of blowing smoke came the next ritual: He went over to the record shelves covering most of the right hand wall and carefully chose a record: Charlie Parker, Preben had been a jazz fan since his student years and was proud to mention to visitors that he had actually discussed Charlie Parker with Ben Webster after a concert in the seventies and Webster had said Preben had a fascinating knowledge of the work of Charlie Parker. The LP was placed on the record player – Preben always bought vinyl as he utterly detested the “clinical” sound of the CD – and now he took care of the last ritual: The framed photo of his wife placed on the desktop, right next to the typewriter, was turned around to face the wall and then he could start writing. But what was he going to write? So many thoughts had been stirring in his mind for the last two years…
On September the eleventh - when the planes had hit the World Trade Center - he had provokingly proposed a toast of champagne to the group of friends visiting them while the TV stations showed the incredible pictures of the exploding aeroplanes and collapsing towers. Most of the people gathered refused; feeling it was perhaps too much: “our daughter is studying at Berkeley, what if they attack the west-coast too!” some had explained. Preben had argued that the USA had dropped bombs on defenceless civilians countless times, this was just America reaping what it had sowed, and the Islamic Mujahedeen of today were the sons of the Cuban revolution, the October Revolution and the heroes of Stalingrad, Preben always got a bit excited when he drank - which was rare- and the guests left early much to the dismay of Prebens wife.
After September the eleventh came the War in Afghanistan and now the war in Iraq but Preben had been so busy writing book rewiews, finishing the four children’s books due for publishing next month, and working as a censor at the national film school that he simply hadn’t had the time to gather his thoughts and write something about the way the USA were becoming a neo-imperialist power of the worst kind. But that’s how he felt about it! And he was from a generation that had seen it coming for years, ever since the anti-war demonstrations in the late sixties he had been at the frontline whenever there was the need for an intelligent verbal attack on American imperialism. He remenbered when he met his wife at an anti-Vietnam demonstration and he had swept her off her feet with his strong rhetoric’s and clear argumentation. In fact she had copied every word when she left home the following month and it came to a heated argument with her father who did not want her daughter to run off to the capitol to become a junkie and a communist.
Suddenly the memories came back to him: The demonstrations, the feeling of fighting for a just cause, of being together – a generation who had the vision and the power to change the face of history, to create a new world on the ruins of an old, outdated and corrupt one. And the life they had lived: The rallies, the demonstrations, the parties, the music, the drugs – though Preben had always just pretended to take them as he already then knew that he had an unusual talent with words and didn’t want to risk ruining it. And the women, ah yes the women. When his future wife showed up at his humble one room apartment and told him she had left home to live with him, he was actually a bit disturbed. He was not ready to commit himself to a relationship, and besides: when would they see each other? He was always writing: pamphlets, articles for underground newspapers and – of course: his upcoming exams. He had to have his freedom. But she understood this, she hadn’t left home to become a nice little swat at the university - now life could begin and she wanted it all and she wanted it NOW. So there were other women, always other women. That he looked at. Because in some strange way he never really came closer to them than maybe talking, sometimes in one of the groups at the university, or at the parties. Somehow he remained “true” to his future wife. If he did have sex with another girl, or later women, it was always because his wife had had an “affair” and he felt that he needed to keep some sort of balance in their relationship.
He sat there in front of the typewriter for a while puffing on his pipe, loosing himself in memories of parties, concerts, demonstrations, squatted houses, going to Morocco. Then he stopped. This was going nowhere: He needed inspiration, but he kept thinking about all those things from back then, the parties, concerts and suddenly something began to appear, yes he remembered a girl he had seen at various parties one summer, but then she disappeared and he never saw her since. She always wore a hat of some kind; it was just like Che Guevara’s – a beret. He went over to the window puffing on the pipe, trying to find a starting line for the story he knew he was about to write, one of the really good ones, an inevitable one! He felt the inspiration forming; the words were coming together – now he had it! The perfect opening!
He sat down in front of the typewriter and began typing:

She wore a raspberry beret, the kind that you find in a second hand store.

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