own words

Happy seventyeen, dad!

Buon anno, e un buon compleanno! In Orbetello. Photo: MM

Today my father celebrates big. I will join the celebrations shortly but for now I’m sending greetings and warm wishes in the shape of selected images taken by you:

Photo: BM

Your Maribor. Photo: BM

Your city. It will be forever.

It used to be so far. Traffic jams, fog, snow, heat – things needed to be endured.

And then finally Maribor, and most often sunny. Main square. Those four floors – sometimes it seemed even higher, depending on form.

View of green Pohorje. The scent of the kitchen. Cheerful baca.

This is your courtyard. High school. Basketball court. Drava river. “Don’t let NATO see your bridges,” Balašević said during his concert on the raft.

Impressions from my last visit? Pretty, quiet, friendly. Romantic, yet rainy on this occasion. Just where there used to be the marketplace, little chicks can no longer be bought.

And then, in Piran, the exact same number of stairs?

You always love to surprise and please.

The age is right for me to like Shakin’ Stevens. He is a regular in Bravo. His posters look down from the wall.

When you go abroad once again, you return with cassettes. A bunch of them. I look at them in awe. Names I have never heard before. And then one that I know. Stevens! Shaky! But no. The name on the tape is Cat Stevens. Disappointment lasts several years until I realise that Cat is a hundred times better.

In the same bunch of tapes there is also one of Buddy Miles, Jimi Hendrix drummer.

Many years later I will be at his concert in Vienna. The name will ring a bell from somewhere.

Father, not really son, but the year is right. Tanti auguri e grazie per tutto!

≈ Manja Maksimovič ≈

Edit: P.S.: By going away he means visit me in Tuscany.

For those about to read

You will never know how much I salute you. There is so much of us out there and so few of anybody who cares.

This is a round-up post, the first of its kind, and since it’s the first it will round up my entire blog from when I started it at the end of March 2014. However, it will only cover my writings. They have one thing in common – everything I write about really happened.

The reason for doing this is that lately I’ve had people actually reading me, which has me all giddy. Especially I would like to thank The Snow (Luckily) Melts Somewhere (Else), as she recently read the very first thing I put up here, a not at all happy tale of an escaped lynx, and made me think that maybe people would actually like to read some of that.

All my life I have been struggling with choosing what to do for money. I have had jobs as a journalist, editor, proofreader, but most of my money I’ve earned with translations.

  1. If you click on Everything button in the head of my blog, the first thing you see is MM – writer. So this is what I’d most like to be. Some would say that a journalist is a writer, which might be true but not for the kind of journalist I was. I wonder if Faculty of Journalism in Ljubljana still kills every budding writer with the who-what-where-when-why-how rule.
  2. MM – photographer is next in that Everything column. I’d never thought of selling my photographs before but now I do, even though it might be a bit tricky to commence (especially since all I’ve got is enthusiasm, an eye, some say, and lots of photos).
  3. The last section is MM – translator with my translations which have not been done for money but for pleasure – actually the authors have no idea these exist, unless they google themselves regularly.

Write then. That I do. (Not selling that either, though. Something tells me that there might be a pattern.) And before I choose what kind of book I’ll write – which has obviously been the main obstacle to why I haven’t written one yet – I have been writing on this blog. Let’s look at this a bit closer.

There have been lots of birthday stories for friends and family members and they will keep coming but I won’t focus on them here. There have been some photo essays with accompanying words. But today I wish to focus on the written word as such.

When I write, I don’t make a selection of subject matter beforehand. It’s basically a recorded thought process, usually spurred by something I’ve read or a powerful thought that sneaks in. I never really know where I’ll end up and that’s what makes it so interesting even to myself.

For starters, here is one of my favourites: All my oases

There is no better story I know than the one of our amore:

This one is not so much about words as it is about images and what love does to you if you let it.

Some things in Italy are not directly about love, such as:

Several writings bring back memories of the good old days:

My preference in books, music, sports can be gathered from these:

Here are my experiences and opinions on some burning issues, such as:

Then there are little stories, 100word drabbles, and snippets of conversation.

And to conclude, two rare poems that I wrote a long time ago, in Duba by the sea:

I’m not saying that I expect anybody to go through all these.
It would be madness.
Okay, this is for the organised and the mad ones then. Buon appetito!

≈ Manja Maksimovič ≈

Images: Tuscany/Lazio border on a cloudy day. Photo: MM

Hair stories

Dive. Emerge on surface. Shake your head in your significant move (not unlike the dog out of water). One shake, so that the water leaves the ears and the hair lands just so. There is the weight of it. It’s Samsonian. It’s power. It’s your precious fur. And these are its stories.

When very young, your grandfather has a brilliant idea to shave it all off, to improve its texture. It works. It grows back resilient to any styling. It grows back screaming: try to shave this!

But the dread of being hairless remains. Hairdressers become worst enemies.

Every time you wash it, it takes on a life of its own. It looks different. For somebody who doesn’t like to change, this is bothersome. The look into the mirror in the morning after a hair-washing day is a nightmare.

You think it will help if you get a perm, even though you’re not even out of primary school yet. It doesn’t. You look like a sheep and your hair is considerably ruined. You need to have it cut rather alarmingly (but not really) short. It’s a good cut and you’re relatively happy as long as the cut holds. But soon it begins again, the hair whirlwind.

Everybody wishes to do something. Put it in a ponytail. Move it to the side. Smooth it. “Do something with that hair! Go to the hairdresser!” By this time it has become the case in point, the counter mentality. If everybody wants you to do something, for SURE you will not do it. It just shows you what they think you ought to do. In order to become what? More like them?

The only time you let somebody cut it really short, it’s a disaster. When you order a drink, waitresses look you in the eyes from close up and address you as male (a terrible, shredded bus driver’s leather jacket, with which you don’t wish to part, doesn’t help).  When you walk around in it, alone, you’re the most dangerous person on the block. It’s like somebody has taken your tenderness away.

But it grows back and this time you bet it’s for good.

And everybody who tackles it is still defeated.

One time you need a ride from a card tournament. The man who agrees to take you is a chess player, a good one. You talk some more and when asked what he does professionally, he replies, with a slight grin: “I cut women’s hair.” And so you agree to an appointment. It feels like a doctor’s, for you it always does.

You will never forget the look in his eyes after he is done and says: “You just defy any grooming, you need to stay wild.”

You grin on the inside, because it confirms what you know.

Another time you agree to be a test bunny at a soul healing technique seminar. They are two of them working on you, trying hard to help you recognize one little aspect of your past or present that you’d like to work on. And change it.

This angers you a little. You like your patterns. You like your history. If you wanted to act any other way, you would have. “Maybe we can work on my anger,” you say.

After the seminar and a lot of lying on the table and envisioning colours and previous deaths, you observe the leader, trying hard not to look you in the eye. Later he will be quoted saying about you: “Look at her! Look at her HAIR! It’s immediately obvious: she’s a free spirit!”

Another little smirk of recognition. You could have told them this at the start.

Hair through my last ten years. Featured photo above with the sea taken by BM.

Life continues. Hair starts to fall out but since you started out with so much there is still enough of it left. Also it turns grey. This requires regular dyeing and you find a hairdresser who does it for you. After that she takes hours to blowdry it just so with a curling brush even though you’d much rather dry it naturally. She makes you look like her because to her that is pretty.

After years of this, as your ex relationship is drawing to a close, she exclaims: “Do you see what an improvement we’ve made? Do you remember how you looked like when you started coming in?” Hm, more alive, that’s for sure.

Now you see why your best hairdresser has always been the sea. One time, that month on Crete, it almost gave you dreadlocks. And the rain, the rain makes magic too: it makes your hair curly in such a way that no hairdresser has ever been able to reproduce it.

And now you have a third perfect hairdresser. He is as determined to make you into a lady as you are sceptical. And when he is finished washing and dyeing your hair, you don’t know if your hair is as soft, shiny and smooth due to his determination, love or a secret ingredient.

The fight will be tough though.

You are almost willing to bet on the sea.

≈ Manja Maksimovič ≈

Top five concerts of all times

I have never really thought about lining them up like that, but here they are, my favourite 5 concerts of all times, as asked by Daily Rock Report. I don’t choose by absolute quality but rather how they felt at those specific moments.

1. Suicidal Tendencies, Vienna, 1994: this one caught me (and others) by surprise and we still haven’t quite recovered. This is their concert from Madrid a year earlier:

2. House of Pain, Vienna, 1994 (?): I was on the stage with them! (Pulled out from the pit for suffering, but still!)

3. Rock in Riem, Germany, 1994, two-day festival with Clawfinger, Rage against the Machine, Therapy?, Aerosmith & Peter Gabriel (the first three bands I saw repeatedly over the years and they always more than delivered, and during the last two we were resting in the beer tent). This line-up of all the line-ups included Extreme (!), The Breeders, Manic Street Preachers, Soul Asylum, Nina Hagen, Crowded House, the Cranberries, Bonnie Raitt, Richie Havens, Paradise Lost, and ok also Smashing Pumpkins – so that we weren’t TOO angry that we missed Radiohead since they played first and our bus driver got lost.)

4. Pearl Jam (I saw them 8 times, each one was special, narrowing them down to three: Budapest 1996 – because it was the first, Ljubljana 2000 – because it was at home, Prague 2012 – because it was the happiest).

5. Urban Species, Paris, 90’s: Another unexpected perfect one

(Honorary mention: Plavi orkestar, Ljubljana, 1984; Dire Straits, Ljubljana, 1985; Michelle Shocked, Vienna, 90’s; Guns ‘n Roses + Faith No More + Soundgarden, Vienna, 1992; Ice-T & Body Count, Vienna, 1993)

These are just the very best, the other hundreds were merely good (ok, there were a few bad ones too, but really just a few).

It is obvious that all these dates are a bit removed, but I’m not done yet, just a bit more picky. Last year I heard Pearl Jam in Trieste as well as Caparezza and Paolo Nutini in Roma, this year possibly Manu Chao in Slovenia. And below is how I like to look at concerts. It’s interesting that nowadays I think my chest is examined for other reasons. In Italy nobody reads.

≈ Manja Maksimovič ≈

From Iggy Pop and The Stooges gig in Tivoli, Ljubljana, 2008. Photo: Zedd

The man in the window

What was your life’s turning point? I was asked.

It was not the moment when I said Yes to your invitation to visit.

It was not the moment when I first saw you, or the first hug, the first kiss.

It was not the first night we spent together or the first morning we woke up next to each other.

Neither the first breakfast, coffee, gelato.

We spent 13 days together. I brought 13 presents for you, one for each day. They included four books, the pot to make my style coffee and the coffee itself, pumpkin seed oil, my playing cards. Something tells me it was either premonition or predetermination. 😀

We didn’t discuss things, about what will happen later. We were too busy having fun, holding hands, kissing. You took me to have dinner at your father’s on day 3. And let me drive your car in Roma on day 5. Practically all I needed to know.

We bought my first glasses – no more striving to read things from afar.

And then those days were over, and I had to return home.

When I boarded the train, you went with me to help me settle. And it was then, when I saw you on the platform, that I knew. My life will never be the same again.

You were crying. And I was crying, all the way to Bologna. And later you told me that the Termini railway station chose to play this song at that moment. And there was nothing we could do.

Taking my protein pills ever since.

≈ Manja Maksimovič ≈

Photo: MM

My other Isonzo

There is the famous Isonzo, as it is called in Italy where it is born, or Soča river, called in Slovenia where it mostly flows. Poems have been written about it. Fronts have been fought alongside it. It is called the Emerald Jewel, and it is the pride of Slovenia. And then there is this.

When I descended down the Soča in a small army rubber boat with three others in it, it took one of my All Stars. And I took some of it home in a bottle, wrote Soča on it and drank it for a few days. And now I’ve found another one.

Not the street named after it, even though I found that too (on the photo above), in Santa Severa (while the bigger town next to it, Santa Marinella, is a twin town, or sister city, of Kranjska Gora in Slovenia).

It is a river with no name – or better, I haven’t learnt it yet. Let’s have a glimpse:

It flows under the bridge where the sheep pushed me off the street. After they forced me to park and let them pass, I had a look around and was greeted by this cheerful sign – the first time I see one of these:

But to call it a mere flood wave would be mean. The colour is just too pretty.

But the really surprising view came from the middle of the bridge.

It felt like falling into a fairy tale. When I reached the fort, the notice boards told me that I have fallen into the remains of an Etruscan metropola, just something for my father. A bit further is also archaeological park Vulci. I decided to wait for him to visit first, which is just about to happen, before I explore further. So here are just a few glimpses more, as a preview.

Let’s hope the next time we are there this bridge on the Isonzo (Most na Soči) is open. And that the Etruscans were great builders.

P.S. Must edit to include its name since I’ve just googled it and it’s so pretty: it is called Fiora.

≈ Manja Maksimovič ≈

Photo: MM

100 words for D.

And quietly, without a sound, some dear people are heading somewhere else. 
That's what it said on the desk.
Ugly dream.
Past friends, future friends, another song of the same band says.
I know your handwriting. I know you to the depths of your signature, I once wrote, for you. You never read it, it was between past and future.
We never know when we shall meet again. I spurred it on a little and invited you to see the reunion show. For a past birthday.
Today it’s here again. Have two songs, one dog and me who is staying.

Fortunetelling drabble

A drabble is a 100-word story. This line doesn’t count. I wrote one about the stylish vet, another about the best possible PJ companion. This one is older.

A visit to his daughter. We enter the trailer. She’s in there with a colleague. Gypsy-looking. They have upturned coffee cups, inspecting the grounds.

The gypsy looks straight into my eyes.

“Why doesn’t she do it, I can see she knows how.”

You must know that about me: I’m of earth and the sea, I can land an ear and offer a perspective, but I don’t do it this way.

The shock doesn’t show.

I take the cup and feel his eyes widen.

“There will be a three-way, and you will stick to the middle.”

Such fraud. Unless it’s Freud.

About photo: Bosnian-style coffee serving with a Drina in Das ist Valter, Ljubljana, Slovenia.

≈ Manja Maksimovič ≈

Life imitates blog II.

Life imitates blog, case in point II. (Case in point I. is here, that time it was the wall paint colour.)

This blog’s punchline is Because words are pressing and words make worlds and that little sign there looks like a Volkswagen. So it just warmed my heart to see this sign on my visitors’ car. And it helped that its colour was of my Peugeot which was driving me around the island of Crete for a month.

It has proved to be just as good environment as these pages. Grazie, macchina, and the driver.

≈ Manja Maksimovič ≈

Photo: MM

Girl who will get a dog when she is 9

This 8-year old girl, who celebrates today, is thinking: I want to have a dog. I have two already, one of them is behind me, but they are not completely alive. 
Sometimes I have this one too, a real and warm one, but he is only visiting.
Fonzie, explain to him how to come to life.
What are you saying? I only have to wait one more year?
Ok. Paws are all ready yet.

≈ Manja Maksimovič ≈

Photo: MM

Only in Italy

Trains in Italy are notoriously in delay. Every last one of them. They just have to be at least a few minutes late, but most usually it’s ten.

Even Niki de Saint Phalle felt it necessary to write on one of the walls in her Giardino dei tarocchi: “Basta con questi treni sempre in retardo.” Enough with these trains already, always late. This was in 1995, and nothing has changed.

You know because you are commuting to work by train. And I know because I meet you at the station every day.

There is a little bell, and then the speaker says “The train from Roma is arriving to platform 2 with the delay of…” and I strain to hear how many minutes.

I think the record is 330, but there were floods.

First I used to go the station optimistically only to discover there, looking at the orario on the screen, how much I had to wait.

But then I found out the online train tracking service in real time. This is very practical, indispensable really. There I can see, for example, that the train has already started in ritardo, and am able to track how many extra minutes it gains with each new town. Sometimes, very rarely, it says in orario, and then it is right on track.

This reminds me of the year 1990 which was the last time I went to our annual August seaside holiday with my parents. Even though I was 20, I would continue doing so but there was war. Our annual ritual was to board the train in Ljubljana with a bunch of friends on August 9th at 7 pm, have dinner when the train reached the first station (which is where originates the historical exclamation by a son of our friends upon passing our compartment, seeing us munching on Vienna-style steaks and boiled eggs, and returning to his parents: “Do you know what a good time M. family is having?”), travel all through the night and wake up in our triple bunk beds by the beautiful green Neretva river after the train left Sarajevo behind. Announcing tunnels was a favourite sport.

The end station was Ploče (later renamed Kardeljevo) by the sea, where we arrived some time before noon. There a ferry was waiting to take us to Trpanj on the Pelješac peninsula, and then barba Luka with his fishing boat brought us to Duba, our home away from home, and the eternal August could begin and last for some three weeks, after which we had to return to bleak midwinter which late August in Slovenia seemed to us after all that sun. And one year all three means of transport broke down one way or another.

But in 1990 we had another kind of problem with that train. I was awoken in mild panic: “Wake up, wake up, we have arrived!” The thing was that Croatia got a new president that year. And he made it his task to make trains run on schedule. We never knew that all those years our train should be reaching its destination at 8 or so in the morning!

Back to the present. One time you tell me you are on the train returning home, and it is the last train of the day – you were lucky to catch it. I open the page to track it and the initial delay is just a few minutes. Good. As the train is getting closer, I check again. In anticipo, it says. My eyebrows shoot up. No. Must be a mistake. I know anticipation, and this is not what Italian trains usually feel. But after passing another town it is still there: anticipo of two minutes.

I wonder for a minute what it means for the train to be early. People might miss it, for example.

I tell you the unbelievable news.

“I know,” you write back.

“How can you know?” I’m taken aback. “Did you ask them to hurry because you are hungry? Or do Italian railways have a new director?”

“I have just heard the conduttore call his colleague on another train to ask him if he can gift him a couple of minutes.”

“In order to do what?”

“Well. There is a woman here. And she missed her station. And now she has to return. And this is the last train of the night.”

So the world starts revolving around this woman now. One train is waiting for her on the next station. And her train, which means yours too, is speeding up so that she can catch it. All will be good. She will be able to reach her family on time.

“Is she young? Middle-aged?”

“I don’t know. I only heard her voice, she is in the next compartment.”

Right. And I should believe that you didn’t peek.

But I know. This is not about the looks. Italian men help because they can. They give the impression that there is no hurdle big enough. It is easier to live this way.

I like what I can hear in your voice when you tell me about it later. It is pride. “Imagine how a tedesco would respond,” you say and I grin at the thought of German punctuality.

Whereas meanwhile, and only in Italy, women rule over trains.

28-12-14 010 (957 x 1280)
This is a shirt you got for your 50th: the front says: “I don’t understand”, and the back says “I am German”, all in Italian, of course, and it is a joke, of course. Tu sei un italiano vero. Photo: MM

≈ Manja Maksimovič ≈

My blog is one year old

It was on this day one year ago that I settled on the Volkswagen-looking sign (above left), chose my profile photo and published my first blog piece ever.

It is not an easy piece but it’s quite symbolic. Not symbolic of my blog, which I do my best to keep upbeat, but of my original country. It concerns a certain escaped lynx and what happened to her. As for me, I’m still roaming wild.

These are four of my favourite photos that have not been published yet. This one is Flying Carpet, in Monticiano.

It is rather strange to be me and have a blog. I don’t feel like advertising. I don’t strive to make myself seen. I joined Facebook a mere month or so ago for the first time and now at least my posts are published there as well.

It’s rather like when I was travelling in Greece, around the Peloponnesus and several islands. In more touristy places the restaurant owners were loud and obnoxious, it’s true. They were also quite slick. I remember one of them, standing at the entrance to his restaurant. His game was trying to determine the origin of each group of tourists before they reached his place, and then barely audibly uttering a name of a sportsman from this country. In our case it was Jure Zdovc (basketball player), perfectly pronounced. And this is how he got us to chew on his mediocre calamari.

Domestic Bliss, in Porto Ercole

Another example is the lady in a restaurant in Ljubljana, Slovenia (it was Brinje, for the locals). She had just served my family and me an entire lunch full of national dishes and we were ready to start emitting Slovenian after-meal noises, which are so perfectly described by Mr. Michael Manske (his radio programmes on How to Become a Slovene deserve a special entry).

When she asked us whether we wished any dessert, all of us started to plead incapable of swallowing anything more. She smiled and already turned to leave but then turned her head a little and whispered almost audibly: “We’ve got strawberries.” Guess what followed.

I took this approach at the time when I was selling my mom’s book of poems for children at a fair. The fair was full of toys and this was what most of the kids were interested in. I could see how they looked away as soon as they saw books. And yet, the stall next to me was occupied by a highly successful, cute and productive book seller who put a child or two in her lap and her first question was: “Do you like to create?”, while her aid, dressed as Noddy (hugely popular cartoon and book character), took care of attention-drawing.

I stood there, with one single book on the stall, looking at all the passing children and thinking things over. Then I started to whisper at the passing parents: “We’ve got poems!” At least three fathers bought the book.

And it is not because the book was somehow not worthy. It is one glorious book, if I say so myself, and my plan is to translate it one day and see what the world thinks. Because in Slovenia people love it, children love to learn the poems by heart and colour in the illustrations (provided by Mina Fina) which have been left in black and white for this purpose.

Looky here, in Orvieto

The point is that I prefer the tactics of the restaurant owner on the island of Karpathos, just to the right of Crete, where I had dinner every night for one week years ago. The most memorable meal consisted of a calamaro – yes, in the singular – because one specimen was so huge that it covered the entire plate.

Nobody stood at the entrance there, they were too busy serving. The guests were not tourists but rather locals, and the permeating emotion was that of quiet pride: “Nobody is forcing you to eat here but when you do, you will be served excellent food and you will want to return.”

In this way I have been quietly waiting for a year to see what will happen, but also not really waiting since I put here stuff that I wish to see myself. To have it at a ready.

A few times it happened that a single piece gathered much more attention than normally: one time it was a poem by a Slovenian politician that did it, another time a writing site decided to use my entry with a poem by Tomaž Šalamun as a teaching aid and I still have people flocking over on account of it. Thank you, Tomaž, for writing it.

Beside own writings I have here several own English translations of famous Slovenians who probably have no idea that I have done them, but this is better than have them complain 😀

I have here plenty of own photographs which I can only hope nobody is stealing – but if you do, watch out, Karma is off and running!

I have here birthday wishes for my family and friends, and now we can start the year again and slowly repeat them.

Magliano selfie with uncle’s arm

Photo: MM

Thank you to everybody who have somehow managed to find your way over here despite. And I hope you are well fed.

≈ Manja Maksimovič ≈

Open House 19

And so new tenants are ready to move in. I’m happy about it.

This house has served as my home for some twenty years. Many things have happened. Upon entering, many people have said: “Oh, it feels like by the sea!” Even though this is Ljubljana, Slovenia, and the sea is 100+ km away. When I went to the USA, I found a big plastic board that said “Open House” and bought it without thinking. I boarded the plane with it under my arm, it was too big to pack. When I came back home, I put the sign by the kitchen window.

The idea of the open house came from Koper, Capodistria, I think I brought the sea with me. There was a little house there, under the vines, where a postman lived and a band practised.  Lou Reed and the Kinks were the soundtrack and everybody was welcome.

I had my open house open for many years, the neighbour could tell you exactly for how long, I’m sure she was counting. (Sorry, neighbour.) She was so happy when things changed and the only disturbances were dog shit and the pond excavations.

But this passed too and now a boy called Nemanja (not-Manja) is moving in with his family to take care of the pond, he is an enthusiast. And his mother is a translator. Everything figures out in the end.

I wish them a very nice stay. It is a good house.

≈ Manja Maksimovič ≈

Photo: MM