Stephen Rothenburg
Zanele Mashinini
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Love, sex and intimate relationships

24 february 2006

Date: Fri, 24 Feb 2006 05:52:38 -0800 (PST)
From: "gregg smith"
Subject: gregg- passage
To: love-sex-intimacy@googlegroups.com

Sorry to be so distant these passed days, i have been hit by a wave of funding deadlines for the next stage of this project. It was thunderously boring but I just sent them off and am rereading the messages from the past week. I would like to rejoin the conversation in an intuitive, not very analytical manner if possible, as I think it's a mode which suits this topic quite well. I was very moved by Sung's message on Sunday as it reminded of my own time in amsterdam (2 years, 3 years ago), which was essentially such a protected comfortable time but also emotionally difficult. At the time everyone around me was going through similar melancholies and so I took it to be partly an artists' lot and specific to that context then, but undoubtedly there were parallels also to Sung's, regarding trying to assimilate experiences of a family life unavoidably caught up in an oppressive history.

It's now 5 years since I have lived in South Africa. I was there again recently. It was a very necessary visit as my parents have, from one day to the next, decided to take their retirement and move away from Cape Town to a small town by the sea called Hermanus. In a wonderfully practical manner they have renovated their fishermans cottage, and cleared out of the family house of the last 20 years, which is now up for sale. The family house is quite a big place as we are a family of six and, although I haven't lived there much in the last 10 years, all my possessions that I have accumulated in the first 30 years of my life are there, stored under the bed in sewing room. There are also hundreds of paintings hanging about. An important aspect of this trip was to sort through my things and throw out what was no longer needed and pack the important things away in storage. I found a box of diaries that I have been keeping since my early 20's. I flipped through one which dated 2000, just before I left south africa. It was as if I was looking at the writing and thoughts of someone I knew in only a distant way, like a cousin one doesn't see very often. All this was done in a hurry as there were many other things to do in this trip which contributed to a strange sensation: That I was floating on a deep reservoir of personal experience and consciousness, but unable to find the time or peace of mind to sink into it. It was a very odd sense of nostalgia, looking at these objects, this house, my family, all embodying my own life somehow and having to accept that life was ending or changing, (all in good ways) and that one could take very little with one, materially or consciously. I experienced nostalgia not as a series of memories of experiences or emotionally charged objects but as an awareness of a time which I felt somehow excluded from, or that I had avoided being present to it for one reason or another, and now it was impossible to go back.

When I looked at the landscape I was taken both by its beauty and space, which was so inviting, and by the fact that it seemed to have no claim on me. We had no use for each other. Soon I was going back to europe, I would keep my photographs and happy memories of seeing those close to me. When people used to ask me why I didn't want to move back to South Africa, I would say it was because I found it too interesting there. There is no space to think or feel one's own inner processes in a quiet manner. This is what I like about living in paris. The people are passionate to a certain extent and cold to a certain extent, there is the opportunity to be alone without feeling lonely. I am not entirely content here but for various reasons I have wound up here and also succeeded, (after 4 years of drifting about, getting tangled up in dissatisfying and frequently secret affairs), to have found a loving companion who tolerates my moods. I am very grateful for this.

I remember two years ago, at the close of one of those breezy and brief affairs, sitting on a park bench in the snow in the middle of the night in Amsterdam, crying my eyes out for a full half an hour. I am not normally very emotional and so through the tears, I kept asking myself why I was so sad? It was I who had ended the affair and it all made sense but it had not been easy. Maybe its melodramatic, but I thought that I was feeling intense grief for all the loneliness in the world. Later on, in the following winter of the same year, still in the same blustery and chased emotional universe, both penniless and in need of an apartment, I found myself sitting in a café in a freezing night in paris, close to dispair and smoking a half cigar. It's a habit from time to time which helps still my thoughts. In the midst of this it occurred to me that the only way to save myself was to ‘become my own parents'. Who knows where it came from, but it was a small revelation which changed the quality of my life almost instantly. Much later, after I had been together with Zoé a few months, I told her of this occasion and she told me it was a classic technique which they use in psycho-therapy.

I should end this ramble here. I look forwards to all your further postings, where ever you are and however you are feeling.

Gregg

 

From: "Bridget Baker"
Subject: Re: gregg- passage from bp
Date: Fri, 24 Feb 2006 18:40:30 +0200
To: love-sex-intimacy@googlegroups.com

Dearest GP, I am so grateful to know you ... though the past 5 years haven't afforded us the time for even more significant and critical interactions, still you remain one of my dearest friends. Also I feel quite torn sometimes that I don't really know what is going on in your life because of the distance. Perhaps it works both ways.  

Remember when we started visiting each other (well me more than you) in Europe. In 2000 I took an 8 or 9 hour train ride from Germany to that dorpje in the Netherlands to meet you and Mustafa (with his then-girlfriend ... now wife), with the excuse of seeing the Tracey Moffat show, but actually it was all about seeing each other. It was then that I knew that I was pretty much hooked on our connection. I have visited you since, in Amsterdam (the expansive apartment) in 2002 when you were at the Rijks; and you were over in 2003 to do VRT1. Remember that evening you came over, just before you left to go to Brazil or back ... you were so distraught that someone had stolen your wallet and cash at the Standard Bank ATM in Green Market Square. I think you were wearing your new red Diesel trainers (people kill for those I thought ...). In 2004 you saw me spend far too much money (in fact I still owe you some after you baled me out of the country and back to South Africa) on clothes in rue de Charonne, and I noticed that on that one evening I visited in July 2005 you steered me clear of my obvious tendency. We ate at my favourite korean restaurant in Bellville, that soup with dumplings (my favourite!) We laughed so much, as we can, you do trigger a particular unrehearsed oddity in me that no-one else can.  

Then you took me to an apartment and you said you had to fetch bed linen for me. We went into a woman's room, filled with that person's life, there were a couple of wigs I remember ... you said you had slept on the couch there before. We left and I remember feeling quite tired and wanting to sleep but I knew we just had these few hours to soak up each others lives, so we carried on walking. We talked about art, the Shabir Shaik and Zuma debacle, about your disappointment that I would have dated a particular man that you thought was just a 'gold digger' (those are my words - don't worry...). We talked "land en sand", with some reflective moments, which we both enjoy. Then you showed me some images off your phone of some of your friends, but one woman appeared more than once ... the woman who's apartment we had gone to to fetch the bedding from. I thought nothing, until I remembered you had said you had slept on her couch (fold-out bed?). My mind wondered a bit, but not very far ... until you had to spell it out to me.  

In 2006 I met Zoe (the woman in the pictures and with the couch) with you in Cape Town. I am well pleased my dearest GP.  

You have gone through quite major upheavaIs I think ... what with moving away from South Africa ( with lack of close familial and financial support - and the contingent love stresses that create a further sense of distance). But always you have the quiet resolve to embrace all of these aspects of your life through the projects that you do, through your unavoidable manner.  

And now with Zoe you are particularly lucky.  

By the way where will you be in June this year ... I'll be coming over to Paris via Switzerland?  

xbp