Sounds from the (urban) jungle.

Living in the urban jungle you get accustomed to strange sounds emanating from the walls, ceiling, and floor, and I don’t just mean the settling in of old houses as the central heating kicks in. No, when you live in one of those former -slum-now-fabulously-in sections of town where the dividers between apartments are less than soundproof you must expect strange sounds…. can you imagine if you had a flamenco teacher living above you…

Something like that, only infinitely more positive, I experienced the other day – something I had never ever expected to experience… I had been convinced that it was just an urban myth of the type you read about in cheap novels, lurid cartoons, or French films or racy sit-coms…

Well, it was a pleasant Saturday afternoon, I was visiting my girlfriend and was taking a nap in the bedroom after lunch, when I started hearing a peculiar sound emanating from the ceiling …. come on, it couldn’t be?  – it couldn’t be the sound of bed springs being tortured by two bodies doing what comes naturally on a lazy Saturday afternoon…. I couldn’t believe it … (beds with springs are only still found in old bedroom farces anyway.)

So I called her in to verify… she listened and right away said, “yep, heard it before…just wait, it´s my neighbor above – she’s a screamer!”…”What – you never told me about this?” I responded …. and sure enough, as the rhythm of the pounded springs got faster more furious and louder I could just discern the start of a scream which got progressively louder, fully in step with the increasing tempo of the pounded springs, leading to an almost earsplitting  crescendo which was immediately followed by a just as deafening silence…

Remember the restaurant scene in “When Harry met Sally”? Or  the quirky French film “Delicatessen”, where there is a wonderful lovers’ scene with the landlord/butcher and his sexy lodger in a squeaking bed – the whole house shakes…

Not only was I a great experience richer, now I also knew that this type or urban inter-apartment sound is no urban myth… I actually felt quite happy almost grateful (perhaps even sated) for having been given this vicarious participation in their bliss; almost  as happy as if …you know… it was a confirmation that the universe that is we, us, and you and our neighbors, is as it should be… but that is not the end of it:  less than an hour later I had to leave the apt., and as I was closing the door, the upstairs neighbor passed me by, giving me that casual ritualistic friendly smile we all give when we recognize and reaffirm our neighborliness.… I had a more difficult time smiling back; I was too afraid that I might be blushing!

Hey, perhaps now that I have had these chance “encounters” with the upstairs neighbor I’m ready to see Lars Trier’s “Nymphomaniac”?



Two visits to Gan Eden/Paradise/the Garden of Eden

Twice I have been in Gan Eden/ Paradise/the Garden of Eden … and it wasn’t because I flat-lined … and it wasn’t because I did drugs: The first time was when I was only about 5 years old, and the second time was when I was only about 11 years old.

I actually had no realization of this until I was well over 60. I had not just forgotten all about these two events, I had not until then even have any realization that I once had had such a deep experience … who knows then how these two “visits” there in my early childhood might have shaped my mature self? I had never even realized I had been there until just before my dotage.

One day a few years ago, my wife, who was terminally ill, asked me right out of the blue if I had any experience with Paradise or with the Garden of Eden … obvious what was on her mind of course … I immediately without even thinking about it answered yes, I had been. At that instant, and for the first time ever, those forgotten experiences entered my consciousness. I had what almost could be called a backwards déjà vu … a full blown eidetic vision. Strangely enough though, my recollection seemed totally matter of fact to me as I recounted it. (I am by nature very very down to earth, and not by any means given to flights of fancy, and I must admit, I even have an unfortunate tendency to scoff at those who do seem to have what I choose to call “spiritual” experiences.) But then to me these two “visits” to Gan Eden do not reverberate in me in the way that I image a spiritual experience must do. Quite on the contrary, emotionally or spiritually, if you want it, it feels just the same way as I would had I recalled a normal day at the beach when I was 5.

Apropos a day at the beach, it was right by the beach that I first entered the Garden of Eden. Right by the boardwalk on the Oostende beach there was an enclosed garden which once had belonged to some rich man, and one day I saw that the gate was open and I walked into Gan Eden. The second time was many years later in a totally different country, but again I walked into what had once been a rich man’s enclosed garden and entered Gan Eden… paradise.

Both times occurred one very beautiful summer’s day … could it be otherwise? Of course it could only have happened a beautiful day with the sun shining at its highest in the sky just after midday.

So, how was it? And why did I (and still do, without any hesitation, but also without any feelings of spirituality) claim that I had actually been to Paradise?

Both times I entered one of those gardens with lots of little cobblestone pathways and mazelike alleyways, little ponds, flower beds in full bloom and Greek statues (you know the type: asexual nudes in various positions) I had not just entered an enclosed garden … I had entered an unknown world, and each time I was utterly alone there. I was the only person present and no one had entered with me and there was no one else there before I entered (don’t ask me what made go in, I was normally an intrepid child and to this day I’m surprised I did it). I had left my world behind and had entered a magical kingdom (I think I now understand where Ann, Martin, Rose and Peter -and also Alice, of course – went to). Everything was so beautiful and so colorful all the colors were bright and the light was full of numous… how can I describe it? It was almost as if everything was more real than real (I was not and am still not much of a nature person and rarely if ever “gush” at a sundown) details and colors were super sharp hyper real and oh so evocative … Edward Hoppers landscapes come to mind … If you’ve ever dropped acid you might have had experienced a bit of the same, at least according to Aldous Huxley.

In short, that little boy that was me back then, twice had what I now realize were transcendental experiences … I must have then have been in Gan Eden or otherwise why did I say so without any hesitation when answering my wife’s question: I’m still convinced of the fact!

Strange isn’t it: I am such a prosaic person and yet I now know that I have twice in some way been touched by the transcendental.

Ps. Both times in the next summer I returned to these gardens alone and with others, and nothing … nada … I had just a year after almost forgotten what had been so special for me in these gardens.