dinsdag 26 augustus 2008

Try something new! How about an armed robbery?

It was B and I’s 7 month anniversary. Of course, I only realised this in retrospect. We had in fact both forgotten it, which all in all is not a big problem. It’s only annoying if one person forgets and the other goes on a guilt trip about how forgetting this ever-so-important date must signify a lack of love.

But I digress.

We went to a snooker place in Ghent with one of B’s friends. They’re both regulars there, but we ended up chatting, not playing snooker. The waitress, Betty, was an old acquaintance of the boys. In fact the term “waitress” doesn’t do her justice – while she doesn’t own the place, she basically runs it.

It was already quite late – or quite early, depending on your view – about a quarter to 1 in the morning. I heard a noise behind me, and noticed two men rushing in from the front door towards the bar. We were sitting at a table further away, not at the bar itself. I paid no attention to it at first. About two minutes later I heard some shuffling again, and I saw the two men at the door. Well, I only really saw one of them, as the other one was standing mostly behind the first, from where I was sitting. I only saw him for a second or so, but something rang a bell in my head, saying not all was right there. While he was partially facing me, I couldn’t see any of his face, as there was something covering his head. I don’t even know why, but I focused on his left hand. He was clutching a handgun, the kind one sees in American action movies. I had never actually seen one in real life.

Of course the men were gone before I could react, and the next thing I recall was Betty running into sight and stating something along the lines of: “That was a robbery”.

Thing is, I wasn’t shocked. Or scared. There was just a feeling of complete surrealism, like I had just seen a pink elephant sit down next to me and had seen it ordering a beer to boot. You see, Ghent is supposed to be a rather safe city. I studied in Brussels, which isn’t very safe. I live in a part of Antwerp that doesn’t really have a good name. I’ve been harassed up to a certain point – but I’ve never, ever, seen a gun. Guns, like space aliens, are only supposed to exist in Hollywood movies. Now you may find this a very naïve view on life, and of course I’m not stupid enough to think there are no guns in Belgium – but it’s just not part of the world that I live in.

Of course, the real circus only started afterwards. Soon the place was crawling with police and all of us had to give a statement. It was a rather long night, and I had a throat ache that was getting worse. Still, it’s an interesting experience. And it shed some light on how hard it is to actually give a truthful statement. It’s very hard to remember everything you’ve seen in a blink of an eye.
Afterwards the cops even made pictures to register how exactly we were sitting and a forensic expert was let loose to search for fingerprints.

We stayed on a bit longer, to keep Betty company. Some time before dawn I started feeling too ill to stay, and we left for B’s place.

A few days later we got a call from Victim’s Support, which we both gracefully declined. No trauma there. Just a slight shift in my worldview, which might not be for the better.

From what I know, they haven’t caught them yet. That’s slightly disconcerting – the fact that they’re still running loose.
As for me, I gained an experience. And I did tell B that we should do things that aren’t routine. Well, I guess this qualifies as “not routine”.

So….I wonder what’s up for next month. Apocalypse, anyone?

donderdag 14 augustus 2008

Two for the road

I am a notoriously bad reader.

This, actually, is a rather curious thing. I was the first in my class to read and write, in fact it stood out so much that my mom was told I could skip the last year of kindergarten and go straight to first grade. Fortunately, she did ask me my opinion, and I preferred to stay with my friends rather than to read and write more.

While I had acquired the skill early, one could say it never grew on me. One thing remained through elementary school, high school and higher learning : I only ever read stuff if I absolutely had to. One exception on this rule were the one or two books I read during summer break, usually while on a plane, in a car, or near a pool. I usually regretted reading in cars, because it makes me nauseous. The other exception were comic books, or as one should say more respectfully : graphic novels.

I'm not really sure what my problem with reading is. I'm not dyslexic, or so the experts say, even though I do keep switching letters and misreading stuff. Sometimes this leads to humor only I can understand. While other people read an article about sinking stocks, mine is really about stinking socks - which is far more amusing for someone who is as easily amused as myself.
However, this weird switching apparently is not dyslexia, but should be linked to some "mild concentration problem" that they have not really diagnosed yet.
Thing is, large chunks of black text almost frighten me. I notice the parts that are not printed upon just as much, and I'm distracted as they run over the pages like little white rivers. Not to mention that every sound I hear makes me have to go back and reread the last two sentences. And there are a lot of sounds in the world.

This is a problem, because I do rather like fiction. Quite a lot. So my little reading problem has driven me to film, but also to the medium of comic books. The first time I actually really got into them was because of Star Wars. As a young girl, I was completely enamoured with the original trilogy and I jumped on the possibility of reading new stories with my favourite characters.
And thus I stumbled upon a writing form that was a revelation to me. You could read it like a book, it even had that pleasant paper smell - but the illustrations were beautiful, they spoke to me - and they were nowhere near as scary as monumental blocks of black text. So at 13 - an age that most girls give up on comic books - I started reading avidly.

I did so for years, until my mom moaned it was a far too expensive hobby, and I stopped reading. I only really started again once I had a job - and my own money.

When we left for Cyprus this year - we being my parents, my boyfriend and me - I fell back to an old tradition: I brought along some novels. Graphic novels.

Lately I've been experimenting. On of the things I've been reading was American Virgin by Vertigo.. American Virgin was a rather atypical buy for me. I'm usually much more into sci-fi and superheroes. But American Virgin caught my eye, first of all because of the covers (yes, I'm guilty, I like male eye-candy). I asked my comic book salesman about it and he recommended it (thank you, Peter).

The book tells the the story of a young preacher, Adam, who preaches sexual abstinence to young kids. However, his life gets turned upside down when his fiancée is murdered while in Africa.
The search for what really happened to her brings him - literally and figuratively - to places he's never been before. What follows is an exploration of culture, morality, sexuality and the human heart. And while the book may lead you into African bachelor huts, gay bars, and sex parties - it never leads you into vulgarity. That being said, this is not really you want your dad to read (which is why I I quickly muttered something about me not being finished when he asked if he could borrow it).

So far I've read four out of five bundles: Head, Going Down, Wet, and Around the World. I'm yet to get my hands on Sixty-Nine. Yep, I think someone was going for suggestive titles there.

The other title I was reading was Anita Blake : Guilty Pleasures, a Marvel adaptation of one of the novels by Laurell K. Hamilton. I'd noticed the name of Anita Blake before, mostly in the days that I still read and wrote fan fiction.
While the book does have some male eye-candy again (I swear, I do actually read other stuff too!), some of it is mildly disappointing. The plot is not truly thrilling. The atmosphere is good and the darker drawing style is suited to the story. It does draw you in after a while. What bothered me were Anita's "thoughts" that are unfortunately very much splattered all over the pages in little- and not so little- blocks. While I can see the appeal of a film noir-esque narrating style, this is just too much. I like it when a story is told by action, not thought. Sometimes it's just annoying, long-threaded girlie prose. And sentences like "Luther is overweigh,t over fifty, chain smokes and yet he's never sick" would work much better if they where left out altogether, and the book would just show an old, fat, smoking guy. Which it does. Only there's text to boot. And frankly, the whole vampire-slayer-who-digs-a-vampire is so very last century (Buffy, anyone?). I might give it another go though, let's see if anything interesting happens.

Now, in the meantime, I think I'll temporarily steal the boyfriend's copy of Watchmen.