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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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 THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING WILDE

 

 by George Djuric

 

 

 

A long story short, each one of us was born with a speck of genius ingrained inside. Otherwise we wouldn't be born. Regardless of how scientifically they explain the process, there's always a marvel involved when a child emerges from a non-child it was just a year prior. I'm not going divine at you, God forbid, just a mystery of universe repeating itself. What happens next is entirely in our hands, no matter how hard we try to blame anything but ourselves. Once the victim mentality kicks in, good luck and good night.

 

Back in 1987, cruising in my cab through downtown Belgrade like a vulture, I picked up a guy, about my age, who came from Dusseldorf to visit his relatives. Ever since the sixties, those Serbs with a plan, or just being pissed with the regime, would go and"arbeit" in West Germany. A few years after, every summer, they'd be roaring past Zagreb in their clunky Opel Commodores and Ford Granadas, along with the Turks, in a modern day version of Attila the Hun.

 

Steve was one of the clan, and typically, had no intention of returning to the motherland before retiring—years away."You're not going to believe it, brother, when I tell you. This time I came to visit with one goal on my mind, one goal only: to help my sister and my brother-in-law solve their housing situation. We gathered around the kitchen table, and I simply told them to move into my own apartment which had been empty for two years, and keep it for the next twenty years or so, for free. I don't need it, and to lease it out while my sister has to rent, from god knows who, didn't seem right."

 

At that point I started to laugh, just pictured it coming:"Oh, brother, don't tell me that!"

 

"Yep, that's exactly what happened. They were ready for me, pulled the entire bloody list of counter reasons why they couldn't accept my offer.  "I suggested that he go see The Friends of Eddie Coyle, with Mitchum, Boyle, and Jordan. We shook hands, and I never saw him again.

 

A touch of higher forces that brought us into existence had to leave a trace of outworldly substance in the process, giving us all a chance to ask for the world. Most people never ask, some—like me—obviously demand without the right conviction: I can't think of any other reason, unless I burnt the speck by pushing way too hard. Then again, it might still be in me, hidden in plain view. Or maybe, just maybe, I've never cleared my mental pipes well enough for a symphony to begin? There was an inexplicable constraint pulling me backwards every time the road was clear for a takeoff, some undetected weakness watering down my self-belief.

 

As irony would have it, every time I pushed my rebellion beyond reason, no matter how dire the circumstances appeared to be, an elegant solution would surface. I was sitting in the military headquarters after the final rejection, waiting for military police to escort me back to the barracks, when that phone call came in—and I walked out free. Years later, I found myself  surrounded by four hostile guys in a tiny mechanic shop, shouting to go fuck myself; and before the first scumbag could make a move, my trucking partner, a Thai guy named Warich Akrawong, walked in to level the battlefield.

 

It is some sort of primal scream I'm referring to, or the final scene of Vanishing Point, when Kowalski slams his Dodge Challenger full speed into bulldozers blocking the road. Maybe even Zabriskie Point, where Daria imagines a lavish desert house near Phoenix exploding in billows of orange flames, backed up by the Pink Floyd's tempestuous sound in Crumbling Land.

 

Just today I lamented to Eileen about the death of creativity: the last great director I discovered was veteran Tony Scott and a real actor: Leo DiCaprio. I don't follow literary events for the lack of time, but came across the finalists of a prestigious story collection, and they could've been my parents; kudos to them! I guess the primal scream got replaced with Black Friday stampede at Wal-Mart, and I better get used to it: consumption has different type of heroes, they arise from within their own mediocrity; they look, smell, and talk like mother womb who spit them out. I know I'm antiquated, but I don't twist facts, since I'm not desperate to prove any point—other than two mentioned above in caps. One of my cult movies was Taxi Driver. Eileen enjoys watching the same Sybil Shepherd in her sitcom, some thirty-five years later. Now you have it. Thank God for art being a three-letter word: it's still fairly easy to spell.

 

A friend of my daughter's, lucky to read while going through a Catholic school, asked me if I really think my namesake Orwell sucks."When it comes to literature, my dear, I stopped thinking a long time ago: I either see it, or I don't. It's the only 20/20 vision I've ever had in my life."

 

During my six months in Macedonia, in 1978, my uncle and my best friend Branko Djuric and I used to drink together almost every day; by ourselves, or accompanied with other relatives of the same spirit. I even tinkered with the thought of settling down there permanently. He loved me like a son, and still does—and I haven't seen him for the past thirty years—yet one day, while bulshitting vis-à-vis over a bottle of mastika, he suddenly got dead incisive:"Maestro," he said with his unique self-effacing grace, "you have to get out of here. It breaks my heart to say it, but you need to go back to Belgrade. This is not the edifying place where your future is, so don't shortcut yourself while you still have your conspicuous personality—before you become precarious like me. And I will have neither enough heart, nor soul to tell you this again. Get out of Dodge."

 

Tears in my eyes or not, I left the next morning, Branko's words still resonating in me to this day.