Friday, May 15, 2009
The Aqua Mustang 85 – HOW LIKE HOME
A world of privilege was how it was sometimes described by people from the outside, as if they were waifs, their noses pressed against the window of a candy store. Privilege, a word I never associated with my past, no matter how it might have appeared to outsiders. A word that in my mind was applicable to costume drama or the sort of cruel flaunting of great wealth amidst desperate poverty that I had seen on my last trip to the Philippines.
I had many non-political feelings for the Philippines, the land of a girl I had loved and from whom I was recently divorced. Such feelings, even though my last trip there, three years back, has been for purposes of exposing it. Or maybe, I was thinking now, for purposes of covering up what I might find if I probed closer to home.
The rarefied summer world version of the White Mountains, that region for which I had until recently believed I mainly felt nostalgia, had been pretty much, though not completely, wiped out. In recent months in New York I had reveled in my new found fury as I put myself in places where I could shout about things I had once thought no worse than slightly snobbish and naively pretentious.
This change of perspective in looking at the past that changed everything. These memories still developing now in Vermont – the anti-New Hampshire – and in quick forays to the other side of the Vermont-New Hampshire border as I criss-crossed scenes in that world that may have once seemed ideal – a perfect summer day sort of world – a past world that now could be in darkness.
This border, across which I had fled in my mind carrying with me the family secrets that I would turn over to what had been the enemy. The regular people.
I had shouted about it, but I couldn’t find the words as these past scenes swirled round in my head while I was driving near or right into the middle of the literal places where these old family scenes had taken place.
It did not seem strange to me that for 30 years I had gone to such lengths to stay out of New Hampshire. Recently when shouting before sympathetic “adult children” groups I had actually said “my heart is breaking,” said it while feeling the words came from outside of me or from forgotten places. But even now when I turned my car north I also felt my heart leap.
I was glad I did not have to oversimplify these feelings with written words. I was living in a mostly visual world now, thinking seriously of taking up visual art and meanwhile looking and looking at these landscapes the way in the city I had been looking at Hobbema and Gorky and Matisse and Deibenkorn. Almost freed from words.
It was only three years now since the last time I was in Manila, dividing my days between the grandiose world of facades constructed by the rulers and the often deceptive worlds of their opponents, with whom I was allied. I was allied with the opposition in part out of conviction and in part out of ambition since I had a book contract to write about the horrors of this martial law place, the Philippines. For these purposes, I pretended to be take the rulers seriously. I approached them as if I wanted in my writing to celebrate what I pretended were their great deeds – as I had pretended once when with Somoza in Nicaragua, and other times when with Kissinger’s pro-consul ambassadors in Southeast Asia. And yet I knew that they knew.
I had friends from the past in Manila, who now had government ties, and while drinking told me what they knew about me, which was far more than Philippine intelligence alone could have known. It seemed clear I had been followed from New York to California to Manila and back. And yet, I and the powerful Philippine authorities I interviewed played a game. I pretending to be a mere hat-in-hand journalist, they pretending to believe me.
And soon it got wildly dangerous, for soon they were killing the people they and I both knew I was allied with.
How like, it was coming to seem in this summer of exploration, how like what I was doing now in the White Mountains –like what I had done time and again over the years while getting myself into these literal wartime situations