While my memory is not the sharpest or the best in the world, I think I can manage to remember where I am. Most of the time anyway.
Still, it never ceases to amaze me at how many times, in the course of a normal month, week, day, and (on bad days) hour, people will invoke this sentence as a definitive argument and statement of fact. People will constantly tell me THIS IS SERBIA when I wonder why I cannot figure out the city bus schedule. Why does every official act require a mile-high stack of signed and stamped papers? THIS IS SERBIA! Where is the waiter with my change? THIS IS SERBIA! Why do we repair all the roads at once when the traffic is highest? THIS IS SERBIA!
We usually think we don’t have enough of it, as if it would suddenly run out. And sometimes time seems to stand still. We set ourselves appointments in time, deadlines in time, and sometimes allow ourselves a timeout.
The whole world has agreed to this arbitrary standard, as a means of segmenting our finite human sojourn on this planet. We have divided it up into a certain amount of months, weeks, days, and hours and we agree to allow it to reign supreme over all our activities. Time is a cruel master – it never bends to our needs and we are forever chasing after it.
While America is reeling and holding its head at the thought of Donald Trump as a possible 45th President of the United States, so too is Serbia biting its nails to see who will come out on top of the extraordinary one-party elections coming soon to this country.
Having slept quite well, I woke up one fine morning refreshed and in an excellent mood. People who know me will note that this is exceptional behavior and perhaps even cause for alarm.
My routine had all the usual morning hiccups associated with my as yet decaffeinated state: I dropped the spoon while making my coffee; I found a dark thread on my white bathrobe, which it seemed I had inadvertently put on inside out; the butter knife slipped from my hand mid-toast; reaching for it, I hit the bread and overturned it; I took a new piece of bread (and new knife) and re-booted. Thus reconfigured, I proceeded to my breakfast.
It’s a mystery. Wrapped inside a pickle. On a ham sandwich.
On sale in Aisle 7.
The mystery is that I no longer know where I am when I go to the supermarket in Belgrade. Today, for example, I started out list-in-handed on a journey to IDEA in New Belgrade. I had received in the post a special Happy Birthday coupon for a 10% discount (on almost everything except what I wanted to buy I found in the fine print).
When I arrived, I found a large empty shell where IDEA used to be. It has been “in renovation” for several months now, so one supposes that this is a euphemism for “it’s probably ok for you never to try here again.” Resourcefully, I decided to pull out of the empty parking lot and dog-leg it into Roda next door.
Given the proper conditions, I am sure that I could get lost in my own flat.
There are people who are born with an innate sense of orientation. These people always know which way is True North, how to get from here to there without circumnavigating the globe and discovering the West Indies, and do not refer to “right” as the “other left.”
Filming has started on Belgrade’s last and greatest foray into the “willing suspension of disbelief,” the epic saga under the working title of The Belgrade Waterfront. The avant-premier is scheduled for May 1, 2045, giving the publicists barely 30 years to get ready for the grand event. Half of the budget will be allocated in 2035.
Do you wish you could be offline for a while? Books have been published predicting that being free from computers and the Internet will soon be the privilege of only the very rich, leaving common mortals trapped in the digital world.
While trying to do a little work, drinking my coffee slowly, Jesus walked by.
Ah! Ok, it’s the Easter season after all. Easter being all about resurrection, I was not overly surprised to see him (Him?) walking by the window of the café where I had established myself on this Tuesday morning. In fact he was not walking at all. It was a portrait.
Somehow I never thought that I would never miss JAT.
Jugoslovenski Aerotransport, or JAT (1927 – 2013), presented the traveler with a very clear set of rock-bottom expectations – bare minimum of operations, reasonably functioning if less than confidence-inspiring aircraft, fairly bad attitudes both on the ground and in the air, and disproportionately high prices.
That was JAT – it used to be nearly the only way in and out of Yugoslavia – and we loved to hate it.