22 Years

The other day someone asked me when was the happiest moment of my life. I had to think about that for a while. I’ve had lots of good times, lots of tender moments, many adventures, plenty of laughs. But the happiest moment of my life?

I know exactly when it was. It happened 22 years ago. I can see that moment in my mind so clearly that I can feel the sting of the winter wind on my face and the feel of the rough cloth as it slipped through my fingers. It lasted only a moment but it was by far the sweetest moment that I have ever lived.

I’d tell you more details but you all know my long-standing policy on privacy. I never mention a name unless it’s a public person or a public event or I have express permission. I can’t even tell you the context because the people involved are still alive and may one day read this.

I can tell you one thing for sure though. I never expected that to be the happiest moment of my life. I thought it was just the beginning of even better things to come. But things didn’t get better. Nearly all of the worst things that have happened to me have followed that one magic moment so many years ago. I’ve suffered beyond belief and had my hopes and dreams smashed into the ground. I’ve been shot, stabbed, electrocuted, poisoned, robbed and had the shit beat out of me and yet those events don’t even make the top 10 list of the worst things that have occurred to me over the last two decades. But I’m still here and I’m still drawing breath.

And as I sat here in Romania today, baking in the heat of a July sun, I realized that although my life 22 years ago had no connection to Romania then, my path and this country’s paths have not been all that different. How happy were the people in December 1989 when at long last they had achieved their freedom? How many total strangers hugged total strangers? How many believed that the happy moments of that brief struggle were going to be followed by even better times?

Now here we both are, the wild optimism of our youth tempered by a lot of adverse experiences. But we’ve both survived. And we’re facing a choice each and every day that is of critical importance, whether to keep that fragile spark of hope for better times alive or else succumb to the numbness that follows a dream denied once too often.

As you know, I just recently re-designed this website. I woke up at 4:00 am on Sunday morning, knowing that this was the least active hour of the week, so I could surprise it on (most of) you. Obviously some of you like it and some of you don’t. But beyond the shiny new colors and layout, it’s important to know what’s behind all of it.

As far as I am concerned, I came here to Romania as a refugee. I’ve written plenty of times about why I left America, but for me Romania was a kind of oasis, a pleasant, relaxed country where children still play innocently in the street and the threat of war is non-existent. I came literally with a single suitcase and I spent a few years traveling, learning the language, eating good food, drinking some mighty fine beverages and meeting some wonderful people. And that, as far as I was concerned, was what I had come to do. Live out the days of my life in peace and follow my own private pursuits.

But life didn’t work out that way. In April 2010 (over two years ago now!) I had a fateful encounter outside the embassy in Bucharest. I had a long ride back to Unicorn City on a train and it gave me time to think, always a dangerous thing. I began writing on this website back when it was me, the cats and Google’s robot reading the damn thing. I then quit my job, wrote my book, went on television and the rest, as they say, is history.

And then last week, when I was both sorry and glad together, I realized that this one particular road had come to an end and it was time to go somewhere new. Right now this country, my refuge, is no longer as peaceful as it once was. It no longer has the shield of isolation that it once had. This country’s “leaders” hold their titles by dint of inertia alone and neither lead nor represent the vast majority of the people. The vultures of the G7 and the IMF are circling Romania, waiting to pick off the tastiest bits of flesh. Bitterness, acrimony, legal tricks and tomfoolery of the most puerile and idiotic kind are now a daily occurrence.

The question then is what next? A smarter man than I would stash euros and gold coins underneath his mattress and enjoy the sunshine while it lasts, preparing to head off to greener pastures if things get too crazy. Tuck my head in, keep my nose clean and have my little drink without bothering anybody. But I’m not a smarter man and I’m not made like that. I’ve already got my things unpacked here and I don’t want to leave. Fuck that. And so I aim to misbehave.

As I mentioned earlier, the second phase of this blog re-design is going to be content in the Romanian language. I’ve been on TV several times speaking it but it’s time for me to go all the way out on the limb and try to write in it. There are just some things which cannot be done any other way than through writing. I am sure that I have a unique “voice” when I write Romanian that’s different than my “voice” when I write in English and I want to discover what that is.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve begun to realize that the outside world carries very little weight here in Romania. When one of the most prestigious academic journals on the planet is derided as being about animals and when their serious accusations are met with an illiterate response written in English, you know that very few people here truly care.

It’s permissible to lie and fudge the truth with any foreigner (or foreign publication) but the only words these so-called leaders are ever held accountable to are the ones spoken in Romanian. Despite all the linguistic nimbleness that many Romanians possess, at the end of the day the only tongue they can really hear is their own.

So I think it’s time to take it to the next level and try and stir up some shit. It might be as futile as yelling at the captain of the Titanic about icebergs but if we’re all going to sink then we might as well go out fighting instead of as apathetic, cowardly, snowdrops.

And this really isn’t about only me. It’s about all the voices in this country which aren’t being heard. I hear far too many stories from people that I don’t hear anywhere else and the next step will definitely be to find a way to include them as well.

I’m getting pretty damn sick of either “professional” commentary from people with academic degrees (earned or unearned, as the case may be) or else idiotic horseshit from the blogs (as I’ve written about before). There are stories out there that matter, damnit, and those voices need to be heard.

So, onward and upward. I hope you’ll stick with me as we head into this new adventure. I certainly thank each and every one of you for all your support over the years. Now let’s go kick some ass!

4 thoughts on “22 Years

  1. sam, if i may just commend you on most honorable of intentions. plenty of smarts in that noggin of yours. it just so happens that some may agree with the ‘getting out while it’s possible’ part, while others such as myself would like to see you hang in here with the rest of us. looking forward to reading more :) btw, belated happy 4th of july


  2. Noble intentions. That’s why I love Americans – they just can’t take up as much s**t as Romanians do.

    Let’s see what comes out of it. By the way, what happened to the occupy movement?


  3. drum bun Sam :) I look forward to meeting you on it

    maybe you’ll prompt me to finally start reading Romanian … which will most likely boost my Romanian learning curve :)


  4. I just heard of some anti-Ponta rallies in Cluj!
    The same thing started happening in Bucharest today, and I was there to witness some 200 people march around in Piata Victoriei with some really sardonic posters and signs about Ponta. And that was only the beginning! They plan on meeting again tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and so on…more and more people are rallying under this anti-Ponta stance.
    Let’s hope for the best.
    O Romanie mai buna este sarcina tuturor, indeed.


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