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I scribbled down this text à l’arrache a day all my plans disappeared and I was still under influence of the fieldwork fatigue. Since then, I’ve not become less fatiguée, but at least I enjoy my fieldwork again. I think actually that the change came right when I took a step back and wrote this post…
Saturday, I skipped everything else and went to Parc Floral for the first jazz concert of the year. Last year I was there almost every weekend, either with friends or with my notebook to write up my last fieldwork adventures. I had planned to get some writing done this time as well, but when I got there I just sat down on the grass and listened to jazz for a couple of hours, being puzzled over the strange sensation of feeling my muscles slowly relaxing. What an unfamiliar feeling these days…
Saturday night was the first evening of three where I tried to go and see D’ de Kabal’s play Ecorce les peines – on the (personal) history of slavery and life in the suburbs – but moved along too slowly to get there in time. [I’ve finally seen it now after two weeks of inertia in that respect. It was well worth it and I’m already quite sure that two of his texts will end up in my thesis: one commenting on the finir avec la repentance (“finish with the repentance” concerning France’s colonial past) speech of Sarkozy the night he was elected president and the text nous, on vit là (“we, we live here”) on living in the infamous suburbs. At the theatre, I got into a conversation with a Haitian poet. Such things – going to interesting events any time I want, meeting interesting people just by chance – happen all the time in this city, and I know I’m going to miss it badly in a few weeks time… ]
Sunday, I went to Aubervilliers for the monthly Slam Caravane open mic event for writing workshops in the (same infamous) 93 suburbian department, started by the same D’ – who, by the way also initiated the slam in Louvre happening with Toni Morrison I wrote about 9 months ago. Slam Caravane was great as usual, with an enormous variety in themes and performers. To get to Le Theatre de la commune in the obviously quite deprived suburb Aubervilliers, I took the 65 bus all the way from République. On the bus I caught myself thinking, again, that there aren’t many kinds of people I don’t see in this city. I’ve only come across one Inuit, and that was on a party a few years ago (were someone gave me the unforgettable chat-up line: “Can you (vous, of course) live by your poetry?” The world is a stage and every Parisian worthy of the title knows it…). The 65 bus travels through the South Asian part of Paris, up north, and from the window I saw piles of mango crates stacked up outside the shops announcing the yellow mango season, just like at Tøyengata back in Oslo.
Monday, I ditched my interview object, as I’ve already lamented, and down the drain also went an opportunity to go with him to a radio show at an independent radio station in an art collective in the 13th Arrondissement.
Tuesday, I went to the classic slam soirée by 129H at Lou Pascalou. Earlier in the day, I had spent three hours chez une slammeuse, looking at her paintings, getting a generous pile of fanzines she had edited in the early days of Parisian slam and interviewing her. She lives in the (rather chic) suburb Les Lilas, which lies in the other end of Rue de Belleville, on the other side of the hill. So, I cycled up, up, up and crossing the ring road La Perhiphèrique in an enormous roundabout, and there I was in the little village Les Lilas. I love this kind of straight streets – or bus lines – which takes you from one side of the city to another.
Wednesday I thought I had a lot lined up. Most workshops for youth and children take place on this weekday, as school only lasts half day to leave time for cultural, sportive or religious activities in the afternoon. This Wednesday I had forsaken 2-3 other workshops in favour of one particular with pensioners and youth, and then interview some of the participants afterwards. Once in a while – at completely irregular and unforeseen intervals, it seems to me, but I have a bad suspicion that it’s only me not staying up to date…. – the workshop takes place at a local home for elderly people. So also that Wednesday. Last time I was there, one of the pensioners had been very kind and shown me the way. This time I got instructions from one working at the youth house where I thought the workshop was to take place, but he knew his knowledge of the subject was limited and wished me good luck. Of course I didn’t find the place. Instead, I got the chance of doing some participant observation on a suburban bus in the rush hour. The bus to Aubervilliers had air-conditioning, this one hadn’t. As this is the daily life of very many people, it was an interesting experience, but I don’t know if it was the best way of spending this Wednesday afternoon.
– Particularly since I had erased by accident videos of two slam sessions with people from the workshop I didn't show up for an appointment with… Methodologically, I constantly feel trapped between being too superficial in everything I do because I try to cover it all and on the other hand having serious gaps in my data material because I don’t manage to capture everything… Put differently; should I concentrate on a few or should I try to get a comprehensive overview? Whom, in that case? As this study starts to become rather comprehensive, I’m worrying about the gaps, while the depth have worried me for a long time: I starting to know everybody but do I really know anyone well enough? -
Thursday afternoon I didn’t mess up anythingk I just lost out on several other things (when I chose to go to a recording session with a 16-yearold and his teacher from the workshop. Afterwards I did an interview with the former.) in the night, I messed up getting to D’s theatre play in time again. This time it was my bourgeois looking but utterly crappy bike that did me in.
Friday finally, had no failure. I went to the most chaotic open mic event I’ve ever been to, in a narrow one-way street behind the huge market and roundabout and shopping centre at Porte de Montreuil. Thinking about it no, I certainly didn't fell completely up to I that day either I lefte quite rapidly after la soirée bordelique and on the way home I couldn’t understand why I had been in such a hurry.
All these choices, all these challenges for doing the right hing all the time is perhaps one of the most tiring experiences of fieldwork. I know for certain that I n the long run I’ll forget about all my little regrets like this, but when I’m standing there, having to make choices like that at least once a day (should I stay or should I go, and which of the places should I go) one could get the fatigue from less.
Saturday, I had wine for lunch (at the University of Chicago Paris branche), and in addition to the unexpected downpour, all my other plans dissolved (my other plan was a workshop followed by an open mic event with Slam o Feminin up north in Porte de Montmartre. In the evening, once more, strangely, I missed out on D’s theatre play, but got a nice bicycle ride instead and could fall asleep before midninght over Steven Feld’s Sound and sentiments (on poetics in Papua New Guinea).
Sunday was a peak in this week’s feeling of insufficiency. Instead of going to Bobibny and Canal 93 for the restitution of tall the workshops there (not only slam poetry, but also music, dance…) I chose the jazz concert in Parc Floral, and ended up stuck under a tree in a neverending torrent. I cucled home in the warm but heavy summer rain and refused to considered going out again. Afterwards, several people (amongst them the 16.years old and his prof) told me it had been interesting, even great in Bobigny…
Monday, I forgot about the slam event in the campaign for legalising cannabis (which certainly not will have any success under the present presidency), and there was another alternative event I knew about but couldn’t find the address for, and lastly I ignored a concert and open mic – I later heard from several sources that it had been excellent – with a person I shortly afterwards discovered would provide me with lots of interesting material that goes straight in to my thesis. But my evening had been of the better ones, spent with people I like listening to music (and poetry) I also like.
Today, I had a really tight schedule with got fucked up partly by me, partly by external forces: I woke up before 7 from a mouse eating noisily at my bedside table. I wanted to scream for my coloc to immediately put up the mousetrap again, but he’s always asleep at this time of the day and he’s also just got a new boyfriend so I realised it wasn’t the time. Luckily, I managed to fall asleep again, but felt far from awake when the alarmclock disturbed me later to hurry me off to an appointment at a radio station in a suburb. At Chatelet, waiting for the RER local train, I realised I had miscalculated the time and I went all the way home again. Consequently, I missed out on the planned interview with the radio presenter (and slammeur, bien sûr) as well.
My busy scheduled day trickled away, I’m not-so-ashamed to admit. The workshop I was going to attend on Batofar, the concert venue on a boat at the Seine, was cancelled due to lack of interest and organisational problems. Now, I’m content to be slacking in the shade, writing blog posts by hand, looking at other summer time slackers by the canal. It’s a warm day, the hottest since the heat wave in April. It finally feels like summer. I suddenly feel a spark of absence in my constant bad conscience for not doing enough, not making the right choices, never staying long enough, talking enough to people. I fell utterly content – almost – just sitting here with my paper and pencil… And in the evening, I’ll try once more to go and see D’s play.
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