The night before my birthday in 2007, my old friend Nikola and I were standing on a beach along the coast of Oaxaca. Around midnight, I slapped him across the face with an open palm, he punched me in the head, and I collapsed in the sand. In the years that followed we both spent periods in Buddhist retreat centers (he’s on the list, by the way — zdravo Nikola). Just now before New Years we sat together in his bar in Budapest smoking cigarettes. He was telling Eszter about a technique to wash out the physiological detritus of traumatic experiences, developed by a guy who spent years in Lebanon, Sudan, Yemen, other places overwhelmed with conflict.
When we got home to Harlem, Nikola sent us a video that shows a few simple moves to stress and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, causing the muscles around the abdomen to twitch and shake involuntarily. When that happens you lie on the ground and let the twitching and shaking continue on its own. Every morning this past week I’ve been lying on the floor and shaking for twenty minutes or so. Sometimes the shaking becomes so intense it’s like there’s an old clothes dryer inside me. My whole midsection begins to shake and shudder and convulse. It comes in waves and sometimes I can feel it all the way up to the top of my head. I lay there shaking and wonder if it’s the shocks and disappointments of the last year leaving me, if it’s the coup and the killings in Turkey or the latest pile of rejection letters, or if it’s older buried memories like the temporary paralysis I experienced when I was six, maybe something I absorbed in Bosnia or Serbia or in the Macedonian camps of 99, or maybe the heartbreaks and car wrecks and bad drug deals of my early twenties, or some stress and sadness with no nameable source, some impacted generational misery.
I lie on the floor shaking and afterward I feel slightly better, at least I imagine I do. I wonder if I’ll start to become a lighter person, more easygoing, less likely to sink into the inward spiral. I’ll step with a bounce, breathe the air, experience the vicissitudes of the day without buckling. I’ll say hello to my friends and write some pleasant lines about how despite all the signs that the shocks and disappointments don’t seem to be abating, still somehow it’s going to be okay. There might be wonderful things to come. Or not even that, no optimism at all, but still.
Hello everyone, welcome to the newsletter.
I don’t know what I’m going to fill this with, but I hope stories, discoveries, experiments, nonsense. I thought at first to call it Merak, which in the Balkans might mean curiosity or anxiety or it might describe the feeling of sliding into a warm bath. I thought to call it Error Machines, because what else could I produce? But like with the old bar and gallery on Reichenbergerstrasse, it’s probably best to keep changing the name. For now its named after a bulb I see across the way that sometimes at night shines on a couple dancing the kitchen Cumbia.
The whole letter: