Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award


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Come with me to Berlin!

This May and June I’ll be leading a trip to Berlin, a city I know well and love dearly. This is an opportunity for anyone in America to escape for a few weeks and engage a cultural tour while spending time in one place which we will get to know intimately.

When I planned the trip, some people criticized it as offering “too little”. What those people had in mind was the typical two week trip that tours multiple cities and whisks people from one end of Italy to the next. Honestly, I feel those kinds of trips offer “too little”. You hardly get to know a place, and before you’ve gathered your bearings you’re in some other town you’ll only recognize from photos.

I’ve always preferred travel to tourism. The difference between these concepts? Travel allows you to immerse yourself in an alternative point of view, to see yourself as others see you, and to shift from just visiting a place to feeling like you’re a part of it, even if that part is foreign or strange. It’s surprising how little it takes us, actually, to shift from feeling foreign to sensing the intimacy of a city, and few cities are as welcoming as Berlin.

This trip was originally tailored as a college class, and the website still features from of that language. I’ve decided to extend it to the general population for a variety of reasons. Participants will get to go to Berlin with a writer, a speaker of German and a person who knows European art, literature and culture intimately. It’s a great way to spend two weeks in May and June.

Check out the details here. The vendor is Walking Tree Travel. The price includes airfare, accommodations, daily breakfast, a transit pass, a museum pass, several tours, a concert and an unforgettable experience. Come with a friend.

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Readers ask: Should a writer travel?

Most questions about writing are loaded, and they require reading between very many lines. They usually are versions of these two questions:

1.) Will such and such make me a better writer?

2.) Will such and such help me get published?

We should note that those questions are not about the same thing. If getting published required someone to improve their writing, a lot of currently published bestsellers would have never made it past the acquisition editor’s desk.

The only thing a writer should do is read and write. You really can’t do one without the other, not if you want to compose engaging texts. That’s the short answer.

The long answer is more interesting. Will travel make someone a better writer? Travel, when done outside all-inclusive resorts, builds empathy. It offers alternative points of view. Travel enough and you’ll learn that everybody considers themselves the center point. I’ve heard people from at least six other countries tell me they come from the greatest country in the world. (Russia, Canada, Australia, Germany, The UK, New Zealand)

Travel also disarms the traveler. It can, when done with the right purpose, displace mythologies. Travel raises questions that have no answers. It also displaces common explanations. Why was Rome built where it stands? Well…there’s the Tiber. Yes, but Rome stands elsewhere, not just on the banks of the Tiber. Fifth grade geography class has its limitations.

All of those things make someone a better thinker and citizen but not necessarily a better writer. We can work on our observations skills in our bedrooms. Their application on trips really does reveal things that are otherwise invisible.

Of course, some of the best writers never really went anywhere. One thing they all did, however, was read, and they read whatever they could get their hands on. Travel is fun and engaging, a much more rewarding way to pass the time than, say, watching NFL games. It’s not as expensive as people think, certainly not when compared to its benefits. One thing I always have in my bag when I’m traveling is a book. It’s usually written by someone very different from me.

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Photo from Wikipedia

 

 


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You have difficulties? What a relief!

This week’s True Community, my weekly column on education and men, is an introspective piece. I ended up feeling relief when I learned professors in England and the Continent were also facing poor standards and disinterested students. I wonder where this relief comes from and if it’s the appropriate response.

Hope you’ll check it out and share.


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My life was once a Tom Waits song…

There is a large gap in the story I’m presenting in my latest article on The Good Men Project. It’s titled Missing the Days Before You Were Married, and recounts a conversation I had with a young man at work and the resulting mind-trip. That trip, memories and reconsiderations of the many journeys I had taken before meeting my wife, moments beside closed train stations or deep in the bowels of European ports, is much more complex than what I reveal in the short piece of about 1,300 words.

I remembered, just after finishing the piece, a drawing I once completed in one of those notebooks I always carry around. I actually tried to draw the woman I’d marry. I saw her from multiple angles all at once, definitely inspired by what had been an addiction to cubist art, and the drawing was an embarrassing mess. On another page, I tried to draw her profile and then a representation of frontality, straight on 90 degrees. It was much like composing a poem in high school. You are satisfied with it for a moment, but then embarrassed when you find it later—that embarrassment rises to the pitch of a steam whistle when you remember it as an adult. It is worse than this if you showed that poem to the girl you were imagining. If she’s the only one who has the sole copy of the poem and can use it to blackmail you at any hour, you are constricteed to the space of an atom of lead.

However, I remembered that drawing when, rising from an underpass in Linz, Austria, I approached the tram station where Maria, my wife, was waiting for me, one moment without much emotion, but then beaming so soon as she saw me emerge from the dark tunnel. I realized, when she turned her head, that that old drawing had been a premonition of sorts, or an accurate display of what attracted me, at least in terms of looks. I later went to look for it but found that it had been in one of the notebooks I had left in the States. I never did find it, so I could not test the memory. Had it been tainted by the image of my wife at the station?

There were so many of these private moments in between. I continue to have them, shocking discoveries of what brews in my consciousness, that cocktail of memory and emotion and imagination and reason that, mixed by forces greater than me, equal this construct of “me”.

This essay, published today, is a mere fraction of the experience. But I hope you enjoy it.