We are all Polish!

When I look at this photo, what am I to think?

The symbolism is just amazing.

As the body of Poland’s president was returned to this traumatized capital on Sunday, a day after he and dozens of top Polish political and military leaders died in a plane crash in western Russia, the country was in mourning but there was already a sense that its young democracy had passed a major test.

But I do remember what were the most painful moments of my life. The months I spent living in Cracaw, rehearsing Mozart’s unfinished “Zaide”.

Back to that later.

The plane crash, which killed 96 people when the presidential plane went down about a half mile from the runway in the Russian city of Smolensk, was a trial that the 20-year-old democracy was handling with aplomb! Cingrats!  And a goodbye to a Tupolev which shouldn’t have been in the air to begin with, since LOT (Poland’s official airline), got rid of 200 in its fleet, long ago.

Poland – through the eyes and the writing of Jan Kott – is what taught me the works of noneless than William Shakespeare. “Shakespeare Our Contemporary” (next to Peter Brook’s “Empty Space”) is the book of my youth. Far more important than the romantically driven Harold Bloom (also on Shakespeare: “the invention of the human), Kott brings Shakespeare’s words to our century.

Yes, this is it. Shakespeare was Polish. For once, not a Polish joke. Shakespeare hid himself behind the role of Polonius.

And I, therefore, owe my experience in Cracaw to a French millionaire and diletant who backed Zaide, the opera that turned out to be a disaster when it opened at Maggio Musicale in May 1995, In Firenze.

Taking the entire Christian cast to Auschwitz and not shedding one tear. Taking the cast out to witness life!

Yes, that was quite something. Of course I was chastised by all of them when, upon leaving the Camp, right under the recently stolen arch of “Arbeit Macht Frei”, I said to the singers: “I want that hot dog over there”, spreading its odour through the foul air of the deathbed of six million Jews, Gypsies, people with physical anomalies and so on.

I went over to the stand and ordered one. No ketchup. Plain. Must I say that I  puked/threw up/vomited  it all over my girlfriend’s lap during our trip back to Cracaw?  Well, I just said it, but man…..it was worth it.

So when I look at the photo of that crashed plane, what do I think of?

Sturmspiel, my play in  Munich in 1989? Yes, it was  Shakespeare’s “Tempest –Play”, which began with a downed plane hitting Prospero in the balls.

Joseph Campbell would have loved to have seen this, had he not been dead. Yes, Kott would have loved it too: new world of exciting ideas opened up to Campbell while studying in Europe. Campbell’s “The Power of the Myth” brings out what we are and who we are at the time of someone’s death.

Queen Victoria was of mostly of German descent, the daughter of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn and Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, and granddaughter of George III and the niece of her predecessor William IV.  Queen Victoria was not on the plane that crashed.

Victoria was taught only German until she was three years old. She was subsequently taught French and English as well, and became virtually trilingual. Her mother spoke German with her. Very much like Poland, Queen Victoria was idiomatically raped. Poland has always been raped.

But yesterday’s events were the real tragedy. Unheard of. A premiere in History.

Queen Victoria’s command of English, although good, was not perfect as is the case with so many Polish friends I have.

As Victoria’s monarchy became more symbolic than political, it placed a strong emphasis on morality and family values, in contrast to the sexual, financial and personal scandals that had been associated with previous members of the House of Hanover. Is Queen Victoria a figment of our imagination? Is Poland?

And what symbolism should I resort to when I say that “we’re all a mess” or that “there is a Polish being in all of us”?

On my desktop, table,  rather, I have one only book, staring me in the face: it’s called SON OF HAMAS, which happens to be the diary of Mosab Hassan Youseff.

Last night, a friend sent me, via email, the last episode of “Law & Order Criminal Intent”. The name of the villain was Hassan, who was about to start a new country or reign in Africa, based on pirating. This episode – in itself was a tragedy: Erci Bogosian had been killed in the previous chapter (which I saw at home in NY). D’Onofrio is about to be fired and the entire cast is to be replaced. Why? What went wrong here? Jeff Goldblum (nothing against you , my friend), takes over as the main detective  but the questions remain:

Who is it that kills us and makes us alive so many times per day???

Yes, I had lost eight people in a single concentration camp: Auschwitz and did not shed a single tear. Quite remarkable, hey?

Yet, I saw their faces for the first time. The Germans had kept a very meticulous diary or logbook of who went and how they went. Yes, the did go!

Youseff is a double agent for Hamas and The Mossad. He worked provincially. Shakespeare did not.

Williamsburg or Greenpoint in Brooklyn, where I spent 22 years of my life, was all Polish when Philip Glass and I moved in. Nobody spoke a word of English. It was a province on the East River, in a way.

Yet, I am simply astonished that – on the cover of Murdoch’s “Sunday Times”, the plane crash appears on page 25. Instead, Tiger Woods – coming out of the woods, is on the cover saying the usual ridiculous things.

The entire thing (Kott would agree with me), is obviously a plot. Woods never ever “betrayed” his wife or had any affairs. This was all arranged to call attention to the world’s most boring sport: golf.

Just as James Cameron is on the front page of the New York Times defending the survival of a dull group of Brazilian Indians. Cameron is now

a Xingu River defender. I mean, I couldn’t help but have a nervous attack. I mean, let’s play this down. I had a laughter attack. More suitable.

“Save the Rain Forest Campaign” (remember?). The Polish president died in the woods, but not in a forest. It was foggy but it wasn’t raining.

Sting assaulting (Yes, that is the right word, ‘assaulting’!) along with the former owner of the Bodyshop raping some image of the Amazon. Raping the campaign of its principles, of its money just as (never mind). I cannot afford to be sued.

Yes, a meeting atop the “round tower” of the Hilton Hotel in São Paulo, opposite the infamous Copan building. No, I won’t get into details.

There’s a Pole inside all of us. There’s a Polish being inside all of us. Kantor, Grotowski, Chopin, Joseph Conrad and Copernicus and, of course, Polonius (Shakespeare). Who is for real in all of this?

Would it be Yousef, the “son of Hamas”?

I remember being given Access to the underground passages beneath the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and coming out on the other side: Via Dolorosa, Via Cruxis where tourists would be carrying a fake cross and…

(no, never mind that either).

Sturmspiel, at the Munich State Theater dealt with all these issues, plus one: the Berlin Wall. Yes, about a year before it collapsed. I am its author and director. Now, someone wants to make a movie out of what Die Zeit ridiculed at the time.

Nothing like the passage of time. It wrinkles us as if we were raisins. It dumbs and numbs us, as we become wiser and more adventurous.

In Jerusalem, I simply wanted to stay on. Meaning, stay a little longer to see all the gold the Roman’s hid underneath the Holy Land. And so, I said to my crew: “bye, I’m staying/ dry land/dry desert, dry opera and the Dead Sea where I floated for hours ….and the Mud? Dead Sea Mud.

I used it for a long time, after all, Ahava packages it.

Nobody is packaging the mud that overwhelms Rio de Janeiro after a week of constant flooding!

Christ! Brazil is so provincial. PACKAGE THE MUD AND SELL IT internationally as DEAD RAIN.

The President of Poland dies in an unprecedented crash and the New York Times recognizes its importance: the horrifyingly beautiful photo of the crashed plane is on the front Page of the NYTimes. That was yesterday.

While Folha de Sao Paulo prints two photos of Jose Serra, a possible candidate in the next election for President in  Brazil.

Queen Victoria determined that Engel-Land was an island as Hamlet had also done, via Rosencranz.

But the real island belongs to those who choose not to see, blindness by choice.

Brazil is an island and its blindness infuriates me. And before I infuriate anyone out there any further let me say this: the death of the Polish president touched me in an unprecedented manner. Since Solidarienosk, Walensa and all the people who got rid of Jeruselski, I am, as we all are, Polish at heart. It was the airborne division from Poland, their pilots and so on, that saved England in a major way.

Why? Because our blood is NOT holy and we’re NOT eternal. This is something they, the Polish understand.

Why the fuck is it, that we are incapable of understanding suffering in such a dignified, horrendously vivid way?

Gerald Thomas

London -11 April, 2010

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