Exile From Myself

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As published in the Japanese magazine BEEAST

“If you want to be happy, be” – Tolstoy

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I’m presently in Morocco, only 2 days in what is scheduled for me to be an 8-week residency in the utterly inspiring city of Tangier. I’m having a glass of red wine on the upper roof terrace of the Dar Nour, a magnificent guest house I right now live in, a place I already call home. In the middle of the kasbah of Tangier, I face the warm North African sun that generously offers a last display of its bright and vivid lights before slowly setting in a poetic fading evening motion. The wind gently caresses the welcoming surface of my face, fresh breeze from the sea, reflecting the pure blue of the sky, mirror of world, that steadily dances only a few steps from where I stand. The perfect scenery reveals the attractive charms of Spain, inviting me over and over through the sounds of the ocean… Too beautiful to deny, too delicate to refuse, too desirable to withhold.

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I fell in love with Spain too many times to refute its charms and attractions on my skin, on my heart and on my soul. It holds a story that might have only existed in my mind, but Spain nonetheless holds a part of me I would never try to reclaim, even if time would want to take it away from me. Sometimes, memories are worth fighting for, are worth keeping alive, if only for another day, for another furtive look between the present seconds, slipping away, like snowflakes captured by kids chasing them with their mouth open are melting. Youthful treasures we tend to disremember as we grow always a little more worried everyday, as we mature always a little more forgetful, feeding the nostalgia of flavors we rebuke. Melancholia has no remedy. It’s living, truly living, that heals our cynical spirit from the fatalism of what we have left behind, that we like to report as lost or stolen, as if it made easier to bear the fact that we traded everything for a little truth we now need to cover with way bigger lies. Youth is a state of mind that defines our way of life… I guess.         

Tangier is presently incredibly quiet for such a vibrant city, if not for the sound of children playing and laughing. I’m fascinated by its secrets… Here, silence is like a shawl covering the red lips of young women who offer mysteries to those willing to look in their glowing eyes, enigmatic masterpieces. In fact, it is difficult to believe that underneath this collection of tiny streets covered by an assemblage of countless buildings reside more stories than sounds can tell, reminiscent of the time silently passing before our wary eyes, powerlessly or passively surrendering, yet witnesses of our most precious moments disappearing as fast as days go by.

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I came to Tangier alone, which was surprising for those who are very close to me and even more puzzling for the others. It comes as such a contrast to the way I live, to the reality I gave birth to. Already surrounded by wonderful people, who would leave on their own when the world’s biggest fear is to end up a shadow of unconvincing sounds echoing a happiness never lived? I might have needed this time to face myself… Or is it a sort of self-imposed exile to redefine what I so easily determined as being myself? We tend to easily concede to the alienation of our grief, emotionally consenting victims turned into a reminiscence of what effortlessly becomes an everlasting sorrow of compromises. Some people will constantly search to reinvent themselves. Others will die to find a reason to remain a simple fracture of what they believe they once were. As for me, drenched in the sun’s radiance, I don’t know much of anything, if only that I needed to come here somehow. If we are the heir of the world we craft, I wanted to breath its warm salty air as the unknown figure the Tangier brilliance offers me to dwell on… a stranger being smiled at like a friend, hugged like a son… More Henry than Alex, less Foster than anything else… And it feels good. Very good.    

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Waking up to the sound of the mosque speakers reminds me how distant cultures could be from a prayer to another. I haven’t seen many dawns on my own. It’s not how you feel waking up in the morning nor with whom you would love to do so… For me it’s more about why. I keep waking up in order to look at the awakening light that glares on the horizon, wondering what may be discovered beyond the invisible lines I designed by my own restraints, disallowing curiosity to explore. Untamed mysteries laying down at the very edge of the world I give life to in the darkest hour of the night, those are the places defining my early morning imagination. Maybe that’s why I came here after all, or at least the spark that led me here. But I guess I simply felt invited here, in a city that feels so familiar to me. A city whose feet stand on a continent of promises waiting to be fulfilled, of miracles waiting to be unfolded. A city whose eyes crave for the dazzling splendors twirling on the other side of the sea. So close that it feels like we can touch it from the tip of our yearning fingers on a day like today. So close that it feels like we may break its marvels only by our hungered sight holding its view, as fragile and magnificent as it is. Impermanent yet eternal.

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The ideas of impermanence and eternity might be amongst the reasons why I came here. But one thing’s for sure, writing has always been a way for me to keep memories alive. Not as much in musing about the past as contemplating the majesties that different environments have offered me to find myself in. Maybe illness also compels me to lay down some life stories I might be the sole witness to hold on to. Time is a cruel reminder, especially when you need to compose with difficult health conditions. It reminds you the inevitable, all summarized in a cold, emotionless fashion. Some may see it as a sad and pessimistic perspective, while others may elevate it as a romantic type of gothic poetry. Personally, I see it as an opportunity to give life to the innumerable shades of reality I kept wondering about for so long, that I kept pondering about so carefully, so faithfully, so obsessively. 

I wonder. I muse. I ponder. However much of an untameable beast of sorrows and grieves time might dress up like, I’ve learned that emotional bleakness can be turned into an eternal blissful jubilee once our true state of heart and soul is acknowledged. Joyful plenitude is a resilient dedication of faith in love and hope in life. As Russian poet and philosopher Leo Tolstoy so gracefully wrote: “If you want to be happy, be”… That’s what I’ve been musing about since I came back from Japan with Your Favorite Enemies last November, what I’m allowing myself to look for, what I’m more enthusiastic to discover, what I’m willingly disposed to embody. “Tokyo Sessions” is resolutely the profound incarnation of that major emotional shift in my life. As much as the album “Between Illness and Migration” was a metaphoric wish for my transitioning need towards life itself, “Tokyo Sessions” is the celebration of its embracement, of its freedom.

In fact, “Tokyo Sessions” is a present, a liberating gift. And with every liberation comes a greater sense of perspective. For me, it revealed that I never really took the time to appreciate much of anything in the last couple of years, that I didn’t taste much of the opportunities I’ve had the highest privilege to benefit from either, whatever the reasons could have been. This is also why, once “Tokyo Sessions” was completed, I decided to spend time with some of my loved ones. I invited Ben and Sef for holidays in Dominican Republic, went with Jeff to a music conference in Brighton, UK, made a 2-week tour of Morocco with Ben, Sef, Jeff, YB and Stephanie and went back to Dominican Republic with Jeff. After all of this, I decided to come back to Tangier, where we spent a few days in May, in order to give my bad sinus condition some seaside love, to get some desperately needed rest and to write a little, if disposed to. 

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Beeast Release004 IMG 3810

Actually, I didn’t realize that my latest BEEAST publication was as far as June 2… I had to ask home to make sure it was accurate, which, in retrospect with everything that the last few months separating my publications were made of, definitely looks like a lifetime ago, enough of a long time for me to understand more about the passionate reactions and fervid interrogations towards my statement implying that “Tokyo Sessions” could be Your Favorite Enemies’ last album. It really touches me to realize how deeply significant our relationship, lived through the band’s words and sounds, is for you all. And as incredibly overwhelmed as I’ve been to witness the effervescent waves of love my statement created, I cannot bear the fact that it might nonetheless be. And if it was to be, “Tokyo Sessions” would be as much of a sincere completion to our unique journey as it would be the perfect disenthrallment needed for the creation of new words and sounds.      

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Who knows, I may find inspiration for another song, another album, another artistic project waiting for me at a street corner in Tangier, may it be an inviting smile, a polychromatic sensation or the grandiosity of a simple moment. As Hemingway said: “I know now that there is no one thing that is true – it is all true.” And I believe that it’s only through honesty that we can truly see the world as it is; we see it with the same level of honesty we have towards ourselves.

It’s now time for the night lights to shine over Tangier. I have never been so at peace to be… So simply happy. What about you guys? Was Tolstoy somehow a little right?!   

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Comments (1)

  • Melanie

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    Somehow the sea at my feet has been still ever since you departed for Morocco. I have endlessly prayed for a wave of your love to crash over me and I find myself expecting patiently for a presence at my horizon but luckily here you are today, writing the words that comfort my lonely heart.

    If you want to be happy, be. It reminds me so much of what you always whisper to me, simply be. As natural as it may appear sometimes to others, it is a constant struggle to just let the tones of my spirit consume me into being a pure reflection of myself, but I will attempt during twilight and daylight to ascend toward a state that will make me float in the perpetual shades of liberation by positively letting pass through me the several shadows of yesterday that hinder me from being entirely free, only then will I know how to be. It’s so beautiful to watch you just be and I would not trade a moment like this for anything. Let the treasures that inhabit the deepest parts of yourself drift toward the surface for all the world to see what really lives in you is absolutely magnificent and it is there to brighten our lives by getting the opportunity to witness the colors of your incredible soul.

    I might be miles away but I want to tell you how the footprints that you take in the direction of the day-star, inspire and leave me in admiration for I understand that you are lastly granting the opening to be submerged in the purest dream that you have been imagining since the instant that your maroon eyes first glanced at the hues of the firmament and heard through the days of your youth the beginning of a peaceful melody being murmured to your heart and evoked the idea of being free. You are finally soaring the way that you were intended to and I want you to know how proud I am of you. This is only the beginning, keep on expanding those wings and aim for the highest levels of emancipation. I am extremely jovial that you could be part of such a grand journey and the fact that you swim through the very essence of Morocco daily is such an inspiration. As intimate as that place might be to you, I have been planning a humanitarian trip to Marrakech for a while and I pray that I will have the chance to realize it very soon. I know that my health is unpredictable at times but I have faith that the rays of light that constantly follow me will eradicate any form of darkness, therefore, I trust that my dream is on the verge of coming true. 🙂 I hope that you get to accomplish all the desires that live in your heart.

    I sense that you are a little distressed by an event that happened in Spain and I will declare that I am quite accustomed to drowning in sorrow and as inviting as those pictures of our past might be it is not worth more heartache by revisiting them because we have grown so much as people and to look back and give power to their shades would be erasing all the bridges that we managed to build in our new life. I look back often and I smile, to those I left behind and others that I lost and ask myself if things would be different if I had stayed…would I have perished or married, at the end of the day would I have been happy… I cannot answer those questions but I believe that where I am at this very instant is where I was meant to be all along…those calamities that broke me immensely were the bricks that created the stability and strength both in the bridges and me (in an ironic kind of way) and made the overpasses that guided me to where I am today. It’s astonishing that you can still see the colors of that place after your experience and it’s incredible the strength that you have also to remain oceans away from it. You are so strong don’t ever believe otherwise. Truly living is the only cure to melancholy and I will forever chase after the brightness of the sun in order to fuel my passion for life.

    Tangier seems like such a colorful city and the people have such a kindness in their heart which radiates from the pictures that you shared with us. It’s beautiful, I might travel there one day. Who knows where life will guide me. Time ticks by quickly these days, and I finally came to understand that I cannot let myself be mastered by fear because I want to accomplish so many things and although my health might stop me from time to time, I am refusing to live with such anxiety in me that it prevents me from living and making my goals become reality.

    Alex, when I learned that you were on a plane, alone, and heading for Morocco…I was so terrified but I knew that everything would be okay because I knew that an angel was always watching over you and would bring you home safely. I have so much faith in you and I trust that with anything you do there is a reason behind it and I was aware that you desperately were in need of time on your own..to fully dwell in a foreign country by yourself and to discover things about you while you were there…and bloom through that experience each day. I knew that this trip would free your soul on a more significant level and help you witness so much more beauty of the unseen by being exposed to another world. Sometimes being a stranger is more rewarding because it gives you a meaningful outlook on your surroundings and you are more open to seeing the nuances of that place.

    I have always found it quite unfortunate how our beliefs tear us apart when it ought to be the love for each other that should unite us. I admire the diversity of our world and think that it would be very monotonous if we were all copies of each other. Regardless of where you come from or what you believe, if you are willing to cast judgment aside I think that we could learn so much more about ourselves and societies around us. Our religion or beliefs might divide us but at the end of the day, we are all the same. I love to hear your thoughts and reflection on certain things. I had a hunch that you were brought to Morocco by certain emotions and I am glad that through the darkest nights and the brightest sunrises…those sentiments gave birth to a time of contemplation that brings the possibility of tearing down the lines that were drawn by your own restraints…as you leap further towards letting go I think that you will allow yourself to fully abide in all the colors of this life. Wooow…your words always move me in a reflective way. Thank you.

    Honestly, I understand what you mean when you say that writing has always been a way to keep memories alive. After I received my diagnosis 8 years ago, I started taking medication that affected my memory and concentration greatly…I could barely retain anything and I think that it was around this time that I became truly faithful to expressing my daily thoughts and encounters…I did it so I could never forget the moments that I lived…they would always remain eternal through my pages and when I would disremember, I would return to those words and their images and colors would come back to life in my heart…and I would feel whole again. Sickness is something that I can relate to maybe not completely because I don’t know much about your health, but in a way, because I know what it feels went your heartbeat is so weak….you can barely find the strength to compose but you do it in order to recall the instants you lived during that very day. My heart goes out to you, it really does. You have so much determination and even when you are terribly ill….you continue to push forward and live your life with such a fiery passion. It’s so inspirational. Never give up.

    When we were all invited to listen to Tokyo Sessions on facebook, I recollect being so captivated by you because I could detect that there was something in your eyes, a certain glow that was not there before and as the listening session progressed I quickly understood how much crafting this album had freed you in every possibly way. It was that freedom and state of spiritual deliverance that I saw in you…especially when you started crying as Anyone began blaring ….Wowww that moment really impacted me. I cannot wait to hold you in my arms and tell you how happy and proud of you I am 🙂

    Tokyo session is indeed a liberating gift, one that sets you free through its harmonies and waves of emotions that come from such genuine stories shared from hearts that have welcome forgiveness and love into their lives. I have grown since the announcement of this album, even as I first listened…I comprehended that a season of awakening was about to happen, one that has been so generous because the essence of Tokyo Session remains in my soul at all times…therefore you are always with me, and I am finally ready to embrace life and jump in head first in the seas of the undiscovered which is something that I was never willing to attempt until this very day. I am pleased that you chose to put everything on hold and just enjoy life with your loved ones…it’s so necessary, it nourishes your heart and soul to do so.

    If this album is the last thing that you create and give birth to, we will all understand because all things must come to an end one day in order to make room for another chapter to begin, and well if you find inspiration on a corner of a street, in the colors of the setting bright star or in the reflection of the face that you now see for the first time in the mirror…I will encourage you regardless where this road might lead you, I will always be there supporting you.

    I adore that Hemingway quote…it is so true. I pray that you find a spark that will light the passion in you but also I hope that this state of profound peace and happiness that you feel during this moment will last forever in your beautiful heart.

    Reply

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