Fiction, film, art and design by:
Jay Corless
Five great things about being stuck in Paris

It’s day 14, what can I say? I spent a rather restless night.  It may be from all the coffee I drank yesterday, it may be from worry about my predicament or may be I was just too amped from watching Turkey nearly beat Germany.  I really doubt that’s what kept me awake.  As I tossed and turned doing my best to control my drool, my annoyance with my allergies and the heat I couldn’t help but think about when this short chapter of my life is going to end.

Let’s recap.  I’m being held against my will in Paris, France.  I was issued, well I bought clothes that resemble something a prisoner would wear, and have dutifully worn this wardrobe for two weeks now.  I need to wash everything, I smell. I will add though that I think I am a rather stylish prisoner.  My sentence stems from leaving to work in England before my work papers had cleared which was a big mistake.  I plead guilty to the horrible crimes of nomadism, sloth and curiosity.  It’s those sins that have got me where I am which is stranded in Paris at the Charlie Birdy Café.

I almost didn’t come here today because the routine, the repetition of showing up here everyday at 11 was getting to be too much.  But guess what I came again anyway.  As I dragged my bare feet around my borrowed apartment this morning I decided I had to make the best of what is happening to me.  If I couldn’t think of what was good about this experience immediately with sleep in my eyes I could possibly think about it while writing to you, my blog.  So without any further ado, hold on I have to log onto Facebook, Gmail, work email and Skype I am supposed to working, I present to cyberspace the five great things about being stuck in Paris.

Colleagues past and present

God I really hope all of my new colleagues are reading this.  First, I have met some really interesting and creative people during my short stay in London.  I was very excited to start my new job and get moving on all the ideas, leads and projects we’ve been talking about.  I like the way people think big in London.  I like the way they think everything is possible.  I like their creative approach to problem solving; it’s basically about hard work.  I like the seemingly endless possibilities to explore.  I like the sense of humour.  I like the city and the beer and the sausage and mash.  I really think we can do great things.  Please don’t fire me!

I also have to humbly express my appreciation for colleagues past.  Many of you know I’m a weird type of guy.  Since I left home young and really didn’t have the guidance of television, in particular the Friends sitcom, popular culture, Hollywood movies and other people to provide a framework for evolving into a responsibly friendly adult I have kind of stumbled along with you lot.  I have always erred with caution on crossing the professional colleague to personal friend line.  Understandably frustrating for many of you but I was and am still learning about this whole socialization thing, I’m a loner with a capital L. I’m a modern nomad and troubadour.  Boo hoo feel sad for me, no.  That’s not the point; my point is that I’ve really been blown away by the reaction of past colleagues.

I really had no idea you felt this way.  It may not be surprising to you but it’s been shocking to me to learn that many of you care so much.  The offers of help, warm showers, friendly dinners and kind, sympathizing hand shakes has really got me thinking about the way I approach the world.  I don’t want to get carried away here because fatigue, coffee and frustration can play funny tricks on the mind but I’m really starting to believe we shared much more over the past 15 years than the same email extension.  Which gets me thinking… are email extensions becoming some sort of replacement for the surname?  Will historians look back in amazement at how many members of our civilization were parts of the @gmail family?  What ever that’s another blog entry.

So first on my list today of great things about being a prisoner is colleagues.  There must be a UN international day for the recognition of Colleagues right?  When is it?  I’ll probably celebrate it alone at the Charlie Birdy café.

Online collaboration

If I don’t get fired for this little hiccup it will be thanks to the power of the internet and online collaboration.  In the early and mid nineties I was actually one of those internet evangelists.  I would preach to anyone willing to listen, who come to think about it was very few of you, about the potential for this new form of mass, communal communication.   If you remember correctly I was not really into the commercial aspects of it, sure you could make millions off it as we all witnessed during the dot com boom, but what really intrigued me was its capability and potential of connecting people.  That’s why I started developing websites for UNESCO in the first place.  I honestly believed the technology could change the world.  I don’t want to play I told you so but just take a second to really look at what is happening here.

Yesterday afternoon I sat at Café Etienne Marcel which is part of the Digital Neighborhood of Paris, an area entirely covered by a wifi cloud.  I and about ten other people feverishly typed away at our computers, probably blogging, working, staying in touch with friends or just thinking.  I for one had several chats going on at the same time, while I uploaded and tested new versions of the London Design Festival website.  I’m staying in regular touch with my Deputy Director and our intern.  We are problem solving from two separate countries with cyberspace as our workspace.  I also spoke with one new person who read my blog and got in touch with a friend from 20 years ago.  All of this communication is partly about business but its much more about providing meaning to our lives.  We are doing this all simultaneously.  We work while keeping in touch with friends while managing vacation plans or in my case prison sentences.

That’s just a personal example but if you really take a look at what the open source ideal is doing, remember the open source ideal is what gave us the open internet in the first place, and then you will really get excited.  This idea of collaborating on projects online is really picking up steam on the Web 2.0.  We are all creators of content; we are all news people and editors.  There are more and more people participating in global problem solving than at any other moment in history thanks to open networks in science, culture and education.  Trust me, email me if you want links to examples, I’ve spent a lot of time watching this happen.  The internet we dreamed of is finally delivering on those promises.  Stay tuned to this space. I see an incredibly creative future and tons potential for online collaboration and global problem solving.  Hold on, I have to renew my free wifi connection by watching a paid advertisement; I’ll be back in a second.

Community of misery

This will not be the first time you hear this nor probably the last time but nothing brings people together more than moaning, groaning, pain, complaining and misery.  It’s just something we all like to watch and participate in.  Those of you shaking your heads in disagreement are just not being honest with yourselves.  You like it as much as the rest of us you either just want admit it or just don’t realize it.  Andy Warhol’s crash paintings attest to it as do the thousands of gossip websites and newspapers.

Nothing shares better than personal stories of hardship, treachery and deceit, stories of mass confusion, communication or injustice.  We are hard wired to participate in these events of mass misery.  We are active and most often unwilling participants in communities of misery.  But once we start participating we can’t stop.  A good example of this is right here.  What are you doing?  You’re reading about my misery.  I desperately want to share my misery with anyone that will read about.  I almost didn’t come to the café to write today but my desire to share, and have others share in my ordeal brought me here.  Telling you makes me feel better.  What do you get out of it?  Wait don’t leave!  I didn’t mean it like that.

Like most people I almost get angry when someone shares good news with me.  Wait before you judge me, its just I can express my feelings concisely on this, but good news is sometimes infuriating.  I suppose you are always happy that a colleague got a promotion ahead of you right?  I guess you are happy when your national team loses to another national team.  Last night the Germans were happy the Turks not as much so.  Which camp were you in last night?  I will also admit to jealousy sometimes skewing my judgment on other people’s happiness.  I know jealousy isn’t the greatest of qualities.  It’s not something we dream of having more of like chocolate and Rice Crispies but the emotion is in each of us.  I get jealous and when I do I tell other people about it.  Those stories spread like wildfire through my networks and friends, its just stuff that happens; I tell it like it is.

We love misery; I will not cheese on you and tell you it makes us appreciate the positive moments more, I’ll just leave it to you to enjoy the roll with me in the deep, fat, mud of this great community of misery.

Time

Most prisoners would probably hate this one.  I’m torn about including this in my five great things list.  But after much reflection I have decided it is worth including.  I have spent the better part of the past 15 years in a mad race against time.  I was in a hurry to succeed professionally.  I worked like mad.  I put a lot of time and energy into my work.  I thought incessantly about ways we could do more or work better, more efficiently and effectively.  I deftly calculated time to make sure I didn’t spend too much of it on one project or one activity.  I had so much to do I had to manage my limited time to ensure I had enough to do what had to be done.  It was a struggle that I took on willingly and excitedly.

I had little time for friends.  I had little time for a personal life.  I had little time to read, watch movies, television and to walk in the park.  I had little time for my wife.  I’m divorced now.  I had little time for family, to cook, to play and enjoy.  If I did have time as in vacation time I planned that to the ultimate minutiae to take advantage of every minute of my vacation.  Why, you ask?  Isn’t that what vacation is for just to waste time? I did this so that I wouldn’t waste precious vacation time.  Honestly am I the only person that has committed this crime of time?

Fast forward to my recent dilemma and time is something I have more of than I need.  My first few days were spent in frustrating agony of trying to gain and control time.  Now fourteen days into the ordeal.  I am learning to accept it.  Time has a nice side.  I am finally taking some to write out thoughts and ideas I’ve had during all of those mad professional years.  I have some moments to read, re-read and think.  I have time to think!  What a privilege.

Of course if I were doing serious time in a prison for committing a horrible crime I definitely wouldn’t be so excited about time.  I would probably be bald, having pulled out all of my hair and spending the better part of my days dragging a stiff leg around the yard muttering to myself.  Wondering with any other inmate if any body really believes I am not guilty of the crimes committed.  Gosh, thank god I’m not really in prison.  I just had a horrible vision of myself missing several teeth and looking half crazy. In the same vision I am wearing the same clothes and looking incredibly stylish.

Worst case scenarios

This one is a branch of my larger life philosophy tree.  I believe in the practice of utterly diminishing expectations.  After much hardship and unluckiness I thought long and hard about my outlook on life.  Why was I always on the short end of the stick?  Why did all the good things happen to other people?  Why couldn’t I keep the pretty girl?  Why couldn’t I live out my dreams and have it all?  Why couldn’t I have nutella and a banana crepe too?

After much thought and blaming others, who of course refused accepting their role in my misery, I decided I could actually change a thing or two.  The problem I discovered, in probably a pitiful drunken stupor, was that I expected too much from myself and others.  Now before you go labeling me a loser, whiner, complainer or a cheese eating surrender monkey think about it for a second.  Since I’ve accepted my role in creating and achieving expectations and decided to change my approach I’ve been incredibly successful.  Do you know what I mean?  If I’m the only that can decide what success is then I can decide I’m very successful.  If I always expect the worst thing to happen then I will always be pleasantly and positively surprised when anything except death happens. Is this making sense or is it just delusional? I am willing to consider that as well.

To really find happiness with this philosophical approach you have to have an astute ability to imagine the worst case scenario for every possible occasion.  During my sleepless night I imagined myself in La Zona in Panama fighting off harden criminals for drops of water.  I saw myself being rejected a re-entry visa to the UK meaning my 15 year European run would end and I would have to go home, humiliated.  I saw myself lying strangely naked in a bed alone, sucking on two fingers, whimpering with a pillow between my legs,  wait that was real.  What I’m trying to say is that by imaging the worst case scenario I realized my current scenario isn’t too bad.  Is that cheesy enough for you?  It isn’t?  If want some real cheese you should check out my prison standard issue, this stuff is getting really smelly and dirty.

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p-520-450-7051d0bc-8a0d-49c3-a703-9a8dd3d11f3b.jpeg Quickly and briefly. Ptelevision started in 1996 when I couldn't watch TV. Without access to my favorite past time I tried other things. I tried writing, painting, photography, you name it. Ptv is what I did when nothing was on or I had nothing to do.  It's interesting what your mind will do when your eyes are free to roam. Read More



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