Overheating, Bulgaria style

Posted by in Dispatches

Poster in Sofia promoting Madonna's "Sticky and Sweet" Tour

Poster in Sofia promoting Madonna's "Sticky and Sweet" Tour

It’s hot. The heat makes you sticky; turns you into a walking fly paper strip. Dirt sticks to you, bed sheets, clothing. Chairs stick to you when you get up to leave cafés. Other people stick to you, and not always the ones you’d even like sticking to you. The keys on this lap top are sticky. The stickiness seems to spread to everything. A viral tactile sensation that even this super duper high powered fan (announcing as it does on it’s box “Your Perfect Choice!”) aimed directly at me cannot combat. When the heat hits, Sofia is one sticky place. Add to this our residence on the sixth floor in an A-shaped attic appartment, and you will begin to appreciate my new obsession with things that go stick in the night.

In the evenings, after days wandering around doing this and that, then eating dinner with friends or at Svetla’s parents, we return to this little space of ours. After climbing the stone stairs all the way up, we arrive at a tiny door and undo the formidable locks. We both hesitate before entering, waiting for that pent up but now released, waft of hot air that feels like it’s been pushed out of a giant hot air balloon by a giant’s fist. Once inside we alight to our stations: Svetla darts to the bedroom and opens that room’s skylight, I struggle through the invisible inferno and grapple for the number “3” switch on the floor fan, then pop open the skylight in the common room, where I sit now. The two skylights opening at these times must have the effect, from the outside, of gaskets releasing high-pressure heat plumes from the red-tiled slopes of this apartment building’s roof top.

Two weeks here have drifted by like a mirage. It’s instructive that once the artifice of work is removed in all its intrusive and imbricate facets—cell phones mute, schedules tossed, emails unanswered, books stacked and staring at you disapprovingly, the guilt that pervades the pleasure of leisure lurking elsewhere—life becomes unstructured, unhinged. And with this displacement of purpose comes a liberty to do nothing or do other somethings. It’s not a natural state for me. I’ve of course dragged 25 kilos and at least that many days work with me across the Atlantic; the good intentions for which are, undoubtedly, lingering in the jet stream particles now transforming some poor unsuspecting cumulus nimbus and doing their part in the global climate change theatre (and typically human, after contributing my four tons equivalent of carbon dioxide, I complain about intense heat). But the work that came with me—endless academic articles and several brain-tweaking books, files begging to be opened and addressed on this lap top, stacks of DVDs in need of previewing for my role at RIDM and Cinema Politica, and this persistent self-appointed blogging charge—have not been successful in their usual forceful manner of inflecting my travel time with work, work, work.

But I’m slowly coming round. I’m finding ways to reintroduce the idea of reading communication theory on things like “the methodology of audience ethnography” during an afternoon heat wave that turns workers between unfinished concrete floors into slugs seeking shade high above streets so hot that holes between stones filled with asphalt actually have foot prints from the last mistaken steps that melted into otherwise solid material. I’m finding ways to stare at the stack of 45 films to my right and the hard drive with another 75 films beside it, and not think: nothing like a depressing documentary to pull one’s indolent inner bee further down toward the soup-like asphalt that beckons me toward dreamland and away from work. And alas, I’m finding ways to return to the keyboard and stickly tap away in front of the wind tunnel I’ve constructed, and carve out a story or two for this space.

In other words, the cobwebs, despite the intense heat in this triangular domicile and quick sand beneath my feet outside, are lifting. Soon, I will remember these past weeks, and will recount some of the hazy time here. Until then, I’ll go on depositing my body’s brine into this strange landscape with a fervour only likely to be found with Canadians visiting Bulgaria.