For I won’t love you anymore

donderdag 12 februari 2015 12u07 | Peter Waterschoot (tekst), O. (beeld) | reageer
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We enter the city. From 2 angles. Past via present to future.

First of all, it needs to be said, this city is not a real city. For it is impossible to go anonymous here.

A true city should be like a woman’s handbag, a Bermuda triangle, you need to be able to get lost in it. No such thing in Gent.

First angle. I sit in a hospital. Long corridors of people rushing in, rushing out. I write this piece in English. To create a certain distance, an objectivity, and moreover to be able to find lingua franca. A hospital corridor, people rushing in and rushing out, I have just become a dad, my feet are light as my heart. I seem to float into the new life of which people say gratuitous things like “life as you have known it will never be the same”.

My son will be Gent-born and he will bear the Gent prosody and aggravated R, inherited through time. In his voice there will be the distant echo of textile factory workers shouting against wheels of steel. A city, its newborns and its departed, and others fighting for their lives. Checking in and checking out. If you truly want to see a city, if you want to look at its core, go to a hospital and tap in to the joy and drama of universal humanity. Same everywhere. Gent or whatever shithole in the world. A city is not its buildings. A city is not its treasures. And a city is, certainly not its bloody marketing!


A city is its people. A city is its people and its small enterprises. A city is its markets and its vendors shouting their lungs out in cold misty air. A city is its young people at 8 o’ clock in the morning after nightlife. A city is the drunken people. A city is vomit on the sidewalk. A city is rough. A city is tough. A city is a boxing club, a footballclub, chess on sunday, bookstalls and ballet. But let’s cut the crap, and get to my point. Let’s have a minute silence. For what is lost. For what we are still losing. Right now. Things lost will never be replaced. Shabby bars at midnight. Street food at night.

Second angle. I was a young boy, 19, staring with a dropping jaw at rutty, carbon pitch-black towers and dark grey cobblestones. A Dickens novel almost so to speak. Busses and cars in the town center. And a number of iconic places with which I fell in love, I could start to name them but you wouldn’t understand these exotic names like chipshop ‘Helga’, baker ‘Fevery’, nightsteakhouse ‘Stendahl’, Housy Nightclub ‘55’, cigarshop ‘Caron’, Hotel & drinking parlor ‘Den Yzer’, punkgigbar ‘Frontline’, stripclub ‘Crazy Horse’, jade green tapistry cloth tea house ‘Ludwig’, the jewish pastry shop ‘Bloch’, the bohemian pub ‘ Karmeliet’, our local cbgb called ‘Democrazy’, the old central post office in a neo-gothic building, the sailors pub ‘Routier’, the crazy burger bar ‘Martino’, redlight old neon signs singing like Marlene Dietrich ‘Weisse Rose’, the crazy burger bar ‘RondPoint’ with its ‘hopperpaintinglike’ counter. The fat fries and superplate of fish ‘sick the next morning’ Spanish restaurant ‘Hogar Espanol’, etc. etc.

They -are –not- there- anymore. Little chance I will be able to tell my son (who will be 15 at my age 60) about these places, little chance that he will understand this spirit, that he will see with hungry eyes of imagination, what his dad (by that time a living folk museum), will be talking about. Cities are cities. Cities evolve. There’s no place for nostalgia. OK. The future are the young. But future must also become the end of gentrification, because all of it will be end-gentrificated. Endlessly morphed. Put a glass roof over town Centre and you’ll have a shopping mall. The ultimate horror movie, to me, would be living in an ever morphing world where things change overnight. (this movie exists). There where all your efforts in getting around, getting to know and getting to love places, people, are nothing but futile, because they cannot take root. To Start Everyday Anew. No History. I’m becoming an old fart. But do give me something to hold on to, and then we can still embrace the new. “Everybody wants to build but who wants to do maintenance?” a quote by Vonnegut.

Let me repeat myself and tell you one last thing, one last time. “A city is not its bloody marketing; A city is its people!” Party, do business, wheel and deal, get drunk, fall down and get up again! Gent, don’t try to become too tidy, for I won’t love you anymore.

Peter Waterschoot is fotograaf en opent vandaag ‘De Witte Muur#13′ in Sphinx cinema. Vernissage: donderdag 12 februari 2015 om 19u – Finissage 3 mei om 19u. Alle info via De Witte Muur#13.


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