STRANGE, OR MAYBE IT’S JUST FICTION! #1
Welcome to the first installment of my blog (where did that word come from??) from Bosnia and Herzegovina. My name is Garth Strange. I came here with two friends of mine, a husband (the poet) and wife (the academic and Fulbright teaching fellow, her third!). I was able to afford to make the trip on my own and I have been here several times since 2000 and I wanted to return – for various reasons, none of them involving the would-be interesting secret lover scenario! I too am a writer, mostly poetry, so this “blog thing” is very new to me. I have been appointed Poet-in-Residence at Dzemal Bijedic University here in Mostar. I am very excited and happy to be back in BiH (Bosnia and Herzegovina) since my last visit was in 2010 and much has changed (and much has stayed the same, I am told) so I am anxious to find out on my own and report back to you (who are you?) if you are interested.
Perhaps I should explain my name as there might be a couple of questions about it. My first name was given to me by a much older sister since, again as I am told, my parents whom I never knew, more on that later, could not decide – the word is their alcoholism got in the way, for some reason (!). This older sister loved the name Garth – long before the singer, Garth Brooks, was on the scene. The family story tells me that my sister, obviously I don’t remember her name or I would tell you (maybe something like Thyra), had a boyfriend who had a brother who had a cousin named Garth somewhere near Beaumont, Texas. She had a crush on him and even though the crush developed into nothing, she remembered “Garth” for life. My last name was already set, Strange, as it was my parent’s name. By the way, I may be related to Luther Strange, the Alabama politician who just lost the Alabama Republican primary to replace Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat and was Trump’s man! Too bad…sad. However, I did not vote for Trump, have worked actively to resist his presidency and have been in Alabama only a few times, once in 1965 while driving my black VW 1959 bug with California plates (the summer of Watts) and being followed across the state by some ol’ Bama KKK’ers protecting their confederate rights. They didn’t seem interested in just talking over a beer and working things out!! (Attention: As you can see, I am often given to verbal wandering when writing, but it is just the way my mind works perhaps with the help of Klonopin and Cymbalta. I also claim the right to be inconsistent with my “facts” although regarding my life, the people I meet and events taking place in BiH, I will be as focused and clear as possible).
Speaking of BiH…after flying from Wichita (yes, that’s right, the largest city in Kansas, about the population of Sarajevo), through Chicago and Munich we landed about noon in Sarajevo on September 14. It was timed to be a birthday gift from the wife I am traveling with to her husband. A very perfect gift for him and, and as it turns out, for me as well. Yes, I have the same birthday as the other poet. Coincidence? We spent four days in Sarajevo, a beautiful city with incredible – in all senses of that word – new glass front buildings housing shopping malls and car dealerships like “Sarajevo Porsche.” We were sitting in a taxi and driving the street from the airport in Butmir, a neighborhood/suburb of this capital city, into downtown. What was known as “sniper alley” during the tragically brutal wars of the early 1990’s, was now a boulevard shared with the familiar tram, with new carriages, some donated by the international community and others built in BiH and thousands of cars and buses. The taxi driver turned right off of Obala Kulina bana, crossed the Skenderija most (bridge) and took us to our hotel in the Skenderija neighborhood across the Miljacka River from the city center.
Ok, my attention span has reached its end so I am going to stop writing for now. Next time I will spend a little time on our four days in Sarajevo, my good friend D. whom I met on my first trip to BiH in 2000 and the beautiful and funny young woman working at the café where I went several times for kafa Bosanski…#1 Bascarsija…if you want to know the address. I welcome feedback and creative (or non-creative, whose to judge?) responses to Garth Strange’s blog. Hvala (thank you). There’s a story there, too! www.michaelpoage.com