Greetings From The Basement

People keep the strangest things in their basements. Entire frozen cows, ancient love letters, dried flowers, dead people’s clothes, things broken, unused, box after box filled with photographs of faces long gone, enough wine to keep you drunk a thousand years.

In mine, I found a picture of my school class from 1980. That’s me in the bottom right corner, no older than my own son now. No idea why I’m grinning like that. Next to me is Max, who’s still a good friend, and it was his uncle Albert who would send postcards with this ominously cryptic message: Grüße aus dem Keller, greetings from the basement. What did he mean?

Around the time that class photo was taken a strange journey began for me, a journey of the type a psychiatrist many years later would identify as a severe type of recurrent depression. Something wrong in the basement! Well fuck a duck, thought I, no wonder I always feel like kicking everyone in the balls, or like disappearing into some bottomless abyss. In my search for a way out of that hole, I went looking for the box containing my old notebooks, going back some twenty years. I had googled the symptoms of depression, and Jesus yes, it was all there, plain to see: irritability, insomnia, uncontrollably negative thoughts, self-loathing, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, concentration problems, anxiety, “thoughts that life is not worth living.” It was all check check check, page after page of rage and pain and despair. OMFG.

Now, painting I always considered to be an upstairs type of activity, something clean and finished to show around proudly, like showing someone your new house. But when I’m down in the basement, so to speak, where no-one comes to visit, when the idea that life is essentially meaningful seems but a cruelly hollow joke, the only thing that sometimes helps in any small way is to write. With words alone I try to wrest a semblance of sense from the clutches of impending doom. Ah, yes yes, my notebooks make for fairly grim reading.

So here I am in my basement, trying to restore some order, throwing out a lot of junk. I’ve brought down some paintings and some drawings, and they actually look quite at home here, they fit in, they have conversations with the notebooks. You should come by if you can.


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