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Monday, March 21, 2005

Good times bad times

Bertolt Brecht believed that the bad new days are more worthy of our attention than the good old days. This idea captures my post-visit thoughts as I sit down to write my first blog entry since my return to Scarborough after two weeks in Malta.

Unlike the popular maxims where it is believed that the more things change the more they stay the same, or the old Maltese expression "konna aħjar meta konna agħar" (we were better off in worse times), I see the present and immediate future of Malta as a flat rejection of any tradition (good or bad, high or low, whatever duality you prefer) that builds towards any sense of legacy. Much like the mainstream United States of America I left last year, Malta has become awash in baseless materialism.

Instead of turning this blog into a moaning gripe (so no one can scream "sour grapes" at me!) I prefer to cherish the beautiful moments I experienced during the last couple of weeks. In essence, I am very pleased to have met a handful of people I treasure as the warmest and/or most interesting people in Malta I've had the opportunity of meeting during my lifetime.

I'm not referring to my family members. My mother and father are dear to me because they're my parents; I can never understand people who fall out with their parents. Friends from my childhood and youth have a special place in my heart and some of them are closer to me than cousins...almost like brothers and sisters. Luckily I have also made some new friends and acquaintances. I truly treasure many of the moments I spent in the company of friends and acquaintances, old and new, mostly in relation to my work at the University of Malta and the MaltaMedia Online Network. Following last year's traumatic losses (especially Mario, Louis and Maggie) I've found a new appreciation for the human touch.

About half a dozen encounters stand out head and shoulders above all others. Without going into too much detail, a few of these most amazing hours cannot escape my blog completely. Photo portrait of the young man (Toni Sant) by an artist (Pierre Portelli)I've already blogged about Ġużè Stagno. The photo you see on my blog today was taken by my good friend Pierre Portelli at his home in Żebbuġ during dinner with his wonderful extended family. Have I mention the red wine yet?

My long-time colleague and close friend Mary Ann took me to see Antoine Camilleri, my adopted grandfather, at the St Vincent de Paul Geriatric Hospital in Luqa. It was wonderful to see him again. He's 83 years old now. I was pleased to hear that he has a little space he can use as an art studio at the old people's home, but I was very disturbed to see the wild horse deprived of his natural bon vivant options by old age and an environment lacking the kind of soul artists need to remain inspired.

All in all I'd describe my visit to Malta (and Gozo) as a good time during a bad time. I've explained what I think is good about this time. The bad is partly personal and subjective but mostly political/cultural. Infrastructurally and politically the country hasn't been in the state it is now (in post-independence age) since the mid-1980s. Malta's new EU membership offers the same hopes that many of us believed anyone-but-the-MLP government could give us in 1987.

Aside from all this, in the most private aspects of my life, attention for the bad new days is more useful than longing for the good old days...especially because a mine of unconditional love still awaits me in New York. (More about that next week.) My hope is that I can at least look back at my private bad new days as good old days by this time next year.

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