I recently took a short break from my writing here in Moldova with a side-trip to Bucharest. Driving into the city, everywhere I looked seemed to remind of somewhere else; I kept thinking ‘that’s like Manama,’ and ‘that’s like Shanghai,’ and ‘that’s like Vienna’ etc.

And I realized how strange and amazing that was, that all the different cities I’ve had the pleasure (or not) of living in or visiting could blend together in my perceptions and give me fleeting moments of feeling I was somewhere else, no matter where I actually was. It’s like I’m everywhere at the same time.

It evoked a surreal mental landscape, which no photograph could ever do justice to; I’m not even sure how to describe it. Constant driving, tail light trails as long as trains flowing in waves along the roads, everything glowing, and all the passing buildings jumping from one style to another – glass and stone and concrete and terra cotta and steel – with no regard for geography or era. A river crossed by a bridge here and there. And it just kept spreading out toward the horizon, never ending.

It’s like all the cities I’ve been to have merged in my head into some kind of mental hyper-city, an internal metropolis, populated by my memories and my ideas. This existential place can be accessed unconsciously through involuntary memory, when some external stimulus triggers it, or I can consciously reach into it to pluck out images or anecdotes (the ‘street stories’, as it were) to use in my writing. When I’m thoroughly engaged in a project, I literally live there about half the time. It’s kind of like the city in Inception, except always night and with, you know, trees and pizza joints.

The best thing about it is that I didn’t work to create it – it sprang into being on its own, which actually only makes it all the more valuable to me.

Anyone else have a similar experience?


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