You can taste a memory. For example it is obvious that any given fish soup will remind me, for as long as I shall live, of a small restaurant in Saint Malo where you could eat until you had enough. In hindsight, I forgive the young man – me – who had never left the sanctity of his own village before, for taking advantage (4 plates) of this hospitality.

A memory can also be held in an object. In this respect, Paris is a spring. To be precise: a leaf spring that is adjusted to the ring that is put in the old wooden bird of the equally old merry-go-round in the jardin-de-luxembourg. After, for the zillionth time, jamming the spring, a child will be as happy as Larry with this nineteenth century variant of tilting at the ring.

And, without a doubt, anybody recognises a memory as an image. To the concept of ‘childhood’ the film-like image may appear of an altar boy sitting in the back seat of a very small and round Fiat car, driven by a very small and round pastor, on a forest path – of course on a sunny Sunday morning – on their way to attend to a church service in the red cross building.

Recently, I found that a memory can also appear in the shape of a human being. Particularly when we are talking about the German city of Dresden. Of course, the Semperoper (Semper opera AU), or the Zwinger (historical landmark complex AU): impressive. If only because they are still there, despite everything. Or the gloomy flats and the numerous drinking and begging young people (very white and very German): even more impressive because they, despite everything, seem to have given up on everything once more.

In Dresden there is no contrast between desolateness and optimism, between grief and happiness. Dresden is sad and happy. It is happy because from Hauptbahnhof (central station AU) until Frauenkirch the council is working its head off to create a new city heart and sad, or at least despondent, because it has been a complex and un-German chaos for years now and nobody seems to be able to predict when it will come to an end. But there is this small man wearing a long coat. His head seems to be copy-pasted from a cartoon: little hat, clown’s nose and a large mouth. He walks into modern times and the West on giant trainers – nike-air-clown? – and you can see it in the blink of an eye: He has got the X-factor. Everything fits in his stimulating, cheeky personality; Not just his appearance but also his contagious movements and the penny-pinching voice.

At the small festival behind the avant-garde Kulturhaus with shimmering lights, wharf pipes, and rusty containers; far away from glamour and tourists, ? you would start to laugh if it weren’t so sad, or the other way around – he, perfectly calmly, spread the word to try and attract an audience into his little tent at night in the drizzle. That’s the spirit!
And during his chaotic performance in his grubby little tent he brings the audience into his chaotic little world of pleasure, awe, and emotion. Moving and hilarious, according to traditional methods and amateurishly, intensely cheerful, and tear jerking at the same time.

Dresden is a clown!

August 6, 2003
Toon Maas.

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