Viktor Pachas and I Review Alex Mahgoub’s Play “Baba,” Plus Interview!

baba

The poster for “Baba”

On behalf of The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop, Viktor Pachas and I¬†went to The New York Fringe Festival to see¬†Alex Mahgoub’s critically-acclaimed one-person show, “Baba,” chronicling the true story of his¬†father’s murder and life after the trauma. We were so glad we attended– the play skillfully navigates the tangle of loss, identity, masculinity, and sexuality, and then we were fortunate enough to score an interview with Alex on film, thanks to Alex’s generosity and Viktor’s videography expertise. It was so great to talk about the overarching themes of his performance, and Alex was full of life and intelligent things to say. Check out our¬†review, “Baba’s Ghost,” and the video interview with Alex¬†here, plus some wonderful pictures of Alex and his Baba. Alex also has a book in the works, #SelfieGeneration, so be on the lookout for that.

This was my first collaborative review, and what a lovely experience. Viktor and I make a pretty good team. I feel like if you can write something with another person¬†without killing each other, that’s a win, and if you actually enjoy the process, that’s like a kitten crossing the finish line at an ice cream marathon. If you’re not familiar with him already, here’s Viktor’s impressive bio:

viktorViktor Pachas is a freelance videographer, illustrator, Spanish translator, and musician. Viktor produces videos for Cambridge Writers’ Workshop retreats and workshops, and is a contributor for their blog. After finishing his studies in Molecular Cell Biology at UConn, he began producing promotional videos for Singapore General Hospital in cooperation with Duke University/NUS while working as a Circadian Research Assistant. Studying Flamenco Guitar and performing in Granada, Spain, he made videos to market a chain of hostels in Andalusia and Morocco. Recently, Viktor shot material in Paris for David Shields’ upcoming movie Black Planet produced by James Franco. He currently lives in New York City and is an instructor for Outward Bound and Global Works. He performs solo as a singer/songwriter and is a drummer for A Thousand Ships when performing in the New England region. Viktor is currently working on illustrating a comic strip based on his travels.

You can listen to his music here: https://victorpachas.bandcamp.com/

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A memory of an Adriatic ritual for Gabriel Garc√≠a M√°rquez

“He died of old age in solitude, without a moan, without a protest, without a single moment of betrayal, tormented by memories and by the yellow butterflies, who did not give him a moment’s peace, and ostracized as a chicken thief.” —One Hundred Years of Solitude

The great Gabriel García Márquez has died, and there is little I can say about it that would be of any use, comfort, or cleverness to anyone. But, I have a lovely memory of Márquez, and now feels like a good time to write it out.

When Len and I landed¬†in Venice, he found a very well-loved copy of this novel, brittle, yellow, and battered from age, perched on the lid of a trashcan in the airport. “It felt like a gift,” he said, “a gift from the¬†trash.” He had been wishing for a book, and then this book he always wanted to read appeared for him when he went to throw his coffee away. We guessed the owner recognized it was in too much disrepair to be read again, but felt too guilty throwing away a work of art. The pages were slipping out, the covers were tattered and separating from the pages, but Len meticulously and carefully read each page as we traveled on train and on foot, in cafes and rented apartments, even though many of them snapped off as he turned them. He loved the story, was in raptures over it from city to city, and hoped to leave¬†the book somewhere for another traveler to find. But by the time he finished, we were in Rabac, Croatia, and the book was unsalvageable: a collection of loose leaves constantly threatening their order. That night, during the full moon, Len and I walked out onto a rock that jutted out into the Adriatic like a sea-altar. We took wine with us, toasted to the moon, and poured a generous sip into the sea. He placed the book on the stone where it dipped like a bath and recited his favorite lines in the moon’s general direction while we waited for the tide to rise enough to take the book away. I drank wine and listened to him. I thought, love is a lush ritual.¬†Silver-white moonlight seemed to run slick-straight across the ocean from the horizon all the way to our rock, and¬†I wondered¬†how many¬†things only look the way they do because of where we stand in space. As the water rose and lapped across the stone, pages loosened and swam out in different directions, slipping down through the clear water to the sand and white coral¬†below. The sea¬†eventually swelled enough to cover our ankles and wash the book away. We watched it tumble and unravel under the surface. I thought, “As above, so below.” A small, orange crab scudded across my foot and caught my toe with its claw so gently, as if it only meant to steady itself before drifting off again. A page washed back onto our¬†rock again and touched both of our feet– one with¬†yellow butterflies.