Searching for the right city at the right time

At the beginning I told you that you are all welcome at My places. I am happy to inform you that my first guest has arrived. He is my best friend Pedja with whom I’ve long been searching for places, some of which have become ours. We have a similar sense in choosing the ambience, music or atmosphere, similar people inspire us. Pedja has a lot of characteristics, I would single out the following – sincere friend, a hedonist and a man that creates a good atmosphere. This text is only a sneak peek to his personality.

Pedja 3

Somewhere on the Danube ‘on this side of the bridge’ I am coming to an arranged family dinner. Parents are approaching me with a man who gives me the generous embrace addressing me with the words ‘Here’s our Zemun man’. I accept the geographical reference, followed by the joke at my own expense heading with the parents and the native of Zemun towards three hot brandys, two vituperative glances from my mother and a hot pepper that goes fine with the veal.

Namely, the man is my dad’s best man, ‘big shot’ since he was born, the citizen of the world. He was born in Kragujevac, spent his whole life in Zemun, and is now working somewhere all over the world. The man gave me a kind gift by generously ceding his apartment that was to become my new place for living, with the bills addressed to the city of Zemun.

Yet, how ever insignificant this joke may have sounded (the one of me as a Zemun man), made rather spontaneously at the spur of the moment, it became the central motif for the story of me identifying myself as a part of this town and my own sense of belonging to a it.

Now, I was driving a huge TV set in the car for a couple of weeks, as it was the last home accessory I needed to move from the primary to my secondary residence. The TV seemed to make itself home in the trunk of the car that I felt a bit sad when my colleague, a neighbor from the block, assisted me with breaking the symbiosis that these two (the TV and the trunk) made over this small period of time. It wasn’t at all easy bringing the TV on the eighth floor of the building, and later as we were talking spontaneously about my new block, the colleague said, “Dude, remember, this is the border right here! You’re from New Belgrade. This place where your building is, this used to be a vast wasteland where the fights between those from Zemun and us from the blocks took place. If anyone asks you, you are block 11C…’.

Pedja 1And now I imagine some badass New Belgrade kids jumping me in the middle of the night asking me where I am from, and I am tell them in the worst possible (extended vocals, Dear God) accent from Vojvodina that I am from Block 11C.
After a while I found out that the colleague is from Croatia originally, he grew up in New Belgrade, studied in Novi Sad and now lives here, in Belgrade again.

In almost every occasion when I meet someone new, a salesman, a waiter, the same thing happens, I open my mouth and start saying something in my “i-have-all-the-time-of this-world accent”  and I get immediately interrupted by a question ‘Novi Sad?’. And each and every time I make an allegedly surprised face and acknowledge their talent for recognizing the place I come from. It is unbelievable, but it seems to me that almost all of them have at least one person in their family that used to serve the Yugoslav National Army in Novi Sad, a town which binds them to certain girls and boys, old memories and forgotten pubs. Also, there is a nice guy I’ve met who comes from Sarajevo. He’s a waiter at a Belgrade cafe, and once he was telling me about the experiences he had in the army and about his ex with a certain jest: ‘You people from Novi Sad are good people, but a bit too soft …”. I was listening to his story and thinking that to him I’ll always be a nice guy from Novi Sad. And, naturally, for me he will be a guy from Sarajevo. Even though we both live in the same city for quite a long time now, that’s how it is.

Pedja 2And now I’m thinking about all these people who changed the cities, streets, towns, moved from one place to another through force of circumstance, and I’m also thinking about the different reasons why would each one of us generously add the possessive pronoun “my” to one place. Is it about memories, the data in the ID card, a place where you grew up, or the one that you are currently living in? Is it possible to say that you belong everywhere, or is everywhere the same as nowhere? Are those relocations our blessing or our curse? I’m thinking about “my place”, which mainly consists of people who are living with me. These people give me most sense to my identity, the time spent being stuck together regardless the place. And with time I am realizing more and more clearly that this is actually “my place”, the place of direct experiences, personal impressions, social interactions, warm friendships and intertwined stories of survival, all in one, our, common space.

Pedja 4