Lola Rennt

The underappreciated spirit of nonconformism

Last year I frequently heard people complain. It would actually be fair to say that complaining seemed to be the main form of communication: anywhere from minor griping and bemoaning daily struggles to major dissent and protest. There were complaints about poor health and the deadly effects of the changing weather, magnetic storms, disobeying children, heartless husbands, and the neighbor’s “punk” daughter that came home at all hours of the night (“What do you think she could be up to? It’s got to be drugs, I can just sense it.”) on said poor health. There were complaints about the rising prices of buckwheat, sugar and toilet paper, and the government's and the mob’s involvement in that conspiracy to starve the nation. There were complaints about the poor condition of the roads and the overcrowded public transportation; complaints about howling winds and unbearable heat; about the lack of some things and the overabundance of others. As if nothing was ever good enough…

People would grumble under their breaths as they passed you on the street. People would gather in large groups and hold loud protests and demonstrations. People would sit at sidewalk cafes and, having set the mood with numerous cups of coffee and an endless supply of cigarettes (both of which just kept on getting more and more expensive – how was a person expected to live?!), would lament endlessly. Against their neighbors, against mother Nature, against God, and, most frequently, against the government: “երկիրը երկիր չի”.

(How quickly we forget that only a generation or two ago a complaint against the government would land you a steady job somewhere with a refreshingly brisk climate.)

And just like this, with the whole world in the enemy camp and frown lines set so deep so as to render Botox completely powerless, an Armenian takes on Life, tears down the established order of things, and sets his own rules.

It is typical for people to like order: it’s safe, it’s predictable. It eliminates the need to think: you just follow patterns, you color within the lines. The world, the universe, however, is not about order. Any kind of order, however seemingly good, is by definition (thermodynamically) unstable, and in that, it is not meant to last.
Unfortunately, sometimes these mavericks are misunderstood and criticized. One forgets that occasionally it’s not so much the action itself, it’s the thought that counts.

Take the example of the architecturally unbecoming add-ons onto the Khrushchev era “concrete box” style apartment buildings: aside from being painful eye sores, they are also the attestation of a nation not settling for the cards it has been dealt, but striving for improvement, for a better tomorrow. The eye sore is the price we pay for evolution, for growth, for progress.

And so, thousands of miles away from “իմ տառապած, իմ փառապանծ”, in a very ordered, structured, groomed and polished world of my lovely Colonial house I miss this spirit that makes Armenians contest orders, disregard rules, defy laws, and make their own homes (and futures) the way that suits them and no one else. I miss this spirit of discontent that drives progress.

So damn “the man”, damn established order, and let’s increase some entropy one “built out” balcony at a time.

P.S. How I miss my Yerevan!!!
Lola Rennt


 "In a world where vows are worthless.  Where making a pledge is nothing.  Where promises are made to be broken, it would be nice to see words come back into power."
"This isn't about love and hate.  It's about control. (... People) just want to dominate.  No matter how much you love someone, you still want to have your own way."
"... a robin's egg you might find and then worry that it won't hatch because it's dead inside.  And then it does hatch, and you worry about what to do next."
"Still, with a plan, you only get the best you can imagine.  I'd always hoped for something better than that."
-  by Chuck Palahniuk
Lola Rennt

A tourist

Sheets of ice water separate me from everyone else on the street as I try to stand as close as I can get to the wet wall, losing feeling in my hands and feet, as if it isn’t even August. Slightly claustrophobic and crowded under the awning, I shiver, not at all warmed by the breath of all the other survivors of this downpour. I catch myself wondering what on earth I’m doing here, far away from home, caught in this flood, surrounded by these people. This isn’t me, this isn’t mine. Somewhere far away there is a little apartment in a little city in a little country. And for better or for worse that place is what I still call home. It’s always warm there. Especially in August.

And yet I ran away yet again. Chasing my tail all over the world. Life documented in boarding passes and single serving bags of peanuts and three liquid ounce containers of shampoo, conditioner, and other life-sustaining liquids. Trying to find what exactly?

My glasses fog with what emanates from the couple making out right next to me and what strongly smells like pot. I choke on the combination of my asthma and bitterness. I contemplate tying them together by the dreadlocks, the damn walking talking stereotypes. Standing there, making out, oblivious to the rain. I try to pry open the airtight seal of their lips with made-up fictitious faults I attribute to them. No one is that blatantly happy!

The next time they come up for air, they seem to notice me next to them, wading in the ankle deep rain water that the sewers are struggling to keep up with. The woman’s eyes are gleaming as she says something to me in a language that I do not understand. It takes me a minute to explain that I don’t speak Dutch, which is more of a function of volume of the falling rain, rather than their knowledge of English.

- Are you a tourist here? - I finally hear her ask.
- I’m a tourist everywhere, I say, and I wonder if I’ve already managed to scare off two people before we even got to introductions.
- I totally hear that, - says the man, who turns out to be American. I’m waiting for him to add “dude”.

The woman continues to smile. Her slightly glazed over eyes seem to give the explanation, though. I don’t think what I said was nearly that amusing. The man delves into a debate with himself about the answers that he has been seeking throughout the years. I nod encouragingly. I try to fashion my frozen lips into a smile.

His name is John, and according to him, he “just does whatever, you know”. Whatever seems to pay well, I say. “You know, whatever”, he smiles. Anka, his Dutch girlfriend, giggles. Next thing I know, in her raptures over John’s greatness, Anka is all over him again. And I wonder if they scuba dive. I wonder if I should suggest they take it up.

I guess I must have not scared them off after all. I don’t think I even existed in their world at all, if only for a fleeting moment. And that was exactly what I begrudged them, that ability to be so self-absorbed in their own passion that nothing mattered, not even this Old Testament kind of storm. So here on this last life boat, on this last raft of hope left for me, I was confronted by what it was that I was running away from and what ran with me all these miles.

Amsterdam, August 2010.
Lola Rennt

(no subject)

Some people go to therapy. Some try to drown the voices in their head in drink. Stifle them with the sheets of a woman that smells a lot like that sunset on that summer evening many moons ago. They lull the voices into submission with song and dance. Bribe them with designer labels. A lot like snake charmers, they coax the voices into the basket of forgetfulness and oblivious bliss.

I gently caress the keyboard of my netbook and fool myself into feeling the warmth of the plastic. I stroke the mouse and shiver at the counterfeit goose bumps against my fingertips. Alone, I’ve only got the voices in my head to keep me company. I give them free reign and let them tumble forth. I grew up an only child; to me talking has been a single-player kind of game anyway. And yes, in the privacy of this extremely exclusive secret society, I refer to myself in third person.

This communion with the voices in my head is like playing with the Ouija board: I am the medium and my fingers are guided upon the keyboard with whatever messages are communicated to me. They speak. I transcribe. I translate. I write.

To me writing is the joy of living proven by the ability to still feel pain. Still. After everything. It is an attempt to unburden my soul, to pick up the phone and dial the number of someone long gone, to tell them all the things I am not supposed to. To laugh with them, to cry with them, to say “remember when”. My writing is a missing persons report, a way to spill my secrets into the universe hoping that they will find the person that they are intended for.

Writing is a way to have the last word after all, time and distance be damned. It is about getting your lines right even if you have missed your cue.

It is a customs declaration for the love baggage that has piled up over the years. The black box account of all the crushes and crashes that have encased my heart in scar tissue.

It is a conversation with the water under bridge, even if I know that I will drown trying to swim against the current of history.

It is a eulogy for the girl that grew up to be me, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, till death, heartbreak or multiple personality disorder do us part.

Lola Rennt


 "People don't want their lives fixed.  Nobody wants their problems solved.  Their dramas.  Their distractions.  Their stories resolved.  Their messes cleaned up.  Because what would they have left?  Just the big scary unknown."

"Whatever my real problems might be, I didn't want them cured.  None of the little secrets inside me wanted to be found and explained away.  By myths.  By my childhood.  By chemistry.  My fear was, what would be left?  So none of my real grudges and dreads ever came out into the light of day.  I didn't want to resolve my angst.  I'd never talk about my dead family.  Express my grief, she called it.  Resolve it.  Leave it behind."
"People shopping for a messiah want quality.  Nobody is going to follow a loser.  When it comes to choosing a savior, they won't settle for just a human being."
"No matter how many luxuries you get, something will be missing.  No matter how carefully you choose, you'll never be totally happy."
"He was terminally ill.  He was dying of boredom.  The only mystery left was death."
- by Chuck Palahniuk
Lola Rennt


 Not exactly an optimist, I still hoped that there was some truth to the saying that “when God closes a door he opens a window instead.” Well, when God decided to close this particular door he must have been in one of his Old Testament kind of moods. Or maybe he’s just got a peculiar sense of humor. Or he was particularly bored that afternoon. Either way, when God closed this specific door, he not only did not open a window, but rather made sure that the door was bolted shut, stuffed some old rags in the crack under it, and let my lungs slowly fill with the viscous poison of self-improvement.

Take back the control of your life, the TV blares. Gain your confidence back (I never understand why they always imply that you had confidence in the first place). Said control entails squeezing the once-size-16-cellulite-ridden buttocks into a pair of hot pants on the split screen. The magical, wiggling, whittling ass! The perfect accessory for any girl who needs reassurance in her self-worth! Shrink your ass, save your soul! When your life is falling apart, what you need is not to put it back together but to be able to put your behind back into your high school jeans (as if these are times you really want to relive). And so, first comes the haircut, then the weight loss, then the nose job, then the boob job, then some other kind of job, whatever job, pick-a-job-out-of-the-hat job. Fix me, make me better, nip me and tuck me, deliver me from me and into sheer bliss.

It’s just me now. Alone. Alone with myself I get a magnifying mirror and go to town: a wrinkle here, a blackhead there. I circle problem areas, put up little sticky notes in neon color. Unfortunately neon makes the cellulite stand out more. Never mind the giant train derailment that my life has become, I just want to look good in a bikini.

I endeavor to gain my confidence back. I take back the control of my life. No magical elixirs this time, no big love as deliverance from the stranglehold of daily routine, no absolution on demand in the form of coffee and cigarettes. It’s old school this time: diet and exercise, sweat and tears, baby.

Strapping on my running shoes I pound the conveyor belt of self-improvement towards a better tomorrow when I’ll be able to slather baby oil on my taut abs, and, smiling with a mouthful of veneers, state in a ringing affirmative that all one needs for true happiness to gain back the control of his life and/or his waistline.

Like a snake I shed layers, molting, sloughing off the old me to become a better, newer, shinier me; to glimmer blindingly in the artificial paparazzi sunshine of public opinion; and then to slither more smoothly away, back into my isolation, blinded by the bright promise of a size 25 waist being the ultimate solution to all life’s problems, having to rely on my sense of smell to guide me back into the dung heap of reality.

Layers of old skin peel off gradually to reveal the cold smooth surface of the kind of snake skin that queer Italian designers pray for. Fear is first to go. Then love. Then pain. What is left is perfect and dead. Ice. Diamonds. Confidence gained back by toned gluteus maximus turns to viscous ice cold poison pumping through my veins, filling my lungs, drowning me. I’m the kind of girl that I always thought I’d get dumped for. The kind of me that I would have killed to become. The kind of me that I want to kill.

I’m me, only better. Or with a smaller ass anyway. The kind of ass that will solve all my problems.

- by igetboredatparties
Lola Rennt

The time to hesitate is through

So I'm finally doing it.
I'm terrified and excited all at the same time: I'm taking my first official writing class tomorrow at the Writer's Center.  
No more excuses.  I'm going strap on my running shoes and chase this dream.  And if I fall, I will get up.  And if I scrape my knee, I will not cry.  And if I fail, well, it won't be the first time.
Writing is something that I enjoy the most.  And also fear the most.  So I guess it's time to find out if it's sink or swim for me.  That way I can't hide behind the "well, I could have been good if only I had done it".  I guess I'll just do it, and if it doesn't work, then I'll stash away these dreams for good.  Thankfully, I have no complaints about my day job either.

And after all, this is just a class.  A small tiny baby step.  But so very much in the right direction.  

- by Chamo San