From the Tiber to the Clyde: The Nature of the Fun

During my high school years, I did not appreciate the conventional conjugations of teenage fun. Merriment is not a thing for the 16-year-old self-declared outcast: my nights out tended to lead to an abundance of toilet tears and to rambling cubicle speeches imposed upon delighted audiences of queuing friends or acquaintances; standing far from the centre of action and looking at the cheerful crowds with a pinch of misanthropy and with the knowing glare of someone who has recently been introduced to some cheap interpretation of God-is-dead continental philosophy, I certainly wasn’t the life of the party. I don’t know whether my dislike was genuine or whether it was due to immaturity or to my social anxiety, but I think it also had a lot to do with a lack of adequate exposure to what the fun really had to offer, the average adolescent experience in suburban Rome being, at least as far as I’m aware, rather mild and sheltered.

Big social gatherings not being a viable option for me, I had to establish alternative paths to the fun. My idea of a good time then mostly had to do with absorbing, observing, and silently yet lively engaging: reading on the bus and at the bus stop and in waiting rooms and in dusty classrooms; scribbling verses on scraps of paper I used to keep in a heavily worn-out salmon pink copy of The Flowers of Evil I always had on me; having long walks near Spagna or Repubblica, fully receptive to the vibrancy of life around me and fiddling with it; most importantly, finding ease in the fact I had built a home in longing, dwelling in the comfort of being able to exactly locate where I was in terms of my desire to be in a non-specified elsewhere and of fun, endless daydreaming.

Teenage angst is fortunately bound to eventually crush under the double-decker bus, and mine was no exception. Its demise, joint with my arrival in Glasgow, quickly awakened me to the fact that my younger self was wrong and that I too could find enjoyment in the conventional articulations of the fun. Fully realizing it only took a few months, the initial spark lit in early September as I entered Flat 0/1 for the first time and was absolutely awestruck by whatever was playing, not comfortable enough to dance much but still captivated by the music and the general energy. That night marked the beginning of my warming up to the fun, a beautiful celebratory period of no sleep and cheap Tesco wine and merrily going from Maryhill to town and back through the bridges over the M8. The process reached its peak in February. We were in Flat 0/1 again, at the same monthly event we had casually walked into in September. Minutes upon entering, it dawned on me that I could finally dance. There and then bloomed within me a new, revolutionary understanding of the fun, sprouting from the healing powers of spontaneity and from the warm embrace of a newfound community.

Though the nightlife route to the fun is full of occasions for wonder, it is highly addictive and, if followed to excess, overpowering. 5am chats in random flats and early morning strolls for days in a row can be moments of gratefulness and bonding, but also of loneliness and restless drifting. At sixteen years old, all I wanted was to steer away from the suffocating safety of high familiarity; a nineteen-year-old all over Glasgow, my needs gravitated towards a place of peace and grounding, a place the fun had proven to be before it turned into a self-destructive avoidance strategy. I couldn’t, I soon realised, only rely on the daily arrival of the socially acceptable time to leave my flat and storm into town as sole reason to stick around after each renewed crisis. The fun needed reforming.

The nature of the fun: title of a brilliant essay by David Foster Wallace I had the chance to read sometime in mid-March. The nature of the fun: a very memorable string of words which persistently resonated in my mind for the remainder of spring, acquiring a wealth of personal meanings and losing much of Wallace in the process. The reformed fun, in theory: to mediate between thoughtfulness and spontaneity and to take part of everything I love with me, no matter how heretical the sewing; to find a working point of instability which is not too comfortable but also recognisable enough not to be scary.  The practical nature of the reformed fun: once the point is found and with it a balance, to stay there; to make whatever I want of my time: to scribble at the corner of pages and to spend hours losing sight and sanity on literary theory, if I feel like it, or to get some comfort from Glasgow when illuminated by yellow street lamps and from strobe lights and unpredictable trajectories; to know that, whatever the direction and shape of my day, I am going to end it by taking my shoes off along the borderlands uniting the stable home, the call of rootlessness and home in rootlessness, finally resting, my heart ringing with belonging.


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