A Passing Cloud
By Viggo Mortensen and Fabián Casas - translated by Ollie, Rio and Zoe
15 April 2014
You must be in the car going out to the countryside for Holy Week. I hope that you have a lovely time with rest and renewal of enthusiasms and ideas of all kinds. I know that you won't read this immediately, but I'm writing to you now since I have a few hours of peace and quiet.
I am in Barcelona with my Catalan family. Tomorrow we are going to the country. I will be in Catalonia with them all week. This afternoon I'm alone by a window open to the street, enjoying the warm sea breeze this spring-like Saturday. Today everyone is out, play-acting and [doing] other things and I have been walking, reading and writing. I don't know why, but when I woke up this morning, after my customary greeting to death, I thought about Borussia Mönchengladbach of 1976-77 and the Danish pair Henning Jensen and Allan Simonsen, idols of my adolescence who I've mentioned before in our chats.
Spectacular play by Henning Jensen for Real ….
I just went out for a run to the sea and returned walking by the Rambla. I bought the paper and a little wine, a CD of unreleased singles by the great Nigerian rocker, Fela Kuti, and I also got the new copy of the soccer magazine, Panenka. I got into the bathtub to read. It turns out that in this Panenka, there's an article about that same Borussia Mönchengladbach team. Incredible! They talk about the good tapping soccer they played and how that has ended up influencing the fate and approaches of recent Bayern München and Borussia Dortmund teams. As they say in the article, in the 70's, Borussia Mönchengladback included the great striker Jupp Heynckes, who then also would be successful as head coach (last year he won the triple of the League, Cup and Champions with Bayern). What is REALLY BAD in the article is the information about the European Cup final of 1977. Liverpool won it, not the German team of Heynckes, Simonsen and Jensen, as the magazine says. Panenka doesn't usually make that kind of mistake. I suppose such setbacks happen to all of us now and then. I frequently buy and read that magazine (and will continue buying and reading it) because it always has interesting things about soccer history. The team coached by Udo Lattek had good technique and possession of the ball, similar to Cruyff´s Barcelona and that of Pep Guardiola as managers, even now with Tata Martino, but Liverpool ran, sent good shots to the box, and was very much the fighter. Art against physical strength, and that time, strength and the vertical game of the British won. Henning Jensen ended up going to Real Madrid, where I saw him play in the old Estadio Bernabeu when I was about 20, and Allan Simonsen went to Barcelona after winning the UEFA Cup with Borussia Mönchengladbach in 1979. I remember that Simonsen won the Balon D´Or in 1977, ahead of Kevin Keegan and Michel Platini.
© France Football.
The Catalans nicknamed him "Simonet" (Little Simon) when he was with Barça. At that time, the teams of the Spanish League could only have two foreigners on the field. When, after three decent seasons of Simonet with Barça, Diego Maradona came to the club in 1982, the Dane saw himself frequently relegated to the reserve players' bench so Pelusa [tr. note: Maradona] and the German Bernd Schuster could play.
The little Viking, who normally was a rather quiet guy, got angry and went to England to play for Charlton in the Second Division, in spite of having offers from Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur. He wanted a quieter atmosphere; he was fed up with the media hassles and the maneuvers of the boards of directors in the big clubs. He scored 9 goals in 16 matches for Charlton, but that club had serious economic problems and they sold their Danish striker. Simonsen decided to go back to his original club in Denmark, Vejle Boldklub, where he ended his career in 1989. For many years, he played very well for all his clubs and also for the Danish National Team. Along with the magician Michael Laudrup and the great goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, he probably was the most brilliant Danish player in the second half of the twentieth century. He played and scored goals in three European finals. Before his professional stage, I saw him, with my old man and my two brothers, playing live for Denmark in the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. He also played for his National Team in the Eurocup in 1984 and in the World Cup of 1986. He was small, fast and very clever, with a good dribble. He kicked well with both feet. He was fouled a lot and often it seemed they had broken those thin legs he had. He was like a stag running all over the field, fleeing the wild dogs who were driven mad with his acrobatics. I´m sending you a Youtube video with some of his plays in the 70s, and another from the UEFA Cup final he won with Borussia Mönchengladbach in 1979.
Simonsen on the Danish National Team.
Something else I read today was that the fantastic Argentine actor Alfredo Alcón passed away. I remember the first time I saw him, before my mother, two brothers and I left Buenos Aires more than forty years ago, in Leopoldo Torre Nilson's Martín Fierro. That movie premiered the same year that Los Matadores made history as undefeated champions. Lobo Fischer and Martín Fierro were for me, at that moment, synonymous, two elegant and implacable warriors. That film made a huge impact on me and the features of that unforgettable gaucho poet are still very much with me.
Alfredo Alcón and Graciela Borges in "Martín ….
I wish I'd had the opportunity to work with that master of my profession. Alcón was a huge theatre actor and a unique presence in cinema. People of all kinds today praise his nobility, his comradeship and his dedication as a democratic citizen. I'm sending you a few things that he said in an interview in 2009 about the life of an actor:
" I neither do evaluations, nor believe in them. Others say that I'm a great man, but I'm the same young boy who played at theatre on the terrace roof of my house. Putting a label on everything gives us the sensation that we have control over this mess that it is to be alive.
And when you believe that you have control, life is being wasted. If I want to apply my experience of yesterday to today, I lose today. All performances are different. And that makes theater actors so insecure…
One has the sensation of being on the eve of a revelation that never arrives. There are days in which the spectator and the actor breathe with the same rhythm, passion is shared and when that moment arrives, it produces on stage a shy comradeship, a camaraderie with the actors."
The master in his home.
Today it´s Lanús' turn with CASLA in Bajo Flores, and in a few days' time, they are going to the Bombonera to deal with the son [tr. note: River]. Afterwards they will play against Newell´s, and later against Gremio de Brasil for the Libertadores quarter finals. A very hard ten days for Bauza´s guys. Season of the brave. Hold on Ciclón!
I hope that like me you find the match against Granate [tr. note: Lanús] on your laptop this afternoon, maybe on the page "Fútbol para todos." A big hug.
What I wanted to tell you - beyond Allan Simonsen, the match that we played tonight against Lanús and the death of Alfredo Alcón - is that suddenly I feel a bit lost, brother. I work, love, eat, more or less sleep, I greet the sun, wash my face, but it's like I'm wrong in the way I'm communicating [with others] day to day, that often there's a barrier, a cloud or an almost transparent fabric that comes between what I perceive and what others seem to want to convey to me. Lately I feel that I don't do anything but do and say stupid things. It's hard for me to explain, buddy, but I have never felt more like a stranger everywhere. An extraterrestrial gringo, a Cuervo wandering alone among the crowd. I actually love solitude, experiencing that feeling in spite of finding myself in the midst of a frenetic city, where I can be as alone and at ease as in a desert, in a snowy wood, or in the middle of an infinite sea. It doesn't matter the place or how populated it is, I have always been able to count on the inner compass that facilitates and enriches any walk or journey. I know I'm part of everything that surrounds me, and I like to look for the way to adapt in every place, every situation. It can be more or less easy to "find myself" in a new place, but in the end, I have always managed it. I love our world - the diversity of its landscapes and inhabitants - but what is happening to me right now is that somehow I feel I have lost connection with it, and a little with people too. I'm not able to understand the world as I would like to, I can't get myself to feel connected with it. I guess it will pass. Maybe it's a question of sleeping and dreaming well, but I believe, in my more or less hidden innermost self, that something strange is taking off inside me, that my life is about to change. I think about the quotes by the poet Rainer Maria Rilke: "Transform your wall into a rung" and "Love your solitude and bear the suffering that it causes you" and another that I don't remember exactly but that says something like we don't have to understand life, that living in a carefree way turns everything into a celebration. It may be that this discomfort I'm feeling today is nothing, or maybe it's my brain...that it no longer can or wants to process certain things. Or it could be that the beautiful full moon I see from my window is a bit to blame. It's impressive tonight, so clear, so powerful the light.
Detail, portrait of Rilke by Helmut Westhoff in ….
Palm Sunday has dawned. I saw the match during the hour of the wolf here in Barcelona, and understood part of what was bothering me, and I sank a little further. It's true that things are happening in my life - sicknesses and the natural deterioration of my parents, everyday challenges that all human beings have to confront one way or another - but I think that all day yesterday, I also had a kind of premonition about San Lorenzo, that the team was going to have to really sweat it. And now I feel somewhat empty, frustrated. ("...Like a passing cloud my dreams are leaving/ they are leaving, they will not return again…")
Deep down, I understand that it's the thing of a mentally foggy day, that we always change, we evolve, that dreams do return. Even so, understanding that, I'm not finding much optimism this morning and, like almost always, that goes hand-in-hand with the luck of our club. When we cut it down to 1-2 at the beginning of the second half, I was convinced that we're going to come back. But the match got away from us. Pipi and the others were up to the challenge, but the Twins team had ambitions and their own ideas that complicated the outcome of San Lorenzo's attack very effectively for almost the whole second half. I've never seen Mercier so hamstrung. Piatti's absence was very noticeable, the collective play was quite sloppy, the boys were not at the level required for this match.
I understand the idea of giving certain players a rest, but I still think that our head coach shouldn't keep the best weapons for future matches. You have to always give it your all, until you drop. It's not necessary to give anyone the advantage from the get go. You have to have a lot of courage; you don't have to do what other coaches do with other teams. . Others have nothing to do with us in [terms of] soccer tradition. This is San Lorenzo, damn it, and we have to go balls to the wall at all times. I know that there will probably be few Cuervos that completely share my point of view, but that's how I see it and I think that's how I'll always see it, that you have to fight to the death in every moment of every match. Cholo Simeone exemplifies it in the Spanish League when he approaches each match of his Atlético de Madrid as if it were a final. Meanwhile, I think his most important opponents, Ancelotti with Real Madrid and Tata with Barcelona, have been too cautious with their line-ups and tactics for certain matches and at times, that timidity led to negative results for their teams.
This morning I'm going out to be with people all day and luckily I won't have much time to think much about last night's defeat and the difficult matches that await us, or about life that follows its own course. I have a hope, an idea that could become reality for our club - that we get Lanús in the final phase of the Copa Libertadores so we can avenge ourselves and reverse the thrashing they gave us at home yesterday. For us and for San Lorenzo de Almagro, I finish with (why not?) a brief and beautiful poem by Rilke.
My Life is Not...
My life is not this steeply sloping hour,
in which you see me hurrying.
Much stands behind me; I stand before it like a tree;
I am only one of my many mouths,
and at that, the one that will be still the soonest.
I am the rest between two notes,
which are somehow always in discord
because Death's note wants to climb over--
but in the dark interval, reconciled,
they stay there trembling.
And the song goes on, beautiful.
-Rainer Maria Rilke
(translated from the German by Stephen Mitchell; from The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke)
Cuervo, the cold is new and elemental. And on Saturday a strong wind rose, with big gusts that left everything upside down on the terrace at home, knocked down the lamp over the grill (where, under a lethal and heavy sun, before becoming champions, we ate that salad that I made with Roquefort, onion, tomatoes and sardines, remember? ) and scattered flowerpots everywhere. Afterwards, at night, that same wind scattered the CASLA players and opened huge spaces between the defense and the middle, and that´s where the lethal shots by the Lanús players got in. They were four shots at point blank range. For a moment, it looked as if we´d tie, but no. The other day, my brother Juan said to me we didn´t have to worry beyond the shocking blowout because it had been a strange match. I was reminded of the match we lost, 3-1, in our field against Argentine Juniors, do you remember? Anyway there´s not much chance of being stuck in the mould, remaining a fixture in this championship. Today it´s Monday and on Wednesday, we´ll be in the Bombonera in a lethal match, again. Today Bauza said that Piatti was going to play. It seems to me that beyond the importance of the championship, we all want to win the Cup and in the miraculous game with which we qualified, it seemed to us that we could. Although the Cup seems like one of those hysterical women who likes to make you beg. Regarding what you told me, about feeling like a stranger, having your head in another place, Cuervo, that is something that happens to almost all of us who think too much. That's why I do karate, to try to stop the machine from thinking about Gladys [tr. note: metaphoric reference to a book of that title]. On the other hand, with your work and your temperament, it's difficult for you to stay still in one single place and sometimes that´s necessary for some [people's] spirits. Maybe you need "just family" time, without films or any sort of trips, taking each step slowly, looking at the garden, meditating. Just now I'm reading a novel by Juan José Saer that made me immediately overcome the bad patch with Lanús. It's called La Grande [The Great One] and it's a hymn to the powerful forces of life, the corruption of time and the beauty of being. Did you see that The Twins are being perverse? Because it's fine that they dressed the same when they were little boys and their mother dressed them, but as grown-ups? They are brilliant and diabolical, and their teams play on the attack. They seem like the lead characters in Dead Ringers, by your friend Cronenberg. From Boedo, your Cuervo friend who loves you so much.
© Morgan Creek Productions.
Thanks, buddy. I love you, too. I'm sure that you are right about the thing of stopping a little, keeping still. I think I'm going to try to take a step back soon, to rid myself of some of my professional obligations and think carefully about things, because I am a little whacked. I'm trying to travel less lately, but it's difficult to say no to those who need my help and also I think that it's important to fulfil my professional obligations, no matter where they take me in the world. All of that has me traveling a lot. Also, since I live in Spain, I'm frequently going to see my parents and the rest of my family in North America. The traveling thing isn't a problem; as I've told you on other occasions, I always like traveling, even without knowing exactly where I'm going. The problem, for me, is when I lose the ability or the inner desire to reach my destination, that inner compass that I spoke about yesterday. But, yes, I hear you. You're right and I'm going to try to slow down the unnecessary messes I get myself into as much as I can. I already have enough pace and pressure in my life being a Cuervo! By the way, thanks for the lovely interview you did for webpage deboedovengo.com. I think it's the best interview of yours that I've read about San Lorenzo and the way you understand soccer and life. For those of you who haven't seen it, here's that gem:
Last edited: 4 July 2022 10:08:09