GUEST POST // Okoto Enigma Interviews Tetiana Aleksina & Tony Single

OKOTO: What is your blog about?

TONY: Firstly, we want to thank you for interviewing us, Okoto. What a cool opportunity! To answer your question: Unbolt Me is a literary blog. In a literal sense. It’s a repository of poems, prose, and any other odds and ends that we might dream up.

TATI: Yes, we have also made art, audio clips, and even a video! But we will never deviate from our main axis. We will always be about the writings.

OKOTO: When and why did you decide to start a blog?

TATI: It was July 2014. Why? Because I had decided that six months of studying English was enough, and that I was ready to knock the spots off Shakespeare and Hemingway. I decided to think big and enter the international arena straightaway. That is how me and my ‘blameless’ writings found ourselves on WordPress.

TONY: I discovered Tati’s writings on Unbolt, and was immediately drawn in by the uniqueness of her imagination. It was completely idiosyncratic and out there. She and I struck up a friendship via email which eventually led to her inviting me to work with her on the blog together.

TATI: Tony’s first official post was A Sea Change Involving a Cow’. Unbolt became Unbolt Me after that point. But before this he was featured as a guest many times, and we wrote some cool collaborations.

OKOTO: Where do you see your blog 2 years from now?

TATI: It will be a noisy, busy place. A cheerful community of writers and readers who enjoy communication on our blog. And we aren’t going to turn it into an advertising platform to monetize our traffic, etc.

TONY: Yes, we write books and we want to sell them, like every writer does. But we never want to harass our readers with ads and links to buy.

TATI: Fun, freedom, communication. Those are the three pillars we lean on.

OKOTO: How far have you gone since you started blogging? And what do you hope to gain?

TONY: We’ve gone from being a blog with a dozen regular visitors to one that’s widely read and appreciated by many more from all walks of life.

TATI: Yes, Unbolt Me is a pretty popular blog, but I wouldn’t want to show off with our tinkling, statistical regalia here.

TONY: True. We’re very fortunate to have garnered any level of attention at all.

TATI: As for me… yes, I still can’t believe that my name is on the covers of real books. And this wouldn’t have happened without me starting this blog in the first place.

TONY: And we’re going to write many more. We want to make a living off our books. That’s the end game.

OKOTO: What/who inspires you to blog?

TONY: Tati. My wife. The fact that I’m poor.

TATI: Our amazing community and its warm feedback. We get many comments, many encouraging words. Our dear readers make us believe in what we do and that gives us the fuel to go ahead. Also, Tony, his wife and the fact that he’s poor. Okay, I joke. But Tony inspires me, of course. Especially his bizarre dreams.

OKOTO: What is the easiest thing about blogging? And what do you find most difficult?

TATI: The easiest thing is creating a new post. The most hard is pressing ‘Publish’.

TONY: And we get to work and agonise together. How cool is that? Honestly, we achieve so much more as a team than we ever could on our own.

OKOTO: Who has impacted you the most in blogging and why?

TATI: I read many cool blogs, and I do enjoy them and the people who stand behind them. I was honored to collaborate with many talented bloggers at the beginning of Unbolt Me’s life, and it’s been the most precious experience. But my answer will be… no one.

TONY: My answer would be… everyone. But, as I don’t like sharing the glory, I’ll amend that answer and say ‘no one’ too! Okay, but seriously, I fear that by listing some bloggers I’ll forget to list others. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel left out.

OKOTO: What do you think is the best strategy that worked well for you to get more traffic to your blog?

TONY: First and foremost it’s the writing. You’ve got to really work at the writing, to make it the best you think it can be every single time. Without that there’s no compelling reason for readers to keep coming back.

TATI: Yes, our strategy is the same for any activity: malls, pubs or blogs… it doesn’t matter. Be cool, be different. Be passionate about what you do.

TONY: Write it and they will come.

TATI: Amen.

OKOTO: What was/has been the most challenging moment in your blogging journey so far?

TONY: Declining collaborations hasn’t been easy. People get understandably offended when we do this. It’s not that we’re snobs or that no one is as good as we are. On the contrary, there are many writers whose abilities eclipse our own that we would gladly work with. However, we’re so focused on what we’re trying to achieve with our own projects that it doesn’t leave much time for anything else.

TATI: As for me, it was the moment when I realized that it was pretty hard to handle the growing attention that we were getting. I was happy… and a bit scared. That’s why I’m really grateful to Tony who takes care of the comments on Unbolt Me. I remember how I was struggling with this, feeling unable to catch every interaction, worried that readers might think I didn’t care or something.

TONY: Tati is my favourite person to work with, so any difficulties that arise are mitigated by the fact that we are in this together. That gives me a lot of strength and encouragement.

OKOTO: What is your advice to bloggers and everyone out there?

TATI: Follow your dreams. Go ahead and never stop.

TONY: Wear socks at all times. Except in summer. It’s too hot and sweaty in summer.

 

by OKOTO ENIGMA
© All rights reserved 2017

GUEST POST // The Holocaust Box by Paol Soren

I have a box on my desk. Here is where my father lived.

One year ago today I received a large box with all Papa’s papers in it. It came from Douglass and Cohn, Solicitors of Bank Place, Melbourne. In it were all the records of my family’s dealings with the law as long as I can remember. They keep all documentation for twenty years and then destroy it unless any of the family wants it and I am the only family.

I have two fathers. I know that now but I only found out one year ago. One year ago I only knew Papa. Mama died when I was twelve and I loved her dearly. She was always such a happy person. I really could do with her now but that is asking too much – I am eighty years old and I will join them all soon.

Papa died in 1993. He was as old as I am now and he never told me who I was.

Here is where my other father lived – in a box.

My first real memory was of the ocean. I cannot remember my childish feelings but I do know the ocean was cold and then very hot and then quite cold again and we were on a boat with thousands of other people, old and young but mostly sad. I remember coming to Melbourne although I didn’t know what a Melbourne was, then. But it was a house and it was quiet and peaceful and I think I know that because I felt that it was different.

At home we spoke German. At school I spoke English and as the years went by I spoke German less and English more. But on Sunday we all spoke only German for Papa was the pastor at the German Lutheran Church in our suburb.

I was proud of my father. He spoke well. His sermons were clear. The congregation were very supportive. But as I grew and went to school I learned that being German was not as good in this world as I had thought. I learned about Hitler and the things that had happened in Europe. I put my age and the dates together and knew that we had been involved.

I knew without asking that something momentous had happened in our small family but I was busy with my school and although they said little I asked even less.

At school I learned that Australian soldiers had died in the war against Germany. I knew that some Australians hated Germans with a clear and open hatred. And I was included in that. And I wondered what I had done.

But as the years went by, and as I grew and my friends grew we forgot the early hatreds of the war and established our lives and established our families and I married and went to work.

At the church where my father had been pastor we stopped using German and all services were in English. Many parishioners were ordinary Australians and the German character changed and we became an ordinary old “Aussie” church. I became a member of the church council and some people suggested that my commitment was such that I should study to become a pastor as my Papa had been but work was also an attraction and I never did commit myself. I knew, always, that I was a true and faithful Christian.

This is not about my life and my marriage and my children and all that that entails. I could talk forever if I was writing a history of my life but I am not. Because everything that my life, my marriage, my children were to me, changed that day, one year ago, when I opened the box.

I am Jewish. I am not my father’s son. My mother, whom I loved dearly, lied to me all those years. In the box I learned the truth. I learned that I am Jewish. I am a ‘Yid’. I am supposed to have curly hair and a big nose. Oh, and I am supposed to be in the financial world. And I am not. I knew nothing of being Jewish, only those stereotypes.

And in the box I learned that Papa, and Mama, whom I loved dearly, were no longer my parents. And I slammed the lid of the box shut and cried and cried as only an old man can cry. I had few tears left inside my head but I sobbed and sobbed.

And I opened the lid of the box again and read. And again I slammed the lid of the box shut and cried and cried as only an old man can cry.

And then I stopped. I stopped sobbing for I am an old man and sobbing is for old women.

And I will tell you the box.

The box spoke of Hitler and the Brown shirts and Kristallnacht which I didn’t need to learn because I had learned it at school. At school it had just been one more factor in our year twelve Modern History Course – just another subject to pass to get into University. Make sure you impress the examiners if you want a good score. Do you want to study Law? Modern History is a fairly easy way to get a good score. Crystal Night. They burnt books. Or was that another night. I don’t remember. It was the Jews.

I am a Jew! I slammed the box shut. I will leave it for a while. Maybe it will be a dream.

But the dream did not let me alone.

I opened the box. I will tell you the box’s story.

The box told of the Jews disappearing. They got on a train and were never seen anymore. Papa was a young Pastor then. But he had a very old friend from when he was a boy in school in the village. Yakob Aronheim and Papa had played together as friends. And now Yacob was a Rabbi. And Papa and Yacob were still friends. The Nazis knew that Papa was sympathetic toward the Jews. Many Christians were not. Papa was so concerned that he was soon to be targeted by the Nazis. He decided to go quietly to Belgium. He spoke with Yakob and Yakob’s wife and suggested that they should also leave. But Yacob could not get the right papers. I know this sounds very terse but it is as the box told it.

What way can I help you?

Miriam and I have talked. Would you take Yacob, our son, and have him as your son?

Of course.

And do not tell him we left him.

Of course not.

And don’t let him be Jewish or he will die as we will.

Of course. But No! Not of course. He must know who he is.

Then when he is old enough to understand.

But I do not understand and I am old. And I slammed the lid.

I opened the lid. The box will tell. But the box told no more.

And I am a Jew. And I have two fathers and two mothers and I knew only one father and for a short time a mother. And I am a Jew and I have nothing to say – nothing to think – nothing to know.

And I started to run – to run to books – to run to friends – to run to my father. But my father was dead. Who is my father? Papa, are you my father or is Yakob my father?

And as I cried this time I cried, ‘My father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy …… ‘ And I slammed the lid shut.

I am a Jew. I am a Christian. My God, My God, who am I. Why hast thou forsaken me? Who am I now?

And I ran to the box but the lid was shut. There was no more in the box. I knew I was alone. No father, no parent, no God.

And I stopped crying like an old lady.

There is a suburb in Melbourne that I drove through every day to work. Carlisle Street, Balaklava. Strange men walking with large black hats on their head. Young men with yarmulkes keeping their heads covered whether they know why or not. So I stopped and walked down Carlisle Street. I won’t say I felt at home. But I was quite at ease. A young man in a beard and a black suit with his white shirt hanging out and tassels stopped me.

“Are you Jewish?” he asked.

“No,” I answered. “Do I look Jewish?”

“Well, yes you do.”

“Well I am not. What do you want?”

“We are praying for peace in Israel,” he said, winding some black string around his arm. I ignored that.

“No,” I said, a little more gently than before, “But I think I am on your side.” And I walked away feeling quite pleased with my self although I had no idea why.

I looked up Jewish Museum in the phone book. I lived quite close and it was Friday and I drove and parked and walked and it was closed. It is always closed on Fridays and Saturdays when all the other museums in Australia are opened.

And the days passed. And the weeks. And I went to libraries and read and read and read and then I started to cry again.

When I was in school we learned of things that the box had said. The box spoke of Hitler and the Brown shirts and Kristallnacht. But I already told you that. At school it had just been one more factor in our year twelve Modern History Course. And I told you that as well. I don’t remember Year Twelve Modern History. I learned more now. I learned of Crystal Night and Dachau and burning and gas. But now it was personal. I went back to the box.

And in the bottom was a small dark letter and my father Yacob was dead in Auschwitz. My father and mother had made it to Belgium but that was not enough. My mother was Miriam.

And I am a Jew. The box could tell me no more. It told me where to start but I had to find my own way.

The next Sunday I went to church – as I have done for all my life. And I know that when I got up, halfway through the sermon they all looked at me. Is Jacob all right? Why is he leaving? Why doesn’t someone go after him? He doesn’t look well.

I will tell you this. Jacob is not well. I am Yacob, and I am not well.

My God! My God! Why hast thou forsaken me? No I am not well.

I walked that day right in to town. I left my car. I did not notice the tram. I walked all the way to the Cathedral. If God is here, here will he be.

I knelt to pray. But I could not pray. “Father forgive me for I have sinned.”

My God! My God! Why did you forsake me? Why did you forsake my father and my mother? How many did you forsake?

I was Jacob wrestling with the angel. I was Job in all his torment. And God replied but I could not listen.

For I am a Jew and I haven’t learned to forgive God.

And I closed the lid, and I took the box.

And I burned my own private holocaust.

I am glad I will die soon.

 

by PAOL SOREN
© All rights reserved 2015

GUEST POST // Interlude by Gordon Flanders

I didn’t smoke weed, and I didn’t drink, but under the fluorescent lights of Canal Street Station I feel like a thing that slithers. Somehow my fingernails got dirty. I was walking with the girl who I was formerly obsessed with, and I was telling her what I thought was a very interesting story. What I know was an interesting story, in fact, from her gasps every time we hit a pivotal point. And then, in the middle, we ran into some old friends of hers she hadn’t seen in a while. She’s from here and she’s popular, so this happens a lot. There were eight of them. Normally I would just smile and shake everyone’s hand and all that, but I just couldn’t give a fuck about these people and how they knew each other and anything like that, so I stood off to the side and waited for her to ask for her bag so she could go with them. I enjoyed the breeze and I checked my phone. Finally she called me over and her friends were like wtf why are you just standing over there! Meanwhile she had just asked minutes ago why I never do what I want. So that was the thing I wanted, to not talk to these people. I was really fine with her leaving with them, very convenient escape for me, but I did not want to meet them all for no reason. But I did anyway because what kind of asshole would I have to be to hand her her bag and say goodbye and nothing else. So I shook hands with every single one of them. There were people she didn’t even know and I shook hands with them, too. One guy said now repeat our names back to us. I said, I value you guys as people but I don’t have a memory like that. Everyone thought that was funny. You had to be there. So now I look awesome. From weirdo to awesome in sixty seconds. After five excruciating minutes where everyone tried to pretend that we could have an inclusive conversation, they ask what’s up next. I hand my friend her bag and say goodbye, shaking hands with enthusiasm and warmth and real kindness in my eyes. Eight people I will never see again, now they all have a piece of my soul. The train just won’t seem to arrive.

by GORDON FLANDERS
© All rights reserved 2017

GUEST POST // You Will Be Gone by John Feaster

My life goes alone

But it is not a safe life for anyone,
I just hold on to all that I can …
Try this or that, but I am a lost boy.

And when you say, “Maybe, I will read you
In a book store one day” …

I know you are gone.
I am a lost boy writing my life in a song,
And that is all I will ever be.

That is all I will ever have
To give you my darling lady. I will
Always love you, and you will be gone.

 

by JOHN FEASTER
© All rights reserved 2017