The Beauties & The Beasts #1

PATHOS Penpal Project

Deutsch-Amerikanischer Briefaustausch zwischen Antigone Akgün (DE) und John L. Peacock (USA)

Im Rahmen der Reihe «King Kong und die weissen Frauen»

Dear Jon,

I am very excited to be writing to you today for the first time – and to read a lot from you in the future!

It’s already quite late and next to my computer there’s a long to-do-list which I compose each day anew and then discard in the evening – while rolling my eyes. Today, but also in the last months, I notice how much confusion is in my brain: no, not a nice thrill, not even a tickling excitement, but a huge heavy cloud of uncertainty that expands without being asked.

I had hoped not to mention this topic – when I was told in August that we will start our penpal project in October – but yes, the corona infections in Germany today have reached their highest rate since the beginning of the pandemic and the sirens in my head are singing their deafening song of anxiety again. Not only today, I am faced with the question of how predictable the immediate future (let’s say „tomorrow“?) still is.

Actually, while writing to you right now I realize, that I’m feeling a very human feeling: we humans can’t plan at all, we can’t weigh ourselves in security, because we are at a disadvantage in the eternal rut of time. But irritatingly many people are so rarely told about that. Eagerly sprinting against the clock, many of us grow up in precisely timed structures (hashtag: to-do list) and live a life for the future. Some of us may even remain stuck in the past. In any case, I hardly think that anyone lives in the present. Can we actually do that? Can humans do that? Be in the now? Or does one breathe only by winking at a future goal? Is teleological life a construction of our society and will we ever get out of it? Is the pandemic perhaps an opportunity to question this model of the neglected present and the preferred future?

How are you, dear John?
Are you living in the present? What is the situation in the US – a few scraps of the election campaign and also the pandemic are arriving here as well, but how do you experience your present – politically, as well as socially?

I am very happy receive to your first mail!
Read you soon!

And take care!



Howdy, Antigone

So many answers come from reading your wonderful letter! There’s a crazy despondence in the world, or, at least, in the world I’m experiencing these days. Always? Anyways, there’s something more urgent in the pop people who claim to be our new culture, and while I understand their rhetoric, I don’t understand why people seem to see this as something new.

I should have responded to your letter sooner. But, yeah, so, here’s the thing: I’m on a road trip across the United States (of America); NYC to LA via the North, then LA to NYC via the South, twenty-one days in a camper van (rented) with my partner (of so many things) to arrive back home (Brooklyn) the night before the general US election of 2020 concludes (November 3rd); it’s a pre-election introspection of the country I’ve always known as Home (even if a state, a region, or even a city didn’t quite feel like my home even when it housed me), and I’ve found it’s all through the gaze of locals gazing back at the oddly-painted camper van, my partner, our Pekinese, and myself with my over-eight-months growth of curly ginger hair, grown out due to my new-found fear of visiting a barber with my mask on.

Tonight I’m at my seventy-seven year old mother’s bed and breakfast in southern Idaho; we just arrived after a couple days in Yellowstone. Her birthday was earlier this month, and we’d not seen each other since New Year’s 2020. We didn’t touch, my mom and me, and talked through masks. You asked if I’ve been living in the moment. The sheer newness of the long roads recently behind me, along with this hypervigilance of scanning to see who wears a mask around me and who does not, keeps me more present than I’ve felt myself (existing within) in a long time. It’s awe-some; fills me with it. It overwhelms me if I start to think about it, makes me want to crawl back in my shell and numb the world away, especially as the election in America draws near, but this road trip I’ve dedicated myself, along with my partner and our dog (the cat stayed home…this time…), to has forced me to remain open, like a raw nerve.

Do you stay present? Can you maintain this state? Is there enough sanity left for you, me, my aging dog, and the rest? Is there objective sanity left in this world? Or have we splintered into alt facts, alt truth, alt reality? (So asks one writer to another…ha…) 

What consumes your days these days?

Till the next road letter, be well and stay well. I look forward to it all!


Jon L Peacock