Monday, September 10, 2012

hello?

Oh hey long lost blog. Anyone out there?

It's actually only been a month or maybe two since I wrote last.  Do I dare pick it up again?  Would I be doing it only to leave one last post, only to avoid spoiling the poor thing with the eternal association of food trucks?

Maybe. 

Summer has quickly come and gone.  How often do I say that?  Today I read a nice quote that said something like "Aging is Father Time finally catching up with Mother Nature."  Part of me thought that was cute, and another part of me wanted to murder Father Time.  I turned 25 a few weeks ago. Wore a daring mini-skirt and found a coarse, gray hair to go with it. When did a quarter century go by?  

It's been a weird summer, I have enjoyed it thoroughly, and it has flown by.  All the same, I have been waiting.   Why did I put myself in the waiting position?  I had my reasons, but was it the only option?  Here's another quote for you.  Madonna said it in one of her songs.  It's been ringing in my ears all week: "Time goes by so slowly for those who wait." 

And that's the thing about Father Time.  There is a way to try and slow him down, watching the clock tick and tock, relishing the fact that your head contains just one gray hair, and waiting with wide shining eyes for a great or greater moment.  Your life surely won't fly by that way.  But who would choose such torture??

Sometimes there is little choice though.  This week might just crawl..

Sunday, July 22, 2012

food trucks


Every time I come here, be it for one week or one month, there is some strange new trend that didn't exist the last time I was here.  For example--the ipads that scan your credit card and you sign with your finger, or the foodie-obsession with nutrient-rich kale...
Or the FOOD TRUCKS.  Yes, they are exactly what they sound like.  Food trucks.  They park all over the city and set up a portable restaurant right in front of their service windows.  There are breakfast ones, lunch ones, even late-nite ones! On sunny days downtown, all the business men are sitting on their picnic tables in suits enjoying the fresh (and cheap!) food they have to offer...
And they offer EVERYTHING.  In fact, I think a prerequisite for owning a food truck is specializing in some bizarre fusion of cuisines, like Indian Burritos, or Hawaiian Barbeque.  The one right next to Andrew's house that I passed every day on my way home from work last week was called "Le Truc" and, so boring, specialized in french cuisine.  It was an adorable truck though.
They are all adorable trucks, just the french one per usual is cuter than the rest.  But really, another prerequisite of the food truck: aesthetically pleasing.  The french one is in a navy blue school bus (like the typical yellow ones, but navy blue) with classic white cursive lettering and chic black umbrellas.
If you aren't already thrilled by the idea of Food Trucks, just wait because it's about to get much, much better.  
The best part about these food trucks is that they congregate.

A music festival? You can bet the Taco Truck and the Salad Toss Truck are there.

A flea market?  The Korean Kobe Burger truck would be stationed and serving by noon, right alongside the Peruvian Pigs in a Blanket.

An empty parking lot full of Food Trucks? Yep.

A PARTY DEDICATED STRICTLY TO FOOD TRUCKING? DAMN STRAIGHT.

And they take credit cards.  The end.
(this was a sort of letter I wrote to Lucas, part of the series I like to call Just wait til you get here cause even I'm having culture shock.  Then I thought I should just share it with others, for anyone who might still be out there reading this, who actually know and experience what I am talking about. Do you guys thinks it's funny too?)

Monday, July 2, 2012

hello sf

Hi everyone from sunny and breezy SF.

I arrived with few troubles on Thursday night.  MAD to JFK to SFO, a payphone, a slouchy, dimly-lit BART ride, then all the sudden, just like that, I find myself waiting downstairs at the 16th and Mission muni for Ash because upstairs, outside on the corner, the station is overly populated with crazies at all hours of the day...

I have to admit that I have had one person on my mind a lot since I got here, partly because he will be here in September.  It will be his first everything, having never been to the US before.  So I see crazies downstairs even at the 16th and Mission muni station, and think of him, he who has a million notions but really no idea what to expect, he who does not yet realize the extent of madness the San Francisco hobos are all about.  He's going to love them.

So anyway, a little reverse culture shock here and there, but give it a week... in any case, I'm currently sitting in this garden of eden at my July summer pad...part of me hoping that somehow plans will change and it will remain my August pad as well.  I really had no idea what to expect, besides the slightly scary location, so you can imagine what a pleasure it was to find this tiny, two-floor, tucked away paradise on 21st and York.  I love everything about it (except walking alone at night).

So wish me luck in the next week that everything else falls into place.  I totally forgot that Wednesday was the one and only 4th of July, so that is kind of putting a stop on things for me, and by that I mean I am putting a stop on things because I want to go drink beers on a boat.  I know we can't have it all, but we can have a little.  A bit of indulgence is the key to happiness, right?


Saturday, June 16, 2012

beginning and end of summer

So it's my second-to-last Saturday in Madrid before heading back to SF for the supposed summer.

I sort of can't believe I'm giving up the long, sunny Spanish days that I so love.  For chilly, grey SF. The coldest winter I ever knew, a summer in San Francisco.

And the nice weather, the long days, there is so much that comes with it.  Gazpacho, sandals, hours of tinto de verano and cañas in the terrazas around the city, IBIZA...

Tonight we're going to see Guadalupe Plata, an awesome Spanish dirty blues/rock band.  This is the type of music you groove to, sweat with, you don't mind that your eye make-up runs a bit 'cause it goes with the feel of the whiney, erotic guitar.

This goes out to the people I want to see longer than the blink of an eye...quality time will have never felt so good!  I'll be living up my last few weeks of summer here, with other people I will dearly miss, and I'll say goodbye with a touch of remorse but more than anything an incredible thrill.  The countdown has begun---see you in two weeks!


Saturday, June 9, 2012

saturday


Wishing I were here...  northern-most point of Ibiza--Santa Agnes.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

subcultures/gypsies/prueba

Considering its situation, Spain itself is by no means diverse, Madrid and Barcelona being the only places one kind find an array of different cultures, and even so it's not saying much.  In the city center, my lovely neighborhood of Embajadores might be the only area where you can find several different cultures melding together like a poorly cut puzzle.

I could go into how this puzzle sort of works, but there is the looming fear of political incorrectness, and in any case, this post has greater purposes.

Like the gypsies.  The gypsies in my neighborhood are many, and what's funny (predictable) is that because they blend in a bit more looks-wise, I was never very quite aware of their numerosity.  Everything changed, of course, when all of the sudden they were my students. And all of these students are in one way or another cousins, or so they say, and their moms and dads and aunts and uncles and grandparents are in the street all the time.

They don't say hi much...in fact I salute them with waaaaay too much enthusiasm considering the majority hardly give me a smile.  It is a very, very closed culture (probably even more so than the Chinese who are also mingling on the same street corners).  In any case, I want someone to let me in, because I am actually boiling inside with curiosity for who they are, who they were, their histories.  Nobody seems to know where they came from...I've asked several and received all different answers... in any case there are some things that are just general knowledge, like the roots of flamenco lie in the gypsy culture, and that gypsy law is far different than that of the state, and that to this day, they practice la prueba del pañuelo.

And this is what I've been getting to, la prueba del pañuelo, or the handkerchief test, because I just feel the need to share this...

It probably goes without saying, but we will start from the beginning: the gypsy culture is a very chauvinistic one.  Once women are older, they can enjoy a matriarchal position over their children and grandchildren and ailing husbands, but this, obviously, does not come without a long, hard life of paying the price of respect.  In the beginning, women are seen as sex objects, and once they are married (usually very early), they are in charge solely of producing children (preferably boys) and raising them on the same principles they themselves were.

That being said, young gypsy women are expected to save their virginity for marriage (of course, the double standard is obvious: young gypsy men are encouraged to sleep with as many women as they like).  To ensure that the young woman has kept to her promise, la prueba del pañuelo  is performed on the eve of her wedding.

La prueba del pañuelo entails the bride, her grandmother or some other elderly wise woman, and the closest female sisters, cousins, etc to enter a room with a handkerchief.  The matriarch then opens the girls legs, and with her hand in the handkerchief, penetrates the girl.  If the handkerchief is pulled out with rosas, figurative for blood, they celebrate the woman's soon-to-be marriage.  If not, the wedding is called off, the girl may never marry, and her family will probably be shamed.

I don't know what to make of it all, you make of it what you will.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

stress

Each time I sit at my computer to write something, pretty much all that comes out is a flood of confusion.  I don't even think my mom wants to read that.

Aaaaaaand I've been spending an average of five minutes a day sporadically visiting the kitchen to fish pieces of chocolate out of a cereal box.  I didn't even realize it, but I think this is how I deal with taxing stress.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

virgen del rocío ii



Today marked the first day of the romería.  Watching the fireworks from my balcony....

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

radio tuesday


Corazón de melón, de melón, melón melón melón melón melón 

Friday, May 18, 2012

la virgen de rocío

I know I was complaining about my lack of inspiration in my last post...but hey, I have my good days and then my bad.

Last Saturday morning I went to my first-ever mass in Spain.  I was invited by a family from my school to a very special event for their church's virgen, the Virgen del Rocío.  The Romería, or procession, de la Virgen de Rocío, takes place in Huelva, Andalucia, and is one of the most important in the country.  Over a million people will be there next weekend.

So each city in Spain has a sisterhood of this saint (as well as other saints), and the sisterhood of Rocío happens to be at La Iglesia de San Millán y San Cayetano, the church I am looking at now from my balcony, which also happens to be the one in front of my school whose inside patio we use as a playground.  My school, unlike most charter schools in Spain, is not at all religious (especially considering the wide array of ethnicities that belong to it), but it is admittedly poor and resourceful, and we are very lucky to have this space for our use.

Anyway, when they invited me I clearly had to go, because if one word could sum up my third year in Madrid, it's neighborhood.  Living and working in the same neighborhood is a luxury here, and I have never felt like such a small-town girl in such a big city.  I skip down the hill to school in the morning with my students, I walk home for lunch and a nap, I know a great part of the people I pass in the streets.  It is a beautiful, beautiful thing that I sort of can't believe I'm giving up (I officially gave notice in my school last week, more on that to come later...).   I am not religious, but sometimes when I look out over my balcony, see the rooftops, the clotheslines, the chapel, I can actually feel my soul fill up with energy.

Enjoy the photos and video...




Inside the church...in the corner is the "float" (for lack of a better word?).  Because the chapel of Rocío is in Andalucia, the typical outfits are flamenco-inspired...colorful, ruffled dresses with huge flowers on the head.  The men were dressed sort of like cowboys.


The choir.  The music was probably the best part of it all.  Going along with flamenco/gypsy theme, the choir was complete with a Spanish guitar and a flute.  I didn't realize people sang like this in church.  It's like the gospel music of Spain.  If you have never heard the way flamenco music is sung, scroll down to watch the video.  


My students :)  Also, the mother in white and red, a seamstress who works from home, literally dressed all the neighborhood women.


They blocked off Calle Embajadores to bring the float out; it took 10 men to lower it down the old church steps.


One of the main reasons I went...to see the oxen pull the float. 



Once out on the street, people threw rose petals from the balconies.  Just lovely.



My only regret about taking this video is not having started it earlier...

video

"Reza por nosotros, Madre, por tus hijos Madrileños..."


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

things and more things

Sorry I've been out of the loop lately.  Keeping up with this thing is no easy task...  I find it harder and harder to come up with things I feel like writing about considering this blog was initially about Spanish culture, which has become my own adopted culture, and the novelty is no longer quite so apparent.

But I woke up exhausted today after nine hours of sleep (weird how that happens), so I'm here this morning thinking I will just see where things go while I drink my iced coffee that literally has four teaspoons of sugar in it.  People would appall at my dosage in the US, and this actually delights me.  I just want to make one thing clear to all my friends and family out there, particularly the ones who use Splenda instead of regular sugar (which is pretty much everyone): I eat copious amounts of toast every morning, I lather them all with butter and jam, and I use regular sugar ALWAYS.  I'm not the slimmest of creatures but goddamnit I live well.  Thank you, European lifestyle, for granting me such pleasures. Lots o' carbs, lots o' sugar... no car, no problem.

Which leads me to my next update-ramble, which is that I have taken on a new perspective on city life, that being the perspective from my bicycle seat.  I have to admit that this is a total love-hate deal....Madrid was NEVER meant for bicycles, and it is literally a challenge to find semi-safe but quick routes to get around the city.  Nonetheless, the wind in your face is always worth it, even after you slam on your brakes, skid, and then fall in avoiding a clueless pedestrian kill.  I don't know which team I route for anymore...vehicles are my enemy, but I think pedestrians are my ARCH enemy.

But when I'm not trying to get around in a hurry, I can enjoy outings to places like Casa de Campo, this huge park on the western edge of Madrid.  This park is amazing because it is literally a huge sprawl of countryside just a 10 minute ride away.  It reminds me of a park near my childhood home, Dekovend I think it was called, where in my nine years living nearby I never ceased to discover new hidden areas.

We actually went yesterday as it was a holiday in Madrid--San Isidro, patron saint of Madrid.  I love this holiday because not only is it celebrated over a span of five days, but I love the costumes that come with it. People dress up as "chulapos", a word that comes from "chulo", which means cool.  Madridleños sort of have the reputation of being some cool cats.  Anyway, adults and children alike  wear typical outfits that I highly recommend googling this minute.  So many people dressed up like this around the city all weekend makes you feel like you took a time machine to the past.

Well, the coffee's gone, my eyes are a little less heavy, and I'd better get a move on. That's all for the moment, until next time...

Friday, April 20, 2012

photos extremadura/portugal

Ahh! I can't keep up!  Here are photos from the second half of Semana Santa: road trip out west...


The lovely, Extremeña Laura.  Here we are in her land, our first stop on the way to a tiny mountain town called Guijo de Santa Barbara, in La Vera, an absolutely stunning region of Extremadura.  We listened to Vivaldi's Four Seasons the whole way up, because the antenna was broken and it was one of five cassettes we had with us in the car.  It was perfect.


Kodak, or Lucas' fancy camera, moments...


Then we went to this tiny town to meet up with a friend of mine for a beer.  This town is called "El Gordo" and is known in the area for its many storks.  They actually have to put up spikes to stop the storks from building their gigantic nests on crumbling buildings.

 Trujillo, a town in the province of Cáceres....


...had one of the most impressive plaza mayors (main squares) I have ever seen.  That statue in the background is of the conquistador Francisco Pizarro, who was born in Trujillo.  Supposedly this statue was originally a gift to Mexico from United States of  another conquerer--Hernán Cortés.  Considering the fact that Hernán Cortés nearly destroyed the Aztec Empire, Mexico clearly did not want the statue, and it was instead recycled as a gift to Spain.


The fickle spring weather was scary, but luckily it only rained on us when we were in the car.  Here, for the descent into hell, we listened to the Smashing Pumpkins cassette.


Then we stopped in the Wolf Vostell Museum, curiously placed in a natural park in the middle of nowhere about 30 minutes outside Cáceres.  Vostell (1932-1998) was a German artist who was friends with Dalí, and you can see why....


His sculptures or installations or whatever you want to call them were focused mainly on human fetishes of the times--lots of cars, televisions and cassettes.  Also note that the storks have made this giant sculpture their home...


And this is in the actual city of Cáceres, I wish I had better photos, but I don't.  In any case, here are people waiting to see the Holy Week processions, also known to foreigners as KKK gatherings.


We experienced Extremadura in all its glorious history.   Here, in Valencia de Alcántara, some prehistoric dolmens.  


PORTUGAL


...amazingly, the first time I crossed the border...


I loved the streets of Portugal...sure in Spain they are narrow and winding and charming, but what are these black and white swirlies?!?!


Our turning point in the route (because we did a sort of oval route) was in a city called Évora, a world heritage site in  Portugal.  This place was so beautiful and charming!  And here are the ruins of a Roman temple that lie there.


We had these two very quirky (and old) waiters at this very cool restaurant cave bar where we had dinner.  They told us about this "club" so we went, and it was this squat-type apartment with live music, an awesome scene, and 2.50 gin tonics.  And that right there in the middle of the picture is our South Korean friend that we met in the hostel.  Let's just say she did not last long with the cheap drinks...


Portugese the Strokes. So cool.


The next morning we roamed around with our hangovers and found a flea market, where we bought 10 new cassette tapes!!!!!!


The main plaza of Évora :)


Just lovely...


Our final stop was Mérida, a city famous for it's incredible Roman ruins which were found only in 1912!


The theatre was stunning...


And I'm out of time, just as the camera was out of battery with this last shot.  Sorry for the lack in detail, gotta run!!!


photos dublin




 On our first stroll around town, we stumbled upon this lovely market inside an old Georgian mansion--the Powerscourt Centre.  Airy, elegant, luminous...expensive.  Luckily just walking around the creaky hardwood platforms was an enjoyable experience...


Dublin's name comes from the old Gaelic Dubhlinn, which literally means "black pool".  I'm not sure if this has anything to do with the river Liffey which runs through the city, whose waters are black and clear and calming.  We were intermittently rained on all weekend, but here we have a nice shot with semi-clear skies, not quite the image you get in Radiohead's first line of How to Disappear Completely
"That there, that's not me--I go where I please--I walk through walls, I float down the Liffey, I'm not here this isn't happening."


 Later we strolled over to the posh area of Merrion Square, a traditional Georgian square surrounded by pristine townhouses.  Not that exciting, but lovely nonetheless.


The reason for the weekend jaunt was to meet Sam and Matt on their Irish tour.  It's amazing how Sam and I get our acts together every year... Anyway, it was awesome to spend the last few days of their trip with them... spring break 4 life! 


This is me in front of the very nice hotel we stayed in, in front of St. Stephen's Green.  I usually stay on couches or in rooms with strangers when I travel, but squatting in Sam and Matt's room made a very different and pleasant experience possible.


And finally, a terrible tourist photo of me touching Molly Malone's breast (for good luck, they say).  She was a fishmonger who died of a fever ('cause no one could save her), and the inspiration of Dublin's unofficial anthem:  
In Dublin's fair city
Where the girls are so pretty
I first set my eyes on Molly Malone...

Monday, April 16, 2012

dublin

On Saturday night I was in a bar in the Camden Street area of little Dublin, a breath of fresh air after a typically not-so-great tourist experience the previous night out in Temple Bar.  If you are not familiar with Dublin, Temple Bar is a neighborhood in the center of the city known for its live music scene and, well, tourists.  We had other lovely moments there during our weekend stay, but that night will be forever memorable for an agressive drunk on the street, a bad frat-style band, and a wasted couple that was actually better live entertainment than the music.

Anyway, a knowledgeable friend had told us to check out the area, and that this bar, Devitt's, was a great spot for "Irish jam", not to be confused with marmalade.  After we made that distinction, we still weren't sure what to expect.  This is one of the best parts of traveling: having an idea of which direction to go, but not really a clue as to what awaits upon arrival...

So we climbed up the steep stairs to the lounge area of Devitt's and were greeted by the typical scene: waxed wooden bar tops and heavy leather-capped stools, dim hanging lamps and tons of ruddy cheeks gulping pints of dark chocolate beer.  Toasty.

After we took it all in, we drew our attention to the instruments strewn about the floor and tables.  The musicians--there were 12, I counted--were on break.  We ordered our pints and sat tight.

The music started up again soon after--and we finally understood what constituted an Irish jam.  Musicians of all ages, sitting about each other in the booths and short stools--there was no stage--dipping in and out of the session at their pleasure.  The songs, incredibly repetitive but nonetheless breathtakingly lovely, lasted 10, 15, 20 minutes, an incredible amalgamation of flutes, fiddles and accordeons.  Sadly this was an acoustic performance that was heavily deadened by the roar of the other side of the bar, the regulars for whom the music and scene at Devitt's was just another night on the town...

But there were moments of hushing, which came between every few songs when one of three vocalists would begin to sing a capella, sometimes joined in harmony by the others.  

I was mesmerized, frankly quite drunk on my 3rd tall beer of the night, and perhaps I had something close to a religious experience during one of these a capella sessions. I had a vision of rolling Irish hills, a small village tucked away somewhere, some celebration, pints clinking and feet stepping to a circular dance, holding hands, the whole village is there, the women in their busty dresses and the men in their sweat-stained smocks, muscles most definitely bulging, everything absolutely bulging with gaiety.

Now I have this song, bits of it really, resounding in the confines of my body...

I could let it out but the frustration of its fragments is killing me, and I fear, I actually am truly afraid, that I will never hear this song again, unless I may find myself anew in ye' olde Ireland, somewhere in my uncertain future...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

quick stop in madrid

It's 1 a.m. Wednesday night and I arrived back to Madrid from Ibiza not long ago.  I literally have one pair of clean socks for the next four-day trip, so here I am up waiting for the washing machine to finish so that I can hang out my clean clothes that will definitely not dry in time for the 1 p.m. departure tomorrow.  Moments like these are when I really miss dryers.

Anyhow, Ibiza was, of course, fantastic.  This was my third trip to the island: I have nearly completed a year cycle in seasons.  I think it goes without saying that summer reigns, but nonetheless the others are just as incredible in their own ways.  This spring trip was a bit faulty in the weather department, as was expected, but the lush landscape was by far the greenest I had seen it.  Then, it wasn't as crowded and buzzing as the summer months, but not as quiet and peaceful as the winter, making for a perfect medium...

And then, as in every season, there was the little patch of land where Lucas' family is settled in typical Ibicencan country homes scattered about each other.  Each home has its name (Lucas' for example, is called Can Torre), its family, its photos and books and history.  In another post, I will have to go into this history, of how Lucas' parents (originally from Madrid) ended up on the island with some 10 others years and years ago.  Anyway, something about this little organic network, tucked away in the woods of Ibiza, fills me with warmth.

I felt strange about leaving, nostalgic hours before I even headed to the airport, but how else was I going to feel?  This place is paradise.

Off to bed, then off to Extremadura.  Pray for my socks, that they may not reek of mildew!

Friday, March 23, 2012

the springtime song, or compositions of a desperate preschool teacher, or aren't you jealous i have sung this 50 times today to a very enthused audience?

Myyyyyyyy....EYES CAN SEE IT'S SPRINGTIME IT'S SPRINGTIME IT'S SPRINGTIME
MY EYES CAN SEE IT'S SPRINGTIME, THE GRASS IS SO GREEN
THE GREEN GRASS THE FLOWERS THE SUNSHINE AND SHOWERS
MY EYES CAN SEE IT'S SPRINGTIME AND I AM HAP-PY

MY EARS CAN HEAR IT'S SPRINGTIME IT'S SPRINGTIME IT'S SPRINGTIME
MY EARS CAN HEAR IT'S SPRINGTIME, THE BIRDS SWEETLY SING
THE BIRDS SING THE DOGS BARK THE BEEZS BUZZ THE FROGS CROAK
MY EARS CAN HEAR IT'S SPRINGTIME AND I AM HAP-PY

MY NOSE CAN SMELL IT'S SPRINGTIME IT'S SPRINGTIME IT'S SPRINGTIME
MY NOSE CAN SMELL IT'S SPRINGTIME THE FLOWERS SMELL SO GOOD
THE LILLIES THE ROSES THE DAISIES THE POSIES
MY NOSE CAN SMELL IT'S SPRINGTIME AND I AM HAP-PY

MY BODY CAN FEEL IT'S SPRINGTIME IT'S SPRINGTIME IT'S SPRINGTIME
MY BODY CAN FEEL IT'S SPRINGTIME, THE AIR IS SO WARM
THE WARM AIR THE BREEZES NO FROSTS AND NO FREEZES
MY BODY CAN FEEL IT'S SPRINGTIME AND I AM HAP-PY



pant pant pant pant siiiiiiiiiigh

Monday, March 19, 2012

quiet monday

Today is Father's Day (aka Saint Joseph's Day) in Spain, and Madrid has decided to celebrate it as a legit no-work holiday this year. I generally prefer Fridays off (get out of some preschool that way), but three day weekends that don't start on Thursday evening but rather go beyond Sunday emit the illusion of being that much longer. I'm swimming in a sea of leisure and trying to ignore the coast I see in the distance...almost time to dock.

But until then, I think I will enjoy this afternoon seated at my desk that no longer looks out over dozens of adobe Spanish rooftops. After the 35345th time I stubbed my toe on my bedstand a few weeks ago, I decided that the view was not worth it. A few hours of nesting and wa-la, an infinitely spacier bedroom, sans a desk with a view. And in any case, that was never part of the criteria: I've got a room of my own and a room with a view, and I think that should suffice.

So now, I shall finally get to what I'm thinking about this quiet Monday afternoon.

I'm thinking about a one city called Madrid, and a one person named Renée, and how terrible of a couple they make.

Their relationship started long ago, but they were just acquaintances then. Renée knew she wanted to be with Madrid, and although Madrid seemed more or less indifferent, it was faintly calling to her in a way that any city calls to young people nearby. When she finally arrived, she felt the city pulsing inside and out, and began to fall in love.

But falling in love is deceiving. Although incredibly pleasurable and exciting, it is a false design of raging hormones, and therefore not at all related to that which is true love.

(Because the real thing is not perfect and it's filled with flaws and disappointments that are invisible to hormone-blinded eyes.......yet it is strong enough to withstand all.)

So anyway, Renée began to fall in love, but the euphoria didn't last long. There were some things about Madrid that just weren't up to par, and Renée realized that she would never truly come to love it. Madrid, as usual, was pretty indifferent, and in the end said to her:

"Look, I know my air is overly contaminated, and my river is shit, and you are not inspired by the charm I have to offer...but I'm not so bad, and in the end I provide shelter to a lot of nice people, so maybe we can make this work out."

Renée contemplated this and found the idea of compromise sweet. She also found that city or town, coast or mountain, forest or jungle, she could make things work with the companionship of the nice people she knew.

And she lived happily ever after. THE END

Just kidding. She didn't live happily ever after because she lives in a world of planes, trains, and automobiles, of modern-day nomads, and cannot be satisfied in one place nor the other, nor will she ever be, because the greener grass is ever-so-attainable. And the greener grass is never that green when you look up close, so all in all, the story ends like this:

And Renée spent the rest of her years roaming the world, constantly battling ups and downs of ecstasy and despair, because in no one place could she find all the nice people she knew, together. THE END

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

spring


Well it's not officially spring but it sure feels like it...

Last weekend I was so inspired by the nice weather that I had to buy a bike. It was an impulse decision, and one that I have not regretted.

As if it were fate, this adorable Italian bicycle fell into my hands for 80 euros and a walk down the street: upon calling the number listed on the ad, I found that the seller was not only a fellow American but also my new neighbor. Here is Lucas fixing it up...I thank the lord every day for handy men (and women--though I have yet to meet one of the sort):


Later in the weekend, this happend:

This is the face you make when you have 11 days of vacation coming up and still no plans.

Yes, that's right...the most holiest of weeks grants me not only with Monday through Friday, but also the prior Friday and the following Monday. And no plans.

But if it weren't for the last minute, nothing would get done. Yesterday finally booked tickets to Ibiza for the first half, for a birthday and beach and probably overdue rain, and the second half will be spent road-tripping around Extremadura, the forgotten Old West of Spain. Just like that, I have not only one awesome plan but TWO.

So now I'm like this:

EXCITED!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

coffee family

When the neighbors move out...new coffee pots move in.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

saturday ruminations

I was just sitting outside on the balcony enjoying this lovely springtime weather when I glanced at some of our cactuses that sit on a baby blue gardener's bench and thought....are you guys alive??

Then I thought I would take some pictures of them, because alive or not, they sure are cute. I got up to get my camera, which I keep on a shelf right inside the balcony sliding door. There is no rhyme or reason for this particular spot, but I find that leaving it in the same place is an easy way to not lose it.

But no!! Alas it is not there. Where could it possibly be?

Well, knowing me, a lot of places, despite my techniques..

I then proceeded to search the living room, not a lengthy process since I just mega-cleaned it this morning. When I couldn't find it, I tore apart my bedroom. Still no luck.

After a good while of searching, it occurred to me that it must have been stolen. From my very house!!

Rewind to Thursday morning, around 11 a.m; I am alone in my apartment. This man knocks on my door, saying he is an employee of the telephone company and he has come to fix something. Oddly enough our house phone has been broken since forever (it's never worked in all the time we've lived here) so I am thrilled by his presence. Finally! Carlos called the phone company!

But to make a long story short, this man was rather sketchy, first searching the whole house for the telephone line, which I kept telling him was in the living room, then demanding 80 euros as a deposit for the technician who would later come (when?), and finally filling out a tattered form with another telephone company's logo on it. I kicked him out after about 10 minutes, and when he left I looked at my cellphone which he had used to call the technician, realizing that he had made no phone call whatsoever. He was feigning a conversation right in front of me! How gullible I am!!

But I obviously didn't give him any money (even though I definitely considered it), nor was I violated in any way (a possibility that didn't occur to me until his departure). I actually giggled in a shrill, excited manner at my victory, an adrenaline rush from the brush of danger on a typical Thursday morning.

...Until now, that I realize he must have snagged my camera when I stupidly left him alone in the living room to call Carlos and ask him his advice.

This pocket-sized camera was a hand-me-down from my mom, probably some five years old, and not exactly in good physical shape. What I'm angry about, though, is the loss of the photos and videos I had there...the worst part being that I can't even remember them all...

Because I don't remember the existence of these photos, in reality I don't even know what I've lost...

Now this obsession has taken over...what other precious items have I lost, that I don't even know I've lost? How do I confirm that I have all that I once had, without knowing all that I once had? Throughout my whole life, how many things must have gone missing that to this day I still do not miss?!

Well, they say that stupidity is bliss...I'll calm myself with this mantra, that it is better to be left in the dark..

Monday, February 20, 2012

february

It took me a while to get over my fantasy that Harpo was mine. It's still taking me a while to get used to walking into an empty house...sigh.

We will unfortunately not be taking in another dog...let's just say there isn't general agreement on the subject. Such is life in shared apartments, I was disappointed but then again it's not all bad: saying goodbye TOTALLY SUCKED.

But I'd still do it again. Love can be rough sometimes.

Below I just posted a video they sent me from his new home (he was adopted last week by a family near Barcelona), and I'll leave it at that. I feel like I want to devote so many more words to him ("... how much I loved him!") but I think this is how every pet owner feels (foster or not!) and I think it might be rather obnoxious. Nobody loves your dog (foster or not!) as much as you do.

So, February is quickly coming to an end, its brevity never bothered me because all months after Christmas are just waves of crabby seasonal depression that we must encounter and traverse until April.

Luckily we've got global warming on our sides here in Spain... it's warm.. so sunny... maybe too sunny. It's customary here in Madrid for it to just not rain, and combined with the disgusting air, everyone in the city falls into a state of perpetual illness...good times! Oh well, at least we can enjoy the nice weather once we've swallowed our IB profen and sucked our throat-soothing cough drops.....

Lately I feel like taking off to some not-city-place and staying in this not-city-place for a long time. With my dog. My five dogs! Ha!

I wonder how the seasonal depression is there.

byebye


video

Harpo went to Barcelona, to become a Catalán.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

good luck thinking

I once got this idea from an Amy Tan book: make decisions based on hoping for the desired outcome. She called this "good luck thinking" and if I remember correctly, a common philosophy in the Chinese culture. For example, there is a 20% chance of rain, you really don't want it to rain, so you walk out the door with no umbrella. This is good luck thinking.

Sort of the opposite to the way I, many of us, often think, with the fret of "jinxing it", the habit of knocking on wood and the like.

In either case, they are both superstitions, thus stupid, and I must remind myself of this on a constant basis... they are not real. I believe I have finally trained myself to ignore such silliness, I only avoid walking under ladders because it's a physical hazard.

But I still like good luck thinking. I see it as the "glass half-full"-way of toying with possibilities.

The only problem is that good luck thinking doesn't really work when your options don't quite weigh out with the pros and cons, when passion and reason can't find a compromise, when external, unavoidable forces push you in ways you don't want to go.

I DON'T KNOW WHAT'S HAPPENING NEXT YEAR. CAN'T GOOD LUCK THINK.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

photos Harpo

During the first week with Harpo the dog, I was walking to the park and ran into a woman with two greyhounds. Of course we started chatting, our dogs happily sniffed one another, and after a few minutes we went our separate ways.

Since the arrival of Harpo, I feel like I've entered into this whole new canine world, where all of the sudden the hooded anonymity I once sported when walking down the street has been completely shattered, and 90% of strangers feel compelled to enter my personal space and give their two cents on my dog. There have been some really interesting interactions, mainly with crazy junkies, but nonetheless, I make new friends every day.

Anyway, since the organization who gave me Harpo is looking for a splendid home strictly outside Spain, they must go to great lengths in search of these new owners. Part of their tactic is taking professional photos of the dogs, which a volunteer and fellow foster-care member does.

So this past week we were put in contact over e-mail, and when we met in the park, lo and behold, it was the woman I had met when I was just a foster-mother of three days. Here are some the photos she took, they are incredible. And yes, he is just as good as he appears....I'm in love with this dog....





Bahahhaha...if only I were as regal....

photos by Patricia Soto

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

book rec

One thing I love about apartments in Spain is their history. It must be Europe's age that has all corners of it filled with so many human-planted antiquities. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it's not common to find a place in the US that comes not only furnished but also with plentiful forgotten pieces of someone else's life...

Before we moved into the apartment I live in now, it belonged to the sister of my roommate and therefore, unfortunately in some aspects, came with even more trinkets: in exchange for all of our supposed storage space, we scored a TON of free, cool stuff.

Part of this free cool stuff were bookcases and bookcases of books ranging in all types and languages: spanish, english, italian, french; novels, cookbooks, dictionaries, encyclopedias. SO GLORIOUS.

I decided that I would read all books that I'm mentally capable of reading, that is to say, books in my two little languages...

I go about choosing them like pulling names out of a hat. They are well-organized, so if I feel like reading in english (which I usually do), I go to the hallway. If I feel like spanish, I go to the living room.

So the other day, in search of a new book, I thought it was time to venture to the living room after a long affair with the contents in the hallway. I pulled out a black and white checkered soft-back, Las Edades de Lulú by Almudena Grandes, saw a tantalizing child donning black gloves and goth make-up, and decided, heaven forbid, to judge the book by its cover: I'll take it!

(the best part of this game is that there is no need to read the back, to inform myself of what I'm getting into before pulling it off the shelf for good: there is no money nor a check-out system involved, and at this point I sincerely trust the former inhabitants of my apartment: nearly everything I have laid my hands on has been fantastic)

But, after reading the very first page--I had no idea what I was getting into and was lost in confusion--I decided to read the back....

"una larga historia de amor que, como cualquier historia de amor que no se resigna a dejar de serlo, va haciéndose siempre mas compleja y envolvente..."

More or less: "a long story of love, that, like any never-ending love story, constantly makes itself more complex and encircling..."

This is one of the most enveloping books I have ever read, and not because it is an erotic novel. This is worth mentioning. It is an erotic novel, and though my first of the sort, what struck me as incredible is that such a crude piece of literature can inspire such empathy in its reader. Love, sorrow, sex, obsession...if you are not bothered by extreme lewdness, I highly recommend the wrenching journey of The Ages of Lulu by Almudena Grandes, what luck I had that this book and I found each other.



Sunday, January 29, 2012

pop-tarts

WILL SOMEONE PLEASE SEND ME S'MORE POP-TARTS

Saturday, January 21, 2012

harpo



This is Harpo, our new foster dog.

How do I begin?

I pretty much always want to be with puppies. We can start there. I'm not sure if it's because I grew up with all sorts of pets at home, or if perhaps it's the maternal instinct on which I blame so many things, but I crave animal interaction. Particularly with puppies.

So a few months ago it occurred to me that I should volunteer in an animal shelter here in Madrid, since adopting something soft and cuddly (other than a hamster) was not going to be an option. I went through the necessary steps to get involved, and soon realized that, without a car, it would be an incredible hassle getting to and from these shelters, which are all on the far outskirts of the city.

But in the process of investigation, I did find out about a foster care program-- an exciting yet horrifying prospect. I had a foster care experience once (nearly 10 years back, Memphis TN) and it was not a good one, but that's a whole different story...

After some months of mulling over it, I realized that I was totally ready to take on the responsibility of a pet, especially since foster care is basically pets-for-dummies (and poor people). The organization takes care of all costs, medical care, etc etc. We are just responsible for the best part of it all: TLC.

Central Spain is known for having the biggest population of abandoned Greyhounds in Europe. They are bred, used for hunting, and then left out to die (if they are not killed directly by their owners..) after they reach a certain size/age. It's incredible, because they are such good, beautiful dogs... but I guess it just goes along with all the other atrocities of the world, and I am left speechless for an explanation.

So Harpo isn't a puppy, they wouldn't give me a puppy damnit, but that's fine: I'm nearly just as satisfied. We've only been with him a few days but I have pretty much experienced every emotion of the pet-owner spectrum in this time...panic, pleasure, joy, panic, joy, anger, disgust, joy, joy, joy.

I could tell some really funny stories about all that has happened since Harpo moved in, but this isn't Marley and Me (yet)...I think I'll save that for another post.