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



Saturday, January 21, 2012


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.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I like to think that my spanish lexicon has reached such a level in which it's rare I hear a word my brain does not recognize...how satisfied I feel, I think to myself, having finally mastered a second language...

And that is the beauty of reading. Just when I feel so high up on my spanish horse, I open up some piece of literature and it takes but only a few moments to knock me right back down. You know nothing Renée, it tells me. You know nothing more than lists of cognates and multiplication tables of verbs. Oh, and your rolled r sucks.

But I am not dismayed. Learning spanish has been a beautiful, beautiful thing, once I got past having to learn boring stuff like expressing the basics of survival (which reminds me of a time in Buenos Aires when I ate or drank something gnarly and literally thought my appendix was bursting, I had never experienced such pain; and because my host mom paid small attention to my pleas of "Me duele!" the first day, I pulled out the "Estoy muriendo!" the second, and after she gave me nothing but pills (I wanted a ride to the hospital), I resorted to the computer and pulled up the spanish wikipedia page for appendicitis and shoved it in her face... I'm still bitter about the laugh she had to suppress..but for the record, I was fine by day four).

Anyway, what I was getting to is that I find much joy in learning new, cool words like tozudo (fancy word for stubborn) or meloso (sticky or sugary), and then immediately finding moments to use them...

Like in listening to the voices floating out of my living room right now. I am trying not to eavesdrop but this small apartment just makes that impossible. There are two, a he and a she, and they are arguing the way two people at the beginnings of a relationship often do: with a soft choice of words, with a certain reserve. Despite the calm, he remains so tozudo, he just won't give up his point. And she, with her husky, meloso voice, goes over her side of the case over and over again, as if trying to soothe an upset child with a lollypop and soft strokes of a teary cheek.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

preschool dirge

I call this Preschool Dirge, or Preschool is Killing Me, thank you Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Oh, Preschool,
How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways.
I loathe thee to the depths of darkness and gloom and night
That my soul can fall to, try as I might
To dance and sing and succumb to farce.
I loathe thee more than Satan's breath does stink
And does it ever reek of dung and festering wounds.
I loathe thee freely, as men sin and fight,
I loathe thee truly, as they fear naught and all,
I loathe thee with a passion like none other
It fuels my temper, burns my skin
Only a brief six hours, but nay be there cover.
I loathe thee with a hate I will not lose
For it's eternal--I loathe thee with my breath,
My body, and my soul--because I did not choose:
To be a ragged clown until my death.

Monday, January 9, 2012


I have a total of 14 fabulous photos from my Christmas bicoastal adventure, but I have chosen this one of Bizmark crossing the Golden Gate to inspire my overdue post:

Bizmark was a Christmas gift to my sister from my cousin Susie, who saw this creature and knew no one else could possibly love it as much as Ash would. It might be the best gift she received this year, which isn't to undermine the rest: there was the good (awesome skin care products for life), the bad (Marley and Me, the dvd), and the ugly (so-ugly-it's-cute, Bizmark).

I wish my i-phone photography skillz were better because then Bizmark's two yellow teeth might have made it, or maybe even his brother (my gift from Susie, another "Ugly Doll"--they are literally called this), Officer Crump, could have squeezed in for a smile. But taking one-handed photos on the i-phone is not easy. I dare you..right now..try it.

Anyway, despite his low score in ugliness, Bizmark is still quite photogenic, especially when posing with such a lovely scene: the golden gate bridge on a beautiful, clear day + pick-up trucks and SUVS. What's there to say...besides 'merica, f*ck yea?

What's sad is that, although I say this motto in 100% joking manner, because I love to make fun of American pride, deep down, way, way down in the very pits of my tormented, cynical soul, there is a little voice that whispers, maybe even quivers in such lovingness: 'merica, f*ck yea.

Can't wait to be back again.