Becky and I hiding from the wind in the deceptively cold South.
*There aren’t really a lot of photos that are apropos to this post, so I’ll intersperse my diatribe with paintings I did of my (rock and roll) spirit-guides.
I had a rough weekend. After having a veritable army of 3rd graders practically cough into my mouth all month I got a gnarly stomach flu that laid me out for nearly a week. Now I imagine I know what it’s like to contract dysentery; I had the lower intestine of a pioneer. It was like I was on the goddamned Oregon Trail.
And in my sweat-soaked, bloated, fever-induced delirium I got a bit existential. I began to reflect on my present situation which had slowly become more and more unbearable, and that’s besides the nearly shitting myself to death.
If I have one major fault (I have a litany actually, which is part and parcel to my charm, but if one could be considered the most glaring) it is the fact that I can be passive to a fault, not exercising my agency more than pure altruism and politesse require, and that harshes my mellow something fierce (you can tell I have a liberal arts degree). To put it briefly I can be a wimp when dealing with particularly strong or willful personalities, which by their nature constantly attempt to exert their will over mine (Nietzsche would be unimpressed). Until of course, I reach a certain point and lose it over some triviality and bite someone’s head off for arguing with me over what constitutes one serving of fruit on the food pyramid (anecdotal). I’m a nice guy and I like to keep my shit copacetic, to the point that my will begins to suffer. I can be inconvenienced and handle a fair amount of BS with aplomb, until I become a pariah, banishing myself into some self-imposed bummer city.
Well, anyway that all sounds like some remedial psychological diagnosis from a freshmen who’s just read some Freud, but there, I’ve bared my soul. I look tough, but I can be fragile, you know? I need to take lessons on what it is to be a post-enlightenment liberal individual or I’m going to continue to keep getting increasingly weird and “offbeat” (euphemism) as I get older (the trend has clearly already started).
So, wouldn’t you know it, I saw one of these situations creeping up on me since my time here in Madrid. Forces were acting upon me, shaping my experiences in a negative way, and I was just floating down that noxious river, counting it all part of a “character-building exercise (I have character aplenty by now). But enough is too much; I had made a goal for this year.
Actually I can remember the exact moment: it was summer and I was in the back seat of my friend Ben’s newly-acquired Volvo station wagon, driving north on the 101 towards Marin County, just on the other side of the Golden Gate bridge. There is a tunnel there, whose mouth is outlined in a rainbow, and when we passed through its arch I held my breath and wished for the strength to be able to focus on myself for the next year, to act as an individual unit of energy and potential actively driving on my own trajectory.
The whole point of all of this travel is about 35% frolic and jaunt, and 65% putting myself through the emotional ringer so that I can self-actualize into the tough broad of the 21st century that is my innate self before the anomie of the modern condition threw a wrench into my cogs.
And even if it isn’t easy or natural (and it isn’t because I enjoy confrontation about as much as I enjoy a poke in the eye with a sharp stick) by merely enacting an ethic or behavior one begins to internalize and eventually incorporate it into their natural habits. In other words, keep acting like an alpha female and you shall become one. Now all I need to do is get filthy rich and I’m set.
The garbage strike is finally over, having been resolved this weekend just in time for the first rains of autumn, which would have otherwise turned the city’s streets into a torpid river of trash-confetti, multicolored but uniform in smell (piss). Even though I supported the strike it was a relief to come back from Granada to cleaner(er) streets and only the smell of wet pavement and dry leaves (and less piss).
But that doesn’t mean I was eager to leave Andalucía. Granada was the nexus of everything I had been looking for in this country; the weekend was spent in a kind of decadent she-revelry that has left me feeling somehow sad and pensive because it reminded me of how vibrant and romantic I thought my life would be when I was in the full throws of distracted puberty (listening to silverchair cultivates a romantic soul).
But of course traveling as a lifestyle isn’t always like that (I’m at a loss for how to phrase that without sounding like someone I wouldn’t want to hang out with); it is often lonely and frustrating to find that you’re chasing something intangible across the years and borders and never feel any closer to it, not least of all because you have no idea what it even is, the momentum it creates is the only certain thing, like knowing a black hole exists because of the light of everything that is drawn into it (poetry).
I’ve kept myself moving both to escape and to seek something I can’t necessarily define, but I can feel it as an instinct more strongly than I’ve ever felt the need to do all the other things that are collectively considered valuable to humanity (career, children, God, $$$). And that hasn’t been without sacrifice, as my semi-permanent status as a swinging bachelorette at/below the poverty line shall attest to .
And maybe that’s why Granada is so well-loved; it lies at some emotional nexus of the collective unconscious. The flamenco dance, the guitar and wailing voices, the food, the gente, they all speak to some desire to live life authentically (completely aware of how twee as that sounds). It reminded me of what I’ve always hoped to find, and I know that’s a big burden to put on a place I saw for all of three days, but travel is all about over-romanticizing the far away and the different. And if you can do all that in the company of a barrel-chested well-follicled flamenco diva of a certain age, then you are quite literally living the dream.
Got empadronado today which means I’m on the grid (so no more peeing in the street and pretending I don’t speak Spanish) ! Also as I’ve been harping on to my friends for the past 3 weeks now, my laptop is broken which is just about the fucking tragedy of the century, so I’ve been effectively unable to post anything of substance because my phone’s LG keyboard is a joke.
Most people back home (and in general) keep asking me if I’m “okay”, how I’m doing “out there”, with emoticons full of concern and weak encouragement. That’s likely based on the cryptic and sour one – liners that keep showing up on my various social media (one line is all I have the patience for on this damn keyboard , but I’m currently waiting for my hair to dry you lucky darlings ).
On the one hand I really love Madrid, it grows on me more and more everyday. Maybe it’s not that impressive of a place for a tourist; the monuments are relatively few and unless you like salted meats, the food may not be able to compete with other major Spanish cities. But the vie quotidien, the art and music, the people, the shops, cafés and bars are phenomenal.
On the other hand my homesickness has been off the charts for the past month, which is a new phenomenon for me, and is likely due to my slash and burn SF love life and a personality clash with many Spanish men my age (at least the ones on Tinder). And I still haven’t managed to get in sync with siesta, which is crucial to the Spanish way of life. Currently doing all of the late hours and none of the catch-up.
But I’m optimistic. The teaching thing is going swimmingly, the kids are adorable and somewhat engaged, and I’ve made a solid lady crew this side of the Atlantic (the she – wolf pack is ever – growing). And my Spanish isn’t getting any WORSE , so that’s something to cling to (I have managed to open a bank account, empadronar myself, and kick 3 separate wandering basque guys out of my room during a raging house party, all in Spanish!)
Ok, I am missing at least one full night of sleep due to said house party so I’m hitting the hay. Because this is all on my phone I have no idea how this is all going format-wise, nor have I cared to proofread, and for that I am a little bit sorry.
Love each and every one of you xx