No Loose Ends

Neighbors

Neighbors.

 

There’s always chanting coming from somewhere. We have a new king, and flags of the Spanish Republic in Exile add dark marks of color up and down the dunny streets that run past the four large open windows; Ni rey, Ni reina. The same breeze that ripples their dissenting reds, yellows and purples slides along the sticky table, fluttering last night’s rolling papers across the un-mopped floor, where they stick to something horrible that I stepped in this morning. All the glasses are full of cigarette butts and warm gin. We’ve had about eight going away soirees and if I have to break up any more coke parties in the bathroom to brush my teeth, I’m going to renounce my residency.

I haven’t written for days because I’m not a writer, and my thoughts are manic and punctuated by drunken outbursts and ill-begotten lusty messages (mistakes in Spanish grammar take the bite out of both). The apartment has smelled of heat and cigarettes for days, and suitcases in various states of packing represent the disparate plans and departure dates of the three of us who live here: San Francisco, Buenos Aires, and Johannesburg.

At this point my eyes are dull and I need a drink. From one of the small balconies I can see into the closest old-man bar (the only variety worth a damn). Someone’s at the gambling machine and the barman is waltzing alone in the street spilling a glass of the light vermouth for which this place is famous. The sun isn’t going down but my worthless phone is stuck on Icelandic time, and doing the math I determine it is indeed not too early to indulge. It’s been a day that calls for drinking, for godsake.

I leave the spite email I’d been impassively drafting, a response to one I’d gotten hours before bearing ill news about the disintegrating San Francisco life I’d abandoned to its fate nine months ago. Both my best friends are banging my ex and fighting about it STOP Everyone is depressed STOP Bad sex and Jameson are the new religion STOP. I’ll be back there in three weeks and all I can think about are cheese steaks, large coffees, and punching my ex in the dick. I managed to relate this desire to my roommate in French and feel that fact alone moves me up to a level C1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

I grab a general amount of currency and head downstairs.

The legions of day-drinkers draped across public spaces and plazas add an urgency to these last few days. I stop to check my broken phone at the corner where I traditionally catch some rogue wifi. At this hour post-siesta there’s no hope in rousing the other “expats” from their youtube hangovers, and frankly this drink needed to be drunk alone. Furthermore there’s no response to the flurry of weirdly-phrased Spanish come-ons I fired off to a couple of second-stringers late last night, because I have a misplaced need for affection at that hour. That’s certainly for the best, though that boldness will haunt me in the cold light of day when I cross them at the grocery store whilst buying spreadable cheese and diet coke.

I stand at the bar surrounded by old men shouting “venga coño” at various members of the Spanish National soccer team featured on the tv-vcr combo perched in the top corner. This is where I pick up most of my functional vocabulary. Once the bartender comes in from dancing, shirt glistening and thirst unquenched, I order a tall glass of the same vermouth that his mirth advertized, and reflect on the decisions I’ve made.

I have an aversion to success and am debilitatingly self-reflective, it’s true. That needs to be taken into account. But goddamnit, I don’t understand the world anymore. Spain has certainly put that into perspective. Everything around me has disintegrated into mayhem, and that is oddly freeing.

Spain just scored a goal and someone’s abuelo is buying the bar a round of tiny beers.

I’ve learned to accept that seeking catharsis in mutual understanding is a fool’s errand and not the point. We’re emotionally developed enough to render rational thought not only inconvenient but impractical; contradiction is no impediment.

The barman gives me mushrooms as a free tapas, God’s most fucking inglorious food.

Everyone can do what they want, just be direct, that is the only salvation. And that helps free everyone from the burden of frustration.

And then I would have more time to drink vermouth.

I’ll be gone for nearly three months and maybe nothing will change here just as, disappointingly, nothing has changed back home. People will still struggle, and drink in the streets and yell and scream all night because of it. And I’ll make bad decisions and I’ll forgive unforgivable things, but then maybe that’s a clear sign I’ve got too much free time.

Ain’t it strange: trying to stanch the ebb and flow of relative insanity

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*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.

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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).

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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.

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