Friday, August 6, 2010

Lucky Me

I’ve been lucky.
That’s true for a million reasons, but especially because I’ve only had to face the realities of death a handful of times in my 23 years so far.
I first dealt with the much less enormous grief of losing beloved pets, including the sudden death of my youngest dog just days before I left the country for two months.
In high school, there was a snowboarding avalanche accident which killed a senior I barely knew, but I had gone to school with him for many years. It hit me really hard, probably largely because I was at that age where every emotion feels monumental before you learn to work with them. His funeral will always be in my mind for a number of reasons, not limited to the fact that it was the first I’d attended.
Then, when I was 20, my grandfather died, and that has left marks on me that I will never really heal from.
He’d been dying my whole life. To make the story as short as I can: he first had cancer before I was even born, and continued to beat the odds, living through cancers that doctors would normally have called terminal. More than once, I recall rushed trips to Regina, where my extended family lives, to have my “last visit” with him because doctors said this was it. He always made it. The last time, the doctors said the same thing they’d said before, so while I was told to expect it, I’d already learned that doctors were wrong when it came to his chances, so when he actually died, it was a shock. It had been a long time since he’d been himself, but I’d always been close to him, and I still deal with many moments where I can’t even process the grief I feel about the absence of him in my life.
Other than that, my experiences dealing with death had always been second hand. Like I said, I’ve been extremely lucky.

On August 1, the world lost a great young journalist, Alan Mattson. Truthfully, I have a feeling he’d hate being described as a “great young journalist,” so perhaps instead I’ll call him another thing that he was: a friend of mine.
I met Alan when we started in the journalism program at Mount Royal in the same year. He struck me as one of the smartest and most capable people in the program. More than that, he was popular and seemed to be able to make friends with everyone; I was totally jealous. But, by the end of first year, I’d actually spoken to him, and honestly, it’s hard not to like him. Part of the journalism program is the social aspect: parties, pubs, communikoke. He was fun to be around.
In third year, I was on the Journal’s editorial team when he was editor in chief. Weekly editorial meetings, plus many hours of budgeting, production and post-mort. He was far from the “tyrannical” editor stereotype. He was the editor who was there doing his job from early until late, and then went out for drinks with you afterwards. Even if something was falling apart because of someone else doing everything wrong, he was patient, and though there were many, many times when it seemed like that damn paper was never going to get finished, it always did.

I’ve had two days so far to figure out how to respond to his death. I don’t think I’m responding well, because my logical mind which knows it’s true refuses to connect with the rest of me. I only know he’s gone on an intellectual level, and I keep feeling confused by that. To be a bad cliché for a moment, my head knows something that my heart doesn’t. I can’t reconcile the two things. At least, not yet.
This experience for me is totally new, I suppose. With my grandfather, I was devastated, but my feelings were relatively uncomplicated; I was sad and grieving, both for myself and for my family members. In no way was that a simple experience to deal with, but I understood what exactly I was feeling for the most part.
With the other student in high school, it was slightly more complex, though much less difficult for me, as much as that sounds contradictory. I remember thinking I felt worse than I should since I didn’t know him well, and I remember very acutely feeling my own mortality for the first time ever, since he was 17, and I’d never had to deal with anything but the abstract knowledge that death was always possible. I also distinctly remember writing helped me untangle those feelings. Eight years later, my feelings on his death are really only the abstract sadness I would feel for any 17 year old’s death. Age and time have helped me, I suppose. Maybe wisdom, I hope.
But this time...I’ve never had to deal with the death of a friend. But it’s more complex than that too because I wouldn’t have called us close friends. Not because we couldn’t have been; we got along both when working together and at the social functions we saw each other at. I guess the problem is perhaps that I’m trying to decide how upset it’s socially acceptable for me to be, when I know that everyone experiences death differently, and putting that kind of expectation on myself is ridiculous.
This really isn’t a rhetorical exercise for me anymore, just for the record. I really am figuring things out as I write this down.
While I have, for the most part, felt numb since I found out, in the sense that I’m still overwhelmed by the impossibility of it, I had a few minutes last night where it felt real. I’d just spoken to my mom on the phone (some MRU people might know her, and I’ll add too that she actually taught Alan a couple years ago), and as I hung up, it felt real and heavy and I didn’t stop crying until the impossibility of it set back in. I think it had something to do with seeing articles on the Cochrane Eagle website written by people I don’t know, talking about his death. That was, somehow, so much more real than seeing all the messages people are posting to his facebook profile right now.
I haven’t been able to do that. I can’t figure out how I would write it. It’s ironic, actually; I’m literally writing a book where the entire project is writing addresses to dead artists and yet I have no idea how I would write an address to him now.
I suppose I’ll figure out how to write something there, because I want the people who read his page to know that I too thought he was an amazing guy, and that I’m glad I knew him, no matter the pain it’s causing me now. And I know that however affected I am by this, there are people whose grief is so much deeper and wider and harder to live with. If me writing down that I’m happy I knew him has any potential to ease even a tiny bit of their pain, then of course, I’ll figure it out. It’s just taking me some time.

“So there goes my life/Passing by with every exit sign/It's been so long/Sometimes I wonder how I will stay strong/No sleep tonight/I'll keep on driving these dark highway lines/.../But I will see you again/I will see you again/A long time from now”
-“Hello, I’m in Delaware” by City & Colour

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Don't Blame the Technology

Note: I'm home now, so this blog is changing. I'm going to use this as a place to post some things some of the time, including this post, a response to a former fellow journalism student, Alicia's blog where I had too much opinion to contain to the comment box (it told me my comment was way too long to post).

Here is the original post that this is in response to: The invention of laziness: Please read it first to understand the points I'm making, relative to her arguments.

I agree with a few of your points, Alicia, though I also strongly disagree with a few.

I think you're totally right that TV in general can lead to a lazy population. However, like the internet and nearly any technology, that's really all about how we use it. What about the news (surely, a topic we've talked about too many times in the course of getting our j-degrees)? Isn't there value in that for children? Growing up in my house, we always had plenty of channels, and part of that was watching the evening news with my parents, during and after which, my parents would talk about news items and include me in the conversation. I like to think it made me a more informed person than my peers, especially when I was younger.

I also really take issue with your statement that the quality of tv has necessarily sharply declined over the years. For starters, sexism (including unflattering portrayals of masculinity) has always been prevalent on tv. There was a time when it was funny (at least to many people) when Ralph threatened Alice “Pow, right in the kisser” and to send her “straight to the moon.” This was a show that families could watch together. I think the things that teaches kids are pretty apparent, but I’ll gloss them anyway: violence is okay, threats are okay, husbands rule the household and should discipline their adult wives when they do something “wrong,” etc. I totally agree that there are serious problems with the common sitcom portrayal of a bitchy nag wife and a husband too stupid to boil water who still life the “blissful,” traditional life of career-oriented man and child-oriented woman. However, if I’m deciding which is the lesser of two evils between that and threats of domestic violence as comedy...well, I know which one bothers me more.

You’re right that there is more sex and violence and “strong language” used during primetime slots than there used to be (and more aired on Canadian tv than American), but I don’t think this is always a problem. Some of the violence I take issue with because it’s often in the context of sexy, powerful mobsters and glamourized killing, and the real consequences can be glossed over. I think it’s a very puritanical North American view that sex and swearing are always bad for children to hear about. In many European markets, they are actually much more liberal with what they show on television. For starters, in North America, female bodies on tv are almost always sexualized. In other areas, this isn’t always true. Have you ever seen the original British “How to Look Good Naked” series? It has a few problems (which I won’t get into right now), but it shows women’s real bodies, sometimes in their stark entirety, cellulite and all, and celebrates them as sexy because they are real and comfortable. I think that this is exactly the sort of message we actually need to be teaching children when they’re young: bodies don’t need to be size zero, plucked, tanned, polished and fat-free to be sexy, nor do they need to be sexual at all times. Hiding the sexualized form from curious children at all times doesn’t actually do this; however, it does add a taboo factor that is damn near irresistible for kids. As for the language argument, I know this is a matter of taste, but I tend to believe that words are just words and they only have power when we give them power over us. There are certainly words I don’t think are appropriate, but for me, it’s things like racial slurs that are problematic, not the “f-word,” as we euphemistically call it. I know that’s entirely about upbringing and value, and my mother actually is quite bothered by “vulgarities” like that one, but I think that in shows that are meant to reflect a reality, words like that are part of that reflection because they exist in the real world we live in, and that to censor them all as problematic is a huge overstep.

All that being said, tv can be a problem. Studies have shown that small children who watch even educational shows are worse off than those who interact with parents, and other children and adults instead. TV has always been linked to increased violence and sexual violence (as have video games and unrestricted internet access), but to me, that suggests that a more middling view of tv (and other technology) is best. It’s not the evil destroying our kids, but a technology and medium that is message dependant.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

In a nutshell

I’ve been a bad, bad blogger. I sort of apologize. I was genuinely busy getting out in the cities (Paris and London) I’ve been in, and haven’t taken the time to write. I also met my parents in Paris, where they flew over to join me for a two week vacation when my mom finished teaching at the end of Spring semester. This meant that the laptop that had been mine for any spare moments I had in hotel and hostel rooms, was suddenly shared, and my dad, god love him, likes to waste time on a computer at least as much as I do, so my access was restricted in a way it’s never been before, since at home I have my own separate computer and never have to share.
I think part of it is that, in Vienna, I wanted to write about shared experiences, because I knew my friends who were there were also looking and writing their own accounts. When I was alone in Spain and Italy, I had no real way of reflecting on what I was doing except to write about it, and I also knew I had to be sole curator of the memories I was making there; if I didn’t write it all down, I would probably forget some of it happened, in light of the overwhelming body of experiences I’ve had.
However, in Paris, I had travelling companions which meant I wasn’t as likely to forget anything, and that I suddenly had to share duties on deciding what we would do with our time. It was often trying, when it came to deciding what we would do, since I could spend most of my life in art museums, street cafes, and sitting on park benches, where my parents get bored quickly with art museums, and just have a different operating pace than I had grown used to in Spain and Italy. After all, in the Mediterranean, you just don’t do things fast. There’s a relaxed pace because it’s often too hot and humid to do it any other way. Paris and London are a different breed of city, to be sure, and my parents were coming directly from Canada, which is, to say the least, not a lot like the Mediterranean.
Travelling with someone is quite different from any other experience you can have with someone. I still live with my parents, though I’m definitely reaching that point where I would like to move out (I just need a little more impetus to undertake something so expensive when there’s nothing really wrong with living at home right now). However, living with my parents isn’t really like travelling with them at all. The combination of the stresses of public transportation, sharing very small spaces, and the delicate balance between seeing everything and actually relaxing on vacation makes for a complicated dynamic where we didn’t always get along.
If this sounds like I’m complaining about my parents, don’t mistake it: I’m really not. Travelling with anyone is hard, particularly when you feel obligated to do things together. In Vienna, there were enough of us that if you wanted to do something, usually at least one other person wanted to go with you, so the rest of the group didn’t feel obligated to go just so you wouldn’t be alone. With the three of us, there was an obligation to be together most of the time, and I’d just spent the last three weeks on my own, so it was an adjustment, to be sure.
Anyway, by way of a short recap, in Paris, I saw and did most of the things you might expect: we went to the summit of the Eiffel tower, we spent most of a day wandering the Louvre and saw the Mona Lisa, we walked through Notre Dame and saw the view from Sacre Cœur’s bell tower, we went to l’arc de Triomphe and wandered down the Champs Elysees, we went to the Pompidou centre and my parents sat downstairs when they were tired, while I pored over modern and contemporary art (from Picasso to Kandinsky to Schwitters to Duchamp, all the way up to modern and political stuff, like the work of the Guerilla Girls about the art in the Met (in NYC, that is). I may have to write something entirely separate, just to deal with some of what I saw in the Pompidou), we went on an evening boat ride on the Seine and got mooned by a girl who had emerged from the throngs of young Parisians who hang out on the banks, we went to Pere Lachaise cemetery and saw the graves of Orson Wells, Edith Piaf and Jim Morrison, we went to the Musee d’Orsay and saw amazing impressionist works and Courbet’s L’Origine du Monde, which I would kill to be able to hear people’s responses to...and we sat in street cafes and drank wine and espresso and ate croissants. We rode the metro lots and lots and lots. I bought at least a dozen CD’s, some entirely French and some by French bands with mixed French and English lyrics.
In short, I had a pretty great time.
London, well, again, it was another entirely different type of city. In London, I was fortunate enough to get to go to quite a few theatre productions in the west end because my parents love musicals. We saw Avenue Q (absolutely bloody hysterical. Funniest musical ever written), Priscilla: Queen of the Desert (really funny and interesting, especially if you’re as interested in the performative aspects of gender and orientation as I am), We Will Rock You (I love Queen music, but I hate bad writing so much more. Don’t do it, folks. It’s god-awful), Les Miserables (glad to have finally seen it, but having Nick Jonas in the cast for a 3 week run made for an awful audience of squealing, misbehaving girls instead of the usual audience), and Grease (honestly, I think the movie’s better). We also went to the Tate Modern museum (meh), the London Eye (not worth the money), walked past Buckingham Palace, saw the vault in the original Hard Rock cafe, celebrated Canada Day in Trafalgar Square (because the Canadian Embassy is right beside it), drank a lot of cider (because I still don’t like beer), shopped, did a walking tour through Soho to a bunch of places where the Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Clash and others did their thing, cruised down the Thames in a big boat, went to the top of Tower Bridge, shopped some more, took the tube a bunch.
In short, it was also a pretty great time.
So now, as you’ve probably figured out, I’m home (and have been for a couple days now). I’m trying to adjust to jetlag. It’s 7 hours time difference, so the first night I slept at home, I got a little less than 4 hours of sleep, woke up at 4am and watched Golden Girls reruns. The second night, I was able to sleep until 6amand the third night until around 8, so I guess it’s getting better and I’ll probably be back to normal (whatever that is), within a few days. I start back at work the day after tomorrow, and then some of my family come to town for the Stampede. I thought I’d be bored with all the time I’d have here, but not yet, anyway. I’ve felt busy pretty much since I got home. I’m still unpacking and putting things away, along with fighting off a cold I got the day before I left London. I haven’t got much of a voice right now, but I am getting better.
I’m finding the adjustment back to be a little weird. Being in a mall for the first time in almost two months was really weird, as was walking through a food store and seeing names that now look unfamiliar to me. It’s weird having a coffee maker and a fridge and a microwave and a tv that plays shows I can understand 24 hours a day on about 50 channels. It’s weird knowing that I can understand the packaging on any product I see at a store, or I can talk to people anywhere and assume that they will probably understand me and have at least one thing in common with me. I don’t know. I keep having moments of weirdness. When I had to move my calendar from May straight to July, it seemed completely impossible that I could have been away. Some things feel so familiar, so immediate, it’s like I can’t have been away at all, but I think that’s to do with living in one place your whole life. It becomes so familiar that you perhaps can’t forget it. At least, not in a matter of weeks or months.
I had an interesting moment when my Mom was speaking to her own mother, and started saying how she’d been to more countries than her mother, and now I’ve been to more than her. I’ve been to 10 countries in 23 years (though, to be fair, a full half of that was this trip). It’s done amazing things for me, to me. I still haven’t reflected the way I need to, but hopefully I’ll find the time soon to do so. And to put my pictures up on facebook.

“I want someone badly/To burn in here with me”
-“I Want Someone Badly” by Jeff Buckley

<3 Angi

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Bad Souvenirs and Good Food, among other things

I’ve always been the worst at keeping a blog updated. Honestly, the fact that I’ve been this diligent so far is kind of amazing. I want to keep a record of this trip, so I’m trying, but sometimes you don’t want to take the time out to write. Not that I haven’t had lots of downtime in which I could be writing this, or doing the homework I need to get done before July 1st. But in typical fashion, I’ve been procrastinating my ass off. I wouldn’t be me otherwise, right?
Anyway, on Tuesday, I went to Pisa and saw the famous leaning tower and the cathedral there. To be perfectly honest, I was quite disappointed. I went out a tour to get there, but it took almost as much time driving there as we actually had to spend there. I don’t feel like I saw Pisa, so much as I saw the one square in Pisa where the super-touristy landmark accident is.
It started off on the wrong foot. On the bus, I sat down and there was an older man (maybe early 60s), a woman around 40, and a boy around 12, in front of me. The man and the boy were talking about, I shit you not, the atmosphere of the “ring world,” whatever the hell that meant. After listening to them hotly debate something at a rather extreme volume, I gathered it possibly has something to do with a video game? Are you fucking kidding me?
Then the couple behind them get up and say, quite loudly, “Yeah, maybe the back of the bus will be QUIETER.” Another few people moved away from them, and then I did too, because like hell I want to listen to them arguing about the details of some fictional nerd kingdom when they’re in bloody Italy, for christ’s sake. And it wasn’t even like nerding out kind of arguing. The guy had that condescending, know-it-all voice on...about a video game.
In Pisa, I got to see about a million tourists doing the holding-up-the-leaning-tower photo op. Literally, there were hundreds of people all taking that picture, you know? It was actually kind of hysterical. And no, I didn’t take such a photo of myself.
However, I did get shit on by a pigeon. No lie. Just when we were about to leave Pisa, right on my upper arm. Oh, I was impressed, let me tell you. Stupid flying rats. But I can laugh about it; it was just gross.
Also gross:
That one is currently topping my list of worst souvenirs I’ve ever seen, though there are a few other candidates, almost all of them involving the seeming fascination with the crotch of Michaelangelo’s David. I don’t know what everyone’s so excited about. But I forget that the general population is composed of little boys who are still going through that fascinated-by-my-penis phase. Ugh.
However, that night sort of made up for the day. I went out to dinner, and it was just starting to rain, but given that it started to pour as we left Pisa, so I’d already been soaked, I figured a little rain wouldn’t kill me. I get to a restaurant, sit on the outdoor raised patio with a roof, and it starts to pour. I’m talking biblical here, folks.
So I sat and ate pasta and tiramisu and limoncello and talked to an American family sitting nearby, and walked the rain and listened to the thunder, and it was kind of awesome. Am I weird for thinking that?
Anyway, the next day, I went to the Uffizi gallery, and was again, kind of disappointed. For one, the Uffizi seems very small after seeing Madrid’s museums, and it was over twice the price to get in because, as the little angry signs everywhere indicate, there is “NO STUDENT RATE!” No joke about the signs. It’s one thing not to have a student rate. It’s another to be really angry that people are even asking.
I will admit, part of my problem with the Uffizi is the age of the art. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m a modernist. The period from about 1880 to 1960, particularly 1910-1935, makes me happy. The Uffizi has nothing newer than about the 1600s, as far as I know. It’s mainly religious depictions, photo-realistic portraits and a few landscapes. Meh.
However, I will admit that The Birth of Venus (google image search it if you’re not familiar with the name, but trust me, you’ve seen it before) is a really beautiful painting, as is Spring, also by Botticelli. Other than those two, I was pretty underwhelmed.
Thursday, I went to the Palazzo Pitti, and had similar problems to the Uffizi. It was small, overpriced and not really to my art taste. I also found the gallery there to be extremely overcrowded. Rather than having 5 paintings in a room where you could actually look at them, there would be literally 30 paintings in a room, 3 high up to the very high ceiling, and then there was frescoe and stucco work everywhere. It was extremely distracting and overwhelming.
While I was there, the real storm began, making the night before look like a gently summer rain. This was an epic thunder and hail storm which kept blowing the windows of the palace open so staff had to rush around with mops and cloths, slamming old windows closed. At least that was mildly comical.
Between the storm and the price of entrance, I skipped the supposedly beautiful Boboli gardens, and instead had lunch while the storm calmed. When it did, I headed to the Piazzalle di Michaelangelo, which is up a rather large hill, but provided and really great view of the city and the river.
However, by the time I climbed the hill, it was back to raining harder (thought not so stormy this time), so I caved and bought an umbrella with part of The Birth of Venus pictured on it. Cute souvenir, actually.
Friday was my tour out to Siena and San Gimignano, two smaller Tuscan cities (really, a city and a town), where we saw the cathedrals, and all sorts of amazing medieval architecture. Early in the trip, a nice lady said hi to me and we got to talking, finding out that she lives in Kelowna right now, but grew up in Cochrane, of all places. Small world.
So we ended up spending most of the day together, since we’re both travelling alone right now. It was nice to have someone with similar cultural references to talk to for a while, since I haven’t had that much in the last 3 weeks.
Siena and San Gimignano were both beautiful, and I couldn’t have asked for better weather. I got really lucky that I picked to do the tour on the one day it ended up being absolutely lovely out. Plus I bought some cool stuff, some of it for you cool people back home, actually.
When the bus got back to Firenze, the girl from the tour, Leah, and myself, went for a drink, which turned into two, which turned into dinner and wine. It was lovely to just sit, watching the sunset, eating good food and drinking chianti after a day out in the Tuscan sun. It’s really kind of surreal. Plus, it’s given me more inspiration for a new play I’m already thinking about (despite not actually being done the one I have to hand in about a week and a half from now).
On the walk home, after Leah and I parted ways, I got more attention on the walk home than I’ve gotten in Calgary in the last 5 years, I think. I had a guy stop mid-stride on the sidewalk, introduce himself, and ask if I wanted to go for a drink. Another guy stopped me, asking me how much longer I was here, etc, obviously fishing. I got a few calls of “Ciao Bella,” and even a guy in an upstairs window who made little “pssst” noises until I glanced up, and then said “Ciao Bella,” a la Joey Tribbiani saying “How you doin’?”
Honestly, it all made me feel like my fly was undone or I had something all over my face. I don’t trust that kind of attention worth a damn. It was weird, though I was drunk enough to find it flattering at the time. It’s only now I’m getting weird about it, recalling it with a clearer head.
Today was my last full day in Italy. I set an early alarm, planning to go to the Accademia and knowing that I would be waiting a long time if I didn’t get a move on early.
Well, I set the alarm. And then, when it rang, I reset it for another hour later. And then I killed a ton of time around here, not getting out, so by the time I got there, it was after 10, and I had to wait over 2 hours to get in.
While it’s cool to say I’ve now seen Michelangelo’s David up close and personal (and damn, that’s a big sculpture; it’s pretty rare for me to feel tiny, but I did), the rest of the Accademia was pretty unimpressive. It’s really quite a small museum, and most of the rest of the work seemed to be really old (1300-1400) religious works, which get old fast. They do have a cool room of plaster sculptures which larger works all over the world are based on. Beyond the sculptures, I was totally unmoved by the Accademia.
I did some shopping after that, and along with some gifts, I bought myself a really pretty eggplant purple, Italian leather purse, that I managed to pay only €30 for because a) I began to walk away when he said 40, and b) I spoke just enough Italian to ask about prices IN Italian, and that helps. I also got a bit of a deal on some other stuff because of the language thing. Good thing numbers are about the strongest part of my Italian. :)
As a little update for you: I still want to eat everything in Italy. Mi piace the food here. A lot. I’ve had so much good pasta. Gnocchi is awesome. Last night, I had chicken with lemon sauce, and a salad, and I swear I don’t know how Italians make everything good, but they manage. In the last 5 weeks, my palate has definitely grown, and I like things I didn’t before.
So, I’ve spent the last couple hours trying to repack, as I leave tomorrow for Paris. My iPod cord has gone missing, so lucky for me, I’ll be seeing my parents tomorrow, and they will be bringing another one. I’m going to be sorely disappointed if my ipod dies, as the battery is low-ish right now. Boo.
I’m also trying to finish off my bottle of wine, since I wouldn’t want to waste any of it. :)
I don’t know what my internet situation will be like in Paris or London, but I will hopefully find some time to get some entries up. I’m meeting up with my parents in under 24 hours. Playtime is over. :(
No, I’m kidding about that last part. And not just because they read this blog. It will be nice to have someone to talk to besides myself and the few random strangers I manage to speak to.
On that note, Salute for the last time from Firenze, Italia.
Ciao Bella!


Monday, June 14, 2010

Catching Up

I seem to have hit some sort of wall with updating. I haven’t written any blog entries in 4 days now. Sorry, guys., what’s happened...I took the train back to Madrid where I stayed overnight. I walked from the station to my hostal, because this time I knew where it was, and it was either walk up the hill with my luggage, or do all the stairs of the two metro stations with it; you might even call it a rock and two pickles kind of situation (inside joke).
While back in Madrid, I went to the Plaza Santa Ana because there’s a “Federico García Lorca memorial” there, which sounded like something I’d want to see.
It’s a little, statue that says his name on the front. It’s tiny. It’s not even the dominant statue in that plaza. There’s a much bigger one for something else at the opposite end. I was disappointed, as you can imagine. So disappointed, I didn’t even take a picture.
That night, after dinner, I went for what is, apparently, a Madrid must-do, according to my lonely planet guide: I went for chocolate con churros at a place just off Puerta del Sol called the Chocolateria San Ginés. You might have had churros before at an amusement park or something, but they’re different in Spain. They’ve still got that characteristic long, thin, ridged shape, but they’re plain, and softer and freshly made, and you get a little stack of them along with a cup of chocolate that I would describe as being kind of like warm chocolate pudding, but not gelatinous like pudding can be. That’s not overly appetizing sounding, but it was good and different and a cool experience to sit in this little narrow street at an outdoor table at almost midnight, and the tables were mostly full and stayed relatively full—when one emptied, people sat at it sometimes before it was even cleared.
The next day...well, it’s pretty much like you’d expect, I think. I took the metro to the airport. It’s about an hour between transferring (might be less without all the luggage, but...yeah) and finding lifts and/or escalators. The one station, Cuatro Caminos, to get to line number 6 (grey) which I only had to take one stop further, you go down 4 of the longest escalators I’ve ever seen in my life. And that’s from another line, not even from ground level.I don’t want to know how far underground that puts you.
The airport was airport like. Lots of waiting and struggling with bags. This flight was on Meridiana, and they are officially known from here on as the luggage Nazis. Where BA, Air France, and Iberia all allowed up to 23kg for your bag, Meridiana allows 20, and it’s not per bag. You pay a fixed rate for the first 20 kg, and it can be spread out among as many bags as you want. Then you pay €12 for EVERY kg you go over that limit. Yeah. So I had to do a lot of creative shuffling. Long, loooooong story short, my bag...19.9, bitches. Yeah. I did it. Course, that meant everything heavy was in my backpack. If I hadn’t also weighed it, I would have sworn it was as heavy as my luggage. It’s amazing what a difference 3kg makes on your back.
So, we loaded onto the plane relatively on schedule, then the captain said they were just loading the luggage, so a short delay of 15 to 20 minutes.
An hour and 20 minutes later, we FINALLY took off. Someone in the back of the plane clapped. The rest of us we’re thinking it.
This put me about an hour late in Florence, where the people who run the place I was to be staying at we’re waiting for me to arrive because they don’t stay here the rest of the time. I was supposed to call if there were any major delays, so I tried to call them as soon as we landed, and I couldn’t make the stupid travel cell phone dial correctly, so I had to get a hold of my dad (it dialled fine when the number was already in saved in its phonebook. I’ve since figured out I was using the wrong combination of + and * and #, which go in different places in the number. Ugh.) and get him to call them, which he did because he’s cool like that.
I got a taxi painlessly, and the guy was really nice and let me butcher some Italian with him and even told me I spoke very well (which I have two theories on: 1, he sees lots of tourists who probably speak as much Italian as I did German when I got to Vienna, and they probably all have terrible accents for romance languages, and 2, he’s paid, ie tipped, to be nice to tourists). We got to the place quite quickly, and I rang the bell to be let into the building.
No answer.
On the sign, it says if there’s no answer to call the phone number I hadn’t been able to call at the airport. So again, I had to call my dad and get him to call them and then he called me back to say that she said she’d be right there, having left because she thought that my plane sitting on the ground for an hour meant I wouldn’t arrive for another hour. Not so much. Anyway, after she got there, all was well. The keys here are crazy. the front door is a fairly normal house key. The inside door of the locanda (I think that’s the Italian equivalent of pensione, somewhere between hostel and hotel) is this scary looking key that should open a magic book or something. The door key and bathroom door key (since it’s across the hall) are extremely old, simple keys that look like you could pick the lock with a butterknife.
By that point, after I got settled in, it was pretty late, so I just went for dinner. I found a little pizzeria near the Piazza della Independenza, I think, and pretty much felt like the obviously gay waiter was laughing at the stupid tourist girl, since he had a table of friends he was joking with most of the time. Want to know how I knew he was gay? Yeah, you already know the answer to that, don’t you? (The answer is that every time in the last 5 years that I find a man attractive, it means he’s gay. He was cute, therefore gay). Not to mention, straight men don’t wear pants that tight. Just sayin’.
The next day (yesterday, ie. Sunday), I bought some groceries for breakfasts, and then mostly wandered around the city to get my bearings.
I saw Ponte Vecchio, which is pretty much something I wanted to see since my very first Italian class in my first semester of University when I was 17, so that’s kind of awesome. It’s all jewelry stores in the buildings now. The bridge itself is a little over a thousand years old (seriously), which I can’t even think about properly. I walked a bit along the Arno river, and had lunch at a little outdoor cafe across the bridge—foccaccia with turkey, mozzarella and asparagus, and a lemonsoda.
I also saw, of course, the Duomo (Italian word for cathedral), with the huge dome, and the bell tower (or Campanile), though didn’t go into any of them just then.
In the evening, I went to the Piazza della Repubblica and had dinner at another outdoor cafe. Simple spaghetti pomodoro e basilico. I had a craving for it. On the walk home, there was a HUGE crowd down the street laughing and clapping, so I had to check it out. A Charlie Chaplin style mime street performer was doing his thing. He was awesome, even though I only caught the end of his little show. I got Nocciola gelato (hazelnut) on the way home.
I also stopped to buy a small bottle of wine, planning to try to recreate Tinto de Verano in my room. Bought a small bottle of Italian red, got most of the way home and figured out the folly of this plan: I don’t have a corkscrew.
Well, so much for that (I’m planning to look for one later today, actually).
Speaking of today, I slept in again, and then went out planning to do the Duomo, the dome, the campanile and the baptistery today, since they’re all essentially part of the same complex. I took one look at the line to go to the top of the dome, and turned around, on a tip from my guidebook which said the lines at the campanile are shorter and it’s almost as high.
Jackpot. I didn’t wait at all to get in. 414 steps later I was staring at all of Florence, including the dome itself. Gorgeous. (Note, that picture is taken from the dome, because I wanted you to see the campanile I climbed. Scroll down for the view from the campanile OF the dome)

When I came down, I went into the baptistery and saw these amazing mosaics on the ceiling. Then I went through the Duomo itself (which is a separate entrance than to climb the dome. After Sevilla, the architecture didn’t look like much, but the frescoes on the inside of the dome are a-m-a-zing.
I had some lunch, and then figured I’d come back to the room for a bit and go back fairly late to try to skip the long lines for the dome, but when I walked by it was fairly short, so I decided no time like the present. I ended up in line between a bunch of Americans (after explaining to a bunch of other tourists that they were in the line to climb up the dome, which caused them to promptly leave. Wimps), and we talked. There was a guy who’d just graduated high school, a girl who was that same age and her sister who was probably a few years older than me, all from the upper east corner of the states, and then an older guy from Lousiana.
This guy...Oh man...this guy was one of those guys who worms into every conversation and thinks he belongs there, and that he knows everything, despite the fact that I was clearly better read on the subject of Florence...and everything else, really, than he was. He kept saying stupid things, and inserting what I thought were totally inappropriate to the conversation the rest of us had (including his very own anecdote about if a gypsy hands you a baby, you drop it because the gypsy is going through your purse, to which I responded that I’d find it more traumatic to drop a baby than have my money stolen. Yes, I actually said that to him. Didn’t shut him up though.).
Sadly, of course, this meant I got to the top (460 steps up, ugh) about the same time as him. He was offering to take pictures for everyone, which was nice enough, but when I refused, saying I didn’t need a picture of me in front of the view, he followed me around and insisted. And then went on telling me I was beautiful and would probably get a modelling contract. Seriously dude, what the fuck? Also, this is the picture he took:
Yeah. Nice.
I bet he thinks he’s a photographer too. Although I kind of like that you can’t see my face.
Also, just for comparison, here’s the picture I took myself:
I like it better, but hey, maybe that’s just me.
Anyway, there, now you’re up to date on my Firenze adventures. Tomorrow, I’ve got an afternoon trip to Pisa booked, and Friday, I’m going to Siena and San Gimignano. In between, I’ve got to see the Accademia (where Michelangelo’s David is), the Uffizi (also an art gallery) and the Palazzo Pitti (once owned by the Medici’s, it’s now an art gallery, royal apartments, and big garden all together)
Oh yeah, and I have to eat everything in Italy.
Did I mention how I feel about Tuscan food?
It’s like the exact opposite of how I felt with Spanish food where if I liked it, I was surprised, and mostly was just eating safe stuff because I had to eat. Yeah, here, I want half the menu immediately, but I’m also trying not to be too expensive. Sigh. It’s very sad, I know. Don’t you feel sorry for me?
On that note, here’s my list of things I miss the most (in no particular order, of course):
1) My dog (seeing her on skype with my parents isn’t the same thing, and it kind of breaks my heart that it confuses her when I talk to her through the computer, though it’s cool that I can make her sit from another continent)
2) A shower which requires no contortions to be used effectively, and I don’t have to turn off every 30 seconds to avoid flooding the bathroom
3) My bed. Oh man, my bed. Ungh.
4) Carpeting. Vienna was the last place I can remember even seeing carpet in a building. Seriously. I don’t feel at home without carpet. Is that weird?
5) You guys, my friends and family! (sometimes, I gotta break out the cheese, sorry. But really, I do miss you guys)
That’s it for now. I’ve got MTV on right now, for some background noise, and oh shit, they’re playing Jersey Shore. I need to leave now. I can actually feel my brain shrieking and trying to escape.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Granada, Granada, Gone

There are supposed to be more pictures in this, but they won't load to save my life. Sorry. I won't have internet tomorrow, so no updates until Italy now.
Today is my last day in Granada, as my train leaves early tomorrow morning for Madrid (where I stay overnight, then fly to Firenze, or Florence, Italy).
Since my last entry, I had some weird food and weird experiences (and great food and great experiences too). The evening after the Alhambra, I tried a little restaurant in the triangle formed by Gran Via de Colon, San Juan de Dios and the Cathedral (which [a] isn’t all that triangular, but you don’t care, and [b] should be called the Bermuda triangle because I can’t go there without getting lost). I had the Menu del Dia (of the day), where you choose a first and a second and a dessert, and it’s a fixed price and generally includes bread and service (which aren’t always included here, btw).
Now, remember, if you will, how I raved about the garlic soup in Vienna. It was like a cream soup of really strong garlic taste with croutons on top and it was so, so, so good. So one of the firsts here was garlic soup. Awesome, right?
Yeah, not the same thing, apparently.
Here, it was a kind of vaguely orangely broth with bread and pieces of garlic floating on top. At first, it seemed ok if a little strange, and too salty. But when I’d eaten a bit more, I discovered that the bottom of it was full of pork (believe me, pork is the best option here, so I’m going with that). I continued kind of eating a bit of the top part, pretending like there was no pork in the part I was eating (don’t judge me), but when I found some sort of big white ball thing at the bottom, I was done. It had the look of a ball of mozzarella (a bocconcini en Italiano), which would have been fine, but I cut through it with my spoon and it had the texture of tofu or (more likely) some sort of assorted animal product. Yeah. I tried.
Second course was roast chicken, which was pretty normal. Then super awesome chocolate mousse.
Also, on another recommendation from my friend Rob who, I think, lived (?) in the south of Spain for a while, I ordered Tinto de Verano, not really knowing what to expect. I knew it contained wine, and I’m not at all a wine drinker, but all of his other recommendations had been so good that I gave it a shot. It looked like a glass of red wine with ice and a lemon slice in it, and I was super nervous that I was going to be forcing myself to drink it. And it was really good. It’s basically one part red wine, one part lemon flavoured soda (imagine taking half sprite and half carbonated water because it’s way less strong than our sodas), over ice. Yeah, I’m definitely trying to make that at home, and if I figure out how to make it, you’re invited to come hang out with me and try it. Good stuff.
And, as you may have guessed from my description of where I ate, I got lost getting home. I mean, like I ended up halfway across the city before I could find any of the streets around me on my map, since my “get myself un-lost” technique, is to just keep walking in the direction that feels right, and hope I find something useful. Best technique? Probably not.
The next day, I slept in, then headed out to see the Capilla Real (Royal Chapel, basically the tombs of Los Reyes Catolicos, the Catholic Kings, Ferdinand and Isabel), the Catedral, and the Centro Jose Guerrero, since they’re all in the same block. The Capilla Real was pretty and kind of creepy. I saw the mausoleum pieces, and lead coffins for Ferdinand and Isabel, and some of their family members. The really cool thing, I thought, was the fact that in the stone sculpture, Isabel’s head is pressing harder and further into the pillow than Ferdinand’s, and my guidebook informed me that this was done because he was essentially a consort, and this symbolized that her head was heavier with knowledge and intelligence. Gotta love that. No pictures were allowed in there, and yet there was one brave asshole taking flash photos anyway.
The Catedral was a rather similar experience for me. I always feel a real need to act respectfully in places of worship, regardless of my personal feelings about religion. And I really felt like most of the people in there were just being completely flippant about the reverence a cathedral deserves. People were snapping photos right in front of the “no foto” signs, and talking pretty loud, and wandering around the front altar, despite the fact that, to me, these seem like things you just don’t do in a church when you’re there as a tourist. I think, if anything, being there as a paying tourist, makes me feel even more aware of the need to be respectful of that space because I’m not part of the congregation.
Anyway, I found this cathedral pretty unspectacular after having seen Seville, as well as Madrid and Vienna.
When I came out the doors, a man, who had just been standing there holding a cup, starts making false little crying sounds and begging in Spanish, and it was so rehearsed and obviously faked and targeted, I was struck by, um, absolutely no sympathy at all. Ok, that’s not true, but very little sympathy, anyway. Then, as I tried to walk by the steps of the cathedral to get to where I was going, I was chased around by a lady trying to do one of those press some herbs into your hand, bless you in Spanish, demand cash routines. I felt absolutely ill. I just kept saying “no, no, no, no” trying to be polite, and keep my hands out of hers, and she was grabby and wouldn’t stop.
Going back a bit, the whole thing just compounded onto how I was feeling about respect for holy places. It seemed to me that none of this showed any respect for “god” or belief or religion. And regardless of my beliefs, I think it’s wise to show some reverence. Besides, shouldn’t you be able to walk by the cathedral without being accosted? If someone says no, I think it should mean something. I know they’re just trying to make money, but especially in Granada, I feel like there are plenty of ways someone could do that without making tourists feel violated. I don’t know. Do I sound like a bitchy, snobby twit?
(big sigh) So, anyway, I was in kind of a weird place when I got to the Centro Jose Guerrero; I’d just spent 7euro in religious buildings to be pretty much unimpressed and then followed. The Centro Jose Guerrero has free entry on Wed., so I just wandered about, but there was a group of schoolkids there, so it’s wasn’t very peaceful, plus I wasn’t really sure what the deal was with this place. I guess Jose Guerrero was an artist? and a collector? I don’t know. Anyway, I was glad it was free.
Then, I bought some souvenirs, including a pretty silver pendant in the shape of the Granada pomegranate, and had lunch (with a tinto de verano) before coming back here for a break.
By 5, I headed back out, off towards the Parque Federico Garcia Lorca (FGL, for short, fyi) and the Huerte San Vicente. It’s a decent walk from where I’m staying, so I was actually glad for the cold weather. I was actually comfortable in pants and shoes and socks, and I had a hoodie that I intermittently put on and took off.
The tour through Huerte San Vicente wasn’t until 6 (you can’t go through alone), so I killed some time writing and contemplating on a bench (as so much of my best time in Europe has been spent). Huerte San Vicente is one of the houses once owned by FGL’s father, and FGL would have lived there for some time during the middle of his childhood. The tour was all in Spanish, but, especially because I already knew so much of his biographical details, I was able to follow much of what she said, and just look around. I saw FGL’s certificate from the University of Granada, his writing desk, some early drafts of his work from his journals, etc. It was neat, but not worth a trip for most people who haven’t been fascinated by FGL.
The park around it, dedicated to him, was kind of a sad place for me. It’s basically a rundown park full of signs showing runners how to stretch properly, and a fountain where half the spouts don’t work. It’s, apparently, the largest rose garden in Europe, (so says Wikipedia), but it didn’t seem like much. Maybe I was just in this mood, but it just seemed like a pretty irreverent tribute to a writer who’s considered to be a Granadino (though technically, he was born and lived his early years in Fuente Vaqueros, but I won’t get started on that because you know I could go on and on)
By the time I started walking back toward the centre of town, it was raining a bit, and it was too early to eat, so I hit the hostal again. Unfortunately, in the time I was there, raining a bit turned into pouring, but by 9pm, I really did need to go find food and it wasn’t letting up. Shit.
I wandered in the general vicinity, but by the time I found a place that looked ok and not too expensive, I was soaked. My little black “rain” jacket? Well, in Vienna, I’d discovered it’s not even a little bit rainproof. Still true, but I don’t have anything else with me. I ate greasy pizza (and another tinto de verano), and then came home to try to dry off.
Today, having done all the tourist-book recommended things that sounded interesting to me, I had to find something to do. (Note, I gave up on the idea of taking a bus out to either the village where FGL was born or died. It sort of makes me want to have a heart attack, taking random buses that may or may not actually bring me back)
So, I wandered up through the Albaicin, a really old part of Granada built on a big hill/small mountain. Yes, that means I climbed, and climbed and climbed. And when I got up there and saw the view of the city, it felt so good to have made it. I stared at the Alhambra from across the valley, and looked down over all of Granada. I know I’m not in great shape or anything, but man, I am in way better shape than when I left Canada. My legs are like different legs. Having a car again is going to be plain weird.
I started on down, and ended up at a little terrace cafe right in the shadow of the Alhambra. I really loved just sitting there, having lunch, staring up at the Alhambra and writing and drawing. It was entirely antithetical to yesterday’s experience. I didn’t feel like such a stupid tourist there
View just over from where I had lunch, and some really lame little sketches I was doing of the Alhambra and a fountain in front of me. Obviously, you can see the perspective was a little different on the Alhambra where I was sitting, but I didn't take a picture when I was sitting.
So, I guess that's about all for now.
"Tell It Like It Is" by Aaron Neville has been stuck in my head since I saw the end of Pirate Radio, so go listen to that a few times. It's the only Aaron Neville song I've ever heard that wasn't irritating as hell.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Lorca and the Alhambra

So I woke up yesterday early and checked out to head for the train station. Given how disastrous the walk from the station was, I decided to wimp out and take a taxi to the station. Right decision. I had a bit of a wait at the station because I wanted to be early and I wasn’t sure if getting a taxi right away would be easy (but a driver spotted me like the moment I came out the door of my hostal and I nodded at him and he stopped for me. It was pretty great).
The train was a bit different than the last one. I was going from a place much smaller than Madrid to a place smaller than Sevilla, so this wasn’t as fast of a train (I think around 130km/h), and had stops in what appeared to me to be the middle of nowhere.
In Granada, I started to walk, got about 2 blocks from the station and couldn’t find the street I was looking for, so after Sevilla, I said to hell with it and went back and took a taxi. Again, right decision. It was only 5euro, and I didn’t have to sweat like a crazy person and be lost for an hour.
The guy here speaks really good English, and, like in Madrid, he gave me a map and pointed out some things to do, then gave me the fax that had come from the company I booked my Alhambra tour with (more on that shortly). It was pretty much the best arrival I could have hoped for, and solved every concern I had about Granada in about 2 minutes. Sweet.
It was the middle of siesta time when I arrived, so I waited in the hostal for a bit, just hanging out. The guy from the front brought me an electric fan (because this one’s not air conditioned, but honestly, I fought with that a/c so much, I don’t really mind at all) for the room.
Eventually, when it should have been a bit cooler, I went out. I wandered up Gran Via de Colon, and turned towards what I now know is Plaza Nueva (though at the time, I was just wandering). I sat for a bit and wrote and thought. It was a really nice moment; the weather was warm but the sun was down enough that it wasn’t super hot and there was a nice breeze, blowing the leaves around. There was a fountain right in front of me, and every now and then, dogs would stop to drink and splash in it. A guy was playing Spanish guitar half a block down. It was just like being in a movie, and it got me thinking about what kind of plot my movie would have, and spurred a whole moment for me in my writing. A bit of navel-gazing never hurt anyone unless they were standing in traffic, right?
Anyway, when it finally seemed late enough to eat (a bit earlier here, probably because there seems to be a lot of older English-speakers here, a.k.a. the early bird specials), around 8 or 8:30, I picked a place right there at Plaza Nueva and ate on the terrace just on the other side of the fountain I’d been at.
I had a granizada limon (lemon slurpee, delicious), a tapa of tortilla de patatas (told you about that already, if you’ve been reading), and a tosta (like an open faced sandwich) with tomato, ali oli (garlic mayo) and little shrimps on it. It was really good, and this might have been the first time in Spain I’ve really felt like I liked the food. Mostly, I’ve found Spanish food to be ok if I order the right thing, but not my favourite. I don’t know how Spanish this meal was, but presumably more than “salty pancakes,” and I quite enjoyed it.
I also had helado from Tiggiani (which, according to my Andalucia book, has granadinos in a rave about their awesome flavours), and it was quite good. I wandered and explored and got a bit lost and wandered some more and felt a little nervous that I was actually really lost and then kept walking in what felt like the right direction and eventually hit a street I knew and found myself again (in the literal sense, not the figurative “finding oneself” sense).
The only thing I’ve found wrong about Granada so far is that this is the first European shower I’ve had where I don’t really fit. It’s way too short of a room, as in I can’t stand up straight and shampoo my hair. But really, of all the things to complain about, at least I have a shower.
This morning, I got up early to go on my Alhambra tour.
Perhaps I should explain what the Alhambra is? It’s a huge old Muslim walled city up on the hills above Granada where nobels and the Sultan used to live (before 1400, when Spain was still under Muslim rule). It’s also a UNESCO world heritage site, one of the most visited places in Spain, and widely considered to be one of the most beautiful places in the world for the architecture inside the palaces. History lesson over.
I had to go down a couple blocks to a bigger hotel to get picked up and I was very early, so I waited around. Finally, when the people arrived, she tells me (as the man tells the other people in French) that the Alhambra is having a general strike and so it was supposed to still have minimal services, but that her colleague, there since early morning, says it’s actually closed.
So, she says, I can get a refund no problem, but really, you don’t go to Granada without seeing the Alhambra. That’s like going to New York city and not going to Times Square, even though you might never get another chance to go there. If Times Square was halfway around the world, was hundreds of years old, and was extremely beautiful, all of which, it is not.
She also says I can try to rebook for another day, but that tomorrow might be impossible because everyone from today will be rebooking for today. I leave here first thing Friday morning.
Double shit.
She gives me the phone number, and I start slowly wandering back toward my hostal, looking at my cellphone, trying to figure out what to do. I don’t even really know how to dial locally with it. But it’s the middle of the night back home, so I can’t call my Dad to ask. But I need to call right away to have much chance of rebooking.
So many shits.
Suddenly, the woman runs up behind me and says “She called to say it’s open, so we can go. Come on.”
No more shit. So many awesomes.
On the bus, I managed to hit my knee on an armrest so hard, it’s now purple and blue, despite the fact that it only happened a few hours ago. Go team graceless.
When we got there, they split us up into language groups. The English group was actually mostly non-native English speakers, but their native language was uncommon enough as to not get a full group (some from Holland, I’m certain I heard some German, and one couple were from India). Other than the daughter of one of the couples, I was definitely the youngest person there.
We walked through the gardens, and I managed to walk into a shin-high wall, scraping my leg open. Team graceless strikes again.
It really was a beautiful place.
But to be honest, I sort of expected more.

Federico Garcia Lorca (as you may know, one of my writerly obsessions in the past year) said “The melancholic and contemplative man goes to Granada to be all alone...near the bonfire of saffron, deep gray, and blotting-paper pink—the walls of the Alhambra.”
That description...I mean, in typical Lorca fashion, he makes it sound like the most perfect place on earth.
But the trouble is that the Alhambra that Lorca saw is not the Alhambra of today. It wasn’t really a tourist attraction then, it wasn’t half under renovation and restoration as it is now, it wasn’t populated by shouting teenagers and screeching children, all on field trips. It was contemplative and beautiful. It was a place a writer could go to write.
And I expect, if I could see it as Lorca saw it, I would feel very differently about it. But honestly, it felt like a very beautiful, but fairly empty (in an emotional sense) tourist attraction.
However, I’m finding Granada to be a lovely city. Granada means pomegranate in Spanish, and Lorca described it as hard and skull-like on the outside, but inside, containing the “blood of the wounded earth.” How beautiful is that? He grew up around and in Granada, and I’ve been reading a biography of him (by Leslie Stainton, it’s extremely detailed and about 2 inches thick, and yes, I carried it with me), trying to see how he might have seen this place. It might seem really cliché. I’m probably pretty far down the list of young writers who’ve idolized him, and thus come to Granada because of his life. But I find something about him and about his writing to be so endlessly fascinating. And don’t even get me started on his relationship to Dali.
Anyway, Granada is treating me well. It really is beautiful here.
“Al coger tu paleta, con un tiro en un ala, / pides la luz que anima la copa del olivo. / Ancha la luz di Minerva, constructora de andamios, / donde no cabe el sueño ni su flora inexacta.”
approximately “When you take up your palette, with a bullet hole in it’s wing / You call on the light that brings to life the olive tree / The light of Minerva, builder of scaffolds / Where there is no room for dream or it’s hazy flower
-from “Oda a Salvador Dali” by Federico Garcia Lorca.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Strange in Sevilla

A day late and a buck short (or something like that). I'm now caught up. My pictures won't upload right now; I think the connection's a little too slow. I'll make sure that I have tons of photos up at some point, at least in July when I get home.
So, this is my last day in Sevilla. I haven’t written much for the blog while I’ve been here. I think because I’ve been having a hard time here, and mostly I write blog updates when I’m stoked about life. Here, I’ve felt cut off and out of place, despite (or maybe because of) having immediate internet access, and therefore being able to skype with my family. I think part of it is simply that it seems like Sevillians don’t smile at you much. I don’t know if that’s because I’m clearly a foreigner, or just a general tendency, or maybe something else entirely, but for a day or so, I really let it get to me and felt ugly and stupid and strange.
I am feeling much better about it now. I think I’m finding there’s a real adjustment period to each place I’m in. The first two days in Madrid were difficult and then I found I was really enjoying it. Here, I wasn’t happy until this afternoon, and I leave tomorrow morning. Oh well.
So, to catch you up: the day I arrived, I didn’t do much. Just went to the tourist info place and got a map of the city, and found I almost melted walking over there, so I came back to the hostal and waited for it to cool off. I went for dinner very late (because it’s the Spanish thing to do). I ate a tapa of shrimp salad that was super full of mayo, and tortilla Espanola, which is like potato omelette. I gotta say, it was the worst of the tortilla I’ve had so far (which is to say out of 3); the potato was undercooked but the egg was still runny. Ew. Then I wandered a bit before coming back here.
Yesterday morning, I went to the Reales Alcazares, which is basically an old muslim palace from the time when Spain was ruled by the Almohades. I took some photos, but I didn’t want to carry my big camera, so they’re not fantastic. You can find great ones on the internet, I’m sure. It’s the kind of place that’s so intricately detailed and beautiful and amazing, that you kind of get overwhelmed and give up trying to capture or catalogue it in any way. The architecture...I mean, it’s stunning. I can’t even find words for it. It’s a level of detail that absolutely nothing in Canada compares to, as far as I know.
After walking around there for several hours early in the morning (it’s cooler until around noon, it seems), I was going to go to the cathedral, but I couldn’t figure out where tourists could go in. Basically, it has multiple entrances, and it would be really disrespectful to just wander in with the people there for prayer when I’m so clearly not. I was also being hounded on the steps of the cathedral by women pressing little sprigs of plant into my hand, and then spouting off a fortune and a blessing involving “Santa Ana,” and then asking for money. The first one, I gave her a euro and she asked for five euro (that’s like...almost $7CAD). I have trouble with this kind of thing because I feel sort of bad, but at the same time...5euro?? I mean, seriously.
Anyway, I gave up and went back to the hostal and my little siesta ended up with me waking up at around 8pm. Oops. I went for dinner then. Thankfully, that’s still early for dinner here, so it wasn’t a problem that I slept so late. I ate at a place called Levies Cafe, and had tapas: empanadillas de espinachi (basically spinach wrapped in a dough and fried), pollo frito (fried pieces of chicken), and paella (traditional Spanish rice, which I had to try once, but it contains pork and bunches of seafood I won’t eat, so I kind of picked at the rice and pretended I wasn’t eating anything I don’t eat. I’m still trying not to think about it). Weirdly enough, in Vienna, at 1516, there was a guy from Seville and he had written down a place I should go for dinner. It was the same place. I didn’t look at the name of the place when I decided to eat there (just the menu), and I didn’t look at the thing in my wallet until I’d eaten. It was kind of strange to end up there anyway.
On the way home, I ate helado de avellana (hazelnut gelato). Seriously, since I’ve been in Europe, hardly a day has gone by without either lemon or hazelnut gelato (and sometimes both, though not together. That would be weird. So yes, I ate gelato twice in a day at least once).
Today, I got up early again and walked to the Museo de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts). It didn’t take too long, and seemed pretty lacklustre after the Prado and Thyssen-Bornemisza and Reina Sofia, so I was finished there around 11, and the cathedral doesn’t open until 2:30 on Sundays (to tourists, that is). So I wandered and wrote and wandered some more, generally feeling sorry for myself and stupid and annoyed (I know. I’m such fun, huh?).
At 2:30, I went to the cathedral and the line up to get it was masssssssive (emphasis on the mass. get it?) and in full sun. So I waited a bit and by about 3, it was considerably shorter.
I’ve never in my life seen anything so ridiculously amazing. It is, according to Wikipedia, the third largest church in the world, and the largest gothic cathedral in the world. It’s like the size of a city. I mean, you could house all of Stettler in there. Not that that’s saying much, but...You could stack airplanes. In the middle of the church, it’s 37m high. It’s enormous and detailed and crazy. I think I said it a few entries ago...Nobody does finery like the catholics. It’s still true. I climbed the bell tower too, and the view is ridiculous. I thought Seville was kind of small. Yeah, it’s not.
Anyway, the thing I found sort of surprising was how much I found the cathedral lifted my spirits. Obviously, I’m not catholic, nor religious at all; I consider myself a conscientious dissenter to the whole idea of organized religion. But I found that I felt better about the whole of Sevilla when I left there. Is that totally weird?
Later, when I went for dinner, I found a place that looked decent, and the english translation for part of their menu was "salty pancakes" which came in chicken, spinach with prawns, and other flavours. Well, clearly I had to try that. Salty pancake just means savoury crepe, but it was good nonetheless, if not particularly Spanish. I also had a chocolate and banana one for dessert, but then it made me think of Cora's. When I get home, someone take me out to Cora's for breakfast, ok?
Anyway, that’s all for now. Tomorrow, to the train station and I head for Granada, birthplace of Garcia Lorca, where I hope to chase some ghosts and find some inspiration. I’ve discovered there’s a bus to a village right by where he died as well, so now I think I may have to do that. I’m seeking adventures, right? Buses to random tiny Spanish villages can only mean adventure. Wish me luck with that, everyone.
“wake up and waste a day/chase away/a day at a time/and waste away”
“Scratched Out” by The Matches

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Dreams, Musings, Train Travel

This entry spans June 4 and 5. I'm still behind on uploading. Hopefully by tonight (ie. by Sun. afternoon in Canada), I'll catch up. Also, if you're reading these blogs of mine, leave me a comment. I feel super far from home right now, and it would be really nice to know who's interested in my blogs. :)

There’s a really surreal quality to sitting in a Madrid hostel room, and realizing someone’s playing Muse’s “Exogenic Symphony” loud enough that it carries all the way to you (I actually first heard “Map of the Problematique.” ...Ellie, are you in Madrid and didn’t tell me?). I guess it’s just one of those things where I stupidly expect everything to be foreign because I’m far from home, but the fact is that English music is still the major music in most of the world (I mean English language, not necessarily from England). On the one day that I had working tv in Madrid, I saw several Lady Gag videos come on the music station. That makes me sad.
But the Muse thing makes me happy, so at least there’s that.
Today, I had no plan when I woke up, since I’d done all the things I planned to do for sure. I decided then, that I might as well go to the Museo de Thyssen-Bornemisza.
And thank god I did. As is always the way with me, I would have really regretted missing out on that experience.
It meant that I got to put my face about an inch from “Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bumblebee around a Pomegranate a Second before Waking Up” by Salvador Dalí, one of my favourites of his. If I’d not bothered to go to the Thyssen, and then realized what I’d missed, I would have been extremely upset with myself.
And actually, the Thyssen ended up being possibly my favourite of the museums I’ve seen so far in Europe. It had more breadth than most; there is something kind of great about being able to survey art history from 1290 all the way to the 2000’s in one building. Plus, of course, one of my favourite Dalí paintings (and two of his others), another Magritte (not my favourite), and a bunch of really great moderns. I have to say, Lichtenstein really loses something in reproduction, because seeing it up close and realizing that he really did that with oil paint and a brush, not a computer program as would be done’s pretty amazing. I also found an artist called Frantisek Kupka who I’ve decided is a genius of the abstract. His composition skills are ridiculous. I probably stared at “Positioning of Mobile Graphic Elements” for 10 minutes because my eyes just kept going around and around. Brilliant. Wassily Kandinsky’s “In the Bright Oval” really had a lot to say to me, and I really kind of want to take an art history class or two now. Or at least more art classes. I miss painting.
Since I haven’t had internet to post that one, and it’s short, I might as well just keep adding on, despite the fact that it’s now the next day. I’m writing to you from a train from Madrid to Seville, where I’ll be for a few days. Thus far, I have to tell you, trains...are so, so, so much better than airplanes. Sure, it’s going to be a little longer on the train because it doesn’t go as fast, but I have leg room, and the luggage was all easy and nobody looked at me like I was a bug like most airport staff do. I think a while back Via Rail was calling train travel back home the “more civilized” way to travel, and I’d say that sounds about right so far. I’ll probably even get some real work done on this train. And it went so smoothly, I’m kind of looking forward to having two more days like this (one from Seville to Granada, the Granada back to Madrid), as opposed to plane travel, which I tolerate only for the cool places it gets me (as opposed to my mother who says she actually enjoys it?? I don’t get it, mom).
On that note, “D’yer Maker” by Led Zeppelin just seems like the right song for this mood I’m in. And if you know me, you should know that means all is well.
Ok, so trains are good, but they’re a little like cars for me; trying to read doesn’t end well. No, I was fine, but I had to take gravol and chew some mint gum and put away anything I could conceivably read for a little while. It kind of sucked. Anyway, I’m still looking forward to more trains, I just know to be careful now.
I arrived in Sevilla around 12:45 today, and began the attempt to walk from the station to my hostal, not having, of course, a clue where I was going. My only decent map is actually on my computer, and I wrote what I thought were decent instructions from them, but the trouble is that without the map right in front of me, I tend to get a bit turned around (and even then, in a new city...who knows). Anyway, I walked a bunch and realized I was going entirely the wrong direction, then walked most of the rest of the way relatively with ease (though it was hot as hell, and I have sooo much crap to carry because I’m an idiot), and even found the right street. I only had to whip out my computer twice to look at the map again.
Once I found the street, it was supposed to be about 1 block to my left, number 27. So I went there. And saw nothing. Numbers 30 and 32, sure, but no 27. So I asked someone at a restaurant there, who told me it was the exact opposite direction and on the right. Oh, good. So I tried that. And continued to see nothing. Except now I was at number 5. Even better. I asked another someone, and they pointed me in the same direction as the first guy had. Good sign, I guess.
Long story short, what is, according to the hostal website a “25 minute walk from the train station” took me and hour and a half in 32degree heat with something like 40 kilos of luggage. I was literally soaking wet, and kept getting sweat actually stinging my eyes.
But, there is a happy ending to this story.
My hostal has A/C.
The end.
Ok, and a nice shower. And my bathroom isn’t down the hall. And the tv works (not that there’s anything I want to watch here, but sometimes the background noise is nice when I’m in the room.
And now that there’s internet, I’m actually posting blogs to catch up, and I can check email and things.
Cheers from Sevilla!


Friday, June 4, 2010

Aliens Abroad

This post is from June 2, but again, the internet thing.
Spain has been a roller coaster for me thus far. There have been times, like right now, where I feel just so joyous at being here and doing this, and there have been times when I’ve really truly felt like I was going to throw up. Yes, I’ve been that kid screaming “I want off the ride! Now! RIGHT NOW! LET ME OFF!” But, I am not currently that kid, so life goes on.
Where to begin...well, yesterday, I slept in, then went to the Museo del Prado, which is kind of the museum people talk about when they talk about Madrid. It’s full of old paintings by “masters.” No lie, it’s cool that I can say “Hey, I’ve seen a painting from 1370,” but beyond that, I just didn’t find the art as fascinating as the Reina Sofia was. I guess it just reaffirms what I already knew about myself—I really prefer art since 1900. There was one painting by Sorolla of some nude kids playing on a beach, and I was happy because I thought “Hey, there’s an old painting that I really like,” but then I find out it’s from right around the turn of the century, so not very old at all. Oh well, I tried. And I guess there’s something to be said for knowing what you like, right?
So, after that (I spent something like 5 hours in there. I saw every freakin’ room in there, so be impressed everyone...if I know any art history geeks, you should now worship me, just saying), I walked up to the Parque del Buen Retiro, which is a huge park, with a big lake that people can rent little boats on. I wandered and sat in the grass, and had this odd old Spanish man talk to me twice, despite figuring out the first time that I don’t speak Spanish and he doesn’t speak English. Despite that, he made some small talk which I sort of understood and responded to. I got the feeling he just wanders through the park and talks to young women because after the first time he talked to me, I saw him sitting with a younger woman, and then after he passed me again and talked to me, he wandered over to talk to a woman who was tanning in the sun. Yeah. Yet, he was much more charming than most of the old men I’ve met who would do that¬—perhaps because of the Spanish thing.
I wrote a bit there, and wandered some more, and saw the Puerta del Alcala, which is a big gate that apparently is kind of symbolic of Madrid, and then I went to Sol to go to El Corte Ingles (I need here to thank my friend Rob for recommending it. I wouldn’t have known about it without his help. You rock, Rob), which is a big department store with a supermarket in the basement. I bought apples because I seriously miss fruit, and cookies, because cookies are just awesome, and Kleenex because allergies are, well, not awesome. Oh, and Sunny D, because apparently it’s what Real Madrid drinks, according to the ads.
After that, honestly, I went back to the hostel and stayed there. I wasn’t feeling good, and I was just feeling sort of overwhelmed by the prospect of eating at a table alone, so I wimped out. But keep reading. I make up for it. ;)
Today, I woke up a bit earlier (still after 9) and headed out to see the Palacio Real (royal palace). I took the metro to Opera and then walked through the Plaza de Oriente, which was really beautiful, and I had a moment there, that I think started this good mood I’m still in. As I entered the square, I heard an accordion player and he was playing “La Vie En Rose,” and from that moment, I’ve been smiling, basically. Suddenly Madrid didn’t feel so impossibly alien anymore. It feels a little more like home (and by home, I apparently mean Vienna, because that’s what it reminded me of—walking through Stadtpark). It helped too that the weather wasn’t quite as oppressively hot today as the previous two. It was slightly overcast, so it wasn’t so “I’m going to melt”-y. I caught the very end of the changing of the guard, which happens on the first Wednesday of every month, so how lucky was it that I happened to have planned to go there on that day, right?
And the Palacio was beautiful, inside and out. It’s got Schönbrunn beat for exterior beauty, definitely (thought Schönbrunn’s garden definitely beats out the Palacio’s), since it’s all stone and gorgeous where Schönbrunn’s a kind of puke yellow (chosen, apparently, because it was the cheapest paint colour available at the time. The more you know). I only wish I could have taken photos in there because the interior has the kind of grandeur that I could not have imagined before this trip. I also spoke to a couple American girls in line waiting to get in. We talked about being in Europe and they said they would have guessed I was European because I didn’t look totally touristy (which I’m choosing to take as a compliment for me instead of an insult to Canada).

Since it was literally 100 feet away, I went through the Cathedral and went all the way up the cupola and looked down over Madrid. It was very cool, and going up there included their little museum, and all I can say is nobody, but nobody, does finery like the Catholics. Robes covered in jewels, huge ornaments and crowns and...ridiculous.
Then I wandered towards the Basilica because apparently it’s older, and better, according to the guy here at the hostel who told me all the stuff to do. It’s closed between 1 and 4, so I had about an hour to wait by that point, so I kept wandering, stopping to write, then wandering more. I meandered all the way to the Puerta de Toledo, then back up the Basilica, and waited until it finally opened. They only do guided tours, but it’s only in Spanish, so I paid my 2 euro and listened, and caught more than I would have expected, though still not that much. I even answered a question asked to me in Spanish about the church. My new favourite sentence is “Hablo un poco de español, y intiendo más” (I think that’s grammatical even. Maybe?).
I walked back to the Cathedral and down the hill into the Campo del Moro, basically the royal gardens. Very pretty and I walked around for a while. Then around to the Plaza de España. Finally, I hopped the metro home for a break and to figure out what to do about dinner. After much procrastination, I picked a place out of my guidebook to try and walked there. But when I got there, I chickened out; it was super crowded and intimidating looking. So I wandered and felt like maybe I was just going to come back to the hotel and feel like crap again, but I spotted a place called Apolo that had outdoor tables free, so I looked at the menu, and decided to try it. I ordered gambas de ajillo (prawns fried in garlic and oil on a little ceramic plate—very Spain, apparently) and patatas ali oli (weird...cold, boiled potatoes covered in garlic mayo, but there was so much of it, it was kind of gross). The waiter also brought me a tapas, and I was feeling very awkward, stupid Canadian who doesn’t know how to eat, so I just ate some of it. It was (probably) boquerones fritos (fried sardines)...I’m relatively certain, but he never said, hence the probably. It was not as disgusting as I would have expected, but I don’t think I’ll be recreating that one at home. Not my thing.
I had just finished, when I spotted a guy in a UBC t-shirt and decided I had to say something. Turns out he’s from Kelowna, and this was his first day here. I asked him to sit with me, and he ordered dinner and we talked until after midnight (did I mention Spaniards don’t eat dinner until after 9 at the earliest?). Anyway, he was a really nice guy, and it was nice to just be able to talk to someone in English and not feel awkward about everything. And I’m kind of super proud of myself for going out of my shell to connect with someone. It was worth it if only to talk about Universities and strange food and travelling.
And now it’s almost 2 am, so probably time to sleep. But, I think I’m getting the hang of this Spain thing. A good day will do that. :)

No quote, just listen to Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose” because it’s awesome.


Picasso and the Puerta del Sol

Please note, this entry is from Mon. May 31, but I was without internet. I haven't changed any of it, so when it says "today," it means May 31. Cheers!
Today, I spent over 5 hours at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, and as much as I know that would sound boring to some, I adored it. The Reina Sofia is essentially all modern art (1900 to current, though the newest piece I spotted was 1994), which is, as you might know, exactly what I love most when it comes to art (right down to the fact that not much of it is really, really new). As I wandered, I kept thinking of things I wanted to write down, and I did take some minimal notes on pieces that interested me. “Word Movie” by Paul Sharits (1966, at least I’m pretty sure that’s was the one I was looking at, but the title card wasn’t right beside it, so I’m guessing which one it was) was a projected film of simple printed words on coloured backgrounds, changing at a rapid speed. Each word had a letter in common, and the word was placed on the screen so that letter didn’t move. The words were all really provocative, mostly sexual, gross and crude. What was really interesting though was watching it. At first, I was really horrified by it; some of the words are pretty awful alone, but when you combine them in rapid succession, it’s nasty. However, as I watched, the horror wore off, as the pattern of watching took over. I became desensitized to it after just a minute or so. But really interestingly, the gross feeling of violation came back after another minute or so, and more strongly as I realized that I had been completely able to tune them out in the first place.
I can now say I’ve stood in front of a number of Picasso’s, including “Guernica.” Honestly, I felt little interest when I saw it. The only thing I was really impressed by is the sheer size of it, but I just don’t find it all that interesting of a painting. I feel like my interest in Dali (who I’m getting to), should translate a little bit into an interest in Picasso, if only because Dali was so fascinated by Picasso, but it just doesn’t work that way. The area around most of the Picassos was also so crowded and loud that it was hard to connect with any of the paintings. I actually had a better time on the upper floor in the temporary collections where there were almost no people, and no big name artists displayed. I was finding the time really nice and I reflected on a lot of what I saw there.
I saw another few works by Magritte here, one of which I really liked, called “Pink Balls, Tattered Skies.” I also saw a bunch of Dali’s paintings, including a few relatively famous ones (Great Masturbator being the most famous). I do find his work quite interesting, and I also really enjoyed seeing a few Garcia Lorca drawings hanging beside his. I sat and watched Un Chien Andalou in the museum as well. Lots of people stopped for a few moments, but I was definitely the only one who watched the entire thing. I loved seeing the really iconic moment from that film through the eyes of a bunch of people who didn’t know what they were in for. I, of course, knew that it was coming long before a razor even became visible, but the sounds and faces made by those around me when he slices through the eyeball were really interesting, especially because I think the cutaway to the moon made them think that maybe they wouldn’t show the actual cutting, but when it comes directly back, it’s pretty awful.
I find it really interesting that galleries aren’t lonely places to be alone. This might be partly because I hear more English there than I would on the streets because more tourists come there, but I think too that it’s the kind of place that invites you to reflect and that’s best done alone in many cases. Sure, galleries can inspire really good conversations, but sometimes it’s hard to match paces, depending on what you want to look at.
Anyway, it was a good way to spend the early part of the day (after catching up on some of the missed sleep—I slept until after 10, so didn’t get to the museum until after 11...early is relative here).
I had to switch rooms today, because the one I was in yesterday was actually a double room. It was a much nicer room and I’m a bit disappointed with this one. “Private bathroom” in this case, which I reserved, is a toilet in a separate room with the same key as my room, so only I can use it. The other room had a standard bathroom in it, and a bigger window looking into the main courtyard.
Oh well, at least the shower and sink are still in my room.
I’ve figured out that if I were just coming to Spain in June (ie without the 2 weeks in Vienna, particularly), I would have packed a bit differently. In Vienna, I did actually use most of the stuff I brought with me, but now I’m feeling grossly overpacked here because I don’t intend on wearing jeans and a heavy hoodie in 30degree heat. Here, I could probably get by with just my one pair of sandals, one pair of jeans, no makeup, no fancy dress, etc, but I did use them lots in Vienna.
The other problem I’m figuring out about travel is this: there’s an inherent contradiction in the way that the limited time frame of travel means that you never want to waste any time at all, but that the actual act of travel—waiting in airports and train stations, sitting on planes and undergrounds, moving around encumbered by luggage—it all involves more waiting than most daily life does. I’m still having to remind myself that in 4 days here, there are a limited number of things I can get done, because it’s so easy to be overwhelmed by the “I don’t know how to see what I want to see” worm. In Vienna, I had no set list of things I wanted to see, and 2 weeks to spend. Here, I’ve got less than 5 full days total, essentially 3 and a bit remaining, and a long list of things to see. This morning, I created a plan for seeing what I want to see. I considered a side trip to Toledo because apparently it’s really, really beautiful, but I would have to skip several things in Madrid to do it, so Toledo is going on the “If I’m ever near Madrid again” list (I have a few items in mind for the Vienna list like that as well). I feel way less overwhelmed having a plan, and thank god for having my guidebook with me here. I hardly used my Vienna one at all and was thinking “Shit, did I carry all that extra weight for nothing?” No, my Madrid Lonely Planet has thus far been worth its weight in gold.
That being said, at the Reina Sofia today, I bought a Garcia Lorca book of plays, and a new notebook because my crappy one from Natalie and my big school one were not working out for writing on the go. More weight = bad news bears, but I couldn’t help it. I also bought a glass at the Hard Rock Cafe here (because yes, I’m that kind of tourist, STFU) and a hat for my dad (if you’re reading this, Dad, you don’t know about that yet because it’s going to be your Father’s Day present when I see you in Paris, not that it will be wrapped or anything... :) ).
My allergies are making me an absolute basket case here, and if I don’t stop rubbing my eyes, they’re going to revolt and jump out of my head. Actually, they’re bugging me so much, I might not mind if they did. That being said, I’m way too scared to try to find any other meds to take than what I brought with me, given that I don’t speak Spanish, and I’ve had so many problems with med reactions before. Sigh.

At 7, or so, I headed to the Puerta del Sol (that picture is at 11:30 at night though. It was much more crowded at 7), which is basically downtown Madrid. I wandered for a while, bought a new bag to replace the crappy silver bag I brought with me which is falling to pieces, a granizada limon (think lemon slurpee), and some souvenir touristy stuff. I looked longingly at shoes, but I know better than to even ask if anything comes in a 43. Stupid big feet. I also watched a number of really cool street performers, including a guy playing guitar with a puppet show beside him. When I noticed them, the guitarist was playing and singing “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” by the Clash, and one of the puppets was a crazy looking guitar player with a mohawk. It was pretty cool. There was also a guy playing this big instrument that I didn’t recognize at all.
I also saw a huge demonstration taking place. Thousands of people marching and yelling slogans that I couldn’t catch (the only word I remember was Palestino), but from their signs, I gleaned the star of David, Israel, and genocide. It was pretty interesting too because it got me thinking about passivity and apathy in Canada. It’s easy to be complacent when life is easy and peaceful and culturally, we’re taught to get along. I don’t know. It’s possible too, that demonstrating is a kind of fashion, since it sounds like it’s very common here. It’s possible that the demonstrators are more interested in the show than the cause, which would cheapen things. I don’t know.
Anyway, by about 10, most stores were closed and I stopped at a little cafe called Arysol, right at the edge of the Puerta del Sol. I ate a bocadillo de queso (think grilled cheese) and a potato omelette (I think it was called patatas bravas). Here’s hoping my egg problem has been all in my head thus far. Time will tell, but so far so good.
Anyway, it’s 1:30 now, and I’m still behind on sleep, so the time is now.