Monday, June 30, 2008

Lightning Breaks the Sky

Last night Spain won the Eurocup 2008 and Barcelona went ape shit.

I spent the night in my hostel bed, sweating miserably and counting down the hours until I could get my new powder blue short shorts to the beach (with gold flojos to boot).

This morning I woke up (still wearing said shorts) and headed out to the open market with some friends from the Madrid trip. It wasn´t as interesting as I had hoped, minus the goat heads in the butcher shops.

After much debate over lunches, I was on my way to stand before the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. I shucked off those gold flip flops and dove into a body of water foreign to me. It felt fantastic, with as hot as it has been in Barcelona (I´m sure Madrid is even worse, being possibly to Spain what Fresno is to California) I was truly in need for a little swim. I floated around in the salty water for a bit, then went and laid on my towel and thought to myself "topless beaches are kind of like movie theaters where they have a bar", in that once you have been to one, a regular beach just seems kind of silly.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


My first impression of Barcelona was clouded by the fact that I stumbled into it at 8 am on a Sunday, after having slept very little in my train sleeping compartment. I don´t know if it was the motion that kept me awake, or simply the old man who stumbled in about 2 am and insisted on talking to everyone, only to fall out of a compartment about 5 feet off the ground in the middle of the night. Whatever it was, I didn´t sleep well. My hostel is right on the Las Ramblas strip, which empties into the harbor after about 8 blocks. The location couldn´t be better, but the problem is that this place is a swimming sea of tourists.

I got coffee at a cafe for breakfast (I couldn´t check in until 1 PM) and the next thing I knew, ever seat around me was filled with snickering tourists from the midwest, speaking in accents that make them sound as if education was as foreign to them as the idea of attempting to speak to someone, anyone, in Spanish. I know it´s hard to jump into a language, but the menu is printed in English AND Spanish, so you pretty much have it spelled out for you. I know you can read the Spanish part, because when the waiter is gone you whisper to your husband "eggs...huevos, toast....tostada..." and then giggle like a child as if to say "Isn´t their language just so cute?". This probably played a large part in my waiter stiffing me for my dollar change, assuming that I was unaware of the tipping practices in Spain. It also probably explains why my coffee and toast was eight Euros.

But I must say, despite the tourist vibe, the city is beautiful, with wonderful Gothic architecture everywhere. I hit the port and strolled down the boardwalk that leads to a floating shopping mall, huge movie theater and a large aquarium. I looked into the water to see fish, about a foot and a half long, swimming in large schools and a tennis ball sized jellyfish (Medusa in Spanish).

Tonight, despite being dead tired, I want to try and go out to a restaurant and watch the game. Spain is in the finals of the Eurocup against Germany. Germany is favored to win, but Spain beat them just a week or so ago, and if they win tonight, I expect all hell will break loose. It has been such an exciting spectacle to watch Spain advance this far in the Cup, as every resident of the country celebrates each victory.

Tomorrow it is the open vegetable and fish market, then I will dive into the Mediterranean Sea, and finish the day with a fine meal. Tuesday I plan to go to the aquarium as I cannot resist it´s treasures of the sea, and I have not really splurged on much this trip (minus piglett), and aquariums are sort of my thing. Speaking of, I am still fascinated by "20,000 Leagues", which it turns about, is basically documenting the adventures of a naturalist of the sea. The whole motivation for the Dr. staying with his captor for life on board the Nautilus, is because he has a chance to see so much underwater wildlife in it´s native habitat, something unknown to people in the 19th century. It´s absolutely fascinating as this is the bulk of the ficionalized diary entries in the novel. A truly beautiful book.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

One Night In Madrid and the World´s My Oyster...

Last night I spent my last full night in Madrid. I realized as I stared out of the window of the bedroom I have lived in for the past month, watching the trees blow in the breeze as the sun starts to set at about 10pm, that I am going to terribly miss Madrid. I met a couple of the girls out for Chinese (sort of, more like Asian Fusion) food that was fantastic, and Sangria that was not. We decided as we walked out that we simply HAD to have our last Madrid experiece be to go back to the metal bar. There we were greeted by the same huge bartender, only this time the place was packed. There were three types of people in the bar; dude with shaved heads wearing all black, dudes with long hair wearing all black, and the women who loved them. The guy next to me started asking me something in rough tone of voice, and I was stumped for a moment, wondering if this would be my first bar-brawl. Turns out he was asking if we wanted to sit at their table since we had a group and it was just he and his friend. Why are the nicest people in Spain found in the Death Metal bar?

I had to run to the metro to make it home on time. My last long and lonely train ride, bleary-eyed and in love with Madrid. At 4 am when my roommate was picked up to go to the airport, I felt a tinge of panic that I was at last, on my own in a country I hardly knew, with travel plans long ahead of me. But today as I awoke I was filled with nothing but contentment and excitement at what lies ahead.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Piglett

Last night was the most magical eating experience of my life. We ate at Las Cuevas de Luis Candelas, an authentic Spanish restaurant that specializes in Suckling Roast Piglett. Las Cuevas means "the caves" and this is how the place is set up, underground, small rooms that branch off of each other. We had a large party for the birthday of one of the girls in our group, and we had a little cave all to ourselves. The meal began with good bread and little pork sausages. Next we had a plate of mature Manchega cheese, followed by our main course. I knew that my pig would not be a whole pig, and what I got was a leg quarter. To get past the crispy skin, you must crack it with a fork or knife. Once inside, the pork is so tender and juicy that pork juce kept runing down my chin. The skin and fat were even better than roast duck, rich and crispy. I can honestly say I have never tasted anything as wonderful as this in my life. I ate the entire leg quarter and was sad that it was gone.

Our party had been drinking strong house Sangria for an hour when the musicians came in and I thought we might colapse the building with our clamorous appreciation of the music. As we stumbled outside, it was pouring rain and there was a fantastic thunder and lightning storm going on. We ran next door to an empty wine bar, where an old man played an accordian and sang. Four Bottles of wine later, I walked out of the metro to stand in the pouring rain and watch the lightning flash. It took me three and a half weeks to open up to our group, but I can honestly say that I wouldn have missed last night for anything.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

So Hamdan says to me...

On the Metro this morning (4PM) on our way to get food (McDonalds, two days in a row, disgusting, but it´s what Hamdan wanted)...

"It´s a good thing you didn´t get drunk last night"

"Absolutely. Apparently you did not hear me singing in my room all night"

"Yes, I did"

That Hamdan is a funny motherfucker. So after our meal of rabbit and potatoes last night, I killed the bottle of white wine (I hardly ever drink wine) and was shocked that I did not feel the slightest bit drunk. Then Hamdan asked what Amstel tasted like, so I cracked open the Litre I had bought (about a 40 oz bottle) and poured us some glasses. After taking one sip, he mad a face like I held him down and farted into his open mouth. Well now the beer was open, and before the night was done I had finished that as well.

Then all of a sudden, at 3 am, I was super drunk. Room-spinning drunk, and it occurred to me that I should be listening to music, since I wanted to read, but I was a critical part of my book and knew I wouldn´t understand what I was reading anyways.

I don´t know what all I listened to, but I remember Sabbath, The Band and the Eagles. I know there was more, and that I managed to listen to a dozen random songs and about three complete albums, it just escapes me at the moment what they were. What I do remember is listening to the Eagles Live record and singing along to Hotel California where I held imaginary conversations in my mind with people at a bar where I dared them to not recognize the genius of the song. It all made perfectly good sense at the time.

Needless to say, I sang along to most of the songs I listened to, for a good two hours. I don´t recall singing loudly, but I do remember singing incredibly well. Had any of you heard me, you would most likely agree.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

For Me This is Heaven

After a somewhat frightening few days, I find myself quite content tonight. I came to the realization yesterday, while trying to book the rest of my train trips and hostels and whatnot that I do not have enough money to do what I need to do. Foolishly, I assumed that if you buy a eurorail PASS that your train trips are PAID FOR. They are not. You have to pay for a seat reservation, and the prices are different depending on where you want to go. Needless to say, just for these reservations, I would have spent more money getting from Italy to Paris to London (where I am flying home) than I have to eat or shelter myself with. This caused me to wake up today in a horrible depression where I was afraid that I would simply lie in bed and weep to myself all day long.

Instead, I was determined to make the situation work somehow. I got up and started booking my necessary hostels, made a budget so that I knew exactly how much I could spend and on what, and I used my roommate's laptop to start looking on the web. Hopefully, with the help of my Italian friends, who are well versed in the cheap ways to travel within Europe, I will be able to make it work.

Now I was free to enjoy the rest of my day. I started by asking our host mother if I could cook dinner, since she does not provide it on Saturdays. Not only did she say yes, but also that she was leaving for the night, and since I was missing a meal on Monday (due to eating roast piglett, remember?) that she would go to the store and purchase whatever I wanted to make. Conejo, I told her. I had a recipe that Hauser sent to me that sounded promising.

I set out to Sol to get something to eat as it was 4PM. I ate at McDonalds, which I know sounds terrible, but I am fast becoming broke and I have yet to have eaten there, so consider it a science experiment. I wasn't looking at porn, just doing research. My findings? Their fries are delicious, the coke is the same, and their ketchup is sweeter than ours, which is kinda gross.

As I made my way to the train station to buy my ticket from Barcelona to Turin, Italy, I passed a guy with a backpack and a GOATSNAKE T-Shirt on. I stopped him and asked where he was from, in Spanish, to which he relplied in Spanish, Why? I laughed and told him it was because of his shirt and after introducing ourselves, we were off to a cafe for beers. He was a sweede who had spent the last year in Argentina and was on his way to some ridiculous metal festival in Europe where Iron Maiden, Whitesnake, AT THE GATES, and just about every other metal band you could think of were playing, if not reuniting specifically for. We had a couple of beers then I had to run off to buy my ticket.

That being done, I stopped to buy some ingredients I had forgotten to tell my Senora about. Lemon juice, white wine, BLACK PEPPER!!!! (I have yet to see the stuff in Spain, and I should have thought to go buy it at the store long ago). I head back home to find a table filled with buther cut rabbit, garlic, onions,potatoes and a baguette and rosemary. One problem, my recipe is for a whole, roasted rabbit, and this one is cut up into pieces. No time to argue, I use what I can from the recipe and set about preparing my veggies and meat. I consider the head, which is split in half, revealing the tongue and brain. Having never had rabbit, I couldn't decide if this was adventurous enough or if I should go full force. I was leaning toward full force, but let my Saudi Arabian roommate, who would be joinging me, decide. He made a face and said "no head". You got it Hamdan!

I melted some butter in a pan, and threw the rabbit that had been washed, dried and covered in butter, inside. I threw in some whole, peeled garlic cloves and some onions. Then I threw in some potatoes. I fried it all up until a nice brown coloring, then I deglazed with some wine and lemon juice. The result, after a bit of fussing, was pretty good. Rabbit has a mild, kind of sweet flavor (which might have come from the wine and lemon juice). I was concerned that I would somehow manage to kill us by doing it wrong, but so far so good.

With any luck tomorrow I will have most of the details for the rest of my trip worked out, and if not, um, I dunno. I guess we'll see when I get there. Until now, I am going to keep drinking this wine, go smoke my pipe (pipa) and fall asleep happily, if only to spite how I woke up.

By the way, for no reason at all today I was singing Jimmy Eat World in my head, and I have discovered that "Twenty Thousdand Leagues Under the Sea" is one of the most exciting books I have ever read, despite knowing full well what happens. This story of high seas adventure has triggered a child-like sense of wonder in me that I can't wait to fall into the arms of as I fall asleep.

Friday, June 20, 2008

\m/ \m/

Went to the metal bar last night. A dark, small joint with the walls painted black, and blacklights offering the only illumination. The bartender was a fat, bald man with a long goatee and a sleeveless black denim vest. One room had a mural of a broadsword sticking down into a grave, amid a backdrop of a mist filled cemetary. The other room was adorned with old (and some new) metal posters, and the benches were small, black rectangles with small white crosses painted on them, and they were made to look like little coffins. It was awesome, and I will be going back tonight, by myself to sit in the dark, listen to metal and brood.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Should have called it "The Nothing(s) Happening"

I have a pretty good score with M. Knight Shayamalan´s films. I liked Sixth Sense (at the time), hated Unbreakable, hated Signs (when I saw it in the theater, but later became fond of it), loved the Village and thought Waterbroad (aka Lady in the Water) was one of the most laughable movies I had ever seen, and not in a good way. So I knew that the Happening (or "El Incidente" in Español, a MUCH better title) could go either way.

Let me assure you, this made Waterbroad seem like oscar material. For starters, the acting and dialogue play a chicken and egg sort of dance, because you can´t tell which is worse, or which started things off on such a horrible journey together. There is one scene that involves people falling off of buildings that was disturbing, and other than that, every single death scene was highly comedic and predictable. However, while the death scenes felt like they were taken from a slasher film where the killer must dispatch the teenagers in a new and different way each time, the premise was, quite simply atrocious.

If you are thinking of seeing this, read no further or you will miss the big twist. There is no big twist. Frankly, I´m thankful for this, but apprently this was M. Knight´s only trick because without it, he gives away halfway through the film that the killer is, wait, not the first time this year even, PLANTS. Not the cell-phone imitating plants from "The Ruins", but even less sinister plants. Whole fields of grass, killers I say. 2008, the year Hollywood ran out of ideas and two moveis, one horror, one a "thriller" (?) feature plants as their bad guys.

I think that at the rate movies are being dummed down, "Ass" will not be the academy award winner of 2505, but instead 2015. Way to suck Hollywood.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Nice Little Sunday

I spent yesterday wandering around Madrid.

It started with lunch with one of the Mississippi boys, and of course we went to the AMERICAN THEMED RESTAURANT. I was immediately embarrassed to be there; the Spanish waitresses had to wear checkered shirts and COWBOY HATS. I ordered a burger that looked fantastic, and then I bit into it to reveal a light searing on the top and bottom, and an otherwise grisly bloody red and raw serving of ground beef. But I knew this might happen, for even their thin burgers in Spain maintain a nice reddish hue. I glanced around at the other half dozen burgers being eaten within my line of sight, and they were all exactly the same. I proceeded to eat the entire thing (although thick, it was a small sized burger, more like a slider. These Damn Spanish have portions so under their belts, you get to taste food but not stuff yourself full of it). I can help but think of Idiocracy; Carls´ Jr. "Fuck you, Iḿ eating".

I wandered around then looking for a movie theater that shows Los Peliculas En Ingles. I found one, and the only thing that was playing (starting in 4 minutes) was "Be Kind Rewind". Eh, why not, I hadn´t seen it yet. Walking into a movie theater in any country is immediately calming to me. I know what happens in these places, it is a comfortable surrounding for me, and I love seeing movies by myself. I sit through the film. (which starts off HORRIBLY but does get a little bit better towards the middle and then looses it again toward the end. It was completely formulaic but was touted as being "artistic", but I saw the film as a McDonald´s Cheeseburger made out of seared tuna. You might have used fancy ingredients, but itś still the most uninspired burger there is)

Anywho, once that was done I found myself at the beautiful Plaza De España, with a fountain, greens for lounging on (which I did) and some really nice statues. After a while it was back to the house for more reading and dinner. Speaking of which, I have begun "Kitchen Confidential" and can´t put it down. Hearing Bourdain´s tales of drunken, drugged up debauchery in New York kitchens in the 1970´s has made me feel like a complete square. Not in my character I suppose, to score smack and slog it off witha waitress in the dry goods storage, but damn that dude makes it all sound so romantic.

I got the tip on the restaurant Botin, supposedly the world´s oldest operating restaurant where GOYA worked as a dishwasher. After consulting the locals, they insist that itś a tourist trap and will treat almost anyone who walks through the door poorly, so I got a bead on a place like it, charming, old world, yet actually good and pleasant, known as "The Cave". One week from today, count it down, I will be eating a roast suckling pig.

PDA, Alive and Well in Madrid

One cultural phenomenon that has impressed all of us in my group is the propensity the Spanish have for full blown sucking face on the streets. It is common to see people go to say goodbye, and end up with these heated open mouthed kisses. Usually you see one partner grab the other and assault them with their face, which as far as I can tell is always welcomed, or at least never declined. And here I am, pressing myself into a corner of the Metro, farting and hoping no one hears.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Oh look, a skinhead, neat, oh cool there's another one, and anoth...oh fuck

I stand outside of one of the many public squares in Madrid as thousdands have gathered to watch Espana play in the world cup on a tv screen a hundred feet wide. I walk past a kid in his late teens with a shaved head and doc martins on his feet, laced with white laces, and I think to myself "I haven't seen a skinhead outside of the US except for those wankers in Berlin" and I am kind of struck with a sense of nostalgia at this lone individual swimming amonst a sea of red and yellow futbol jerseys.

But then I quickly realize that he is not alone. There is another, and another, and then a group of 20, standing down a side street right next to me. My past, unbeknownst to them, catches up with me and I am instantly sweating, trying to read if they have acknowledged my presence. They have not, but I see them scanning the crowd, eyes dark like sharks swimming close to shore. I can sense the juvenile malice and anger creeping off of them. I amtorn out of this by a young girl asking me something in Spanish, I don't know what, and I can't reply because I am moving towards the safety of the metro.

Only moments before I had been at the Archaeological Museum of Madrid, located directly acros the street, looking at ancient Roman artifacts. To say that I was breathless the entire time does the sight little justice. But now I am trying to get away from that public square and I find myself not at the metro, but at a bar, ordering a tall glass of beer.

I sit outside and immerse myself in my new book, "Kitchen Confidential" by Anthony Bourdain, and already in one day I have read a hundred pages and laughed out loud a dozen or more times. I am listening to The Streets, as I found their combination of urban-ness and European-ness to be the perfect acoompaniment to Madrid that I am listening to them over an over again.

Then I am off again, on the metro, no destination in mind but winding up, in a very roundabout way, Sol once again. I walk in a circle three times, window shopping the different Parrilla's (charred meat restaurants) before sticking with my favorite, where the waiter greets me with a handshake (how can one possibly go wrong). Tonight I go cheap, two glasses of beer, a grilled chorizo and potato wedges, along with that fantastic bread with olive and pepper taupanaude. I think at some point that I have been too earnest and taken the plate of chorizo that was set down at the bar seat next to me, occupied by an old man. Halfway through I realize this when his chorizo comes, but he had ordered first, and I apologize in Spanish. He is kind, and full of laughter and I make somewhat ofa lonely drinking companion of him for the next forty minutes.

Then it is time for the complimentary shot of liquor,that I cannot pronounce, but it is green and does NOT taste of star anise or liquorice, so I take it and suddenly feel as though I have made friens with everyone in Spain. What's left? Call the girlfriend, fall back in love and head out to a different part of the city to have a final beer.

To the more better Irish Pub where I get a pint of Heineken and smoke my pipe indoors, listening to Led Zeppelin. I read more Bourdain and am at this point drunk, sick to my stomach from too much pipe tobacco and I finish my night by stumbling through the maze of the metro, listening to David Crosby and Graham Nash singing "Mama Lion" and "Carry Me".

The group of young women next to me is speaking English, I can see it with my eyes even though my ears hear 2 part harmonies. I take off the headphones and ask in Spanish where they are from. New Zealand. I reflect that I knew English by sight, and give into drunkeness as I ride the metro home, singing along in my head, feeling dizzy, and more alive than I have ever felt before.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Menu Del Dia

Eating in Madrid is quite costly (minus the perritos callientes, or the occasional (excessive) bocadillos (sandwiches) of lacon and queso).

I have found the best deal though is offered almost anywhere you can go, and it's called the Menu Del Dia. Normally priced around 10 Euro (about 14-16 dollars depending on what the current rate is) you get three courses and anywhere from 1-3 drinks, depending on the place.

Yesterday's Menu Del Dia was at the Italian place across the street from school. I had: Risoto with cheese and mushrooms that was so delicious I was delirious, chicken curry with roasted potatoes, home made tiaramisu, and a beer for 10 euro.

The day before? Well that was out in the countyside by Segobriga, so for 13 euro I had: a chicken broth soup with chunks of chicken, ham and noodles, beef skirt steak (from a "baby cow" is all I could figure out), french fries, bottled water and ice cream.

The best thing about the Menu Del Dia is that you often have 3-4 choices for each course or beverage. One bad thing, sometimes you have only one choice of beverage, and that choice is a beer with sprite mixture. Literally, half a glass of beer, topped off with Sprite. I haven't run into this little guy yet, but let's just say I am skeptical.

Skeptical or not, I have refused nothing that has been offered me since crossing the borders of Spain. One other little gem worth mentioning is the Doner Kebab joints that are scattered about Madrid, one of which is also next to school. This is the type of place where there is meat slowly rotating in the window, and once your order is placed they shave some off for a nice little sandwich. By far the cheapest meal I have found here, for 5 euro you get a sandwich (in sort of a flatbread wrap) with chicken, lettuce, tomato, onion and a white sauce that is somewhat of a yogurt sauce, but not really. You also get a can of soda and fries. Needless to say, the Doner Kebab joints have become a favorite of all of us.

A Full Week

This week I watched the Eurocup match between Spain and Russia. I am not one for sports of any fashion, but I do appreciate watching futbol matches, especially in places where the entire country gets up in arms about it. I still think the public's ownership of sports francises is a bunch of nonsense, but it's fun to see everyone pour out into the streets with their red and yellow jerseys on and watching the game for a second time that day at the local bar.

That night I ventured out to he local neighborhood bar and had two beers. This is the sort of place you would imagine in Spain. Far away from any tourist destination, the neighborhood I am living in a bustling working class assortment of high rise apartment buildings with a common space in the center, and ours happens to be graced with a bar on the coner. I watched the owner expertly slice off pieces of jamon and cheese and plate them to his friends / customers. I have not been back since that night, but I will remedy this soon.

The day after was another excursion day, this time to the archaeological dig site of the Roman ruins of Segobriga, and the walled cliffside city of Cuenca that still harbors local residents to this day. While both of these sites (please click on the city names to view google images) were fatastic to visit, and it was a full twelve hour day that left me exhausted, what I found most interesting about this day was that in order to get out of Madrid, we had to pass through a blockade of cement trucks on strike and protesting high petrol prices by parking on the freeways. This strike has been going on all week, and what I find fascinating is that truckers of all goods have come together, the grocery stores have no fresh vegetables, goods are not getting in or out of Madrid, and the freeways are a mess, yet the population supports this action, for now. It's fantastic to see a population that shakes off apathy. I can only imagine the grumbling that results from the gas prices back home, but these people have acted as a community at a local level that has affected all of Spain. I am simplifying this process and the cause and effect nature of the argument purposefully. I am not commenting on the politics or the actions taken, I am commenting on the willingness to simply act.

This weekend I will be alone in Madrid as my housemates are traveling to Rome, or Barcelona. Luckily one of the Mississippi folks left his laptop and sanctioned my use of it. Tonight I will return to the area I spent last night drinking. This area seems to be where the local 20 somethings hang out. I passed by a death metal bar last night, perhaps I'll pop my head in there.

A bit more on Julius Winsome

I devoured this novel by Gerard Donovan in two days. Before I send it, certain combinations of words struck me so that I underlined them with a pen, and I wouldto preserve them here:

Such men ... have run out of country they can't live in.

... and it was from hin I learned how to be still.

... a punctuation mark... a crutch for a weak word.

... the cruelty of small towns was so sharp it might be a pencil and you could write with it...

You don't throw a million men away like that.

... walking in and out of the shade like a man in parts...

That was my reading of him...

... because this man was done with shooting ...

I missed my friend.

...the war had bred all the gunnery out of him.

I was of sound mind and an otherwise principled man.

You sit well in that chair, I said.

People come together, people part.

... I lost her in that second.

And she was gone from me.

Perhaps things don't happen for a reason, they happen because people do them.

Sharing my own sadness would not make it less, only double it.

Here, only short sentences and long thoughts can survive...

... the grave is the end of us...

You never say how you feel, but I feel affection everywhere in you.

... people can sometimes come close enough to discover that they are strangers.

... it started with long glances and silence and arrived fully only after she was gone.

They knew me now.

... You came to shoot in the woods, but the woods shot back.

I learned the shape of loss...

... such learning and experience could be switched off like a light.

I was done with shooting.

Such soft skin, such a hard memory.

Sunday, June 8, 2008


All over Madrid I have seen street performers employing fine skills of sleight of hand. I love it, no one on the trip with me seems to care. I saw a guy doing ball tricks like the ones in Labrynth, and people doing coin or card acts go on ignored in Sol.

It´s nice to see that even if no one cares, Spain has the power. The power of the babe.

I have noticed that

all of the books that I have brought with me are stories of travel and adventure.

The Golden Compass has sucked me in completely, as I have become obssessed with the concept of NORTH as of late, and here is this little book, recommemded to me a year before it was turned into a poorly made film, about a little girl´s journey to the North Pole. Phillip Pullman details his fascination with science and magic similarly to Tim Powers, and I was hooked into this tale right away.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Undr the Sea is certainly a tale of exploration and adventure, and while I don´t know the exact subject of the Tim Powers novel that I brought along, I have yet to read any of his work that doesn´t revolve around magic, science and transformation so I´m sure that fits in. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur´s Court is a novel of time travel and scientific innovation.

I realized all of this after I had purchased an additional book in Madrid. I had never heard of the author, an Irtishman named Gerard Donovan. The novel is entitled "Julius Winsome". I stared at the picture on the front, a single set of footprints in the snow, leading to a wooden cabin in a snow-filled clearing in the woods and realized, this is a destination. At that moment I realized that all of my otehr readings were about the journey, and here was the stark contrast, once you wind up in a place like that pictured on the cover, the journey is over, at least for me, and that instantly terrified me.

And it hit me all at once that I have not stayed in one place because I was content, or because I didn´t feel the pull of the journey, but because I was terrified of the destination, which for me feels like isolation. So I tear into Julius Winsome, whom I believe to be at the end of his journey, and I read half of it the first day, being yesterday. What it´s about doesn´t matter so much here (but it matters to me), all I can say is that I am consuming it like I´ve done to no work of fiction in a long time.

I started the trip by finishing a novel about time travel (not the above mentioned time travel novel, a different one). I wrote in the inside cover the city and date that it was finished in, and I left it on a seat in the Phillidelphia Airport. I will leave the Golden Compass in Madrid, and whatever other books I can wherever I finish them. Perhaps they will travel on. But Julius Winsome, that is going to get sent to someone special before it can travel on.

Best Moneymaking Scheme EVER!

The center of Madrid is known as SOL, and it´s sort of like Times Square before it became lame, but I think it´s on its way there. Here you cannot walk 2 feet without running into something to eat, or a street performer. Today I saw the best attempt to take my money.

A dude sits on a cardboard box and reads. You would assume (and you would be correct) that this tactic does not inspire folks to throw money into his cigar box. BUT, you add a little dog, and a KITTEN into the mix, and the dude is raking money in hand over fist.

So this dude reads, and the kitten crawls all over him, then the dog plays with the kitten; picking it up by the scruff of the neck which pisses the kitten off and then she attacks him and they wrestle on teh ground until the kitten runs for cover between said dudes legs. At this point he picks up the kitten and grins at it with a mouth full of empty tooth holes and kisses the kitten and rubs it all over his face. The sheer joy that the man shows for just a second before putting his little fury moneymaker back on teh ground for it to waggle its tail and pounce on the dog makes me feel connected to my home.

I think that if I were homeless, I could probably make money off of my ridiculous love of sniffing my kitten´s belly or throwing a blanket over her to hear her make alien squeaky noises.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Perhaps too literal a translation

I had my first hambrguesa in Spain today. It came with a beef patty, a slice of deli ham and a slice of cheese. It was as if the word hamburger was broken down into its parts of ham+ burger and reassembled; perhaps thousands of years in the future the words were rediscovered and scientists decided to regrow the mighty beast from the DNA of its word origin.

Still, as I am sure we will come to find out with wooly mammoth steaks, the ham + burger was pretty tasty.

Monday, June 2, 2008

And so it goes...

After three days in Madrid I have had my fill of jamon.

I seem to attract the people who want to either drunkenly ramble to me in Spanish on the street, or even better, the young lads who want to express their distaste of tourists. It all comes from traveling around like a herd of cattle on any school-sponsored excursion. I might as well wear blackface to a klan meeting.

The young citizens of Madrid have a style that I find very appealing. People wear jeans and dark sweaters with almost militaristic button up jackets. It's like the old Warsaw style of the late 70's, but updated. Minimalist and functional, yet sleek and well put together.

The metro here is needlessly clean. Not that I don't appreciate it, but Madrid seems to be somewhat of a utopia in that there are city employees who have the job of "cleaner" and who do nothing but clean up the city. I imagine this happened sometime after curing cancer and solving all other problems in Madrid.

An international school is the safest feeling place here, with everyone having English in common. I had good conversations with German and Chinese women today.

I find that my musical taste is taking me back to previous European trips; Fireside, U2, Kent, Radiohead, etc. There's a new dimension of my soundtrack that I can't fully explain, but Paul Simon and Seals and Crofts have been inspiring in me great emotional responses. I may elaborate on Paul Simon later, as I feel that this connection is worth exploring.

Last night we went out to a bar called "Dubliners", an "Irish" pub. The staff spoke English and they didn't serve Guinness. It was neither Spanish nor Irish, and 100% bullshit, apparent from all of the American students around the age of 19 getting trashed and dancing uproariously with each other when the Offspring comes on the sound system. Bourdain probably felt a quick pain in his chest and his right arm went numb for a second out of solidarity.

The grocery store is like heaven. I have never seen such a seafood counter, and the meat department had whole, skinned rabbits. I want to cook a meal here more than anything else.