Las salinas: where the flamingos live. It smells sulphuric and, in some parts, looks like snow. I felt at peace here. I also wished for an ancient man to saunter out of the abandoned saltworks — to no avail.
El Mar Menor: “Large pond.” “Small sea.” “Lagoon.” At its deepest, it doesn’t surpass seven meters. It’s warm, concerningly so, like bath water, and determined to remain beautiful despite the buckets of sunscreen floating through her.
Playa Paraíso: Equal parts Spaniard & Brit and so humid that you will be wet whether you are in or outside of the water.
In few words: it is the city I never knew I needed.
In more: This month is hands down Spain’s best kept secret and these are the reasons why:
There are actually seats on the metro. That means that you can easily escape both unsavory body odors and screaming infants.
Grocery shopping is no longer a fight against stressed-out parents, guiris, and self-righteous abuelos*. It is a luxurious experience, in which one can ponder lemons and compare pastas without being pushed. *I love my elders, but they cut in line all the time.
Temperatures are way more comfortable than they were in July. Think: going from suffocating in Satan’s armpit, to dancing nude on the tippy-top of Jesus’ index finger.
Lavapies and La Latina have street parties. That means that you may see any combination of the following: full-on suckling pigs roasting next to the post-office, men dressed like lady chulapas and dancing chotis, a gypsy selling melons from a wheelbarrow with the following invitation: “wow, I have huge melons here,” and more.
The sunsets are sexy as fuck. Sunrises, though? No idea. Never seen one.
People seem calmer and more open. As in city-wide blackouts or massive snowstorms, there is a sense of implicit community between those who have stayed behind. –> 6.5. On the flipside, though, some people have just gone completely mad. Yesterday the supermarket security guy was frisking a man and, upon pulling a bottle of rosé out of his pants, began a very intense interrogation which consisted of just one question: “you’re hungry for wine, are you? hungry for WINE?” I dont’ know if this is a positive thing, but you won’t want for people-watching at any time in Madrid.
I began July with three books half-started and I left it with two half-finished.
Are you interested in hearing about the what and why and how I felt about them? If so, you just hit the jackpot. The following reviews/recommendations/rants are all my own:
The Complete Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino As soon as I cracked this one open, I felt like 8-year-old me reading the first page of The Sorcerer’s Stone again. That is not to say, of course, that Rowling and Calvino are both accessible to grade-schoolers, but that they do share the ability to captivate & mesmerize. These stories somehow manage to evoke very human pathos for characters as varied as dinosaurs in disguise, mathematical concepts, and aquatic curmudgeons.The collection opens with “The Distance of the Moon,” a tale about a time when the moon was close enough to earth that one could simply prop a ladder up against it and climb up to its craters. Darwin posited this theory more than a century ago (minus the ladder bit) and Calvino, using his creative sorcery, manipulated it into a beautiful tale about unrequited love. It may or may not have made me cry.
Disclaimer: “A Sign in Space” is essentially an ode to semiotics, and a few other stories require some similarly dense wading-through, but this is by far the most original, creative collection of stories I’ve ever read on Life’s Big Questions, and I can’t wait to re-read them in English.
SHOULD YOU READ IT? If you are at all intrigued by what a mollusk might have to say about passion, yes.
el libro de las aguas by Eduard Limónov (I can’t find it in English, so maybe it doesn’t exist).
Limónov’s memoir-ish work el libro de las aguas is about war, politics, and a rotating set of women whose vaginas (and souls, supposedly) have played a part in his life. He wrote it while in prison, expecting to live out his last days there. All of the events discussed, battles fought, and women boned, are centered around bodies of water–oceans, rivers, swamps, you get the idea. Founder of the National Bolshevik Party, guerrilla fighter, and unapologetic misogynist, Limónov certainly has a lot to say. I really wanted to enjoy his autobiography, and I did want him to be the sort of asshole I’d hate to love.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t, and he wasn’t.
I’ve taken some liberty in my interpretation of Limonóvs writing on women. However poetic it may have actually been, this is what it sounded like to me:
“Little tiny Nastia was 19 and wrote furiously. People probably thought that I was her grandfather, but little did they know we fucked the shit out of each other at home. I also would like to let you all know, again, that she had a young, very young body, which was pure art. Also, it is important for me to let you know that many people have been jealous of and impressed by the number of perfect butts that I have bedded over my lifetime. I am going to prison now and I am so sad, because I do not know what this 19-year-old will do without my dick. Surely, she will never find another one like it.”
These types of sentences made me want to roll myself onto the metro floor and invite the masses to stampede me. I was more interested in hearing Nastia’s story and I tired rather quickly of Limónov’s appraisal of female body parts. It is not not by any means the bulk of the book’s content — I have, however, had it up to my EARLOBES with tedious analyses of the perfect curve, breast, loin, and so on, so I decided to move on with my life. Dear Men Who Write, I do not want to castrate you — I would just like for you to stop boring my tits off.
I will give the book another shot once I’ve brushed up on my eastern European history because yes, I will admit, there may be something more there. For now, however, she’s going back on the shelf.
BUT SHOULD YOU READ IT? If you are into guns, dicks, and the male ego, this memoir will get you hot & bothered in all the right ways.
Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace
Consider the Lobster begins with “Big Red Son,” an exposé on the American pornography industry told through the vehicle of the AVN awards (the adult movie industry’s Oscars).
I tried to read Infinite Jest at 20 and I ended up leaving it in Granada because I was too busy being nasty-happy to indulge Wallace’s love for the footnote. This essay, and a great majority of the following ones, however, were a joy to read. To be honest, I could have done without “Authority and American Usage.” If you’ve read any of this blog, it should be obvious that I’m not particularly fond of grammar rules.
IS IT WORTH READING THO? If you love a well-crafted, humorous, borderline manic argument and/or exploring America’s wacko cultural phenomena, these essays will not disappoint. Although they were written in the late nighties and early aughts, it’s shocking and just a little bit disturbing to see how relevant many of them continue to be, especially where media and politics are concerned.
Well, would-be finger-waggers, please take that final glowing review as evidence that I can indeed appreciate art even when it is made or written by misogynistic trolls. I’ve been having an issue with this lately, because I still feel like I need to apologize for wanting to read about female characters who are more than “perfect” curves or owners of astoundingly gorgeous asses that YOU CAN HARDLY BELIEVE ARE OVER THIRTY! I don’t understand why part of me feels that I am being “too harsh” on this topic. A very heterosexual friend of mine recently complained to me that it’s just, like, men can’t do or say anything anymore!
I don’t know. I love beauty as much as the next idiot, but as soon as I realized that I was an actual person, these sort of descriptors got real old, real quick. Any competent editor will tell a writer to dig deeper, but these butt-ballads are as surface level as it gets.
So, women and men: have you any wisdom? What have you been reading?
I stole this excerpt from Brain Pickings (sidenote: Maria Popova is the stuff that dreams are made of). Here you have Anaïs Nin counseling an adolescent on emotion:
You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and feelings. It is also true that creation comes from an overflow, so you have to learn to intake, to imbibe, to nourish yourself and not be afraid of fullness. The fullness is like a tidal wave which then carries you, sweeps you into experience and into writing. Permit yourself to flow and overflow, allow for the rise in temperature, all the expansions and intensifications. Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.
I was sent to the outskirts on an errand on Friday, where I was gawked at by a large man in a straw hat (twice), witnessed one fight, observed three oldies gossiping in front of neighborhood graffiti, and then reluctantly returned to posh-ville.
Suspicion re-affirmed: I’m not made for the office life, and you probably aren’t either.