Dedicated readers, all four of you, please accept my apology, although I never promised you consistency.
How OK I am with being inside worries me, albeit only slightly. In these forty-nine (?) days, I’ve read Marx and Tolstoy and Camus and Hesse and Flaubert. All great guys, really stand-up writers. But I started reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie two days ago, and now the thought of returning to Anna Karenina produces a sensation in me not unlike the one I feel when I think about cleaning out the shower drain.
Read the book, basically. It’s real good.
Other things I’ve been into:
This Jeff Buckley cover of “I Know It’s Over.”
Wondering what my life would have been like had I stayed in America.
Wondering whether I could live in New York City without having a meltdown.
Thinking about the past.
Inexplicably, missing Greyhound buses.
Thinking that education is really, really important.
Feeling pessimistic and optimistic in the same breath.
Before Christmas, I took a flight to Prague to meet Keith, my virtual husband and best college boyfriend. When his sister, who lives in the Czech countryside, gave birth to two precious twins, I knew that it was high time to confront my fear of newborns. What type of woman is afraid of babies, you ask? Well, it’s really their necks that scare me–the fact that they can’t support their own skulls yet. Also, their whole I don’t know how tospeak thing is a bit of a snag for me. I’m a hardcore verbal learner, you know? All jokes aside though, holding a tiny, delicate human just seems like a whole lot of responsibility for someone who rarely gets through a day without running into an inanimate object.
I learned quite a bit about babies during my trip, however, and even overcame my fear. Generally speaking, infants want just a few things: food, sleep, or a good puke. Do you know what it feels like to have hot, regurgitated breast milk run down your cleavage? No? Well, I do. That’s just another part of the logistics of newborn-rearing, I hear. Other than that, everything else they say is true. Babies are sweet, they smell good, and they bring the circle of life just that much closer.
After I’d spent a few days perfecting my burping skills, I left the gray Czech hills and headed for the big city again. A wonderful little detail: the regional bus between the pueblo and Prague not only employed attendants, but those same hot-pink-uniformed attendants also served complimentary coffee and provided newspapers to those who wanted them. The coffee was a bit shite, of course, but the gesture did not go unappreciated.
I’ve always felt that Spain is much too ebullient during the holiday season. Fully grown human beings parade around town in towering Christmas-tree hats made of tinsel. They glisten. They glitter. The Navi-Bus rides by twice an hour blasting los peces en el rio. I don’t know what fish in a river have to do with Christmas, probably because I never went to church. Wigs are also a big thing and the bars are fuller than usual, with company dinners spilling out of doorways, and various HR Josés gearing up to hook up with various Juanas from accounting. There’s a lot of shouting, like always.
Prague at Christmastime was different, though, something I could identify with: a little dark, sweet, sour, weird, and vaguely dangerous. It was all mead and mulled wine. I carried around a cup (or three) for hours, stopping only to marvel at the beautiful architecture, the rain falling in Old Town Square. I kid you not, I nearly cried watching those drops fall. Unfortunately, you can’t really see them on my phone camera.
Another fantastic thing about Prague were these TRDELNÍKS! I don’t have much of a sweet tooth but I would have eaten a dozen of them. They’re simple: dough wrapped around a thick, wooden stick and slowly rotated and roasted until it is ready to be coated in sugar and almond. Reluctantly, I walked myself back to my hotel after eating this one.
I flew back to Spain on the morning of Christmas Eve and jumped into M’s car immediately upon landing in order to spend the evening with JC’s family and friends. M dropped me directly at the bar, where it is customary to have aperitivo (see: 2 wines and 1 tapa), with friends. Aperitivo turned into lunch, where we met a group of boys who were enjoying one of their new Christmas gifts: a small plastic toilet that, when “flushed,” would eject a cartoon turd. Whoever caught it first was the winner. Lunch turned into cocktails in the middle of the damn day in a bar with no windows and lots of men wearing ties. By 9 o’clock I was hiding in JC’s childhood bedroom, realizing that Spain’s jubilance had played me yet again: noche buena dinner still needed to be eaten, extended family kissed, and gifts opened. And there I was, disheveled as hell, sending frantic messages to Tuna to tell her I don’t think I can doooo thissss.
When I discovered the newsletter template on Microsoft Word as a child, I began publishing one to distribute to my family on a completely random basis. Visits from cousins were announced there. Requests for new pets–usually, puppies or kittens–were also included, along with hard-hitting reports on labor rights. After all, when our parents were off making money to both feed us and support our greatest hopes and dreams, we were expected to wash wash. And what did we get for it? A dollar a week? The indignity of it!
For the first two weeks of quarantine, I published something similar for the refrigerator. This week, however, I did not, because I was too busy drowning in some Victorian-era melancholy.
Allow me to provide some insight:
I’m reading Anna Karenina and I know that somebody’s definitely gonna die and that Anna is totally gonna get down with Vronsky. There’s no stopping it. Kitty just got snubbed and she’ll probably be sent to a sanatorium because I guess heartbreak has the same symptoms as tuberculosis. What else could happen at this point? With 900+ pages left, there can only be drama. And death. And a healthy dose of social criticism and philosophy, I suppose. At any rate, I feel disproportionately sorry for Kitty for falling in love with the curly-haired count and rejecting the faithful farmer only to realize that the hot count didn’t give a single shit about her–we’ve all been there, girl.
I’ve cried while watching the news twice this week (which, ok, normal enough) and once when I heard the song “Hallelujah” on a commercial (not so much).
I cut my own hair in the bathroom mirror while listening Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto no. 2, which felt very Tolstoyesque and more than a little unsettling. Check it out here:
For all of the aforementioned reasons, I fell into an internet black-hole while researching female hysteria. What if the protagonist of “The Yellow Wallpaper” (imprisoned in her bedroom as a cure for postpartum depression) had had access to Beyonce’s Lemonade album, or like, I don’t know, any of Fiona Apple’s discography? Or Aretha Franklin?
Well, that’s all I’ve got to share this week. If anybody out there is feeling a bit darker than usual, rest assured that you are not alone.
My good friend Samuel, from Bristol, speaks like a King–because I don’t actually know much about English accents, I’m not sure if this is standard, or enigma. Everything he says sounds like its worth a million dollars, though. So last week when he sent me an audio proposing that we hold “a grateful hour” during the pandemic, I went right ahead and stole the idea. Thanks, Sam!
Here’s some stuff I’m glad to have today:
As the days of confinement descended upon Madrid, I was reminded of my long-abandoned e-book. Purchased for reasons unknown (I prefer paper) in 2012, I plucked it from my bookshelf pre-escape. In the past week, I’ve had the chance to indulge my favorite pastime and read The Plague, Naked in Italy, and The Seagull. Reviews and reflections in the works (maybe?).
Saturday was supposedly World Poetry Day (ojo: I did not fact-check this), so I read “Easter, 1916” aloud at lunch. Which brings me to the next item on my list…
My own ignorance.
JC is sometimes hard to live with because his thoroughness and curiosity make me realize how stupid I am. On this particular occasion, my idiocy came to light during a long series of follow-up questions about Irish conflict after the aforementioned poetry reading. My dad is from Ireland and, although I grew up in the states, I did remain Irish enough to internalize the notion that, no matter how much I was bleeding, I’d be grand. It didn’t really hurt. Sadly, however, I’ve got all my Irish history ass-backwards. I mean, I confused Easter Uprising with Bloody Sunday. I’m grateful for this ignorance, however, because it’s a wonderful reason to finally look into my ancestors’ past.
Like everyone else, I also feel fortunate to be able to see my family rant about how there are no dried beans left at the Giant Supermarket, or watch a video about elephant seals with two of my best friends. It’s the little things.
The old ladies across the way don’t know my name and I don’t know theirs. Still, we wave to one another and we are united in our hope, I think. Pretty sure they’ve seen my tetas on more than a few occasions, but it’s cool. I’ve seen them plucking their chin hairs in the window. We have a sort of distant intimacy. Say what you will about the Spaniards, they do very much care about what happens to their neighbors. I’m happy to be part of this community.
There is not a lot that’s really necessary, is there? In the not-so-distant past, one made do without bread and milk, subsisted on garlic soup and garbanzos. We’ve stretched the pantry two weeks now and we could do it for two more, if need be. I’m dead thankful for this ability to put things into perspective and also for the fact that I could add 800 more things to this list.
JC (not Chasez, former *NSYNC member, but the moniker that I will henceforth be using to refer to my novio, who is extra suss about sharing things online), asks me how I’ve slept and tells me something that I will never remember because I am still 97% asleep.
I always wake up later than he does. I know that I don’t actually need the extra thirty minutes of sleep. I am just lazy and I like waking up to coffee that is already brewed, bread that is already toasted.
I read the news before I get out of bed. 2/10, do not recommend. This morning’s hottest headlines are “Nursing Homes Turning into Morgues,” “The Worst Has Yet to Come,” and “Young People, You Are At Risk, Too!”
Today’s sponsored Facebook ad is this one:
Lingerie in sterilized packages, y’all! I’m worried about humanity. Let’s just be regular-naked and worry more about the trees.
Today, as an alternative to the news cycle and Zuckerberg’s trashy advertising, I offer you some classical music:
Listen to some Bach piano music. It’s like little constellations being formed, or like an aerial view of people walking through streets. — Bars, my brother, horticulturalist & Bach enthusiast.