Babies and Mead: Life Before Quarantine

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 to speak 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.

Keith y Bebe

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.

Old Town Square Prague
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.

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Hawt trdelník and cider

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.

Happy belated holidays,

Seo

City of No-Shits-Taken

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New York isn’t New York without you, love.

There is a woman in this video who is bent over in pink tights and a leopard leotard, and she looks wonderful. I keep the song on repeat, although I don’t know whether the lyrics piss me off or not–is there not a sort of martydom in the lines “but for you darling, I’d do it all again.” What exactly is it, Annie? I feel like screaming yo, get a life, bitch.

For as long as he’s lived there, Keith has assured me that New York City is fucking disgusting. He can’t imagine being anywhere else for long, though. I remember the summer after he moved; from Locust Bar and onwards, he marveled at how damn tiny Philadelphia was. The gardens: tiny. The sidewalks: tiny. The row-homes: might as well have been miscroscopic.

I love New York City’s exhausting labyrinth of lives, but I’ve been told I laugh too much to live there–dangerous thing to do on the subway. Might be misinterpreted. Could end in homicide.

Last January my heart was broken and everything hurt. At any rate, I felt an unfamiliar clarity even, and perhaps especially, while puking up my feelings in a Granadino apartment that looked out on the Sierra Nevada and reminded me of being twenty. I was equal parts pathetic and bold. I wanted both my mother and to be wearing platform boots in Bed-Stuy.

On the final day of that vacation, as we prepared to pay three euros too many for a pair of coffees and toast, my brother, blessed may he be for his quiet understanding, asked: “who the hell wants to be a side character?”

“Everybody is a side character and anyone who thinks they aren’t, is a bitch” I told him, eyes swollen, nothing if not eloquent.

A few months prior, I’d stopped in for an iced coffee and a bagel at Hudson Yards. Construction of the Vessel was well underway at the time. I eavesdropped on men in hard hats discussing the details of their next Eurotrips, their wives’ pregancies.

In Manhattan, I wrote, the idea that one might never find love, or life, is absurd.

Life on wheelz.

From the archives. August 2014. Who wants to illustrate this?


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I missed the express bus to Philadelphia last week and was rescheduled on a later, longer bus. Under normal conditions (ie. no sinus pressure and plenty of snacks), a Greyhound bus ride is one of my favorite pastimes. How often do you find yourself locked inside a mobile freezer with an incredible array of strangers for 5+ hours? Not very, unless you’re traveling cross-country, or a masochist. It’s a great opportunity for people-watching and, as misery loves company, there is often a sense of community aboard.

The other night was hell, however, and I leave here a log of my SMS’ as proof (edited for context).

At 5pm, I am abusing my sudafed and thinking about Walter White.

We make a pit stop in Shady Rock, Nowhere. I pay four dollars for a slice of “New York Style” Sbarro pizza. The bus smells like cheeseburgers and cigarettes.

Someone help me.

There is a 4-month old child at the back of the bus. I know that he was born two months early because I am a professional eavesdropper. Earlier, a woman in a pink wife-beater, carrying a Wendy’s XL Frostie, commented on his “biiiiiiig eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeyyyyes!!!” for 10+ minutes.

At 9:30, we are just entering Harrisburg and I beg the lord to have mercy upon my soul.

I have to pee but I’m afraid of being left here. Our driver has used the loudspeaker to deliver the same speech at each stop. He informs us that he is not our “nice uncle,” and that he has nine nieces and nephews and a third grand-baby on the way. I will spend the rest of this ride trying to figure out how this information is relevant to his leaving us at rest-stops.

Someone has stolen the empty seat I was about to take. Life is pain and all hope has left my bones.

I’ve decided to deal with it. I am practicing zen.

My sudafed has finally kicked in, so I am awake. I learn that my seatmate is afraid of tunnels. She drinks water or whiskey to get through them. I try to distract her with questions. Our last tunnel, in her words, is a “double whammy.”

She gets off in Norristown. She is the only passenger to deboard. I like her and I know all of her daughters’ college majors, but I can’t help being angry.

It is midnight. Most people have fallen asleep. It now smells like breath and the driver keeps turning the headlights off as we pass Boathouse Row.

But the worst is over because I SEE MY CITAY. I’M IN MY CITAY.

I wait through nine taxis and one crackhead for my ride to arrive. Shwizz, Bliv and I drive to Lorenzo’s for a slice of pizza. They are bigger than I remember. A man approaches Shwizz’s window, asks for her number, and tells her that he has two pet fish and an anaconda he’d like to show her. I think this is a very poor pick-up line. We, as always, take Lincoln Drive home and Bliv acts like she’s in NASCAR, so I grip the door handle and try not to pass out.

Dusk, Darkness, & Daylight in La Manga

La Manga Salinas

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.

Mar Menor de Noche

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.

La Managa Watermelon

Playa Paraíso: Equal parts Spaniard & Brit and so humid that you will be wet whether you are in or outside of the water.

America, Part 6, Day 2

New York City’s immensity is never more apparent than when navigating the thousand-lane road from JFK to Philadelphia, PA on a Saturday afternoon. Twenty-eight years of knowing the Northeast and I’m still shocked to find out that this airport is not, in fact, just across the road from Newark.

“Shit is entrenched,” says Scott.

Once passed the Holland tunnel and ten minutes of marveling at man’s ambition, the road is ours.

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It’s good to be back.

At Heathrow, the Brits were on their best behavior, gifting smiles and biscuits.

At JFK, the line-master instructed:

“If ya customs form ain’t finished, get outta the line. Ya wasting peoples time.”

Any other welcome would have been a lie.