travel

I will never grow so old again

Listening to Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks is exactly like living in the most painful, beautiful dream you’ve ever had. Very James Joyce. Very makes me want to dance down the metro aisles and also lay down in the middle of the road and cry and also jump into some sea, any sea, and run down an empty street with a lover or with a friend or alone, laughing until the end of time.

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Kildare, Ireland 2016

“Sweet Thing” means something different every year, but has been an especially prominent song in my life lately and often played on repeat (sorry not sorry, neighbor). It’s like being a child again. It’s like falling in love with life, with yourself, with someone new after two-million heavy nights. Like getting younger every year. Like looking at the same old world you’ve always lived in and seeing it for the first time again. Like not looking for answers, “being satisfied not to read in between the lines.” Like surrendering to a gorgeous madness. “Hey, it’s me, I’m dynamite and I don’t know why.”

From 1968 with love,

Seo

Let’s Bring Letters Back

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The problem with me and amor is that I’m actually really romantic but when I talk about love I sound like a 62-year-old woman who’s been through six divorces (five of them from lyin’, cheatin’ good-for-nothin’ bastards and one from a gay man [things were different back then]. We still have brunch every now and then—him, eggs benedict, me, scones and organic deli meats).

Springtime in the city is a long series of micro-romances, smiley strangers, endless lunches and accidental sunburns.

I just fell in love with the man at the Aluche convenience store. I bought a juice; he offered me a plate of cookies.  I chose one with red jelly. It was violently mediocre.

I just fell in love with a Tarque look-alike at Café Amargo. We chose the same dishes from the menu del día. We were mostly alone. Me with a book. Him with a laptop. I retired all eye contact upon deciding that he was old enough to have three children and an ex-wife.

I just fell in love with a barista (per usual). I ordered an empanadilla and a coffee to-go. He said “enjoy your Sunday!”

I just fell in love with the Lidl cashier for the third time. He looks like he’s into wood-working. He knows I eat one kilo of mandarin oranges a week.

I just fell in love with four women who were all equally passionate about everything under the literary sun.

I just fell in love with a mischievous young professional on line 5. We both stifled laughter when an andaluza told an elderly man that she would kick his ass if he got any closer.

Lately, older women have been mentioning their collections of letters from lovers and husbands to me.  All casual like “we met while I was traveling but we kept writing each other and eventually we reunitedthey say.

“Y ahora que?” is what I say “All those beloveds who never quite came to be are sweaty and drunk and swiping through Tinder.”

“Vaya coñazo” is what I say soon after.

My great-grandmother of long-lost Latvian origins had a boyfriend after her husband passed away. A widow and a widower who met often at the firehouse dinners. She made steaks and he fixed things. His name, if I remember correctly, was Walter.

“Thank you for helping me overcome this wall of loneliness, Vera” is what he wrote.

All these thoughts of letters and when I got off the metro this afternoon I found a hand-written note on the ground. This is going to be so cute! I thought.

The note was, I assume, an exchange between two teenage boys.

“Should I go out with ———-?”
“Go out with her and if it’s good, good, and it’s not, no.”
“Thanks man, this is what friends are for!”
“You haven’t fucked in ages.”
“I have, but I don’t want to say it in front of everyone.”
“When she comes to class, you should say it in front of her.”
“Hey, when are we gonna smoke?”
“During Holy Week, bro!”
“Listen, I gotta finish this exercise, don’t fuck up my pen. I use it all the time.”

Well. There’s always the next note, right?

Luv and letters,

Seo

Here’s the thing about today.

In September on the subway in Astoria I was reading Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks while a barber shop quartet sang “Stand by Me.” Oli delivered a dim prognosis re: our future ear health. Deafness and hearing loss will increase exponentially, he hypothesized. The human head is not accustomed nor adapted to being plugged with high-decibel rock music and Bieber-bops. Over time, our love of music could destroy our mega-important, mega-irreplaceable cilia.

So I started listening to music at more respectable levels. Because of Oli and also because I began imagining the members of KISS, tongues out and leather on, swinging from my cilia every time I ignored a volume warning.

But the thing about today is that I didn’t feel like having my metro-mates’ nasty, mucous-laden coughs as a backdrop to the musical I was making up in my head.

So I let Thin Lizzy drown out strangers’ February flus and I thought of how I’d choreograph the whole song on Line 5 and I looked down at my coat, still stained with churro chocolate, and I thought ears be damned.

Sunday Reflections: Old Post, New Day

Did you ever go somewhere and realize it used to be a different place? And it dawns on you that some things are not there anymore. Of course, some other things are not here yet. And nothing seems to be where it used to be; everything’s been moved. Sometimes I think if we could just put everything back where it originally was, we might be all right.”

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I like having a regular bar, waiters who know my order, and friends and family who are not confused by my Jersey Housewife impression (new friends are always welcome, however, so long as they find it mildly amusing). I am, likewise, a traveler of habit. I like to re-visit places. I like to see how they’ve changed, to remember how I felt in them then and appreciate (or lament) the now. Location is powerful. If it weren’t, we’d have no opinions on going or staying.

There are ghosts on every corner, I wrote of an impending return to Pittsburgh in 2011. That was during my Sylvia Plath stage, so I was really into writing stuff like that and, as much I didn’t want to, back indeed I had to go. One does not accrue student debt in order to leave without a diploma, I am told. So I returned. I made new memories in the old places and they all started to look a little bit different, even though they weren’t. (more…)

New Views, Old Thoughts

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For the love of the metro and the sake of my mind, I moved to Madrid. In Bodas de Sangre, Leonardo (the home-wrecking heartthrob) tells his lover: “cuando las cosas llegan a los centros, no hay quien las arranque!” When things reach deep inside you, nothing can pull them out! I sang that line into my steering wheel all summer long, knowing its truth better than most other things. It was a truth that I knew when I left home for the first time, when I escaped to Granada, and again 4 years later, having learned to live and love in another place, when I began to think mostly of metro cars, mostly at night, especially after wine. Not a single part of my body would shut up about it, so with some fear and plenty of nausea, I accepted the impossibility of quieting my feet.

So here I am. I live here now. “Madame George” lasts about exactly as long as the ride from my home to Alonso Martinez. I dream myself onto platforms, at the right station, onto the wrong train. I think I share a wall with an American. I can always tell us by our laughs. Strangers touch my ass every morning and I find myself staring into the backs of heads on the metro ride, which isn’t as romantic as I’d imagined it would be, but certainly has its charm, too (it’s that sense of community that comes from inhabiting somebody’s 8AM body odor).

When people ask “why?” I say:

“I just needed a change.”

Which is, of course, true. Still, my real life is not nearly dramatic as the one I live in my head. I suppose that is for the best, but this all felt very serious and necessary. Serious enough to take a Lorca quote completely out of context, at least.