travel

Forgive me, Spanish Grandmothers, for I have sinned.

It has been four months since I last wore a proper pair of house shoes.

I’m beginning to the think that the Universe (or God or Judi Dench or Whoever You Believe In) is hellbent on making this year one in which I will be continuously forced to reflect on and appreciate what I have (prima donna alert: the story I’m about to tell ain’t that big a deal).

On Thursday afternoon Palacio Longoria, modernist gem (or eyesore, depending on your aesthetic preferences), was open to the public as part of Open House Madrid. I saw Palacio Longoria for the first time on Constitution Day 2016. I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and wondered what the balls is that building doing on this street and how do I get inside? Turns out it’s only open a select few days a year without a reservation–Thursday, of course, was one of those days. I really wanted to go but I had things to get done first. I had to clean, prepare a class, feed my body, and put on some socially acceptable clothing. In my effort to do all of those things at the same time I ended up jamming my left foot, full force, into my bedroom door. I hobbled onto my bed at that point and exclaimed some things to la virgen santa and to la  madre que me parío. I could hear Dolores and Rosa María, superstar Spanish mothers of my past, berating me: ibas sin zapatiiiiillas, nena? 

For those of you who haven’t lived in Spain or any place where this is A Thing, be aware that the quickest way to scandalize a Spaniard is to walk barefoot around your home. Naked feet will take you only as far as the closest hospital. Whether its thanks to a very complicated case of pneumonia or a tragically mangled foot, ending up there is simply a question of time.

So, yes, I broke a toe. Or I sprained it. I don’t know. The impact was barbaric enough and the poor bae now bruised enough that I can’t walk without limping. The men of Lavapies shout after me “que te pasa, mujer?” I’m tempted to shout back in my raspiest Murcian Spanish: “no me pasa na’,” the a all drawn out and dramatic, an annoyed hand flourished in the air, little D and A nowhere to be found (too busy having cañas I guess). I say nothing, though, on account of the fact that I’d be hopeless at running away.

There’s a lesson somewhere in here about slowing down and giving yourself time to heal. I’ll never take another toe for granted.

Happy Saturday,
Seo

Me, once the swelling goes down:

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Do like the Schuykill and flow.

Schuykill River

Schuykill River, Philadelphia, PA, July 2017

Anyone with the financial security to believe in choice will tell you that you should model your life’s work after the thing that makes you forget about time. It’s called flow. I have a problem, though. I get immersed in many things and not a one of them has proven very lucrative (yet). Like, I could spend days just…

  • Writing about the mundane events of my daily life
  • Lip-syncing to the RuPaul playlist
  • Sketching at a first-grade level
  • Thinking about what it would’ve been like to have lunch with Oliver Sacks
  • Helping children write skits
  • Pretending to be a lifestyle guru
  • Sitting in a cinema with a bag of peanut m&ms, crying quietly during a heartbreaking scene (like when Marion Cotillard starts screaming Marceeeellllll! in La Vie en Rose)
  • Editing the soul-bearing personal statements of other people
  • Editing anything
  • Traveling alone to a place I’ve never been before
  • Watching a play and wondering what it’s like to be on stage
  • Trying to impersonate Oprah talking about Gayle
  • Eating
  • Watching people who actually know how to dance, dance
  • Starting a project
  • Walking with nowhere to go
  • Riding the same metro for longer than twenty minutes
  • Perfecting my Long Island accent
  • Reading old letters
  • Eavesdropping on people at cafes and in waiting rooms

So you see… I’m writing in lists lately. I apologize for that. It’s flow’s fault–the fault of it, really. It’s hard to flow when your brain is otherwise occupied with financial and logistical matters. I’m over here like Virginia, shouting all this lady needs is some money and a room of her own! Y’know, if Virginia were an American ESL teacher searching for a summer side-hustle.

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.

irelandpark

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

oopz

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.