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.
La Tabacalera, Madrid. December 2016. Photos by Juan Manual Castro Prieto.
You’re tired. You want to stop, but you can’t. Lattes and sunsets and quirky glassware flash before your eyes.
If your breakfasts aren’t beautiful… do you exist?
If you don’t read poetry in sunbeams, do you actually understand it?
If you go on vacation and don’t document every moment of it, if you don’t spread your arms wide for a photo opp in front of the sea, did you really go?
Is the cure for depression and anxiety as easy as reading a Top 10 Reasons to Live list?
Generalized Embarrassment About Ultimately Inconsequential Bullshit:
You just washed your hair with shower gel for the third day in a row (lifehack: shower gel and shampoo are almost the same thing–you won’t die if you substitute one for the other on a poor or lazy day/week/month).
There are three empty water bottles under your bed and the only explanation you can offer is “pure, unadulterated laziness.”
You drank a can of Diet Coke and ate a slice of bread “for dinner.”
You’ve never had a manicure.
You went to sleep with your asymmetrical eyeliner still on last night.
The socks on your feet don’t match.
You’d rather spend an afternoon in an old man bar than at Kelsey’s new vegan venture.
WHY ARE THESE PEOPLE DRINKING SO MANY LATTES?
Life doesn’t look like this! Life is gross! Life is that old guy at the dark convenience store (they’re trying to save on electricity) who walked in smoking a cigar, asking for change. Life is the waiter with gnarly body odor you had today. Life is Eileen Myles writing a poem called Peanut-butter that begins I am always hungry/ & wanting to have sex. Life is that lady laying on the ground at the Paseo de Prado. Life is watching a manchange into his Quixote costume. Fine, whatever, it’s gorgeous, too. Life is gorgeous, but it’s not made of pastels or lists or aerial shots of eggs Benedict.
You fell into a scroll-hole on a lifestyle blogger’s Instagram, didn’t you? Whatta dummy.
Go outside. Respect the lifestyle ladies and men, anyway, for working hard and making a living marketing lives that don’t look like yours does. They must wonder what the fuck? from time to time, too. But that doesn’t sell.
My proper camera was hit by a modest monster wave in the South of France last year and, despite its continued survival, refuses to un-zoom. The last time I took said camera to a professional, I was twenty-two and alone in San Francisco. All I wanted was a new lens cap, as I’d lost mine (along with my sanity) somewhere between Western PA and Michigan, so I found a camera shop on the pier and walked in. The attendant looked at me like I was a large piece of human shit and chastised me for not having a proper case (in the monotone voice of a hobby snob, you know what I mean?) My response was something along the lines of man eff this, just give me the cap. After that, I ate a chorizo omelet as big as my face in The Haight.
That gratuitous story is just to say: I took all of these photos on my sorta-shitty budget phone. So if you’re a snob, close your eyes. Some Madrid moments from the last month.
Mickey Mouse gets ready for work on November 12th, 2016. Four days post-Trump.
A stormy capital. November 29th, 2016.
La Latina looking golden (+ a stranger’s/Harry Potter’s? profile) on December 6th, 2016 (Día de la Constitución)
Good gloves, mediocre photos, and beautiful memories,
Madriz is a gorgeous place full of gorgeous people who don’t know my name. I go on long walks here, as I have done for a thousand lifetimes and will do for a thousand more. There are rose gardens and a suicide bridge and clouds the likes of which I haven’t lived under for some time. What a wonderful place to fall in love. The singer-songwriter on the metro requested no videos, please.
“You know, a flower is so beautiful to look at. But when you pick it, it becomes a thing and it dies. I don’t want to be a thing.”
Gracias, compadres. He retrieved a bottle of honey from his bag and took a swig.
The metro at 10 PM on a Tuesday is a tired place to decompress, an unlikely place to chuckle with a man who has honey in his throat.
Yes, it is Tuesday night. Yes, I am writing about the metro again. Yes, I am still young and Irish enough to revel in the absurd, to feel human and happy in a big metal tube.
“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.”
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…)