I Know. It’s Been a Minute and a Half.

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.
  • Herbal teas.

So that’s all I’ve got for today.

Stay curious,

Seo

It’s OK to be this Intense, Right?

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!

family newsletter

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.

Fight for your right…. to feeeeeeel,

Seo

Play Some Relaxing Wave Sounds and Join Me for “The Grateful Hour”

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:

A Kindle.

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?).

Poetry.

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 so, 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.

Video Calls.

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.

Community.

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.

Perspective.

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.

But I won’t.

With heaps of gratitude,

Seo 

Nude Trees and the Life Beneath Them

We missed the cherry blossoms.

Blown away they were, the lot of ’em.

Mornings now are like the autumn of my arrival: cool, suggestive, empty and full.

This park has become a sacred place for me, a pilgrimage.

Year 1: I sat here and wrote lists. Reasons to wake up. Things to do before dying.

Year 2: I wrote a poem in Spanish, using words I’d learned in bed.

Year 3: I zoomed my way North on a city bike, promising JC that our destination was fairy-tale-esque. Everything had changed, though. We could hardly move for selfie-taking couples and fresh-faced parents balancing new babies on tree-limbs. A field of Instagrammable branches, an intro to social media for infants.  The smell of roast chicken wafting about Quintana made me happy to be alive, anyway, and we didn’t take any photos.

Year 4: I broke a month-long alcohol fast with a tiny bottle of beer and a few gulps of wine. We played word-games, which bring out the best and the worst in me. The sun hid itself away and reappeared when it wanted to. Things were better without the blossoms.

Holaaaa Chiqui,

I’m late in writing again. Sorry about that. You’re getting hipper by the day and I, come fall, may find myself priced out. 1100+ days between us and many of my worries are the same. I wonder at the bags beneath my eyes, my ill-fitting clothes and my adequacy. We are still a lop-sided pair.

On Saturday morning, the upstairs tenants are fucking away. I blast meditation music and laugh. This is the longest I’ve ever spent in any one place and I know things now: how to fix a toilet, the best time of day for a sun-drenched nap, the way that woman sometimes screams jooooodeeeeer. I know how to keep the wind out–most of it, at least. I know when my wall-mates change, their sleeping habits and favorite songs.

Down on the street, however, I’m having trouble getting used to the new additions: yellow lights, frequent vocal fry. Come on, let’s get whoppers, a Kelly or a Hannah says. I’m aware that I may be part of this problem, OK? So you don’t need to say anything about it. The newsman is still there every morning at least, and likely long before I think of opening my eyes.

Things change, of course, and many of them for the better. Now, I work in a place where people are familiar to me. They worry about money and they wash their own clothing. Last week, a child told a story about the gorillas living in her grandparents’ garage–no one questioned the verity of this, and the presentation moved smoothly along. Well, as long as they are familiar gorillas, of course it is OK to approach them.

Tirso’s blooms are perennial but I mostly forget about them in the winter. Their openings and closings are measured, unlike mine. This is something that I am working on. Many are the mornings, afternoons, evenings that I have crossed this part of you. Sadly, happily, alone, accompanied, barely there. Today I bought a bunch of leaves and a bouquet of purple and white flowers. I don’t know their genera. I was also carrying a bag of groceries and a two-foot tall calathea.

“¿Puedes con todo?” the attendant asked me. “Can you handle everything?”

I think so. If you could just hand me the plant…”

On mornings like this one, it is a privilege to handle all of this.

Happy 3rd anniversary, Madrid. It is good to really see you again.

Love,

Seo