life

Follow Your Heart and You’ll Always Feel Delirious

I love you under the rain and under the clouds and after midnight on Tuesday nights. I love you at lunchtime and on Sunday mornings before the hung-over crawl out from under their bed-sheets. I love you even and sometimes especially when I don’t, forgiving you your excessive escalators and stale Saturday winds.

I ignored you when we met. Skinny from silliness and afraid of everything, you were too wild for me, full of chatter. Five years later I hauled my suitcase up the stairs in Tirso de Molina. There was a light rain falling. Men were shouting and selling: paragua, paragua, paragua! I was lost but didn’t care. I would remember this moment for many months, especially while listening to shitty guided meditations. We stayed in a one room studio in Arganzuela. For three nights a madwoman banged trashcans and howled “Arabian Nights” beneath the window.

In August you were deserted. Queens with pencil-thin eyebrows smoked in doorways and danced chotis and I couldn’t stop smiling. The metro back was empty but for one sleeping woman. I looked up at the ceiling in my airport hotel and wondered what was wrong with me.

In September I had a bed and nowhere to rest my head. Waking up to you made me happier than I’d been for a long time. Sure I was lonely but I was also awake. Friends and strangers came and went. Gran Vía was a trap. I stumbled through January. Some nights the windows shook.

Last March, J asked what was wrong with me: why did I have to walk so far if the metro was right in front of us? It must have been one of those early Spring days, still cold enough for a coat, everybody falling in love. It took me seventy-five minutes to get home and I listened to Nino Bravo most of the way. Here he is, singing his way down the Paseo del Prado:


And there I was, trying real hard not to spread my arms out and sing right along with him. Maybe I should have. I’m here now only because I decided to honor impulse, after all. One year later and many are the afternoons that I still feel like singing up and down your hills.

Happy anniversary, Madrid.

Love,

Seo

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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:

I AM NOT A NOMAD.

There is a place that I will always call home. It’s where my family lives and where the friendships I have are ones that have survived such insurmountable things as adolescence, separation, depression, and my Phantom of the Opera phase. The sheer amount of life we have experienced both together and apart is impossible to re-create. Still, I leave those people year after year after year to come to Spain. Sometimes I know why I do this. Other times, especially in the days and weeks after I return, I don’t.

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You will likely feel a lot of things when you move and you will feel these things in part because you are too romantic for reality and because you are impatient, but mostly because that’s how humans react to change (unless you’re one of those cool nomads who just needs a couple of succulents to feel at home, I guess).

First, you might feel disappointed. I envisioned myself returning to my Spanish apartment and waltzing around in slippers and lingerie with a martini in hand, transitioning easily back into a glamorous life that I’ve never actually had. Let the record show that the only martini I’ve ever consumed is the Italian-brand vermouth. Let the record also show that my evenings have never looked like (I imagine) Rihanna’s do. Here’s what really happened: As I scrubbed my kitchen counters in a t-shirt and dusty jeans two sizes too big for me, my neighbor came to the window and asked if I was the cleaning lady and, if so, what was my rate? I, broker than I’ve been in many years, thought about saying yes.

Another thing you may also feel is loneliness. In spite of how you feel about this sort of self-help, you’ll watch a Ted Talk called “The Simple Cure for Loneliness.”  Baya Voce, the speaker, will say that the secret is to create rituals like putting on leggings and poppin’ open a bottle of rosé with your best friends! or taking a trip to Paris with your girlies! This video, although you’re sure that Baya is a lovely person, will nevertheless make you feel like eating all of your leggings and then your own hands.

You will probably feel both hopeful and hopeless, sometimes in the span of five minutes. Maybe you should chill the eff out, read this article, binge watch Cardi B’s Instagram rants, and then go on a run or pretend your empty living room is actually just a home dance studio.

En fin, I don’t always know why I do what I do, but I keep doing it. When I’m not busy questioning all of my life decisions, I try to laugh.

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.

The Doorman in My Bewbz

I spent my last full week in Madrid wearing yoga pants and singing Santana’s “María María” as I cared for a teenager of the same name.  I was having a blast but feeling pretty suburban so to welcome the weekend I wore an outfit that made me feel like a prostitute on her way to a high-school orchestra concert. It’s difficult to say whether wearing a push-up bra makes me feel sexy or if it’s just that I enjoy the feeling I get from tricking weird men into whooping at what are really just two well-sculpted pillows. Jose María, the doorman, had rung me before I went out to tell me he had a package waiting for me and that I’d better come get it since it was his last day.

Now, I’m five foot ten or eleven in heels and Jose María is five foot on a good day. He ushered me into his office where I explained that the package contained a tablecloth made by my great-grandmother. The top of his head ended right at my big fake cleavage and I tried really hard not to laugh as he told me about his retirement plans. I wished that someone were painting us. They could title it:

Jose María and an Awkward Glamazon or
Tiny Doorman Passes Parcel to Possible Prosti or
Could Franco Have Foreseen This?

No one painted us, as far as I know. I crouched down to give him the customary dos besos and then walked out, me and that century old tablecloth both marveling at where we’d ended up.