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 and, 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. Even so, 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

City of No-Shits-Taken

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New York isn’t New York without you, love.

There is a woman in this video who is bent over in pink tights and a leopard leotard, and she looks wonderful. I keep the song on repeat, although I don’t know whether the lyrics piss me off or not–is there not a sort of martydom in the lines “but for you darling, I’d do it all again.” What exactly is it, Annie? I feel like screaming yo, get a life, bitch.

For as long as he’s lived there, Keith has assured me that New York City is fucking disgusting. He can’t imagine being anywhere else for long, though. I remember the summer after he moved; from Locust Bar and onwards, he marveled at how damn tiny Philadelphia was. The gardens: tiny. The sidewalks: tiny. The row-homes: might as well have been miscroscopic.

I love New York City’s exhausting labyrinth of lives, but I’ve been told I laugh too much to live there–dangerous thing to do on the subway. Might be misinterpreted. Could end in homicide.

Last January my heart was broken and everything hurt. At any rate, I felt an unfamiliar clarity even, and perhaps especially, while puking up my feelings in a Granadino apartment that looked out on the Sierra Nevada and reminded me of being twenty. I was equal parts pathetic and bold. I wanted both my mother and to be wearing platform boots in Bed-Stuy.

On the final day of that vacation, as we prepared to pay three euros too many for a pair of coffees and toast, my brother, blessed may he be for his quiet understanding, asked: “who the hell wants to be a side character?”

“Everybody is a side character and anyone who thinks they aren’t, is a bitch” I told him, eyes swollen, nothing if not eloquent.

A few months prior, I’d stopped in for an iced coffee and a bagel at Hudson Yards. Construction of the Vessel was well underway at the time. I eavesdropped on men in hard hats discussing the details of their next Eurotrips, their wives’ pregancies.

In Manhattan, I wrote, the idea that one might never find love, or life, is absurd.

Life on wheelz.

From the archives. August 2014. Who wants to illustrate this?


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I missed the express bus to Philadelphia last week and was rescheduled on a later, longer bus. Under normal conditions (ie. no sinus pressure and plenty of snacks), a Greyhound bus ride is one of my favorite pastimes. How often do you find yourself locked inside a mobile freezer with an incredible array of strangers for 5+ hours? Not very, unless you’re traveling cross-country, or a masochist. It’s a great opportunity for people-watching and, as misery loves company, there is often a sense of community aboard.

The other night was hell, however, and I leave here a log of my SMS’ as proof (edited for context).

At 5pm, I am abusing my sudafed and thinking about Walter White.

We make a pit stop in Shady Rock, Nowhere. I pay four dollars for a slice of “New York Style” Sbarro pizza. The bus smells like cheeseburgers and cigarettes.

Someone help me.

There is a 4-month old child at the back of the bus. I know that he was born two months early because I am a professional eavesdropper. Earlier, a woman in a pink wife-beater, carrying a Wendy’s XL Frostie, commented on his “biiiiiiig eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeyyyyes!!!” for 10+ minutes.

At 9:30, we are just entering Harrisburg and I beg the lord to have mercy upon my soul.

I have to pee but I’m afraid of being left here. Our driver has used the loudspeaker to deliver the same speech at each stop. He informs us that he is not our “nice uncle,” and that he has nine nieces and nephews and a third grand-baby on the way. I will spend the rest of this ride trying to figure out how this information is relevant to his leaving us at rest-stops.

Someone has stolen the empty seat I was about to take. Life is pain and all hope has left my bones.

I’ve decided to deal with it. I am practicing zen.

My sudafed has finally kicked in, so I am awake. I learn that my seatmate is afraid of tunnels. She drinks water or whiskey to get through them. I try to distract her with questions. Our last tunnel, in her words, is a “double whammy.”

She gets off in Norristown. She is the only passenger to deboard. I like her and I know all of her daughters’ college majors, but I can’t help being angry.

It is midnight. Most people have fallen asleep. It now smells like breath and the driver keeps turning the headlights off as we pass Boathouse Row.

But the worst is over because I SEE MY CITAY. I’M IN MY CITAY.

I wait through nine taxis and one crackhead for my ride to arrive. Shwizz, Bliv and I drive to Lorenzo’s for a slice of pizza. They are bigger than I remember. A man approaches Shwizz’s window, asks for her number, and tells her that he has two pet fish and an anaconda he’d like to show her. I think this is a very poor pick-up line. We, as always, take Lincoln Drive home and Bliv acts like she’s in NASCAR, so I grip the door handle and try not to pass out.