madrid

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:

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.

Gazing at Navels and Cherry Blossoms

In October I grew a thousand hands, danced like a coke-head, couldn’t stop shaking my feet, and forgot to eat.

I walked too far, too fast, met too many people and heard too many stories, almost none of which answered the questions I was interested in: what are you afraid of? Do you ever feel embarrassed for entire days  and for no good reason? When do you feel most alone, most loved? What is love? Why? Can we talk about the things that are right? Can we not talk at all?

I felt half-convinced that I wanted to be an ad-woman or an engineer or the sort of person who cared about keeping up with the Jones. Acknowledging this, embracing it, later hating it, I recognized that it was time to, as they say, “move on.”

So I “made time” to spend time alone. I walked just as much or more, with ears out and eyes up.

Conviction is important, of course it is, but we’re all so full of it that sometimes I forget who I am and I most certainly forget “what matters.” My conviction is that we are all gross and lonely, sometimes assholes (by choice and by accident), and often confused. I have other convictions, warmer ones about love and the little things, but I’m bad at writing about them.

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In November I felt like a visitor, avoided all questions, climbed Embajadores and five flights with a bag of butter and broth. Half  of my world was name-dropping Wagner and the other half had been born without maps. Somewhere across the Atlantic there were rest-stops in the middle of Pennsylvania and trash-pickers in Fishtown that no one I knew had ever seen.

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In December, in Albacete, in an Audi, my driver informed me “this is a chick’s car” and then, saving himself, “but I’ve had 15 or 20 BMWs.”  I said almost nothing. He turned up Birdy’s cover of “Skinny Love” and declared: “esto si que es un temazo.” Because the car was comfortable and because he had a voice like a radio host, I didn’t mind the music (all covers and Calvin Harris). When I arrived in Murcia  I was thinking about becoming a business-man. I was also wondering if he made love to techno and, if so, what it would be like to be that sort of person?

I taught the sons and daughters of executives and diplomats in their museum homes. I bought a lottery ticket (my first) and for twenty-six hours I believed I’d pay off my student loans on December 22nd.

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In January, I ran. I re-read A Room of One’s Own while drinking a can of San Miguel. A man I love prepared me huevos rotos con jamon. Virginia might have called it “a man’s meal.” I imagined she’d be happy for me. On a Tuesday afternoon I got off my metro five stops too early. The resident accordionist was playing–what else?–the Amelie soundtrackAs people say these days, I just couldn’t.

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In February, I began measuring my life out in Sundays. A Sunday suicide pact. A 7AM Sunday under a rain that might have been romantic were it not for the fact that I felt like falling down. A Sunday run after an all-night Saturday, burritos and Coronita and laughs and an evening walk that felt like spring. A burnt toast Sunday morning, old skull afternoon, a vibrant Retiro, a guitar or three I couldn’t see. A Sunday electric with what if and what the fuck and two porras at five am.

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So here we are, March. I’m feeling my feelings religiously and irresponsibly and in between bites of Swiss cheese. I’m feeling them on the metro and under spring skies on Tuesday afternoons. What is this blog? What is this life? I don’t know, but it sure is pretty.

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Mah-drid Moments

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.

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Mickey Mouse gets ready for work on November 12th, 2016. Four days post-Trump.

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A stormy capital. November 29th, 2016.

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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,

Seo