music

How To Cover Your Body in Buttercream

Mary Berry, face of the Great British Bake Off (GBBO) and most polite judge in the history of reality television, picked up a slice of spongecake and went in for the taste. She chewed slowly, squinted her piercing blue eyes, and swallowed.

“That,” she paused “is a lovely sponge.”

Every time she did it I was reminded of Speedy, my childhood pet turtle, and the way he’d move his neck as he went in for the first bite of a garden grub or roly-poly (that’s what we called pill bugs as children; the British use the same word to refer to a sweet dough with filling… and I’m already grossed out by this post, which is exactly the opposite of what I was going for). Anyway, I don’t say that to insult Mary Berry. She’s a total queen. It’s just that sometimes her bites are a bit reptilian.

My sister’s birthday was last week so I decided to grab Mary’s Victoria Sponge recipe and surprise her with a cake. Today I’m sharing my process and the final results.

Disclaimer: I’m neither a baker nor a food blogger. I’d barely touched an oven before I hosted a Thanksgiving abroad in 2013 (against my will and with severe anxiety that I might accidentally poison everyone). I’ve hosted three more since then (voluntarily and with great enthusiasm), learned how to make pie crust, made one chocolate cake, a few batches of brownies, and an apple pie that didn’t impress the Spaniards very much. It was a great pie so I went ahead and blamed “cultural differences” and tried not to roll onto the floor when it was suggested that cabello de angel should be added to the filling.

So. I hope this helps.

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I will never grow so old again

Listening to Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks is exactly like living in the most painful, beautiful dream you’ve ever had. Very James Joyce. Very makes me want to dance down the metro aisles and also lay down in the middle of the road and cry and also jump into some sea, any sea, and run down an empty street with a lover or with a friend or alone, laughing until the end of time.

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Kildare, Ireland 2016

“Sweet Thing” means something different every year, but has been an especially prominent song in my life lately and often played on repeat (sorry not sorry, neighbor). It’s like being a child again. It’s like falling in love with life, with yourself, with someone new after two-million heavy nights. Like getting younger every year. Like looking at the same old world you’ve always lived in and seeing it for the first time again. Like not looking for answers, “being satisfied not to read in between the lines.” Like surrendering to a gorgeous madness. “Hey, it’s me, I’m dynamite and I don’t know why.”

From 1968 with love,

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Mysteries of the Mind, Part 2

Last week I saw In The Same Boat, a documentary about how technology and job automation have led to monstrous wealth inequality and how one might confront the problem moving forward. It was followed by an open forum debate with Rudy Gnutti (the director), Yayo Herrero (premier eco-feminist), Jorge Moruno (Podemos representative and “lover of gnocchi”), and Iñigo Errejón (Podemos’ poster-baby and serial gesticulator). I was interested in the subject matter, but it would be dishonest of me to say that my facetious goal of dancing a chotis with Errejón didn’t have just a little bit to do with my decision to buy tickets. At the time of writing that goal remains unrealized, but I can tell you that in person Errejón looks younger than most of my middle-school students. I can also tell you that, after telling said students about the documentary, a few of them informed me that if I was a Podemista, I should leave class. Others warned me that my “pants were turning purple” and one incredulous girl asked “so, what, you think everyone should have jobs?” More on this later. Or never.

Getting ready for bed I thought mostly about how I should study economy and take a public speaking class. I also thought about the Amazon executive from the documentary, whose interview included a really amusing line in which he talked about how truly awful he really felt about getting on his private jet after seeing poverty in the streets! Finally, head on my pillow, eyes closed, my thoughts drifted not to neo-liberalism nor to Spain’s new political party, but to… Nino friggin’ Bravo, Spanish crooner and eyebrow idol.

Musical insomnia, again.

What was the song this time? “Un Beso y Una Flor.”

And the lines that wouldn’t leave my mind?

De día viviré pensando en tus sonrisas
De noche las estrellas me acompañarán

A beautiful, romantic goodbye song.

Why? And for what?

Y’all didn’t think I was about to analyze economics, did you?

Mysteries of the Mind

On Friday night, St. Patrick’s day, I slept a grand total of 1 hour and 30 minutes, not because of excessive Guinness consumption–I had one pint (to keep my passport)–but because I could not get these lines out of my head:

Ya sé todo lo que va a pasar
Lo sé desde que te vi llegar

Fifteen words. Sung. Incessantly. For hours. I tossed, I turned, I tried to think of other things–relaxing things, like the smell of soda bread and the two times I walked around Père Lachaise. It was all to no avail.

An hour prior, Emgirl and I had parked our bicycles under the arc leading to Teatro Romea and sung “Danny Boy.”  An Irish tune might have made sense, but alas… My brain decided to stall on Spanish rock.

It’s still a good song.

These lines are just “neurologically irresistible” and also a very large pain in my very tired ass.

 

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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