Dear Amateur Choir,

This is a confession.

I know. Here, Halloween is a free for all. On November 1st, All Saints’ Day, you’re meant to lay flowers and prayers at the feet of those who have passed. Had you no relatives to honor?

At 11PM, a zombie on the metro asked me where I was going. Home, I said, and into my bed. I’ve been on my feet for fourteen hours and I feel like I’m dead.

Nighttime is a ritual and my sleep precious, Amateur Choir. I’m an adult now, I guess. Who are you? I, like you, like to sing. I love Madonna, too, and even have a few GaGa dance routines. I get it. Early youth is a stupid, wonderful time. Those people you met six whiskeys in really do feel like they might be your best friends. It’s all so new and, oh my god, they’re down to take Jager shots too!?

But I have to tell you, Amateur Choir, I have to tell you that 5 AM is just not the appropriate time for a Lady Marmalade singalong. I try to be fair, you know. I suspect I’ve woken you up myself once or twice. I know for sure that I stopped the party that night I slammed the bathroom door and screamed “fucking assholes,” still half-asleep and full of rage. It was a Tuesday, after all. So I let you carry on on Halloween, Amateur Choir, because it was a holiday. I sacrificed my sanity for your fun. Did you hear me? I spoke out loud a few times: Please stop, you insufferable cokeheads. Go to sleeeeppp. I tried to drown you out with the “Chillout” playlist on Spotify, but Sam Beam singing “Time After Time” into my ears just made me feel like sticking my head into a pot of sardines.

I guess you finally passed out around 7:00. The last song I heard was “Oh Happy Day,” for the second time. Props to you, Amateur Choir, for living up to your name.

The confession: it was me, at 9 AM, holding my phone up to the wall, playing M Clan’s “Hasta la vista Rock ‘n’ Roll” and then “Bodak Yellow” and then “Daddy I’m Fine” (variety is the spice of life). I heard banging and imagined you all rolling hungover out of bed into a massive pile of pipa shells. And yes, Amateur Choir, I felt good about it. I danced along to the music with my middle finger in the air and a smile on my face that felt delicious. I felt truly vindictive. Who knew?

Thank you for showing me a side of myself I didn’t know I had.

Love,

The woman on the other side of the wall

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

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.

Continue reading “How To Cover Your Body in Buttercream”

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.

irelandpark
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,

Seo

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?