1rst and Houston

August 14, 2006

It seems like every time I pass the 1rst and Houston there is a couple making out, hugging, or just generally intertwined (in one case a couple was staring deep into each others eyes massaging each others shoulders and crying). If I go through my archives I can probably find a dozen pictures like this taken at exactly the same spot. Upon reflection I realized Jenn and I might have had a few long goodbye smooches here back when she lived on Mott street even though we're generally not big on extravagant PDAs... Hmm.

Ahree Lee

August 13, 2006

Artist Ahree Lee took pictures of herself everyday from 2001 to 2004 and edited the results together as a movie, a clip of which became popular on youtube. The original can be seen in it's entirety (after an annoying long ad) on atom films.

Noah, it's time to make that movie...

More obsessive photography and time related projects can be found at c71123.com.

UPDATE: The atom link is dead, but you can see the film on youtube.

Email from Tbone

August 10, 2006

"Once, a mangy groundhog meandered across a hundred yards of barren lawn to arrive at the feet of my father, brothers, and our family dog. The dog was the last to notice the new addition to our party. When the dog finally growled, the groundhog let out a terrifying, human scream, slumped to the ground, and was dead before anything touched it.

The scream bothered all of us for days."

Nadia Sablin

August 9, 2006

I always love a photographers who look their subjects directly in the eye without flinching or hiding behind a long lens. Check out Nadia Sablin's Baba series. (via Jen Bekman)

When I was cool

August 9, 2006

A friend of mine asked today, "when was the last time you felt cool?"

Hmmm. Bloggers are decidedly uncool. So subtract a few years. When did this blog start? Married people. Not cool. Now we're back to 2003. In LA I lived in Silverlake, which used to be cool, but by the time I lived there all the cool people had exited for Echo Park or Eagle Rock. I worked in the movies for a while. Cool from the outside, so not cool from the inside. The definition of uncool is being screamed at by your boss while on a Gulf Stream Jet and having the only other people in the cabin, 3 stewardess, snicker as you sit and take it. Also I was working on crap films like the Sabrina remake and IQ. The cool people worked on films like Bottle Rocket and Shallow Grave. My life as a nomadic backpacker... potentially cool for people stuck at desk jobs, but on the road there were always people who went further. When I arrived in Mongolia the talk was of mythic backpacker Ronnie from Tasmania. His exploits were discussed in hushed tones always ending with, "He vanished in the Gobi you know." That guy was cool. College? Please. I wore red socks (virtually every day), wrote a thesis on Chinese bronze casting, and thought it was fun to post xeroxes of raisin bread slices all over campus. Sigh. In high school I weighed about 90 pounds, talked with a deep drawl, and would get very excited when discussing "the world of the future." I was the school photographer. School photographers are never cool. Two words: Academic Decathalete. I showed up to Jr. High with a broken leg and on the first day broke my crutches. I had to hop from class to class. That pretty much ruined it for that year.

The last time I was cool? 1979. I was in 6th grade. Brookhollow Elementary home of the mighty Beavers. Mr. Johhny Futch, the principal (Futch is an unfortunate name for a principal), caught me doing a bit from Steve Martin's album Comedy is not Pretty to a group of classmates. But really I was reciting the bit for Janet, a transfer student from Baton Rouge who had only been in school two months (and would only stay month more before her parents mysteriously decided to move again.). Janet loved Steve Martin. She could talk dinosaurs and she loved orange velour. This last fact she told me over lunch a few days after arriving and within a week I had convinced my mom to buy not one but two velour shirts. One was red but could pass as orange. I told Janet it was tangerine and she deemed it "amazing." Janet was horrified when Mr. Fuchs grabbed me by my chain mid-joke (yes I wore a silver chain) and dragged me away.

Mr. Futch had a glassed-in office visible to anyone that walked by. Picture a square office with two glass walls open to the cafeteria. On the back wall, a painting of a deer and on the other, a big blackboard. In the corner a window and a potted plant. The desk sat dead center. It was bare save for a few framed pictures of deer kills, a soft focus portrait of Mrs. Futch, a microphone, and a large wooden paddle carved from a 2 by 4 and polished to a high gloss sheen. The office smelled of mimeograph ink.

Futch liked to lecture before he doled out punishment and he gravely informed me that "cussing" would not be tolerated. Speaking in a soft voice he contemplated the number of "licks" I would be receiving. One wouldn't teach me a lesson, and I needed a lesson as this was a second offense, but eight might be to much... "five, five is a good number". I was steeling myself for the blows when without warning he was called away leaving me alone in the office. "Don't touch anything," he smiled, "or you're looking at seven." I waited. I scanned for books to stuff down my jeans. Nothing. Ten minutes passed. Then twenty. Outside I saw my class in the cafeteria. They were almost finished and Janet was there. She saw me and made a sad face. I waved. She waved back. The bell was ringing. Lunch was over. I knew my class would be passing the office and in that moment I felt overwhelmed. "SOMETHING must be done," I thought. I looked outside. It was raining. On the chalkboard I wrote in big letters. "I did it for you Janet." I underlined Janet twice. Then I quickly opened the window and slipped out. In less than a minute I was on my bike pedaling full tilt down Live Oak Lane. I knew Mr. Futch would be calling my mom. I knew she would probably be waiting for me. Probably outside the house. She would drive me straight back to that office. But as I rode my bike on that rainy day I was cool as hell. I knew it. Janet knew it, and that's all that mattered.

Back in Brooklyn

August 5, 2006

Two girls in bathing suits on a stoop on Hoyt street:

Girl #1: "It’s runny makeup hot."
Girl #2: "It’s riot hot."
Girl #1: "Dead granny hot."
Girl #2: "Did you see Gore’s movie? This is the rest of our lives."
Girl #1: "That’s depressing. Let’s go inside and eat ice cream.
. . .
Nobody notices when it is 102 in Houston. Houston is an air conditioned city. You walk from air conditioned car to air conditioned office to air conditioned mall. Many people in Houston never actually taste summer. New Yorkers are walkers by design. We crowd into airless subway stations. We climb stairwells. Noisy window units try but fail to cool our steamy apartments. Rich or poor there is no other option. We sweat. So when the heat breaks as it did tonight and the temperature drops and the wind picks up, the mood of the entire city lightens if just for a moment. People on the street exiting movie theaters stretch out their arms to feel the breeze. It feels good.

So long Spain

August 1, 2006

We return to Brooklyn tomorrow where it will be ungodly hot. One weather website predicted it would be 104 degrees (that’s about 40C for you Europeans) but would feel like 112 with the humidity (44.4). Another more optimistic site guesses it will only reach 102 and advises "please remember to water your plants". So we will arrive tired and drenched in sweat. It’s hot here too ("too hot to go swimming" Jenn just announced) but there is zero humidity so it doesn’t feel miserable and nights are beautifully cool.

Did I mention we are back in Madrid. We’ve been eating ham and paella (see below) and catching up on a few last sights.

Hmm... favorites from this trip:

We've seen hundreds of paintings in Spanish musuems, lots of masterpieces. But the ones that stick with me are never the "greats". La virgen del arbol secco by Petrus Christus c 1450 will linger. It’s an intimate canvas full of mystery. The image on the web doesn’t do it justice. The painting hangs in the Thyssen-Bornemisza, an eclectic museum showcasing the collection of the Baron Hans Heinrich Tyssen-Borenmisza and his children. As an aside the Baron's name is a prime example of why I object to hyphenated surnames-they are a mouthful.

The fisherman in Galician villages hang tiny models of their boats in the rafters of the churches. I only visited one of these churches but there are scores. Photo project anyone? Imagine a long exposure on a large format plate done in the morning light as a few of the boats bob in the breeze and the old women pray for the safe return of their men.

The Spanish and Portuguese governments have converted castles and country estates across the respective countries into grand hotels. In Spain the hotels are called paradores, in Portugal pousadas. If you search around the net (and with local travel agents) you can find deals that make these hotels, relatively speaking, affordable. 7 nights for 400 euro, 5 nights for 300 euro etc. You get cards a bit like euro-rail passes. We stayed in a few of these hotels and were impressed each time. Another plus, they tend to be kid friendly while not being obnoxiously kid-centric.

The Spanish province of Extremadura always inspires seeming both familiar (reminds me of the American west or of northern Mexico) and impossibly ancient but I always find myself zipping trough trying to make it back to Madrid for a flight. The eastern edge of Portugal is similarly appealing. If you've ever driven the road from Burnet to Marble Falls in the Texas Hill Country you'll feel right at home.

The subway system in Madrid is clean, modern and efficient. Even the windows of the cars are clear and scratch free, odd but welcome in a city so oppressed by graffiti.

I've probably already mentioned Portuguese beaches too much. We really loved them (and I say this as a non beach person). Do you know the film Mr. Hulot's Holiday by Jacques Tati? It's a bit like that.

That is all for now.

Pimba Music

July 31, 2006

Across Portugal I kept seeing CDs for the mustachioed Quim Barreiros. Turns out he was one of Portugal's first Pimba musicians. Pimba is a cheery (occasionally raunchy) brand of Portuguese folk music. Many of the songs sound suspiciously like the cheery (occasionally raunchy) ranchero music you find in northern Mexico and Texas. Finding pimba on the web is somewhat difficult, but i'll upload a song or two when I'm back home. The best I can do for now is thisyoutube video of a girl chair dancing to Pimba.

The Portuguese Countryside...

July 30, 2006

...is awfully nice. I keep finding myself wanting to crawl up a tree, and yell 'Beauty!"...

Some admittedly touristy snapshots:

Driving in Europe

July 26, 2006

When I drive on local roads between cities in the states I consult a map find the road or roads that connect cities and follow those roads from place to place. If the roads are well signed there is this sense of certainty about where you are, what direction you are going (N, S, E or W), and which road you are traveling. "I'm on Farm Road 287 West," you might say to yourself. But throughout most of Europe a completely different system is in place. There are signs at intersections telling you the direction of the next city, so instead of a sign saying this is so-and-so road South, you'll just get a sign directing you to Mexilhoeira or Santa Maria de la Monte or wherever. If you have developed your navigational skills in the American system, the European system requires a certain leap of faith because often (and especially on small roads) you never have any idea exactly which road you are on and that's sort of the point, it doesn't matter because you'll get to your destination if you just follow the signs. At first this is bewildering, but once you get used to it, there is a sense of liberation because (assuming the local governments have done their jobs and put up proper signage) you'll never lose your way. The problem with the European system is that if you are unfamiliar with the exact order of the towns you will be traversing you can get spectacularly lost somewhat easily and as roads are often not otherwise marked. Both systems have their advantages, I can't decide which I prefer.
. . .
If you must have driving directions, http://www.mappy.com does a pretty good job covering Europe.
. . .
We've driven almost 2000 km now and haven't seen a single cop.
. . .
Quintessential European motoring experiences:

Entering the heart of a historic district, getting a bit turned around on the windy streets, and driving down a narrow alley that is either a dead end or too skinny for your car (usually on the top or bottom of a steep hill). To complete this manuever you must ompletely block foot and motorcycle traffic in both directions.

Passing a car on a freeway only to have another car (often with German plates) come out of nowhere at a high rate of speed tailgating within inches of your car until you move over and let him (it's always a him) pass.

Getting yourself into an impossibly cramped parking spot in some underground lot and realizing you have no idea how you will be getting out of the spot or out of your car (solution for the latter, climb out the rear if you have a hatch back).

Driving on a mountain road that narrows so only one car at a time can make certain turns... getting to those turns and seeing another line of cars heading towards you and having to drive in reverse for several minutes in order to let those cars pass.

Passing on roads in which there are three lanes and the middle lane is a shared passing lane.

Driving a Smart Car.

Flutters and bubbles

July 25, 2006

Hey, from Portugal.

Things are good. Here's why:

I go nuts over a good castle and Obidos has a great castle. It looks exactly like the ones I drew as a kid (I preferred towers to battlements).


The Portuguese don't look at you like you're crazy if you want to eat dinner at 8 (as opposed to the Spanish 11).


Portuguese restaurants often feature outdoor bbqs. (Did I mention we are a bbq loving family.)


A pair of turtles named Dulce and Ernesto who live at this hotel amuse my son.


Our #2 child in my wife's belly is fluttering. Jenn describes it alternately as being brushed by butterfly wings or little bursts of bubbles. Hard to believe our son who has been merrily dropping rocks and sticks into road grates all over Spain and Portugal and who no longer sings EIEIO but demands our new car song was once also a flutterer.

I am happy.

. . .
The Car Song*

Red cars, blue cars, yellow cars, and green ones.
Cars. Cars. Cars.
Cars everywhere.
Vroom. Vroom. Vroom.
We drive the car.
Cars, cars, cars.
I like cars.

Big cars, small cars. New ones and old ones.
Cars. Cars. Cars.
Cars everywhere.
Cars all around.
Let's go to town.
Let's go drive.
We like cars.
Cars. Cars. Cars.

Bear cars. Fox cars. Hippo cars and weasel cars.
Cars. Cars. Cars.
Why is the bear in the car?
I don't know.
But I like cars.
Bears like cars.
We like cars.
So do bears.
Bears really like cars.
Cars. Cars. Cars.
Bears drive away.
Maybe looking for honey.
I don't know.
Cars. Cars. Cars.

What about the weasel?
I've never seen a weasel in a car.
Cars. Cars. Cars.
It doesn't matter.
It's a fact.
Weasels like cars.
That's kind of silly.
Weasels are unlikely drivers.
Shut up and drive.
Weasels like cars.
The weasels drive away.
So do the hippos.
Cars. Cars. Cars.

Cars on the road.
Cars in the rain.
Cars on the turnpike.
Cars in the brain.
Cars. Cars. Cars.
Cars everywhere.
But what about bikes?
Bikes are good too.
Especially with banana seats.
I miss my stingray.
But this song is about cars.
Cars. Cars. Cars.

Let's start over again.
Not again please.
Cars. Cars. Cars.
You have no choice.
Sing the song.
The kid loves the song.
He loves cars.
Cars. Cars. Cars.
Vroom. Vroom. Vroom.
Here we again.
Back to the beginning.

Fate Loops

July 23, 2006

Fate loop: a situation in which every decision made leads to woe and another bad decision. Note that vacations become journeys only after experiencing one or more serious fate loops in which each decision takes you further from your destination.

Example of a travel fate loop:

1. Getting completely and utterly lost (so lost you can't find yourself on the map, or maybe you are without a map or the map is incomplete, or maybe your map is just totally incorrect. Maybe two cities are transposed. And maybe the inks on the map are mis-registered. Or maybe it shows a road that is not a road. Or maybe it is all of the above.).

2. Very bad food.

3. Hostile locals. (in this case a 4 or 5 year old kid in a playground who hissed at my son, "Immigrants aren't allowed on the slide. Immigrants are dirty." I replied for in a low guttural growl, "You're the dirty one you stinky pig face." Yes I harassed a kid, so sue me.).

4. Sick travel partners. (my nauseous pregnant wife).

5. A scary incident. (a gravedigger with a gimpy leg who popped out of a fresh grave in a deserted graveyard and offered me a beer).

6. Bad decision making.

7. Lost equipment.

8. Terrible weather.

9. And then when you are at your low, the discovery of something utterly great.

10. And finally escape from the fate loop.

Obama 2008

July 23, 2006

I was having drinks with some of my brother's Spanish friends the other night when the talk turned to the 2008 election. The Europeans are rightfully angry at the US. Their anger is so deep they have essentially written us off as a corrupt nation. They fact that 1/2 the country voted against Bush and Co. in 2004 is essentially ignored (not to mention the fact that he didn't actually win the popular vote 2000). Generally speaking Europeans treat us as all gung ho Bush supporters.

When I apologetically explained that most of the country, even those of us who did not vote for Bush, did support the war initially because we believed the lies that were being told by the government I was greeted with incredulity. 'How could you have not seen through the lies?' they asked. 'How could you be so stupid.' No amount of contrition or explanation that we were a wounded nation susceptible to those spreading fear could convince my fellow beer drinkers that a majority of people in our nation now sees the war as national disgrace, a colossal and shameful mistake.

When the conversation came around to talking about the 2008 election I told them I thought the Republicans would lose for sure and they would lose to either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, I was greeted with disbelief. 'The Republicans will just steal this election too,' they said. They had never heard of Obama but when I explained he was was a young 1/2 Kenyan Senator from Illinois who had been against the Iraq war from the beginning, they were incredulous. 'No way,' they said, 'no way for Hillary either. America will vote Republican just as you did in 2004.' It was not long before they were essentially calling us warmongering racists and from their perspective that's probably what it looks like. This is now the image of our country amongst young liberal Europeans

I believe we will redeem ourselves. I believe the the current administration will be crushed in the 2008 election, and I believe we will elect someone who will remake our government so that we are once again proud of it and can once again be accepted as citizens of the world. We can't erase the wounds we've created, but perhaps, by being more true to our creed as a nation we can start to regain the world's respect. Mark my words you're going to hear a lot more about this Senator from Illinois in the near future. My vote will be for Obama in 2008.

Related: Obama's 2004 Convention Speech, New Yorker Profile

Greetings from Salamanca

July 21, 2006

If this blog´s been feeling a bit lonesome it might be because I inadvertently turned on comment moderation... today I found several pages of comments waiting for me—sort of like being at camp and discovering a batch of misplaced letters. Anyway it was fun to read all the comments even if I accidentally managed to delete most of them (damn Spanish keyboards).
. . .
We have a car. We are driving! When you've been trapped in a single house for a week this is liberation! I´ve driven around Spain several times but never in this direction... the countryside here is familiar in a roundabout way as I've seen it in scores of medieval paintings (in college I wrote many papers on bestiaries and illuminated manuscripts). So while I was driving I kept having moments somewhere between memory and deja-vu. Coming upon the walled city of Avila I recognized it from a 14th century illuminated manuscript. Looks virtually unchanged. Even the trees which seem fantastical in the illustrations are just the olive and almond trees they have in this area... I had a similar experience in the Dutch countryside a few years ago. Those clouds you always see in the Dutch masters, they are just the clouds they have in Holland.
. . .
Speaking of invisible threads, here´s one that came via email from someone I haven't spoken to in 20 odd years... "Actually you and I had the same Spanish class when I was a Sophomore. Was our teacher's name Mrs Torres? Anyway I remember getting some Apple computer stuff from you, and I remember you let me borrow a disk (floppy disk no less) which you entitled "Late Night with Raul Gutierrez" - I really don't even remember what was on it now, but it was (ancient) Apple IIe stuff.¨
. . .
Photos for Becky and Paul:

Random aside: I am typing this in a hotel bathroom, my family is asleep... it's about 1 in the morning. A minute ago I had to get something from the other room and my wife started. "Have you made the guacamole?" she asked both eyes open, but completely asleep. "What?" I answered. "Don't worry, you don't understand anything about guacamole," she replied.

Through the shut door I hear her chuckling to herself in her sleep.

Churros y Chocolate

July 20, 2006

When I was a kid my mother told me invisible threads connect us all together... She whispered this in my ear one night while trying to explain some life lesson, "Can you feel them?" she asked. And indeed in that moment I felt them tugging here and pulling there, hundreds of them, tied to all parts of my body. The lesson I forgot, but the image remained. For years, late at night I would wake up and imagine the threads connecting me to Ed 'Too Tall' Jones, the girl down the street with the trampoline in her backyard, my grandparents, and even Jimmy Carter. Sometimes I would kick my arms and legs and imagine the tugs being felt around the corner and on the other side of the world. Tonight we went to dinner with a friend here in Madrid who I met via this blog. In adult life it's easy to forget all those threads, but it's nice to know they are still there and that sometimes we can follow them all the way across the ocean to the person on the other side.


July 20, 2006

Jenn and I did our part for world jump day.

While our son played the part of the nink in the sink.

Notes from Madrid

July 18, 2006

We've been in Madrid a week now and a week is about how long it takes before Jenn and I start seeking out comfort food (see previous post). For us that means Mexican or Korean. You would think Mexican food in Madrid would be a no-brainer, but Mexican friends who have tried scores of restaurants report nothing but heartbreak (Part of the problem is that most Spaniards don't have a taste for corn—"Corn is chicken feed," sniffed a Catalan friend—and part of the problem is that spicy food is almost unknown here.) So given this knowledge we decided to seek out a Korean restaurant on the assumption it would be run by Koreans and cater to Korean tourists... We ended up at Han Gang Restaurante Coreana at Calle Atocha, 94 and when we entered at 8:00 (super early by Madrid standards), the place was packed with a Korean bus tour, a good sign. The menu in translation was less promising, (chicken in catsup?), although Jenn said the Korean was correctly rendered. The other issue was the veal which was substituted for both beef and pork throughout the menu. Veal bulgogi? We weren't so brave. Veal mandoo was edible though. Jenn enjoyed her bibimbop and the panchan was normal (although skimpy). The kimchee was decent. I barbecued some chicken at the table which was fine, but not exactly Korean. Nothing was spicy. All in all not terribly authentic, but not the horror it might have been.

Afterwards we shared beers in a pleasant bustling square with my brother Ed and an English friend of his named Briony. Both had lived in Kyoto for several years and both had moved from there to Madrid (my brother now lives in Prague). Both also are died-in-the-wool ex-pats. Jenn and I (both failed ex-pats) had lots of questions primarily about the desire to keep moving versus the desire to nest. Two comments that stuck with me: "It's much more difficult as an ex-pat to go home a resume a 'normal' routine than it is to head off to a new city" and "The thing about being an ex-pat is if you feel depressed or stressed you tend to blame it on the city, it's never about you."

Ed enlightened us as to Czech drinking etiquette. "You don't talk. You drink and you contemplate your unhappiness. When you finish a beer, another is served immediately and you drink again. The Czech always see Americans laughing and talking and think there must be something wrong with them. 'They must be simple,' they think, 'How can they laugh with so much unhappiness in the world.'

Also in Prague never order a salad, especially if you are a man. Men eat meat."


What else? We saw a Moroccan guy with a large knife in his hand running down an alley being chased by a guy with a big stick. That was exciting.

I would complain about the heat but I just checked in and noted the weather in Brooklyn where it is both hotter and infinitely more humid, so I'll keep my mouth shut. Also soon we'll escape to Galicia where it is somewhat cooler. This will be good for me, a hater of heat and for Jenn who is pregnant with our #2 (almost 3 months now). See how I buried the lead?

That's it from here. Goodnight.

Spanish Cuisine

July 17, 2006

Sentences not likely to be heard in New York:

"I have just the thing for your son. Brain. It’s in the refrigerator and I can fry it with a bit of butter. It’s from a baby goat slaughtered just a few days ago. Little boys just love it."

"Don't be ridiculous, of course ducks have tongues. The tongue is the tastiest part of the bird. Pigeons also have tasty tongues... so hard to find these days."

"You have a choice between the pig's feet which have been boiled and then fried, or the dried cod."

"My favorite thing in the whole world, my very favorite thing: rooster comb. And here's the tragedy, the portions are always so small."

Dinner Guests

July 15, 2006

Last night I was startled out of a deep sleep and led by the hand down the stairs to a loud room crowded with well dressed dinner guests. "A wedding perhaps," I said to myself and surveyed the crowd for familiar faces. Everyone was turned away from me engrossed in conversation. No-one looked familiar so I pressed on. Above the din, someone called my name and I turned to find a table of people I hadn’t seen in years.

There was Lee in his natty plaid jacket from Ireland, Tia Elva eating a big plate of cabrito, and even Marie who vanished when I was 16, "Hey" she said, "long time."

Everyone immediately and simultaneously started in with questions about the baby and Jenn and my life while I was still standing there. "Get him a chair," someone shouted. I tried to fill them in, but my mouth was cottony and I was having a hard time keeping focused so instead I listened because although there were questions, everyone also had so much to say. As I went around the table kissing and hugging everyone, each person would draw me close and whisper a little nothing. The table was so crowded that by the time I made it around, before I could settle in or even taste the wine I was pulled away again.... out of the loud room, and up the stairs. Soon I found myself back in bed in the cold blue light of early morning. Jenn and the baby were cuddled together sleeping silently on the far side big bed and I, stuck in the middle registers between dream and consciousness, found myself immobile, still between worlds trying in vain to remember all that had been said.

In the morning I told Jenn the dream. "Koreans say never to follow the dead," she shuddered... "Never go with them. I’m not kidding." But the Mexican view is quite the opposite. My grandmother told me one she had danced with her dead brother. "I was like a star of the cinema," she would say. Even in the middle of the dream knew she would never dance like that again. "But never trust them," she warned, "the dead only tell you what you want to hear, because they know life is short and want you to be happy in it. Maybe their lies are so sweet because in their own lives they were whispered enough of them."


July 14, 2006

We have been in the cocoon of family and haven't spent much time with Madridleños yet, but from the people we have encountered the topics of the moment seem to be:

1. Zidane's headbutt - The popular sentiment so far seems to be squarely with Zidane. As one man put it today, "If you talk too much about my mother, I go crazy."

2. Crime - Everyone we've met has a firsthand story about petty crime. "Totally out of control" was the phrase used most often. I have been warned not to bring "la machina" (my camera) into Madrid proper. "You will be robbed for sure. 100%," I've been told. People have a hard time believing New York is safe even at 3am. My statement "I carry my camera everywhere. Openly. On the subway. At night," is met with disbelief, almost as if my fellow New Yorkers are rubes for not robbing me.

3. Tabloid figures, especially Spanish royalty and demi-royalty - Note it is not cool to question the Prince´s wisdom in naming his daughter Leonor. Note when someone talks about the Spanishness of the Queen, you should not blurt out, ¨but she´s Greek.¨ Also it is considered nothing short of absurd that you have never heard of Letizia Ortiz. To brief yourself on these very important matters please visit the Spanish Royal Family´s very own website.

Aside: Is there anything more sublime than Clifford Brown´s trumpet on Dinah Washington´s version of Summertime while sitting out in the dark watching fireflies in the trees and lightning flash in the sky over the Spanish hills?


July 12, 2006

It is unusually dry in Madrid. Pull yourself from the pool and within what seems like an instant even your hair will lose all trace moisture. The weather, as it is everywhere, is out of whack. They call it African air, normal in Gibralter, but strange here. There has been unusual heat, and clouds, and wind, but today at least was nice, but oh so dry.

We are in a neighborhood where everyone has high hedges cut into geometric shapes and the trees look as if they were designed by Dr. Suess... lots of grass and sky around the houses. In the back a spectacular fruit and vegetable garden full of tomatoes and strawberries and lettuce. Our city kid son quickly shook off the plane flight and gleefully set off exploring the place... he declines to wear clothes and toddles around happily and shamelessly collecting rocks, observing ants, eating strawberries, and just being a curious little puppy of a kid.

Nothing rotten to report. Happy times. Happy times.

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