Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sunday en Sol: Lindy's rebuttal

I knew I needed a fact-checker in my life and it just so happens that the songbird that has wrenched my heart from many distraught places and amazed my mind with ventures inspired by what I can only categorize as magical realism is a proud tour guide as well.
Lindy wrote me in response to this blog and the ones that I will add soon. I thought I took notes and maybe they're still in a clutter somewhere, but here is all you need to know before you read this blog and the others. I will correct them when I have time, or maybe I'll leave them as is: fiction from the eyes of a stupido tourista.
"Well.... few inaccuracies, but ok. However, just to preserve my image as a top-notch professional tourguide, you should note that niether the Indian place nor the Sunday flea market (which is famously known as El Rastro) were in Sol... actually, Sol is just that low place with all the shops in the middle of the little dip between my house and the other side of up-the-hill, around that ugly statue of the bear humping a sickly-looking tree (it happens to be the symbol of Madrid, commically). We didn't actually do anything in Sol, as best as I can remember, as I think Sol is touristy, boring, and snobby. We ate Indian food in Lavapies (the old Jewish district, now hippieville), and El Rastro is in nearby La Latina. My bike got stolen from Pl. Tirso de Molina. Montera is a street, the Plaza is Gran Via, and I passed out in an alley behind Montera a week before you came... The night before the airport, I was chasing my crazy friend all over Lavapies and La Latina cause she was drunk and trying to get me to go to dodgy places with her and random guys on the street and I was worried she was gonna have her buzz killed in a hurry if I didnt talk the crazy bitch into just going home. The museums are near Atocha, and the gay district is Chueca. The Bull Fight area is all called Ventas. Anything we did around my neighborhood, including the Russian resaurant, the Nick Cave bar, and the bars we went to with Javier, all happened in Malasaña, the main neighborhood of the Movida Madrileña back in the 80s."
Lindy and a mural
Lindy took me for another walk Sunday morning. We returned to Sol, the very center of Madrid and the very center of Spain, where there was a street bazaar taking hold of the morning in Puerta del Sol. You know the scene, thousands of homo sapiens waddling around looking at one thing and then another, touching the fabric, twiddling the trinkets under tents. Here there is a souvenir shop. Over there, somebody is peddling food.

Here's a musician, there a pick-pocket waiting for an easy mark. Couples in love. Couples bored to shit. Couples who haven't met and those that wish they had not.
This was much of the same, but my groggy head and the change of scenery made it novel...and I was in Spain to see through Lindy's eyes and that is what I did for most of the day.
The most interesting displays of wares were on the streets where folks had their artifacts and relics laid out along the walls on blankets, not tables or stands of any sort. Books, postcards, records, trinkets, old radios and other appliances were on display. Lindy bought a doll with a white porcelain head to send to her friend Rose, who collects items that Lindy shares an interest in, but which she can't afford to add to the organized clutter of her small room and in her bags when it is time to travel. We escorted that doll up and down streets for a bit and then started cafe and cervezaria hopping.
As much as I was following Lindy around, I was also watching and listening with my own sensibilities, so I caught a couple scenes with the camera and the snapping of one shot, caused a shop owner to hiss me away, which I knew he would.
I have an eye for the absurd and I wanted that picture, so I took it, but I knew someone wouldn't like it and a Bukowski piece immediately came to mind. I can't find the actual poem anywhere, but I've heard him read it on a recording. It goes something like this:
I was walking down the street
and I had my camera
with me
As I passed the shop
window I
noticed the mannequin there.
I photographed the mannequin
in the shop window
and immediately the shop
owner came running out
and screaming,
What are you doing?!!!
What are you doing?!!!

Nothing, I said,
I just took a picture
of the naked mannequin.
I really wish you wouldn't
do that
she said.
She had made me
feel guilty
and I had done

I started to walk
but then spun
around and
crouched to one knee
and I shot
her again.

The trouble with these people
their cities have never
been bombed and
their mothers have
never been told
to shut

Something wasn't right with taking pictures. I took it anyway. Luckily the walls and the street pussy didn't mind one bit.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


My first trans-Atlantic flight was non-eventful. THANK GAWWWWD!!
I sat next to a quiet Africaner, in front of some giddy Atlanta mommas and behind a guy from Costa Rica who was entertaining a big girl from New York who was headed to Portugal to meet her sister, do some hiking and hostelling and eventually hook up with her parents in London. Yes, I eaves drop proudly.
I passed the time nodding off and on in between visits from the various flight attendants. I was too delirious to get much serious reading or writing done and set my mind to relax in the interest of hitting the ground running once I made it out of the airport in Madrid. I suppose I was a little giddy at having made it to the last leg of my journey to Spain and at the prospect of being so close to finally bringing the visit to Lindy to actualization, but my stay at the Ramada on Thursday night had allowed me to chill and I really just wanted to endure the flight, jump into whatever fun Lindy had planned for us and wake up after a long nap in a foreign country for the first time in my life.
The luggage came around on the carousel eventually and I followed the signs saying "Salida Way Out" to that place where the weary travellers are greeted by loved ones or drivers holding signs with their names on them. That's the plan, anyway, but when I got there, Lindy had not.
I walked back and forth along the front of the aeropuerta a few times before finding a place on the floor where I reclined with my bags like a drunken hippy happy to be in a place where I could relax.
She eventually showed up reeling from the previous night and morning, and of course, as sweet and apologetic as she could be. What's more important is that she regailed me with the tale of her late arrival which I gladly took in as we navigated our way out of the airport and onto one Metro and then another. There she was having been drunk late into the night, passing out in Plaza de Montera and awakening to find that her bicycle was no longer locked up where she had left it when she went to visit friends. So she came home to crash for a couple hours, but slept through the alarm. Charming girl, that Lindy. She's the only one I'd jump the pond for, to be sure.
We negotiated the Metro and popped up out of the ground at Plaze de Espana to drop my bags at her flat on Calle de Pez. We had an errant lunch and beer with one of her flatmates down at the end of the calle. Lindy was thinking that the place served paella, but it wasn't on the menu or special board so I settled on the tortilla which was delicious, like a potato and egg quiche. It was there that I imbibed my first Spanish lager, the Mahou Cinco Estrella. I'll only say that it is a fitting cerveza to wash down such food. Many of you know of my love of big ales. I was not in Spain or on vacation to dance with the same, though, so I happily accepted the first and then the second bottle...or did I actually receive the second bottle. There seemed to be a bit of a lag between the service of our food and whatever follow up may have occured afterwards.
No worry.

That night, we retraced her steps down Plaza de Montera and the exact center of Madrid and Spain, an area called Sol. We dined on Indian food and at a Morrocan restaurant with outdoor seating called Restaurante Baisakhi. An eight Euro special included, among other things, mixed ensalata, two entrees (one being Korma de Pollo) and most importantly two glasses of red wine and two shots of some sort of apple schnapps. Soon we ambled about to make it to a couple bars and made it an early night.


Hell is other people: Hysterics in Memphis

April 3, 2009
----Sitting in the Atlanta airport on a Friday afternoon approaching 5 p.m. and on Concourse E the air is full of motion and excitement; unlike last night's experience at the Memphis Airport, where everyone---well, many, were frustrated and bitchy. Many of us missed flights or had flights cancelled towards the end of a long day due to a thunderstorm that had swallowed up the area. To the south and east, the weather was more severe, but a thunderstorm is enough to cause flight delays and plans had to be changed.
Tired of watching those racing and pacing up and down the concourse, I am reading THE ADVENTURES AND MISADVENTURES OF MAQROLL by Alvara Mutis:
"A caravan doesn't symbolize or represent anything. Our mistake is to think it's going somewhere, leaving somewhere. The caravan exhausts its meaning by merely moving from place to place. The animals in the caravan knows this, but the camel drivers don't. It will always be this way."
There are many empty symbols in these airports, but some of us think we are more important or full of purpose than the others. My gripe over missing the connecting flight to Amsterdam Thursday night was not the delay in arriving in Madrid and missing prescious time with my dear friend, Lindy. Nor was it the downtime waiting for the next flight or the further delay waiting for the mechanics to check on the jet which eventually delivered us to Madrid Saturday afternoon. No, Hell is other people, and the Hell for me on Thursday night was listening to the prima donna assholes and twats bitch and whine about the distress in their lives at having to miss a flight. It was too much like work for me: that sound of petty bickering. Of course, as you might imagine, nearly all of them wore looks of anxiety, fear, astonishment or anger on their faces as they held cellphones to their heads and vented to friends, lovers, co-workers, airline representatives and hotel clerks. Just a drop of inconvenience had dropped into their lives and painted their faces with this ugliness.
Watching and listening to their antics and fits of hysteria and dramatization, I wondered what it must be like to be so cluelessy priviledged, accustomed to service upon order or utterly unprepared for a kink in their linear progression down the straight road. I would prefer that my life ticked along with efficiency and precision when I'm paying to move it along at a certain rate, I suppose, but I don't find the need to flip out when I am not having my rim tongued with the delivery of my prescious beans and franks by boys in freshly pressed polyester tuxedos. What's the point?
The worst of the bunch were women. There were three in particular who I hope never again to see or hear from ever again. The first and most angry was a Dutch woman. She was legitimately frightened, it sounded like, about being stranded at Memphis International. After snorting and moaning at the woman behind the Delta Airlines desk for atleast 20 minutes, she moved on with her instructions as we all waited in line. I would see her later trying this act on a small group of airline security folks. I didn't stick around to see how they dealt with her antics.
The second was an elementary school teacher who had left her second graders a day before spring break to get a head start on her trip to somewhere and it most definitely wasn't Memphis. Upset because she was going to have to shell out 80 bucks for a hotel room instead of sleeping at the airport, she pointed out, "We teachers are used to pinching pennies and these people are unpinching them!" This all in a huff to the woman behind her in line. "Well, they're not going to get away with this. That's all I've got to say." Somehow I thought that we couldn't be fortunate enough for that statement to be true, so I switched her half-assed and pathetics comments to mute and put my face into an issue of The New Yorker and a piece about solitary confinement.
I saw our teacher step to the desk to address the same woman who had absorbed the hysterics of the Dutch woman. If Ms. Teacher was laying down the law, she did it quietly and swiftly, for she certainly denied us any theatrics and was soon on the bus to the Ramada Plaza with me and many of the rest of the party. It was on that shuttle that she divulged to some other stranger the rest of the details of her day and why it was all "so crazy" and she was lightening up and sounding less threatening as she shared it all with him, and by association, all of us. She was over for me as I looked out the windows to try to figure out how far away from downtown we were being delivered. The Hell of Thursday night in Memphis came in a threesome, however...and no, not that kind of threesome.
Our third damsel in distress was a fit brunette on a sales trip to Atlanta. She, too, couldn't believe that the weather had her delayed. I know because she said so on her cellphone. She was the only associate that was going to miss tomorrow's meeting; and she was putting all of this in as overtime; and she couldn't believe it because she had already spent $30 of her per diem at the airport and now, NOW! she was going to have to stay at this MOTEL!
"Oh my GAWD, I don't even know the name of it, but they didn't have anything else and OH, MY GAWD! It's a Ramada. We're pulling up now. Yeah, a RAMADA, can you believe I'm going to sleep in a MOTEL?!! Oh, and they wouldn't release my luggage."
Yes, I had both ears full and was about to begin a little-bit of a fevered dance of my own if I didn't get out of the group of terribly put-upon people. As soon as the van was in park, I was out the side door and at the rear bumper to retrieve my duffel and get to the desk to check in. One woman was occupying the sole clerk and Ms. Oh-My-Gawd was on here cellphone reaching into her purse and attempting to walk into the second position. She stopped, blocking two other folks just behind her with her contorted corpse and that was all I needed. A quick step to my right and I was at the desk. I had card, ID and confirmation number ready when Shaniqua looked up in my direction. I was up to room 340 to dump my bags and back downstairs by the time Ms. Oh-My-Gawd was approaching the elevators. She was still on the phone, so I didn't stop to press her with some mack. I darted to the unmanned computer in the lobby, shot the 411 to Madrid via email and marched down a rainy patch of nowhere, somewhere outside of the I-240 belt, south of Memphis. My goal? Food, liquor, beer or anything better to do.
I stomped through and around puddles and mudded-up sidewalk past car dealerships and chicken shacks seeing nothing promising amidst the neon signage beyond, ducked inot a Citgo about a quarter mile away from the motel. I grabbed three tallboys of high-gravity lager and paid my money to the cashier behind the bulletproof glass, but not before he carded me (!!) "I must be looking good tonight, eh?" I said, getting no comment from the clerk. No matter.
By the time I re-entered the lobby, the line was down to four souls. I walked on down the hall with much urgency and hit the stairwell door just as Ms. Oh-My-Gawd was coming down from her room. "OH MY GAWD!!!" she shrieked, astonished that there was somebody else in the motel, using the same door as she...at the same time.
I stepped aside to let her pass and began laughing. As I lunged up the first flight of steps, I cackled in falsetto mockery, OH MY GAWD! and was up the steps, down the hall and into the room to order a pie, strip, shower and redress. I was finishing my first slice of Memphis BBQ pizza and cracking open the second can when John Stewart was going over all the hubbub about Mrs. Obama touching the Queen of England.

In the baggage room at Greyhound
Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997)

In the depths of the Greyhound Terminal
sitting dumbly on a baggage truck looking at the sky
waiting for the Los Angeles Express to depart worrying about eternity
over the Post Office roof in the
night-time red downtown heaven,
staring through my eyeglasses I realized shuddering these
thoughts were not eternity, nor the poverty of
our lives, irritable baggage clerks,
nor the millions of weeping relatives surrounding the
buses waving goodbye,
nor other millions of the poor rushing around from city
to city to see their loved ones,
nor an indian dead with fright talking to a huge cop by
the Coke machine,
nor this trembling old lady with a cane taking the last trip
of her life,
nor the red capped cynical porter collecting his quarters
and smiling over the smashed baggage,
nor me looking around at the horrible dream, nor mustached negro
Operating Clerk named Spade,
dealing out with his marvelous long hand the
fate of thousands of express packages,
nor fairy Sam in the basement limping from leaden trunk to trunk,
oe at the counter with his nervous breakdown smiling cowardly at the customers,
nor the grayish-green whale's stomach interior loft
where we keep the baggage in hideous racks,
hundreds of suitcases full of tragedy rocking back and forth waiting to be opened,
nor the baggage that's lost, nor damaged handles,
name-plates vanished, busted wires & broken ropes,
whole trunks exploding on the concrete floor,
nor seabags emptied into the night in the final warehouse.

En la consigna de la Greyhound

En las profundidades de la Terminal de la Greyhound
sentado como un estúpido sobre un camión de equipaje mirando al
cielo esperando la salida del Expreso de Los Angeles
preocupándome acerca de la eternidad sobre el tejado de la Oficina
de correos en el cielo rojo de la noche del centro de la ciudad,
mirando con pasmo a través de mis gafas me di cuenta estremecido
de que estos pensamientos no eran la eternidad,
ni tampoco la pobreza de nuestras vidas, irritables encargados de equipajes,
ni tampoco los millones de sollozantes parientes que rodeaban los autobuses diciendo adiós,
ni tampoco otros millones de pobres apresurándose
de ciudad en ciudad para ver a las personas amadas,
ni tampoco un indio muerto de miedo hablando con gigantesco poli
junto a la máquina expendedora de Cola,
ni tampoco esta temblorosa anciana con su bastón que emprende el
último viaje de su vida,
ni tampoco el cínico portero de la gorra roja que recoje sus propinas
y sonríe mirando el machacado equipaje,
ni tampoco yo mirando en derredor mío al horrible sueño, ni tampoco el mostachudo empleado negro de Operaciones llamado
Spade, repartiendo con su maravillosa larga mano el
destino de miles de paquetes express,
ni tampoco el marica Sam en el sótano cojeando de plúmbeo baúl en baúl
ni tampoco Joe en el mostrador con su crisis nerviosa sonriendo cobardemente a los clientes,
ni tampoco el ático gris verdoso estómago de ballena
donde guardamos el equipaje en detestables estanterías,
centenares de maletas repletas de tragedia balanceándose
de un lado para otro esperando ser abiertas,
ni tampoco el equipaje que se pierde, ni tampoco las asas rotas,
las desvanecidas placas de identificación, los alambres reventados & las cuerdas rotas
los baúles enteros reventando sobre el suelo de cemento,
ni las talegas de marinero vaciadas de noche en el almacén final.