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Archive for the ‘Spain’ Category

bowels of barcelona hell

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

sorry i couldn’t respond to folks comments and emails – barcelona sold me a 60 minute internet card then cut me off after 15 minutes.

this place sucks.

get back to you end of week in cleveland.


times, tithes, tides

Monday, October 1st, 2007

Lady’s reading Terrorist by John Updike. she’s trying to finish it before we fly out because she doesn’t want to be seen reading it in the airport or on the plane. says something sad about our times when an artist is uneasy being seen reading a book in public just because of its title. i found it well written, the beginning and ending interesting, most the in-between less so. i read his first three Rabbit novels with decreasing pleasure, and one or two others along the way. also read some very good short stories by him. the man’s an excellent writer, just doesn’t often write about people or situations that interest me. most the people in this world are Rabbits whose happiest moments lie in their past. i don’t live in yesterday, not really interested in those who do.

didn’t go out exploring barcelona yesterday. lay abed instead and read and wrote – too tired, weak, achy, dripping with mucous and fear of public transportation. today took two hour walk to find food. left in the coolest part of the morning, yet were drenched in sweat by the time we got back. ain’t going back out. there’s much to see here, but barcelona’d probably just bite us again if we tried. up until barcelona, lodz poland was the worst city i ever saw – it looks like a decaying, bombed out depressed cleveland.

we started and will end our 14 month journey in misery. we began in august of 2006 in england, sleepless and sore, each lugging 75 pounds of possessions up an endless mountain so we could freeze to death sleeping tent-less in a field of sheep shit. and we end it being battered by barcelona and bad colds. although we have improved in that we’re now down to 35 pounds of possessions apiece. perhaps our current misery will make returning to american shores less painful in comparison – unless this is just prep for the pain to come.

our best part of beziers, france, was sitting in Poet’s Park watching the ducks and swans swim amidst the sunlight dancing on the water, the wind playing in the trees. our last day on our previous visit, we watched a female duck being brutally gang-raped by 3 mallards. so far on our trip we’ve seen a mass duck fuck, an earthworm digging into the earth using repeated probing ever deepening thrusts, rabbits humping, birds doing it, and dogs doggie style – including two howling moroccan dogs stuck ass-end together penis to vagina who ran off sideways when i tried getting close enough to photograph.

our last day this time in Poet’s Park, we sat and watched the sun splay through the green, the green sway in the wind, the wind wash the leaves in sky water song, a white duck waddle alone along.

had weird dream our last night in france. most of the details are lost in my pick-pocketed notebook, but we were in a london composed of invisible spherical shells, like the probability shell an electron makes orbiting its atomic center. you could go from where you were to where you wanted to be just by breaking a hole between the places – the vacuum in the broken shaft would suck you where you wanted to be. lady wanted to discuss something in a certain place, and i said no problem, we could do it by throwing a dead duck through the shells.

and so we’re off to america – back in the u.s.a., to quote mr chuck berry. that is if they don’t pull a charlie chaplin on me. they let poor charlie leave the country to visit england, then once he was gone told him sorry charlie you can’t come back. they didn’t like left-wingers back then, they don’t like clear thinkers now.

i let lady trim my wild man beard down to trim college professor proportions. no use spooking the border patrol. when reentering society, one must wear the mask that scares them the least – don’t want to frighten the sheep herders.

i’ve thought about what to say when the border patrol asks why we’ve been traveling for 14 months. our actions do puzzle people. the more normal folk are, the less they understand two folks selling their home, giving away their possessions and traveling the world to fill their souls with creative spirit to fuel their future art and poetry. so i’ve boiled it down to a simple basic they can understand – i’ll tell them we traveled while i recovered from cancer, in case it comes back. which is true. with cancer you never know. with life you never know. what you don’t do today may not be able to be done tomorrow – maybe because of cancer, maybe because of global warming, maybe because of war criminals bombing iran.

random thoughts to time the tides:

– most people are searching for outside answers to inside problems.

– we’re killing the forests for the fleas.

– i’ve more social skills after 14 months of world travel – i’ve learned how to more easily fake being interested in the person talking to me.

those are the types of fragments i lost in my pick-pocketed notebook – i’d save each phrase for a blog where they’d fit. but since losing all my juicy bits, i figured i’d best use today’s bits today cuz you never know when another thief will happen along.

i told lady that instead of thugs or would-be poets or blog monsters or beggars-to-be, those pickpockets might have been smith fans from the future who just wanted a personal souvenir. she said yes, but what if what was going to make you famous was in that notebook? so maybe they were really smith critics from the future trying to shut me down. if so, it won’t work – i’ll just make up new lies.


deja voodoo

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

coming into barcelona, i told lady “barcelona best be nicer to us this time since we’re giving her a second chance.”

the barcelona gods laughed, then picked my pocket.

then sent us off to a never ending bus-land of the lost and damned.

entering the subway car at the train station, two twenty-something spanish thugs body blocked me into the door, kept batting my body back and forth, my backpack against the door preventing me from turning around. as soon as they turned and walked away, i flashed “pickpocket” and felt my back pocket. it was empty. they’d taken my notebook i use to jot blog notes, directions, expenses, and potential poetry lines. boy are they going to be disappointed, unless they’re would-be poets, accountants, or blog monsters. the last note in the notebook was about a begging scam at the beziers train station. maybe it’ll give them a new line of work. their technique was so blatant and brutal… i’d always read how subtle and deft pickpockets were.

barcelona seems crude. last time here on our way out someone told us we had bird shit on our backpacks. we thanked him and took care of it ourselves. later, lady read online that’s a barcelona scam – they throw birdshit-like gunk on you, then pick your pocket while helping you clean it off.

coming up from the subway, the bus stop we were looking for was the first thing we saw. waited 30 minutes and the bus came by – and kept right on going. so we walked to another stop and caught it an hour later. we figured we’d know where to get off because we’d taken it from the same hotel last time we were here 5 months ago. wrong wrong wrong. the bus goes out one route, returns another. we recognized nothing, and the stops had no names on them. eventually we get off in the dark in unknown territory way past where we want to be. flagged a lucky cab for only $13 and finally get to the hotel – a 3 and a half hour journey that should have taken 30 minutes.

during all this, lady and i are way sick nasal dripping coughing mucous machines who hurt all over and are tired from no sleep the night before due to colds we picked up in paris.

when we arrived, we were so bushed we went next door to mcdonald’s for take out. they even ripped us off – gave lady the wrong salad and didn’t give me my fries or coke.

barcelona is the city i like least of all the cities i’ve ever been in, and i’ve been in a few these past 61 years. it’s a city of thuggish pickpockets, birdshit throwers, bad architecture, and insane buses. it’s also the first city where neither of us speak a word of the language.

on both trips here, we came from france. in both cases the comfortable fast clean civilized french trains ended at the spanish border where we got on dirty uncomfortable hard-seated over-crowded noisy spanish trains. even the passing country-side differs – france is too neatly domesticated, spain more decayed and poor… though to fair, the high mountain spanish country between barcelona and madrid is gorgeous. of course, i’ve gotten more interesting blogs out of spain than i did france – chaos is always more reportable.

the beziers, france, train station begging scam i mentioned: a nice polite arab man comes up and hands you a xeroxed paper showing his two children whom he needs help feeding. on our way to paris i gave him $2. when he saw the amount of change in my hand he suggested i give more. told him no. this time i saw a different young arab handing out the same xerox, only with different children. so i watched him. eventually he went back to two others who also had piles of xeroxes; he sat down while one of them went out to work the suckers. now i tell the beggers to bugger off unless they look dirty, needy, hungry, desperate. still, i’d rather lose some money to a scam than leave a person in genuine need. but the problem is is lady and i are running our money down – these 14 months have cost us $75 a day, and the money from selling our studio is running out. we may be beggars soon ourselves. if so, we’ve found a lot of teachers along our way. in paris, i watched the young boy who begged money from lady. he returned to an extremely well fed well dressed arab lady.

how does one tell the disparate desperate from dastardly desperados?


spain pain

Tuesday, April 10th, 2007

spain and i do not get along.

a wonderful experience in a small alley restaurant went bad when they ripped me off for $30 – and in momentary confusion, i let it happen. all the little things push the wrong way at that one moment you can stop it… confusion about the currency… not being able to tell the man in his language i gave him 50, not 20… the vague hostility emanating from the proprietor for the foreigner… lady k herself unsure… both of us tired in mind and body, our brains two beats behind reality. only me and, i suspect, the proprietor sure of what happened – and i can’t be sure of him because he was talking to his partners behind the bar while giving change and could easily have made a mistake. but i can be sure of me – i knew in my doubt and confusion what had happened – i should have trusted myself to set it right. instead i kept quiet, thinking it through past the point of correcting it. so i just received a $30 lesson in keeping my realities in line, my eye on the coyote trickster.

this all has to do with flow. i’ve been out of the flow since my sleepless thursday night before leaving on our 13 hour trip to barcelona. i started off out of sorts, got more and more tired, cranky, clumsy – spent more time enduring than doing. since then i’ve gotten tireder crankier clumsier. my crankiness derailed lady k’s flow, got her into reactive rather than proactive mode.

you think greyer thoughts when you’re exhausted. the new and unknown is exciting – but a constant never ending stream of new unknowns costs you physically, mentally, spiritually… and occasionally it gets tiring.

it’s tiring being in one strange country after another, not knowing the language, unable to read the signs, ignorant of the customs, not knowing until you gargle that the mouth wash you bought is really bubble bath (happened to me 1st week in krakow – and believe me, bubble bath tastes BAD, even worse than the buttermilk i’d bought by accident for my cereal… also my 1st week in krakow).

but wondrous serendipitous gifts are also given by the new. tonight we pointed at three unknown things on the menu and ate delightful potato omelets, tomatoes in olive oil, varied breads, and cheeses.

the good part is we’re getting better at getting better. on our walk to the train station today 40 minutes away to inquire how to get to the airport, we passed a subway station 10 minutes down the street. we used our subway skills and sought the metro map, found the airport on it, traced the airport pink-line back to the dark-blue-line back to the light-blue-line where we stood. so now tomorrow we’ll walk our packs 10 minutes, not 40.

even though i saw beauty in port bou, and i did love the gorgeous high mountain plains outside our madrid train – i must repeat: with its short unhappy people, its trains that won’t follow schedules or stop at stops, and my own personal lack of semi-legal spanish hash – spain and i do not get along.

to be fair, this is big city spain. big cities the world over have nasty edges. we´ll give other parts of spain a second chance – just not barcelona or madrid.

on the good foot, the $30 rip-off gave me a better, more interesting blog. of course i can’t go around every day paying $30 for a blog.

. . next day . . .

dramas, fictions, scripts, non-fictions, myths all have story arcs which are resolved by the climax. i wonder which arc i are, and in which climax in lady k it was / will be resolved – my english climax? my amsterdam? my polish, croation, italian, french, spanish? maybe moroccan? or am i in an irresolvable irreconcilable arc? perhaps my story is shallow arc lite, or more arc type.

there’s also my subway sub plot – i’ve ridden subways in washington dc, new york city, london, barcelona, and madrid. the eeriest was washington dc where one escalator around dupont circle carries people down down down forever into the ground as if delivering the eloi to the morlocks. we asked our barcelona hotel clerk how to find the metro station – she said oh no, that’s too far to walk, it’s at least 20 minutes. folks are aghast when they hear we walk for hours. actually, i’m aghast when we walk for hours.

it’s finally the tomorrow for morocco – we leave this evening. the next stage begins. we arced east for 6 months from the u.s. to england netherlands poland croatia where we reversed for 3 months and went west thru italy to france spain morocco.

what now? what next? where two?

all i know is we’re no longer who we were, will likely be forever becoming who we are. rather like life. lady k says it irritates her how all the sad lonely movie stories end when the star finds some one or thing to be with or become or pursue. told her they had to end there because that ending is the beginning of the next story. as the old sadnesses and lackings fall away, new problems require new growth for the new story. that’s why i like the old movie serials – life is one cliffhanger after another, every week’s another problem. only now instead of being in the movies, life’s more like tv, and we’re constantly being bombarded by commercials.



Monday, April 9th, 2007

I feel a leaf adrift again today. We’ll find a twig to stick to in the stream, accumulate some blurry river sediment.

Smith is quiet and remote and tired. I give him some privacy today on the train. I rarely look at him on the seat next to me.

The train effects a rushed brushed painting until I fix on a spill of soil and observe granularity, clarity. The specific color palette between Barcelona and Madrid is olive green, green green, gunmetal cloud, mesa red. Boulders are monuments or teeth on hills. Planned orthogonal forests reach up with white trunks and spring green leafs.

It’s a Salvador Dali sky. Plateaus of clouds, mesas. Long shadows cast by blunt bushes, corn rowed zen garden rakings. Isolated train towns in the vertices of denuded hills. I’m reminded of Michael Salinger’s poem about driving West. He speaks of metronome phone towers, the weave of field around a single burled tree.

The fields follow the warp and weave of the land, irregular outlines.

I remember that I’ve forgotten something profound. I had a glimpse into an insight about myself but I didn’t write it down. I thought it would be absorbed into the well of myself for later draw. But then the topology changed.

I must research the history of land development in Spain. Maybe this is not lost, remembered.

A woman sits in front of me, scanning something on her lap. It’s a textbook which she has printed. Across the aisle a boy lays three cell phones on the foldout table in front of him, in modern techno ecstasy.

Every language seems familiar.

It is not trivial to be here. But the train makes it seem so. I sit in private astonishment. I think, Outside is where it matters. Then all I need are four walls.

The train speeds on through its movie, landscape is butter through hot knife.

The cell phone boy gets a call. His hand sports a heart tattoo.

My sight peels an airplane from the sky, like a small glinty lice.

The boy plays his headphones too loud in the last half hour to Madrid, imposing his cool on my ear space.

My last thoughts before Madrid: I could just look at things and be awake, write what I think. To maintain responsibility through distance is a tenuous link. A desert is a beautiful and vast and worthless woman. Revealed meaning makes life hard work.


judas tree

Monday, April 9th, 2007

the judas tree lied.

in france, our first floor was on the second story. out the front window was a 2 story stone alley wall. looking up at the village rising up the hill, first thing we saw was the judas tree in the courtyard behind the wall. judas trees burst into purple blossom first, then sprout green leaves second. in the mornings, i’d wait for the sun to hit the purple flowers and explode deep blood brilliant.

judas trees are supposed to lose their flowers before chirst rises on easter – the flowers drop to the ground in show of blood shame for betraying christ. the judas bloods in barcelona did not fall.

had 4 hours to explore barcelona’s easter barcelona. first city we’ve trained, bused, taxied, subwayed, and walked. went to the sacred family church designed by gaudi. looked like a mad baker snorted too much of his own flour and over iced a demented mismanaged cake. gaudi is gaudy. tacky too. gaudi believes more is more is more, then adds even more – a few gimcracks here, some gewgaws there, stone snails and fluty flowers sticking out the spires… was what the witch’s gingerbread house would look like if it took too much bad acid before eating hansel and gretel.

decided to ramble down the waterfront ramblas instead – that’s where says to buy hash in barcelona. unfortunately, hash dealers are night critters – while we searched in high noon light of day.

hashless, we returned to train station, tried to find our platform. ever since lady k jumped and clung to the outside of a moving train leaving the station in poland, we’ve been leery of not knowing which platform we’re to be on. doubt feeds on confusion, and both feed fear when you’re in a new place, a strange place where you can’t read the signs or understand the language.

my body pain is beyond aspirin. lady k says it takes me 2 days to recover after we move on to a new place. for 13 hours, we moved friday from bezier france to barcelona spain. spent half of saturday moving from barcelona to barcelona. moved yet again today barcelona to madrid. will fly to marrakech in 2 days. that’s 8 days of required recovery i’m not getting for four moving-ons in five days. instead of recovering, it drains you more. you get so tired your fingers become thick, slow, clumsy. you drop things. your legs turn rubbery, your mind to mush. resolve becomes resignation, you wait through rather than do. it saps your aliveness, your joy. blinds you to possibilities. you dwell on the problems rather than revel in the wonder. i understand why fugitives get caught, or turn themselves in.

i’m not complaining, mind you – i’d rather be doing this than anything else. this is true adventure. but i’m beginning to see why most 61 year olds don’t wander the world with 40 pound packs on their backs. it costs the body, and can drain the mind. lady’s 27 years younger, and she’s out like a light right now. i’ve lost 3 pounds in 2 days, my insides are gaseous, upset, my excrescence chemical warfare. the body like any vehicle or machine requires maintenance, recovery time. this feels more like an endurance test. brings to mind that old duane eddy hit – 40 miles of bad road.

still, you gotta smile. my mental database is being filled with stories, images, memories, magic moments with lady k. and we’re in madrid now – looks like we’re staying in the heart of the old city. go out and prowl tomorrow and everything will be worth it.

the train across spain rode atop the mountains. gorgeous country. they call montana the big sky country. i’ve driven across montana – its sky is nowhere near as big as here.

the young man across from me on the train had 3 cell phones. he’d talk on one while checking the second. occasionally the third would ring, he’d take it out of his pocket, check it, put it back. for four and a half hours non-stop he did this, never once looking out the window at the real world. there’s theories cell phone radiation cause brain damage. not sure he’d notice.


spanish inquisition

Saturday, April 7th, 2007

nobody expects the spanish inquisition ! ! !

bad to good to bad to worse… ate a big bar of chocolate caffeine thursday night and got no sleep. waiting for the bus friday morn, i watched 2 grey he pigeons on the ridge of the roof fluff fight each other to see who got to approach the white dove lady… winner did his little plump and bow dance, she cooed and billed back.

in bezier, picked up 2 books of camus’ essays i’d ordered – the myth of sisyphus / the rebel – and took great foto of underground passage. we sat in the sun in poet’s park, watched 2 turtles swim in slow spring synchronous love dance from one side of the pond, then watched rough rape duck sex on the other side – poor little female black duck’s head was crushed upside down to the stone as large mallard bit her neck, repeatedly mounted her as he smashed her all over the rock.

golden sun train through france during which we watch out the windows as pink flamingos dip their beaks into the blue mediterranean sea. during 2 hour train change at port bou spain, we walked down to the sea, marveled at living post card beauty. lot of couples holding hands, hugging, kissing – including us.

then it turns bad. get on spanish train. hard seats, crowded conditions, innumerable stops on the journey that never ends. my ass went dead. previous night’s lack of sleep and carrying 40 pound pack reduced my brain to mush, my body to pain, my identity to desperate holding on. one of those points you want to quit but can’t cuz no one’s going to do it or fix it for you.

in barcelona hotel last night, we had to choose between going back out to buy semi-legal hashish, or taking a bath. we took the bath – 2 of them. we soaked in sweet liquid heat before bed, and again this morning. past 8 months, we’ve had a bathtub one night in september in poland, and 1 day in zagreb in december.

today we had to change hotels. tried to take train, but our two day passes quit after half a day part way through. bought more passes. took train. train didn’t stop at our stop. went into next stop station for help. window closed as we walked up to it. used up a train ride on new pass to go thru style into station to check for next train back. it never came. we sat and watched unknown train after unknown train stop, wondering if we should get on each one. started raining. we began sniping at each other. finally picked one at random and got on. it went past our stop again. back at starting point 3 hours after starting, we took twenty minute $20 taxi to our hotel. we’re in cloned deteriorating suburban sprawl, looks just like cleveland sprawl or lodz poland sprawl. sprawl is sprawl is sprawl. lady k’s as tired and sore as i now. no energy to go back out for sights or hash. no bath here, just shower. thinking about taping up the shower door, filling it with water, and soaking.

we sit and wait for morning to go back where we started today, store our backpacks, and look about barcelona – the same looking about we were going to do friday and the same looking about we were going to do today. at 4 tomorrow we train to madrid for 2 days, then fly to morocco. spain is the new amsterdam, supposed to be drug heaven. where’s my semi-legal hash? where’s my cake decoration buildings by the architect guadi i came to see?

can’t understand how 40 pounds of backpack can be so heavy. back in my drinking days, i was 80 pounds heavier than i am now – that’s 2 backpacks worth… surely i should be able to tote half that now.

barcelona has turned so bad it’s funny – and it had to be this way. when we decided to flee america last year, we chose barcelona. went to england instead, to be followed by barcelona. then amsterdam snuck in before barcelona. then poland. then croatia. then france.

i believe we hurt barcelona’s feelings by choosing all those other countries first. i don’t think barcelona likes us at all. so far, the feeling’s mutual.

finally make it to barcelona, and we’re too beat to boogie.


Leaving Soon

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007

Doorway in Abeilhan, France (photo by Lady)

the numbers 1 through 10

uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis, siete (see-EH-teh), ocho, nueve (NOO-EH-beh), diez (dee-EHSS)

Window in Abeilhan (photo by Lady)

the numbers 1 through 10

u/una (OON/OO-nah), dos/dues(DOHS/DOO-wehz), tres (TRREHS), quatre (KWAH-truh), cinc (SEENK), sis (SEES), set (SEHT), vuit (BWEET), nou (NOH-oo), deu (DAY-oo)

Doorway in Abeilhan (Photo by Lady)

the numbers 0 through 10 & 20, 30 &100

sifr, waahid, ithnaan, thalaatha, arba’a, khamsa, sitta, sab’a, thamaaniya, tis’a, ashara

20 ishruun
30 thalathuun
100 mi’a


mail art
mow lawn
phrases (Catalan, Spanish, A rabic)
print itinery
call train co.
print hotel reservations
maps printed out madrid, barcelona, marrakech
update check books
transfer money


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