At Five in the Afternoon


“I will always be on the side of those who have nothing and who are not even allowed to enjoy the nothing they have in peace,” Lorca said.  The Fascists killed him for that and for being a queer poet. He was 38 when he was dragged into the hills of Granada, shot and buried in a grave with a couple anarchist bullfighters.

Here in Granada at our hostel, they are playing, “Here is the answer to a never ending story.”  The whole place smells like food and wet earth; there are many plants and vines growing; it’s kind of a thick dusky smell in the air.

In the square while we drank sangria, they were playing “Welcome to the Hotel California,”
which ladies and gentleman has been vacant since before the Eagles penned the song.

The hostel is 800 years old and is all marble floors and walls with a courtyard in the middle with a small marble basin fountain.  These fountains are in many courtyards.  The older folks seem to just sit around the courtyards all day.

Stephen would love this place.  It’s the kind of hostel which smells like food because someone is always cooking in the kitchen.  The local beer is called Alhambra, it’s like suds but good suds when you’re out walking the town and you’re getting hot.

Part of the town is gypsy caves built into the hillside. We walked through the cave dwellings, past the gypsy flamenco bars, which were hollowed out caves inside but all white doors and windows outside.  That’s probably the area where Lorca was shot.

The Alhambra, the last Moorish stronghold in Spain fell to Isabella and Ferdinand in 1492, and they were ready for more conquests.   The Muslims had given Jews special status and called them “People of the Book,” but when Alhambra fell to the Christians, the Jews had to leave the country or convert. Hundreds of thousands left.  Many Muslims had converted, but the rumor was that Jews were crafty and many were only pretending to convert while still practicing their religion.  Based on this suspicion, Isabella requested the Pope’s permission to found the Spanish inquisition. It lasted until Napoleon ended it in 1808 and was officially over in 1834.

Granada is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve even seen.  The roads twist and turn through tall buildings. The sky is pieces of blue hanging between these buildings; the moon is a sliver over the palace of the Moors. Many Jews, gypsies and Moslems moved to the mountains, lived a cave life.

Lorca said,

There is nothing more poetic and terrible than the skyscrapers’ battle with the heavens that cover them.

The two elements the traveler first captures in the big city are extra-human architecture and furious rhythm. Geometry and anguish.

In Spain, the dead are more alive than the dead of any other country in the world.

From Echo Light

What We Do During War

Mornings more love.  Breakfast then.

Cafe con leche.  Trumpets in the street.

To mark passing soldiers.  Geraniums.

Spain marching.  Inside breakfast.

Jack’s legs around her in the afternoon

Sunlight washing his loins. She all red hair.

Strawberries by the bed.  Cream in and out.

Emily was reserved and he had to break that.

The street full of geraniums.

Lorca’s blood spilled out onto the pavement.

The soldiers feet marched by.  Emily heard a cry,

thought for a moment it was her own.

English papers would declare Lorca

dragged from his house and killed.

Masses of red geraniums grew over the street.

The sun very bright in Spain.

Published in: on June 22, 2015 at 8:50 am  Leave a Comment  

Moonrise over Alhambra

Day 8 Barcelona

Barcelona is the city of Gaudi.  But oddly, it took quite a while for the city to take to him.  Picasso loathed his work which was clearly ahead of its time.  Orwell hated his work and wished the revolutionaries had blown it up.  Gaudi died in a paupers’ hospital and because he worked from his imagination, it was impossible to finish his work as he would have wished.  Now, you walk around Barcelona and see evidence of his flamboyant style everywhere.  We’re in the area they call the Rambla which has a lot of tourists most of them Italian and German.  We’ve seen very few Americans this trip.

We are taking the night train to Granada but even though we’re married, we are not allowed to sit in the same car.  The Spanish forbid it.  They believe married couples should be kept separate when on trains.  You think I’m kidding? I’m not. I didn’t even want to go on the train if we couldn’t be in the same car, but Mark really wants to go to Granada.  The town is well known for the palace of Alhambra but I was willing to pass on that.  I want to drink champagne and pretend to be Jane and Paul Bowles, although now I’m thinking since both of them were gay maybe I can bring champagne into the girl car and he can bring some into the boy car and we can pretend all we like. The moon is rising over Alhambra.  We’re ready to be in Nerja for a week, get to some writing and thinking.   I read Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend.  It isn’t my thing but I can see why people love it.  I can’t get into excitement about childhood love affairs and childhood friendships.  I liked Cat’s Eye because the main character moved on from all that.  I’m not interested in girls and their cliques, but everyone loves the book, it’s so Italian.

Published in: on June 21, 2015 at 6:06 am  Leave a Comment  

You will see many wonders. A cow on top of a building.

Okay, we haven’t seen a cow on a building, but still.  We have seen odd things this trip including a torture chamber in the dungeon at the castle of Meung Sur Loire.  Long before 50 Shades of Grey made torture fun for dating couples, torture chambers were all the rage in Medieval castles.

Day 1-3 Paris—the robbery, I would not recommend Paris to anyone. It’s dirty, crowded, over run with tourists and literally filthy with pickpockets.  Sure, the museums are nice, but basically it’s an unfriendly city that gloats as you lose your shirt.  Our hotel was nasty.  I sat in the stairway emailing my daughter cancelling my credit cards. Then we left. We saw the Louvre and went up the Eiffel Tower.  Paris was gone and we were on the train.

My friends gave me the following items which I miss:

Lisa: the purse and the change purse

Elise: my 7 year pen

Kate Coles: my really cool silver space pen

Sasha: business card case with letters on it

Mark: wooden hair pin and Little Prince phone cover

Darlene—the inside purse for organizing my stuff

I like thinking about having friends.

Days 4-5

Staying with Darlene in the middle of France, visiting the castle and having the most amazing French food.  Sheep jumping the fence into her yard.  Her willow tree reaching long green fingers into the yard; her house like a sunflower, opening and petalled and full of serene joy.  A house with a lilt and a hum.

Days 6-7 Avignon

We went to the pope’s palace and there were several popes  who lived there while the papacy was in France.  We walked all the way around the walled city of Avignon in less than an hour and a half. The papal palace was a fortress for the popes; and they felt extra safe within their fortress which was inside the walled city. The fortress has walls that are 17-18 feet thick.  That makes for a formidable fortress built into a rock.  The city originally had a moat.  I really like the idea of living in a house with a moat because then you’d have to cross a little drawbridge just to exit your domain.  Most people don’t have a moat, so if your house had one, it would dominate the moat-less houses.

Day 8 Barcelona

Kind of a nice city, but very crowded.  The feeling is that you are part of a large party.  I like the feeling of Barcelona.  I like a party city that isn’t trying to strip you down and take your money.

Published in: on June 20, 2015 at 2:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

You chose this tree, this limb, this saw, this sawing motion, this air.

You made a lot of decisions along the way that got you to this point. Nothing is by accident. You look at other people and you think, he has a better job, a cuter wife, a nicer husband, more obedient kids, and you forget, you chose this life.

I have a friend who I’ve known for twenty some years, and I used to think, I wish my life were as easy as his. This guy taught for forty years at a community college.  He retired at exactly the right age for obtaining the maximum teacher retirement  benefit.  He never married or had a live in girlfriend and he’s never had children.  He is very careful with his money and since he is not responsible for anyone, he’s never had to bail out a son, nephew or niece, who was shoplifting lipstick at Target or got caught with his pants down or skirts up.  His life is quiet and without big incidents.  He drives a safe car; he buys the cheapest gas.  He saves most of his money.  I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he has no debts and a top notch credit score.  He eats at nice restaurants.  He lives in a perfect world.

I’ve been married twice.  I have two kids, two step kids, a husband, an ex husband.  I have many friends who lean on me.  Having invested all our resources, in fact, we’ve hawked everything we’ve ever owned, to start a publishing company, we are people who live risk, challenge, opportunity.  We are not safe.  We have people who love us and count on us.  But, we are out on a limb every day.  We do not go to fancy restaurants.  We cook.

I have a friend who is a very successful doctor.  At some point, she was wishing that she could be an editor like me.  She certainly could retire from medicine at some point and get into editing; she has skill, but I explained to her that I get to be an editor because I made sacrifices.  I am not in a big house; I am not a member of a country club.  Let’s face it, I can’t afford martinis except on rare occasions.  But I do get to be an editor.  I made choices that led me into the publishing world and the writing world and here I am.

And one day, my friend of the perfect credit score said to me, It’s not fair to be angry with me because you don’t have what I have.  I made my choices.  I chose this life.  You chose your life, and even though I can be a real pain in the ass, I knew he was right.  I chose this life and I might as well enjoy it.  I chose this tree. I chose this limb. I climbed out on this limb.  I saw the ground. I took a saw.  I started sawing my limb.  I felt the lift of limb for a moment, then air.  Enjoy this air.  I say to myself.  Enjoy breathing. Enjoy this falling sensation.  Take deep breaths.  Open your eyes.  Is this flying? Or falling? Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

Published in: on June 19, 2015 at 1:06 am  Comments (1)  

Visiting France

We visited a castle today, Meung Sur Loire, and we visited the dungeon where people would be shoved down there among the rotting corpses.  It would be have been quite depressing and certainly no way out. The smell had to be pretty depressing as well. I doubt the food was refreshing. No strawberries either. We also visited the bathing room, the kitchen and the bedrooms, altogether an extremely fine castle.  We even went into the attic and servants’ quarters.  We had a lovely lunch with Kir Royale. The smell coming out of the dungeons would have been nasty back in the day, but then the whole castle had a moat which probably smelled bad.   If you were a serf, you lived with your chickens and pigs. When Mark and I were in Santa Barbara in April, we met a couple walking with their pet pig and they said the pig slept between them.  You can take people out of the pig pen but some people move on and bring pigs with them. This part of France is very beautiful and Darlene is the perfect hostess.

Published in: on June 17, 2015 at 8:30 am  Leave a Comment  

There’s only one Mona Lisa and there’s only one you.

Paris is getting better.

We went to the Louvre and saw the Mona Lisa with that look behind her eyes like you don’t know it but I have a huge collection of sex toys and I know how to use them.  Speaking of kinky, New York has this sign everywhere with this man all dressed up as a woman, and he’s saying,

I like my wife and kids but I LOVE my storage unit

which he is pictured sitting in with all his makeup and glam stuff.

Paris is a bit kinky as well.  Two men were making out by the sepulcher of Joan of Arc in the cathedral of Notre Dame during mass.  We stayed for most of Mass and watched people lighting candles to the saints.  I would have done it if I thought it was helpful, but the parts of my life that are Purgatory, just are and the only thing that helps me do a Purgatory streak are drinking, sleeping, being with loved ones and music.  Candles aren’t part of the equation.

Unless the candles are part of a larger ritual which I would prefer not to discuss here.  We’ve been walking along the Seine which is really nice.  There are a lot of houseboats along the river which people live in.  I would like to stay in one of the boats.  Tomorrow we go to the Loire Valley to visit Steve and Darlene.

Published in: on June 15, 2015 at 1:08 pm  Comments (1)  

Someone was killed outside our hotel last night.

No one called the police.

The fight went on for five hours.

Screaming. Several men.

There was a shriek when someone pulled out a weapon.

Five gun shots. Then several screams.

M said the police will come. I said, there will be no police.

They just dragged the body off while someone sat on the pavement crying.

Other than the robbery and the night of listening to someone be killed outside our hotel room, we’ve been

doing pretty well. We slept most of the morning.

We’re moving on to the Loire Valley to visit our friends Darlene and Steve, so we get out of

Paris on Tuesday.

M keeps saying You promised to show me Paris, you said it would be romantic!

I’m doing my best to show him romance here, but it’s tough.

Published in: on June 14, 2015 at 10:02 am  Leave a Comment  

Paris has Thieves

I was robbed my first night in Paris almost as soon as I stepped out of the hotel before we even found dinner.  About one hour ago in fact.  It happened so quickly, I didn’t even see who did it.  We went back to the hotel afterward, and Mark thought I would pull myself together and then we’d still go out to dinner.  I lay around in the fetal position for a while and then sat up to blog a bit but I am not moving.  My daughter is cancelling my cards and I am just staying huddled in my room at this point.  I’m sure we will go to a couple museums tomorrow but I’m over Paris. It’s crazy how it all happened so fast. When we came here, I wondered if Mark and I would fall in love with Paris and want to come here more. I was very curious. Well, that mystery is solved.

One can have a house robbed, a car, a spouse, a purse full of your life, and the latter is probably not the very worst. The purse was given to me by my friend Lisa and may be the only good purse I’ve ever had.  But I am letting it go, I’m just staying huddled in my hotel room while I do all this breathing and letting go.  Which isn’t easy to do in a hostile zone.

Published in: on June 13, 2015 at 1:12 pm  Comments (1)  

Off to Paris tomorrow

NY has been





so many people

crowds hustling

“hustle” is the word for New York

and slick

we walked through Central Park and the rocks lay in heaps and piles

the trees thick with heat. It was 90 degrees today,

and now we are going on vacation, and I am very happy and grateful.

Published in: on June 11, 2015 at 6:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Jenny Holzer takes us back to the beginning of language

Jenny Holzer’s show at the Botanical Garden is joy and light pouring across water and into the sky.  The words look like they are hatching, like gossamers shimmering across the thin surface of the world, like birth, like an explosion of joy, we walked to the edge of the water through candlelight and there we are at the very beginning of the world with the fires and the water when language was born and we all started speaking to each other, slowly at first and then so quickly and with so much chatter, whisper, and cacophony and with tweets, buzzes, clicks and rattles, on screens, across dish networks, until no one can hear a thing.  Until language has become meaningless.  No matter what anyone says, nobody’s really listening.  I think that’s what the light and language and firelight meant.  Jenny herself is very soft spoken and I felt my heart breaking in a thousand pieces as the words broke apart and became part of the sky.

Last night we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and heard Richard Blanco reading Walt Whitman; there was fried chicken and macaroni and cheese and great poetry and magic. Tonight more poetry with the Poetry Society of America and a walk through the Frida Kahlo garden to the light, poetry and magic.

Published in: on June 9, 2015 at 8:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

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