Noche Novata en la Barceloneta

16 10 2013
Noche Novata en la Barceloneta
Noche Novata en la Barceloneta Noche Novata en la Barceloneta

I’m in Barcelona now.

You know, I wouldn’t necessarily have guessed that I’d be one of the constantly wandering (the Wan-der-lust).

In fact, I wouldn’t have guessed it at all. I didn’t know any nomads growing up. Travel itself was normalized through parents hauling my impressionable young self on a variety of international adventure (see: Belize! Salt Cay! Bahamas! Puerto Peñasco! … okay, so we take our trips with a grain or two of powdery sand), but actively expatriating never occurred to me as an option.

Noche Novata en la Barceloneta Noche Novata en la Barceloneta
Noche Novata en la Barceloneta Noche Novata en la Barceloneta

Thailand was a lark – a tantalizing, beautiful bird of prey – and Madrid was a given, in ways. Barcelona has been an active decision. Argentina was on the table, San Francisco and México well within the realm of possibility…

But I’ve followed through, found a legit means of making a living. It eats up my weekdays, but I devour it right back – the skills are complex and require constant adaptation and learning, and I find my own rhythm within multilingualism. I produce at my own pace, which turns out to be madcap.

Noche Novata en la Barceloneta
Noche Novata en la Barceloneta Noche Novata en la Barceloneta

And I live alone, for the first time ever. The legit jobbery gives me means to support a kitchen populated solely by my own crumbs and science projects (currently curing my own olives). I bought an oven! Stashed the extraneous microwave away in a cupboard. I take off my pants as soon as I get home. I killed a roach that I found late at night. I go to sleep alone and I wake up alone.

There’s a wobbly something to spending so much alone time, like you might be teetering on the edge of becoming A Crazy Person. Is it acceptable to sup on hardboiled eggs and roasted eggplant? What about watching only five minutes of a movie at a time? Can I play the same song fifteen times in a row? And do push-ups whenever it occurs to me that I oughta?

Noche Novata en la Barceloneta
Noche Novata en la Barceloneta Noche Novata en la Barceloneta

There’s also something incredibly stable. I needed a mug for work (I accidentally *stole* the mug of another the second day! I didn’t realize that they pertained to specific people and just took one at random from the cabinet. I was rapidly informed: the Dunkin Donuts mug has a rightful owner). I found a heap of “I ♥ GIRLS” and “I ♥ BOYS” mugs in a Tiger store in Born, but they just didn’t sit well – until I spied an “I ♥ ME” variation hidden at the bottom. Perfect.

And that’s just it. Every single decision I take is wholly mine, from inception to consequence. I don’t feel spiraling out of control (BKK) or under organizational wing (MAD). I move of my own account. I need this. I didn’t realize just how strongly until I had it, here, in BCN.

Noche Novata en la Barceloneta
Noche Novata en la Barceloneta Noche Novata en la Barceloneta

I did a night walkabout a few days back, snapped characteristic yellow portraits of my new barrio. It’s key to do this early, while everything is fresh, while elements still come together in ways that innovate and surprise.

I live in la Barceloneta, the old fishermen’s barrio. I read a marvelous article about why it will never be cool (in Spanish). Folks yelling messages up to balconies, everyone’s laundry hung out to dry in the sun. The pisos are minuscule, y sin ascensor – well-nigh impossible to gentrify.

Noche Novata en la Barceloneta

The sea is two minutes from my door.





Tres Peces, Cinco Botellas

17 01 2012

Moved house. New year, new piso, new pisomates.

Same wine. Same weeknight dinner parties, different guest list.

Same croquetas. Croquetas is as croquetas does.

New deck, new dealer, new hand, new trump suit. New animal noises, fresh giggles, old bottles. Emerging hoots, ebullient hollers.

Far from the same old song and dance.





Luchana CouchSurfers – September

27 09 2011

For some, too much is never enough: my enormous flat bulges at the seams with its ten international residents, plus their various and frequent guests, yet at the beginning of the month we collectively elect to open our couches to travelers passing through the city using the CouchSurfing website. I’ve had an account since just before I moved to Thailand, where I used it not only in terms of surfing and hosting, but also as a means to establish an ever-dynamic social base. CouchSurfers are all over the map, coming from every country and camino, sharing a passion for meeting other travelers and swapping stories.

After introducing the idea and the website to the uninitiated of the Luchana house, we collectively decide to give it a go; I use my account to filter and organize incoming requests, posting the schedule of anticipated guests on a calendar print-out in the living room. September turns out to be particularly high-traffic, owing to the frequent presence of two further guests occupying the other sofas:

1) Gio, Columbian photographer/videographer and previous resident of my very own room in the house, has just returned from months of solo travel through Spain and Portugal. He’s a Luchana institution by this point, ever the wanderer but always returning to beloved Madrid, picking up new kitchen skills in the process.

2) Max, German-American bartender/egg-eater/entrepreneur, is suddenly one of my longest-standing friends: we met six years ago living on the Earlham Wellness Hall, of all places. Philosophies have since shifted, and Max has spent the past while bartending in his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. He’s got his sights set on ambition, however, and I like to think I was a large part of convincing him to apply for the Madrid auxiliar program, which he’ll be beginning along with me next week (although not in the same Instituto).

Apart from couch-crashers Gio and Max, Luchana has racked up five official CouchSurfers during the month of September:

1) Viktor, Mexican currently studying Latin and Greek in Romania, inaugurates the CouchSurfing experiment the very next day; he notices my profile proclaiming me “Online Now!” and inquires as to whether he might be able to stay that same night. I waver just a moment before responding positively, deciding that getting the ball rolling immediately is the best way to keep enthusiasm high.

Viktor arrives in the afternoon and we set out for a stroll, during which he teaches me much more about Spanish history as reflected in the city statues and structures than I think I ever managed to glean from SPAN 402: Histories of Spain. He is linguist, writer, and philosopher; together we successfully complete a mission to locate blank sheets of paper, his preferred tool of the trade. Over rooftop cañas, we discuss the Meaning of Meaning, singularity vs. author vs. reader, and the above pictured Vaso de la Libertad.

Upon departure, Viktor leaves the house a lengthy letter of thanks pegged to the living room wall, complete with verbal flourishes in antiquated Spanish. He’s an ideal introduction, and has extended an invitation to visit Romania that I may just accept.

2) David, Brit touring the country by thumb, arrives shortly after my return from Berlin. He’s on the quiet side, and unfortunately we don’t end up coinciding a great deal, to the extent that I even lack a proper photo of the guy. He crashes here for a couple nights, then heads out.

3) Alessandra, Napolitan living in London for the past year, is quickly revealed to be a kindred foodie heart; we sample sardine-stuffed olives at El Mercado de San Miguel and whiskey-topped tinto de verano at La Paca. Neighborhood touring takes us further south to calle Argumosa in Lavapiés, where we talk ex-punk phases and living with mainly males. We share a lively ensalada mixta and grilled squid dinner with Max and Gio at a traditional-style Spanish spot in Malasaña.

The following evening we reconvene over a bottle of La Rioja’s best Alessandra’s thoughtfully brought to the house, and I whip up an extra-large batch of palak paneer as a spicy accompaniment. New housemate Miguel joins in the feasting, which is followed by a miniature art exhibition on the sofa consisting of of work of the present creative types. Longtime Luchanero Eugenio reveals himself to be of multiple talents.

4) Sylvain, French computer engineer brought to the city by his company, elects to extend his stay in Spain over the weekend as well. We share morcilla, pimientos de Padrón, pan de jamón y tomate, bacalao, and fried eggplant with salmorejo, along with a glass or two of cool white wine at nearby Lateral. Around 1AM, post-stuffing ourselves well beyond the point of sheer gluttony, we venture back to the piso to check out the party that’s surely happening. We enter into darkness and silence – shit! Looks like the piso’s taking the night off. However, Max arrives soon after, followed by CouchSurfer Eddie and his hosts Kaeli and Fernando, who I’ve invited to the assumed party at my place. The plan quickly shifts to checking out the Malasaña scene, and we kick it in funky Tupperware. The night wraps up with absolutely all present breaking it down on the dance floor to early 90s hip hop jams.

5) Eddie, born in Ukraine with roots in Israel and high-school experience in Boston, is currently working for CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. He’s a major player in the get-down-stay-down that goes-down Friday night in Tupperware, and the beat refuses to go out for the count; next up is a daytrip to Toledo, in which I rediscover the best asadillo Manchego in España. Nighttime brings the much-anticipated piso party, including guest appearances by Kaeli and Fernando, and all proceed to boogie their pants off into some wee corner of the nearly-morning.

The next day brings gastronomic experimentation even for me; Eddie’s heard tell that they enjoy pig ear ’round these parts, and of course I’m game. Supercutre Bar El Jamón in Lavapiés has the porky goods, and I sample glutinous, vaguely meaty oreja for the first and last time. The pimientos de Padrón go down much easier, so much so that I’m beginning to think they may be a new obsession. Evening wanderings include an attempt to take part in a swing event that leads us instead to talking public art at La Tabacalera, then meeting up with Max for red wine plus caviar-flecked ensalada de mariscos at La Buga del Lobo.





((vamos lo mas de prisa posible))

7 06 2011

Back.

And yet, where, precisely? and for how long? Are these the most relevant questions, situated smack-dab in the middle of madrileña spring, two weeks left of classes, summer’s curly golden locks splayed free and beckoning at the window?

We’ll begin with the direct: what’s happened?

What hasn’t? In the previous month and a half – that’s mid-April through the beginning stirrings of June – I’ve been back and forth across the Atlantic in the name of Global Classrooms, which probably accounts for the most notable “event” as such. My work with the model United Nations program through Fulbright in Madrid afforded me a shot at one of the two available spots as designated representatives to the international conference in downtown Manhattan, and Lady Luck took a liking to the shine of my boots. As such, I accompanied the ten student delegates from each of the ten long-standing bilingual high schools in Madrid to New York City for a week-long stay, which included participation in the Global Classrooms conference along with a few days of US Embassy-sponsored sightseeing.

My own role was that of seemingly lowly Logistics staff, which meant my crew and I picked up slack wherever it was to be found – think setting up seriously bitchy A/V equipment, sprinting freshly copied resolutions across the hotel to the designated plenary, playing UN security guards, etcetera. It was actually a marvelous role for someone with zip experience with the model UN program; it meant I got a thorough behind-the-scenes examination of how such an enormous event is put together. In the process, I managed to meet a couple fun folks from all over the states, all a fascinating combination of UN geekery and serious party-beasts.

It was both an honor and a pleasure to have been able to kick it with the exceptional Spanish students in the States; I know it was completely perspective shifting for the lot. Working with colleagues David Hinojar, Hernán Jaén, and Rebecca Chadd was a total dream – our varying strengths played off each other to provide a solid experience for all involved. Perhaps the standout highlight of the trip was the 86-floor climb up the Empire State Building at midnight on our final full day in the US. After the requisite period of awed silence, floating high amongst the mystic hazy clouds emitted by the building’s own climatization system, David turned to me and said – “This is a gift.” I couldn’t agree more.

In the meanwhile – I’ve changed homes! After tumultuous times in the Palos piso, various turns of events led to me moving near metro Bilbao, in the cutest lil’ blue triangle-shaped room you ever did see. The place is sprawling, home to nine inhabitants total. I’m the youngest at 24; we range up to 36, meaning we’re workers on the whole rather than students. The place is lively without being party-hardy, and everyone asks me ¿qué tal? I’m enamored.

Other bits: recent bouillabaise house dinner involving entire hake a serious success, intimate friendships fostered/maintained with Fulbrights/ex-Fulbrights, Spanish success steadily steaming along, love of literature rediscovered through The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, job at José Luis Sampedro up and down and up up up again, painting pursuits reinitiated on canvas rescued from Chueca dumpster, certain long-standing chapters finally, fondly, firmly closed, such that new adventures may have their proper due along the space-time continuum.

I have had the enormous luck to have seen so many friends, old and new – Andrew, Catherine, Alicia, Alex, and more – with visits to and from further just beyond the horizon – Isana, Aldo, Clara! Dearest readers, the Spanish summer promises to be bang-up. Stay tuned.





Saturday Night: Full Throttle

12 02 2011

What it’s like, early: Hector locates the previously missing house wine – Rioja Antaño – at Ahorra Más. I bake cookies, employing a hammer to bust apart a pair of 72% dark chocolate bars with cocoa nibs.

What it’s like, later: I touch up my Wicked Witch of the West nails.

What it’s like, later still: As Marta paparazzis, Hector and I meet our groomed new selves in the mirror. Totally coincidentally, we have both decided on today as the Day of Reckoning for our long-neglected mops of hair.

What it’s like, just a smidge later: a little Morrissey, a little Elvis, a lot of curlybang, and a touch of Pac-Man.

What it’s like, latest known record: Hector, house mixologist, concocts a trio of the latest in G&Ts, each featuring elements of cucumber, lime, and grapefruit.





[{.”—SPACE PARTY—“.}]

8 02 2011

think glittery deely-boppers
think slinky golden leggings
think extraterrestrial
think neon supernova
think aluminum foil
think mad false eyelashes
think [[[out-of-this-world]]]

Me, Sam, Emily, Leah at David Bowie-inspired SPACE PARTY in my piso last weekend.





Happy Monday Bouillabaisse

13 12 2010

As I lie in bed this lazy Monday morning, I muse on the excellence of the early day off. Stray thoughts enter and exit my cerebrum without consequence, until one suddenly sticks. I must make bouillabaisse.

I learn the words for fennel (hinojo) and leek (puerro), which Mercadona shockingly keeps in constant stock. Hector mashes together a magnificently garlicky rouille, and the hake purchased from my local fishmonger (Ina Garten, eat your heart out!) is ever-so-gently simmered towards flaky tomato-broth perfection. Today I remove my first-ever mussel beards.

Marta comes home to a piso overflowing with soupe de poisson. We pour the remaining chilled white wine, and together we feast.

Recipe here, although I changed it significantly. A good 2/3 of my broth was white wine, and I added both puréed tomatoes and tomato paste for more punch. A squeeze of lemon juice brightened up the essential seafoodiness, and I didn’t do any straining nor blending of the veggies. It is a seriously forgiving soup. Try it.