upheavals and (re)alignments

5 12 2011

Day-to-day currents keep shifting, and the urge to chronicle ebbs and flows, wordy moon waxing and waning in an altogether too rapidly spinning sky. I’m still here, I’m still writing. I continue to taste the new, both bitter and saccharine.

Endless nights take on fresh meaning sticky with sweat and sweetener. They’re necessarily temporal; I aim to let each remain in well-earned rest, undisturbed by introspection’s probing claws. A selection of frames: skullface and skulldress, electric Mexican advice, purple line wrong-way mornings, teenage punk-style busted lip, access denied, Robyn, huevos al plato, discarded slides/snaps, mad dancing ladytribes, cilantro judiciousness, saving face with crudités, spontaneous manifestation of lemon-yogurt cake, halfway-homelessness, somebody that I used to know, spotty mondays, disasterous cheesesteak luncheons, not seeing the Serbian, icy cobalt nails just in time for Madrid’s cold snap.

Re: “halfway-homelessness” – it’s true, I am currently nest-less. I’ve moved from Luchana. There is much appeal to community living, and there have been moments in the 10-person piso during which I’ve absolutely soared. Several of its members are now dear to me. It was an ideal, easy escape from the Palos electrical nightmare. Also, expensive – for a place clearly fraying around the edges, the rent was simply much too high to continue calling it “grunge-chic.” Selected incidents of severe fiesta also resulted in disaster, culminating in the form of pilfered dresses from the neighbor’s line. Your truly was up to no good far from the piso at the time of the Great Dress Heist, but in such an oversize batch of inquilinos, we are all somewhat to blame for the failure to cultivate more general, common-sense respect in the house.

The atmosphere of Luchana became rather tumultuous for a time, which I not too happily rode out. Whispers of a constituency amongst us moving out together buzzed in the hallways, but blah-blah ultimately undermined any joint coordination. It was when my long time NYC amiga Alex came to visit, and when the front toilet – the one I never use – began to spew water during her first shower in my place, that I began to be rather seriously miffed. The second time it happened, I declared my intentions to leave, alone if need be. And so I have.

Piso prowling in Madrid is always harrowing, full of dashed dreams and unrealized appointments. After several days of slapdash idealista journeys both north and south, I went with my gut reaction to a 5-person place near metro Antón Martín. It’s decorated by the owner/landlord with her own oversize abstract art, which surely deserves its own post somewhere down the line. There are plants in the kitchen, vines and green leaves!

Deposit paid, the only sticking point is that the room’s current resident remains until the 10th of the month. I had made Grande Plans to hit up the Lyon Festival of Lights over this week’s puente vacation days, but the French foray was cancelled on account of Parisian Love (not mine). As such, I am presently Wanderer, Forager, Squirrel. A pair of sleeping bag nights on the new couch, one snugged amidst a mountain of soft neon paraphernalia, and another in Miguel’s bed in Luchana, since he’s already gone skiing down south.

It’s okay. The instability, feeling displaced, reminds me strongly of Bangkok. I never make mention here of Thailand except in the most cursory way (som tam! Pai! sawatdee kaaaaa!); in fact, until very recently I hadn’t done any sort of writing whatsoever about my experience there.

That’s where my words have gone as of late: I here announce my latest project, a stab at painting a Bangkok picture. It’s the best story that I carry within me, I know, and I haven’t even managed to tell it to myself yet – how heavy it hangs. Give me much time. It will out itself, at times flowing silky pashmina glitterwraps, others torrential swim-walking through flooded streets, still others achingly gut-wrenching, violent, too much, overwhelming, overdone. All part of the picture. The best stories have layers.

In further BKK overlap, Madrid’s been in the throes of protest. Biweekly teachers’ strikes have led to a strangely dynamic schedule this year. The global OWS protest made its way here on October 15th; armed with cameras, Luchana ran gleefully out to join the passing throng.

Despite the written rage displayed on several signs, the joy of the crowd was palpable. So much of Madrid came out – tens of thousands – the streets clogged with signage and green shirts and snap-happy twitterfiends,  overwrought anti-slogans given new breath lifted into the air by the multitudes.

My participation in OWS began and ended on this afternoon, but I left it with yet another view of my city, a shiny new facet. A Gran Vía of Dreams.

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.