Everything is Interesting

9 06 2013

There are certain lines you hear yourself repeating again and again. Sometimes it’s because you accidentally stumbled across a bit of wit and hope to stretch it out to as wide an audience as possible. In other cases, it’s just reductive – so many people asking you the same questions, and you end up with a shortcut response (“Pero Barcelona?! Por qué?” “Porque me toca la próxima aventura“). Still other instances are wishful thinking, as though speaking something aloud with enough frequency could magic it into existence. Sometimes, it can.

And then there are the lines you hear yourself say just once, but which resonate through the room with unexpected clarity. You’re suddenly an audience to your own words, as though they were lines in the greatest and most personal play you could ever ask for. They’re the soundbytes in the trailer, they’re the italicized quotes on the book jacket.

You tend not to see them coming, but they’ll hit you with their truth like a train.

Some years back I read the first section of this piece, Los Cuatro Acuerdos. It borders on New Age without actually crossing that fatal line; I’ve meant to go back and check out the other three agreements for ages. The first one, though, has managed to stick with me: Be Impeccable With Your Word.

The idea is that your word is your power to shape reality – word here being much more than merely its spoken/written form. As such, use it for good and not for evil. Speak the truth as you understand it. Say only what you absolutely mean. Don’t speak your fears and doubts into existence, especially concerning yourself. Wield your word in the name of love.

Cheeseball for sure – the pragmatic prig in me feels obligated to include the “I know I know” disclaimer. It’s a nice one, though. Your reality is in large part constructed of the ways in which you interact with the stimuli around you, so make said action impeccable.

It isn’t always possible to pronounce each syllable so conscientiously, of course, and I generally boil the gravity of the directive down to “don’t talk shit about anything or anyone, especially if you don’t want it to be true.” The corollary is that what I do end up speaking asymptotically approaches a direct representation of my reality.

I mean – I’m aware that language is necessarily a re-presentation, a construction. But those simulacra don’t have to be chimeras, breathing heavy and menacing deep in their caves. Constructs can be constructive of something beautiful and true as well, and taking note of their intricacies are what keep us moving meaningfully through the fourth dimension.

So then when I hear myself speaking the unexpectedly weighty, I keep those words, turn them over in my hands and head and heart. A proclamation might “make more sense,” or simply different sense, further down the road.

All this preamble leading up to something I recall myself saying in the first fledgling days of 2013. I was with two people I’d met (separately) off the internet and figured would get along (hoo boy, was I right). One of them was one of the very first people I ever met from OkCupid. He was here visiting his family after extended time away in Mexico completing his studies. I’d seen him quite a bit my first year in Madrid, and then once in the interim, around Christmastime 2011.

In playing the catch-up game, we each got to experience a rather unique perspective – feeling intimate and important with the other, despite the awareness that you only experience their being in selected segments. Both of us have a sharp memory for remarks, and we recalled wisps of ideas we’d had three years prior in order to observe how these had grown, shrunken, or changed form.

2012 was a hallmark year. I spilled over with stories, buses and skele-sweaters, expunging and embracing dragons, red-light weekends overseas and just across the street. Oporto and Ljubljana and rural Germany and Priano and Barbados and Bellver de Cerdanya and Oviedo. Cracking my assumptions wide open and letting in even more new than I thought was possible. Allowing myself great swaths of time to swim within the strange.

In sharing these segments, in hearing the story spun, I played at once narrator and audience, climbing into my friend’s head to see what I must look like from there. I told him the gloriously crazy moments, the nearly unbelievably lucky turns of events, the mad chances I’d taken that had and hadn’t paid off. What a hodgepodge it seemed, this collection of bizarre vignettes.

Life’s that way for everyone, of course – messy messy, loaded with loose ends and wholly extraneous information, false starts down twisted paths that lead nowhere. Both written and spoken storytelling are in part driven by the urge to weave together something comprehensive out of all this noise.

And I found myself relating even the nasty bits, the parts that hurt with confusion and lack or overabundance. However, the way in which I told these was with joy rather than sadness, and I was taken aback at my own felicity in the face of the various weights I carry.

“The thing is,” I heard myself say, “it’s all interesting. Every single part of it is interesting.”

It’s that simple truth that’s stuck, that’s what came back to me today. I’ve been calling it neophilia, but I’m not quite sure that’s correct – true neophiles seem to always be clamoring for the cutting-edge, and that’s not my case. I mean, have you seen my phone?

It came back to me when, after a night of wine-fueled indoor picnicking, manic kitchen dance steps, and too-symbolic broken glass, I decided to go for a walk in the rain. Instead of heading directly for the nearest metro – which would have made sense given the downpour, no? – I elected simply to see what it was like to walk in it, to give in freely.

That choice in itself is not particularly radical, but it set off a chain reaction of thought. If death is the cessation of the new, life and living can be maximized by exposing oneself to as much of the unknown as possible.

There have been times this year when I wondered why I stayed in Madrid for a third turn of the wheel. I see it now – I needed the time and space to settle in fully behind my own eyeballs. I’ve been headed towards this point for years now, throwing myself into situations where I must confront the weird and the wild (sawatdee kaa, Bangkok).

The difference, though – previously, I’ve felt carried away by said situations, affected upon, adrift at sea. This year, I’ve grown into my own skin, and have begun to orchestrate.

“I don’t know anything, but I do know that everything is interesting if you go into it deeply enough.” – Richard Feynman

The only way to go about this is deeply, is as a whole. It is with this as my guiding principle that I move away from this city, from my Madrid. It is my fascination that pulls me forward. It is the intensity of the what-if urge. It isn’t merely the next adventure, it’s the only one, the capital-A.

Take my hand, and let’s run.

I move to Barcelona at the end of the month!

Advertisements




city, it’s not you. it’s me.

8 06 2013

i’ve given you so many pet names,
adding determiners,
—(the city, my city)
toying with your phonemes,
—(madrizzle, the ‘driz)
wrapping tongue around the unruly curved softness of your end:
invitingly, erotically defiant
—(maDriD)

city,
remember that series of ink-soaked maps
torn to shreds in purse zippers,
in hasty folds, in klutzy wine,
dotted with apartment Xs, restaurant Os,
walking routes, scrawled numbers,
the secret chinese,
where to buy cilantro.

and what i brought to you –
city, did you ever read the List?
postcards (5)
letters (2)
glitter

origami paper
visa papers (incl. Apostille of the Hague)
garnier surf hair gel
nail polish (black, purple…… glitter)
Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
chipotle peppers, canned (3)

the times i’ve danced with you, city,
drunken, exuberant, desperate,
full of joy, chemicals, light and fear and uncertainty,
the way you whisked me up and away,
let me push myself too far,
always made me decide.

our secrets. train tracks from the hidden park.
yellowed photographic nightwalks. sambal oelek.
luchana terrace cherries. rioja antaño.
how many times i’ve painted my nails.
that time i made it all the way back home just to bust my lip wide open, blood raging, cut nerves raw to the air,
twenty-something channeling inner teenage punk.

how heavy my heart hangs, city.
we’ve always been open to plurality of loves,
dynamic organic expression! hippie-dippy-dom!
but never would i have guessed it weighed so much.
cracked myself open wide, said yes to absolutely everything,
spreading it much too thick and biting in recklessly,
gulping only the very strongest flavors,
neophilia addiction and willingness to wander leading to unexpected depth of connection.
you, and you, and you, and you, and you, and you –

but i’ve already told you, city.
it’s not you, it’s–

performed at the 10th Mad Open Mic in Libreria Fuentetaja, May 22, 2013.





No Man’s Art – Fotopost

9 03 2013

It’s spring, it’s here, I’m calling it. There’s the usual culprits, so much rain and genuine licks of sunlight, and that old onion we planted in the windowsill is actually honest-to-god sprouting. And I’m out, taking the pulse of the city, finding it still alive, we’re still here, estamos vivos, parece. Me too.

IMG_3142 IMG_3147

No man’s art next door. An invitation to climb into the insistent sky.

IMG_3144
IMG_3155 IMG_3148

Wholesale mannequin parade. Readymade framing. Coiffed and poised.





Coconut Cream Cake

24 09 2012

Trepidation is the word, for sure. Any writer who’s taken a breather can tell you all about that most deceitful of fears, the one that arises from time spent silent. It proceeds to take the form of can’ts and won’ts and shan’ts and nahs, and I simply have so many other things to do, so many other ways to invest my valuable time, writing can stew happy in the backseat for days with a comic book or three. I’m gathering material. It’s a think piece.

Let the happy little linguistic camper simmer too long, though, and it boils down to something accusingly burnt around its logical edges: you can’t be a writer if you don’t write.

Pull the words out by their roots like molars, one knot of nerve endings after another.

The cusp of year three in Spain is so much quieter than I could possibly have supposed when I began this blog. Or could it be a too-simple matter of severe contrast with my happily agitated summer? Dancing across beaches and cave structures, gulping wine, daily image construction on a professional level, photography overload. Chance encounter after chance encounter leaving me wondering how much chance really plays a role.

I don’t buy into destiny, fate, tarot, Miss Cleo. But serendipity, certainly; inevitability, possibly; karma, perhaps. No cosmic kismet bank upon which I might make the occasional withdrawal, but – in general – Good Output results in Good Coming Back Around. That’s Zen and the Art, that’s All-Amerikun bootstraps. Personal philosophical proof that it’s time I got back on my game.

– Pero dime, Victor, ¿la vida es juego o distracción?
– Es que el juego no es sino distracción.
– Entonces, ¿qué más da distraerse de un modo o de otro?
– Hombre, de jugar, jugar bien.
Unamuno, Niebla

Jugar bien means massive production, means involving myself with serious amounts of twists and turns. Means sticking my neck out. I’ve got the language, now, and I know the city, I navigate, and I’ve continue to cover intense and intentional ground with my base Maslow needs. I’m in an ideal state for transformation. Ready to advance a chakra or two, and to honestly put something out there.

Like I said – chickenheartedness is what’s holding me back. What if the world doesn’t dig on my sweet potato pie? What if I can’t find any sandpit deep enough to subsequently bury my head in? The truth this fear doesn’t see: I’ve been through worse. I’ve had nothing and built up something exquisitely beautiful, only to find it poisonous and to watch it crumble back into dust again. I’ve been in so many darker places than this, been asked to carry a brick or two in the raw canyon of my corpus callosum, and I’ve pulled myself whole through the deep of that winter.

This, here, now? This is coconut cream cake. Time to find a fork and dig the hell in.





El Rastro: Photojaunt Meetup

6 05 2012

OKCupid’s overdone, intercambios are insipid, and you’re seriously cansada de Couchsurfing? Meetups are one solution. Folks of all ages and origins rally around shared interests, a proposal which manages to simply and swiftly avoid attracting the typical monochromic backpacking/expat crowd. My own meetup inauguration comes in the form of a photography scavenger hunt proposed around a Rastro afternoon. A prize is promised. I’m in.

We’re about a dozen that gather in Tirso de Molina at noon, the majority of necks slung proud with elaborate SLR electronics. My beat-up point-and-shoot Canon S90 is at the ready, though, and I all but ignore the proffered hunting list in favor of snapping a few choice frames in my own style.

Weary white tees in contrast to persistent yellow facades in contrast to struggling blue spring skies.

I got yelled at for this one. It’s true, I took it so I could copy the designs for personal profit.

Deals everywhere.

If you’ve got the time, they’ve got the heel.

I think this elegant guy works here – he looked to be sorting the records.

Sweet.

Gitanerias. Piles of books and records and postcards abound in El Rastro – discarded media from a different age.

What the gastronomically inclined did pre-internet.

The butt end of El Rastro, in a plaza near Puerta de Toledo. We’re talking serious opportunities here, ripe for hardcore combers and bargainers of all variety. I may have negotiated a capricho or two.

Afterwards, cheapo eats and drinks at 100 Montaditos, plus travel tips, official photo judging, and cell number exchanges. I didn’t win, but neither did I lose.





9th MAD Open Mic: Captured Words

2 05 2012

MAD Open Mic swings ’round once more; again I toss together something last minute and perform it in high style, fingertips a-curl. Inspired by Anne Carson’s Short Talks, which I’ve loved for going on seven years now, plus signifi-quests and murky underwater imagery, whose slip and slime I can’t seem to shake, and so choose to embrace.

My introduction this round:
Janel Torkington is here for her third reading. She is currently studying the science of Being In The Right Place At The Right Time, with a creative minor in Living In The Here And Now.

[[October’s performance: modern romance.]]

short talk from the bottom of the sea.
currents ancient, softblack and slow smoky in their curls.
scant handfuls of things luminescent,
holloweyed hauntbeasts aglow with pale turquoise flame.
slithering multitudes of things undesirous of attention,
all Lurk and Loom and Lust,
biding (time)(secondshoursyears–
–expending no energy. they move not. they d r i f t,
currentbeings, currently seething,
stillquiet in the silent burning arias of the vents:
(the vents thevents)
fissures in the depth spewing steady hot song from molten rock
unseen.

perched, crouched, ready,
it’s here you’ll find Author,
tangled in rotten black weed,
creeping at you with oversize eyes.

only here will you find Voice,
long exiled from polished oysterpearl origins,
simmering salty now and scattered,
all in hide-n-seek bits, snatches,
grasping at eelstraw mists.

Meaning, the kraken.
doesn’t matter if you believe in sucker and slime,
in salient cutting shears jawbone beak.
Meaning slurps to and fro, slick and strong,
effortless ballet through swaths of impermeable ink.





2012-13 Fulbrighters to Spain: Hola!

24 04 2012

Fulbrights to Spain for the coming 2012-13 academic year – HOLA QUE HACE?

No but really. I can hear you hovering. Spain’s sent that mystical fat envelope your way at last, hooray and enhorabuena!! However, now that the seemingly endless limbo has graciously come to a close, your inner anxious academic takes over once more, peppering the innocent consciousness with queries.

What I mean is, I see you – I’m a WordPress stats nerd, and I check out what folks search for that guides them in a tomato-y direction – and I know you’re nervous. A handful of you have actually written me emailed queries regarding what’s in store for the coming year, and I figure it’s highly likely there are more who have considered it.

This post is an open invitation to ask questions of me regarding my experience, as well as what you might anticipate from yours. I’m no expert, but I’ll tell you just about anything you’d like to know according to my own time spent in Spain.

Janel Torkington, A Professional Primer:
I graduated from Earlham College with a degree in Spanish Language and Literature in May of 2009.
I spent the following year adventuring around Thailand, then received word of a Fulbright award in April 2011.
I was a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant for the 2010-11 academic year.
I was assigned to one of the older bilingual high schools in Madrid, IES José Luis Sampedro.
Along with the other Fulbrighter at IES JLS, I took responsibility for the Global Classrooms (Model UN) project in my school.
I was nominated as one of two Fulbright representatives to accompany the top ten Madrid students to the international Model UN conference that year, which took place in downtown Manhattan in May of 2012.
I had such a positive experience my first year that I renewed at the same high school for a second term.
The second year has continued to be enormously rewarding, and I plan on remaining in Madrid for the time being.

I’d be more than happy to answer questions as I receive them in the comments, as well as through email (contomates [at sign] gmail [dot] com).

quicknote: probably a good time to re-mention the bit they ask you to put on the blogs – I’m in no way an official Fulbright rep, and my views don’t have to do with their official positions on anything whatsoever. That’s a good thing! You can ask me about stuff like the truth about oreja, how much hell finding a piso actually is, and where exactly to get your hands on elusive ground cardamom. Fulbright Inc. doesn’t have a heap to say about any of those.