Saturday, July 28, 2012

That's All Folks

I landed in Vancouver on Tuesday, staying with my mother in Squamish until she and Victor (he also landed here on Thursday) find a little time to drive me down to Seattle, so I can pick up a rental to get Wilbur and myself to California.

It was all very sudden, and very sad; I had no idea the people around me would have such an adverse reaction to my departure,tears, love, and even fits. I didn't plan it this way of course, although I was very open about the likelihood of it, no one said or insinuated I should stay, so I didn't think it would matter much…it did... I'm sorry, but who knows, nothing is set in stone. Edward was torn; I knew he was gonna miss Wilbur, he is very loving of animals, I just didn't realize how much. Despite his lifestyle, he was the best room mate, at least for me, we never fought about anything at all, or got in each others way. It was a hassle having to "disappear" every time his girlfriend came over, because of her allergies, but other than that we were like old shoes, just comfortable, and his love of Wilbur was the best part, every other room mate would either ignore him, or complain about him or any pet hair.

It was a series of unfortunate events that made me pick up the phone and call KLM, and once I hung up I felt very sad. 
First was the let down with "ecologistas en accion", even as I was going, I knew it was not gonna be the same as the year before, that had been such an amazing experience, and although there were most of the same people, everything else was lacking, the organizers, different ones this year, couldn't even see it despite complaints; the river wasn't there, so we didn't have a visual cause, something to hold us together, no leaders or sweepers, people going in different directions and getting lost, just chaotic in general. That's not to say there were good moments, of course, the people are still great, but the problems were getting to be more than the fun, and I didn't want to bring anybody down by pointing out all those things, so on day 3, having arrived in Cifuentes, after having a lovely lunch with Marisa, I took a bus to Guadalajara, another to Madrid and yet another to Barcelona.

Next day, I went to the Registro Civil (Government), as I had received a letter from them requesting I bring them my father's paperwork. Now I will remind you this was the reason I was not able to process the spanish citizenship 35 years ago, as I have never met the man, don't know if he is dead or alive or where in the world he may be. I was told before getting started with the paperwork last year that this is no longer a requirement and that I had enough with my mother being spanish. They said if I had good lawyers it would not be a problem, which you can understand how that infuriates me, just that if you're rich you can get away with anything, otherwise "fuck you".

Then as this was boiling in my head, I called Victor in order to let out some steam, and he informs me that he needs to go to Vancouver asap to sort out some personal business, and since he is the only person who is able and willing to help me get all my stuff to the airport by 4am, I would have to wait for him to get back. But no guarantee of when, and since Edward's brother, Henry and his family are going to be occupying my mother's house till September, I would have to wait till after they left. 

Also in previous weeks I had sent out feelers to several friends about the month of August, as this is a month that Spain stands still, what businesses are still left after/during the crisis are closed for summer vacation, everyone vanishes, and I was not able to get any straight answers, and was a bit concerned of being idle for so long. Of course I enjoy swimming in the beach, but I would go early in the mornings, as dogs are not allowed when the sunbathers are around. So…here I am.

I will be forever thankful of those who made my stay all that more enjoyable, #1 Edward, #2 Victor; the neighbors: Sr Isidoro, Zaira, Ana and other premianencs; as my son put "exceptional" people: Jordi Gascon, Maite and Xavi; the weekend saviors: Carme and her dog Nala, Alicia, Berta and Eloi; those linedancing folks: Merche, Tere, Rosa, Gloria, Carmenes; Albert, who despite being so busy always checked up on me; Esther and her entire culé family; my english students: Maria, Natalia, Lidia, Jordi and Hector, my new "eco" friends that inspire me so: Marisa, Annelies, Paca, Concha, Iosu, Maria Antonia, Mamen, Jon, Diego, Lidia…the list goes on…love you all.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

…but with the humidity factor it's 36 C

that's centigrade, translates to 98.8 F...I guess it's no surprise to anyone, at least anyone reading this blog, the weather itself is an adventure anywhere you are; that was last week, it's cooled off a bit, for a few days anyway, it hailed 6cm diameter (2.3") a couple of days ago, breaking historical records of destroyed  crops.

Back to me now, I'm getting ansi to get busy with the new future enterprise, as I feel this whole experience has been like a long vacation, I cheap one at that; I had the same feeling when I was living in Hermosa Beach (91-94), perhaps it's because I'm so close to the beach. However I just scrolled down my old posts and I'm in awe of how much has happened around me and in my head too. A week ago I was ready to call the airline and change the date of my return, particularly during the dinner party to celebrate the end of country line dance classes, while I have a great time dancing with these people, that is the only thing I share with them. It was a potluck and I refused to chip in 5 euros for the purchase of plastic plates, silverware, papers napkins (all non recycled) and corporate sodas, no one could be bothered with the "inconvenience" of bringing these items from home, but I did, and created a bit of a stir. But then last Monday evening I ran into Angel and his dog Max at the beach, I hadn't seen them since last summer, we began to talk about Maxs' diet, as he seems slightly chubby, one thing led to another, turns out he was part of Transition Towns London when it was starting and he was living there, he began a green basket coop 3 years ago here in Premia (there's a waiting list now), he's involved with "indignats" Premia, created a "time bank", but has been to busy lately to follow up on it as he's working for an energy coop. So I went to meet these people as instructed last Wednesday, only to find that they were just deciding to pick it up in September, as the summer holidays are here; again I'm confused, how do you take vacation from being "indignat"?

While I'm still teaching english to old and new people, I said good-bye to Maria, my most regular student, who by the way, did pass her KET exam, and I was very happy for her, I believe the only reason her family had doubts (I had non) was because when her dad took her to the big city, at 10yrs, she was dwarfed by all the 15 and 16 yr olds taking the test with her. I didn't tell her for sure that I wouldn't be here when she comes back after the summer, on the one hand because she seemed too sad with that idea, on the other hand because "who knows"? I sorta have similar problem with my friends, as they're always asking if I'm still thinking of leaving.

In the meantime, I went with Edward, as he needed to collect a press release for his magazine See barcelona, to the recently open Cannabis Museum of Barcelona. Just the restored building Palau Mornau is reason enough to see, but the exhibit I also found fascinating, one hall has fabrics, another old medicine bottles, and famous people from Shakespeare to John Wayne. No sample to take home, but a brochure, and one of those fun picture taking thingamajigs which let's you email yourself. Check it out.

Afterwards we walked the neighborhood a bit, so he could get a sense of who is still in business, and if there were any new ones for possible customers. We ran into this intriguing open doorway with no signage, but an obvious and recognizable art bench, the Enric Miralles Foundation.

A pre-existing huge ceramic store, that I had never seen before, because of it's location I guess, 30 years ago Escudellers street was the epicenter of low life and prostitution. Art Escudellers 

Last night the pirates came back, as once again the festivities are here, you can see it better on this news clip

And just six days away from going to Soria, to mee up with ecologistas en accion for the ecomarcha, this time I will get there by train and bus, and leave Wilbur here, as he's not allowed on the bus. I'll catch up with you again after I come back.
love to all

Monday, June 4, 2012


Let me remind you, I met Marisa the first week of “Vive el Ebro” trip, I thought she was just the right blend of wit and humor, which I very much admire, although perhaps it was due to all that Rioja wine we downed. When we reached Logrono, she anounced that she had to go back home with her daughter Candela; she wasn’t the only one, Mamen and her son Carlos from Cuenca (if you remember the incident of the puppy that lost a toe) and Maria Antonia from Valladolid were also leaving; so that was the day I was supposed to go to the Wurt museum with the group, but I stayed to have a late breakfast instead with these wonderful people. Marisa showed me a picture of her home on her phone, she showed it to others too, along with an invitation. I was sad, but later that day I had the opportunity to read a poem about the fairies that had created the Ebro Delta to the rest of the group that she had left in my hands. Those days were so full of excitement and emotions, many other great people came and left, that I became accustomed to saying good-bye.
But the second to last day, when we left Tortosa to arrive at the Delta in the evening, for an observer would have compared it to the final leg of the Amazing Race, past contestants reunited; but it was so much more, so many tears, happy tears of course; it was the twilight hour, and we were received by a group of children playing drums, a batukada, then I started to see faces that had left, like Manolo from Madrid, and when I saw Marisa I was ready to explode from joy. We were all exhausted, yet we continued to celebrate each other for as long as our bodies would allow us.
I had been dragging my feet about visiting Marisa and a city I had not yet seen before, for no other reason than money shortage; but I took a Ryan Air flight which is very cheap, under 50 euros($60 aprox), but very important to read a follow thru the instructions, otherwise it can become expensive as they will charge you for everything, like 60 euros to print your boarding pass or any, and I mean “any” baggage.
Marisa greeted me at the airport and took me to a “romeria” (spanish for outdoor celebration), where her friend Inma was waiting with Candela; this romeria was organized by the “Gildas” a group of women that do fundraisers to help out critical disaster affected peoples around the world. The term “gilda” in Spain is usually in reference to an old Rita Hayworth character meaning beautiful strong determined woman. It was a nice surprise to see such a crowd of progressives here, because a well known fact of Santander, it was Franco’s favorite spanish city, and had been the royal house’s summer getaway for years before the civil war, so basically it was and still is a fascist haven.
Santander is on a large peninsula with many smaller peninsulas, the city facing opposite the windy Cantabric Sea and enjoying the more protected bay area. The drive home was along the bay coast, and Marisa’s home was in the Cueto neighborhood, just around the peninsula and facing the northern windy Cantabric coast, an area where no santanderino would ever build a home, so while other family members had long ago sold their land for very cheap, Marisa’s wish was to build her home on her grandparents plot where they had grown their own wine.
Standing outside on the terrace and just watching the sunset I could understand how Marisa was able to simply loose herself to this peaceful environment and wash away her troubles at work, she’s a professor of microbiology, which she loves, the pressure is the constant daily mindless name-calling and bullying from her fascist colleagues. She is thinking of leaving her home and moving to the south of Spain, in hopes of improving her surrounding, and because she believes the warmer weather will make her thrive.
Directly in front of the house is “el Panteón del inglés”, the spot where William Rowland died in 1889 when he fell off his horse that plunged into the sea. While Marisa went to find water shoes for Candela’s sailing class beginning that afternoon, I went for a walk with Inma, Candela and Vera (chocolate lab). 

Inma pointed out a huge rock that will eventually slip off into the sea someday, and as if the picture was not enough, throw in a daring fisherman to make it even more unique.

Estela, who I had also met on the Ebro trip came to join us too, so while Candela was learning to sail, we went to visit the city. The downtown area is the least popular, due to the fact that after the 1941 fire that destroyed a large portion of this city, the now homeless citizens were divided and relocated to the outskirts, while the few wealthy fascist families simply took an entire block for each and built their ugly legacies. Marisa’s grandparents and parents were one of these families that had everything stripped away from them, despite the fact that her father was in Franco’s army.
The “raqueros” was the name given to local young boys who would dive into the port waters in order to chase the coins that were thrown in by tourists or navy men before reaching the bottom for their amusement; naturally they would get to keep any of the coins that  they could get.
Any homes on this promenade have alternate backstreet access, to be used for service and deliveries, but on strong south wind days, it was so strong their front doors could not be opened, so they would hang up this hilarious sign not so long ago: “los dias de viento sur, los señores reciben por detrás”, translates to: on south wind days the gentlemen will recieve from behind.

The following day was a work day, so I was on my own, Marisa loaned me her bus and bike passes, although I ended up walking all along the coastline, first towards the nearby lighthouse, and since the fog began to follow me, I took my time in an effort to wait it out and try to get s few pictures of the lighthouse. Along the way, I had been told to look out for the recently fallen natural rock bridge, which had been up till just a few months ago a popular picture spot.

Just past the lighthouse is the Forestland Park, and just as in NorCal the same mistake of planting eucalyptus trees happened here, however they took the opportunity to use these trees for a different kind of amusement park. Like many other things though this used to be a public a free activity, but that has changed, and is for paying customers only.

The next peninsula contains a golf (of) course, don’t forget Severiano Ballesteros was from a town just across the bay. While a thick stone wall has been built around it, which many locals are not fond of, I felt it needed to be taller, as in some parts I felt compelled to duck, as I’m terrified of flying golf balls. On the other side of this peninsula is the small beach of Mataleñas, where I wet my feet in the Cantabric Sea for the very first time.

The popular trendy Sardinero beach area reminds me of Bondi beach, because of the english colonial style buildings, like the casino. As I was approaching it I noticed more people were walking up and down, most clothed, as if it were a promenade of sort,,, so I joined in.

Lastly and before Marisa picked me up after her work, I walked on to the next peninsula that harbors the Palacio de la Magdalena, built in 1908-12 as the royal summer home.

The next and last day before going back home, I stayed in and around the home collecting and identifying local wild plants that I need to make the “pomada sanjuanera”, named for the summer solstice, the recipe was handed to me via Concha, another Ebro friend, after seeing it’s extraordinary healing and not being something you can purchase anywhere.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Visitors

By order of appearance: Dre, Jordi, Adelina, Dee & Peter, Cheryl, and the locals.

I first saw Dre as I invited him to join me and a few friends for the massive general strike protest on March 29th (29M). He had to leave early as his friends would have been worried otherwise, as it was expected that “anti-sistemas” could cause havoc. And they did. I had a hard time myself trying to get back home, as all of Plaça Catalunya trains and subways were closed, and my next nearest station was on the other side of the pokice lines.

The day Jordi arrived, April 1st, Victor and I also picked up Dre at the hotel as he had finished his training at FCBarcelona, but after dinner at Rekons, they went to spend the night at Albert’s in order to play some indoor soccer at 7am the next morning. 

Jordi got to play tour guide to Dre for a few days. He whines about not knowing how to get around, but you toss in a buddy and he becomes an expert. This way I had my time to do classes and line dancing.
We went to have lunch with Edward, Carmen and her daughter Ariana where David works the tables at lunch in Mataro.

I wanted to give the guys a glimpse of the catalan countryside, so we took the train to Ripoll, where my friend Maite came to pick us up and go back to her home in Borreda. Other than her husband, there were three other friends of theirs. 
After a late, late lunch, we strolled to town to watch the Barcelona-At Bilbao game at one of the town’s bars. Both Jordi and Dre fell in love as I had done last summer with this special place.

Maite is working on an idea to introduce bird nests on tall poles, since there's one local species that will "occupy" these, since locals and immigrants will do anything for work/money, so there's been an ongoing problem when it comes to tree clearing, and that is they've been cutting down the tallest pine trees, that are the ones local bird species will nest in; and since these taller trees are going bye-bye, so are the birds, which has created a plague of tree killer worms (the picture of a typical worm nest), thus more trees become kindling.

Dre went back home, and Jordi went to Camp Nou with Sol. Not only was the company nice, but Barcelona scored big against Getafe.
I still had Jordi for 3 more weeks, we went on long walks with Wilbur to neighboring towns, we went to see the colored fountains of Montjuich, which I had to drag Jordi to, because he didn’t think they would be that interesting to him, and because I had pulled him away from Maite and Xavi who he very much enjoyed, in hus words "they are both exceptional people"; but I think he changed his mind about the fountains afterwards.

 On Earth Day at the same fair we had visited the year before, but first we managed to get free tickets for the Aquarium.

We went to recieve Adelina upon her arrival, and then met her, Peter and Dee for lunch one day; and again after Cheryl arrived as we got together to visit the Sagrada Familia. And then it came time for him to leave, it went by so quickly. 

Cheryl went back to Manchester, Adelina went to the Costa Brava with Peter and Dee, before they continued their trip to Madrid and the Canary Islands. Now Adelina had a few more days left to visit local friends and me.

And since everyone left, Gascon took me to Palau Sant Jordi, that was built for the 92 Olympics, and large venues like last week’s Bruce Springsteen, however I had not yet been inside till now. This event was “Biocultura” much like San Fracisco’s Green Festival. Where we would use the word “organic”, most Europe uses “biologic” and here they use the word “ecologic”, particularly with food and produce. They do use the word “organic” when referring to compost waste.

I also met up with Juanjo at Placa de Catalunya last Tuesday 15th to celebrate the first anniversary of 15M; it was good to see more and more people participating, not just younger unemployed, but a lot of elderly, as they are cutting back on healthcare (keep in mind they actually have healthcare here), still not enough people though, but it’s getting there. Along with all this mess, the different autonomies (similar to states) and in this case Catalunya is threatening the central government (Madrid) with independence because the treasury won’t pay back the fiscal debt of the past years, today hundreds of vehicles displaying the “estelada” flag of independence, blocked the tollways as they are refusing to pay the tolls. People who have been paying tolls for 40 years to get to work, when they had promised no tolls after these roads were paid off. This collection goes to Madrid. All roads going from Madrid to any city south or west is a freeway, no tolls, yet all catalans must pay and the cash goes elsewhere. Same is true of the fast speed train, the AVE has trains going to where nobody goes, yet the one to Barcelona is just now getting built, never mind that it is the main traffic route to the rest of Europe.

oops! I almost forgot, as I was tossing compost into these old pots of dirt during the winter, and had abandoned the project, before I got back to it I was surprised by some very determined tomatoes.