From Barcelona . . .
So, if anyone has been wondering, why has Chris been so silent lately (crickets chirp loudly in the background . . .), its because I’ve been away starting my yearly travel jaunt. After saving up diligently all spring, I’m here in spain yet again trying to get my spanish up to par. At the moment I can speak very fast and fluently and be understood in almost all situations, but when people speak to me, sometimes I still have to ask them to slow down. And when I speak, even though I always communicate, the errors pile up like trash in the pacific. Alas, subjuntivo, my foe, hypocrite lecteur, mon frere!
Point is, I will be running around Spain for much of the next month, and blogging and working on the manuscript will grind to a halt, towards a much needed clearing of the palette. After spending much of the last six months writing in front of the computer, day in and out, finally worrying about how to ask for ‘scissors’ in spanish seems a nice change of pace. they told me what it was this morning, and I already forgot.
There is something really refreshing about learning a new language. It forces you to be stupider than a child, and anyone is smarter than you, can teach you. I like that. I think its important. It reminds me why I teach, and how to learn.
Anyway, I hope to be back full force after august 9 (crickets chirp loudly).
Also, for what its worth, some travel observations.
My first time in Barcelona. And I must say, as long as I’ve lived in nyc, I’ve never seen anyone smoke crack, and I saw somebody doing just that in an ATM machine lobby yesterday. I’ve also never seen prostitutes on the job in nyc, despite growing up there, but I know I have in Barcelona. The traffic here is unbearable, I think because the streets echo more than nyc because they are so narrow and full of motorcycles, and the whole city seems covered in a thick layer of grime from exhaust. I’ve heard so many rave about this city, and I feel a certain pressure to agree. But I can’t help but feel that some of the worst of LA and NYC finds itself here, in spanish wrapper. Its a cold, busy, crowded, dirty place. And while some diversity can thrive amidst this, part of me feels that other places I’ve been to have the diversity without the sheer destruction, anomie, etc. I dunno, if I wanted this, I could’ve just gone to midtown, not left for spain. Of course, ‘tourism’ has so much baggage that goes with it no matter what. I don’t go for some ideal of perfect beaches, but to get inside another culture.
But barcelona feels sterile, like nyc, which I don’t quite like either. I identify as being part of brooklyn, because to me, brooklyn is alive as much as manhattan is dead. I mean, manhattan is all chain stores! Barcelona is just cash, cold and hard, and all the diversity and wierdness can thrive in the cracks, like it does in nyc, because capital allows some wierdos in its interstices. But is that really ‘the change we’re looking for’?
I can’t help but think, for all its flaws, that the northern california model has more going on for it. As imperfect as it is, its not capitalist. And nyc is capitalist to its core, and its ‘social liberalism’ is a mere epiphenomena of the flows it brings to bear. An axiomatic, as D&G would say. But social democracy, market socialism, holds out more, a hope, a hope of dirty imperfection, but of an ideal which, in the language of psychoanalysis, might be ‘good enough’. I dunno.
These are thoughts on seeing this very odd, very hectic, very intense city for the first time. I’d heard so much. I feel so disenchanted by it all. Why leave home for this? I could go to 33rd and Lex if I wanted to any time. And I don’t for a reason. Brooklyn is where life is real, and imperfect. Manhattan is the iron cage of anomie. And while it once had ‘the east village’, that has long gone, too expensive for any real diversity to thrive, it now has to be shipped in, a simulacra off what it once was.
I can’t help thinking one thought seeing all this: once you are old enough to understand the world, you are too old to do anything in it. Or at least, traveling home on the metro tonight, just like in nyc, that’s what I kept thinking.
Last summer I spent 7 weeks in Sevilla, and travelled all around southern spain, and had one of the best summers of my life. Incredible Islamic architecture was what I came for, but the people I met and the way of life were what I stayed for. This time I figured I’d try to go north. What happened? Is it me, or it, that is different? Should I just go south again? What causes such changes?
Either way, I think thoughts like that mean I need to leave this town . . .