Wednesday, September 2

Infinite Return

Hokay so. Yesterday marks one year since landing, very small and terrified and determined, in England at the beginning of these things. That is where I slept beside the underground, danced with a dragon, learned about telling stories in yellow places, birthday picknicked with old friends and new Lithuanians not to mention two little plastic giraffes named Icki and Achoo. The things that matter stick and other things slide away, like peanut butter. As for peanut butter, there was another blog once. Shortlived, it ended after just one summer. And this one is ending now too. This will be the last post. As for peanut butter, I miss eating it on a regular basis. Last night I had a piece of toast with the beloved substance smeared on it, which Matthias said had been sitting in his cabinet since March, but there was nothing wrong and everything right with it. I am buying peanut butter this week in Princeton, Brett, if you don't already have some, and I know you don't. Hello, now I am obsessing about the goober goo, but I can't help it, and I am obsessing about a lot of things these days because obsession is a home you can travel with. In the South of France, near Toulouse, I ate good crunchy SunTime peanut butter, which is the main brand to be found abraod as far as I found, on some old stale French bread. I was so happy. It belonged to Pierrot, who also has a funny permanent stash of things like Captain Crunch, boxed green lentils, and chocolate covered peanuts in little yellow boxes. Pierrot loves many things American, though he is funny about it and wouldn't ever say it that way. He is also funny about being ''not Jewish'' and has a Mezuzah hung stick-straight, up-and-down on the inside of the door, so you see it only when you're going out. But he insists since it's his dad who is Jewish and not his mother that he never really will be. His last name is Levy. He plays the saxophone and has the most extensive collection of hardback comicbooks I have seen outside of a certain store in Paris, which is a bomcination of interests I have encountered once before. He also plays the accordion and is an accountant for his normal job. He is Eric's best friend and Eric said Pierre, who was cooking fish while I was there, once went through a hamburger phase, spending months in the kitchen obsessing over the formation of different kinds of patties. He shared some really fancy biological chocolate muesli with me even though he didn't want to. But he teases me like I am a sister and this is how I know he thinks I'm all right, even if after months of practice I suddenly can't understand a word of French around this house and tangly Portugaltanned musicplaying vandriving people who park and unpark in the grassy driveway. Eric and I picked wild blackberries the other day from the brambles around the neighbor's fields. The ones with the most insects coming and going are the ripest. You know the ripe ones too because they practically jump into your hand when you touch them at the stem. I say I am ripe, pick me. I forget the French word for ripe but remember the word for elbow, wrist, calf.

Coude can also mean a bend in the river, which is where we took our bath in Aveyron. Green soap in a plastic Ziploc baggie, la luxe. Where did the baggie go? Afloatin downriver, like us. Mmhmm...

These days I am obsessed less with describing and most of all with listing and naming things that give some order to the last year. Cataloguing. I could catalogue the last year with the names of places and direction words, like this:

Atlanta to Houston, Houston to London. London. Up to Cambridge. London. Down to Brighton. London. Across to Dublin. Tipperary. County Clare. Down to Cork. Rosslare to Cherbourg. Around Normandy. Mayenne. Rennes. Mayenne in that little red car. Paris. Paris to Barcelona. Barcelona the way Dylan says it. to Porto. Porto. to Lisbon. Lisboa to Algeciras to Tangier. Chefchaouen, Fes, Marrakech, Essaouira. Back up and through, to Melilla to Malaga. Malaga. Grenada. Gibralter/La Linea. Cadiz. Malaga. doctors offices. Hlls near Malaga, Torremuelle, and back. Malaga to Madrid and back. Malaga to Barcelona. Catalyunia, Torello. Girona to Florence to unknown hills. Hills to Umbria, Orvieto. Rome. Rome to Vienna to Klagenfurt. Maltschach See, Feldkirchen City. Vienna. Vienna to Paris to Bayonne to St. Jean Pied de Port (slowly, walking, St. Jean, Roncesvalles, Larrasoana, Pamplona, Puerta la Reina, Estella, Torres del Rio, Logrono, Navarrete, Azofra, Gronon, Villafranca, Orbaneja Riopico, Burgos, Hontanas, Boadilla, Carrion de los Condes, Ledigos, Bericano del Real Camino, Mansilla de las Mulas, Leon, Hospital de Orbigo, Astorga to Ponferrada en bus, Pereje, O Cebreiro, Samos, Portomarin, Palas del Rey, Arzua, Monte de Gozo, Santiago, Negreira, O---, Finisterre.) Finisterre. Back to Santiago to Madrid to London. London in the middle of the night to Cork. Cork. London. Cambridge. London. London to Newark to Atlanta, Marietta. Areas around Minneapolis. Marietta. To Princeton, briefly. To New York.

I have to tell something. You know I left New York again to go to London, to Cork. But I didn't make it at first. In London they stopped me, because they did not like my one-way ticket. I was put in a locked fluorescent-lighted room behind a window, where they tried to provide comfort with vending machine tea, fruits, sandwiches, meanwhile setting about the business of my deportation. I was sent back to the States from Heathrow with a big black X stamped in my passport. They escorted me to the plane and put me on it and sent me back. I stayed a night in Brooklyn with Lindsay, lovely feathered lady, and booked on her laptop a roundtrip ticket to Dublin. And left again the next day, which was Father's Day. That is the true story of how I came back to Europe. Determined as hell.

So the next part would go like this:

New York to London Heathrow to New York. New York to Dublin. Dublin to Cork. Cork. Cork. Cork. Cork. Cork. to Paris. Paris almost to Brest, but not. Paris down down down to Leon. Leon walking Alix to the bus station, Leon walking walking to Ponferrada. Ponferrada walking to Villafranca. Villafranca swimming in the river. Villafranca to Madrid. Hot heat of Madrid, sitting sweating behind shades watching movies Madrid. Madrid to Malaga. Malaga. Malaga just up the coast, just barely Malaga to Madrid to Bordeaux to Perigeux to ----- to Aurillac en camion. Aurillac en camion to near Toulouse. Around Aveyron. Beside the river, in the little river with the green soap. On top of the cliffs. At the bottom of the cliffs. Little streams. Wild blackberries. Monsieur l'homme au chapeau driving the van. Making crepes, savory and sweet, in the van. Sweet and then savory again. Sleeping in the crepe-smelling van. Tired, mosquito-bitten and happy and sad, drinking one more coffee outside le plus petit aeroport de Rodez. Rodez to Dublin.

Tomorrow Dublin to Newark.
And that is one way to organize this thing.

Or I could do it with the names of people encountered, befriended, loved along the way, maybe with their places of origin and the places where they lived and showed me their lives, the little names of towns, street names, names of pets. Or how about the foods prepared in different companies, the various platters eaten, or not eaten, at certain times, in certain places. Tea and toast in rural Ireland, cappuccinos and scones in Cork, pastries and espresso in France, tortillas and fruit juice from the Ramblas in Barcelona, the big honking Francesinha in Porto, and so forth. The corresponding size of a certain bellybot. Ther different kidns of wine purchased and uncorked, prices of purchase, places uncorked. The names of grocery store chains where countless apples, spreadable cheese, chocolate bars were bought. the names of farmers markets. Or one of my favorite ways to catalogue, the things acquired and lost or relinquished along the way. Rocks and shells picked up, charms given and received, feathers, drawings, poems said and heard. The everchanging size and shape of a single maroon Osprey backpack. the corresponding changes ina body, muscle size and shape. Calf size. Or how about the lengths of hairs on a head. Or I've thought of listing by the loved ones back home I was thinking of or calling or writing to at certain times. Their stories, motions, losses and gains, of jobs and other things, changes of habitation, pictures and jokes emailed, not emailed, appearances and disappearances in dreams, where dreamed and with what colors. Or books read, films seen, in which languages and in which venues. Beds and surfaces slept on. The ripeness of various fruits, which things harvested at which times and in which fields, and in which plump pick-me colors.

By this time I understand that this is how I move. Leaving, coming back. Going away, returning. Going away before I've left, coming back before I've returned. Returning before I've gone away. Leaving before I've come. Turning and infinitely returning. Passing, passing, passing again. I am very fatigued by this, but I cannot help it. I hope to rest soon, but I know I will rest even by turning, returning. I really cannot help it. As a good friend quoted to me once, I was drawn that way.

See you soon. Time for sleeps.

Monday, July 27

Villette is a Parc, Rillette a Food

Hi, bonjour, bienvenue,
I am sipping Lipton tea from a Minnie Mouse mug in Alix's mom's apartment, twelve minutes away from Jim Morrison's grave. Someone told me Jim Morrison is no longer in there, is it true? I saw two teenaged girls nearly in tears at the sight of this gray stone slab and was amused. Who was Jim Morrison again? Okay, just kidding. Pere Lachaise was disappointing, overall, I just wanted to get out of there. Oscar Wilde is blocked by a tree. Gertrude Stein was barely legible. Overall too gray and corner-y and stony, nowhere to sit, or maybe I am over cemeteries. In a place like Marietta they are a refuge; you can sit in peace outside of the house without having to pay for a coffee or consume anything, no parking lots in sight, and you never run into anyone you know. There are old untouched trees, etcetera.

Alix's maman is a photographer with an amazing collection of art books, so sitting on the toilet I am trying to decipher French texts about Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp. Okay, I am looking at the pictures. Yesterday we completely ignored the Tour de France. We both dreamed about teeth, woke up at noon, cleaned up the debris from Saturday night's dinner party, I made quesadillas (!), and we walked down the boulevard, down down through Menilmontant which is a mixed neighborhood with little cafes, Indian and Lebanese and Chinese corners, halal and kosher delis, Moroccan teas, gatherings of old people standing in the promenades, little dogs wearing clothes; and down to Le Parc de La Villette, which I remembered we learned about in Professor Neumann's contemporary architecture class, but couldn't come up with the architect's name. Bernard Tschumi. There was live music, a bunch of African drummers and singers and it felt good to dance in the grass in paris in the sun, oh yes oh yes! Just a sunny sunday in Paris. There is an outdoor cinema in the summer there, starting to draw people with picnics packed on bikes and walking just as we packed up and were leaving. We walked a long time before we found La Republique, a section of the canal outlined with people eating their picnics with bottles of white wine, little bridges crossing over one side to the other, stone thinks, taking us from one trop-cher restaurant to another, until, starving at ten o'clock, we finally found a little restaurant we could afford and proceeded to eat one of the most satisfying meals of my life. Mon dieu, the French know how to make a delicious food. Duck a l'Orange and a seafood salad with a glass of Bouilly, my goodness gracious I cannot tell you how delicious.

I am becoming more and more blocked again and have only a few words to choose from, which I keep recombining. I know so I will give some pictures now. First, some drawings from Cork, since I have no photos from there. One or more thieves came into our kitchen when Jordan was visiting and took our bags from the chair where I always leave my bag, and the door unlocked. Our bags were dumped in town somewhere later that morning, with everything carefully inspected (they had opened even little notes from friends I had scattered in my journals) but left to return to us. With the exception of cameras and credit cards of course, but overall I think it was rather funny and decent of them. Anyway, here are some drawings.

Tom at his usual pasttime, no hands

our friend Alan at his, with hands

and Anton who used to live in the house there and was down for a week visiting from Dublin.

A self portrait as well.

Friday I met Alix midday at La Defense, where she works, and we took the train out to the 'burbs, which is really the countryside, where her dad picked us up and brought us to his house, a whitewashed old country house which he and his partner Sylvie have fixed up over the last year. Here is Alix and her dad at the dining table after dinner when Alix was singing and being really crazy. I couldn't even get a clear picture of her.

And here is a little corner of the room, with Alix in the mirror

Here is me at the table with funny hair!

There are two separate buildings, actually. Here is a little corner of the loft where we stayed

with another little corner set up for Sylvie's crafts. She makes furniture out of cardboard. We made oil paintings.

And I made some pretty amazing afternoon acrobatics.

And here is what you saw outside the window in late afternoon.

And there is one more thing I will show you. It is my latest acquisition, a very hilarious ratty little braid that Alix gave to me in Cork, and I love it. I love it because it is so euro and makes me feel like I totally fit in with all the really cool euro high schoolers with short punky hawks and long things in the back, mullet style. My little euro-dread. In the States, more or less what is known as a rat-tail. Thanks to Bonnie for the picture and a really nice day in Montmartre.

Wednesday, July 15

I'm Not Followin' You

Today was my first experience busking. Busking is a word I never even knew before I started traveling. It means playing music on the streets for money. Here, in Ireland in general and in Cork especially, it is kind of the norm. Seems like everyone goes out busking at least every once in a while, and on a nice day you'll see a lot of buskers around town. Maybe there are twenty of them at any given time in the center of Cork. Tom goes busking when he's a bit strapped for cash and today I joined him. I took some paper and watercolor pastels and set up a little stand next to him to make portraits of people. I only ended up getting one buyer, but I didn't expect to get any so that's all right with me. I got a fiver for it, and that helped pay for dinner! It's fun anyway. We stayed out for a couple of hours, and Tom ran through a bunch of traditional Irish songs and started in on stuff by Tom Waits and then some old blues tunes. It takes guts to belt out the song while people are just passing by, looking at the open guitar case on the ground and then quickly looking away. You can never tell who is going to dig in their pocket for a second and throw something in. Sometimes it's a young kid walking by, maybe someone who's done some busking of their own. And sometimes it's a proper-looking gentleman walking with a well dressed woman who looks foreign. We met a lot of people, and saw a lot of the Cork regulars who ramble around town every day. There are the tourists too, and a lot of them. Mostly French I think. People who are here for a couple of days with their families or partners, looking for churches and museums to go to, though honestly there isn't much to see by way of tourist attractions. We talked with a German woman and an American woman who were traveling together. They stopped to ask us directions and ended up chatting for a while. Then Luke came along, a musician and acquaintance of Tom's. He's the one who asked me to do his portrait. It turned out okay, though I had trouble doing his masses of perfect ringlet curls.

In the end we only made about twenty euros in a few hours, but it was enough to go to the English market and buy some nice veggies. I loved using these vegetables we had earned that day (well veggies Tom had earned, mostly) to make a nice dinner. Cabbage, carrots, eggplants, and tomatoes under a delicious thick peanut sauce, with fresh seedy bread and red wine. One of the things I enjoy most here is spending time cooking in the little yellow kitchen with the public radio station playing jazz tunes or classical and a constant stream of tea from the kettle. So pleasant.

Busking, however, will not sustain me! I know it is time soon to look for something more. A job or new studies or something like that. To commit something instead of floating the way I have been floating, floating for a long time now. I have too many lives to choose from. In America, I wanted to be back here, and now here I want to go back to something there. But I don't know what exactly. Next week I head to Paris for a week or so, where I'll see Bonnie and stay with Alix. At Vibes and Scribes in the used books sections upstairs, I found a little 3 euro book in French called Viou, about a little girl growing up in a small town in her grandparents' big house after the Second World War. I am really pleased that I can understand about eighty percent of the book. It being written from the point of view of a seven-year-old helps, for sure, but still. I can tell my French has steadily improved. After Paris, I'd like to go and visit Natalie (the French girl I met here in Cork back in October) in her little town on the coast in Bretagne.

But one thing at a time. This weekend, Jordan is coming back to visit! We only saw each other for a couple of hours last time, since she was in transit to Dingle. But this time she'll come and stay in the house with us and we'll get to have a really nice time roaming around town, weather permitting. We've been having a string of real Irish days, which means it is, baffingly enough, sunny and raining simultaneously. How does it work? Nobody knows. Or at least I don't. At least there are rainbows.

Thursday, July 2

I can't believe it is July

Today in Cork it is wet and gray but I feel peaceful. I went into the bookstore and looked at some nice books. Tom read a short story by Guy de Maupassant to me this morning in the kitchen, and I really liked it. I imagined printing and illustrating this little story, which is probably rarely found by anyone anymore. It was about two men in Paris who don't really know each other except that they spent the last warm season fishing in the same spot outside the city. They talked very little then, only the occasional comment on the weather which was understood to mean ''I couldn't be happier here doing this.'' Then Paris becomes occupied by the Prussians and one day the men run into one another in a street. They go to have a drink together, and then another, and decide to go fishing, despite the occupation. They walk out together to their spot and begin to fish, catching lots of little silver fish and talking about the madness of war, when they are caught and taken to see a Prussian general in a nearby cabin. He accuses them of being spies and informs them they will be dead in five minutes if they don't tell him their secret password. They say nothing. He tries again, with each individually, but they say nothing. They say goodbye to each other and are both shot, one falling on top of the other. They are dumped into the river where they caught their fish.

When I left the house, Alan was over listening to Tom playing ''Blue Skies'' on the guitar in his room. Alan looked very peaceful too, holding a mug of coffee with his old-fashioned black hat on. Rizla was sleeping next to the little stove that Tom lit even though it isn't cold out. He says it keeps the wetness out and cheers him up.

Spoke on the phone with everyone last night and it was very nice. I would like to have a day on the beach in Destin, even if it is a million degrees. I had just gotten back from Dublin, which I still don't like very much. But I made a couple of new friends there and enjoyed some pints.

Looking forward to Jordan coming to Cork tomorrow or Saturday. Not sure what to show her in this little town, but I think we will have a nice time. Should we go and kiss the Blarney Stone?

- - -
Thinking of Ron...

Friday, June 26

Where Did That Naughty Little Flea Go?

(Tom this morning was showing me youtube clips of Miriam Makeba, that's where this title comes from, a nice little number by South African singer)

so hello, I am back!
Back from very many places. The Camino de Santiago, the end of the world, the end of my nine month's trip (which ended and didn't end), a short (short) stay stateside. I am back in Cork, for the third ('turd' here) time. Turd time's a charm. And Michael Jackson is dead. Aye, dios mio.

I am living in a house eight minutes' walk from the center of Cork City. My housemates are Tom, Alix, and Gerry. Alix is twenty-two, french, born in the south of France and raised mostly in Paris. She has been living in Cork for the last nine months (yeah we like to do things in lengths of gestation) and is going back to France on Sunday. She sings with one of the most stunning voices you've ever heard. She and Tom play most Tuesday nights in a pub called the Castle Inn, and when she took the guitar and started singing there the other night, everyone stopped what they were doing and forgot what they were saying. To just listen to her. It seems a normal enough thing, but people seemed to stop in a way they'd never stopped before. To listen. Her friend wove long braids into her hair for eighteen hours so that when she travels down into Spain and Portugal and Morocco this summer, she won't have to worry about it. The first night I met her, she was with the gypsy band I fell in love with, sitting in the red common room of the house with all its books and paintings and wooden chairs and old cushions, and she was singing Elliot Smith's Between the Bars, in this smoky voice but she had to read the words from the paper because she can't remember them all. In the Castle Inn she forgot the words and kept repeating the line

''well I'm seeing you there, with your hands in the air
waiting to finally be caught''

She studied philosophy, my beautiful friend, and she has beautiful thoughts in her head. Mostly we understand each other without talking very much. It's Tom who does most of the talking. He is a strapping and pleasant Irish fellow of thirty-two, not from Cork but some small town somewhere. He has been living in Cork for a while, and the house is brimming with his ideas. He has tons of books, old books, in languages he can't necessarily read, paintings done on cardboard, collected little items (postcards, figurines), records, things that have been fixed, patched, pieced together, pieces of things waiting to be used for something, dust and the occasional bumblebee. Musical instruments! A seventeen-year-old cat named Rizla who slept on my bed the first night and to whom I am miraculously minimally allergic. Tom plays the guitar and sings, just like everyone else but me. But I am learning to sing and be happy anyway. Gerry is the music student anyway, or he just graduated university with a degree in music. I don't know him yet, he is usually not around. But we did sit outside yesterday noon when we'd all woken up and Tom made coffee and porridge and read me the crossword clues on a blanket in the yard. That's when he told Gerry who was sitting in the shade with a hat and sunglasses that he looked like Michael Jackson. And this was, obviously, before anyone know that Michael Jackson was dead. He wasn't dead yet.

The other evening after I spent the day in town, set up my cell phone and everything, we took bikes down to a little field by the river. There was a small herd of horses we passed on the way out, a tiny little foal not more than a month old I think that ran right across our path, a lovely little piebald, which is a type of pinto according to the crossword. Tom and Tom (a Scottish artist who makes painting after painting of clowns in a Danielle Steel book whose pages he primed for water pastels) went swimming and Alix and I ate strawberries. We played with a little soccer ball, I looked at Tom's art, listened to them playing music, and we ate a picnic and went into town as it was getting dark, had a pint in the pub where I saw Txutxukan play the last time two weeks ago.

We went to The Roundy again last night. There was a band of four women playing various kinds of folk music, although for one song a man from the audience joined them and sang Shalom Aleichem, which was totally random. I understand a Catholic country slightly better after the Camino. And what else? Outside, just after we heard about Michael, we saw a group of four or five people our age reading a play out loud, wearing costumes, just for fun. We joined them. I played Soldier 3, Tom was Soldier 1, and Alix took pictures because she says she can't read English so well. I can't remember the play or anything I was reading. Tom has a really nice anthology of poetry called Staying Alive, and he and I have been reading to each other from it. The house is full of music and poetry! I am learning about all the jazz greats from the thirties and forties, watching really pleasing old video clips of them on Tom's computer at night before bed. And this morning of course was spent watching Billie Jean, Thriller, old ones of the Jackson 5 when Michael was so little but already his body was starting to move in that funny way that he seemed to have no control over, and some of the news casts.

Last night in the bathroom of another pub, there was a really drunk girl who came out of the stalls crying, a bit wild. She kept saying ''You don't know, I miss him, I can't explain to you, I just love Michael so much, my boyfriend is jealous because I am so upset.'' On and on, uncontrollable sobbing. Alix kind of looked at her and was like, ''Do you want a hug?''

It is good to be here. I am not sure how long I will stay in Cork. For the moment, I have a nice room to myself. Tom's cousin Rosie is in Portugal until the end of July, so I am staying in her place, a big room with wooden floors, big windows looking over the city, her clothes on every available surface, lots of books, big bed, cat. Not a bad setup, all in all. Summer. The weather has been really wonderful, hot and sunny, and today I was even glad to have a cloudier day. I could use a little rain, but not too much.

I am thinking of everyone and feel that I am not so far away, like before. I will miss being at the beach in Destin this weekend. I will miss fourth of July things. But I have free calling to the states and am, like, so connected. You will be hearing from me.

Happy Birthday Hulia :)

Wednesday, June 17