Frivolous Paella

I just found this little remembrance I wrote as some kind of speed exercise in a local writing workshop I attended here.  I remember the exercise started out with us drawing and then writing about our house or apartment where we live or have lived.  Seems naive to me now, after only 8 years and  I am also kind of annoyed with myself for writing so often about Paellas. 

Frivolous Paella

Staring out at the great greenish-blue expanse filling my kitchen window I remind myself that I should learn to sail.  The olive oil crackles for my attention, actually burning my forearm,  but cannot disturb my searching of the far coast for any coves or inlets, most accessible only by sea, that I have yet to explore. I add the ingredients for my sofrito as the oil has become very hot, hoping to achieve the burnt, bitter edge to my onions, garlic and peppers without ruining the oil. Stirring these with unconscious, frenzied swipes across Teflon, I return my gaze southeasterly, beyond the deep blue now slowly fading to purple, and notice the isle of Cabrera, seldom visible but for a few bright and very clear days a year.

Panorámica de Palma desde el castillo de Bellver

View from same angle/direction as my Gomila apartment (little further up the hill)

Map of Mallorca showing location of Cabrera.

Map of Mallorca showing location of Cabrera.

            At this time of year most everyone I know here  shares a similar thought: “Why would anybody want to live anywhere other than the Mediterranean?” These feelings will dissipate as the yearly invasion of Northern Europeans completely alters the landscape and pace of life here.  At the point where the ingredients of my sofrito  just about disappear  I add the saffron, prawns and a few of those ugly, little, nameless fish that the monger at the market insists are indispensable for my stock.  A sudden panic seizes my thoughts as I notice how close I am to deadline and I curse myself for once again finding other activities to avoid the emotional turmoil that writing music causes me. Well, I must press on with this more immediate task of finishing my Paella.

            Removing the lid of my chicken stock jar, I am disturbed by the greenish pallor; perhaps I should not have experimented with using chicken feet in the stock.  I leave them in anyway and add some squid and cuttlefish. Maybe if I could learn to rappel, I could reach the little cove I saw from high up on that cliff; the one with the crystalline pool between two tall outcroppings that looks irresistible for diving. Most of the outdoor activity clubs here in Mallorca are for locals only or set up as very expensive cheap thrills for tourists. Unfortunately, I fall somewhere in between.

            As the combined stock is bubbling quite emphatically now I carefully measure out and pour in my rice. “ Miquel, ..Miquelette”  I suddenly hear from my other terrace echoing off all the tall buildings that surround in that direction, the street-side of my building. I recognize the yelp as Concha, arriving a little too early to read through and revise the first drafts of the music that I was supposed to have prepared for her.

Discussion with my Father of an Event from Forty-Two Years Ago.

I hope this post is as popular as my last. It is somewhat personal, it being a Facebook exchange between my father and I but I am amazed at the fact that it is the first mention of that day between anyone in my family. I start with the translated text and paste the original post below. On a side note: this is the most Spanish I have ever written in one sitting.

Fernando’s Facebook Status Update: Today I was remembering some episodes from the past. When we lived in New Jersey it was the custom during summertime to go to a beach called Sandy Hook. (We) had to drive two hours on the Garden State Parkway. While the route was not too complicated, it was very crowded as everyone went to the coast at the same time to enjoy the beach. It sometimes could take up to 4 hours to get there. There was one time that the lifeguards were doing some kind of drill as if someone was drowning and a rescue truck arrived at the beach. I do not know if my son was scared to see that vehicle there but suddenly he(Miguel) was not there. Truthfully, I was afraid that a wave had taken him. We sought help from the lifeguards who radioed others to try locate (my son), and after a few minutes of panic we were finally told that he was found about a mile away; a lifeguard had him there (with him). I walked out there to look and saw the lifeguard (approaching) with him(Miguel) in his arms. I saw that the boy began to throw punches at the lifeguard to be let go and came running towards me. After thanking the lifeguards, we walked back to where the rest of the family was.

Miguel Comment: I can add my perspective to this day, now that there is no risk of punishment. I don’t have a full recollection of the incident but some events I remember clearly.

Miguel Comment: I remember going to play on some rocks that were at the end of the beach, hoping to find a lobster I had seen the last time we were here. While attempting to return to our “camp”, that I had noticed before was next to a wooden slat fence, I realized that this fence ran the entire length of the beach and I was not able to see a familiar face among the large crowd. I do not remember how long I walked until I came to a part of the beach that was sparsely populated and my panic seems to have disappeared so I began playing in the waves. Well, a huge-to-me wave knocked me over and rolled me under water for a few seconds that of course felt like a few minutes while I my short life flashed before my eyes. (Well, that may not have actually happened but I add it to move this little story along). Luckily, a lifeguard pulled me out of the surf before I drowned. I imagine, based on my father’s account, that the search had begun for me and this lifeguard had luckily been looking nearby. I remember sitting in the lifeguard shack, cold and shivering, while watching my dad approach, he slowly increasing in size. Here ends my memory of this day. I cannot remember the reunion with my dad or later with the rest of my family. Maybe the memories of terror are made stronger by my increased release of adrenaline at that time.

Fernando Comment: Wow, Miguel, Then my fears were not completely in error. I did not know until now about you being stuck in that wave. Luckily that lifeguard was there to pull you out. I remember the shack at the end of the beach, and seeing you approaching and struggling to get free from that lifeguard. Even at the time you had no risk of punishment, to the contrary: I was happy to see that you were okay. It is very easy to get lost on a beach so crowded and where each group of people has about two square meters of space to sit, sometimes less. Up north there are only about 40 days a year one can go to the beach and it seems like everyone is there and that you sitting so close as to touch the strangers next to you.

Hoy estaba recordando episodios pasados. Cuando viviamos en New Jersey era costumbre en varano ir a una playa que se llamaba Sandy hook habia que manejar como dos horas por el granden State parkway cuando el transito no estaba muy complicado, pero como todo el mundo iba hacia la costa a disfrutar de la playa, a veces tomaba hasta 4 horas llegar, hubo una vez en que los salvavidas hicieron un simulacro de que alguien se estaba ahogando y llego un camion rescue hasta la playa, no se si fue que mi hijo se asusto de ver ese vehiculo alli, el caso es que de un momento a otro no estaba alli, la verdad yo estaba horrorizado de que una ola se lo hubiera llevado, pedimos ayuda a los salvavidas los cuales se comunicaron por radio hasta localizarlo, fueron unos minutos de panico al fin nos dijeron que estaba como a una milla, de distancia, lo tenian los salvavidas alla, yo camine hasta alla para buscarlo y el salvavidas loo traia en brazos, cuando el niño me vio comenzo a tirarle puñetazos al salvavidas para que lo soltara y vino corriendo hacia mi, despues de agradecer al salvavidas, caminamos de vuelta hasta donde estaba el resto de la familia

Miguel F Rodriguez Yo puedo ańadir mi punto de vista de este dia, ahora que no hay riesgo de castigo. No tengo una memoria completa pero algunos acontecimientos me recuerdo bien.

Miguel F Rodriguez Recuerdo que fui a jugar en unas rocas que estaban al final de la playa para buscar una langosta que vi la ultima vez que estuvimos ahí. Cuando intente regresar a nuestro “campamento”, que yo antes habia notado que estaba al lado de una cerquita de madera, me di cuenta que esta cerquita andaba toda la longitud de la playa y yo no encontraba ni una rostro conocido entra la multitud. No recuerdo bien cuanto tiempo paso hasta que llegué a una parte de la playa poca poblada y se me desaparecio el panico y me puse a jugar en las olas. Pues, una ola grandisima en comparacion a mi estatura me tumbo i me revolcó debajo del agua para unos segundos que sintieron como unos minutos mientras yo vei una pelicula de mi corta vida pasar por mis ojos. (bueno, eso posiblemente no ocurrió en realidad pero lo agrego para mover el cuentico). Menos mal, un salvavidas me saco de eso turbulento antes de ahogarme; seguro que el ya andaba buscandome segun el detalle de Papa que la busqueda habia empezado. Recuerdo estar sentado con el salvavidas en su choza, frio y temblando, mientras veia la imagen de mi papa aumentando al acercarce. Y aqui termina mis memorias; no me acuerdo de la reuinion con mi papa ni los de mas de la familia. A lo mejor las memorias de terror son mas fuertes por el aumento de adrenalina en esos momentos.

Fernando Rodriguez wOW mIGUEL, ENTONCES MIS TEMORES NO ESTABAN DEL TODO MUY ERRADOS, NO SABIA DEL REVOLCON DE LA OLA HASTA AHORA, MENOS MAL ESE SALVAVIDAS TE SACO DE AHI, RECUERDO LA CHOCITA AL FINAL DE LA PLAYA,Y CUANDO TE VI VENIR Y QUE EL SALVAVIDAS TE TENIA CARGADO Y DE QUE CUANDO ME VISTE TE PUSISTE A FORCEJEAR CON EL SALVAVIDAS PARA QUE TE SOLTARA, Y EN ESE TIEMPO TAMPOCO HABIA RIESGO DE CASTIGO, POR EL CONTRARIO ME PUSE FELIZ DE VER QUE ESTABAS BIEN, ES MUY FACIL PERDERSE EN UNA PLAYA REPLETA DE GENTE DONDE CADA GRUPO TIENE COMO DOS METROS CUADRADOS DE ESPACIO PARA SENTARSE Y A VECES MENOS PUES ALLA EN EL NORTE LOS DIAS DE PLAYA SOLO SON COMO 40 AL AÑO Y TODO EL MUNDO SE VA A LA PLAYA, A VECES UNO ESTA SENTADO AL LADO DE UNA PERSONA TOTALMENTE DESCONOCIDA A VECES TAN CERCA QUE SE ROZA CON ELLA

20 hours ago · Like

Mini essay by my father

This is my translation of a Facebook post by my father that intrigued me. I have done my best to translate but was baffled by a couple of phrases and was not able to adequately capture the colloquial poetry of it. Although his post appears in all caps, the tone is much more humble and soft spoken. 

The “Sejuela” (Colombian slang  derived from “Se fue la” meaning “it went; in this case he is referring to “youth”) appears when one least expects and then begins, treasonously, with the invasions of “little pains” all over. What now, the left knee; now the right ankle; now the waist? This results, from one moment to the next, in a more complicated process to tie one’s shoes or in doing one’s own pedicure (which  can almost leave me immobilized in bed). If one happens to drop something, it is easier to forget about it than to make the effort required to bend over and pick it up.

Recently I visited family in Las Vegas and wondered “Where is that chubby blond boy (blond meaning “light-haired” in Colombia) running down the beach escaping the waves?”  Instead, I am face-to-face with a gray-flecked forty-something, along with a grandson now as tall as myself as well as the realization that it took great effort for me to scale the hills that they routinely climb to take photographs. Me, who used to climb the Pico de Loro up it’s steepest side is now stepping carefully to avoid an injurious fall.

Such a thing this “Sejelua”  which finds you searching all over the mirror for some sign of the handsome boy that used to appear there but that has now vanished. What the hell; one must go on; must laugh; must dance, as the baldness that awaits doesn’t screw around. Tee hee hee.

Fernando’s Original Post

 LA SEJUELA APARECE CUANDO MENOS LO ESPERAS, Y COMIENZAN, A TRAICION, A INVADIRTE DOLORCITOS POR TODAS PARTES, QUE LA RODILLA IZQUIERDA, QUE EL TOBILLO DERECHO, QUE LA CINTURA, QUE DE UN MOMENTO A OTRO SE VUELVE UN COMPLICADO PROCESO AMARRARSE LOS ZAPATOS Y CUANDO TE HACES EL PEDICURE TERMINAS CASI DE CAMA, SI SE TE CAE ALGO AL PISO RENIEGAS DEL SOLO PENSAR EN EL ESFUERZO QUE TIENES QUE HACER PARA RECOGERLO, HACE POCO VISITE A MI FAMILIA EN LAS VEGAS: DONDE ESTA ESE RUBIECITO BARRIGONCITO QUE CORRIA POR LA PLAYA HUYENDO DE LAS OLAS? TE ENCUENTRAS CON UN SEÑOR CUARENTON PINTANDO CANAS Y TU NIETO YA TIENE TU ESTATURA, ME COSTABA GRAN ESFUERZO SUBIR LAS LOMITAS QUE ELLOS ACOSTUMBRAN A ESCALAR PARA TOMARSE FOTOS, YO EL QUE UNA VEZ ESCALO PICO DE LORO POR LA PARTE MAS DIFICIL Y MAS EMPINADA, AHORA ME VEO CAMINANDO CON CUIDADO PARA NO DARME UNA CAIDA, QUE COSA CON LA SEJUELA Y TE MIRAS AL ESPEJO Y BUSCAS POR TODAS PARTES A ESE CHICO GUAPO QUE APARECIA ALLI HACE TIEMPO PERO ESE CHICO SE ESFUMO PERO QUE CARAJOS, HAY QUE SEGUIR, HAY QUE REIR Y HAY QUE BAILAR, LA PELONA QUE SE ESPERE QUE NO JODA. JA JA JA JA

I Was Fine Until I Watched These Fucking Films.

During the first scene of Before Sunset, Ethan Hawke’s character, Jesse, answers a reporter’s question about whether Jesse ever did reunite with Celine (a question the movie’s audience surely wanted answered as well) by explaining that the answer to that would depend on whether you were a cynic, romantic or somewhere in between.

The reason for me bringing up this 8-year-old movie is that I recently learned that the “team” of Delpy/Hawke/Linklater will soon begin writing the third installment of the Before Sunrise/Before Sunset series and I immediately re-watched the two. I have in the past been ashamed to admit how much these movies touch my overly-sentimental and nerdy soul, but they still do after many viewings. I am probably reacting to that feeling that one is dating Julie Delpy when one watches, but I hope it is not that superficial.

While I have the strong desire to know whether Jesse did in fact miss his plane, I think the overall desire by me and others in the cult following is not so much these cliffhanger plot points but just wanting to spend more time with these characters. The problem that arises for me is trying to figure out what could possibly be the premise for this third installment. Firstly, you don’t have the natural title opposite which made for an easy starting point in Before Sunset. There was also some very clear questions arising from the first movie: Did they ever meet in 6 months? Do they still have strong feelings for each other? Are they willing to interrupt their current lives to give their love another chance? The questions remaining after Before Sunset would be: Does Jesse miss his plane? Does Jesse leave his family to pursue what he thinks is his one chance at love with Celine? Will their relationship work as more than two people who like to talk while they walk around European capitals?

Even if I try to dream up plot possibilities using the cynic/romantic perspective Jesse brings up, no possibility exists (in my mind) for the brief and intense meetings that seem to be the main impetus of the films. One would assume that the connective thread, the long conversations between the two lovers sharing their thoughts, emotions and philosophies with each other, would also need to be the focus of the third film for it to feel like a consistent continuation of the previous. The problem lies in that whether or not Jesse makes his plane or leaves his wife, one would assume that he and Celine do exchange phone numbers and keep in touch for the next nine years in some capacity. So you would think that they would learn much more about each other and not have that urgency to share of themselves that makes the conversations in the first two films so intense. Both my romantic and cynical sides agree that if Jesse did not give Celine a chance this time, she would not be as accommodating to listen to his blather after a 9 year absence. Of course, they might think up a way to overcome this point.

If it turns out that they did stay together after the meeting in Paris then I can’t see the third movie having any kind of urgency unless it is about them separating or that someone dies. I’m pretty sure the audience would hate them for that as the first two movies basically set us up to believe that these two belong together, happily chattering forever after. Otherwise, it would be a movie about some erudite couple approaching middle age sitting in their bathrobes talking about how nice it was that they stayed together, and “why, yes, dear. I would like some honey in my tea”. I even thought of the possibility that they would go back to the previous wife/boyfriend but would continue to carry on a clandestine affair but that is too Same Time Next Year and not believable given the intensity of their love established in the first two films.

I know this is somewhat of a pointless exercise, but I did want to share this in case there is anyone else out there with the same degree of interest in these films as myself. I really hope at least one person weighs in.

What’s Her Name

I woke abruptly after seeing her face in a dream. I don’t believe I’ve thought about her once since the last time I’d seen her 13 years ago. She was not some colleague that I passed in the hall or chatted with at office parties but someone who was a partner in my many outdoor excursions and part of my daily afternoon coffee circle.

Why can’t I remember her name?

I am aware that I have set this up as some nostalgic look at a lost love but it is more of a buddy story. She was a dancer from The Netherlands working with me at Son Amar in Mallorca. She was the type of woman that seems to not be popular with other women or maybe she just preferred the company of men. I hardly ever thought of her as a woman except occasional glimpses of her femininity; her,  vulnerable and crying after a phone call fight with her mother or her, stripping nude out of her hiking clothes in front of me to change into her bikini at a deserted cove.  (Don’t worry, I’m a giver. I changed in front of her as well)  Somehow we were allowed to spend much time together without the usual jealous protesting from my wife so the assexualness of our relationship is definitely not a lapse of my memory.

The strongest memories I seem to have of her were the many hikes we did together. I remember very clearly that we spoke very little during these hikes as if we didn’t want each others social company as much as just a walking buddy, a kindred member of a herd with whom to amble over the rough, Mediterranean terrain. I do remember us speaking like normal folk (which would be abnormal for us) during moments of great elation, usually after having destroyed our feet in search of the reward of remarkable vistas of landscapes far below or of sandstone monoliths on some jagged shoreline viewed through a wonderfully salty sprays.

I also remember a stressful, yet successful teamwork effort by us to keep the Caipirinhas flowing at a big party. I remember her clipped, angry remarks that probably rubbed many people the wrong way but didn’t seem to bother me in the least.

What is her name?

I can think of no other such important person from my past that I’ve managed to forget to this degree.

If you are out there, Whatsyourname I apologize.

What If

What if I were suddenly to die tomorrow

Leaving my world in disarray

My family unprepared, my finances a wreck

with no great wise advice passed on to son

No organized legal documents to guide my dearests

Not even having ever mentioned any instructions for disposing of my remains.

Or what kind of words I think should be said as goodbyes

Or even how I might want to be remembered

Or how I think those dearest to me should live the rest of their lives without me.

What if I had plenty of time to prepare yet did nothing.

Writer Love

I’m sure many of you have been part of the unfortunate conversation where you must explain to someone why it is that you like Twitter. So far, I have never been able to adequately explain myself. What I have never mentioned, as I don’t think it would be a meaningful explanation to most, is how important my interaction with writers and writerly-types has been in keeping me interested in Twitter for such a long time.

It might be just an extension of all the writers coming out of the woodwork because of blogging, but I found it amazing how many writers are on Twitter and how quickly I ended up bonding with them. I include in this flexible group the many people that don’t actually work as writers but have had lifetimes of appreciation of the written word or that are so well-rounded that everything they say comes out as such poetry.

I believe part of the reason that writers shine on Twitter is the exercise of fitting something meaningful into the limited character allowance. You need only check the feed of a trending topic to see how awful the tweets are of the average person. If a person new to Twitter were to see such a timeline, rather than my AAA-rated timeline, they of course would think Twitter to be beyond ridiculous and would abandon it immediately.

I’ve always noticed that I seemed to follow an inordinate number of writers but it became much clearer to me recently as I have been experimenting with Google+. While I have not been actively seeking new followers there yet, I did initially follow many Silicon Valley-types as they seemed to be posting great content about this new social media tool. They still seem to be posting great mini-blogs and linking to interesting articles about social media but I am find myself growing increasingly uninterested. I like the occasional helpful article to improve my use of the many online social media tools, but otherwise, I don’t really care that much about being up-to-date on the latest online trends.

Sadly, I have noticed some of my favorite writing folk are posting much less lately, maybe growing bored with the medium. I wonder if I would stick around if most of them were to leave the Twitter. Probably not.