Writing 101 – Loss

I travel for work and I travel to live other places and experience as much of the world as I can drink in. And the consequences – the consequences are making a friend or two in every place – Skopje, Brussels, Jakarta, Los Angeles, Boston. It is so rich this network of friends, and I am really lucky because I can Skype and email and send them photos through Facebook and keep up all sorts of contact, and I can even travel and see them.  And the consequences are … that I am in actuality very alone – my friends are out there or in my screens, but rarely in my life.  Is virtual friendship real?  I experience the loss of friends and family at hand.  I am left with getting through my day without the happy interruption of people bringing me a bit of joy, a cup of coffee, a bit of gossip, a minor crisis.

The second part of this consequence is that I live in a city where thousands of tourists visit, and my neighborhood full of neighbors is also full of a passing stream of bodies – the un-humanified, objectified Tourist. My local pub, where I adore the bartender, he’s like a son, and the staff knows me, and we laugh and share a moment, is filled with a stream of people.  When diving, if you place yourself in one spot for an hour, the reef fish stay close by circulating around you traveling away and returning, but the pelagics and the schools of fish arrive, eat and leave.

What fish am I?  I am a long-distant pelagic, coming in briefly, looking for friends and then departing.  But I want to become an eel or a trigger fish, with a specific hole to call my own where I can stick my head out and see the reef, and retreat.  Or build a nest and defend it, part of the reef and not passing by.

So if the loss is of friends who live here, can the loss be recovered? Or is the loss because I am unmoored, without roots in a single locale?


Writing 101 1 Unlocking


Last night began with a fandango.  Then it turned into something more like a fracaso.  Santa Ana, a romanesque church and two guitarists – a couple – playing all sorts of guitar pieces.  And the first was a fandango.  About thirty of us sat in a sort of side chapel and listened to the guitarists pass riffs between them.  Her touch was lighter than his.

Two guitars playing together is a bit like four-hand piano: the combinations are predictable.  They played Albanez because everyone must play Albanez. The centerpiece was a selection of arrangements of pieces from Carmen.  A French opera composer (Bizet) writing on a Spanish theme (Carmen) not played by a symphony (two guitars) and playing a medley. It devolved into kitsch. If the entire period of Romantic music were to disappear, I would not miss a thing.

So what to do?  Sit back, admire the stones and the candlelit romanesque-ness of it all and let the sounds enter my brain – drink in the sound.

And then fracaso – we departed, three friends and myself, 10 minutes walking from our house. We decided to head to Ziryab, a Mediterranean fusion tapas bar with Lebanese sensibilities. ML was hungry and not so keen on walking, and was in a tizzy by the time we arrived. Ordering was difficult and she lapsed into Italian, too hungry to parse the menu  The Ziryab people gathered around her and discussed the specials and the cook said, “I’ll bring you something.”  They brought beautiful pork medallions stuffed with figs, and she took three bites and said, “I cannot eat this” and then  they brought a beautiful cheese dish and she took three bites and said “I cannot eat this” and it became everyone’s fault.  She tried to ask people for something else but she couldn’t really listen to anyone. Tears well, more Italian, less Spanish.

The waitress said – “there is ‘no normal güey’, and ‘no normal no güey‘” After I told ML that no one was obliging her to eat and she could do as she wished – no one was forcing her to do anything, she stopped speaking to me and only spoke again in Italian.  I understood enough – she said, “Ella no capiche”  – She doesn’t get it.

And once she left, she left a jet trail of bad feeling behind. C and I surveyed the fallout, apologized to the Ziryab folks, finished our enormous bowls of gintonics, as they are called.  We assessed whether all this was to be blamed on us, “?” tried to catch up with each other around the edges.

Fandangos from beginning to end.