Hello. I’m in Seattle! Why haven’t I updated this blog for months and months, you ask? Because I kept not writing, and things kept happening, and the idea of trying to scramble to virtually keep up with myself was daunting, and so I kept not writing and things kept happening, ad infinitum.
I realize that complaining about a blog being stressful is like complaining about being a vegetarian at a hot dog stand — it’s my choice, it’s a privilege, and I have no right to whine about it! So I won’t. But I have to break the no-writing seal somehow, so I’ll break it here, in this coffee shop, sitting across from a pretty blond girl in a knitted hat who looked like I’d threatened her with rat poison and a hot poker when I asked, “Mind if I sit here?” Sorry, girl. It’s raining and everyone wants coffee and you’ve got the best table in the house. SHARE LIKE A GROWN-UP.
Not-so-briefly, here is where I’ve been, and what I did there.
El Bruc, Spain, at the Can Serrat residency: 3 weeks. Most productive 3 weeks of my life, no joke, I wrote 100 pages! Also drank a lot of wine and went running a lot in the olive groves and read, in no particular order, with my grades:
China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station (A, even though he way overuses the words “Profane” and “obscene” — also I googled “Is China Mieville married” for a while after reading it, thinking, Yes, maybe we could fall in love); Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog (D, I resented every second I spent reading this book); Helen Oyeyemi’s Mr. Fox (A-); Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (A, I cried out all the water in my body); Karen Joy Fowler’s The Jane Austen Book Club (B); Jane Bowle’s Two Serious Ladies (A-); Joshua Ferris’ And Then We Came to the End (A, how have I not read this before???); Natsuo Kirino’s Grotesque (B); Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (B+), and Qiu Xiaolong’s Death of the Red Heroine (C, throwaway).
Barcelona, Spain, with my sister and Chloe: 6 days. Got pick-pocketed and deserved it because I kept thinking, I’m a fabulously savvy world-traveler, nobody would pick-pocket me, but then I went to a club and got drunk and left my backpack open and they did. I would have been totally screwed except my debit card was in a different, hidden pocket of my backpack, so I could still access money, thank goodness! I did, however, lose my University of Montana student ID, which I’ve been using for the past two years to get cheap entrance into museums, and that was a real blow.
I wouldn’t have my debit card at all if it weren’t for something that had happened earlier in the night… and though the story is a bit risqué, I think I come off relatively okay in it, so I’ll tell you. (Nicole, if you’re reading this, which you’re probably not, it might sound familiar because I basically cut-and-pasted this next part from an email I sent you.)
So, I was in a long line for the club’s women’s restroom when this girl came stumbling up with her hand over her mouth, gagging and retching uncontrollably like she was on the verge of puking everywhere. Quickly I cleared the way for her and hustled her to the front of the line so she wouldn’t vomit all over the floor, but right as the bathroom door was closing on her sick little face, she grabbed my wrist and said, “Come in with me? Please?” I thought, Okay, she probably just needs a nice gentle female presence there while she pukes, I can understand that, so I let her yank me inside. The second the door was shut, she whirled around with a triumphant kind of mania in her eyes and said, “Ha! Those fucking idiots! I’m not sick at all, I just want to do some coke in peace, thanks for helping me out! Do you have a credit card?” This is of course the moment when I should have bolted but honestly she scared me a little and I thought it better to just be cool, so I got my debit card out of my wallet and watched her cut a bunch of coke with it. She offered me some and I declined. “I’ve actually never done coke,” I said (the truth), and she started telling me how great it was between snorts, but I remain unconvinced. Anyway, when she was done, she handed me my card back, and I was in such a hurry to get out of there that instead of carefully tucking it back into my wallet (which was stolen a short time later), I shoved it into a different pocket and scrammed. So, thank you, awful cokehead Spanish girl, for helping me keep my debit card. At the time I was upset by you. But now I think of you fondly.
Granada, Spain, still with sister and Chloe: 3 days. If I were to move anywhere in Spain, I’d go to Granada. It’s so mystically fun. I’ve seen the Alhambra twice now, 9 years apart, and it’s amazing what a difference those years made. When I went with Zack and Glennon after high school, it was free and nearly empty, no lines, no crowds, no tickets. These days you have to buy your ticket far in advance (remember that if you plan to go!), and then you’ve got a set timeframe to enter the castle grounds. There were an absurd number of people there. Jesse and Chloe and I stayed for about five hours, and there was still a lot we didn’t see; but after five hours we were pretty burned-out on touring. The last twenty minutes were just kind of a desperate singleminded trek to get the heck out and find a sandwich.
In Granada, you get a free tapas with every alcoholic drink ordered — a fact I knew, but forgot to remember the first time we went out to dinner. We picked this awful Mexican restaurant simply because it was there and we were moose-eatingly hungry, and Jesse and Chloe ordered enchiladas — which, judging from the photos, were huge bubbling platters of food, and much-anticipated. But a few minutes after the waitress brought our wine, she came out with three plates of teeny, tiny, dried-up, pizza-bite-looking enchiladas, and we all started freaking out. “Oh my god this is nine euros? Oh my god this cannot be happening. Oh my god I’m so hungry! We have to talk to the waitress. This is crazy. I’m so mad. I’m an American and I demand more food.” Etc. Then we looked around and realized everyone seemed to have a mini-enchilada. “Wait. Is this like — what is this?” And then I remembered about gratis Granada tapas, and we sank into sheepishness as we understood that we’d been ravenously complaining about a free appetizer.
We also saw some truly wonderful flamenco and met some nice young men who let us share their table and then led us to a super-fun music club where a lady-fronted band performed an absolutely incredible cover of “No Diggety” — which the Europeans did NOT appreciate as much as they should have. You could pick out every American in the crowd (there were like 5 of us) because we were all transfigured by joy the second we realized what song she was singing, and started fist-pumping exuberantly and shouting along with our eyes closed in bliss. I thought the wonders of No Diggety had crossed international lines but I guess not.
Lagos, Portugal, alone, technically, though I was surrounded by 20 year-old Australians chugging beer and trying to hump each other: 3 days. PARTY TOWN. Holy toledo. This was the moment I realized I might be getting too old to stay in dirt-cheap hostels. The beaches were beautiful. The rain was constant. I read Emma by Jane Austen (A) and realized Clueless is the best movie adaptation of all time, and also read Room by Emma Donoghue (A) and stayed up shaking and crying deep into the night.
Odeceixe, Portugal, alone: 6 days. What a gorgeous town. White buildings and a hot buzzing road that follows a river to the cliffs and ocean. I stayed in a place called Hostel Seixe, which I recommend with all of my heart. It was so beautiful, and the woman who runs it, Nadine, is such a fun and open and lovely person. Her two year-old daughter shares my name but is cuter than I am. There was just one another guest, a Flemish darling my age and height named Ruth, and she stayed for only two nights, sadly.
I took a surfing lesson, the horrors of which I will not detail here, but suffice to say it was HARD and it was SCARY and I thought I was going to be swept out to sea and die and I never want to do it again. I’d optimistically signed up for both a morning and an afternoon lesson, and like all new activities I try, I had a sneaking suspicion I was going to be a total prodigy and just wow the fuck out of anyone watching me. “You’ve really never done this before?” my instructor would ask, all admiration. For the record, the only thing I’ve ever been intrinsically good at is spelling. I don’t know why I keep thinking I’ll surprisingly be awesome at anything else. Anyway, after the morning lesson it was clear to me that the very last thing I wanted was to ever touch a surfboard again, but there was REAL peer pressure going on, the likes of which I haven’t experienced maybe ever. I mean, I wanted to abuse substances in high school; nobody ever had to convince me. But my surf instructor was like, “Come on, don’t be a chicken,” and this German girl kept calling me a baby and a schmuck, and the French guy who was scared of water was like, “If I can do it, you can do it,” and I felt so crushed and unwilling and cowardly I was near tears. “It’s braver to quit sometimes,” I kept telling myself, “Just say no!” but really all I wanted was somebody gentle to tell me I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to do.
And then I saw Ruth sitting on the beach, and though we’d only spoken for about five minutes the night before, I knew instantly that she was the person I needed, and that she would give me the permission I wanted, and I made a beeline for her and told her everything.
“You absolutely should not surf again,” she said immediately. “Why should we do things we don’t find enjoyable? Life is too short.” And then we had lunch and drank cappucinos and talked about everything important for twelve hours until she had to go to sleep and catch a bus away, and now I love her forever.
Lisbon, Portugal, with my dad! Fritzi Törzs!: 7 days.
Butttt you’re going to have to wait to hear about this magical time, because we’ve fast-forwarded three days and I’m back in Acton, Massachusetts, in my little sister’s childhood bedroom, and there’s a terrific storm that sounds like planes crashing (or maybe I’m just overly-paranoid from the terrible news and the never-ending airplanes I’ve been riding). I stopped writing this blog post three days ago in Seattle to go have lunch with my dear pal Margaret. That day she introduced me to smoked trout in a can, which is delicious.
I am currently kinda cracked-out from a red-eye flight and so will continue this fascinating saga of my adventures some other time. Or maybe I won’t, maybe I’ll leave you frantically wondering, BUT WHAT DID SHE DO IN LISBON? I believe in the literary world this is called a “cliffhanger” or a “cool story bro.”