I’m heading back to Barcelona in June with a group of fabulous women. It’s one of those cities that I just can’t spend enough time in for oh so many reasons. A few, and only a few, are listed below.
1. The first thing you’ll notice about Barcelona is that she’s raucously colorful, and I do mean COLORFUL. From the exteriors to the ceilings to the street art, Barcelona is vibrant, shimmery, and alive.
2. She’s her own self, legally separated from Spain proper, and proud of her independence.
3. Barcelona reeks of art, from the galleries, to the buildings, to the streets, to the people.
4. Don’t get me wrong — everyone still wears black of course, but they’re too nice to snub you if you show up in chartreuse.
5. She’s easy peasy breezy — fully walkable with a mild Meditteranean climate.
6. And of course, it’s smack dab on the ocean. You can walk a few blocks and stick your toes right in that gorgeous sea.
7. Did I save the best for last? Food Heaven. Lots of bits and bites everywhere you go, and the restaurants are top notch and inventive. You should know that restaurants open at 10:00. P.M., of course.
See below for descriptions of the images above:
1, The Rooftop of Casa Battlo, otherwise known as The Dragon. And yes, they do have events up there!
2. The face of Casa Battlo. After a tour, have your photo taken from one of the balconies.
Today my father would have been 94 years old. He would have rocked it.
Honor the past, but don’t let it define you. I’m trying to remember these words, but I kinda hate them.
I’ve been going through my dad’s things. It’s been 8 years, and they’ve told me that they no longer want to sit in a box. They say sometimes it’s okay when I’m in the room, or whistling or singling nearby, but otherwise … eh … they’re ready to fly.
The question is … am I?
People talk about The Last Goodbye, refusing to acknowledge that it never happens, because love is forever, as is pain.
I know it needs to happen, but it feels wrong, disrespectful, too casual, too cruel, too lonely. And I’m not sure if I’m referring to my father or to myself.
Still I keep digging. Some days bring up lots of happy memories; others harp on the cruelty of dementia. Every day I pull out an armload of those memories to go through. Every day I have to decide again what to keep and what to let go. Even as an adult, I never really anticipated the enormity of it all, the blessing of it all, the pain of it all. It’s a sort of holy communion with those I’ve loved — in this case, one last goodbye blessing from the man who gave me life and taught me everything.
And isn’t that both a hellish and a deeply divine gift?
I’m trying really hard to see it that way. Some days I can’t manage it; other days I can — but it’s never, ever easy.
In truth, of course, there’s never a last goodbye. We think there will be, but no matter the passage of time, you are always with us. Thank you for that.
And now a few words from my father:
“Here are a few scraps taken, or perhaps distilled, from a good life. Life is a one-way trip; we make of it what we will. I have taken every opportunity that came my way to enrich my life and, where possible, the lives of others.
“My mother was an avid reader, descended from a long line of avid readers in the days when all were obliged to entertain themselves and, when the occasion demanded, to entertain others. Much of the teaching that went on in the home was the exchange of experience shared with others. As children, reading and reciting poetry broadened our expectations of the life to be. There was little else, in those days, to interfere with silence. And the death of silence, the lost opportunity to contemplate our world, has made us the poorer for it.
“Contemplation and daydreaming often lead to travel, and the world we have become accustomed to is renewed. By the end of life, if one has been lucky enough to grow old, our physical world may contract, but if we have stored away the images and the sensory perceptions of a life well lived, how can that be diminished?
“So I invite you to dream of other worlds, of the life to be, and to make your dreams come true.”
Sherman Pardue was born in New Orleans on February 9, 1929. He was educated at the Newman School in New Orleans, The University of Virginia School of Design, North Carolina State College (Bachelor of Architecture, 1953), Harvard (Master of Architecture, 1954), U.S. Army Post Engineers, Chief: Post Planning Office (1955 – 1957), and La Musee des Arts Decoratif in Paris (1984, 1987).
He began writing at the age of eight, publishing a neighborhood flyer, and never stopped.
He practiced architecture from 1962 – 2010, in 1992 winning the Arthur Ross National Award for his work.
Nature — What in the name of HUH???? can you do with it?
The title alone leaves you skeptical, right? Maybe you don’t even want to look. But how can you not?
And hey, I’m all about the info share.
The narwhal is a medium-ish … fish…? Well no, it’s a whale. Not a big whale, which kind makes the name “whale” not quite fit, and in truth it actually doesn’t much look like a whale at all … but they call it one. Following along in the huh? category, it claims a giant protrusion where its smiling face should be, and lives year-round in the very cold places. Very. Cold.
Considered a “toothed whale”, it manages to stand out from all the other toothed whales because, um, it doesn’t have any teeth.
Well that’s not entirely true — the males do have one (you heard that right). One tooth. What do you do with one tooth? And this one tooth grows straight out of his upper left jaw for a whopping 10 feet. Do they really get to call it a tooth? Try hauling that to the dentist for a check-up.
And it’s no baby tooth, either. Babies, by order, have to be cute. This one has a counterclockwise spiralized sword sticking lopsidedly out of the narwhal’s jaw.
Not sexy enough for you? How about this? The old Norse prefix “Nar” means “corpse” and “hval” means “whale”, so basically we’re talking about a “corpse whale.” If that’s not off-putting enough for you, apparently the “corpse whale” refers to the skin color of a drowned sailor. Sigh.
On the flip side, these babes are among the deepest diving marine mammals, able to dive 5,905 feet or just hang out at around 2,600 feet. Now that’s some pressure! They also swim while sleeping, play with their offspring, and communicate long distance by producing ghostly squealing, whistling, and high-pitched clicks.
So yeah, I’m pretty cool with the Narwhal. Very cool twisty fencing foil, otherwise known as a tooth. Props, and lots of them.
The Blobfish, on the other hand, is a very nuanced type of cool — in other words, you have to really, really, really open up to ugly in order to hug one.
Firstly, he’s under 12 inches long. Basically, he’s prey.
Secondly, he’s already known as “The World’s Ugliest Animal”, so it’s no real surprise that he lives 2,000 – 4,000 feet below the surface. With no skeleton. And no muscle. Um, hello? Did everyone forget me down here?
This babe lives off the coast of Australia, and the pressure at his home depth is up to 120 times higher than it is at the surface. Submarine territory. “Do Not Try This at Home.”
But there’s a reason for his blobbiness. Says Henry Reich of Minute Physics: “Unlike most other fish, the ones that live in these depths don’t have gas-filled cavities like swim bladders that would collapse under the extreme pressure. In fact, super-deepwater fish often have minimal skeletons and jelly-like flesh, because the only way to combat the extreme pressure of deep water is to have water as your structural support.” Now I’m beginning to like him.
So why is the world so hard on the blobfish? Because if you thrust me 4,000 feet below the water my organs would be crushed into oblivion and I’d turn into some sort of paste. Meanwhile the blobfish would just look like …. well … a blob.
So cheers to all those beings out there who stick out in a crowd, go their own way, and still manage to feed and fuel the earth.
I’ve always loathed being on the lens end of a camera. Maybe that pre-teen awkwardness was something I never grew out of, or maybe I just hated having people stare at me, even for the two seconds it took to focus and push the button. But mostly, I think, it’s that I can’t find the Me in photographs. Shortish with dark hair and a penchant for bare feet, self recognition seemed to end there. Whose face is that? Are her dreams my dreams? Why doesn’t she smile? There’s a disconnect there and I don’t know how to piece it together. I suppose I just don’t want to be noticed, sometimes even by myself. I do wonder if I write to leave bits of me here and there — a picture in scribbled words where there are no images.
I’m not the only one. My mom hated having her picture taken, and solved the issue by grimacing or sticking her tongue out for every click of the camera. It was a pretty effective way to erase the possibility that maybe this was her real face, or worse, her real soul, being shown. Me, I just duck and turn my focus elsewhere.
I don’t know why. I think it started as shyness and morphed into reticence over the vast array of personalities out there, particularly in the early school years. How anyone gets through them is a mystery.
Of course the older I get, the less often someone asks for a photo, and that’s okay with me. As the decades have floated by and I’ve had to learn (or fake) adult interaction, it’s gotten easier — but I’ve also learned to turn off interaction when necessary. Life is filled with a zillion different kinds of people; the wise ones know this and celebrate diversity with careful choices. And on the days when all the crazies are out, there’s always the choice of an innocuous mask. Or a donkey. Donkeys are great attention grabbers, and they never, ever ask to take pictures of you.
Balk all you want about the agonies of airline travel, the bitch of baggage, the crunch of crowds, or the plethora of peddlers trying to pawn off umbrellas in the rain, but travel rocks.
Sure the first day is an overload of exhaustion, logistics, and deer-in-the-headlights incomprehension of the local ways of doing things. Or in many cases, simply not doing things. Because, you know, there’s so much to celebrate, to savor, to explore, to talk about — who cares about schedules? If you’re thinking Romans, you’re oh so very helplessly wrong. But once you throw your own expectations and habits out the window, it gets pretty damn interesting.
If Travel Season isn’t quite upon us, it’s knocking on the door. Have you made plans? Picked a country? A city? Five cities? Five countries? You’re my Girl!
Things I Learned in Rome, or Travel Tips for the Squeamish, by Pam
1. Relax. The hardest thing I’ve had to do on this trip is gut it up to open the prosecco bottle by myself. It didn’t kill me.
2. Rent an apartment instead of a hotel room. More for your money, room to spread out, the option to eat in (or have a pre- or post-dinner Prosecco at the ready, and best of all, it’s yours.
3. Reserve a room with a tub. You’ll be glad.
4. Prearrange a car from the airport to your hotel/apartment. You don’t want to be hauling-too-much-luggage while trying to find the right train unless you’re 22 and tireless. You’ll still be tired. Reserve the car.
5. Bring at least one pair of shoes that you can walk in for 10 hours a day, and the bandaids to go with them. Good bandaids. Strong bandaids. Bandaids with as much cushion as you can scare up. Keep the bandaids right next to the American Express (as in, don’t leave home . . .). NOTE: And yes, you CAN stack 10 bandaids between a blister and a shoe. Ask me how I know.
6. Find the closest grocery store the first day. You’re sure to need something, and you probably won’t know the Italian/French/Croation word for shower cap. Knowing the closest pharmacy will also be useful.
7. Don’t bother learning to pronounce Arrivederci. The go-to phrase when leaving a shop is Grazie-Ciao-ByeBye-Buona Sera-NightNight. Apparently in Italian-speak, this is one word.
8. Don’t worry about what’s going on at home. Stuff will happen. It will get taken care of. And you’ll come home with a clearer perspective — and the travel bug.
9. Mornings and evenings are the best time to wander. Fewer tourists, less noise, and the locals you run into will be doing interesting things, like scrubbing down the step into a cafe, polishing a crate of tomatoes, or setting out tools in their workshop.
10. There is much less crime in Europe, and people out walking at all hours. Take a deep breath and look around; you are so much safer here than in the US. It feels good, free.
11. WARNING: There have been a few moments on this most recent trip to Italy that have made me wonder if my traveling days are coming to an end. I can pretty much sum up those moments in one word: Cobblestones.
I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, Italians don’t really use grout, do they? Add a few centuries of freeze/thaw cycles and it’s increasingly rare to find two contiguous stones at the same height. So I should have anticipated that navigating the streets/sidewalks/lanes is less an act of walking and more a sort of calculated selection and tentative toeing from one 3″ x 3″ island to the next. But hey, if the Italians can do it in heels, and they do, then I can find a way.
12. Which brings me back to my son’s mantra: It’s All About the Shoes.
I still remember, and always will, the moment I decided to draw. Pretty much everyone in my family was artistically inclined, and at 7 or 8 I wanted to try my hand. I scrounged up a pencil and some paper and set to it — nothing too difficult — just a self portrait (insert laughter and/or groaning here). I was pretty chuffed at the result, but it only took one comment from one person (who was NOT an artist), to send me right back to the closet for a few decades.
Older and wiser, I now realize that art is created differently by each of us; that art has deep power no matter the subject or colors or latest craze; and that whatever originates from your hand and eye always, always contains something magical.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
1) Do it your way. Do it every way. If your art looks just like the photograph, what’s the point?
2) It doesn’t matter if anyone likes it. Sometimes, it doesn’t even matter if YOU like it. We’re here to create, to learn from both our successes and failures, and to keep at it. Don’t allow your psyche to get stuck on any one piece. It’s a waste of your time. Keep creating.
3) If it moves you, it will move others. Work in a vacuum. Don’t listen to anyone. Follow your heart.
4) And then get out of the vacuum. Input feeds output. If you don’t point your brain in a new direction every now and then, it gets crusty and stale.
5) People, and often strangers, will sprinkle insights here and there that never occurred to you. It’s a gift. Take it!
6) Step back. Look away. Reunite. See with fresh eyes. If something nags at you more then once or twice, rip it out, smooth it over, and make it speak your voice. That’s what we’re here for.
7) Do I still draw? Yes I do, but now I do it with thick glass instead of a skinny pencil. Find your passion.
What is the cost of vulnerability, the cost of living without thought to self ( -protection or -deceit ), to stress and stretch my ego thin and imperceptible as wire pulled high above the cloud that crowds the net until it lays full burdened, flat upon the ground.
What cost to loose my soul like yellow kites unbound by human hands but simply, gladly, taking to the sky quite unconcerned like heat and wet to tea-bag, grasping nothing more than my free-willed collision with unknowing.
What cost to walk the wire and follow free the soul, to answer yes, to hear, to feel, to know.
Today, as yesterday, the day before, and the day before that, I’m on hold.
It’s not a good kind of hold, where you wait for your best friend to come over, your children to visit, or your new puppy to stop chewing the furniture (it WILL happen, right???)
It’s closer to the kind of hold where toilets overflow, your husband gets stuck at the airport, and there’s no food in the house.
But it’s closest to fear, to possible loss, to an unwelcome “change in schedule” that you can’t undo.
I’m not a stranger to cancer, having worked my way through that nightmare ten years ago and I’m in no way inviting it back. But I’m dealing with a suspended moment in time, and in several days, my life will either remain cancer-free and open to (almost) endless possibilities, or … well I can’t say it. I don’t want to say it.
To be blatantly honest, cancer fucking sucks. I’ve lived it, I’ve watched friends live it, and I’ve watched friends die from it. It fucking sucks, period.
Waiting sucks too, BUT … … … it does give you time to reassess your life, and that’s no small gift. I’ll admit that I’m currently in pain from an ungodly tryst with a masochistic female doctor who felt the need to burn off every uterine particle with an 18 inch fire stick while I literally screamed in agony for 10 solid minutes until I almost lost consciousness and whom I will never, ever, ever use again, BUT … … … there is still the presence of time, the gift of awareness, the opportunity to reassess, relive, re-love, and renew. Only the timeline is missing.
In truth the timeline is always missing, and always a surprise, and always (almost) too soon.