I am in Spain. For what ever reason, this thought astounds me. For years and years I have refused to fly, to travel. I isolated myself in my house, bought birds (so I could watch them fly) and was convinced that if I stepped foot on an airplane I would die. Like so many others, I fell into paranoia and irrationalism and forced myself to believe that travel was a superfluous and futile way to waste time. If a person could just be content in their room, with a book- then why travel? Travel is for escapists who are miserable or discontent in their lives. This is what I would always say. Now I am traveling and realizing that the belief system I bought into was misguided. Being an alien, far from home where no one speaks your language is simply magnificent. I am love with this experience. I am in Madrid and tomorrow we leave here- for the ancient city of Cordoba, where Senegal was born.
Jen, Sadie, Hamlet and I just finished watching an Almodavar film. To be in Madrid and watch a film that takes place in Madrid was surreal. The ultimate cinematic experience. The experience was so exciting that I drank too much wine and had a spell of palpitations. Now I will try to get some sleep.
Today I am better. Almodavar put me in the mood for deep dreams. I feel healthier than yesterday and much more exuberant. We walked all over Madrid today and ate good food, drank lots of red wine and now I am hoping that I have another good nights sleep. From tomorrow onwards I swear that I will no longer drink coffee- only juice. The coffee in Spain is making my heart run marathons. In the other room I can hear Jen and Sadie laughing. I can smell the weed that they are smoking- while they ring out the wet laundry and hang it up to dry for the night.
(for a quick moment- I must confide in this journal. Please do not judge me but last evening I swore that I would never drink coffee again. This morning I entertained the thought of abstaining for about an hour but exhaustion quickly overcame me. I took a quick shower in the dank bathroom and then I quickly came down to this café where I am now enjoying a butter croissant and a café con leche. The wonderful life of a man of contradictions!! This is what I will call my memoir.)
9. Leaving Madrid.
Oh Cordoba, oh Cordoba!! Beautiful ancient city in the south where Jews, Christians and Muslims all cohabitated peacefully together in an enlightened community for centuries!! Cordoba, how I hope you will save me from this gloomy and monolithic Madrid. Rip the despair right out from me!!
Jen and I are leaving the largest city I have ever seen in all of my life. Madrid is a bustling ghetto, spread out with pathos running through all the citizens of the city like blood through arteries. It is a rather depressing, hopeless maze for all who traverse through its big belly. It is an overcrowded and polluted city with a sadness welling up in its gut. Madrid is a city I will never return to.
An hour or so ago, Jen and I made a quick stop at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia where for the first and last time I was able to observe Picasso’s Guernica. Jen insisted that we see this enormous painting before we leave Madrid and I am glad that she did or else my miserable self would of gotten us both out of this city as soon as possible. Jen is getting frustrated with what she calls my “apathy” but she is handling me well. I have noticed that her drinking has significantly increased since being in Madrid. Before we went into view Guernica we both drank a bottle of port which made the visceral experience of standing in front of Guernica all the more intense. Security guards surrounded the painting which hung on a large white wall. Jen and I stood arm in arm with a crowd of camera toting tourists with their ordinary mouths agape as we all stared in amazement at the painting that will forever haunt all of our dreams. What a work of genius! After ten minutes of staring, I told jen that if we did not leave we would miss our train and be stuck in this wretched city. On our way out I bought a t-shirt with a print of Guernica on the front.
We are now on the train, which is leaving Madrid. Slowly the train is pulling out and I am watching this gloomy city fade away in the clouds. Goodbye Hamlet, goodbye Sadie- so sorry to leave you behind. It just started to rain.
10. Cordoba, Spain.
The sky just opened up and there is sun! I am waiting for a hand to reach down through the clouds and wake me up from this dream. From the moment I stepped off the train I was engulfed in a clean, dry, Mediterranean heat. I could hear voices that sounded free from torpor and filled with life. Immediately I felt my spirits raised. After we checked into our beautiful hostile in the old section of Cordoba, Jen and I wondered around the cobble stone streets of the ancient city in amazement. We bought little trinkets from vendors and smoked a hookah in a tea house. Our skin slowly toasted brown from the warm mid afternoon sun and again Jen and I fell in love (I think we were slowly beginning to hate one another in Madrid).
And then the bells. A maddening sound of bells that woke Jen and I out of our mid afternoon wine, weed and sun induced nap. We could hear people cheering and clapping in the distance and down in the piazza of our hostile a man yelled up with a German accent, “ our new Pope, Joseph Ratzinger has just been elected!” I wanted to go back to sleep because I could care less about the new Pope who is too old to hold such a position. I feel as if we are living in a particular time of history where Christianity is the dominant ideology, and this makes me very uncomfortable. I am uncomfortable with any religious ideology that a mass of people follow. This only creates discord in the world. At a time where I am struggling to find the center of my own being, this dominant Christian ideology makes me nervous. I refuse to categorize “my being” as Jewish , Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or any other way- I am who I am and I assume that my life will be devoted to a long journey of trying to figure out what this “I” actually is. For now I just want the bells to stop their knocking so I can get back to sleep.
We must be out of this hostile by twelve noon. Last night Jen and I ate, drank and smoked too much and wondered around the dark narrow streets until early in the morning. We were so exhausted by the time we arrived back in our room that we fell right to sleep (now that I think of it Jen and I have not made love in quite some time). Now Jen is rushing to get all of her things together so that we can check out of this room (for each minute after noon we are charged a late fee). I am ready so I will wait and write. The sky is blue, the fucking bells are still ringing (they have not stopped since yesterday), cats hiss and tourists are everywhere! Cordoba is a tourist trap and yesterday I almost got into it with a gypsy who would not leave me alone. These gypsies come to this place because of the large amount of tourists that they can bum from. However- this is an endearing city with good tapas, beautiful architecture, and old bars that inspire a desire to drink and be philosophical. Jen is ready to go, a little grouchy because she had to rush and she feels hung over. We will grab a taxi cab, traverse through the narrow streets of Cordoba and go to the train station where we will travel for a few hours until we reach Seville, the city of Flamenco.