The men cast their lines even though it’s too dark to see fish. Tiki admires the one wearing a floppy red hat. “I especially like that he bit off his bait. He has huge teeth.”
The clock tower sings 23 chimes, then six chimes, then eight.
From the patio I see between the buildings onto the beach. There is nothing but the tracks of dogs. “Do dogs like the ocean?” “I have no idea. What dogs? The fishermen are more interesting.” I am gloomy. “Water dogs,” I reply.
The sun set directly west from the patio and has me remembering another sunset directly west. “I don’t remember another time in my entire life when I’ve seen the sunset directly west meaning I’ve never in my entire life been anywhere I remember being directly south.” I say this aloud and to myself because I know it will annoy Tiki. “You are looking out over the south most place you’ve ever been. And I’m telling you that right below on the beach there is an old man biting his fishing line. And P.S. There are no ‘water dogs’.” My pretending all the time vexes her. En serio. Telling the difference between magic and reality is my one super power. Tiki hates me for it.
Me: “He’s not going to catch anything. He fishes there out of habit.”
Eleven chimes, then two. The sunshine and sunset, the sound of waves, the absence of noise, and the calm outside… Make me sad. Not for want, not for having… I remember lifetimes of times, perfect moments with him, her, that, them, those things, that other stuff, and situations, scenarios, and so on, and moments when I surely had everything I ever wanted and it hurt. Because everything I want feels on me like sunburned skin, pretty the first day then peeling like an onion all the rest of the days until nothing remains except the in between tears.
I’m comfortably lost in my self-not-not-head when much later Tiki accuses me of being lazy and unimaginative. I cannot see her, but I feel her smoldering purple judgement-pyre. I smell burnt hair and….
Tiki: “Look stupid, he’s caught a whale!”
There is a bluesilver slippery handful of a whale. The whale’s name is Gigajoy. It has a good sense of humor. I know this because Gigajoy has a rachous laugh. He wakes up the toothy fisherman and challenges him to a duel. Gigajoy will win any duel using any weapon. The whale swims back and forth in water just deep enough for the fisherman and Gigajoy to feel equally confident. Suddenly, the sea stills as if an all-powerful fist clinched it into a freeze frame. Gigajoy breaches. He finds me on the patio. His eyes are purple with life and love. They glow in recognition of me and of death. I am the last thing they will every see.
Tiki lets out a euphoric yelp.
“Why do you always get sad every time you get everything you want?”
On the other side of the Old Bridge boys and girls are singing in bad English, “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder, more like supastzion. I laugh at them.
From the terrace Tiki can see and hear better than me. She has many super powers. “I see their high heels and sneakers. I hear the ice cubes and kisses. Let’s go.” “It’s late,” I say. “I’m sure it’ll all be over soon, before we can cross the bridge. Plus, the Old Goats, can you see them?” Tiki sighs. She keeps her ears on the kisses, adjusts her X-Ray Specs and scans the opposite bank of the river for the Old Goats.
(The horns of the Old Goats are no longer visible owning to time and the wind. To everyone else they must look like jolly old men. Tiki hasn’t seen their faces because she never crosses the Old Bridge. I have.)
“Are they on the bench? Do you see their hats boots thread-worn sweaters? Their farmers-brown cloven hands?”
“You’re having another episode.” Tiki is bored by my mania. “I don’t see them. I’ve never even seen the backs of their heads. I question their existence.”
The music stops. So does the ice and kissing. Or it does not. I don’t know. Maybe the band will play another set, long enough for me to put on shoes and lip gloss. “Tiki, we’ve enough time to cross the bridge. What do you think?” Tiki does not answer me because she is already on the bank of the river. The Old Bridge hovers as it has since 1439. I can’t see it now because Tiki.
The inky night and golden glow of Silves are muted by her shinning. A naked Tiki walks down the slope of the shallow, still Arade and steps into it. The river wakes itself up from winter. Hundreds of tiny silver fish circle around Tiki in a diamond tornado. “Is it cold?” I ask telepathically. “Yes, but not as cold as sitting alone on that terrace with you.”
I asked Tiki if she’d ever seen a baby seagull. While she considered I noticed a family behind a window shade of the castle. “See, I told you it’s not abandoned. There’s a family inside. Do you see the babies?” Tiki has trouble seeing from distance and toward magic. “You’re having an episode.” This came from her mouth more as a hiss than a concern. “I HATE YOU!” I screamed from beneath the waves and held my breath waiting for her to hear or pretend that she couldn’t. “Have you ever even seen a Photo of a baby seagull? Did it have feathers? Was it white, transparent, ugly?!” Now I’m angry.
Tiki pulls out her X-Ray Specs and solemnly regards the castle window. She has no answers and fewer questions. But for some reason don’t ask me because I cannot say, she felt huge and wise and respectably repugnant, like Evillene. When Tiki turned on me, she saw through heard through me and fuck it, Tiki smelled through me and my cracked funkdirtsmut shell. Then I break.
Vibrations of despair jiggle my soft insides blending them together like unwanted family reunion jello salad. I am ugly and shelless. Wet sand fills my mouth eyes nose rolling waves push pull me up to the base of the castle and back toward the sea where my sticky skin collects bits of beach glass. “Like you used to gather along the shores of Lake Michigan. Where is that now?” “Storage gone in a little glass jar to find when I return home?” I will paste all and everything to my new shell. Tiki removed the X-Ray Specs and I saw reflect back at me in her beach glass-eyes all and everything except myself as a baby. It is completely possible that I do not exist having never seen a photo of myself as a baby. My shell I know is real because I hear it scrape feel it grow heavy dragging around me as I carry Tiki from sea to sea-window to window looking for the shadow lines of baby seagulls.
NEVER in my entire life have I mopped floors, cleaned bathrooms, and washed so many dishes. En serio. NEVER. I’m of the mind and (lack of) habit to typically only clean when (1) guests are coming over OR (2) I’m moving house. Otherwise, shuffle stuff around, surface clean, and and make sure I have clean dishes for dinner tonight and clean underpants for tomorrow.
At The Horta Grande Hostel in Silves, Portugal, where I am staying as WORKAWAY volunteer in exchange for a room and meals*, I am charged with cleaning the sleeping rooms, bathrooms, and common areas, after our guests check out. Given it’s low season here in the Algarve, we’ve just a few guests each week, and just as much cleaning. Which is still more cleaning in the last two weeks than I’ve done in the last two years… No, more than that. Much more.
Am I taking pride in cleaning, or a job well-done? I’m not sure yet, but maybe.
I am 86.5% sure that only a few weeks of cleaning will not change my habits, but there’s the 13.5% and that’s something new and possible.
When not cleaning, I’m gladly cooking meals for my hosts.* Simple, familiar dishes like stews with chicken and our herbs and vegetables. Others using our vegetables in new ways like using the (dusted-off) blender to make a savory pumpkin soup and a gazpacho (Spanish style which, after serving, learned the Portuguese style is different ((better))). And a couple meals so far that are “American” (their words) e.g., cheeseburgers (per a request) and one of my personal favorites, frijoles borrachos (drunken beans), an American dish because it’s a Mexican-American recipe that I make. Lena, the Lady of the House, especially loved this dish and was so enthusiastic eating it captured a photo mid-meal to post on Horta Grande FB.
I adore cooking and this current routine of mine, right now is perfect: wake, breakfast, clean, lunch, siesta, walk and shop for dinner provisions, cook dinner, eat, clean, and read aloud in Portuguese….
All of the other chores of harvesting, laundry by hand, and so on are alright by me. I appreciate more and more the challenge of being patient, present and still while doing something simple like rendering the juice from lemon, lime, orange, tangerine, watermelon, Santa Claus Melon, and pomegranate without having a JUICER. It takes so long…so much effort…for so little juice…and the juice is “okay.” By okay I mean perfectly natural and yummy without additives. OM.
The other day I thought I was thinking about nothing. I couldn’t think about anything except the dream I had the night before starring that one guy I adore and the fantastical emotional experience that it was and how much I wanted it to be but then in real life to see the Old Goats on the other side of the bridge the next day made me slightly nervous and upset and kinda angry so I walked all the way around them to get to the grocery store even though that way means I do not visit with “Don Manuel Anotonio Banderas” the jolly seller of books, comics, and DVDs. He’s atleast 109 years old. When it is semi-warm out, he wears shorts and tells me (I think) that he doesn’t give a damn what anyone else thinks. Don Manuel Anontio Banderas is his name for him and totally unverified (yet not wholly refuted) by the Lady of the House. He sold me O Sorriso De Mona Ratisa. He is nice and the opposite of those mean Old Goats.
The Son of the house, who visits every other week and speaks English and seems to understand my issue with the Old Goats, tells me that I should just say “fuck off” (I think). The entire family describes in Portugues-English-Spanish a generational and cultural divide in the city of Silves that would explain the bad manners of the Old Goats who guard the bridge aka The Ponte de Silves. I tell them that I’ve experienced the same thing everywhere and it’s not generational nor location-bound. It’s an attitude abierto or cerrado (just like Sesame Street taught us, Open–Closed). In theory I should be able to let it go, ignore them. Yet I remain vexed by this brand of rudeness no matter where I am, or how content I feel.
Damn, even when not working a 9-5-ish day-in-day-out job it’s difficult to stay patient, present, and still. To be still (or) chill, be comfortable in your surroundings. Imagine trying for that. To be like Mina, the most best camouflaged farm-cat ever. I’m trying for this.
Marseille, a beautiful, welcoming cosmopolitan city like no other in France, more like New York in the early 80s–dog shit, graffiti, and rotting buildings, shamelessly real. And the sea.
48 hours in Lisbon with a Bavarian Boy Band (my words). A brilliant band of brothers who generously allowed me to hangout with them (at least I think they did, because there was a slight language barrier). They are “The Four Ministers” (Minister of Maps, the Harry Potter-looking one; Minister of Smoking, the Spicoli-cat; Minister of Beer, Almost-Ken; and Minister of //Un nameable// [I say Tomfoolery], the small, hobbit-ish-looking one) We cooked dinner together, I did Tarot for all of them, we walked the city at night, and partied just enough to remember it.
Surf Camp Illiterate: Several days spent enjoying the surfer havens of Peniche and Baleal with the interntional surfers and me not speaking a word of SURF, and me loving the surf.
Travels with an EXTREME SPORT (yet sadly fluish) Frenchman who HATES (his words) the English Language: Peniche to Faro via bus then Farol Island via boat in three languages, French, Spanish, and .5 English plus .5 Portuguese = one “super cool petit adventure” (read with your best French accent).
Until today…. Fu-ger-ee-u…. (Damn, Portuguese is difficult, and damn, I’m trying!)
Horta Grande, Silves, Portugal is my home right now and calling it my home… being okay with using that word to describe this place after less than one week, when I Never Ever used it for 536 Michigan Ave. #C1, Evanston, IL, US, feels right. And that’s a bit trippy. I’m marinating on it.
Do I just need a 65-75 degrees F climate, a garden, a supermarket, and people to cook for to feel Home? Uncertain…. And I’m feeling good…for now.
The Moroccan Girl is looking for a permanent room in the city because she studies mathematics at a local university. She is in town from Lyon where she rents a room with two French students one of whom is smelly and has lots of sex in the shower with boys, probably because the boys also think she is smelly. (Her own words.) The Canadian Girl is taking a gap year and will spend it teaching French children at a primary school in the south of France. She is from Manitoba and also believes that Chicago is “Canada Lite.” Her alarm sound is ducks quacking. The American Girl is not a girl at all. She is a grown woman and she is the most indefinite of the three. She is silly and makes them laugh. She smuggles wine and food into the room–highly illegal. On Day One she has no idea when she will depart Room 219 nor where she will go. Everyone chats, fidgets with their belongings, and gets comfy. They are happy together.
The two French Women arrive giggling like schoolgirls and smelling like hotel lobby toilettes. Morocco is at school and made the mistake of storing her belongings. France 1 steals her lower bunk by the window. France 2 takes the upper bunk. They are happy together…and completely oblivious of the rest of Room 219’s inhabitants. France 1 walks back and forth to the shower several times and between each one becomes progressively more naked. She is bold and carefree. No one admires her, but we could in theory, more so if she were dressed. Canada is carrying on like a good tourist and Morocco like a good student. America is sleeping in, going for long walks, and finding “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues” particularly apropos.
The first and only South Korean Girl arrives. Bad news: she is sick. Too much London Town; where her hostel barely had running water and served rocks for breakfast. Canada departs. France departs. Morocco becomes increasingly stressed about not finding a rented room. Morocco takes Canada’s bed. America is in the same bed. She is the Alpha and as such leaves her stuff and funk all over her area. To balance this territorialism, America offers food, drink… soul food to the other nations of Room 219. They accept. The French-Moroccan Woman arrives. She speaks Arabic and French. She is also looking for a local rental. She takes the bed by the window. All nations chat, fidget with belongings, get more comfy. They are happy.
The United Nations of Room 219 goes to breakfast together. America and South Korea don’t speak French or Arabic so the conversation is in English. Drink coffee, eat croissant, and have laughs. Morocco leaves at 0900. Her class begins at 0900. Morocco is feeling carefree this morning and takes an orange from the breakfast bar and puts it in her bag. This is strictly forbidden so America makes an issue of it, to the entire cafeteria, “Contraband! Get her!” Morocco is mortified and laughing hysterically. All laugh at the ridiculous sign on the wall that reads “Do Not Take Food Out of This Room.” South Korea spends most of the day in bed. France Morocco looks at apartments. America walks around rather aimlessly, has a beer, and wonders what to do. The Two South Korean Women arrive after light’s out. They install themselves in the two available top bunks. They go into the bathroom and lock the door. Two hours and 38 minutes later after much giggling, snorting, spitting, coughing, chatting, splashing, swatting, and douching, they emerge. In the darkness it’s assumed by all that they are the two cleanest denizens of Room 219 (and probably the entirety of Paris).
The two newest arrivals are up and out early. The rest of Room 219 put on wetsuits and get ready for breakfast. The fear of stepping on a glob of mucus, putting a foot in the puddle of water of unknown origin, menaces all. Although South Korea has a majority in Room 219, there is a generational divide, and Our South Korea, lover of French biscuits and Harry Potter, sticks with Us. We go to breakfast together and avoid the newbies. We are officially and shamelessly a click. Morocco comes into breakfast in a huff because she has been displaced from Room 219. Her reservation ran out and her bunk will be given to another traveler. America jumps into action, “I’ll go speak to the front desk staff about this. South Korea, you speak with The Others and find out how long they are staying.” France Morocco notes, “You are managing.” “Yes, I am a Manager. I manage.” Morocco has to run to school. America assures Morocco that her belongings are safe and that everything will work out. Morocco arrives in the evening knocking on the door. The United Nations of Room 219 decides Morocco will crash on the couch in the room–breaking all the rules. In addition, America procured an extra breakfast ticket thereby ensuring that Morocco will have a place to sleep and food. “Not on my watch,” says America, to herself. In the meantime, The Taiwan Girl arrives. France Morocco assures everyone she is nice. The rest of us do not see her arrive. She is stealth. South Korea 2 & 3 come in after light’s out again, unpack and repack 17 bags of French shoes, hats, and purses, and douse the bathroom, again. America decides it is time to move on and sets her sights on the south of France and The Sea. America itches for space, a hamburger, Netflix and chill. America will exchange kinship and love for freedom. Always.
The United Nations of Room 219 share our last meal. The four of us, Sima, Lila, Suki, and GNA, take selfies and exchange email addresses. We make fun of Suki for smuggling more food. She is a perfect little hamster! We laugh and laugh. We are immediately nostalgic about every minute detail we recall–the smelly French Nudists, the fetid indoor swimming pool, all the rule breaking. We kiss and hug, declare our enduring good will. We promise to stay in touch, visit, meet again. And all four of us, America, South Korea, Morocco and France Morocco cry. In the middle of the cafeteria, and onto our precious French croissants, we cry together because we are in love. We cry because life is love and love is living. Violà.
The time and space in between actions, when used to ruminate, is fertile territory for birthing possibilities to be acted upon. Without the in-between days novel thinking, creativity, hypothesis generation, etc. cannot exist, only action upon action i.e., hyperactivity.
Residing in the conflict that may arise during the in-between days, allowing for the dueling possibilities, helps jump-start the ego out of stasis. An individual exploring this territory must be at once courageous and humble because the quest takes place where the “doing” self and the “being” self intersect.
What does it feel like to do our lives and be our lives at once? When we achieve this congruency will we enjoy it for life?
What of the individual who masters the Do-Be-Do-Be-Do dance? The relentless and restless explorer? What if the discomfort of the quest, the insecurity and angst of the in-between days, and the potential of repeated failures do not scare her, but instead entices?
The in-between days become a source of comfort–a reminder that she is thriving and in motion … for life.
for the sake of clarity, ego defined: “The part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity.”