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A Land Scape 

August 8, 2017

The landscape in Strandhill, County Sligo, Ireland is fantastic. This earth lives to seduce locals and visitors alike. The Marram Grass-covered mounds change overnight, every night, and all night. 

Marram Grass, the common name for Ammophila Arenaria, is the dominant species here. It is especially adapted by having deep roots that extend over a great area that help it live in such a hostile environment.  

The way the grass moves with each breath and the small changes in the mounds overnight; yes, this landscape is seductive. 

Creatures squirrel around beneath every surface. “Idiot. The creatures are the surface,” says Tiki. 

Tiki has spent the last few months lolling in the ancient mosses of Ireland. She is lazy, horny, and filled with ire. 

The pair of them wrestled inside a deep groove on the creature’s back. Their smoke and oils pressing whiskey into its moss. Following their smoke signals, I found a steaming hot gash. Immediately drunk and feeling sadly perverted, I put my hands down to capture some warmth and sandy snail smell under my nails. I went face first into the mound. I felt all its curves, indentations, and minor perturbations. The earth softened beneath me. My body sank deep into the mound creature until I was fully submerged. The creature worked slowly and diligently to cover me with a layer of rich soil, earthworms and slugs. I sensed in it an urge to keep me underground forever. 

The songbirds overhead argued among themselves about what advice to give. The bored rooks looked for surplus bread. The gulls didn’t figure into the conversation. And the crows, not quite enough for a murder, looked down tsk tsk tsk ing the scene. 

“Don’t horde the sex. Some beasts are meant to be desired forever and never touched. Leave it.”  

“But this beast is a friendly one.” 

The mound creature invites us to Benbulbin’s Spring Awakening, an annual fest that brings all of Ireland’s creatures out of hibernation and into the possibility of love. 

LATER 

As always and since 1985, the only decent Smith’s tune closes out the night. Leaving half-way through how soon is now is a signature move. Always leave them wanting more. So, standing along the seaside we share a clove cigarette each remembering the last time. Before taking the penultimate drag, one question.

“Where did I leave my shell?”

I don’t remember taking it off. Did I give it to Gigajoy, that hysterical Portuguese whale? Maybe dropped it somewhere along the Grand Canal in Venice? Flipping Herv. Maybe atop Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh?

“In the grass behind the Hostel?”

There’s a club if you’d like to go. You could meet somebody who really loves you.

“You know that the snails thrive in Strandhill’s Marram Grass.”

Herv the Venetian Seagull 

December 20, 2016

Herv was born in Venice. He is a Venetian Seagull. The H in Herv is not silent. Herv is a romantic. He believes that one seagull loves only one other seagull. 

We believe: What if the heart soul body mind were dispersed loose and with every new encounter we took the opportunity to recognize all those parts pieces bits and put them back together and even took up other parts, tried on other parts in those moments. 

“Only in those moments?” 

What if those moments, the chance encounters, connections are our most precious and singular moments to realign our entire selves? Falling in and out of love in an hour or a few days over a cup of coffee, a bowl of pasta, is a blessing if you recognize it and humble yourself to it, give yourself permission to what if. We believe that’s possible. Possibly. Otherwise life is you as you were when you left home, when you arrived at the airport, when you took the train last night.

Tiki met Herv the seagull while they both pondered a shadow. “That shadow down the way is a huge peg-legged pirate.” “It’s a construction crane. I flew by it in the fog, but you’re right, with these yellow lights, it looks like a peg-legged pirate.” “Basta!” “You realize there’s more to Venice than the dock where you stand each night, right? Please tell me you realize this.” “Yes, I suppose.”

Venice is slow quiet cool cloudy mysteriously fuzzy, familiarly snuggy, and nice. Venice is nice. “What are you? Why are you here?” Tiki is confused by intimacy. 

“What an ugly ‘craw’.” 

“CRRAAAAWWWW!!!” Herv makes this sound infrequently, but when he does it is his. Herv owns his craw. 

Herv’s craw stabs Tiki somewhere beneath the shell. Her soft stuff becomes agitated and hot and ignights. Flying above Venice, Tiki’s stuff drops onto Rialto, San Marco, Academia, and all the places she was advised to visit. Tiki rains bits of white lava snowflakes upon Venice, the Ghetto, the secret gardens and courtyards, where only from above, and only from her heart of salt, will all the precious places be nourished this winter. Herv the seagull who loves ice, one bell toll, and brunettes, trails not far behind, but at a safe distance from Tiki. “CRRRAAAAWWWW!!!” “Hello, I’m right here. I’ve no superpower, alright, maybe one, I live here.” Tiki looks again for the peg-legged pirate. She has lost him in the ripples of the Canal. Herv gently lands where the pirate was last seen. He does not want to disturb anything. His wings are dusted in fine white crystals. He likes the smell and feel of the salt, doesn’t mind the singed feathers, and hopes it will last for a time. 

I hate Herv. He is intrusive and unseemly, even for a seagull. Also, Herv is small.  

“Herv, what are you? Why are you here?” 

“I like ice, one ….” 

“Herv, you are a glimpse. You are too much and too little all at the same time. Fly away. Please….”

Tiki heard and didn’t pay attention to me because she was swimming in the Grand Canal. Tiki is not afraid of any water pirate or gull.  

“Tiki!” 

“I am sore from this cold. I need another blanket.” 

“Here I am.” 

“CRRAAAAWWWW!!!”

Tiki Meets Gigajoy the Whale 

November 21, 2016

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?”

Tiki Goes Under the Old Bridge 

November 13, 2016

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.” 

Me and Tiki: Castle by The Sea 

November 4, 2016

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. 

Cleaning, cooking, and trying to be still 

October 22, 2016

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. 

BEING STILL

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.

Everything until today…. 

October 14, 2016

Paris: The United Nations of Room 219. 

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.