“What a week in Spain can do…”

“What a week in Spain can do…”

It was supposed to be a system reboot, a push of the reset button. However, I think my trip to Spain last month may have left me even more unsettled now that I am back home in Los Angeles. It is scary how quickly I fell back into what’s been ailing me this last year and a half. The jet lag may be gone, but that sluggish feeling persists. Don’t EVEN get me started on the election bullshit. I will probably bite your head off. Best to focus on why the journey back to my LA life that is renewing this spiritual “agita.”

I haven’t said much about the Brit (name withheld out of respect), but he’s someone that’s been the most welcome surprise of this challenging year. Our chance online meeting in August flowered into a real friendship, which is why I’ve been purposefully vague about him given the context of how we started out. I might reveal this some day, but not now. It isn’t shame that precludes me, rather, having to explain it to folks who aren’t savvy as to the Gay Way of Meeting and Greeting in 2016. Rest assured, it isn’t some Dateline episode waiting to happen. It’s legit and that’s all that matters.

The Brit is London-based and we’ve spent months doing the whole digital pen pal thing. In some ways, it felt like the plot to “The Shop Around the Corner.” We hadn’t met, but we shared a real kinship with each text that zapped across the globe. Scratch that, it felt like a real life version of “Gavin & Stacey.” (I am sure his eyes would roll with balletic precision over THAT one.)

When we hatched the plan of heading to Spain together, he had just experienced someone breaking his heart in Oslo. It was around the same time I was planning to hit Spain that summer. I surprised even myself when I said, “Join me! Forget about that fool and let’s just have some fun, tapas and whatever else tickles our fancy!” Well, Spain had other plans, interrupting my impending estancia with a rule of having at least 90 validity to my passport. I wasn’t able to board that night and I found myself on the Lyft back to my parents’ house to retrieve my trusty Element and then home with a scowl on my face.

The Brit and I kept talking and we looked for new dates for our Spanish affair, which would now happen in mid-October. As we counted down the days, it was hard not to build any expectations. At least for me. It was such a welcome relief, corresponding with someone who actually COULD communicate with color and guts. What a concept! When the fated day finally did arrive, I wasn’t in the least disappointed.

Having the Brit with me for those nine days in Valencia, Salamanca and Madrid was like a downpour of what I miss about being part of a couple. That constant attention. The great rapport. The banter. The laughter. The warmth that emanates from people who actually care about each other. The looks that say, “I see you, man.” I wasn’t lonely and all that’s troubled me for so many months was falling off in the background. It’s how we compose shots for the interviews I conduct on camera. The subject is sharp and clear while the background is a bit hazy and blurry. All that matters is what is in focus. And focus existed in Spain. Make that focus and inspiration. So, why do I feel so fucking lousy?

Mind you, the Brit and I started this entire venture with a much different agenda in August. When he admitted that he’d started casually dating someone in early October, the trip’s dynamic shifted without warning into the dreaded Friend Zone. He tried to give me an out, saying he’d understand if that changed things for me given the spicier early stages of our interactions. His very British self wasn’t going to allow for any extracurricular activities, even though he’d only been dating said bloke a few weeks. But, as I would discover, the Brit was an “All In” sort of gent. Meaning, his focus and heart were set. I said, “So what? We’ll manage!” I firmly believed the point of the trip was to get away from what ails us. Nothing more.

In a lot of ways, that was indeed the case. But, it was tough to reconcile a clear trajectory of intent. As much as I tried to keep certain feelings at bay, which was quite an effort, imagine my consternation in having the Brit join me in a round of “Why Can’t We Find Someone Who Will Love Us for Us” during one heart to heart we had one late night. That’s why by the end of that week together, I felt nothing but confusion. It stepped up when, by the end of the week, he was texting his new paramour with a fervor that made me feel like an intruder. And when you have had such a stellar time venturing throughout a foreign country without a single fight, imagine how that can complicate more than just your brain.

The rational me knows that my creating anything but a friendship with the Brit would be difficult since he’s in England and I’m in southern California. The whole “Amor de Lejos, Amor de Pendejos” truth of our situation has never been far away from the fantasy of it all. But fuck me. We sparked. At times, it felt so real, this connection. At one point in Valencia, he even said he needed to put blinders on. Why couldn’t this be something more than just two friends having a good time in Spain? I have not wanted to be close to someone like this is such a long time! Six years after I selfishly kicked my bespectacled Ex to the curb, it’s been a mixed bag of really poor choices, cheap sex and a lot of wondering when in the hell the universe is going to take some pity on me! Being with the Brit was so bloody effortless. Was I just being clueless or just deluding myself because of an ideal that has yet to be acheived?

Trust me. I’ve done some work in processing all of this. It was big relief knowing I can be myself with the right sort of gent. He’s a fantastic person with whom to spar, a real intellectual with that classic British wit. Dry as a sherry, but fierce as Thatcher at her peak. More, I felt this incredible calm around him. It remains the one thing I will cherish most about my life with my Ex and it’s the one thing that’s been missing ever since.

As we got closer to the end of the trip, I felt unsteady and possessed by a grim outlook. He’d go home to someone who’d hold him tight. I’d go home to face a new round of the Dating Game. And that just pissed me off. I’d like to squeeze out as much of the Brit’s sincere and warm sentiment into a place that can validate why I am certain I wasn’t misreading the cues. The cold light of a warm LA day suggests otherwise. He was being kind and he needed something different from me. The Brit had been searching for a real friend, someone that understands him and doesn’t possess an ulterior motive that involved hurting him, his one biggest fear. Wouldn’t you know, it’s also a fear that share that with him, among other things.

Ironically, in the weeks since our return, the Brit has reached out in moments of real emotional turmoil as the paramour seems to be on a different page. I understand that very much, the overanalyzing of situations that are never as bad as you think. But it happens and I offer my own support while keeping my true feelings at bay.

I am aware that I keep setting myself up for this these types of situations, though. Prior to the trip, an endless drought of solitude had left me wondering whether I have much to offer anyone anymore. A week in Spain was living proof I did. I wish it was more of a consolation, knowing that I’m not entirely without the means of being with someone on “that” level. Perhaps it was just a practice run? Was it a reminder of what I’ve gained in terms of being an adult when it comes to establishing a healthy relationship? Maybe. But, caught between the lines of lucidity and maturity are slivers of jagged insecurity. I feel the presence of my old nemesis, the one that loves to reiterate: “You lack the total package for him, that’s why it didn’t catch fire.”

Bitch.

I should be content with being the friend, but when that single look caught my eye during our second night in Valencia, I couldn’t help but feel all buzzy inside. A dear friend even noticed it on that following rainy Saturday in Madrid. Her first words were, “How light you look! So handsome! And the beard!” She witnessed the version of me that I’d kept under wraps for the better part of a year. I did feel good as the rain fell over the Plaza del Callao. I felt better than good. I felt not sad.

My powers of imagination are truly reckless at times. In my mind, his time is going to be spent building up a life around his new job and new boundaries with his beau. I’ll be that crazy American who will help lighten the day when things get challenging, like all good friends do. But we’ll always have Spain, and possibly, a chance to storm another group of cities, too.

This is probably a good moment to insert a chorus of: “He lives in another country, dude! What the hell did you expect? Are you loco, ese? He ain’t into you because you live in ANOTHER country and doesn’t want to run the risk of being hurt or worse. It’s easier and safer to stay local for him. Wake the fuck up! Chingao, already.

I know!  I know! It isn’t going to do me any good to act like a Charlie Puth song. My reserve of “Better Luck Next Time” is just a wee bit low right now. Trust me, I am focusing on: “Does this mean that someone remains behind Door No. 1504?” It is saner to keep an open mind. But hells bells, I don’t relish the task of having to meet new gents and going through this process. Again. Me da hueva, caray! 

I do know that my friendship with the Brit is one I intend to nurture for as long as we both want to share in its possibilities. Truth be told, people like him are rare to find in a world determined to keep us everybody apart from each other. These feelings will abate with time. Of course, this makes it all so damn annoying!  To be so close to the prize. Yeah, I feel like I’m about to hold a torch again. At least I can see the upside to that, too. After six years, it is a relief to know that I can finally shift it to the other arm.

So, want to know what a week in Spain can do for anyone? I’ll tell you. It will make you feel so much alive and very much a part the world. Now, the task remains the same as it was during that summer in 2014 when I took that first huge step toward defining my true self in Salamanca. I still have to learn to make Spain happen wherever I go, especially at home. As for the rest? Universe, don’t let me down…but can he wear glasses and make me laugh while watching YouTube clips all night long?

 

 

 

 

“I Want to Break Free” (or “The Tyranny of Fear”)

“I Want to Break Free” (or “The Tyranny of Fear”)

“I want to break free
I want to break free
I want to break free from your lies
You’re so self satisfied I don’t need you
I’ve got to break free
God knows, God knows I want to break free…”

If my long-held fears were corporeal, I’d sing Queen’s “I Want to Break Free” to them at the top of my lungs. It is what you say to a lover who has kept you down for too long. The one who keeps you at arm’s length, the one who keeps you begging for a love that is on their terms and so not worth it.

The same applies when you’re locked in the grip of abject fear. Rejection. Failure. Unfriended. Unliked. Unbelievable.

For me, it is my connection to fear that has been my longest running romance. Time is slowing down in some ways and the quiet I’ve been experiencing  of late is granting an audience to my inner thoughts with unsettling frequency.

I go to therapy twice a month, but it is more a stop gap measure than a real solution. Do I see the enormity of fear? Yes, its features have taken their full form now. It is me as a kid, seeking attention from those who did little to try to understand me. I find that my most painful struggle is that of finding a partner in this life that understands me. My inability to do so is starting to anchor me deeper into this toxic morass of depression.

Why isn’t it enough to trust myself again? Why is it so important to see myself in the eyes of someone else and not provide myself with the strength to pull myself out of this bog? Part of me wants to see fear take on depression in an epic battle royale, but that’s assuming I can be a bystander. They are both a huge part of who I am as a person. If anything, I’ve allowed them both to use ME as their boxing ring.

Since coming home from Spain, a palpable sense of loneliness as returned and creeped into my mind again. That vacation was supposed to wash away all that was troubling me. Instead, it only drudged up more of what ails me.  I can’t allow myself to be washed away with it. As much as I love the ease and promise of stillness from slipping away unnoticed, the collateral damage would be too great. Running away from my personal ground zero is not the answer. But these six years of romantic drought and depression are starting to take their toll and the struggle to find some sort of peace is becoming a insurmountable.

Chaos. Uncertainty. Anger. Screaming. Rage. Optimism seems incapable to puncture through this era of disconnection and dischord. Writing the pain away helps. As to what I’m going to express next, I don’t know. But for the moment, I am going to keep shining a light on fear until I am able to run right into it and tackle it for good. I just need one good play, dammit. And break free…

 

 

“Finalmente, el MediaJor sí tiene quien le escriba” — (Dias 30 y 31)

“Finalmente, el MediaJor sí tiene quien le escriba” — (Dias 30 y 31)

“Muchas veces las crisis se ven como algo muy negativo, y con mucho miedo. Y al final, la palabra crisis es sinónimo de cambio, de transformación, de limpieza, de quitar telarañas, de quitar vicios adquiridos, y reformular, reconstruir.¨ — Pucho, Vetusta Morla

Desde la noche de la ultima parranda en Salamanca, tengo días de estar tragando cada pedazo de comida como si fuera limosna. De Salamanca a Barcelona y el regreso, desde Madrid hasta Nueva York y Los Angeles comía mis sentimientos para aliviar el remordimiento de salirme de España. Pero todo tiene su final, como el tema de este serie de blogs. Por fin ha llegado el momento de escribir el ultimo capitulo de mi aventura en Salamanca – y lo tenia que escribirlo en español.
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Puede ser el “jet lag” esta jugando un poco con mis sentimientos. Dure como 15 minutos en mi escala en JFK cuando la ansiedad me pego bien fuerte. Estuve de nuevo en el pecho mi país maternal y me sentí como el hijo recién llegado de un conflicto. Pero la experiencia de Salamanca y el resto de España no era conflicto. Era un reencuentro con cosas que valoro con tanto de mi ser. Pienso en detalles de la vida real, cosas tan substantivas son como el pan fresco que Manoli nos daba con cada comida.

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Se que tengo que vivir estos próximo días en una manera muy tranquila y no romantizar lo que me ocurrió en España. Pero como puedo regresar a mi vida normal cuando pienso en:

  • Los comentarios de Manoli cuando comimos todos juntos, incluso los de Brianna y Krystal porque fuimos una familia
  • Los dichos de Manoli como: “Lo que escupes al aire te va caer y lo tragaras”
  • Los opiniones de estrellas del cine americana: “Julia Roberts tiene una boca como la Plaza de Toros
  • Sus sopas de alubias, lentejas y su preocupación con la frescura de la fruta que compraba de la vecina.
  • ¡La tortilla española!
  • La voces claras y dulces de sus nietos
  • Escuchando las risas autenticas de Krystal y Brianna cada día sobre nuestras experiencias y vidas
  • La mujer en El Corte Inglés quien sacó su móvil de su sujetador cuando pagaba el saldo.
  • El taxista de Barcelona que soñaba en visitar Los Angeles.
  • Cenando en Chueca y charlando con Montse, una noche tan divertida que perdí el tren.
  • Las mañanas caminando por la Plaza Mayor en Salamanca.
  • Mis cafecitos en la cafetería de la Pontificia.
  • Las manías de mis profesores con “Los chinos” en la Pontificia. (Y no en una manera negativa.)
  • Las diferencias entre el castellano y el español de Latino América. Como dijo Palmira, el futuro de español no esta en España. El desarrollo del idioma será controlado por el oeste, los Latinoamericanos.
  • Los sentidos de humor y respeto que encontré con Palmira, quien realizo un ambiente segura y autentica durante nuestras charlas reveladoras en la clase de conversación.
  • El amor intenso de Dr. María José Boyero cuando hablaba de gramática y literatura que me dio animo para vivir de nuevo.
  • Samuel, la sorpresa y, al final, el regalo de España.

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No es cuestión de visitar un país para conocer su gente. Tienes que vivirlo con ellos. Tienes que vivir sus tradiciones, compartir su comida como su cultura. Así puedes sentir el apego que existe cuando entiendes que eres parte de cosas tan cuotidianas, se sienten como si siempre eran parte de tu vida desde el principio.

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Creo que las consecuencias de este viaje a España tendrán efectos no voy a reconocer inmediatamente. Pueden llegar hasta el fin de esta semana. Puede ser al final del año o nunca. Tengo tantas emociones que quiero expresar en este momento. Siente como una corriente eléctrica sin rumbo. No puedo salir de este país tan bello sin decir algo. Este mes era dedicada al estudio de gramática y literatura. Sería una tontería en no ofrecer un “blog” escrito en español. Yo sé que voy a cometer muchos errores. Solo te pido disculpa. (¡Te juro que mis calificaciones de ser “sobresaliente” no fue broma!) Como mis razones en tener esta aventura tan inolvidable y transformativa, pienso la sinceridad de esta nota será bastante. Como las lunas escritas por el autor mexicano Juan Rulfo, tú eres mi lector y testigo a una vida singular.

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Soy americano, de primera generación. No nací como hispanohablante, me convertí durante mi colegiatura. Sentía una pena tan enorme, a veces soñaba de una vida diferente donde el mundo me llamaba ¨George” y no ¨Jorge.¨ Que falta de respeto porque llevo el nombre de mi padre. Pero el disgusto que sentía por dentro era como un purgatorio. Mi identidad era falsa, manipulada por la cultura dominante de los Estados Unidos. Este rechazo de mis raíces mexicanas no era algo tan raro. La fuerza de la cultura americana contiene elementos que no son basadas en la naturaleza. Sino son algo de ciencia ficción, realizadas en un laboratorio oscuro e insidiosa. Pienso en el doctor Frankenstein, revolcado por una locura en dominar todo el mundo sin pensar en las consecuencias.

Muchos compran lo que está vendiendo los Frankensteins de los medios, la publicidad, el gobierno, todos. No juzgo los que no pueden rechazar la mentira de valorar el sueño americano. No juzgo los que confunden ignorancia con nacionalismo. Solo juzgo los que piensan que no importa mantener dos identidades. Lo que se gana en ser bilingüe, esta mezcla cultural sobresale saber otra idioma. Es mantener lo bueno de ser humano. Es la ingrediente especial que realiza una receta tan poderosa y incomparable a lo resto.

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“Well, we wish we were happier, thinner and fitter,

We wish we weren’t losers and liars and quitters

We want something more not just nasty and bitter

We want something real not just hash tags and Twitter

It’s the meaning of life and it’s streamed live on YouTube

But I bet Gangnam Style will still get more views

We’re scared of drowning, flying and shooters

But we’re all slowly dying in front of fucking computers…”

From “Scare Away the Dark” by Passgener (Michael David Rosenberg)

Como me han sorprendido mis amigos – mis lectores — por su apoyo y sus reacciones a las Confesiones de este mes. Mis observaciones han llevado a algunos comentarios interesantes, añadiendo más leña al fuego de mi deseo de liberarme de las redes sociales. La ironía es que ninguno de estos Confesiones habría alcanzado a nadie si no fuera por Facebook. Un dilema, ¿no?

Al final, no importa cómo se registraron mis pequeños terremotos del alma. Lo que sí sé con certeza es que expresé lo que tenía que expresar sobre este viaje. Para aquellos que leyeron todo y también ofrecieron un comentado con interés, te doy las gracias por la creación de un diálogo. Eso es lo que significa ser una comunidad, compartiendo ideas y teniendo en cuenta el discurso para darles forma a algo profundo y útil.

Esta conexión era real. No creo si no evolucionamos, nos convertiremos extinta porque no somos relevantes si no tenemos “followers” o un mogollón de “likes.” No necesito la validación que proviene de un botón, porque quiero que me lo dices en persona. Ya que son palabras de apoyo o un “cállate la boca”, se trasladaron a sentir algo tan fuerte seria una pena no hablar.

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Esto puede ser una generación que piensa el iCloud esta llena de lo importante, pero tengo noticias para ellos. Imagínense un momento cuando todas las luces se apagan y no se puede subir cada imagen de tu narcisismo. ¿Dejaras de existir? Sócrates tenía muchos seguidores, sin necesidad de Twitter y dio forma al mundo en los siglos venideros. Así lo hizo Jesucristo. Ellos no tienen que cargar sus teorías o ideologías. Ellos sabían cómo hablar con la gente, cara a cara, y la gente escuchaba.

Eso es todo lo que necesitamos hacer. No temer a nuestra propia voz o la reacción. Lo importante es hablar y cuestionar y compartir. Para poner una cara a todo. Es curioso, yo no pensé que tenía que ir al otro lado del Atlántico para conectarme con personas totalmente desconocidas y sentirse parte de la raza humana de nuevo. Pero lo que es una maravilla para sentarme y hablar con la gente que vive con ganas de ser escuchados. Qué sensación es el privilegio de sentarse en un aula y tener conversaciones reales, compartir ideas y experiencias. Y en un idioma diferente, joder!

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Temo que mantener este impulso será duro de nuevo en Los Ángeles, al igual que los muchos planes de dieta que he luchado para mantener durante años. ¿Es justo decir que tengo un cerebro sin grasa? ¿Que si soy capaz de derramé de todo el exceso de peso provocada por años de ser parte de la cultura de consumo de la Nación de comida chatarra y información de relámpago y conjetura?

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Lo que he perdido no tengo ninguna razón para encontrar o querer otra vez. Lo que he ganado es todo lo que necesito en saber como afrontar el futuro. Tengo mi maleta y mi pasaporte listo para ir, por si acaso. Gracias España. No puedo esperar para ver a dónde voy a ir después. Tengo México en mi sangre porque mi familia Mexicana es algo que me da fuerza y valor en este mundo. Pero España siempre estará en mi corazón porque ahora representa esperanza, amor…y vida.

Hasta luego.

Martes, 29 de julio. Escrito en Barcelona, Salamanca, Madrid y South Pasadena. Subido desde Wayne Avenue Manor.

Pure imagination renewed and “feeling 22” (Week 4, Day 27)

Pure imagination renewed and “feeling 22”  (Week 4, Day 27)

If you want to view paradise
Simply look around and view it
Anything you want to, do it
Want to change the world, there’s nothing to it

There is no life I know
To compare with pure imagination
Living there
You’ll be free
If you truly wish to be…

— Pure Imagination (Leslie Bricusse/Anthony Newley) 

from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”

Finals happened today at the Pontificia. Tomorrow, we receive our grades. Should I score better than a 5-6, I shall receive my first ever college diploma.

Yes, you read that right. My first ever college diploma.

Kubrick Highway

Funny, while I should be concerned about my final score and grade, I feel it is secondary in all of this. I had a specific agenda here, and it wasn’t specifically an academic one. I knew I would learn something. How could I not? The passionate and inspiring lectures from Maria José and Palmira validate why attending college as an adult can be such a gratifying and enlightening experience. It’s even stronger when you are focusing on literature, sparking a creative drive that seems limitless. You project so much of your own experience into texts and prose that expands the scope of the life you’ve lived…and are living.

I will never forget these woman, just as I won’t forget Manoli, whose directness and candor also played a major reason why I feel so much like my former self again.

Books and words were my first friends and have remained my most treasured confidantes. They never judged me. In fact, they gave me power to stave off so much that made me feel left of center for much of my adolescence. For too long I spun a message to myself that was cynical, judgmental and positively destructive. I used words to attack myself, allowing myself to build a veritable fortress of woe and self-pity. What is emerging as a result of this experience in Salamanca feels like someone…well…different. That’s what I wanted to happen in Salamanca, a total recharge of self, a reboot, if you will.

True, as dramatic as that reads, I can only amend such hyperbole to say the effects of Salamanca are subtle, but strong. Which is why I have such mixed feelings about going home. Already my MediaJor life is ramping up to its usual state. Interviews are being scheduled for the month of August. A film campaign I am involved with at a studio is now in full swing. I’ll be covering junkets again for Desde Hollywood. I’m ignoring the start of Comic-Con, but it is hard not to want to understand the Malaysian Airlines tragedy in the Ukraine and the shameful Gaza Strip/Israel conflict. And slowly, my time spent looking at entertainment news sites (hello, the “50 Shades of Grey” trailer) is increasing and so on…

These realities are clashing horribly with the buzz of being challenged by a culture and literary art in a language that doesn’t come natural to me. I have gained such confidence in being a Hispanohablante. I am pouring over texts recommended to me by Maria José, texts that used to intimidate me. Now the works of Garcia Márquez, Cortázar and Rulfo present challenges that I can’t wait to embrace. Their use of language is as visual as any film that’s ever delighted me, a medium that is as much as my religion as literature.  I “see” what I’m reading and the effect is positively addictive. But, I don´t need to be in Spain for that need to continue to burn.

Jorge Crosses Plaza Mayor Finals

I cried as I walked through the Plaza Mayor after my final exams today. The emotion was surprising and telling, mercifully hidden behind my sunglasses. I had been listening to Jane Monheit sing “Pure Imagination” and I just felt it. Truth is, I like who I have become here and I worry that returning to LA will mean slipping back into old habits because that´s what my hometown does to me if I let it. It´s like I´ve been in a rehab for the soul in Salamanca. I´ve had 30 days of purging the anger and detoxifying from all that made me sick of myself and the life I was living. I don´t want to suffer the Lohan Syndrome, falling back on old excuses as to why I can´t seem to help myself, staying weak and feeling irrelevant.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to admit that, and staring at it now makes me want to delete it without hesitation. But I won’t, because it is a thought that is very much at the front of mind right now. I know going home doesn’t have to mean backtracking on all that was accomplished here. I just have to create Spain in South Pasadena, living out acts of pure imagination and truth. Period. But for now, I don’t want to ponder such fears any further.

Tonight is what it means to be young for the school part of this summer in Spain is coming to a close.

Tonight is about celebrating the end of one unforgettable journey and looking forward to what’s ahead.

Tonight, I want to feel like I’m 22.

“We’re happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time

It’s miserable and magical.

Oh, yeah
Tonight’s the night when we forget about the deadlines
It’s time
Uh oh!
I don’t know about you
But I’m feeling 22”

— “22” by Taylor Swift

Virgen

Thursday, July 24 @ Manoli’s House in Salamanca, Spain.

“The art of letting go…” or “Te dejo Madrid” (Week 4, Days 24 through 26)

“The art of letting go…” or “Te dejo Madrid” (Week 4, Days 24 through 26)

“I can slay a dragon Any old week- Easy. What’s hard is simple. What’s natural comes hard. Maybe you could show me How to let go, Lower my guard, Learn to be free. Maybe if you whistle, Whistle for me.” — “Anyone Can Whistle,” lyric by Stephen Sondheim

Things are starting to wind down in Spain. Soon, the entire nation will be shutting down for their August vacations. Our professors are offering their reviews. We are preparing for our final exams, which are tomorrow! Soon, we will be departing our temporary homes and heading to our respective comfort zones we prefer to understand in our own languages. And I find myself in a strange limbo.

Because I always have a hard time letting go.

No matter where you run to in this world, your unsettled self will follow. That which remains buried will reveal itself. All that you have left behind without reconciliation haunts your house until you find the strength and knowledge to cast said spirits out. My ghosts roam this inner planet with a pair of blue eyes so intense, they radiate whether I’m aware of it or not. I think I fear letting go of this section of my past means losing a big part of my identity. Who am I if I am not able to piss and moan about “the one who got away?” If I put this chapter to rest, what am I left with in this world? I may have found my answer.

Today in literature class, we are studying the works of Mexican author Juan Rulfo. And, as I wind down this academic adventure in Salamanca, I find myself presented with a mirror reflecting back something that I have taken for granted of late. My job is predicated on asking the kind of questions that can reveal something about the people I am charged to interview. Sitting in class today, our final lecture, I was asking myself questions that are challenging my own sense of purpose.

The famously tortured Rulfo, an orphan haunted by a tragic past, did not turn out an expansive canon of work. His life is encompassed by a single novel (Pedro Páramo) and a group of short stories. The volume presented by Dr. Maria José Boyero was slim, only 300 pages to be exact. It literally fit in her pocket. But contained in those pages was a collection of writing designed to provoke and challenge readers. Sound played a key role in his writing. As my professor continued to explain the themes and symbols of this author´s work, I distinctly heard my heart beat faster. More, I saw the questions presented by his writing enveloping the small, stuffy classroom I´ve called my second home for nearly four weeks.

In Pedro Páramo and most of his works, his carefully rendered narratives feature characters trapped in a living purgatory. Between the black and white of our existence, there is the sky and fire. In these circles, they navigate in tandem, journeys intertwined, often representing polar opposites (purity/sin). For Rulfo, life is about questioning the basic realities of our human existence: What is death? What is love? What is fault? What is eternity? And so on… His works do not offer any answers at all. Rather, what we must know is that a specific death, like a singular love, awaits us all. In the end, these questions take a corporeal form and we will answer them with the experiences we live.

If we view ourselves as half-moons, our lives are built around the other halves (family, lovers, partners) that will make us complete. But these halves are destined to leave us, and for the characters created by Rulfo, they are destined to live again because life is nothing but a series of memories. These memories, strung together by force of will, are an attempt to resuscitate that which has been lost. For their journeys are an eternal search for answers without end.

The idea of destiny is such an expansive one, we can only offer it a passing glance because it scares us so much. Better to not even contemplate the end, rather, we focus on the seemingly mystical aspects of destiny. Like meeting certain people at certain times. Or, extolling the power of certain events occurring at certain times. I will never diminish the power of what appears like happenstance, but life really is more than a series of random events strung together. Like Rulfo’s characters, it is about the memories we set out to create for ourselves, good and bad. But, I don´t fear the end, not if life continues to offer the adventures I have had of late.

In a series of letters to his great love, Clara, Rulfo wrote of her being “Una estrella junto a la luna.” That’s what Spain has been to me, that star coupled next to a moon. His worlds are not often romantic ones, even though the characters’ cruelty is compounded by their desire to love and be loved.  Many of his protagonists are condemned to experience unrequited love, which can lead to a different form of death: madness. That’s what these last four years have felt like for me, a madness I’ve inflicted upon myself because of a love I cast away. It’s stupid and selfish to imprison oneself with the memory of a past realized. We cannot be cavalier with our feelings, our lives. We cannot voluntarily place ourselves in a purgatory of our own making. That is not living, that is death: madness.

It is fitting that Rulfo’s work, in keeping with his own questioning of faith, functions as a confessional. He doesn’t judge or absolve his characters. That is our role as a reader, to project our own morality, our own sensibilities into the complex lives we encounter on the page. In many ways, that’s what I hope to have achieved with the words from the authors and professors that have brought me such inspiration these last weeks at the Pontificia. I am projecting much of what I’ve felt for so long into their work, finding solace, comfort and a wonderful burst of clarity despite the darker recesses where these narratives inhabit.

This journey is not over in the physical sense. I leave for Barcelona on Friday, one last hug from Spain before making my way home. But in the emotional sense, I think I’ve reached the end of a complicated road, one that I’ve made incredibly complicated by obsessing over so much that is no longer in my control. It is time to vanquish that purgatory and aim for the blue, not the fire. It is time to trust my half-moon is circling other halves that bring me great joy. This is one more memory, a pearl strung with countless others, all representing a life worth living.

As the great Stephen Sondheim encapsulates so brilliantly in the longing brought to life in “Anyone Can Whistle,” what is hard truly is simple. And what comes natural to us, can truly be difficult. But sooner or later, we will find the means to establish our true place in the world, to learn to let go and be free.

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Just like learning how to whistle.

¨Ahí te dejo Madrid Tus rutinas de piel y tus ganas de huir…” — Shakira

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Leave it to me to try and squeeze in one more trip to Madrid before this Salamancan Summer comes to a close. No, I didn’t go back to see Samuel, although that’s causing me plenty of tsuris at the moment. He’s one half circle I’d love to have rotate around me one more time, but it doesn’t look like it may even be possible. Damn you, Rulfo! Hahaha.

No, I went back to reconnect with the past, which took the form of the lovely Montse Gil. A former co-worker of mine from the days at 20th Century Fox International, Montse and I were thrilled to find ourselves in each other’s midst again more than 15 years later. And we literally picked up where we left off.
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Such friendships are a miracle, particularly in the film industry, but Montse and I made the most of our reunion in Madrid with real brio and affection. She met me at Charmartín and took me straight to Chueca. Mind you, I had my reservations about going back to this district after Orgullo turned it into a urine-soaked variation of “The Purge” (but without the body count.) Yet, the insanity was on hiatus and Cheuca was pulsating in a manner that was so inviting, it’s making it harder for me to want to leave this country.

We walked through the neighborhood, talking and laughing, catching up on our lives, everything. If Bogie had “Casablanca,” then Montse and I will have:

“I’m Fruit” — a local fruit stand.

“San Wich” — a Chilean sandwich store

“Péinate, tú” — a local salon I preferred to call “Péinate, ya!”

Talk about paying attention to the signs!

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Of course, we gorged ourselves with the best tapas I´ve had since arriving here in Spain. The spicy goodness of tortilla con callos alone is reason enough to stay in Spain. That kick of fire, so intense it makes you sweat, made the Mexican part of me dance el jarabe tapatío. More, it was just hanging with Montse that made it all incredibly vivid. So much so, I missed my train back to Salamanca. I didn´t make it back in time for this morning´s grammar class. Boo! Hiss! Haha. But, as I´ve discovered of late, anywhere I hang my hat is home. Especially when you get to spend time with a good friend.

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Wednesday, July 23. Started on the Renfe train back from Madrid to Salamanca. Finished and posted from Manoli´s house in Salamanca.

“This is 47…” or “La importancia de ser chunga” (Madrid — Week 4, Day 23)

“This is 47…” or “La importancia de ser chunga” (Madrid — Week 4, Day 23)

Oh, but I just thought you might want something fine
Made of silver or of golden
Either from the mountains of Madrid
Or from the coast of Barcelona

Oh, if I had the stars from the darkest night
And the diamonds from the deepest ocean
I’d forsake them all for your sweet kiss
For that’s all I’m wishin’ to be ownin’

Boots of Spanish Leather by Bob Dylan

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Today is my 47th year of life and it is fitting that I am writing today’s entry on several trains back to Salamanca. This journey, like all journeys in the literal and figurative sense, is made up of stations, connections and transfers. Each stop brings you closer to you ultimate destination, a specific goal.

I am thinking about the many stops I’ve made to reach 47. The places, the people, the realized and unrealized destinations. I would love to see a map of it all. Then again, I remind myself I am that map. Every story, happy, sad, painful and hopeful is contained within.

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At this moment, I just pulled away from one such station, one such story: Samuel. I woke up next to him this 47th birthday feeling a sense of peace and unbridled optimism. I wasn’t afraid of what I would feel today. It may be the last time I see him because this Spanish adventure is almost done.

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Next stop, Week 4…

Today marks the start of week 4. Three more days of lecture. One day of exams. One day to revel in the accomplishment of being a student at the Pontificia. It will be the end of that line before making my way back home the following Monday.

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I write about not being afraid because the hard part has already occurred. I wasn’t closed off to the prospects of this surprise journey. My friend Mark worried that in the weeks leading up to Spain, my building expectations would end in disappointment. He was right to feel that concern. Given my penchant for overthinking things, it was a very real possibility. In the end, as this blog has testified, Spain has been nothing but inspiring.

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I discovered the way to walk these streets with my head up. I walk with purpose and, most importantly, with the confidence of knowing who I am. Hell, I even smile at strangers, not caring if they think I’m mental. And more of often than not, these salty, direct Spaniards smile back! Hahaha. Whatever fears I had, I know now what strengths I have in reserve to make this kind of journey work. I am not afraid of altering my narrative, at least in this context. It can happen and it will happen again.

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I did have one moment this weekend when I saw a piece of my past, which stirred some of the unresolved feelings I still harbor. I was compelled to hit “Like,” even though I didn’t like how I felt at that moment. Fucking Facebook. Raining on my parade and shit. Then I heard Samuel cooking in the kitchen, making me a Mexican style birthday almuerzo and I found my resolve again. That was the day’s best gift, finally understanding what it means to live in the present.

The pleasure seekers

Back in the 1960s, Fox remade one of its famed “three gals” movies, “Three Coins in the Fountain” as “The Pleasure Seekers,” trading Rome for Madrid. Here, Ann-Margret samples it all, modeling, dancing, going gypsy, “just about everything!” Yeah, she sang that fall down funny title song and no other cue fits at this point.

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Sam and I laughed a lot this weekend. Saturday was spent walking all over Madrid. Not the official tourist trek, but Madrid our way. We walked for hours. (Note to self: alpargatas are for the park and beach, not 5 hour urban hikes!)

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I kept flubbing words, using Mexican and awkwardly translated Jorgeismos that would bring Samuel to tears. But he loved the Castilian tacos or palabrotas I would use oh-so right.  Every step we took together was as absurd as the last, but it brought us closer. We didn’t talk about what was going to happen next. “Next” was just space dust, time yet to be realized. It had no bearing on Present “Us.” Neither of us wanted to spoil the now with any talk of Future “Us.” We were “friends with benefits” or as Samuel said, “Amigos con derecho a roce.”

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No, were having too much fun taking photos with the bottle of water that cost three euros. Or taking photos and talking shit about the Spanish royal family as we stood outside the Palacio Real. Or trying to find the souvenir plate featuring King Felipe and Queen Leti. (So Mom, thank him as he found the only plate with the official photo of them as a couple.)

Or enjoying the “Mitos of Pop” art exhibit where the only painting tucked away with the expected Warhols and Lichtensteins that we agreed was true art was La salita, Equipo Croníca’s complex parody of the sacred painting of Diego Velasquez’s Las meninas.

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He was with me when I found a copy of Julio Cortázar’s masterpiece of literary innovation, La rayuela. It was Samuel who took my theme of the water bottle further by taking a picture of it in front of excoriated Madrid mayoress Ana Botella’s office. (Get it, bottle = botella?)

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We enjoyed tortilla, gazpacho, coffee, churros and porras. How about the world’s biggest Big Macs? And don’t get me started on the jamon y queso flavored Lays potato chips! We made Madrid our bitch in the end, thanking God the heat took a holiday. (Even if my too close shave resulted en una cara hecho a un Cristo.)

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De puercas a putas

We went back to his apartment in Meco, sated and sore, but continued to laugh hysterically all the same. He made a cena of morcillas and we watched “Aliens” in Castilian. (I love how he meticulously he places a table cloth for each meal.). I fell apart when “Reepley” screamed “Quitaté de ahí puerca!” instead of “Get away from her, you bitch!”

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We followed that up by counting how many times was Julia Roberts referred to as a “puta” in the dubbed version of “Pretty Woman?”

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It seem pigs and whores are huge in this country and do not offend. Thus is Franco’s legacy?

As we hung out and enjoyed the late night, it seemed my whole world was held by a modular sofa. Life was happening. No one was forcing their hand or even raising expectations. We were just two men living in the moment.

Samuel.

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He offered and I accepted his care and intimacy without wanting anything else from me. And I returned it in kind, not because I felt starved for something that I haven’t been able to nurture is so long. I miss being someone’s partner, yes. Very much, in fact. And for a moment, I thought that I was just using Samuel as a proxy to stave off a sense of loneliness that has stayed at this fair too fucking long. I know some snarky cunts out there are thinking: “Bitch, you got got horny. Don’t confuse getting laid with some moment of truth.” But he kissed me with purpose. He wanted to make sure I felt welcome in his home, not just his bed. He held me in a way that made me feel safe and secure. Even mouthy little Dali contributed to my being back in Meco, sitting next to me as if we’d been friends forever.

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Nos hicimos sofa all day Sunday, my birthday. I pushed aside the inevitable and enjoyed the food, la telebasura, la siesta and all else in between. Then, we gathered up my stuff (including a new suitcase. Don’t ask.) and drove back to the Alacalá Renfe station. As to what happens to us next, as to what station is next, I just know it will involve me going from Chamartín to Salamanca today.

I am not afraid.

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My birth day ends in three more hours. By the rules of magical realism, we are born, we die and are reborn. I love that symmetry. It means our existence never ends. As I write these lines, and read all the wonderful birthday notes from all over, I am awed over the gift of this experience.

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My dear friend Alan sent me a heartfelt note, hoping I am celebrating “a great life.” I am, Alan. But I am wonderfully aware that a celebration of life does not happen alone. We are all the singular achievement of two lives brought together by fate. And fate will be our closest companion for the duration of our lives, so you have to be able to travel well.

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Fate is extraordinarily fickle, changing your itinerary without a moment’s notice. At times, you will take issue with where it chooses to lead you, even feel absolute rage. But we do get to choose some stops, the unscheduled ones that offer such beauty, you learn why they never appear on a map in the first place.

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It is so true that it isn’t the destination that defines us, rather the journey itself. Spain has already revealed more than expected. (Some of which has surprised more than a few of you as documented in this blog. Cue “Don’t Tell Mama” from Cabaret!)

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I don’t mind the reaction. I’m just as surprised as some of you. But this journey is not quite over yet. As long as there is road ahead to trek, I will keep respecting my road dog named Fate to keep leading me to all destinations unknown.

And, I am not afraid.

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Sunday, July 20. Started on the Alacalá de Henares train to the Chamartín station in Madrid and completed on the way back to Salamanca. Posted from Manoli’s house.

Él es Samuel, El es…y Yo Soy Jorge (Spain Sampler — Week 2, Days 15 – 16)

Él es Samuel, El es…y Yo Soy Jorge (Spain Sampler — Week 2, Days 15 – 16)

 

Shirley Valentine: That’s right, Millandra, I’m going to Greece for the sex! Sex for breakfast! Sex for dinner! Sex for tea! And sex for supper!
Van Driver: Sounds like a fantastic diet, love!
Shirley Valentine: It is, have you never heard of it? It’s called the “F” plan! — From Willy Russell’s “Shirley Valentine”

I’m not going to lie. I was hoping I’d get the chance to have a torrid love affair to remember while in Salamanca. To be honest, given the way my life usually works, I was certain the caballero would be some introverted Psych major from a university in Wisconsin and not a handsome, bearded Spaniard infused with Old World machismo.

Guess what? El universo got it right at long last.

It’s funny how these things work. Who knew when the MIT geniuses (or whoever) invented GPS, it was really just another means of having our dicks point us in the right direction? That’s essentially what the gay social apps are for, why be precious about it? I’m a single man abroad without any attachments. Why shouldn’t I indulge in a bit of tomcatting?

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Telmo caught my eye for very specific reasons, right? So, whether I’d met him in LA or not, the ensuing ritual is the same no whether where you go or whatever language is spoken. A barrage of obligatory IM’s cross the line between curiosity and innuendo before devolving into the bartering of sexual activities that seal the deal. It’s a nervy roll of the dice because no matter how much you reveal upfront, the risk of disappointment or rejections runs just as high if nothing is said at all.

In the case of Telmo, a one night stand was all we were meant to be. I look at it as a tapa, a pre-cursor to the cena still to come. (Really, must all food metaphors turn everything into THAT scene from “Tom Jones?”)

Then I met Samuel, and now I don’t what to think. No literary devices come to mind. I can only think of him as something…well…poetic.

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“Lo único que me duele de morir, es que no sea de amor.” –Gabriel García Márquez, El amor en los tiempos del cólera

It is interesting the parallel I would find in Palmira’s conversation class a few days after my weekend with Samuel. After nearly three weeks, no one is holding back their opinions, which has made for some pretty charged classes of late. We talked about dating in the digital age and the group revealed incredibly strong opinions about the social sites. Trust, honesty and reality seem to be in short supply for most of the young women who comprise the majority of the class. When I asked these students whether they considered themselves romantics or realists, they were divided. Some did not even hesitate in calling themselves realists. But several acknowledged they were probably both. I tend to agree with them now. Given my experiences of late in dating, I see the reason why Don Henley wrote in The Heart of the Matter, “How can love survive in such a graceless age?”

I keep firing up my Moto to take a peek of the images we snapped during our tour of Alcalá de Henares, located 40 minutes by train outside of Madrid.  I think about how I stepped out of the Renfe station and saw him pull up in a white car. (I know, right? White car, white horse!) I think about how we walked up to each other, and he reached out to hug me and then kissed me oh-so gently on the lips, saying “Hola, Jorge. Que gusto.”

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I look at those meaty forearms of his and I instantly want to get in them. He’s a real man, no affectations and harbors no delusions about how the world works. Samuel has made his own way in the world. Forgive this Donna Reed-era statement, but he has a good job in Madrid and lives in the town of Meco in a comfortable and ridiculously clean apartment he shares only with an extremely vocal cat named Dali. (That cat was the ultimate cock blocker, by the way.) He is definitely someone you’d say was comfortable in their own skin, which is something I’ve always had a lot of trouble saying with conviction.

All of this heavy breathing is perfectly shot and framed in my head by Roger Deakins or Emmanuel Lubezki. It depends on the light of day. Yet, I don’t think of any of this as being “love.” I know what it is to truly fall in love. It has only happened once, the concussion of which continues to reverberate through my very core. Given the difficulty I’ve had in seeing anyone else in such a manner, I don´t know how eager I am to experience that sort of emotional upheaval again.

However, what is happening with Samuel is something surprisingly easier to comprehend, despite the hyperbole I can’t help but spin. Perhaps the pre-Spain me would have obsessed un mogollón about what all THIS MEANS. While I do not shy away from calling it positively romantic,  I am also being positively realistic about its significance.

I feel like a living, breathing man again.

The shock of a new person sharing an intimate space with you is on par with being stabbed in the heart with syringe. You will feel so much at once: fear, awkwardness, excitement, clarity and compassion. It feels so good to know I can make that happen again. It’s absolutely thrilling, this rush that fires up every cell, every synapse. I haven´t felt this energized in so long. It´s like what I´m experiencing with my re-learning Spanish. My mind has so much it wants to express, I can’t articulate it at the same speed. Something gets caught in the transition even though my thinking is very much in Spanish. What a wonderful problem to have, but if anything, it validates why slowing down is not such a bad thing.

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The weekend I spent with Samuel in Alcalá de Henares and Meco was a variation of what I’m living and breathing at the Pontificia: that is Inspiring.

It is no coincidence that all of this would happen in the hometown of Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quijote. Samuel took it upon himself to put together a tour. Like Salamanca, Alcalá is a university town. Here, history has found a way to keep up with the encroaching modernity that continues to honor the past. Here, the most acclaimed Hispanic writers of our time are honored with the Cervantes Prize. Here, this town was built brick by brick because its earliest designer, Francisco Jiménez de Cisnero, knew it would outlast the stone facades of the time.

It’s an prescient detail, the idea of building something brick by brick. It is also how we build an identity, value by value, lesson by lesson, truth by truth. A biological component exists, absolutely. Yet, as I’ve discovered through my recent proclivities, I am actually enjoying this moment to understand and not judge my sexual identity.

I never saw “gay” as a choice. It was just a fact. Once I was able to accept who I was a human being, the rest fell into place, if in fits and starts. It has been a complicated process, one littered with so many drafts and experiments gone wrong, it has been easy to hide behind a false sense of self.

The Windmills of my mind
The Windmills of my mind

Control has been my nemesis through it all, indulging all of my appetites to overcompensate the fact I just didn’t know who I was in this world. Eventually, I got so frustrated by it all, it was apparent that I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. Nor could I say I even loved myself. If I did, I wouldn’t have let a malaise of self-loathing and discontent to obfuscate any optimism or hope.

I was aware of my issues. I realized who I wanted to be in this world. And like my current problem in refining my fluency in Spanish, that disconnect was preventing me from reaching this point of contentment.  Scratch that — I was preventing myself from being happy.

For being such a short word, “happy” encompasses so much. So why is it so damn hard a state of being to achieve? Why do many of us choose self-flagellation over embracing the many blessings we should count? Why do we torture ourselves with low self-image, a negative body consciousness and other punishments? Why is perception given such a premium in a world that quite frankly doesn’t give a shit about you or how you feel?

Multi-billion dollar industries benefit from our misery. I refuse to give one dollar more to these complexes that market how they have the secret to living an “authentic life.” Guess what? I’m living one right now. What I am doing, what I am seeing, and most of all, what I am feeling is fucking authentic.

Roman glory.
Roman glory.

I know the world is not always a beautiful place. In light of recent events, both personal and global, I am humbled by the reminders of how that single thread of our existence can be cut without warning or mercy. Yet, it is in understanding and accepting beauty in all things that will allow us to exalt in the privilege and responsibility of being alive.

Something has shifted within me thanks to this experience in Spain. In fact, I can see now how all roads led to Salamanca. I’m not sure where this particular path will lead, but something tells me that I will be making that journey with a smile.

Because it’s beautiful…

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PS — And yes, for the record, I am going back to Madrid this weekend with Samuel.

Friday, July 18 (Week 3, Day 21), started at Samuel’s house in Meco and finished at Manoli’s house in Salamanca, Spain.