Spontaneity and Getting Lost

Posted by Lori | Posted in | Posted on 2:28 PM


It was early in the morning, I didn't sleep during the 6-hour nighttime bus ride, and I was having none of Madrid.

I grumbled to myself as we plodded along from the bus station and into Atocha, a slightly older bus station. Somehow I was supposed to be impressed by the elaborately designed outside and the atrium filled with plants and turtles on the inside. But all I wanted to do was lie down on one of the wooden benches and sleep.

We left, and continued down the cold street. I was grumpy and silent. Why do I bother traveling? I could be at home, in bed, and asleep.

It took a breakfast, a second picnic breakfast, and a nap in the park to make it all right.

Later that evening we saw who we came for: Andrew Bird. He is an incredible musician, played a fantastic show, and had a sock monkey on stage with him.

Afterward we were wandering around trying to decide where to eat dinner. As we walked beside the concert hall, I thought I saw Mr. Bird. As we got closer, I realized it was him...with a small line of people waiting to talk with him.

We passed by and I squelched my spontaneous desire to go and play the adoring fan role. 10 minutes later the line was gone, and I couldn't help it. And naturally, instead of saying any of the things I had planned beforehand, this was all I could muster:

"I...I liked your show. It was awesome. You were amazing."


"No really...it was really fantastic."


"So...are you going to hang out in Madrid tonight?"

"Umm...I think we're going to find some dinner and then go back to the hotel and sleep."

"Oh yea. You must be tired. Okay. Bye!"

It was awkward.

The next day was spent slacklining in Parque del Retiro and being shown around the city by a Colombian actor/professor. But that night...was blues night. A blues jam session, to be precise, in a jazzy little bar on the street. We danced like it was 1923.

Then came the day of callejeando*. I got lost. Very lost.

It was fun at first...wandering around. Letting myself get lost. Intentionally being lost.

I stumbled upon several places I had wanted to encounter...like the Palacio Real and the Egyptian Temple. I haggled for a hat in a market. I walked down a shaded avenue where the leaves on the trees were turning yellow. I saw people going about their daily routine, picking children up from school, sweeping the street, carrying too many groceries. I hadn't looked at a map all day.

But then there came a point where enough was enough. I got hungry and tired and grumpy. And I realized I had to find my way back to the flat where I was staying. I pulled out my map and began to rely on the kindness and directions of the natives to help me with my not-so-perfect navigational skills. The people were friendly to me, my feet were not.

The next morning I went and drew in el Prado.** Then I wandered some more and ended up back in Parque del Retiro. The whole trip I had been imagining a spontaneous encounter that could make for a good story. Nothing.

Then while I was standing against a tree writing, an Italian asked me for directions. I told him I wasn't from Madrid, but pulled out my map and to help if I could. I ended up accompanying him to the other end of the park. He invited me to an Irish pub with his Spanish friend. I agreed, informing him that I have a motto when I travel that if someone invites you somewhere, you go for it. In the pub we debated whether or not Ohio borders Canada*** and watched the Barcelona game. And as we sat there, I smiled, satisfied that my random encounter had been realized.

After a few days, I determined: Madrid is a proper city. With a metro, prostitutes, fountains, museums, construction, and lots of people crammed onto the sidewalk. Each barrio**** has its own personality, and they can change abruptly from one street to the next. It is very much alive.

But after it all, I was happy to go home to Oviedo, tucked away in the hills.*****

*A word I loosely understand as wandering around aimlessly on the street.
**Famous art museum. Their collection of de Goya is amazing. At first I couldn't figure out why I knew so many of them and then I remembered that I had done a project on him for Spanish class in high school.
***The Italian was convinced that it did. I refused to agree. We drew maps on paper napkins and argued for a while. The Spaniard thought it was hilarious.
*****And a quick shout out of thanks to my fantastic hosts: you made me feel at home in your flat and cooked me delicious food. Not to mention, showing me around Madrid...see you in Oviedo in the spring!

A dialogue with Abuela

Posted by Lori | Posted in | Posted on 6:14 AM


"Cualquier día, voy a morir."

"Vas a dormir?"

"No, voy a morir."

"No! No hables como así."

"Nacemos para morir."

"No. Nacemos para vivir."

Misty Streets

Posted by Lori | Posted in | Posted on 3:19 PM


It's starting to get cold in Oviedo, and rainy. A thin layer of water reflects the fractured streetlight as I walk home from a meeting at L'Arcu.*

I pass by Swing, a jazz club I've been tempted by many times. There's an antique bike hanging in the window. I hear music. Jazz music. Live jazz music. I peer inside. It looks empty.

I twist my foot into the ground in hesitation. It's the hesitation that's my signal. I walk in.

Attractive bar tender wearing a trendy t-shirt. No red wine.** I get a drink and choose a table close to the trio playing. One on base, one on drums, one seated at the piano. And they're good. They're having fun.

The bar is empty except for them, another girl who seems to be their friend, and me.

I pull out my sketchpad and before I can draw, I write:

I walked past the jazz club I'd seen so many times before...I like jazz. It can't be written - it can't really be drawn - logically. It's just rapid movement. Flashes of color and light and sound....I think the drummer just asked me a question and I wasn't paying attention and I just laughed instead. And I think he's insulted. He's noisy. Now they're all singing. It's...I feel like I'm watching something that should be happening in someone's basement.

Not long after, the pianist switches to a fast salsa number. The drummer tries to pull his friend out of the booth to dance. She refuses. I'm his second choice. And, of course, I oblige.*** The quick dance breaks the barrier between myself and the others.

After the dance I return to my sketchpad. My dance partner comes to see what I'm doing. I won't let him see. So he tells me that he will draw me something. Anything.

"Dime...cualquier palabra."


He draws a piano with a lamppost growing out of it surrounded by some trees. He writes at the bottom, "Se tu misma. Y nunca te olvides de disfrutar del momento."**** And so I show him my sketches.

Later, they play "Ain't No Sunshine." I sing softly to myself while I draw. They notice, and pull me beside the piano to sing. There's no objecting. I sit beside the pianist, smile to calm myself, and slowly begin the song. Smooth and smoky. They look surprised. And then smile at each other. The bassist says something about how he didn't expect that to come from me. I just laugh. After the song, the pianist hugs me.

And from then on, it's a night of humming and singing, chatting about nothing, and trying to understand their jokes.

Later I ask the pianist to play me something and I'll work out a song. I get a happy start. Then they grab my notebook away from me and tell me that I'm going to be rich all of them the next day. Their eyes flash in jest. I protest as best I can.

We pack up. The bar is closing. We head into the slightly misty streets.

I like jazz. It's never still. It's movement and spotnaneity. It's streetlights and misty nights and smoky bars. It's water dropping from the leaves of trees, falling into soft puddles on the bricks that our feet encounter as we walk home.

*A "comercio justo" shop I'm starting to get involved with.
**How can a jazz club not have red wine? That, my friends, is a travesty.
***I decided, when I was in my first salsa club here, that if someone asks you to dance, you dance. Especially when it comes to salsa.
****Be yourself. And never forget to enjoy the moment.