In a few short minutes we board a ship out of Barcelona, bound for Genoa...and from Genoa, a train to Rome. Barcelona has been ecstatic, but I am looking forward to Italy--the food and the culture are so much more familiar to me, coming from my home in Brooklyn's Carroll Gardens, and I have always dreamed of making a pilgrimage to Rome. This isn't as devout as some of my Sunday school teachers would have wished, but such is life.
Today we visited Park Guell, another of Gaudi's unfinished, rambling masterpieces--a hillside of unnatural art that blends into the landscape until it seems as if the natural trees and stones seem out of place. I have rarely been as affected as I have been by one architect--I admire him so much, for his failures and the ramshackle, half-baked nature of his visions. They seem so earthy to me. I like earthy.
We have also spent a great deal of time wandering the Barri Gotic, seeing the beautiful cathedral and the tiny, winding cobbled streets. In a small hidden square we stood as a bell rang and ten thousand children flooded in, all laughing, playing with balls, jumping rope and using their GameBoy Advance handhelds. It was a wonderful afternoon--the sun was hot and strong for November, and on Las Ramblas people dressed in semi-cheesy costumes that occasionally turned brilliant, like the monochrome man, in titanium white facepaint, who sat on an equally white toilet, miming shitting so well that you had to laugh out loud and pay him. Everywhere there was three card monte, played with hollowed-out carrot tops and a tiny green pea.
I have to finish this, eat another tapa, get some cafe con leche and catch our boat.
Today was a total immersion in Gaudi, God�s Architect and the genius behind Segrada Familia, the most amazing cathedral on earth which is still under construction--it will be another 40 years before it is complete, and it has been under work since 1895. Everywhere there are curves, swoops and organic shapes, like Geiger lit up with soul, like a culmination of everything we�ve ever learned about cathedrals distilled and poured into a huge mold...but breaking, over and over, into different shapes. In the crypts beneath the cathedral-in-progress are the workshops, where new models are made daily--I have read extensively on the medieval process of building cathedrals, which takes hundreds of years, but had no idea that an example still existed here in the modern world. What a blessing, to see such beauty split open and the light of day pouring into a half-finished nave where workers smoke and drink coffee, debating some issue of stonework heatedly. I was looking forward to seeing it, but the reality of it blew so far past my expectations that I don�t even know how to calculate the difference.
We�ve been eating dinners from the market, cheese and bread and fruits so fresh they spoil minutes after they leave the market (great on vacation, bad in practical life) and watching incomprehensible Spanish television. Tonight there was a man in a room. An old man spoke to him, and then a casket opened. An older man was in the casket. The young man wept. The corpse changed into a crying baby. The young man grabbed the baby before the lid of the coffin came back down out of the air on its own. Then the young man had the baby baptized, and then he was in a room with a woman (the new mother?) who was angry with him, or flirting, and he attacked her, and tied her up. Then he flipper her on her back and used a sword to cut off her clothes, and then proceeded to whip her with his sword.
Finally the old man from the first scene returned, and the young man seemed sad. The old man said something, and the young man started counting, there was a light change and he was very happy. The End.
Just like life, isn�t it?
And now a special Thanksgiving edition of Dilettante, straight at you from the heart of Barcelona, just off Las Ramblas. It�s been a rocky, wonderful, tumultuous trip so far--in many ways the honeymoon is eerily reminiscent of the relationship it celebrates, in that it has been so full of highs and lows that eventually you don�t know if you are dying from beauty and wonderfulness or just wishing to put a bullet in your head from the brightness of it all.
We came in on an evening flight to find our room, an extremely modest pension in the Barri Gotic quarter. JM booked the accommodations, and somehow I had failed to take into account that my wife is BUDGET TRAVEL WARRIOR EXTRAORDINAIRE!, so she feels, for example, that television and toilets are luxuries for the weak and decadent. The light was a flickering florescence just beginning to fail, the room had no power outlets and the two tiny beds made of plywood and some sort of stretched out muslin. And those are the good qualities--to get to the Death Room you need to walk down a long hall where the lights have gone dead, until you reach the dim outlines of your cell.
As you might imagine, we then had an excellent fight--I was sullen and bitchy, she was haughty and imperious, and when the dust settled we had a new room (my idea) in the same hotel (my concession). The new room was a lot better--no scary hallway, some better lighting, a balcony, a luxurious double bed...still spare, but a long way from horrifying death trap.
We were exhausted, so we laid down to take a nap...and upon awakening, my bride had lost the ability to move. JM has a bad back which rears its head from time to time, but in this case it had really outdone itself--a brand new kind of pain, and a whole side of her body was basically immobile. I had images in my mind of our future: we would live in this pension, and every morning I would carry her down to Las Ramblas, the exciting main drag of Barcelona where she would sit, begging for change as a paralytic cripple while I cavorted at her feat, dressed in an excellent macaque monkey costume, screaming out my love and pickpocketing tourists.
It wasn�t as funny as all that, though--she really couldn�t move, and somehow we had lost all our ibuprofen and about 30 euros on our transit from London to Spain, leaving us drugless and cash-light. I really started to consider that this might be serious--JM is a dramatic lady, but she was in real pain, and I wasn�t certain what kind of injury she had.
I hoisted her up slowly, in a sort of winching method the macaques are known for, until she was finally standing after ten minutes. Then we got out the door and up the street, where the wisdom of JM�s hotel-choosing became apparent: EVERYTHING is open all night long, and within close walking distance to our hotel. We managed to get superstrong ibuprofen from an all night pharmacy, some wine and tapas and a small pizza before stumbling home at 3am, where we slept...and mercifully, in the morning my wife had been spared. She�s not dancing yet, but it looks like we�ll make it through the rest of the trip.
Barcelona is amazing--so much color everywhere, and the public art is outstanding. I love the clean lines of the buildings, and the elegant integration of the gothic architecture with modern glass, steel and less-modern explosions of Modernist architecture...it�s a visual feast. The market near our hotel is just fantastic, with all the foods on earth laid out in perfect precision, fruit displayed with a precision reserved for moon landings--apples go here, oranges here, and the plums are lined up in their small and perfect cradles, each to each. The plazas are everything I�ve hoped for: smaller than Madrid, but lit up with the same Mediterranean light beneath the unexpected grace of palm trees that look as though they�ve sprung from the land overnight, shooting up impossibly high and thin into the sky.
We haven�t seen anything, and we�ve seen everything: we�re on honeymoon, and that informs all our choices. We don�t seem to ever keep any schedule, never know when we are going to wake up or go to bed, but at the same time there is a restless peace I haven�t felt in years--we are doing what we want when we want it. Tomorrow we will be seeing many of Gaudi�s masterpieces and the palaces of Catalunya on Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays. Though I know we will spend this day well, I keep thinking about my family, especially our family in Seattle where we spend each Thanksgiving with the Dovers, a drunken orgy of love and well-wishing...I hope that it goes off well, and I�ll be thinking of all of them as we do our best to find some turkey and mashed potatoes out here. I have a lot to be thankful for, but mostly I�m just thankful to be at this place in my life, with my wife for whom I give thanks every day.
We leave London in just a few hours for Barcelona, where the meat of this honeymoon starts in earnest, having finished up the performance on Saturday night. It was pretty strange looking over all the papers on Sunday and seeing pictures of the hall where I performed and people who had hosted me pounding podiums and frothing--especially since I wandered into this national crisis without much preamble, and now with my performance done I leave the same way. Eerie.
UK audiences don't laugh as much out loud as Americans, though they are more prone to spontaneous applause in mad rushes, so that it sounds like flocks of birds taking flight, and they do a lot of foot stomping.
On Sunday we got up very late, after staying up with friends, and then ambled over to the British Museum. I loved it in '93 when I lived here, but the new Great Court is absolutely spectacular--they have glassed in the entire structure,and now the Reading Room is open to the general public, a beautiful edifice that actually puts the New York Public Library's room to shame. Well, at least it gives it a good race.
Also in the museum, other than all the antiquities of ancient culture looted for your pleasure, is the work of Antony Gormley, a very cool sociologist-cum-sculptor who does a great exhibit called Field for the British Isles. My friend James recommended we see it, and we were not disappointed: 45,000 6-inch high clay figures roughly formed from native earth stare balefully up at you, arranged as a sea of otherness that all have black pits for eyes. There is a quiet intensity, and a kind of dignity to their watchfulness--it is very beautiful AND smart, and it's cool when those things go together.
We have a plane to catch, so the next letter will come from the Continent. (I feel a little dumb writing that, but I've often wanted to have an excuse to say that.)
I'm writing this from the ground here at the TUC, the Trade Union Congress of the UK, where I'm speaking and performing this evening. The biggest story in the UK today is the firefighter strike, which means that press is swarming all over the site here, and the conference itself has become almost frenzied with media seeking sound bites and opinion pieces--I've been asked twice for commentary so far, and it is difficult to sound like a coherent, informed citizen and at the same time admit that you don't really know the width and breadth of UK labor history because...well...I don't.
Our hosts have been wonderful, and we're right off of Tottenham Court Road, so we're hoping to see the British Museum, which I love, and do some window shopping. Tonight we are hooking up with friends in London who're coming by the conference and they say they have picked out a restaurant that doesn't suck, which from my long association with British food will be a real achievement.
You may have noticed that for the last month or so there's been less and less traffic here at mikedaisey.com...infrequent postings, even more incoherent ravings and a general loss of commentary. Days pass, and there is less and less sign of the mikedaisey.com of yesteryear--the bon mots, the clever retorts, the feeling that I was firmly at the wheel driving this site onward into the next millenium.
Frankly, I've fallen down on the job. The good news is that I've been busy with other projects--I'm writing a pilot for HBO. The wrestling and wrangling to make that happen is a legendary story, which I do not have time here to relate, but the end result is a great one--I am creating a television series.
As I shift over into this new phase I'm going to try and jumpstart this blog by opening up my creative process a little more, rather than just commenting on what I've eaten and what's happening in pop culture. I am also planning to use it as a travelogue, as I leave in just four short hours for London. From there it is a madcap race across the Continent--we are hitting six cities in three weeks, with trains and planes and automobiles between.
You see, with all the hubub and hustle of the last few years I have never gone on a honeymoon--we just couldn't affod it, couldn't fit it in and generally couldn't make it work out. We forgot about it, as we had a lot of work to do, until suddenly this opportunity opened up, and impulsively we have decided to go.
I'll be looking for inspiration in the wrong places, and Jean-Michele will be helping to make certain we don't end up houseless and barefoot in Nice. As the trip progresses i will update you, both with local color AND, hopefully, with some idea of what it is I'm working on now.
Now it is 4:30AM. That means, seasoned traveller that I am, that it is time to pack.
Holy Christ on a cracker.
I'm actually posting this from the stage at Carnegie-Mellon University, where the wireless internet flows like honeyed wine. I am here doing the show, giving some talks and meeting with folks at the university--wonderful people. I'll post more when I'm not actually acting, as I am supposed to be at this very moment.
Apparently, limn is very big in the literary circles of New York. I *knew* I was doing something wrong!
Ladies and Gentlemen, John Travolta's BATTLEFIELD EARTH suit is on eBay. View it and weep for humanity.
I couldn't agree more, and it scares the hell out of me.
From Citizens To Customers, Losing Our Collective Voice
This seems a little too optimistic, but covers a lot of ground in a short piece:
Microsoft's New Set of Hurdles
The World's Only Ass-Kicking Machine