Friday, May 21, 2010

Pais de Maravillosas

Shattered...positively. I haven't slept on a comfortable bed - save a few isolated incidents when I slept in hostels, hotels, or when I was snowed-in at my co-worker's parent's house- for a year. Constantly waking up at night wondering what it'll take to get comfortable.
Last Friday was full and surprising. Barcelona, as it becomes its sunshiney best, all the people open more..After work hours took a turn from doing a somewhat regular Flamenco night at Jazz SI, since no one wanted to join me in seeing Nacho Libre...the mini stamp master at the hidden wooden exploring Gracia, the Berkeley-esque mini-hood adjacent to my quiet well-ordered somewhat geriatric neighborhood. Gracia is full of colorful plazas, original clothing stores, panaderias (bakeries, of course), orange trees, hat shops, jewelery shops, vegetarian fare, wine is an open alternative to the snaking streets of the Raval, and minus the urine stench as well..So, a store I regularly haunt and because of its 1940s style covet-ables - lil' feather head bands, mini hats, sailor dresses with creatively placed pockets- that is a touch overpriced was having a promotional party - 20 % off and cava = drunken shopping. Yes, I knew about it and plotted my route home by it..Went in, and after a warm welcome by the busty bleach blonde with the red lips, beauty mark, and black stillettos..I began sipping my first strawberry tailored cava and the prices looked increasingly better. By my 2nd cava I had pulled out a strapless floral printed mini dress...stepped in front of 15 women at a big mirror...GUAPA! Oh yes, you must get that, with those booots or fits you so well, tia! Let me hold it for you..I couldn't say no, my beauty, in their eyes, demanded that I wear and keep and treasure the dress..I lingered in the store, drank more, bought more.. a gray open bust cat - suit (also perfect with heels or boots)..Soon I was at the shop afterhours with the designers and their friends finishing the cava then over to a local bar up the street, where the girls scarfed olives, nuts and beer delivered uncharacteristically quick by the attentive barmen who were clearly accustomed to the local ladies and they noticed my extranjera's affection for Spanish red wine (all the Americans go for the red wine). IT's Delicious. Claro, Tia, claro! They insisted I practice my Spanish with them, though they all knew English to a certain degree.. Worked in dress shops...were intrigued by my story...more often than not questions like what are you doing here? Why barcelona? Why did you leave San Francisco? I hear it is perfect! ...It is...I have my somewhat scripted response about my need to see explore Spain, my ultimate desire to move to NYC once theater adventures and travel run their course in europe....most of the night i sit, mouth agog, handling conversation at an upper-intermediate level when slow questions are directed at me as their tongues drill out gossip about 26 year old lovers.. (Cuentame Carina!)...bad dates...weekend plans...the girls want to go out to karaoke with me.... sing at the cutre (tacky) Amoldobar... i came into the night alone and left with 2 hot outfits and four new Catalan girlfriends ....
I've seen the metro system here as kind of a racket...all the stops are usually a handful of blocks away...several handfuls and you've crossed the city in a bit over an the weather's summery I'd rather walk in the sun through lilac trees than spend the Euro 40 to walk underground and save MAYBE 5 minutes. These above ground walks, mainly from the Clot (terrifying metro name) Station, through a tree sheltered ramblas (sidewalky promenade with shops and things) generally prove to be most rewarding as they include street performance, shopping, and public nudity.
Stupid conejo! Over a week ago I witnessed a 20-something girl with blood splattering her mouth legs and arms..wearing a lil-girl style pinafore dress with a bit of crinalyn peeking from beneath madly punching a stuffed toy rabbit's head and flailing on the boulevard.. At first, I simply forsook her as one of the many mentally unstable folks that typically pepper the metro stations or the more popular Ramblas in the city center. I soon realized she was a performance artist, busking, as she cycled through a structured improvised abstract interpretation of Alice in Wonderland wherein Alice catches up to the rabbit and systematically decapitates him, blaming for the distraction and distress brought to her life by his scampering through it. Soon I'm watching, with about 5 enamored men, as Alice suggestively straddles the rabbit's head, and bemoans her lot...then catapults into an enraged tizzy on the pavement in the early Tuesday afternoon bustle of grandmas slow-stepping to their produce shopping who stop to drop encouraging coins into the light, mad nymph's hat or who try to hand it to the girl while she's mid-flail. If this happens, Alice interrupts herself and shows the ladies her hat before rejoining her bunny-socking rant. Many abuelitas quietly come to ask me if the girl's alright, what she's doing, and whether or not she knows there's a better ramblas for this kind of performance. After sharing my own monetary encouragement with Alice, and realizing that she's resuming her cyclical argument with the dismembered bunny...I move on.
On other days this ramblas is alive with children being picked up afterschool by gossiping smoking parents...there is often one or two small boys, around 5 years old, running around the trees, there pants to their ankles, peeing over the tree trunks or merely holding onto themselves while their mothers and grandmothers talked about family friends and their weekend plans. Today, on my promenade, I met an accordian player from Italy who charmed me with her rendition of a theme from Amelie and told me of her plans to busk through Spain. I walked into a nearby dress shop where Nieve, the squat, bleach-blonde 60-something proprietor with turquoise eyeshadow and Winston cigarettes told me what a great ass I had and how to hold onto my figure..."Just tell yourself, I won't ever be fat, I don't want to be fat. It's a mind game. Don't be like us, the obese ones. We have so many problems. It is good to deal with your body now, and stayed focused on it. Always remind yourself the balance you need to be healthy as you are. I was born in the country and I must go back. Barcelona is too closed, there's no peace here. I may have cancer. " Within 20 minutes she had me giggling as she handled my tetas into a classic navy strapless dress, which I bought with the promise to return for more, and we were kissing goodbye...I might've gone home with her if I were a man.."Eres guapa, Natanya" (You are beautiful, Natanya)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Monday, May 10, 2010

La mano loca

The last time I saw the lithe, bra-less waif was nearly 8 months ago, when I first arrived in Barcelona. She gave me an amazing haircut. Promising it would be wearable, telling me how good a hairstylist she was while sucking at her somewhat rust-colored teeth, and humming to herself. I love la mano loca, my raval-ian/parisian hair doctor who today, after massaging lemony hydration infusions into my hair and trimming out the long beast its become, wrote down a prescription for a cd i should check out, and the name of a hairdresser in paris for when I move there. I am keeping the hair I've grown out, cultivating a kind of full bodied 70s superhero coif..Served me well today, when another mano loco (a boy of about 16) came up very close behind me. I turned abruptly around to see the snakeskin style maroon wallet my sister had gifted me fall to the floor of the metro station and this boy quickly lay his foot on top of it, as though it weren't there. "Get of my s#%&!, you f*^%$ing a#$#%h&*%!", I shouted in his face pushed him off my wallet and kicked him in his a&*! He stumbled around, pretending he couldn't speak any language and looking at me blankly. Pick-pocketry is a highly common occurence in Barcelona. So much so that there are informational cartoons about it broadcast throughout the metro stations and regular advisories about it on the trains, at markets, everywhere. This is the second attempt on my belongings that I've foiled..a most Wonderwomany satisfaction!
Still processing Brezinzka and not really having time to do so properly. Was asked to act in a short surrealist film this past weekend in Poble Sec. A friend of a friend, Vicky, whose from Costa Rica, asked me to come wearing a bright pink dress and anything else pink I might have, and film a scene with another girl dressed in pink where we stare at our reflections in a lit-up mirror and become progressively more robot like as we stroke our own hair, say we want the best, and a girl holding a floating illuminated purple balloon dances behind us and says "Mira! Mi globo" (Look at my ball!). It was an excellent and, due to standing before several lightbulbs for nearly two hours, a somewhat sweaty Saturday afternoon. I am happy for the experience, and am already missing Barcelona as Spring and Summer blend together..the flowering trees shed white petals on the roads, and green parakeets flirt over the gothic hospital that's across my balcony.
Before I went to Poland, the day before actually, I saw that long lines of folks were waiting outside Hospital Sant Pau, the aforementioned gothic hospital. I came out to do an errand, and a man waiting in the line told me that entering the hostpital was free today..It is another modernist masterpiece, designed by the same architect who created the Palau de Musica. So I stood in line..went in to the modernist masterpiece with intricate tiled frescoes of flowers and peacock feathers. Flying buttresses shaped like tree branches that reached to the ceiling..Stainglass skylights..It's still in the process of being reconstructed...the hospital has a lovely center courtyard lined with orange trees, lilac bushes, honeysuckle smelled of heaven's fruit salad..puppet shows retelling, in Catalan, the history of the hospital's construction entertained the children. I couldn't believe it when i left the courtyard, crossed the street, and was back in my apartment, staring at the neighboring architectural masterpiece like an old friend who'd opened up to me for the first time. How can I live here? How do I leave?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sleeping Off Brezinzka Bruises

"We are all orphans here, meeting an appointment one has with oneself....You all know what you're doing here - we're doing many things and nothing"...Raul..our Teatro Madrugada physical theater facilitator..singer of African morning songs and hand harmonizer told us this at the end of a music session, possibly the 2nd day of my training at Gratowski...I'm still worn from it, in a haze of emotional awareness and physical perserverance..I see myself...I see myself hiding...I have created many walls, many ridges, many crevasses and catacombs..I faced them each time I fell to the ground to do a diagonal shoulder roll or shoulder stand on the wooden studio floor. A massive fire place stood at the end of the room..continuously pumped full with logs...full standing thick forest relics burned as we sang African harmonies..."Lumbe lumbe lumbe" "Lumbe..Akaykengangwa...." and Andalucian lullabies "Si mi nino se dormiera.."
But the singing and harmonizing was not in the Koombayah sense of was a daily ritual to clear the space to prepare for the acrobatics we'd spark connection and love and focus in the felt a lot of lack of trust...i know that is a reflection in me..getting down to the truth....everytime i get down to becomes less clear. more later...still humming with processing and intention.

Friday, April 16, 2010


The sumptuous globular red grapes that sit in short paper bags. My ritual this week is to buy a 2 Euro bag of sugary pitted grapes and snack on them til my mouth is brimming with juice, sweetness, pits, til the bag is empty and I'm fishing through the grape branches wondering where they all went. And my days in Barcelona, are drifting away, ebbing and flowing. The winter here was particularly rainy, dark, quiet. And, as I've been poor, it has been much easier to be grateful for not going out with the rain being as it was....gray, ceaseless, intrusive. The rain stole Barcelona's whimsy as puddles filled the sandy parks, people hid. On those rare days or segments of days when the sun interrupted the clouds, dogs would be walked, children splashed around their grandparents, and oranges flourescently hang in branches.
Now the sun's coming more regularly..there are still erratic days with rain and sun, but mostly it's spring here and cherry blossoms froth in the trees.
My time here has had a lot of aloneness, introspection, clarity, fear. I'm rehearsing with Rico, the 70+ year old Jazz musician in Sitges...his plump lips and seething desire for his days playing in Washington, DC and Brooklyn. He is a bit of a pervert. I spied a copy of Nymphomaniacs, a video amid his Spanish translations of Lady Chatterly's Lover (El Amante de Senora Chatterly), and his volumes of jazz songbooks.
I find myself hiding here, as I did when I lived in Tahoe. I am seeing Barcelona as a place to get away, escape my old self and cycle into another. I'm learning that I'm uninspired by teaching, as I have been, what it takes for my body to be healthy, my need to bite into things, my absolutes (exercise and friendship and red grapes). I am going to Brezinzka next weekend, to Gratowski's institute with 11 other actors, to see what we can make in the woods, to test myself again. I don't know what to expect, but my anonymity here in Spain, my getting paid in envelopes marked Natyna, Nantanya, Natalia, like an English pusher, I feel the freedom almost too much to be and say and take as I want. Even if it means poverty, even if it means losing a job. I see the theater community as where I'm real, or where I can really, safely hide. I sacrifice whatever my position is here to be there. This year has been traveling with respites in Barcelona, and I'm ready to take respite with actor creator collaborators.
I went on my first date here last night, with an Italian, Massimilio, couldn't stop disbelieving how we were speaking in Spanish together...about family, travel goals, the energy in the city. I didn't know I could speak Spanish. I can't really, there is always more to know about any language, and my conjugation is confused. My friend Virginia told me she's seen me change and grow here. Speak better. I look different, she says, more confident. I feel clearer...and more afraid..which tells me I'm going in the right direction.

Monday, March 15, 2010


I was right to think that coming to work last Monday was a mistake. As soon as I was on the train to Mollett, the new snow was scurrying, accumulating. So, I waited at the school, Idiomas Mollet, for my 1 hr conversation class students, who didn't arrive, then the teens who come at 6 didn't come..So, I used the time to be paid for coming in and worked on my blog...but as 610 pm approached, and I realized my students couldn't, wouldn't come to class because of the snow, I reasoned that I shouldn't wouldn't stay here in Mollet because to stay there would be to be stuck there..snow-stranded. I waded over slush and snow banks in inept sneakers and saw an unpromising crowd of grim Catalonians, black-coated carrying para-aguas (umbrellas, literally translated "rain stoppers"). The trains were frozen in their more runs for the night..marooned in Mollett.
After a moment's whimpering, I returned to the school, where 3 children talked loudly in front of a TV and 2 English teachers corrected tests. My wet feet were numbing, I nervously munched away on a bag of rice cakes, as the teachers and a woman who apparently signs my checks created a crack team to determine what to do with me. Ummmm, taking a taxi is not possible, it costs 100 Euros and you would be stuck in traffic for hours...I see, munch, munch, munch.... Don't worry, you won't sleep at the school..thank you, munch, munch, munch...there may be a bus....Let me look....Do you have any friends who can pick you up?...None of them have a car, munch, munch, seems that she is prepared to give you 40 Euros, you can stay at a hotel for the night...I would do this if I were you, it is the best option..Let her arrange it, then one of us will walk you there...
I went back up to the teacher's room to troll the internet and consider what a motel in the rubbly town would be like, something told me it would have a Reno-ian carpeting and deeply embedded cigarette odor.
"Natanya!" Lidia, curly-haired, round receptionist peered into the workroom.
"Tengo un habitacion libre. " ( I have a free room). Lidia, told me the free room was in her parent's house where she lived with her parents, her grandmother, and her 15-yr-old dog. But, I have a free room.
Excelente! Gracias! Venga!
We left. Lidia, Sonia (an English teacher from Mollett), my "boss" (Whose name I still don't know), and another English teacher who brokenly told me about her trips to Nueva York in English, as I brokenly told her what I loved about Nueva York in Spanish: Each of us trying to get our non-native language practice in. We delicately stepped over ice puddles, and mentioned how cold it was during awkward breaks in conversations about how it hasn't snowed in Barcelona in 20 yrs. Then we parted, and Lidia brought me to the gray block, alongside the gray cobbled walkways that was her family's house.
Lidia's mother, expectantly opened the door, in her red, pilly sweatshirt, with an aproned koala bear on the left breast, and urged me to get out of my cold shoes, wet pants, and hat. She touched my hands and shoes and commented on how cold I was. Then invited me into her bedroom, and pulled from the vast wooden armoire turquoise velour pajamas, wedge slippers, and a pink housecoat adorned with bows and a tag on the inside: xxxl. You may have to pull the drawstring on the pants, we are big people. She chuckled. 3 enormous wooden butterflies hung on the wall above the parents' bed. Then I was pointed into the habitacion libre. Lidia's brother's old room, that was now a painting studio for Lidia's mother. Vivid brown and turquoise reproductions from photos of the old west, Costa Brava townships, and Matisse-style abstracts..OOh! That is Matisse? ...Who? They're very good! Nooo! Lidia makes some too! They're great! I especially love this one! I pointed to what looked like Cadaques, the town I'd visited in November with Sinead from Ireland. Ohhh!
Now do "tu mismo". They left me in the room, to do as I would normally do on my own. I was changing into a 65 year-old's pyjamas and house coat at 7:30 on a Monday evening under the watchful eye of a wooden bust of Mary, eyes downward, hands praying.
By 745 I was in the family room, sitting in the floral-print"guest chair" watching a Game show that was a blend of deal or no deal and the price is right, drinking a dollop of tea in a bowl-sized mug and avoiding the jaws of the stool size family dog, which were safely guarded within a lamp shade. At intervals, while watching TV with Lidia and her mother, I would hear shouts coming from another room. As best I understood, Lidia's father suffers from schizophrenia, or post traumatic stress disorder. He begins shouting, "Si Senor!" and counting from his back room. Lidia and her mother tell me not to worry about it, to go check my email in Lidia's room. I do, and soon Abuela comes to say hello, calls me guapa, pinches my hands as I stand to greet her...shorter and round, with a storybook face like Strega Nona, the children's book character with the endless pasta pot. At 945 dinner preparation begins. the table in the TV room is pulled out to the center of the room, a floral table cloth and place settings are put out for the "children" (Lidia and I), and Abuelita, of course.
Do you like fish? Is there anything you don't eat?
I'll love whatever your making.
Mother pours nearly half a bottle of olive oil into a massive sautee pan.. By 10 pm I am excavating a massive cut of fish from its deep-fried shell and nibbling bacon-laden peas.
Us girls have the crispy fish, while Abuelita, sitting across from me, quietly pares down her pork cutlets. The news comes on...Don't worry, there will be sun tomorrow. I'll wake you up at 7:30.
Strawberries follow dinner. Then mother hopes I don't mind as she re-prepares the table for she and her husband to have their 11 pm dinner.
Abuelita rises, farts, and says goodnight to everyone...ooooh, guapa...she pinches my hands
Lidia soon follows and promises to wake me, as her parents settle in to eating dinner. I grab a spanish entertainment magazine and head for the brother's room. Thank you thank you..buen provecha..good night! Reading about Brad visiting Angelina, in Paris, in Spanish, I immediately sleep in the most comfortable Spanish bed I've known..A twin-size bed in her 27-year-old brother's room. Mary's wooden bust reminds me where I am in the morning.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Snow blown Palms

For the first time in 20 years, it is snowing in Barcelona. At first, a novelty that seemed unlikely to persevere past the hour. But now, 6 hours in, the Barcelonians are curious, fearful, bemused. On the train to the job I shouldn´t have come in for today, people were snapping photo after photo of the whizzing snow flurries, the snow sheeps sleeping on the boughs of palm trees, the ice-encrusted station signs. The snow - sunk parked cars, and slush rivers were like the celebrities on the ¨alfombra roja¨ (red carpet, doesn´t alfombra make you think of a rug? it!) at last nights Oscars - as the train car filled with the sounds of digital cameras Phssshing....clickin...
I am lucky to be here. On my own terms, alone, and euro-pinching. At least, I feel this way today. I work very little, I am spending money only on working out and preparing for theater work..I just signed up for a week-long physical theater intensive, open only to 12 actors and 2 directors, at the Jerzy Gratowski institute in Brezinzka Poland..This is the first time in my life that I have been truly alone like this, without a boyfriend´s distraction, or even a lot of hours of employment to focus on..I am under my lens. Often, Iḿ critical..thinking that I SHOULD (oof...a therapistś least-favorite word) be at another place in my life..settled, married, in a career, sorted away..having processed childhood wounds and therefore ready to give to a greater good. Heal people, change lives. But having removed myself from my life in California, and being around an international community, I am forced to face the truth of who I am, what I project, where I´ve been, what I want, what my body and spirit absolutely requires, what I want my life to be. This is some expensive, harrowing, incredibly fun and enriching therapy..I am giving myself gifts and lessons that are permeating my whole being...preparing is at once freeing, exhausting, entertaining, and terrifying...lost in the blizzard of becoming...