A morning not unusual, many months ago, began with the same sort of dialogue…
Phone rings. Son picks up mom on the line, and in unison they yell:
QUE? SER? WHAT?
There’s some back and forth between amatxu (Basque: ‘little mommy’) bug-a-boo pesada baby momma, then the first born replies:
WE WILL COME FOR THE GREEN BEANS LATER! PLEASE! ALRIGHT MOM! OH MY GOD, THIS NOOSE YOU WAVE IN MY FACE. AT ALL HOURS OF THE MORNING! WE HAVE THINGS TO DO AND FRIDGE FOOD TO EAT! OK LOVE, ALRIGHT, TALK TO YOU SOON SWEETHEART.
And so, for the sake of everyone involved, I went over there later that day. I went over for the green beans which turned out to actually mean, also not unusual, the beans plus 4 pounds of steaks and chicken wings, 4 apples, a handful of chocolates and box of breakfast cookies. About 5 blocks away.
I imagine that I was once ready to say something back to the man asking for change at the grocery sliding doors. I had ignored his asking and in a second he switched tunes, took silence as a cue to call me something like ‘honey’ or ‘good-looking’. As it was nothing remarkably creative, I can’t remember it.
I passed the grocery in front of amatxu’s house again last week, and saw him there again. I prepared to tell him this, but never had to in the end:
¿Así te parece la manera más apta para conseguir monedas?
Venga, niño. ¿Que diría tu madre?
Oye, aquí, eso no se hace,
Cuidado porque la próxima
igual no se pasa de ti tan fácil y sin incidente.
¿basta, no crees?
Does that seem like the best way to get a few coins?
C’mon, child. What would your mother say?
Listen, here, that shit just ain’t done,
Careful because the next lady
to come by might not let you off so easily and without incident.
Enough, don’t you think?
– – – – – – – –
All her coffee is filled with chicory already, and all the walls tinged a pink smell. Her freezer full of what might be needed. It’s enough to upset her, it’s enough to turn and tell her, “it’s impossible” and then “it’s all I can do” and “thank you” with stone-set eyes before turning away. One of a hundred rude heartbreaks they could claim I’ve taken out on the elderly. After a December morning marathon of shouldering in line for lamb chops and shuffling the talking points to kvetch positive for once. It’s never enough though, so I go ahead with a dozen ways of misanthropy that only I can feel; they are little city ladies with armor taking licks and thick skin under that. When they bruise, everything did it. But we don’t remember which exactly, considering it’s all a matter of politics, es asunto de política.
More transgressions against another’s mother’s love than there are sycamores,
more than the orange fanning and splaying sidewalk tiles,
more than the baby cockroaches in the silverware drawer that don’t phase her one bit,
more than the virtues she extols about her newest culinary discovery: broccoli,
more than the men that sit in black and suck their teeth as the last sun before winter falls.
The ladies are going to finish their sentence, you oughta know, and were they menfolk in stead of matriarchs, they’d spit to punctuate; Be it on weathered concrete or marble showroom floor. I could read these folk for ages, summarize them with typos, and sell off the stories like paper printed with news and wetted by rain.
– – – – – – – –
Medio morado = half purple = half drunk and that would be a generous guess and yes, that's nice that you grew up with a siesta for the hot hours and yes i'm here I appreciate you trying to tell me teach me about 7pm cool- ness but you have to get along now, take that copper-like peanut butter and just as sticky fingered wire & coil in a plastic fertilizer bag to the "STORE" I can handle lawlessness that keeps me from getting examined with eyes & questions that are not at all disguised as lessons your partner in crime has good sense to call you off of me since he knows that my male escort in this plenty medieval civil setup is a pretty aggressive little scamp. isn't it just precious that I always wear men's boots with a tank top to make sure things remain crystal clear? a construction site now shadowing our plot from the other side of the tracks, from the north or west a bit, or more of both. i am supposed to be grateful for these homegrown hardhats because @ least i won't have to shy away from too much of that wordiness because that sort of thing that the whooperwill makes the only feeling of tweeting i get is through beaks thank you very much for this peace that i shouldn't have to bow my head in November for anyway. I smile but only to myself and for myself and I'm gotten good, all fit and sure with no hood up except my mental burka and my readied comebacks in that temperate 19:00 voice veiling me visible.
– – – – – – – –
Half-pint hero, pale by the bus stop, imagining himself as upstanding while thinking nothing of his own predatory eyes, thinking biology says, “go for it,” thinking instead this is a good distance, thinking silence is the better introduction, thinking the complication of introducing her to mom, by story first, over beans and sausage. His amatxu’s pork tenderloin adobado, served up to the imagination, deflects the loins urging a man to make a mom out of somone. Looking away, he realizes he owes the matriarch a baguette. She tried to raise a good guy. She still tries to get a grandchild out of him.
She likes today’s hurried batch, soft on the inside with a barely tanned crust. She likes a sourdough treat on the weekends. Guilt and duty forget the peripheral field of vision. The damsel of his racketeering and the old bird in the house robe: depending on the quantity and/or quality of blessed or damned be your era plus geography plus chaos, the bellicose torpedoes of attention and intention are coming for you.
Hath I the Force like Darth, emanating from mine hands, those eyes would avert of their own volition. Because ladies needn’t notoriety or claims of authorship when we even out the world, warped as it is. A simple peace is all we ever wish to milk from our brethren, a peace as simple as not having to change seats on the bus.
We do our best to imagine our phones in transit ritual – that social psych-out of seek and find, pulling them out in silent and uncomfortable moments – not as proof of any modern crisis of alienation, but rather as a leading source of emotional security for women in public.
Headphones, earbuds, little speakers on strings, all together now and in position. On mute. The plug unplugged in a pocket or tucked under a bra strap. Eureka upon the protection, a modern sigil, new and improved.
Our daily bread in details could soften up the menfolk. Let’s hear it for the kinfolk, pull em up on speed dial. We are readied, yes. With apps launched and batteries charged and operating systems updated and homescreens tidy, yes. Lose yourself in technophilia, welcome those transitional moments awkward and unsteady in between purposes and acts. Another preliminary measure we unwillingly bear to avoid being made moms by men.
What I don’t yet know and still want to believe…
That is, about the Basque Story. The Basque Conundrum. The Basque Conflict. The Basque Saga. The Basque History. The Basque Herstory. The Basque Problem. The Basque Solution. The Basque Enigma.
If Euskadi won it’s independence and became a sovereign nation, the people here would tear each other to pieces.
Without a common foe, its internal divisions would be exponentially amplified. No longer in the shadow of Spain or France, the once external demarcations of ‘us and them’ would implode and once symbiotic alliances would turn inward upon themselves. A mutual enemy,‘them,’ would have to be refashioned from those who were once some of ‘us’. Gone would be the diversity of values and stances, the very checks and balances that democracy depends upon.
There. I said it and I got it out of the way.
This is a fact that I don’t yet know but still want to believe.
In Part 1 of this series, my final meditation wondered about our divergent understandings of courtesy. In this context, I tend towards having mucha cara, ‘a lot of face’ and not letting on enough of what passes through the mind behind it.
I had to get that out of the way, The Mutual Enemy Problem, because it takes a conscious, concerted effort to emulate my new neighbors and just g’on ahead and let it tumble out. I also closed Part 1 alluding to my perspectives, this being the first of a few I’ll look at in this post (and in Part 3 to follow), regarding some serious subjects that could really piss people off.
Before I go any further, I must clarify how I “Basque in the Reflected Glory” of all this tendency toward critique.
The title of this blog hit me one morning, after weeks of worrying about being too serious and being taken too seriously (or not seriously enough… merrily we go along, go along…. It hit me that if I was worrying about taking myself (and my writing) too seriously then the terrorists had already won.
This America!n’t happen, this America!na won’t let it. So, America!
“Basque-ing in the Reflected Glory” came out of observing the people, institutions and media of Euskadi, in daily self-reflection, raise clenched fists of success proclaiming:
And man, I couldn’t blame them. I still can’t. Surrounded by all this glory, I could just sit back and soak in all the reflected light of Grade-A, Top-Shelf Awesomeness that I get to be a part of. And then, there’s the innumerable times when I’m belly laughing alone because the hyperbole and hype is just so absurd while simultaneously so warranted, and oh so recognizable…
That ditty by Queen is playing in my head, you’d know it even if I wrote the last word of the title in Euskera (remember that the “tx” combo is pronounced like “ch”): “We Are The Txapeldunak”. Consider these lines in particular…
And bad mistakes
I’ve made a few.
I’ve had my share of sand kicked in my face
But I’ve come through.
I don’t yet know how to best give this situation the alternative view it deserves. Going along giggling, but only over the matters most trite sure wouldn’t be fair nor sane. The atrocities of Basque story bounce back at the same light-speed as any reflection of glory. The visage of ache and anxiety, humiliation, distress, and betrayal can still look at itself in the mirror and practice the jokes it’ll tell later.
The stand-up comedian, has an interesting position in a particular culture’s spectrum of the arts. Generally speaking, a creator who works in fiction, has a buffer against committing scandals of offensiveness that the comic does not. Their jokes we usually see as a more unfiltered extension of the humorist. We can forgive the author of fiction if they’ve humorously conveyed something too brutal to say live on-stage because they’ve set it back into an imagined frame of an imagined mind.
I’m no comedian. However, I still want to believe that my writing here can be: sufficiently serious in the pursuit of comprehension to risk offending people; respectful enough to swear off radical political correctness; loose and limber enough risk a slap on the hand to get that slap on the knee. A few hits on the tongue-in-cheek target are worth the chance of a miss that, in bad taste, bites down hard.
So, to revisit the opening poke-in-the-eye polemic, I know I’m not crazy to still want to believe that an EuskalHotMessería would likely be the immediate (but not necessarily permanent) result of independentzia for Euskalherria. I’ll go as far as saying that they’d have a harder time, at least in the first decade or beyond, between themselves than they do between them and their respective Nation-States. With a shallower pool of Us and Them to choose from, we become our own enemy. Euskadi is presently particularly united, but since before the Carlist Wars and up to contemporary voting trends, a Basque consensus is an oxymoron. I would expect to see a sharpening of the already exaggerated divisions between provinces within the Basque Autonomous Community, not to mention the inevitable emergence of rifts between those who cannot or refuse to dissolve their cultural ties to Spain and France.
What I don’t yet know in particular and what leads me to suggest that this would be the case is that:
These are most certainly questions to revisit. For the observer and denizen alike, the rest of 2014 will pan out as an interesting year in matters of statecraft in Europe. In Spain, the Community of Cataluyna plans to present the Catalan public with a ballot referendum this coming November 9th, an electoral survey of sorts, that could determine how much voter support there is for an ever quickening march towards self-determination. I haven’t been following the UK case as closely but it too implies a larger trend; Scotland will vote on a nearly identical measure this coming September 18th.
To be clear, I’m not saying that the Basque Country, Cataluyna or Scotland should or should not break off to form their own independent countries. I don’t yet know that it is necessary to come to any conclusions right now. I still want to believe that in politics, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t – I don’t care if you’re trying to revive a coalition, respawn a movement or level-up your democracy on this continent, that one, or on the largest moon of Saturn.
My underdeveloped view on the matter is that I don’t yet know what to expect. I simply don’t hear enough about how said accomplishment would be handled once on the other side, once these ‘nations’ become ‘states’. I tend to see an immense amount of energy going towards making the shift happen, but I still want to believe that these cohorts have invested considerable planning for most foreseeable geo-political consequences.
Put all that aside for now. I suggest stowing it in brain’s back pocket, a spot out-of-sight but still handy. Visualize doing so, as we’re about the expand the metaphor.
Imagine a political debate or conflict currently unfolding in your geographic or psychic vicinity. An issue being one that your personal stake in the outcome is moderate to minimal and yet the matter evokes in you both an intellectual interest and emotional ambiguity. As much as I’d like to, I can’t offer any examples because different strokes for different folks.
So you go to bed, laying there thinking about the issue you just imagined, running through a Rolodex of points and counterpoints, pros and cons of the issue. You doze off with these thoughts bouncing around as your noggin goes to work cleaning up synapses after a productive day.
Next morning, you wake up, and you’re an octopus.
You’re just fine out of water for some reason, but you’re definitely an octopus. Thing is, you wake up still only knowing how to move like a human and now you got all these extra appendages and a hundred new ways to stick to things and your brain stem fits the body of another creature and you go on with trying to live your life and think about extremist views without losing track of your extremities and continue to publish neat stuff that makes sense but you got ink spilling out all over the place and it seems really sensible then to change colors to match the seafloor and and then it’s like screw all y’alls, I’m hiding under this rock.
Just as I don’t yet know how to handle all these tentacles, I can never decide, if I ought to make political statements or not. There’s a couple reasons for this.
Politics is an inherently uncomfortable discipline; some of the greatest thinkers stayed away from it altogether while others who barely think of much at all get wasted on apathy for good reason and none whatsoever.
And then, oh the vanity! A good chunk of us want to look good, look smart, look informed, look like we’re holding all the disparate pieces together. We want to look like we have all the answers while trying to look like we’re not even looking for them. We’re stirring the pot of shit and acting like it don’t stink. Vanity manages the reputations; she works filtering the scraggly, loose, hairy and unbecoming bits; she slaves away at curating the second self showcase on all that masses communique.
Political statements make me squirm, for I tire of these things so quickly when they fail to jump or slide or fly. And then suddenly they do jump and slide and fly, as you drink a cup of coffee in front of the building where a lawyer was arrested for dubious reasons less than 24 hours before; as your boyfriend’s aunt grieves her cousins and uncles behind bars for crimes of ‘politics’; as your Euskera teacher is fired because they were involved in the cause; as that degree they earned in prison got them in front of the class.
Politics for the outsider – the expat, the immigrant – is a slow mediation. For me, a closing in magnification leads to identification; that’s how we come to personal conclusions by reason and necessary emotional involvement; pant-staining residues of what a place makes of us.
I don’t yet know what I have the right to protest. I still want to believe that anybody who shows up to a march engages in a little bit of voyeurism. Frankly, I only agree with some of their discontentment and all of their mobilization. I go for the private bodies and public speech filling a common space, the private property stacked tall and elbows cramped. I still want to believe that my permission slip is being alive, and that agreeing with some but never all their demands is plenty.
Part of me wonders, not yet knowing: what opinions do I have a right to here, given that I’ve splashed into the depths of a day-to-day elsewhere and slithered away from the bubbling crockpot of scorching red-white-&-blue vitriol – it leaves the taste buds blistered with a suction grip. And still, the emotional distance and physical closeness of involving myself in these Iberian issues makes it much easier to portray with sound, symbol and presence my support for stances whose entirety and implications I don’t yet know.
I’m not a political scientist and I don’t profess to be. Nevertheless, I still want to believe that I must interact with a political world, one in which the borders drawn and imagine, could appear or disappear as early as next year.
In Part 3 to follow, I’ll BIRG and bitch a little more about the political as personal and the need to interact with these goings-on. Because I still want to believe that as a woman, I must address the discomfort + disorientation as well as delight that comes with navigating the quasi-matriarchy of Basque society.
To be confused… to be contained… to be continued…
(Source of the W. Blake quote – besides the obvious coiner Blake himself – is Paddy Woodworth’s ‘Acknowledgments’ in his book, The Basque Country: A Cultural History. Goooooooooood stuff. I’ll surely be quoting him often in the future.
What I don’t yet know and still want to believe… That is, about the Basque Story. The Basque Conundrum. The Basque Conflict. The Basque Saga. The Basque History. The Basque Herstory. The Basque Problem. The Basque Solution. The Basque Enigma. Start with what you got they say. Alright. Here’s a list that is most certainly not exhaustive, and then a message to readers near and far…
I don’t yet know…
– which way to spell it, Euskara or Euskera, the Basque language comprised of 6 dialects
– when I’m going to grow the ovaries to start seriously studying Euskera – what the Carlist Wars were all about
– where I am I really from, because as they say here, “los de Bilbao nacen donde les da la gana.” That is, “those from Bilbao are born wherever they damn well please.”
I don’t yet know…
– why there’s such an insistence upon the unseen power of the ancient, unchallenged reign of the Basque ‘matriarchy,’ when we all know that is baloney, which she would never let you eat anyway unless she herself bought it and made sure you finished because you have to eat well lastana
– what agricultural hardiness zone I’m in, because just like back home in San Louie, you can get all 4 seasons in week, be it January or August
– what baby eels actually taste like (angulas, even the word makes your mouth water), because they go for €400/kilo or $200/pound when they’re on sale
– my 8 last names, because you just gotta know your OCHO APELLIDOS VASCOS, ya dig? for example, my chico’s mother’s 8 Basque last names are Isasi, Extebarri, Larrea, Martitegi… I’ll get back to you on the rest. (I also haven’t yet seen this movie which they’re saying is killer, but as usual it has a terribly translated title in English, Spanish Affair… oh please)
– how many political parties there are in Euskadi (and were, including the past ones that are now illegal and the ones newly legalized) and what their platforms actually stand for (I imagine it’s on par with trying to explain to a friend here the differences between the dozens of branches of Protestantism and otherwise in the US when all they got in these parts is Catholics, Evangelicals and Jehovah’s Witnesses)
I don’t yet know…
– whether Navarra/Nafarroa is as Basque as Araba/Alava and if Araba/Alava is as Basque as Bizkaia/Vizcaya and if Bizkaia/Vizcaya is as Basque as Gipuzkoa/Guipúzkoa
– whether Navarra/Nafarroa is in fact more Basque than any of the three provinces officially part of the Spanish Autonomous Community of Basque Country
– whether Ipparalde/Pays Basque/French Basque Country is as Basque as Hegoalde/País Vasco/Spanish Basque Country
– how it is possible (speaking more generally about Spain/Iberia) it is possible to publish, every single day of the year, a 25+ page periodical, Marca, that is almost exclusively about football and a great percentage of that being football in the Spanish leagues, and even of that a great portion devoted to two or three top ranking teams. It’s just flabbergasting.
I don’t yet know…
– where’s waldo
…and I still want to believe…
– that Euskera is pretty much as difficult to learn as Japanese with the exception that it employs the Roman Alphabet. But meh, it still shouldn’t be that hard… (Source for these articles, two posts from the fantastic and highly recommended blog, About Basque Country)
…and I still want to believe…
– that there’s is less violence against women, violencia machista, here than elsewhere in Spain as I’ve observed psuedo-empirically… but this in no way diminishes what is a dim reality in all of Iberia
– that the Basques are somehow involved in the Solutrean hypothesis
…and I still want to believe…
– That someone, somewhere still learned them some of that Old Religion… That there’s a little old lady and two more my age in every other village keeping the teachings and goddess lineage trickling on down… That I can find those women and their witchy ways still at work… and I’ll have the huevos to make that magick happen.
And one final thing…
I don’t yet know…
– Who’s got better manners? Is it us (USAmericans, speaking for myself here but there are many others) who with warmth and pleasant charm, play the part of “oh just fine…” Yes, we’re just fine with faking it? Or is it them, with a propriety of honesty, albeit cold, pushy with an intonation extra emphatic? Theirs aren’t the theatrics of the disingenuous. One could call us on our cara (lit. ‘face’ but here ‘false’ or ‘fake’) as much as another could call them crass. …
and I still want to believe…
– that there’s a happy medium between the two. Because if I can’t navigate the right and the true, I’m screwed.
Speaking of manners!
Let’s not take this s**t so seriously. And why exactly? Succinctly, because life is too fragile and too fast.
On the other hand, I’ve hesitated entirely too much in outlining the more serious and controversial issues surrounding the Basque Country.
In the installments of “What I Don’t Yet Know and Still Want to Believe” very soon to follow, I’ll start delving into the s**t that really pisses people off. Coming Very Soon… Part 2: But Seriously, Y’all and even a Part 3. I’ve got reading to do.
Until the next push of of the publish button,
Springing forward sucks. Daylight savings sucks. This is known.
Unless it falls within the realm of His Majesty King Johnny Chaz I. Everybody’s favorite vestige of Spanish Fascism is the selective (un)recognition of longitude lines. As it isn’t a slab of poured concrete, this time zone shared with Berlin doesn’t comply with La Ley de Memoria Histórica (post-Franco law condemning the regime and it’s remaining artifacts); then again, plenty of facha granite stands to this day. What a great and noble land of incongruence in judicial interpretation. By golly, it feels like home.
What do you expect, you know, when Greenwich (that Mean-est of Times) isn’t even pronounced “green” + “which”.
It’s closer to a “grin + itch”.
Contemplating Edward Gorey’s drawing, “Being Brave Abroad,” an itch and a grin prompted a split-minute decision (i tried talking myself out of it, like usual) and got me out the door. An extra hour of daylight.
Destination: Peñascal (Spanish for ‘rocky crag’ while the Basque name Iturrigori means ‘red spring’)
Method: Getting on the number seventy-something and taking it to the very end.
My bus driver has got to be a nice guy. Yeah, he’s got the look: chases chonis (affectionate name for Jersey Shore-esque ladies, but in Euskadi we spell that txoni, aight?), lifts weights and tans in a box, probably maybe all accomplished on the same city block. But he’s definitely got the look of being a nice guy.
Start: Mina del Morro, the Santutxu brink that could fall into the river, if it weren’t for the deep roots of the eucalyptus grove (any unbroken stand of trees in an urban setting is AKA feral cat piss depository, and I can’t get it out of my tennis shoes).
Two ends of the tract, save the best for last, good hoods of a working class.
Three generations of women at the park sit facing the monkey bars and my attention goes to my ankles exposed and I’m fine.
Because, girl power.
In the thin valley sliced by centuries of rain, the Peñascal sidewalk presses against a high wall, where the terracing starts staking claim up the hill. A break in the solid concrete there’s a black chihuahua doglet.
I couldn’t tell if he was puppy. Passed him, backed up (and in that simple decision and follow-through, interestingly enough, made me feel less like an outsider and more like a documenter, someone with the right and reason to be in that neighborhood… my bravery in confronting this mighty tiny thing suggests that if I start with the dogs and their jean jackets and bejeweled raincoats, surely I can end up taking shots of bipeds), and readied my camera to peek.
His screech-howl confirmed he was not a baby dog.
In this neighborhood I expected to find gitanos and the usual marginalized state of affairs. I think to myself about how I do so enjoy the stuck-on buildings of sharp gradients, as if they were slums and slums being the first word that came to mind and my privilege won’t stop reminding me that it’s very much alive and well. The real problem with that thought is that I am not seeing what I’m in; instead, I’m imagining an elsewhere, a cloudy fold-out spread from National Geographic, vaguely São Paulo. I’ve never seen either of these places before and prejudice is boring.
Worn out debate interrupted by a valid contribution…
At the foot of the way to Pagasarri.
Waiting for the bus again at the Plaza de Errekaldi there’s a man, middle-aged and blond, with rectangular and rounded-edge light orange lenses. On the ground facing up, his longboard’s belly graphic is impeccable and recently bought, a milky turquoise and electric lavender galaxy. My best guess is that guy walked out of a cave where his flux capacitor-powered DeLorean had just landed.
Then, in the span of 3/100th of a second, I decide to move away from this dude, out from under the bus stop shelter.
I do not need to consciously recognize that this is what I’ve learned to do. As a woman.
I do not apologize to him silently. As a feminist.
I do not explain my actions to myself. As a pragmatist.
I do not wonder about seeming impolite. As a realist.
Fuck the possibility of becoming unsettled.
The low-lying center of Bilbao is on the middle of the route. In an Ensanche still with Sunday emptiness, Louis Vuitton shop windows crystallize two bags on the crooks of two arms of two ladies standing in knee high grass 50 meters in front of a giraffe. Photoshopping that has nothing to do with image manipulation.
A beige-because-it’s-not-yet-pastel-season wearing double date of coiffed retirees say agreeable and conclusive things to each other on the corner in front of the Immigration office. This is the uncluttered neighborhood.
Way back now,
sitting out the afternoon,
a flat brightness
spots of thick paint
dissolved political parties,
one offering, “una vía nueva de la izquierda”
a new way left.
I left around 17:20 and
found a new way around 18:45.
In the dimming light of la tarde, when seven o’clockish is still considered afternoon on this peninsula, the long-serving mayor of Bilbao, Iñaki Azkuna, passed away this past Thursday after several years of deterioration due to prostate cancer. Yesterday, his family, close friends and colleagues in the political sphere attended his funeral at the Basílica de Begoña. Tomorrow a public service will be held for the mayor at the much larger capacity Catedral de Santiago in the center of Casco Viejo, Bilbao’s Old Town.
Azkuna, originally from the inland town of Durango, began his career in Paris then back in Bilbao as a physician and professor of medicine, hospital director and later served the as Health Counsel of Basque Country’s regional government before his election as Mayor.
Can’t say that I personally know very much about this man. In my year of residency, Mayor Azkuna has been too ill to make many public appearances or more than a few interviews with the press. Had he been well we would have undoubtedly run into the guy on a Saturday evening pintxos round or in commute to class. What I do know about the late mayor is from bits of commoner conversation filling the empty space of his absence. The people of Bilbao, who are known for being damn proud of their city (which hasn’t always been the prettiest thing to look at), were damn proud of their Mayor Iñaki Azkuna.
A majority of Bilbaínos, I must qualify, were happy with the policies of Azkuna. Through the grapevine I’ve heard he could be a pain in the tookus to work for. Plenty of his policies negatively affected local businesses and residents. His refusal to remove portraits of Bilbao’s Franco-era leaders from City Hall rightly angered many critics. I could go on, as the controversies and polemics surrounding (un)popular figures should, but I’d rather streamline the discussion for now, and return at a later date to analyze Azkuna’s role in Bilbao’s for-better-or-for-worse urban renaissance.
Like any politician, Azkuna had his fair share of yes-men and -women as well as plenty of vocal detractors. It’s not difficult to comprehend why we would bask in the reflected glory of Iñaki Azkuna having been voted the World’s Best Mayor in 2013. Nor would anyone deny us a little BIRGing knowing that for years Bilbao has maintained the lowest municipal debt (despite the nearly decade-long chokehold of the economic crisis, no less) of any city in Spain, no accident of Azkuna’s. In the end, Iñaki Azkuna revealed the secrets to effective community leadership in his farewell, that all he achieved was thanks to serious teamwork, walking the city to survey firsthand needs of this city affectionately known as el ‘Botxo’ (from Euskera meaning the hole or pit), and finally, that he did it all with the help and collaboration of the people of Bilbao.
To end, an observation: ‘a woman, a man of the people,’ that title and trait so elusive in contemporary politicians, is earned when one can weather all the critique and hubris of public opinion, and still have the gumption to button up, grab an umbrella and head out for a stroll to see how the neighbors are holding up.
Happy Happiness Day!
Happy Spring Equinox!
The UN calls happiness a “fundamental human goal.”
(Good stuff here: http://www.dayofhappiness.net/)
T’was surely a poet who’s declaration of independence demanded not just life and liberty, but also “…the pursuit of happiness.” And plenty more who plucked out songs that end the pursuit and deliver the goods (which are no goods at all, just goodness).
Here’s a little something to celebrate from the good folk of Pamplona in Navarra, wearing the red and white of San Fermin. I’m beyond happy today because my family is coming to visit in July; we’ll get to see people wearing these colors and running these streets in the pursuit of tradition, a precious and precarious happiness it is.
Story from: Diario de Navarra
This is what a missing self-set deadline looks like. The beach of Sopelana, Bizkaia. Purty though. Must. Post. Real. Words. Tomorrow.
Honey, you know that The English don’t make no sense.
So don’t get all wide-eyed and lip-quivery when I can’t give you no decent reason.
Yeah, we say, “all they have to do is reach for the stars,” when we talk about one dude or gal. When, you know, you don’t know if it be one or the other, them is not many, them is him or her.
It’s probably got a proper name but I like the sound of ‘ambiguous third person singular.’
So, might you guess what they do in The Spanish? What you gotta say when you ‘think out loud’ or ‘talk to yourself?’:
Pensar para tus adentros.
Who here’s taken a Spanish class?
Por y para. As a substitute or surrogate.
Por y para. Vicariously. For the benefit of.
Por y para. For some saint’s sake, enough for now.
Infinitive verb in The Spanish, flicked into The English unkempt:
Pensar – To Think…To Wonder..
Pensar – Thinking, Wondering
Pensar – Think! Wonder! (Do it. Now.)
Pensar para tus adentros.
I know. What that conjures up is out of control. Am I alone or is that some hilarious pyscholinguistics with metaphysical undertones??? I mean, like, think about it.
Think to one’s selves.
Wonder in the direction of your inner ones.
Think towards those on the inside.
Wonder through the ones within.
I’m verklempt, just, oh gawd.
Please, I need a moment.
Here’s a topic to discuss amongst your selves.
First, the names* of those who are no longer sharing this life with their families and friends, nor with their co-workers and neighbors, nor with their fellow passengers and pedestrians:
[List source: El Mundo]
*Note: Names are listed in the following order, 1st Last Name – 2nd Last Name – First Name
This is not an opportunity to take advantage of towards some end. Having said that, it is a moment set apart and deserving of reflection.
On March 11, 2004 beginning at 7:37AM, multiple explosions on 4 commuter trains arriving and in route to Madrid’s Atocha Central Station killed 192 people from 14 countries and wounded nearly 2,000 more.
Today is, in light of it’s significance, the deadline for me to broach the broad motif of political violence. Despite my absorptions of and reflections on the societies (Spain, Basque Country and USA) in which I interact, there remains in me a deep temptation to leave analysis and interpretation for later, to procrastinate and push off this endlessly complicated and sociolinguistically-loaded topic, for another day down the road, for some impossible moment in which I conclude that I am completely, thoroughly and objectively informed.
Such an omission, however, would do no justice to the victims of a history of violence that has spanned over 100 years; insecurity of conscience offers no hand to the people caught in cycles of action and reaction; perfectionist inaction fails to reveal the diverse persuasions and identities entwined in conflict. To exclude any additional narratives to the Big Story of History is an easy and often unnoticeable form of injustice.
Without being able to quote my source, the definition of the word that I find most clear is that terrorism is the use of the tactics of war in a civil setting, against civilian targets. I would add one thing: terrorists act with symbolic purpose against a symbolic target, in attempts to communicate a message.
The World Trade Center buildings and those occupying them stood and fell to acts of terrorism, symbols of sociocultural values manifest in physical targets. The terrorists of 11-M saw a symbolic target in the peoples’ trust of public transportation, specifically in a rail system whose great expansion began in the first years of Franco’s dictatorship. That fruit of fascism, reclaimed as a tool of democracy and plurality, contributed to the multicultural makeup of contemporary Iberia. Striking the center of these values (not to mention similar patterns in the London attacks a year later) was, I suspect, an attempt to halt social progress by obscuring it beneath bloodshed. Public transport acts as an equalizer of individuals and its existence implies freedom of movement, a basic right of any free people. The preservation of liberty requires the active use of the rights and responsibilities it imparts. I am not alone in witnessing these societies fulfill said responsibilities by rejecting the use of violence. I am not alone in witnessing these societies exercise said rights by expressing the narratives that allow for peace.
I do not take the use of the term terrorism lightly. The word and it’s variants have been overused, underused, politicized and disguised. From here on out, at some points I will find it necessary to invoke it and at others I will refuse to do so. It’s a puzzle that adds new pieces on a nearly daily basis and thus requires careful consideration that will inevitably evolve as well.
What does not change is the finality of trauma in body and mind. And I am reminded in concluding that despite my best intentions and all the words I can muster, I also owe some silence to the voices that never caught the train back home.