Being Brave Abroad: 24 Hour Funeral Home

A ‘false friend’ is a word that you think you can get away with. You think it’s a ‘cognate,’ and many exist, tying English to the Romance languages. Easy-peasy, Spanish can appear: gol shoots straight, goal, and revocar stays put, to revoke. Embarazada however, has reddened a few cheeks, being very much the word for ‘pregnant’. Not a cognate, it’s a false friend. A backstabber. Be careful. Papel is paper and papelería is a paper store – office and school supplies, actually, to de-mystify a store solely devoted to paper – a laboratorio equals laboratory. So far, so good.

A tanatorio is not a tanning destination. Management stocks sprays and beds of another sort. A tanatorio is a funeral home. Tanatorio Nuestra Sen’ora de Bego’na holds a constant vigil, although Bilbao is hardly a city that never sleeps. It’s open for each and every 24 hours of each and every day. I went, and this is what I saw.

Naves fill the half-scuffed poligono (your ‘true friend,’ polygon, swell gal) industrial subdivision of Bolueta. Naves are ‘ships’ in the most common usage, but these are warehouses used primarily for shipping and distribution. So not far off, and one brain’s memory and language centers thank the other brains in history for tricks like these. Following such clues, we find that the false friend isn’t so false afterall. The word tanatorio honors Thanatos, the personification of Death; he was often referred to in Greek mythology, but rarely appeared in person. Many sources considered Thanatos exclusive to “peaceful death” and for this reason, ‘good death’ falls under the term ‘euthanasia’. The son of Nyx, Night, and Erebos, Darkness, Hesiod writes of Thanatos and his brother Hypnos, Sleep:

“[Hypnos] roams peacefully over the earth and the sea’s broad back and is kindly to men; but the other has a heart of iron, and his spirit is a pitiless as bronze.”

At the rounded end of the block, not 100 meters from a locale named ‘Club Fever’, there’s a ship that travels heaven-bound and seatbelted aboard is the ghost some body just gave up. This nave shoots up and away from terra firma, leaving behind all the asphalt and painted aluminum, all the fading cellophane wrappers and soggy shoeboxes from Saturday’s gitano flea market mercadillo, all the racist graffiti (INMIGRANTES NO with a gun scope’s bullseye) and the anti-Fascists’ edits in red paint (basta ya Nazis, enough already). Thanatos’ dock is flanked on one side by the leaking green tangles of shrubbery always accompanying the Nervión River. On the other, the railroad slips by and an evangelical church stretches out in the shell of an old grocery store, windows boarded up, shutting out the world.

Fake flowers

Our charges for the evening in question, Aunts Ana and Claudina*, had come by a crawling train from Barcelona. Their arrival culminated the piecemeal sequence of events, rhythmic phone calls and copy/paste whatsapp messages, ticket purchases and suitcase zippings, that go into motion after every death in a diaspora family. They’d come for their sister Carolina*, and we went for them.

We all caught a cab no earlier than 11:15pm – late train, livestock on the tracks – and we sped along in the hush of oncoming spring rain. My in-laws-in-theory discussed the final weeks of Carolina’s illness and my boyfriend provided the old fashioned kind of status updates on all the 2nd cousins and some opinions twice removed. We arrived, paid and pulled suitcases across a dry parking lot and into the place I had so long wondered about.

I remember now that the place smelled of nothing. No cleaners and no perfumes, no air-conditioning and no potting soil, no roses and no moist styrofoam and no car exhaust and no stale breath. That lack must have spread out in high ceilings of the atrium. Distance meant something faded from animate life, recollections dispersed so they wouldn’t waft or bounce off one another and thus avoid memory’s strongest trigger, the nose. I remember now that the place reminded me of that hospital in Bangkok that too dripped with expense. A doctor studied my double eye infection there, walls awash with uplighting on green granite and a tiled floor of thick beige stone that spread before you in those dim after-hours. In those very same hours, squinting in the honest glare of an ivory floor and darkened windows made into mirrors, we entered to study the departed.

There’s so much white happening. It’s involved. Concentrated in doses of floor wax and glass cleaner, woven into the softness of lace and folded into the coarse tissues that I’ve heard pronounced “glee-NEss” and packed dutifully into purses for use in abused bars and temp toilets during 10 days of jaiak. The gift shop greets you upon entrance and exit, should anyone be lacking the proper utensils: navy ceramic urns, red and white wreathes like the chew toys of Kentucky derby winners and suburban McMansion yuletide decor, a shadow box rosary, silver and gold crosses on thin chains. Sharp in cleanliness, not distracting, hard lines interpreted as respectful in EuroChicSpeak. Maybe, I still can’t tell almost 2 years in.

The receptionist sat, only his scalp visible behind the front desk, consumed in what could have been work. He spoke in the equanimous tones of a hotelier. He stowed the luggage of our two 60-somethings, thrice consoling the frank and constant chatter of Claudina that her purse (a splitting, wrinkled paper shopping bag, one of those with stiff, twisted horseshoe handles) would remain both untouched and in reach of his peripheral vision at all times. She’s a strange one, I’ve been told. She doesn’t spend money, doesn’t go near the bars, I’ve been told. I posit that 30% of the real estate in this country is occupied by bars and cafes the size of walk-in closets. This is an economy completely underwritten by 6 oz beers for a euro and squat, milky espressos for one and a half. She doesn’t dare. Not even for decaf.

Ana, with her tender demeanor and four word sentences, peeped her doubt as Aunt Claudina wondered aloud in the elevator vestibule. Repeating and rewording the questions three and then four times, her nerves engaged with squat pots of palms and ferns and her disorientation focused on the chalky quartzite garden, a dry pond of toddler fist-sized stones.

“You think those are fake plants there?” = You think I can handle the wait for the elevator?

“I can’t believe those are real.” = I fear touching something that is still alive.

“How do you think they keep them looking so nice?” = What am I about to see? What am I about to feel?

Four pairs of sensible shoes squeaked as we crossed the weekly-waxed 2nd floor. Jewel cases at eye level outside each room bore a photo and noted all the first and last names’ of the deceased; four words deep like Juan José Ordoño Ferran and Mari Cristina Extebarrieta Nuñez. Portals stayed shut to the observation quarters, at once ominous for the outsider and reassuringly private for in the insider.

Portal, Flight -  Urduña, Bizkaia

Portal, Flight – Urduña, Bizkaia

We enter. Couches with thin cream cushions line the room. It’s false leather, easy to clean, but I’m still flabbergasted on a regular basis as to what maintenance expenses people are willing to risk for such class. Spread about are four full boxes of tissues, slightly better than what we got in elementary school for free and must’ve been made of recycled newspapers and telephone books. The good stuff really should’ve been saved for the elderly, too many of them under-presumptive of what they’ve earned. They view. I sit, yielding to the family members I’ve only met a half hour earlier.

It isn’t 20 seconds before I’m waved over by the nephew who has carried his grief with peace, my partner. Está bien, he says with an honest and gentle smile. I don’t expect what I see next.

It’s a portrait of a lady. I’m in an art museum. We are present for the photograph that is both taking place and already mounted and framed. In lieu of flowers, please respect the sandpaper taped to the floor. Do not lean in too far towards the piece. Donations in her honor can be made to any institution that cultivates the arts and the education of women. As a girl, if Carolina was caught reading instead of cleaning, her father would warn her that she’d end up unmarriageable.

It’s a diorama. I’m in a natural history museum. The wall comes up to the waist and then the transparent but crystalline divider between reality continues upward. The stark scene displays what’s left to fuss over when death arrives: light, shadow and salvation. A cold metal bar to lean upon as you study the bygone’s new natural habitat.

It’s a penalty box. The air-conditioning blasts. Easter lilies stand in for a hockey stick. Lace trim laid over her like padding for impacts. The dimensions allow for a wingspan’s width of a person; that’s usually their height. And the length when the body lays down.

We press our pointed fingers to the glass, still producing oil and locomotion, towards a crucifix stood up on a post like a coat hangar. Back-lighting, up-lighting bends, plays with the eye, obscuring the bargain buy giveaways of her casket and the immutability of stilled skin and hardened wrinkles.

Claudina shares her jagged suggestions where the hands should have been posed to hide the steroid-swollen belly and how the lace ought to have been bunched up at Carolina’s collarbones to save her from having to witness suffering’s leftovers, baggy chins. Slipping out of the box in my head – the one where I keep disdain and bilingual cliches to showoff my fluency (or hide my mimicry and voyeurism) – I do not speak, I only think: damn lady, it ain’t your funeral.

I’ve sat like I’m going to be courteous. I’ve observed with utmost precaution. And I’ve nothing to expect except my own compliance with the family’s wishes. Aunt Claudina erupts, “We need to get the hell out of here, I’m done. We’re done.” 4 minutes have elapsed since we entered the room. I swear.

This means 'ghost'.

…means ‘ghost’.

And without any suggestion – no, by declaration – we crawled out of the amazement bouncing off the not-quite-but-nearly-lime green walls. A basket of hard candy sat next to the guest book on the way out. We did not sign our names. The door shut firmly behind 4 souls, we were not to be Claudina’s loose ends.

Every button got pushed (nervousness) and every floor opened to us (further comment on the decor) on the elevator ride down. We collected the bags and headed out into a warm sirimiri where the next taxi waited, where the daytime crowds of old folks usually gather to smoke and catch up. For them, these kinds of reunions are more common than bingo night. Not as often as card games, though; those are much easier to come by.

Carolina would be cremated within 10 hours. And I would be on a plane…under the heavens, above the Atlantic.

 

 

* Some names have been changed to protect the living.

Advertisements

What I Don’t Yet Know and Still Want To Believe – Part 1

Part 1: Let’s Not Take This S**t So Seriously


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

to what extent Castellano, or Spanish Spanish, is derived from Euskera and vice versa

– 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

This 'talo con txistorra' is amatxu-approved

This ‘talo con txistorra’ is amatxu-approved

– 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

Original image without text photo credit: svet via photopin cc

Original image without text photo credit: svet via photopin cc

– 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

I’m just being ignorant with these last three points or "aldes" (Euskera for part, side, or near to)

I’m just being ignorant with these last three points or “aldes” (Euskera for part, side, or near to)

– 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

He’s in there somewhere, Aupa Athleeeetic! photo credit: jmendicute via photopin cc

He’s in there somewhere, Aupa Athleeeetic!
photo credit: jmendicute via photopin cc


…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

– that that might mean I’m a little Basque too. But, for real. I pray it is so. Gotta get me one of those mitochondrial thing-a-mabobber DNA tests.

(and because these last two are highly contested in the scientific community, here’s a little fuel for the fire… ancient devotion to a female divinity…)

…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.

Dear Wise Women, can we be BFFa's 4EveR???

Dear Wise Women, can we be BFFa’s 4EveR???


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!

Dear Reader,
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,
C. Rhea

Gallery

Introducing a new segment… Being Brave Abroad

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.

Bilbao is hiding up here too.

Bilbao is hiding up here too.

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).

End: Peñascal.

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.

PenascalParque

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.

NotPuppy

No ma’am. This cartoonishly steep staircase is mine. Go. Now.

No ma’am. This cartoonishly steep staircase is mine. Go. Now.

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…

Statement: We are Bilbao too.  Source: these mailboxes.

Statement: We are Bilbao too.
Source: these mailboxes.

At the foot of the way to Pagasarri.

less gunk on the ground than my own damn street which is in the left hemisphere subdivision of my brain. being brave abroad turns out just fine. white girl in broad daylight, white saint of broad brush strokes.

less gunk on the ground
than my own damn street
which is in the left hemisphere
subdivision of my brain.
being brave abroad turns out just fine.
white girl in broad daylight,
white saint in broad brush strokes.

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.

PlazaErrekaldi

Way back now,
sitting out the afternoon,
viaduct undercarriage
a flat brightness
accomplishments and
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.

Agur Alcalde Azkuna

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.

Agur Iñaki.

Cheers.  photo credit: Iker Merodio via photopin cc

Cheers.
photo credit: Iker Merodio via photopin cc

News links in English:
The Local -Spain
La Prensa

…and en Español:
Deia
AboutBC.info Blog

Bilboren grisak, Bilbao en gris, Bilbao in grey

Translation: Bilbao in grey reminds us of the transience carried off by time’s vortex; reminds us of the immortal that has had it’s start but will never have an end; reminds us of the eternal that has not yet began and will never finish. -Azorin

Translation: Bilbao in grey reminds us of the transience carried off by time’s vortex; reminds us of the immortal that has had it’s start but will never have an end; reminds us of the eternal that has not yet began and will never finish. –Azorín

Now that it isn’t raining, I can write about the rain.

Supposedly Hemingway couldn’t write about Michigan until he made it to Paris.

I just went there, probably angered the gods and hexed myself by glancing all too soon towards that E.H., Ernesto the Besto, the one my gent calls Heuminghwey y su puta madre. I assume my chico doesn’t slant this way but I do wonder if certain grudges have been held (not to mention some basking in the reflected glory of said author’s residency here by many in the same camp) because Mr. H called a spade a spade and a Spain a Spain, to the likely chagrin of a few Basques, particularly those in Pamplona, Navarra (Iruñea, Nafarroa in Euskera) where Uncle Ernie got bulled.

Thoughts regarding precipitation: after a year in, every thought will regard precipitation and every thought will reflect the precipitation.

Water that falls from heaven and loving it. But even the most pluviphilous of them all too get tired of it, blowing in askance from the the sheer valley bend and over the low side towards the sea. Precip imminence eventually isn’t a good enough reason to change your beach plans.

When it doesn’t rain, it’s probably viento sur, the Southern Wind, and what it’ll make you feel is strange. Hospitals and law enforcement report an upsurge of incidents on par with the Full Moon phenomenon. Wind of the South picks up all the misery and coffee breaks and political sausagery (chorizo, slang for theft, to be exact) from the rest of the peninsula. But that’s Murphy’s law carried to the power of unfounded conspiracy, because the wind may come from everywhere and go nowhere. Kinda like scheisty politicians. Mostly, the ration of fresh air caravans in with the breeze that carries tuna and krill and blue whale spirits from the northwest.

Good morning to all the flying things and the shuffling things and the 1-gallon plastic shopping bag blown aloft in a perfect arch, gliding over the 10 story building flats.

Another puzzlement of mine, when the rain comes in sideways: how the heck is that laundry supposed to dry and how do these launderers not lose their marbles? Clue #3 to demonstrate that I’m obviously not from here is because I can’t figure out for the life of me how they know the wind comes from the single source when it barges through the grid of streets the right slight north and the left slight south. That kind of wind fills eyelids with fiberglass and long brunette hairs and you bow your head with palms pressing at the forehead and begin to pray for rain, please knock this devilry back down.

There’s one kind of rain that is, depending on your mental health quotient that day, the absolute best or worst of all. Sirimiri is an onomatopoeia, like many terms in Euskera, and it requires humor to stick it out without your sanity spilling out. Sirimiri is the primordial mist of a hundred billion drops, each one only a handful of molecules, coming down so very lightly and forming a near tissue paper-like sheet of water. Sirimiri, rain that does not drip but soaks right on through.

Muscles memorize where the puddlings tend to gather. In various levels of consciousness art thou learnt in the best of lessons: watch your back. I wonder if crime is reduced simply by downpours. Too much hassle José.

The convicts and I’ve decided to buy decent boots and shoes from here on out so the seeping doesn’t get into the core, past tolerance’s electrified fence. That’s how the water gets to your head, through wet socks. Wool is conduit enough but cotton is the quick stick intravenous way to ruin your gatdamned mood, and your maldito dia as well.

Investments in footwear must be compensated somewhere; crappy umbrellas have been lifted from the the kinfolk, yes. But don’t you dare feel guilty about it or do something silly like go and buy an umbrella. Your turn to ride the pay-it-forward merry-go-round will end with your paraguas, for-waters, on the other side of the closing train doors.

Pete limberly hops over them puddles when necessary – when? – always as it’s absolutely necessary. Little macho coursing with adolescence, sure, whatever, but Petey sure hates his little booty to touch the chill and damp when he’s gotta do his thing.

Puddles like windexed coffee table glass, clean and static suspending underneath mudprints of boots and paws, giving away no reflection of the open midnight sky.

Damp schnauzer in a red rain jacket and her human wants know and outright asks, “hey you, why you have your dog out at this time in the dark and humid chill?” They are out there too, you think, but they just have to say something. Let the cup overflow, liquids seeking the low points.

Photo + (Family – You) = Still a Selfie

2014-01-11 19.03.14 protestppl

Dividing the thing into 3 parts (you bet I’m oversimplifying it and you bet I oughta know better) 2 of those parts wanted something silent. 1 of those 2 declared it, yeah, sure, but didn’t follow through. Could never be expected to. Had every right and reason not to. Must and mustn’t. The Distant Right didn’t want it to happen at all, so they, at the Far Top and Center, ruled the thing illegal. Those other 2 parts out of 3, be they Middling Meddling and Forwardly Flailing, decided to detour, ignore it, do it anyway, recycling the concept of declarations and permissions, again, perhaps never originating there. They changed the dictionary for a thesaurus and took the streets. Such pages grow at altitudes and latitudes of neither plain nor plateau.

People of the wood.

Part 2, the Rumination towards Regulation (the Party Formally Known as Middling Meddlers), wanted silence, wanted a manifestation á la metaphorical, a thing of peace, unity, justice. Their words, not mine. They wanted peace with Part 3, or at least loved a mutual enemy. Part 3 over there on the Cortex Creative (conceived somewhere called Progress in the Dark Places, with a hand outstretched and searching), showed up as expected; showing up being that thing that they do in a top-down fashion, but once they’re there, well, consensus versus individual mandate is as scissors is to rock.

Iron people, stone people.

2014-01-11 19.02.30 protestppl2

This thing, neither silent nor boisterous, advanced just barely along the gutters and seemed hardly a march at the double center line. Parts 2 and 3 would turn around in place and climb a dumpster, a light pole, a set of shoulders. They would look, finagle the phone, freeze and steady themselves against the blur of evening through a lens. As the Boulevard of Autonomía dumped down around Recalde and then rose again at Concha Jeneralaren, Parts 2 and 3 peeked and stretched up on tippy toes, turned again and trickled forth.

People of the rivers meeting the sea.

Somewhere in the Basque story is a microcosm of all of us, the hereditarians of here and there and everywhere. Satellites have positioned and posted this family portrait from which you can’t untag. In the right light and near enough to stillness, the viewfinder frames the estuary but the blink of the lens stores a selfie. Agua dulce, agua salada; sweet water, water salted. Reconciliation by dissolving into ancestral brine. Drops of baptismal waters to confound old hatreds with babies of a hundred last names. Basque in this Reflected Glory of 100,000 souls seeing themselves for what they are and seeing yourself among them.

2014-01-11 18.48.34protestppl3